The Best Microphone Preamps - All Prices up to $1000

The Highest Rated Microphone Preamps

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There was a time when you had to settle with whatever preamp your mixer or audio interface came with. With some budget rigs, this might result in subpar, even noisy raw tracks that are a pain to work on later on during mixing. Separate preamps used to be very expensive pieces of outboard gear costing up to tens of thousands of dollars.

These days, people are augmenting their setups with dedicated preamps to liven up the sound or to add additional gain to dynamic mics with as little noise as possible.

The best preamps also 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 March 2021 edition of this guide, we categorized each preamp according to sensible price ranges. We also decided to include inline preamps powered by phantom power from the mixer as these function the same way as regular preamps. Previously, items like the Cloudlifter CL-1 were included in a separate category. We also included something of an oddball in this category: The JHS Colour Box V2. Read on to find out why it will make a great addition to your gear.

The Best Microphone Preamps

Author & Contributors

Raphael PulgarRaphael Pulgar

An audio engineer of nearly 20 years who specializes in rock and metal recordings, he also plays guitar and produces original music for his band and other content creators.

Best Mic Preamps Under $200

ART Tube MP Mic Preamp

88
GEARANK

88 out of 100. Incorporating 2200+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$76
ART Tube MP Mic Preamp

At publication time this was the Equal Highest Rated Condenser Microphone Preamp Under $200 along with the Behringer MIC500USB.

When you think of tube based gear, you might automatically think they're more expensive variants. This isn't the case with the Art Tube MP. The Art Tube MP is a portable single channel mic preamp that features a 12AX7 vacuum tube along with a transformer-less design to give it a great balance of character and clarity.

It comes in a desktop form factor, making it ideal for producers on the go or those with a minimal or budget oriented setup.

Controls include a phantom power switch and phase reversal switch. It also has dedicated input and output gain knobs, allowing you to raise the input level to drive the tube.

Features

  • Channel: 1
  • Mic Preamps: 1 Tube Preamp
  • Tubes: 12AX7 Tube
  • Frequency Response: 10Hz-20kHz
  • Input Connectors: 1 x XLR, 1 x 1/4"
  • Output Connectors: 1 x XLR, 1 x 1/4"
  • Controls: 70dB Gain, 48V Phantom Power, Phase Reversal Switch, I/O Gain
  • Dimensions: 2" x 5" x 5.5"
  • Weight: 1.5 lbs.

Pros

For the price, many users were impressed with the performance. Acoustic guitars sound less brittle while maintaining midrange clarity, vocals benefit from the tube harmonics, outputting richer sounding raw tracks. Even D.I. Bass gains a richer low frequency range, making it more consistent when used with VST plugins.

Cons

Many wished for a power switch. Some found the preamp to be slightly noisy when pushed.

Overall

If you're looking for an affordable tube preamp, the ART Tube MP Mic Preamp is one of the best values on the market today.

Behringer MIC500USB Tube Microphone Preamp

88
GEARANK

88 out of 100. Incorporating 125+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$89
Behringer MIC500USB Tube Microphone Preamp

At publication time this was the Equal Highest Rated Condenser Microphone Preamp Under $200 along with the ART Tube MP.

The Behringer MIC500USB is a combo Tube Preamp + USB Audio interface.

Rather than just sticking with one voice, Behringer opted to offer 16 preamp voicings that can be tailored to your sound source and more.

The Preamp itself contains a single 12AX7 tube.

Controls include phase reversal, pad, low cut and direct monitoring.

Features

  • Channel: 1
  • Mic Preamps: 1 Tube Preamp
  • Tubes: 12AX7 Tube
  • Input Connectors:1 x XLR (mic), 1 x 1/4" (Hi-Z), 1 x 1/4" (line in)
  • Output Connectors: 1 x 1/4" (direct out), 1 x 1/4" (headphones)
  • Controls: Gain, 48V Phantom Power, Phase Reversal Switch, -20dB Pad, Low Cut, Direct Monitor, Preamp Mode

Pros

Users liked the multiple voicing options that the MIC500USB offers. They like its versatility for recording a wide variety of different sound sources. A few also liked that it doubles as an audio interface, making it an affordable all-in-one solution for users that just want to record voice overs and podcasts.

