The Best Acoustic Preamp Pedal Guide

The Highest Rated Acoustic Preamps

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An acoustic guitar's sound is influenced greatly by its body, and this complex sound interaction is difficult to faithfully amplify. Thankfully, there are now preamps that are well suited for this task.

Here we present you with the best rated acoustic preamps, based on the most recent review and rating data up to September 2022 (more about this in the methodology section).

In addition to keeping the natural acoustic sound intact, these market favorite preamps also provide essentials like volume control and tone shaping via EQ, while others go the extra mile and provide boost and other effects. Some can even add back or modify body resonance sometimes lost in piezo pickup systems that are found inside acoustic-electric guitars, either through special audio processing, or through deep EQ tweaking.

Note that this guide is about external preamps, not the onboard preamps that are mounted inside guitars and other instruments. If you have an onboard preamp in your guitar you can plug it straight into an acoustic amplifier but many find the improvements of these dedicated preamp units are just too good to go without. If you want to send your signal directly to a mixing desk then you'll need a preamp to act as a DI box and transform your signal to the desk's required levels.

Best Acoustic Preamp Pedals

Author & Contributors

Alexander BrionesAlexander Briones

I've written about and researched music gear for many years, while also serving as a music director at my local church, in addition to teaching guitar, bass and mentoring young musicians.

Highest Rated Acoustic Preamp Pedals

These are the preamps that have received the highest ratings - see How Gearank Works for further information about Gearank Ratings.

LR Baggs Para DI

95
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$199
LR Baggs Para DI Acoustic Guitar Preamp

Cons

  • Small control knobs
  • No footswitch control

Pros

  • Versatile EQ with tunable notches
  • Can target and tweak problematic frequencies
  • Transparent sounding preamp
  • Intuitive control layout

LR Baggs is well known for the quality of their gear, and the Para DI is a great showcase of what their brand is all about. What sets the LR Baggs Para DI apart is its versatile 5-band EQ with tunable notch and midrange bands, which allows for extensive tone shaping that you won't usually get from a preamp.

The EQ knobs all have big ranges, which allow for subtle adjustments to fix venue related sound issues, and for bigger changes to substantially shape the overall sound. The tune knobs lets you zero in on problematic frequencies and boost or lower them down as needed. These tone shaping controls can let you tweak for a fuller sound in case you're playing solo or with a small group. Those who play with bands can utilize the Para DI to go for a more mid-focused cutting tone.

It lets you do all this in a very intuitive manner without having to dive into complex menus and buttons. Note that absolute beginners may not immediately understand how the EQ and notch knobs work, but it doesn't take much to figure it out, especially if they get help from experienced musicians.


LR Baggs Para DI Battery Compartment
The LR Baggs Para DI can run on a 9V battery

All these nifty tone shaping options are backed by a transparent sounding preamp, so you still retain much of the original voicing of your guitar when you tweak the EQ controls. This transparency caused some first time users to encounter feedback issues, these issues are easily fixable by utilizing the notch filters and phase inversion.

Note that while it works great with acoustic-electric guitars, the Para DI is also quite popular among violinists and musicians who play other pickup equipped acoustic instruments. Other practical features include feedback control via phase inversion and the option to power the unit via a 9V battery or via phantom power.

Its compact form factor and straightforward design makes this preamp viable for floor or desk setups. Speaking of compact, the knobs are quite small, which makes realtime tweaking during performances a bit of a challenge. So it is recommended to get the tweaking done before performing, so you won't have to reach for the small knobs as you perform. Another limitation of the Para DI is the lack of footswitch control.

If you're a multi-instrumentalist that plays various acoustic instruments, and you're willing to put some time in fine tuning your EQ and notch filters, then the versatile LR Baggs Para DI is highly recommended.

Specifications

  • Profile: Single Pedal (No Footswitch)
  • Controls: Volume, Low, Notch, Mid, Pres, Treble, Notch Variation, Mid Variation
  • Input: 1 x 1/4"
  • Output: 1 x 1/4", 1 x XLR (DI Out)
  • Powered By:48V Phantom Power, 9V Battery
  • Dimensions: 1.9" x 3.6" x 5.6"
  • Weight: 0.9 lbs.

Rating Source Highlights

Website Source *Rating Value
MusicPlayers Derek Davodowich 93/100
Rex and the Bass Rex 94/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

JHS Clover Electric Acoustic Preamp Pedal

96
GEARANK

96 out of 100. Incorporating 200+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$199
JHS Clover Electric Acoustic Preamp Pedal
At publication time this was the Highest Rated Acoustic Preamp Pedal.

