The Best Microphone Preamps - All Prices up to $1000

The Highest Rated Microphone Preamps

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Dedicated Mic Preamps are an often overlooked piece of gear especially for smaller project/home studios. Most modern audio interfaces have decent enough preamps on their own.

Because of this, many don't feel the need to purchase a dedicated preamp. However, when the time comes that you desire better sounding raw takes, or if you want to expand your audio interface with additional inputs, mic preamps start to make more sense especially in the long run. The best preamps color your recordings in a subtle but pleasant way, enabling your tracks to sound better on their own as well as in the mix.

In our April 2020 update of this mic preamp guide, we expanded our sections to include more price ranges; featuring new entries to the sub-$200 range and sub-$500 range.

Check out our updated recommendations featuring top rated single and multi-channel preamps.

The Best Microphone Preamps

Best Mic Preamps Under $200

Here are the top mic preamps in the entry level market, ideal for beginners, or those who are looking to improve their recording options and sound quality without spending too much.

ART Tube MP

88
GEARANK

88 out of 100. Incorporating 2000+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$70
ART Tube MP Mic Preamp

At publication time this was the Highest Rated Microphone Preamp Under $200.

The ART Tube MP is one of the most popular in this list with over 2000 rating sources. Not surprising considering its performance and features at this price point.

It's a single channel, 12ax7-equipped tube preamp to fatten up your tone.

No sound source is too weak thanks to its 70db gain range and low-noise operation.

The transformerless design aids in keeping signal purity at its best.

Features

  • Channels: 1
  • Mic Preamps: 1
  • Frequency Response: 10Hz-20kHz
  • Input Connectors: 1 x XLR, 1 x 1/4"
  • Output Connectors:1 x XLR, 1 x 1/4"
  • Controls:Gain, Phantom Power, +20db Gain boost , Phase Invert, Output
  • Dimensions: 2" " x 5" x 5.5"
  • Weight: 1.5 lbs.

Pros

Users note that the ART Tube MP is one of their first preamps and a lot mention they still use them after a long time. The sound quality it imparts is described as "warm" and a few users love it for giving sub-heavy bass guitars more harmonics at the lower midrange when miked. This makes it fit better in a mix. It also does a great job of fattening up thin vocals.

Cons

Not the best option for absolute transparency. Users report hum and noise in environments with poor wiring.

Overall

If you're looking to dip your toes in the world of preamps, the ART Tube MP may be the start of your next gear addiction. Even if you do end up with preamps costing more in the long run, the warmth and portability of this little box will still earn it a place in your signal chain.

ART Tube MP Studio V3

87
GEARANK

87 out of 100. Incorporating 600+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$100
ART Tube MP Studio V3 Tube Microphone Preamp

The ART Tube MP Studio V3 brings several, high-end features to the sub-$100 preamp range.

The V3 stands for "Variable Valve Voicing" technology which enables you to select different kinds of tube coloration (or none at all) with a radial switch.

An output limiter protects your signal in the case of sudden transient jumps or dynamic performances.

A built-in VU meter lets you set gain levels more accurately than relying on your DAW.

Features

  • Channels: 1
  • Mic Preamps: 1
  • Frequency Response:10Hz-20kHz
  • Input Connectors: 1 x XLR, 1 x 1/4"
  • Output Connectors: 1 x XLR, 1 x 1/4"
  • Controls:Gain, Phantom Power, +20db Gain boost , Phase Invert, V3 Voicing Control, Output
  • Dimensions: 1.75" x 5.75" x 19"
  • Weight: 4.5 lbs.

Pros

It's all about harmonics. Users love the fact that they can tune the level of coloration according to their sound source. The V3 settings were also open to experimentation with one user noting that the bass setting works well for vocals. Portability is also seen as a plus.

Cons

No balanced jack output.

Overall

If you want a portable tube pre with several voicings for various instruments and sound sources, the ART Tube MP Studio V3 is an excellent choice.