Cons

Unit can get noisy when using with higher gain settings. USB interface implementation didn't work for some.

Overall

If you want a versatile tube preamp that doubles as an audio interface (albeit a basic one), the Behringer MIC500USB Tube Mic Preamp is right up your alley.

sE Electronics DM1 Dynamite

92
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$99
sE Electronics DM1 Dynamite Active Inline Preamp for Dynamic & Ribbon Mics

The sE Electronics DM1 Dynamite is an inline active mic preamp for dynamic and ribbon microphones.

Powered by your interface or mixer's +48 volt phantom power, the DM1 Provides +28dB of clean gain independent of load.

High-grade FETs and transformerless design delivers transparent sound with a low noise floor.

Features

  • Channels: 1
  • Input Connectors: 1 x XLR
  • Output Connectors: 1 x XLR
  • Dimensions: 3.76" x 0.75"
  • Weight: 0.17 lbs.

Pros

Many users used the DM1 to augment notoriously gain-hungry microphones like the Shure SM57 and Shure SM7b. The additional gain hits a sweet spot before hitting their interfaces with very little added noise. It also appears to be a community favorite with many recommendations appearing on forums, mainly as a "must-buy" if you're using dynamic and ribbon mics.

Cons

One user noted that their unit had some audible distortion and might be from purchasing a defective unit. To avoid this, purchase from retailers that offer a replacement in such situations.

Overall

For the price, The sE Electronics DM1 Dynamite brings a lot to the table especially for users that have dynamic mics but with interfaces that introduce too much noise when cranking the gain.

Cloudlifter CL-1 Single-Channel Mic Activator

97
GEARANK

97 out of 100. Incorporating 1750+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$149
Cloud Microphones CL-1 - Mic Preamp

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

Cloudlifter CL-1 is an active inline microphone preamp that uses +48v phantom power.

It features a specially designed active circuitry that adds +25dB of transparent gain, resulting in better capture of sonic detail, and making any built-in mixer or interface preamp compatible with ribbon mics and gain demanding dynamic mics like the SM7b.

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

Although it is a preamp, he 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 mic 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.

Best Mic Preamps Under $300

DBX 286s Single-Channel Mic Preamp

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 1000+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$229
DBX 286s Channel Strip & Mic Preamp

At publication time this was the Highest Rated Condenser 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

Some 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.

Cloud Microphones CL-2

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 175+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$249
Cloud Microphones CL-2 Mic Preamp

At publication time this was the Highest Rated Dynamic Microphone Preamp Under from $200 to $300.

The Cloud Microphones CL-2 takes the concept of the inline, phantom power fed mic preamp and doubles it for two independent channels ideal for stereo mic setups.

This dual mono version is ideal for matched stereo pairs and enables the use of dynamic microphones as overhead mics without added noise from pushing the mixer or interface preamps.

Features

  • Channels: 2
  • Mic Preamps: 2
  • Input Connectors: 2 x XLR
  • Output Connectors: 2 x XLR
  • Dimensions: 4.5" x 5.75" x 3.75"
  • Weight: 1.19 lbs.

Pros

Many users were already fans of the original CL-1 single inline mic preamp from Cloud Microphones. The dual mono setup of the CL-2 ensures that the two channels are matched rather than using two separate inline preamps which may have some component tolerance differences. For ribbon mics and dynamic mics, the CL-2 gives a great clean boost which helps relieve mixer and interface gain stages for a more optimal gain level.

Cons

Some users didn't notice any difference with output level when they used the unit. Though a comment on one review asked if they had forgotten to turn phantom power on which was the case for that particular user.

Overall

If you're looking to augment your matched ribbon or dynamic mic pair and make it work more efficiently, with a lower noise floor and less stress on the preamps of your interface or mixer, the CL-2 by Cloud Microphones is a great pick.

Golden Age Project Pre-73 Jr

91
GEARANK

91 out of 100. Incorporating 125+ 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.

Best Mic Preamps Under $500

Golden Age Pre-73 MKIII Single-Channel Mic Preamp

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 150+ 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

Some noted build quality issues, 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.

JHS Colour Box V2

93
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$399

At publication time this was the Highest Rated Condenser Microphone Preamp from $300 to $500.