Cons

  • Not a dedicated acoustic preamp
  • No anti-feedback feature

Pros

  • Transparent full sounding preamp
  • Can be used as boost effect
  • Can work with acoustic and electric guitars
  • Versatile EQ modes and controls

The JHS Clover is an all-around preamp / boost pedal that can work with acoustic, electric and even bass guitars. It behaves similar to the FET preamp of the 80's Boss FA-1, as used by U2's the Edge. Only this one offers more tone shaping, and output options.

At lower volume levels, the preamp is very transparent, with subtle low end bump that makes the resulting sound fuller, great for always-on basic preamp use. Raising the volume higher adds grit to the tone, allowing the pedal to behave like a boost pedal. Understandably, this boost functionality appeals to those who play electric guitars, but with some EQ tweaks, the JHS Clover's boost can also work great for acoustic - as long as the volume knob is not pushed too hard.

JHS equipped this pedal with a rotary switch that lets you choose between three EQ modes: Full EQ, No Mid, and No EQ. These EQ modes affect the 3-band EQ knobs that come with the preamp. The No Mid setting is closer to the original FA-1 pedal as it disables the MID EQ control. The other modes are self-explanatory, Full EQ engages the 3-band EQ knobs, while No EQ disables all three for a strictly preamp only functionality.


JHS Clover Low-cut switch
JHS Clover Low-cut switch

The No EQ and No Mid options allow for straightforward preamp use, which is easier to integrate into different types of setups. The Full EQ mode turns the Clover into a versatile preamp plus EQ unit. Further tone shaping is possible with its side-mounted switch for engaging Low-cut functionality.

This pedal gives you two output options, a regular 1/4" and a balanced XLR output which you can use for plugging directly into a mixing desk.

The JHS Clover is a good versatile preamp to have if you play both electric and acoustic guitars. While it may not have the same features as dedicated acoustic preamps, it's versatile EQ and boost functionality makes this a viable preamp for those who play with acoustic-electric guitars with a band.

Specifications

  • Profile: Single Pedal
  • Controls: Volume, Bass, Middle, Treble, EQ Mode, Ground/Lift
  • Input: 1 x 1/4"
  • Output: 1 x 1/4", 1 x XLR (Balanced Out)
  • Powered By: 9V Power Supply (Sold Separately)
  • Dimensions: 1.6" x 2.6" x 4.8"
  • Weight: 0.59 lbs.

Rating Source Highlights

Website Source *Rating Value
The Gear Page DecoWaves 94/100
YouTube The Gear Cage 95/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Radial Tonebone PZ-Pre

93
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$410
Radial Tonebone PZ-Pre Acoustic Preamp DI Box Pedal

Cons

  • Bulky and heavy
  • Not for those who want a basic preamp

Pros

  • Stage ready input/output options
  • Versatile EQ controls
  • 2-Channel Preamp with footswitch
  • Built-in boost with footswitch

Radial continues to do well in the preamp market thanks to the quality of their products. The Tonebone PZ-Pre is their best rated, feature packed, multi-function preamp for acoustic instruments.

It has expanded tone shaping options, and versatile input/output, while retaining Radial's acclaimed high fidelity preamp and DI. And this ability to morph the sound of your acoustic guitar however you want to is really what the PZ-Pre is all about. The Low EQ knob is paired with multiple Low-cut modes that give you precision control over the lower frequencies. Control over the mids are expanded with a freq control knob. If that's not enough, the unit has a notch knob with multiple Notch Q modes.

Another nifty feature of the PZ-Pre is the included boost footswitch and boost level knob. This lets you boost the signal for emphasizing certain parts, and do so hands-free. Thankfully, it does not color the sound as much as regular boost effects, retaining the sonic flavor of your instrument.


Pz-Pre Piezo Buffer and Blend Mix
Piezo buffer switch for passive pickups

Speaking of coloration, the preamp has that high-definition sound that you'd expect from Radial. So even if you set everything mid-way, you're getting good sounding transparent tone. And it doesn't stop at just one preamp, the PZ-Pre has two preamps with dedicated footswitch control. It also has pre and post EQ, allowing for precise control over your sound for both the FOH and your monitor. There's also a "piezo buffer" switch on the side for better compatibility with passive pickups.

And I'm not the only one who is impressed, it has a long list of satisfied owners, including big name endorsers like James Taylor, Jerry Douglas, Keb Mo and many more.

Given all these features and controls, the Tonebone PZ-Pre is quite bulky and heavy. So if you're looking for something simple and compact, this is not for you. Note that this is the newer facelfted version of the PZ-Pre, which carries over the Loop On feature that was introduced a while back.

If you're looking for a powerful transparent DI Box solution for your acoustic guitar or other acoustic instruments, then the Radial Tonebone PZ-Pre is definitely worth checking out.

