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Perfect Your Sound with the Best Mic Preamp

  1. ART Tube MP Project Series Microphone Preamp
  2. Golden Age Project Pre-73 MKIII Mic Preamp
  3. Presonus TubePre v2 Mic Preamplifier
  4. PreSonus DigiMax Channel Microphone Preamp
  5. Coda Music Microphone Preamp
  6. Rupert Neve Designs Shelford 5052 Mic Pre/Inductor EQ
  7. ART Digital MPA-II 2-Channel Tube Microphone Preamp
  8. Universal Audio Apollo Twin MkII Heritage Edition Mic Preamp
  9. Manley Labs Force 4-Channel Vacuum Tube Microphone Preamplifier
  10. Tascam SERIES 8p Dyna 8 Channel Microphone Preamplifier
  11. Buyer's Guide

The pre amplifier has been around as long as sound has been recorded. For the past 80 years, thousands of different models have been made and manufacturers have enjoyed successful business from this product.

Preamps work by amplifying the signal so it can properly handle further processing. The amplification is done as close to the sensor as possible to decrease any outside noise or interference and how the signal is amplified determines the kind of sound you’ll get. Traditionally, tube preamps add their own color to the signal and solid-state preamps boost the signal while attempting to keep as much transparency as possible. These two lists of the best mic preamps in 2022 comprise of the best of both worlds and any preamp discussed here will satisfy any recording situation you may have ahead of you.

What are the best mic preamps of 2022?

ART Tube MP Project Series Microphone Preamp - Best Mic Preamp Overall

ART’s Tube MP preamp has a small and unassuming size, but it was made to enhance the quality of audio signal that runs through it. This unit employs hand-selected 12AX7 vacuum tubes to provide a smooth, warm, and fat character. The MP also works well as a tube DI. Providing more than 70dB of gain, this preamp does a great job at boosting signal, which can be further tweaked using its variable input and output gain controls. Whether you’re running this unit into a console, a signal processor, a recorder, or an amplifier, you’ll find that it truly improves whatever situation you find yourself in.

Golden Age Project Pre-73 MKIII Mic Preamp - Runner Up

Golden Age Project’s Pre 73 MK II mic preamp is a single channel unit that offers 80dB of gain and was designed directly after the classic Neve 1073 preamp/EQ module. A mic/line switch on the gain control allows all gain levels available for line input. A high pass filter and two-position high-frequency boost offer more tools to help you craft the exact sound you want out of your signal. The LED output level meter is easy to read and understand. The MK II also comes with an external power supply.

Presonus TubePre v2 Mic Preamplifier - Honorable Mention

PreSonus’ TubePre V2 is a single-channel mic preamp that also doubles as a DI. Powered by a 12AX7 dual-servo vacuum tube in its output stage, it allows users to add some tube warmth to the signal that comes in through its XMAX Class A preamp input stage. If your mic requires phantom power, the V2 has you covered via a switchable 48V phantom power setting. A separate hi-Z instrument input lets you plug your guitar or bas directly into the unit. An 80Hz high pass filter gives you greater control over the frequency of your sound, allowing you to roll off any unwanted low frequencies. The V2’s backlit VU meter features a LED clip indicator so you can always be aware of how hot your signal is coming in.

PreSonus DigiMax Channel Microphone Preamp - Consider

Sometimes we hit a ceiling in what our current gear is capable of producing. If that gear for you happens to be an audio interface and said interface is equipped with lightpipe, the DigiMAX D8 mic preamp is a viable way to breathe new life (and more options) into your setup. This unit features eight XMAX Class A mic preamps, with each one featuring its own trim control. Each channel also has its own direct output as well as a 20dB pad, so you can protect against signal overload. The unit’s LED metering is very fast, giving you a clear and accurate visual cue to trace the signal routing in and out of the D8.