Behringer Ultragain Pro MIC2200

86
GEARANK

86 out of 100. Incorporating 550+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$124
Behringer Ultragain Pro MIC2200 - 2 Channel Tube Mic Preamp

With a pair of 12ax7 tubes and Parametric EQ onboard, the Ultragain Pro MIC2200 is an affordable 2-channel rack mountable preamp.

Aside from the usual gain, phantom power and phase invert, the unit also features a 12dB high-pass filter and LED metering

Features

  • Channels: 2
  • Mic Preamps: 2 Tube Preamps
  • Frequency Response: 10Hz - 200kHz
  • Input Connectors: 2 x XLR, 2 x 1/4"
  • Output Connectors: 2 x XLR, 2 x 1/4"
  • Controls: Gain, Phantom Power, EQ
  • Dimensions: 1.75" x 8.5" x 19"
  • Weight: 6.6 lbs.

Pros

Favorable reviews point to the MIC2200's bang for the buck.. Some users liked the onboard EQ for additional tone shaping for different sound sources.

Cons

One user had to have his unit repaired after around a year and a half for a power supply failure. The onboard EQ is a good feature but could be better according to some users.

Overall

The Behringer Ultragain Pro MIC2200 is a good, budget oriented 2 channel preamp to satisfy your home/project studio needs.

Best Mic Preamps Under $300

These preamps are a step up over the previous selections with regards to tech and features.

DBX 286s Single-Channel Mic Preamp

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 550+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$219
DBX 286s Channel Strip & Mic Preamp

At publication time this was the Highest Rated Microphone Preamp Under $300.

The DBX 286s is a versatile mic preamp with built-in vocal processing capabilities.

It starts off with a solid state mic preamp with switchable 80Hz high pass filter, phantom power and variable gain.

But what sets it apart is its very useful compression, de-esser and expander/gate section, all of which allow for flexibility that other preamps don't have, along with convenient yet deep control over the resulting sound that makes it viable for different vocal styles and even musical instruments.

Features

  • Channels: 1
  • Mic Preamps: 1
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz - 20kHz
  • Input Connectors: 1 x XLR, 1 x TRS Line Input, 1 x 1/4" Insert
  • Output Connectors: 1 x TRS Output
  • Controls:Gain, Phantom Power, 80 Hz High-Pass Filter, Compressor, De-Esser, Enhancer, Expander Gate, Output
  • Dimensions: 1.75" x 5.75" x 19"
  • Weight: 4.5 lbs.

Pros

From podcasting, to home recording, to live performance, many report that this preamp can do it all, and do it well at that. For something affordable, it is quite notable that its sound quality gets a lot of praise. As expected, value for money is also one of its strong points, making it accessible for beginners, while still having good enough features for experienced users to appreciate.

Cons

There are some who complained about the lack of output options, which prompted some users to modify or replace their cables to make the unit work with their existing gear.

Overall

If you are looking for a reliable, versatile and affordable mic preamp at a great price range, then do yourself a favor and get the DBX 286s.

Golden Age Project Pre-73 Jr

89
GEARANK

89 out of 100. Incorporating 80+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$250
Golden Age Project Pre-73 Jr Microphone Preamp

The Golden Age Pre 73 Jr is the little sibling of the standard Pre 73, which in turn is based on the classic Neve 1073 preamp.

Featuring discrete (no IC's) circuitry similar to the original, the Pre-73 Jr is an affordable take on a well-loved classic.

Overloading the preamp gain adds character and punch while maintaining clarity.

Features

  • Channels: 1
  • Mic Preamps: 1 Class A Mic Preamp
  • Input Connectors: 1 x XLR-1/4" combo (mic), 1 x 1/4" (Hi-Z)
  • Output Connectors: 1 x XLR, 1 x 1/4"
  • Controls:Gain, Phantom Power, Phase, D.I. Switch, Output

Pros

The classic 1073 style preamp has been heard on countless recordings but the price of an original unit excludes all but the most high-end studios. Users are happy to find that the Pre-73 Jr allows them to get that signature N-style sound at this price point. Despite being very simplistic and even more minimal than its bigger brother, the standard Pre 73, what matters most for users is the harmonic content it adds to raw tracks that make them punchier and easier to mix.

