Preamps are equipment that give the audio signals the shape and definition before they are amplified, processed and sent as output through the speakers, headphones and other audio gear. When you require quality sound, using the preamps is crucial. A mic preamp is an important piece of equipment when you want to add warmth, character and dimension to your music.
Even if you have a mixer or digital interface, you can use the external preamp for better sound quality. There are different types of preamps in the market which include the colored ones and the transparent ones. The former provide aesthetic look, add body or character to the thin instrument or voice while the latter one reproduces the original vocal sound or instrument as accurately as possible. You can even choose the preamps on the basis of the circuit design.
We have researched the market and have prepared a list of the best mic preamps available in the market. These preamps have been reviewed on the basis of their quality of construction, design, circuit type, additional features and price. You can peruse through the list to find the best one for your requirement.
Scored 4.8/5.0 – From 72 Customer Reviews
Priced From $199.00
- Studio quality Mic Preamp/Channel Strip Processor
- Classic dbx Compression puts great sound within easy reach
- Frequency tunable De-Esser reduces sibilance and high frequency distortion
- Enhancer increases the detail and definition of the high and low frequencies
- Program adaptive Expander/Gate
The 286S handles basic voice processing very competently. I have owned other DBX products and found them to be very capable but was a bit skeptical about how a sub-200 dollar all-in-one preamp-compressor/limiter-noise gate unit with EQ would function, but I was pleasantly surprised.One major factor for me was that the unit had to function in the presence of high power RF fields. No worries there as all the inputs and outputs are RF filtered very effectively. Although the DBX over-easy compressor works well, it has always been my preference to have the compressor/limiter as the last component in my audio chain. Unfortunately, other than the side-chain insert jack, there is no patch-panel capability to allow you to move the position of the onboard processing modules as you can with more expensive units like the RANE VP-12. Although the De-Esser works well and tames most of the sibilance now and then a searing high can slip through with the EQ module at the end of the chain. This was not a big problem and all I did was disable the onboard compressor/limiter and use an old DBX-166A compressor/limiter behind the 286S.The audio is very smooth and the shelving EQ works very nicely allowing a lot of control over lows and highs. The short story is that I am very pleased with the performance value of the 286S and have found it to be flexible enough to allow a tremendous amount of adjustment to cover pretty much any basic processing need. If you keep in mind that it is not a Symmetrix 528E you won’t be disappointed with what you get in this box. It is a very agile and effective preamp and voice processing unit.
Scored 4.0/5.0 – From 175 Customer Reviews
Priced From $38.95
- XLR microphone input with adjustable sensitivity
- 1/8 headphone output for real-time monitoring with supported apps
- +48v Phantom power for use with professional condenser microphones
- 15.75 cord makes it easy to connect and position
- 30 hours battery life / 10 hours with phantom power on
- Works with all popular audio & video apps
I have tried lots of different things to be able to record audio from a handheld microphone to my iPhone or iPad. Much to no success. This is the only way I have found that it actually works and sound professional. I have a Zoom H4n Recorder which has the XY mics and 2 XLR inputs but I needed one for another microphone in case I was doing an interview and that needed 3 handheld mics. The XY mics of the Zoom are amazing, but you just cannot beat how clean and loud the sound of a handheld mic is during an interview.After doing an interview and bringing in the tracks into the editor, I see the Loudness and clarity was very close between the audio recorded using the Zoom, and the Audio recorded by my iPhone using the iRig PRE with the iRig Rec Premium iPhone Software. They were all recorded with the same XLR cable and Microphone as well to keep it consistent.There seem to be slats on the back of the unit which allows you to strap this onto something. I am planning to use a Velcro strap and wrap it around my iPhone.That being said, I would be careful about using this on the field that often because unlike the Zoom which mounts directly to the top of my DSLR, this will have to be either awkwardly strapped to my iPhone which would be mounted on top of my camera, or not be mounted at all and be placed separately on a table or something. If you are doing recordings indoors or for light duty, this is great. This is portable, clean sounding and convenient. But it is not ruggedly built enough to be taken out in the field as the case is not sturdy enough nor is the wire. I would not rely on just this as my primary recording solution.But for light duty recording for amateurs, studio work, or indoor interviews this is fantastic.