Specifications

  • Profile: Multi-Switch Pedal
  • Controls: Boost, Low, Freq, Mid, High, Notch, Level-B, Level-A, Polarity, Footswitch, Notch Q, Low Cut, 3 x Footswitches (Mute, Boost, Toggle)
  • Input: 2 x 1/4", 1 x 1/4" (Return)
  • Output: 1 x 1/4" (Amp), 1 x 1/4" (Send), 2 x XLR (Pre/Post EQ), 1/4" Tuner
  • Powered By: 15V Power Supply (Included)
  • Dimensions: 2" x 8" x 4.25"
  • Weight: 2.7 lbs.

Rating Source Highlights

Website Source *Rating Value
Audiofanzine iamqman 80/100
Sound On Sound James Dunkley 98/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Grace Design ALiX

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 30+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$765
Grace Design ALiX

Cons

  • Needs quite the investment
  • Not a basic plug and play preamp

Pros

  • Studio quality quiet signal path
  • Versatile EQ controls
  • Transparent and musical sounding preamp
  • Built-in Boost

The Grace Design ALiX is a premium instrument preamp with expanded EQ controls and studio-quality quiet signal path.

Its focal feature is its versatile and natural sounding EQ section, which lets you adjust highs, lows, and mids more precisely via pass filters, notch and parametric controls. This way you can zero in on frequencies that need to be cut or boosted, and do so while retaining a relatively intuitive layout. I say relatively because the rabbit hole of controls can go even deeper with DIP switches on the side. Still, the control layout is well thought out, and should be easy to get the hang of for experienced guitarists.

All these EQ controls would mean nothing if the core sound was bland, thankfully this pedal has a very transparent and musical sounding preamp that's perfect for acoustic guitars. With just a few tweaks, you can get your guitar to sound natural, and you get even better results as you get used to adjusting its many EQ controls. Another important feature of the ALix is its built-in boost function, with dedicated boost knob and footswitch. And the type of boost it produces is tuned specifically for acoustic instruments.

For better compatibility with different pickup types, it also comes with 3 input impedance modes. There are also controls for Gain and Amp output, which further expands the versatility of the pedal. Other features include having a phase reverse switch, DI output, tuner out and, effects loop insert.

While it can be easy to get a good sound, it will take quite a while to get a good handle of everything that this pedal can do. This is definitely not for those who prefer simple preamps.

Everything about the ALiX feels premium and road worthy. If you have the money to spend and want nothing less than a high quality single channel preamp for your acoustic guitar, then check out the Grace Design ALiX.

Specifications

  • Profile: Double Switch Pedal
  • Controls: Gain, Notch, Low, Mid, High, Mid Frequency, Boost, Mid Q, Amp, Ground/Lift, Amp Out Level, Input Frequency, 2 x Footswitches: Boost, Tuner/Mute
  • Input: 1 x 1/4"
  • Output: 1 x 1/4" (Amp Out), 1 x XLR (DI Out)
  • Powered By: Standard IEC AC cable, Additional 9V 500mA
  • Dimensions: 3" x 6.2" x 5.5"
  • Weight: 2.2 lbs.

Rating Source Highlights

Website Source *Rating Value
Acoustic Guitar Doug Young 90/100
YouTube Shawn Tubbs 95/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Things to Consider when Buying an Acoustic Guitar Preamp

Your Pickup Types

  • Active Piezo/Transducer Pickups

    Acoustic-Electric guitars that have inbuilt battery powered preamps are mostly of this type. You can get by without a preamp pedal (unless you want to plug straight into the mixer) but many players use them to shape the tone and get rid of the dreaded 'Quack' sound that piezo's tend to produce.

  • Passive Piezo Pickups

    These are the kind that attach to an acoustic instrument to pick up the vibrations without built-in electronics. These can be used with acoustic guitars, banjos, cellos, violin/fiddles, mandolins, contrabass, bouzoukis, lutes and many more. They need higher impedance inputs to produce a decent sound. At least 1M Ohms is required and 10M Ohms is recommended which is more than most amps or standard guitar pedals are designed for. Passive pickups usually need to be plugged into a preamp to provide the correct impedance levels to most acoustic amps, mixing desks and PA systems.

  • Magnetic Pickups

    These behave much like the pickups found on electric guitars and you can plug them straight into ordinary pedals or an amp. As a result they can sound a bit more like an electric guitar and many players choose to use a preamp to emphasize the acoustic sound of their guitar.

What You'll be Playing Through - Amp or Mixer?

  • Mixing Desk / XLR Connection

    This is where acoustic preamps are essential and where their tone shaping shines. Firstly you'll need a preamp to at least act as a DI to connect to the XLR inputs of typical desks. Acoustic Preamps are much better suited to shaping the tone of acoustic instruments than the options on a mixing desk. They also allow you to bring out the sound of your instrument best using your familiar preamp settings rather than relying on last minute tweaking on the mixing console.