Coda Music Microphone Preamp - Best Budget Mic Preamp

Daking’s MicPre 500 provides boutique-level design and sound in a compact and affordable package. Using quality Class A transformer circuitry, the sounds this little unit produces are simply amazing. The preamp’s modular identity allows you to add in other modules to the signal chain and play with the order of your components. The 500’s adjustable high pass filter gives you a firm grip on the frequencies of your signal, while a tricolor, 8-segment LED meter gives you a handy visual cue to track the mix. The Daking MicPre 500 also comes equipped with a -20dB pad to protect against signal overload, as well as a +49 phantom power to help boost those microphones that need the extra help.

best Rupert Neve Designs Shelford 5052 Mic Pre/Inductor EQ

Rupert Neve Designs Shelford 5052 Mic Pre/Inductor EQ - Best Mic Preamp Overall

Those who may not know much about the work of the Neve brand may be puzzled by the hushed tone those in the know reserve for the company. If you need a more recent reference, look no further than Dave Grohl’s recent documentary "Sound City", which itself was based around a prized Neve console responsible for the sound of many classic albums over the last several decades. Though its price is high enough to scare off the casual consumer, professionals will tell you that you can’t get much better than the Rupert Neve Designs Shelford 5052 Mic Pre/Inductor EQ. This preamp provides the penultimate 1073 feature set, including a mic pre, high pass filter, and 3-band inductor EQ. Updated features such as the variable Silk and Texture control and simultaneous pre/post “tape” operation give you even more options to color your sound as you seek perfection.

ART Digital MPA-II 2-Channel Tube Microphone Preamp - Best Mic Preamp Overall

When working with the Avalon VT-737sp mic preamp, you have quite a few options as to what type of audio signal you want to route through this fantastic sounding machine. A microphone input transformer offers 48-volt phantom selection and it sounds incredible professional, while an instrument DI and balanced line input have you covered for any other type of signal you want to record. The unit’s opto-compressor offers full dynamic control from anything between soft compression to hard-knee limiting. A sweepable EQ gives you the ability to sweeten and tweak your sound as you see fit. Meanwhile, a hardwired bypass ensures the most direct and untouched signal path.

Universal Audio Apollo Twin MkII Heritage Edition Mic Preamp - Best Mic Preamp Overall

Universal Audio’s LA-610 Mk II mic preamp replicates many of the best qualities of the company’s best-selling professional audio channel strip. This unit has been used on classic albums by the likes of Coldplay, the Beach Boys, and Van Halen, to name a few. The unit’s 610 tube preamp, DI, and EQ are all identical to the company’s classic LA-610. Control your signal with gain and level controls, EQ, and authentic Teletronix LA-2A-style T4 opto-compressor. Building on the legacy of its past, the LA-610 Mk II adds a distinct black-on-black design style for its build, as well as larger metering and improved output signal.

Manley Labs Force 4-Channel Vacuum Tube Microphone Preamplifier - Best Mic Preamp Overall

Considering it packs so many intricate components within a single unit, the Manley Core is very easy to use, with a clear and intuitive design and interface. Powered by a Class A tube mic preamp hand-wound with Manley transformers, this unit will make your vocals or acoustic instruments sound incredible. The direct input employs the same circuit as the company’s popular SLAM! unit, which lends a similar impeccability to direct instrument recording, too. A Baxandall EQ offers low/high shelving, and sweepable mid frequencies for intricate sound shaping. A fast attack FET brick wall limiter protects your converters from clipping while recording. The meter display can be adjusted to showcase input, output, and compressor gain reduction levels.

Tascam SERIES 8p Dyna 8 Channel Microphone Preamplifier - Best Mic Preamp Overall

API’s 3124+ may be a relatively compact rackmount mic preamp, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t feature the same preamp circuitry that is featured in all API consoles. Four XLR mic inputs sit in conjunction with four front-panel 1/4” hi-Z instrument inputs. Whether you’re plugging in a mic or an instrument, the 3124+ provides up to 65dB of gain to an output clip level of +30dBm. Front panel line and power switches make it easy to maneuver through all that this unit is capable of producing. Additionally, the 3124+ has the same output transformer found in all of API’s equalizers, so you really can count on this thing to offer a sweet and malleable sound.

Buyer's Guide

The sound signals coming out of a mix are of low amplitude. That's why the loudness is low, and you won't be able to hear the words. This is where mic preamps come to the rescue. It's a sound amplifier that will increase the signal amplitude, reduce noise distortions, introduce clarity and sharpness in the sounds, and increase the energy.

Since the amplifiers are so beneficial, they are used whenever a mic is used to generate output signal waves. Concerts, live shows, DJ shows, and other programs need this device to amplify sound energy and loudness. However, choosing the best mic preamp is not everyone's forte. That’s why we have created a well-explained buying guide to help you pick the best product for your purpose.

How Does A Mic Preamp Work?