Scored 3.8/5.0 – From 66 Customer Reviews
Priced From $114.49
- Discrete mic/line input stages with soft mute +48 V phantom power
- Ultra-wide bandwidth from 2 Hz to 200 kHz for open sound
- Two fully parametric EQs with adjustable center frequency, bandwidth and level
- Built-in high-quality vacuum tube for outstanding, ultra-musical tube sound
- Fully tunable and switchable 12 dB high-pass filter
I operate an alternative broadcast studio, we create music related content and broadcast it on the internet. We needed some stand-alone microphone preamps and after searching the internet I decided to give this Behringer unit a try.This single rack space unit provides two independent microphone preamps, each of which is equipped with a single band of sweepable parametric equalization to adjust the timbre of the final output. Before I even tried the piece as a preamp I opened it up to look inside.DO NOT EXPECT TO CHANGE THE TUBEThe tube is mounted in such a way that it is probably impossible to change it out for a different one.Fortunately the preamps sound good with the stock tube. There is no schematic provided so it’s really impossible to say how the tube is implemented in the circuit and how much it actually contributes to the tone of the unit.HOW DOES IT SOUNDThe preamps sound very good, full, rich, crisp highs, deep lows, it’s a function of the microphone you connect to it as far as I can tell. For comparison I A-B compared this preamp to our very expensive API 3124+ preamp which is a 4-channel unit that we paid over $500 per preamp-channel for, that is 10-times the price per channel of this Behringer unit. I’m not going to say the Behringer beat the API but they were a dead heat in most listening tests. My female partner who is not too technical (but has great ears) thought the Behringer was just as good as the API. We also have a Grace m801 which is another over-$500/channel preamp, she definitely liked the Behringer sound better than the Grace (personally I think it was the EQ on the Behringer that affected her choice when comparing to the Grace).If my API or Grace preamps go toast I will definitely have them repaired. If the Behringer dies, it’s going in the trash and I’ll buy another one. It’s simple economics and at $100 for two preamps that sound as good as they do these are really nice. They sound good. They have an industry standard packaging. The input and output connectors are excellent. It even has a line input mode so you can add a little tube distortion to a line-level signal (I have not tried this because we don’t need it).We broadcast between three and ten, live one-hour shows per week using this preamp for vocals. NOBODY in our listening audience has ever complained and none of them know we switched from our high-end pieces to this very inexpensive preamp. Now our expensive preamps are back over in our production studio and are used for recording tracks that play behind our live performances during the shows.RELIABILITYWe have not had any problems with this unit. It is warmed up for an hour before each broadcast, I’ve never heard any noise or bad stuff come from it. We have A LOT of Behringer gear in our studio, it lives right along side gear from Neve, API, Allen and Heath, UA, Meyer, Lexicon and Apogee. Out of 103 pieces of Behringer equipment I’ve bought we’ve had two pieces that had problems and those occurred right out to the box. I had much worse reliability with Crown amplifiers than Behringer products and I really like Crown amps, regardless of the problems, they just sound so good. In my experience the Behringer products have provided professional results for an amazing low price. That’s a win-win in my book.
Scored 3.8/5.0 – From 183 Customer Reviews
Priced From $42.95
- Provides Superior Preamplification for: Microphones, Instruments and Line Level Sources
- Analog VU Meter
- OPL Output Protection Limiter
- Hand-Selected 12AX7A Vacuum Tube
- Variable Input and Output Gain Controls
Admittedly, you do need to shell out $15-20 more for a tube upgrade if you really want this little fella to perform, but it’s definitely worth it: still less than fifty bucks for a super-clean preamp that handles both dynamic and condenser mics.The sound is clean and strong and allows me to completely cut out the much noisier preamps on my Alesis iMultiMix 8USB. The two outputs (one XLR, one 1/4″) are very useful, especially if you want to route the second signal to an effects box or a sidechain input. I use it as the source for an equalizer/compressor chain to de-ess my voice work.I’m so impressed with the clean output from this thing that I have to wonder what went wrong for the people who give this little guy bad reviews. Maybe it’s a QC thing, or maybe I just happened to get a really good replacement tube, a Tube Amp Doctor 12AX7 / ECC83 STR Premium Selected Vacuum Tube.
Scored 4.2/5.0 – From 55 Customer Reviews
Priced From $269.00
- Variable Input Impedance For Flexible Microphone Voicing
- Selectable Plate Voltage
- Discrete Class-A Input Microphone Preamplifier
- Low Noise at Lower Gain Settings
- Extremely Low Total Harmonic Distortion
If you are looking for your first pre-amp (or a versatile swiss army knife of a unit for your rack) and there is any doubt in your mind over buying this pre take it from me personally that this is worth it. The only bad thing I could manage to find is the tubes are sub-par to the rest of the unit, which those are easily upgraded. Everything is wonderful, the metering is accurate and the controls are simple and sturdy. It adds plenty of flavor to your mics; I use an Shure Sm7b which is relatively flat and this pre warms it up beautifully. It has all the gain you’ll ever need and the impedance control can totally flip the sound of your mic from open and large to tight and in your face. The adjustable voltage function squeezes an entire new flavor into the unit, which makes it incredibly versatile on a very large array of sounds. One of my favorite uses is the High Z Instrument input on the front. I love the way this unit warms up a bass guitar before sending it into a DI. On terms of quality, this box holds nothing back. If you are mixing music primarily “in the box” and don’t have any hardware, I highly recommend this unit to start.