You're probably wondering what a stompbox is doing on a mic preamp guide. JHS has thrown conventions aside and put a Neve-style console preamp and eq circuit into a stompbox format. This was borne from JHS founder Josh Scott's goal of replicating guitar tones recorded direct to console with the strip hitting saturation similar to The Rolling Stones and The Beatles to name a few.

This V2 iteration takes that concept further by adding more console-like features to the stompbox, enabling it to be used as a true mic preamp and more.

It features a fully analog signal path with a newly added output transformer in this V2 iteration. It also includes a phantom power pass-thru which lets your interface or mixer's phantom power go through the preamp and into your condenser mic. Hi/Lo input adjusts headroom according to the input needs.

The input is a combo TRS/XLR jack so you can still use microphones with it. Outputs are covered by separate XLR and 1/4" jacks.

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

The pedal is literally a "Neve in a box" which has never been heard of before. Many users, from musicians, to producers and everyone in between love what the pedal adds to their sound. People have been finding different uses for the Colour Box V2 such as using it as an overdrive pedal, a bass D.I. and of course, a Mic Preamp and EQ.

Cons

Hardly any reported negatives aside from it being in a stompbox factor (despite that being what's so novel about it). The only other negative review we found was a user who received a different item. To ensure you get what you ordered, only transact with authorized retailers.

Overall

Stompboxes are known to be part of a guitarist's toolbox and despite the form factor, the JHS Colour Box V2 demands to be taken seriously as both a studio and stage tool. Even if you are only getting it as a preamp, you are bound to find a dozen or more uses for it just like many others have.

Cloud Microphones CL-4 Cloudlifter Rackmount

90
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$499

At publication time this was the Highest Rated Dynamic Microphone Preamp from $300 to $500.

The Cloud Microphones CL-4 expands on the CL-1 inline preamp; this time with 4 independent channels in a rackmount unit.

Discrete JFET circuitry and a transformerless design keeps the signal path clean and clear.

For live use, the added gain from the CL-4 enables you to cut through a live mix with full dynamics without increasing the risk of feedback.

The rackmount chassis is a standard 19" rack unit and manufactured in the USA.

Features

  • Channels: 4
  • Mic Preamp: 1 Vintage Style Preamp with Tantalum Capacitors
  • Input Connectors: 4 x XLR
  • Output Connectors: 4 x XLR
  • Dimensions: 19" x 1.75"
  • Weight: 1.19 lbs.

Pros

A user that employed the unit in a 4 piece acapella group noted that their sound quality noticeably improved along with their projection without added feedback or noise once they integrated the CL4 into their wireless mic unit. Other users also note the increase in gain without added feedback to be a welcome benefit to their live venue rig. For studio use, another user liked how they could back off the input gain on their interface when using the CL-4 on drum shell mics for added clarity and headroom before saturation.

Cons

The only complaint we encountered was the fact that it only comes in a rackmount unit and not a separate floor unit.

Overall

Cloud Microphones have done it again with the CL-4 Rackmount. For those that need the added gain without noise or feedback risk in live situations, the CL-4 rackmount is an excellent addition to your rig.

Best Mic Preamp Under $1000

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

Focusrite ISA One

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 225+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$650
Focusrite ISA One Desktop Microphone Preamp

Originally introduced in the late 2000s, the The ISA One design was based on the original ISA 110 topology with a Lundahl L1538 transformer and Zobel network.

The ISA One takes the sound of their lauded Forte console into a desktop preamp form factor.

It features a mic / line / instrument input selector and an impedance selector to match whatever mics you plan to use. It also includes insert send/return, cue mix, and headphone out for latency free monitoring,

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

Many users describe the inherent "sound" of the ISA One as "taking a blanket off your mic". The added clarity while maintaining frequency balance was something that many people originally loved about the unit and now that the word is out, more users also report the same effect with not just their vocals, but even instruments like guitar, bass and drums as well. It's worth noting that it doesn't specifically EQ your sound but rather enhances musical sounding harmonics to add more polish without making the sound shrill or overly bright.

Cons

Negative reviews stem from people who didn't find any large benefit to their sounds and concluded it's not worth the price. Further comments concluded that they already have great sounding gear in their studio and purchasing one wasn't as big of an improvement to their already great setup as they expected.