When a sound signal is given at the input channel of the preamp from a microphone, it is fed to an amplifier circuit. A gain box is present in the amplifier circuit, which adds a value to the amplitude, thereby increasing it to a certain level as per the gain factor. The output sound signal will be similar to the input signal, with the only difference being amplitude. In some preamplifiers, a feedback channel is connected with the amplifier circuit. A part of the output signal is fed to the input to maintain the signal quality and gain stability.

What Are The Different Types Of Mic Preamps?

The microphone preamplifiers can be categorized into three groups based on the amplification process. In this section, we will introduce you to the three amplifier types available in the market.

Tube Mic Preamps

Inside these devices, a long hollow tube is present with a vacuum inside. The sound waves travel through the tube, and due to repeated reflection, their amplitudes increase a lot. However, as no filter is present in these preamps, the output sound signals might have superimposed noises, thereby causing distortions.

Transistor-Based Preamps

Transistors replaced the vacuum tubes used for amplifying the sounds in the mic preamps. These are solid-state devices that increase the amplitudes of the sound waves and reduce noise distortions. Moreover, with the evolution in electronics technology, the mic preamps are now made from different transistors for amplifying the sound waves accurately.

IC-Based Mic Amplifiers

These are modern preamps connected with the microphones where you will find the main technology to be the IC or Integrated Circuit boards. They are made from small solid-state devices like transistors, OP AMPS, filters, and others. Due to the reduced size of the circuit components, the amplifiers have a compact design.

What Factors Should You Consider For Choosing The Best Mic Preamp?

Number Of Channels

The first factor that you need to consider for buying the best preamp is the total number of channels present in the preamp. These channels signify the number of lines through which the audio signals will pass. Based on the channel numbers, you can divide the preamps into three forms — a single-channel amplifier, a dual-channel amplifier, and a multichannel amplifier. A mono channel amplifier can be connected with a single output device while the dual-channel preamps allow you to control two different output systems. If you want to control several sound systems with a single amplifier, make sure that it has multiple output channels.

Input/Output Connections

Secondly, you have to think about the total connection ports and their types present in the amplifier. No matter which technology you choose for the preamp, there should be one input coming from the mic and one output that will connect the amplifier to the speaker. In the latest IC amplifiers, several input and output ports are integrated to ensure that you can receive inputs from different sources and sample the output signal to different devices.

Filters


In the basic preamps, no filter circuit is available. As a result, distortions can be easily superimposed on the harmonics, which will result in poor-quality sound signals. However, most modern preamps are reinforced with in-built filters that can remove the distorted signals and noise, thereby maintaining the signal quality.

Balancer And Equalizer

If you want to get an amplifier with some additional features, you can look for the models with an in-built load balancer and equalizer. A load balancer will allow you to ensure that the signals in all the channels have equivalent gain or amplification. Besides, an equalizer will prevent unwanted gains in the sound signals, thereby equalizing the output and helping in the reproduction of the input signals perfectly.

Purpose

Lastly, it would be best if you chose the microphone preamp based on the purpose. For normal studio works, you can select the transistor-based or tube-based amplifiers, which are cheaper than the IC-based amplifier. However, suppose you want to use the amplifier for live shows and concerts. In that case, the IC amplifiers are best as they provide fast amplification and come with several other features that will help generate sound waves without any signal distortion.

What Are The Applications Of A Mic Preamp?

A microphone preamplifier can be used in several ways for increasing the amplitude of the sound waves and the loudness. Starting from recording studios to live concerts, a preamp is used whenever one needs to amplify the signals for sound clarity, reduce noise distortion, enhance gain stability, and increase loudness.

Mic Preamp FAQ

Q. Which type of microphone preamplifier should I choose for a live DJ show?

A. For live shows, you need quick amplification with minimal signal distortion. That's why it will be best to choose the IC-based preamps. These are the most advanced forms of amplifiers where you will be able to use several features to amplify and balance the sound signals and reproduce the exact wave forms without any distortion.

Q. Do I need a channel strip along with a preamp?

A. If you want a mixer, an equalizer, and a balancer along with the amplifier, you can choose a channel strip rather than buying all these elements individually.

Q. To which devices can I connect the preamp?

A. A microphone preamplifier can be connected to a mixer, a speaker, your laptop, or any other peripheral device as per the output ports present in the amplifier.

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