Cons

Some still found the unit expensive for its minimal features.

Overall

This is your ticket to get that famous 1073 sound in your mixes: Bold, Punchy and smooth at the high frequencies. It provides all the character you need to get your mixes up a level.

Behringer ADA8200 Ultragain 8-Channel Mic Preamp

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 475+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$298
Behringer ADA8200 Ultragain Mic Preamp

These days, Behringer is virtually everywhere in the entry level market, and they're raking in great reviews while they're at it. Case in point is the ADA8200, a mic preamp that gives you eight channels with MIDAS designed preamps.

Considering its affordable price tag, this preamp houses eight mic channels, more than enough to appease many users.

Controls are straightforward, with just a gain knob and phantom power switch.

The ADA8200 is often paired with ADAT compatible audio interfaces, like the Focusrite 18i20 and Focusrite 18i8.

Features

  • Channels: 8
  • Mic Preamps: 8 Midas Designed Preamps
  • Sample Rate: 44.1/48kHz 24-bit Cirrus Logic A/D and D/A Converters
  • Input Connectors: 8 x XLR, 8 x TRS, 1 x ADAT
  • Output Connectors: 8 x XLR, 1 x ADAT
  • Controls: 60dB Gain, Phantom Power
  • Dimensions: 1.75" x 8.5" x 19"
  • Weight: 4.6 lbs.

Pros

Overall market impression continues to be favorable for the Behringer ADA8200, with many thanking it mostly for the extra features that they are getting for their money. Many are more than happy with its eight channel design, but it's not just the additional preamps that helped propel this product up top, even its sound quality is said to be good.

Cons

There are some who commented that they can hear the difference in quality when compared with more expensive preamps. Still, they are more than happy with its performance, given its price.

Overall

If budget is limited and you're looking to expand your input options for recording and live situations, then check out the Behringer ADA8200.

Slate Digital VMS-ONE

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 10+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$299
Slate Digital VMS-ONE Microphone Preamp

Designed by famed audio designer Paul Wolff of API, the VMS-ONE by Slate Digital is meant to be a linear sounding preamp to complement their Modelling Microphone series.

Features

  • Channels: 1
  • Mic Preamps: 1
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz - 20kHz
  • Input Connectors: 1 x XLR-1/4" combo mic / instrument
  • Output Connectors: 1 x 1/4" TRS, 1 x XLR
  • Controls:Gain, Phantom Power, Polarity, Pad, Inst/Mic Switch, Output
  • Dimensions: 2.5" x 4.75" x 7.375"

Pros

While designed to best complement the VMS Mic system and the Preamp modelling software, many users found that the transparent nature of the preamp works well with other mics. Others have said that on its own, it's one of the most transparent sounding preamps in the market today.

Cons

Some users found it too complicated and fussy.

Overall

While its primary purpose is to be part of a mic and preamp modelling system, the VMS-ONE holds its own as a standalone preamp. If you want an absolutely transparent preamp for your studio, the VMS-ONE is a great choice.

Best Mic Preamps Under $500

This price range offers more up to date features, with both single channel preamps and multi channel options for expanding your recording capabilities.

Golden Age Pre-73 MKIII Single-Channel Mic Preamp

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 100+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$350
Golden Age Pre-73 MKIII Mic Preamp

The Pre-73 MKIII is Golden Age's reasonably priced nod to the classic Neve 1073, featuring vintage style tone coloration courtesy of its solid state design with Tantalum capacitors.

This single-channel preamp gives you up to 80dB of gain, which makes it compatible with passive ribbon mics, while the highpass filter and 2-position high-frequency boost allows for sound shaping.

Finally, the unit is housed in a red mini-rack form factor that is easy on the eyes and sturdy enough to survive regular use.

Features

  • Channels: 1
  • Mic Preamp: 1 Vintage Style Preamp with Tantalum Capacitors
  • Input Connectors: 1 XLR/TRS Combo, 1 x Hi-Z
  • Output Connectors: 1 x XLR, 1 x 1/4"
  • Controls: 80dB Gain, Output, Phantom Power, Phase, Input Impedance, Highpass filter
  • Dimensions: 1.75" x 9.5"
  • Weight: 6.8 lbs.