Scored 4.6/5.0 – From 10 Customer Reviews
Priced From $109.99
- 8 independent preamps in one rackspaceServo-balanced XLR inputs.
excelent product, I use it for live performance recordings and in the studio, have been an audio engeneer for over 10 years and both my brothers have been audio engeneers for over 15 years, worked on several recording studios and now have my own small production/recording studio. This product does exactly what is ment to, no hums or noises, great gain control with a lot of range to play with, individual phantom power. Construction seems pretty good. Of course is not the sound of a tube preamp, but hey, is not tubes. But still sounds preatty amazing, to be honest I’m pretty impressed with this product, it exceeded all my expectations and you can’t beat the price.
Scored 3.4/5.0 – From 9 Customer Reviews
Priced From $195.46
- Dual path, with both 12AX7 vacuum tube and solid-state gain stages
- Combo mic/instrument inputs with Class A XMAX mic preamplifiers and 48V phantom power
- Tube Drive tube-saturation control
- Illuminated analog VU input-level meter
- 80 Hz high-pass filter, -20 dB pad, Polarity-reverse switch
- Compact 1/2U rack-mount chassis
This thing sounds like a 5,000 dollar pre-amp if you get rid of those crippitycrappity tubes it came with and put some J J’s in there instead.what a steal!!!! After the tube change thing is thing is a real bargain, it adds depth, texture and warmth to anything you run through it….voice, instruments…. master tracks….even post-mastering….if you work in the digital samples realm….consider using this thing to add realism to your sample pallette. Alternatively…..in post this thing adds a great deal to tracks that have been squashed by processing……put it in to the blue tube and you’ll be surprised what you hear…….i love this thing!!!!!!
Scored 3.9/5.0 – From 76 Customer Reviews
Priced From $49.00
- Superior preamplification
- Over 70dB of gain
- Smooth warm and fat sound quality
- Variable input and output controls
- Phase reversal switch
I am a fingerstyle guitar player, and I don’t play very loud. And, as I do not have expensive, very sensitive, large diaphragm microphones for my home studio, attaining adequate signal with low noise was difficult. In particular, when I increased the gain on the mics so that I had an adequate signal, I found that there was a lot of background hiss.I bought the ART microphone preamp as a possible solution for this problem. And it has performed with flying colors. I spent some time checking various settings for each of the controls, to identify the ones that worked for me. In my situation, I found that the best results were obtained when I set the Input to max, and the output to about 9:00 (one quarter turn). This provided more than enough signal going into my DAW, with no detectable noise. I also found that, since it has a tube, I got better results when I let the tube warm up for 15 minutes or so.I’m glad I purchased this unit. I may buy another one for the second microphone, depending on how my recording journey goes.