Overall

If you're looking for a golden ticket to hang with the big rigs, the ISA One is one that's within reach. Many users have experienced a big jump in their recording quality with the ISA One while some with already fantastic rigs felt barely an increment. If you're one of the latter and want to take that big step up towards harmonically richer raw tracks, get it.

Grace Design m101 Single Channel Mic Preamp

96
GEARANK

96 out of 100. Incorporating 70+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$765
Grace Design m101 Single Channel Mic Preamp

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

Compared to many offerings at this pricepoint the Grace Design m101 looks minimal, even underfeatured. But what it lacks in features, it makes up for in sound and simplicity.

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

While it doesn't score points for heritage, it does rank high on for top-tier componentry, circuit design, noise floor and clarity; all in a simple-to use half-rack format. If you're looking for a straightforward, studio quiet, and transparent sounding mic preamp, then check out the Grace Design m101.

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 usually transformerless 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. Some FET Mic Preamps are designed to mimic some tube saturation by clever circuit design. These are generally more durable and consistent than their tube counterparts but can get harsher when pushed.

  • Sound Source

    Mic preamps are designed to increase gain without compromising on the noise floor. Aside from vocals, mic preamps are also useful for augmenting instruments like drums, acoustic guitars and amplifiers, some even come with Hi-Z inputs for electric guitars and basses. Transparent preamps are more versatile and are designed with clean headroom in mind. Some designs color the sound in pleasing ways with harmonics or some equalization.

  • Number of Channels

    Many of the recommendations in this edition of the guide are single channel preamps and are suited to augment built-in preamps for single-source recordings. 2 channel preamps are usually made with matched componentry, ensuring better consistency versus using two single-channel preamps. While there are multi-channel preamps in the market today, they mostly function as additional inputs for audio interfaces. Most mixers and audio interfaces already have decent preamps for recording and the market has shifted in favor of preamps with fewer channels that are definite upgrades over many built-in preamps.

  • 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. This guide features inline, rackmount and desktop preamps.

    Inline preamps usually have a cylindrical form factor and mount directly into the output of your mic. They are also usually phantom powered. other inline preamps, come in a D.I. box type format.

    Rackmount preamps occupy either a full horizontal rack or in some cases like the Grace Design m101, are half-racks.

    Desktop preamps are exactly what they are and are usually non-rackmountable.

    The JHS Colour Box V2 is an exception to these as it comes in a stompbox format.

    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, noise gates, metering and power switching.

Best Mic Preamp Selection Methodology

The first edition was published in 2017 and the latest edition was published on March 24, 2021.

We began by looking at all widely available standalone preamps at US based retailers that are intended for use with microphones, except that we excluded 500 series modules.

For this update we revamped our criteria to include inline preamp designs. While some would argue about their status as preamps, the circuit designs, although minimal, share the same design and intention as their more complex iterations. We ended up shortlisting 48 mic preamps, along with over 11,200 relevant reviews, ratings, forum discussions and recommendations; almost 4,000 more sources than the previous edition. All these data were fed to the Gearank Algorithm to produce rating scores out of 100 that reflect current market sentiment, 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.

About the Author and Contributors

Here are the key people and sources involved in this guide's production - click on linked names for information about their music industry backgrounds.

Lead Author & Researcher

Raphael PulgarRaphael Pulgar

An audio engineer of nearly 20 years who specializes in rock and metal recordings, he also plays guitar and produces original music for his band and other content creators.

Aside from endlessly window shopping and watching hours of gear reviews for leisure, he enjoys playing competitive FPS games, MMORPGs and caring for his 5 cats. He is primarily influenced by guitarists like Kurt Ballou and Paul Gilbert. His favorite pieces of gear are his Ibanez RG550RFR, Orange Brent Hinds Terror amplifier and EQD Acapulco Gold fuzz.

Contributors

Alexander Briones: Supplemental writing.
Jason Horton: Editing and Illustrating.

Media

Main/Top Image: By Gearank.com using photographs of the Grace Design m101, Behringer MIC500USB. Cloud Microphones CL-2, Golden Age Pre-73 MKIII, Golden Age Project Pre-73 Jr, DBX 286s and Focusrite Scarlett OctoPre.

The individual product images were sourced from websites, promotional materials or supporting documentation provided by their respective manufacturers.

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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