Pros

Most reviewers agree that the Golden Age Pre-73 MKIII is a great tool to add to any studio. Many commend this unit for adding life to their vocal tracks, while others found it to be very useful for use with ribbon mics when recording acoustic instruments.

Cons

There are a few who complained about build quality, like a user who reports that the power switch scratches on the metal housing.

Overall

Add analog vibe to your recordings with the Golden Age Pre-73 MKIII, highly recommended.

Focusrite Scarlett OctoPre

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 60+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$400
Focusrite Scarlett OctoPre 8-channel Microphone Preamp

At publication time this was the Highest Rated Microphone Preamp Under $500.

The Scarlett Octopre is an 8 channel preamp by Focusrite meant to expand upon their Scarlett line by adding more input and output options.

With a 109dB dynamic range, the OctoPre is great for expanding your existing setup to record more inputs like for a full drum kit.

Features

  • Channels: 8
  • Mic Preamps: 8
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz - 20kHz
  • Input Connectors: 8 x XLR-1/4" combo, 2 x Optical Toslink (ADAT)
  • Output Connectors: 8 x 1/4"
  • Controls:Gain, Phantom Power, Sync, Sample Rate, Mic/Line, Pads, Output
  • Weight: 7.1 lbs.

Pros

Being a perfect match for Focusrite's Scarlett series audio interfaces, most positive reviews come from owners that bought the Octopre to expand their setups. They state that the Octopre is easy to set up and is consistent with the already good quality of Focusrite preamps.

Cons

Some parts prone to breaking like the covers on the rear ADAT ports. A few reports of knobs losing functionality.

Overall

If you're looking to add more inputs to your existing audio interface with great sounding Focusrite preamps, the Scarlett OctoPre is the obvious choice in this price range.

Golden Age Project Pre-73 Premier

91
GEARANK

91 out of 100. Incorporating 10+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$499
Golden Age Project Pre-73 Premier Microphone Preamp

Compared to it's other siblings in this guide, the Golden Age Project Pre-73 Premier sports upmarket Carnhill input and Carnhill VTB 2514 output transformers and are hand-wired for vintage accuracy.

Features

  • Channels: 1
  • Mic Preamps: 1
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz - 20kHz
  • Input Connectors: 1 x XLR, 1 x TRS Line Input, 1 x 1/4" Insert
  • Output Connectors: 1 x TRS Output
  • Controls:Gain, Phantom Power, 80 Hz High-Pass Filter, Compressor, De-Esser, Enhancer, Expander Gate, Output
  • Dimensions: 1.75" x 5.75" x 19"
  • Weight: 4.5 lbs.

Pros

Purists and hobbyists alike can tell the difference when they use the Pre-73 Premier in their projects. The transformers, hand-wiring and carefully spec'ed components all add up to a sum greater than its parts. People with experience with the original Neve 1073 preamps praise the Pre-73 Premier's sound and character; calling it a great value for those chasing vintage tone with a great looking aesthetics to boot.

Cons

Those looking to overdrive the preamp for some gritty tones may find that it has more headroom than the original and therefore may be harder to push.

Overall

With great sound, value and aesthetics, the Pre-73 Premier is a winner for people chasing vintage tone without the vintage price tag.

Best Mic Preamp Under $1000

Here we look in detail at the top mic preamp that retails between $500 and $1000, being full featured for professional use while still accessible enough for home studios.

Grace Design m101 Single Channel Mic Preamp

95
GEARANK

95 out of 100. Incorporating 60+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$765
Grace Design m101 Single Channel Mic Preamp

At publication time this was the Highest Rated Microphone Preamp Under $1000.

What the Grace Design m101 lacks in features, it makes up for with its top notch build and sound quality.

It is a mic and instrument preamp that utilizes premium components like 0.5% precision metal film resistors for signal clarity and a 12-position gold-plated rotary gain switch.