Scored 4.2/5.0 – From 29 Customer Reviews
Priced From $96.00
- 12AX7 tube-based preamp with XMAX solid-state input stage
- Gain control and Tube Drive saturation control
- Low-noise dual-servo (no capacitors) gain stage
- Separate instrument and mic inputs
- Phantom power, HP filter, -20 dB pad, and polarity-reverse
- Compact 1/3U rack-mount chassis
In all SS mode (zero tube drive) this is a very “transparent” preamp. The treble is “airy” for lack of a better word, with no hint of harshness. It captures the detail and sounds good on just about anything if a neutral response is what you want.On the other hand I was pleasantly surprised by the tube drive. I guess I wasn’t expecting much, but it sounds good on some sources. Monophonic instruments in particular like vocals seem to benefit the most, probably due to the lack of intermodulation distortion. The tube drive can add texture to a singer with a “dull” voice. It tried it with good results on an acoustic guitar. As the drive is turned up not only are low order harmonics added but the lower treble region is slightly boosted for more increased presence. In short the tube drive brightens the sound and adds warmth (in the form of soft distortion) at the same time. On heavy settings it’s possible to see the tube drive compressing one side (pos or neg) of the signal while preserving the other side, typical of the distortion characteristic of a single triode.The phase button is peculiar. Pressing the phase button “in” adds bass and warmth to the signal. Leaving it out produces a flatter, less colored response but with less bass.Overall there is 80dB of gain and it’s not noisy. It should work with a ribbon mic. Using the phase button and the tube drive along with different gain settings yields a slightly different response and sound. This preamp can sound like many different preamps.There is one comment I would like to make. If you don’t have a really good mic don’t waste your money on a super expensive preamp. I can hear the difference between a $5000 preamp, a $900 preamp, a $100 preamp, and a $30 preamp. But, MOST PEOPLE would not be able to tell which sounds better, or perhaps I should say, most people will not appreciate the difference between the $29.99 preamp and the $5000 (take your pick of brands) preamp (barring use of compressors or other effects). Again, I can hear the difference, BUT, if I put a $30 compressor in the hands of a professional producer and he was forced to use it to track an entire album I guarantee that the album would sound good. The ART is a sterile amplifier that is quiet and accurate until pushed in which case it also has a tube that will compress and distort.I think the PreSonus has the best sound quality/price ratio of any preamp. For a very low price you get a preamp that is virtually indistinguishable from very expensive preamps costing over 10 times more. The tube drive is a bonus as far as I’m concerned, but I’m certain that I will be using it on tracks after trying it and discovering it actually works well.
Scored 4.2/5.0 – From 688 Customer Reviews
Priced From $38.00
- Premium ultra low-noise, high headroom analog mixer
- 2 state-of-the-art XENYX Mic Preamps comparable to standalone boutique preamps
- Neo-classic ”British” 3-band EQs for warm and musical sound
- 1 post fader FX send per channel for external FX devices
- 1 stereo aux return for FX applications or as separate stereo input
Works great. Clean and smooth operation. Phantom power for condenser mics. Most people that buy this have likely been trying goofy adapters and additional cabling techniques and avoiding the leap to a mixer. Just get it – you’ll be glad you did. It’s got a relatively small footprint and a low profile. Small, solid and rugged.Edit: 9/19/2016: Okay, so I’ve had this thing for two years and use it for mixing my musical instruments to my amp for practice and less often to my PC for recording. This thing sent me on a VERY frustrating wild goose chase, and once I figured it out, I forgot about it and was just plain happy the ordeal was over. But when 10mo. later it happened again, and I remembered the problem and the fix, to avoid the chase, I thought that now I should pass the knowledge along..I was losing signal intensity intermittently. Very seldom it would go out all together briefly. This is with my guitar rig mind you. When this happens, you lose the crispness of your clean single coil sound as well as your edge on your crunch. Swore it was the guitar jack.. Replaced it. Touched up the internal solder joints on my guitar.. Swore it was the cable. Replaced it. Destroyed an expensive MONSTER brand cable. Swore it was the studio vintage effects processor. Ripped it apart and flooded the unit with contact cleaner on all of it’s mechanical points. Because this was so intermittent – every time I did something it seemed it was fixed – then it would eventually come back absolutely driving me bananas. I would do something, or move something, or flex something and get fooled into thinking that there was some type of relationship or correlation with what I was doing to the change in behavior to the problem. I was cursing Ibanez and Digitech and Monster and Mesa and in the end – it was a pot on this damned mixer. A stinking pot!! A pot that I never ever touch in the normal course of operation!! Balance. I never change the balance. It’s ALWAYS kept in the center!!!Now that being said – the pots have never been noisy. Even with this loss of signal, the pot wasn’t noisy.. IF YOU EXPERIENCE LOSS OF SIGNAL – WORK THE POTS BACK AND FORTH ONE BY ONE ON THE CHANNEL IN QUESTION AND LIKELY YOU WILL FIND A POT ACTING UP. After you work the trouble making pot back and forth, it will probably work like new again for months and months. In my case, about 9mo. It took me about a full minute to remember the fix since it had been so long (and coincided with the installation of my new wireless setup) – and then it all came rushing back. The process of going round and round literally for weeks because of a simple damned pot that disguised itself momentarily and intermittenly as anything and everything else.. WORK THE POTS!!!
The choice of the mic preamp should be done as per your requirement depending upon the circuitry and aesthetics. Additional features like multiple channels, EQ controls, gain controls, compression and others can also be considered while choosing the preamps. Warmth and body to the vocals can be added by using a tube preamp.
We hope that you found our review of the best mic preamps informative and useful in helping you find out the best preamps for your requirement. We would like to know about your choice of the preamp that you selected. What was your experience of using the chosen preamp? If you have any suggestions for us, do write to us.