It also features improved RFI suppression for studio quality clear and quiet performance.

Finally, it has a ribbon mode that applies more gain and phantom power protection for working with ribbon mics.

Features

  • Channels: 1
  • Mic Preamps: Grace Design preamp with Ribbon Mic mode
  • Input Connectors: 1 x XLR, 1 x 1/4" (Hi-Z)
  • Output Connectors: 1 x XLR, 1 x 1/4" (Balanced), 1 x 1/4" (Unbalanced)
  • Controls: Knobs: Gain, Trim | Buttons: 48V Phantom Power, Ribbon Mode, HPF, Power
  • Dimensions: 1.7" x 9" x 8.5"
  • Weight: 2.4 lbs.

Pro

Incredible and wonderful are just two of the many positive adjectives that people use to describe the Grace Design m101 preamp. Most of the commendations point to its sound clarity, while others are satisfied with its straightforward operation, where there is no need for complex tone shaping and tweaking.

Cons

There are no notable complaints about the m101, which is quite impressive given that there are many cheaper and more versatile alternatives.

Overall

If you're looking for a straightforward, studio quiet, and transparent sounding mic preamp, then check out the Grace Design m101.

Special Item

This is where we sometimes present additional options which didn't quite fit into our list above but which you may also find interesting and useful. In this case, it's a highly rated mic activator that sits between a preamp and a mic, and enhances the resulting sound.

Cloudlifter CL-1 Single-Channel Mic Activator

97
GEARANK

97 out of 100. Incorporating 250+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$149
Cloud Microphones CL-1 - Mic Preamp

Cloudlifter CL-1 is not a preamp in itself, but it uses the preamp's phantom power to improve the sound quality of Ribbon and Dynamic mics.

It features a specially designed active circuitry that adds +25dB of transparent gain, resulting in better capture of sonic detail, and making any preamp compatible with ribbon mics.

Since it utilizes phantom power, it can only be used with passive dynamic and ribbon mics.

Features

  • Channels: 1
  • Input Connectors: 1 x XLR
  • Output Connectors: 1 x XLR
  • Dimensions: 2" x 4.5" x 2"
  • Weight: 0.85 lbs.

Pros

The Cloudlifter CL-1 is often described as a mic boost, and rightly so because based on the reviews, it does boost both the volume and sound quality of many mics. Many describe the resulting sound to be quieter and cleaner, attesting to its usefulness in capturing the human voice, be it for singing, podcasting, chatting and more. When paired with a ribbon mic, reports have been very positive, it has also satisfied those who have used it to mike acoustic guitars and other instruments. "Clean" is an adjective that consistently appeared in many of the reviews, and is an appropriate description of what the CL-1 is all about.

Cons

With its very high rating, there aren't that many notable concerns with the CL-1. Its rating would've been higher if not for some users who complained about it's limitation, who wished that it could work with phantom powered mics, but that results from a misunderstanding of its purpose.

Overall

If you're not too keen on replacing your preamp and just want a way to improve the sound quality of your dynamic and ribbon mics, then the Cloudlifter CL-1 Mic activator is the way to go. It can also be used to help with long cable runs and if you're looking for an easy to implement clean mic boost.

Things To Consider When Buying a Mic Preamp for Vocals or Instrument Recording

  • Transparency vs Coloration

    Many of today's audio interfaces come with built-in preamps but, and most of them lean towards transparency, which is all good - until you itch for more. Most Solid State Mic Preamps are made to scratch this itch for better quality, offering improved transparency and more control over the sound. They are also oftentimes transformer-less to reduce sound coloration.

    When you find yourself looking for vintage-style warmth and coloration, you'll want to go for Tube Mic Preamps that mimic old recording equipment. These mic preamps mimic old school circuitry and components, using actual vacuum tubes and even customized transformers to get as close as possible to the sound of the preamp they are reproducing. While modern production techniques have made these units more reliable, it is still safer to handle these units with care, because of their tube component.

    Note that coloration and transparency is not limited to the type of circuitry used. There are solid state preamps that are designed to provide vintage style voicings, and there are tube preamps that can be transparent. If you're not sure what you want, you can use the age and style of your favorite tracks as your starting point.

  • Sound Source

    Mic preamps are usually designed to improve the quality of vocal recording, but there are some that work just as well for miking instruments like drums, acoustic guitars and amplifiers, some even come with Hi-Z inputs for electric guitars and basses. Transparent ones are normally more versatile, while vintage voiced ones are more limited but they are ideal when trying to recreate a old school voicing.

  • Number of Channels

    This list is dominated by single channel preamps as they are usually used for vocals and mostly to augment a setup which already has a number of "standard" preamps. It makes sense to have a higher quality option on the most important tracks without breaking the bank. Just remember that single channel units are limited, you can't do stereo recording with them so look out for the 2 channel preamps in this list if this is what you need. Multi-channel mic preamps (often 8 channel) are usually of the transparent variety and are used to expand the number of mic input channels available. Most of these offer ADAT outputs to connect an audio interface although the line outputs can be used. So check to see if your audio interface has ADAT if you want to take advantage of this.

  • Input and Output Ports

    Aside from the basic XLR input to TRS line level output that characterizes mic preamps, many offer a range of other I/O options. Other input ports include 1/4" Hi-Z inputs for instruments like electric guitars, 1/4" TRS line level inputs and 1/4" Return inputs. On the output side the options include XLR and ADAT. If you are looking to expand the capabilities of your ADAT compatible console or audio interface, then you'll want preamps with ADAT output.

  • Form Factor

    You'll want a preamp that fits in well with your other gear, and form factor plays an important role. The most commonly used profile is Rackmount because of its convenience. Lunchbox, and desktop friendly form factors are also available. It is also important to know where the ports are placed so you know how to position them. We've included the dimensions and weight (where available) in this list so you can know before purchasing if they will fit into your available space.

  • Extra Features

    Important features that you should look out for include phantom power and an input pad. Other features that can be practical include EQ and/or high-pass/low-pass filters, a noise gate and a power switch - you'll be surprised how some seem to skip on this feature.

Best Mic Preamp Selection Methodology

This guide was first published on February 2, 2017 written by Alexander Briones and the latest comprehensive revision was published on April 9, 2020 witten by audio engineer Raphael Pulgar with contributions from Alexander Briones.

We began by looking at all widely available standalone preamps at US based retailers that are primarily intended for use with microphones. We filtered out audio interfaces, vocal effect pedals and channel strips, which also have mic-pre features, to keep the list focused on standalone units.

For this update, we ended up shortlisting 46 mic preamps, along with over 7,500 relevant reviews, ratings, forum discussions and recommendations; almost 2,500 more sources than the previous major update. All these data were fed to the Gearank Algorithm, resulting in scores out of 100 that reflect current market sentiments, which we ultimately used to select the highest rated options to recommend in this guide. Finally, our recommended list is divided into price ranges so you can choose one that fits your budget, or prepare for one that requires a bit more investment. For more information about our methods see How Gearank Works.

Comments

Can any of your rack units

Can any of your rack units convert the processed analog input to MIDI for output? If not, does any manufacturer rack have this capability?

Surprised the Millennia HV

Surprised the Millennia HV-35P wasn't included in the "under $1000" class. HV-3 is used in film scoring and classical music recording everywhere (and in my home studio!)

I need a preamp mainly for

I need a preamp mainly for the phantom power source for my blue encore 300 condenser mic, for my vocal performances. I don't need multi channel. As the venues I am performing have serious power issues,is there any preamp that runs on rechargeable batteries without depending on the power at the venues?

Vocal Effect Pedals like the

Vocal Effect Pedals like the TC-Helicon Mic Mechanic 2 can give you what you need. It comes with a built-in mic preamp, it can supply phantom power, and it can run on four AA batteries.

Still, no portable mic preamp can help you if the power issues affect the venue's PA system. It also can't save you from the dangers that electrical issues pose, so it would be best to let the venue administration know of any power related problem.

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