  • Acoustic Instrument Amp

    You don't strictly need a preamp if you already have an onboard preamp or a magnetic pickup, but you can still use one to shape and improve your tone as many professionals do. A preamp is a must if you have a passive Piezo pickup.

Tone Shaping

Ideally, preamps are meant to just amplify the natural tone of your instrument, but real world scenarios require you to tweak the sound to get the better results. EQ and other tone shaping options are good features to look out for, since they allow for sonic flexibility, be it for adding subtle warmth, or for dramatically improving the sound of your instrument. Boost is another practical feature that gets kudos in reviews, especially useful for dynamic playing styles.

Feedback Suppression

There's nothing more annoying than having to deal with unwanted feedback in the middle of performing. While proper positioning and distance from speakers can help alleviate these issues, feedback suppression that is built-into preamps can be a big help. Look for those with automatic notch filtering, which suppresses frequencies that feedback usually occurs on. Others give you more control over notch filtering, allowing you to zero in on offending frequencies. Phase button and ground/lift are also features that can help with feedback and unwanted noise as you play.

Active Di Box vs Acoustic Preamp Pedal

Strictly speaking Active DI's (not passive) are preamps and they fulfill the same basic functions however they don't usually come with acoustic guitar friendly options like tone shaping and feedback suppression.

Best Acoustic Preamp Selection Methodology

The first Edition was published in 2016 and the current Edition was published on September 8, 2022.

We started by looking at all the acoustic preamp pedals that are readily available from United States retailers which have been designed for use on stage. We then placed those with the most promising reviews and ratings on our short-list to produce ratings for. This resulted in a short list of 32 preamps, and you can see their ratings in our Music Gear Database.

We collected over 6,700 relevant opinions from forum discussions, reviews, ratings and recommendations, including the most recent ones up to September of 2022 (a 4.7% increase over the previous edition), which we processed with the Gearank Algorithm to produce the rating scores out of 100 you see above. We chose those with the highest ratings to recommend.

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

Alexander BrionesAlexander Briones

I've written about and researched music gear for many years, while also serving as a music director at my local church, in addition to teaching guitar, bass and mentoring young musicians.

I usually plug my Martin OMCPA4 straight to a Boss RC-300 Loop Station, which is primarily a looper but also serves as my all-in-one acoustic preamp and effects processor. It is a bit bulky though, so at times I just plug into dedicated preamps that are provided by the venues I play, like the SansAmp Para Driver .

Contributors

Alden Acosta: Product research.
Jason Horton: Editing and Illustrating.

Media

Main/Top Image: Created by Gearank.com using photographs of the LR Baggs Para DI, Radial Tonebone PZ-Pre and JHS Clover.

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

Comments

You totally missed the boat !

You totally missed the boat ! NOE of the preamps you reviewed are any good. The best of the best is the BBE Acoustamax and you didn't even review it. Dumb. I've used most of these and the LR Baggs is garbage.

Do you have any experience

Do you have any experience with the cheap chinese pedals like the Joyo AD-2 or the Harley Benton? Thanks

Today we removed the

Today we removed the following acoustic preamp from the recommended list above due to it having been discontinued but you can still read our analysis of it: Boss AD-8.

Are these preamps necessary

Are these preamps necessary if I’ve got a processor like the Boss VE-8?

The Boss VE-8 has built-in

The Boss VE-8 has built-in preamps for both acoustic guitar and condenser mics so you don't need an additional acoustic preamp.

Do you know of an alternative

Do you know of an alternative to the K&K Trinity preamp? The K&K stereo (2 channel) preamp only takes a 9 volt battery (no AC or 48V option) and requires a DI box between the preamp and a PA (board/interface). So I'm looking for something that it accepts a TRS (stereo) signal and then allows for shaping of each channel independently. Plus if the alternative has an XLR (DI) out.

I did some of the work on

I did some of the work on this guide and I don't recall seeing anything that resembled your requirements from any of the major manufacturers.

tonebone, input one is a

tonebone, input one is stereo
dtar
aer dual mix
felix grace design
quantum k&k
orange acoustic preamp
headway
there is a lot out there of what your looking for

Fire-eye Develoment Redeye.

Fire-eye Develoment Redeye. Pros all over Nashville are using this. Solid company, rock star preamp. Super simple but clean with TONS of headroom. And, XLR phantom power and 9v to boot. Built like a tank. They have a 2 channel version also.

Thank you very much for

Thank you very much for reminding us about Fire-Eye.

Originally they didn't meet our availability criteria because they're not sold through any of the specialty major music gear stores, however we've since relaxed our rules to include brands that only sell direct or via Amazon so I've added the Fire-Eye Red-Eye at the top of the list.

Headway EDB2 is long enough

Headway EDB2 has been long enough on the market to give it a mention.

Do you know anything about

Do you know anything about the boss AD5 ? Could it be used with a BBE acoustimax or does it have to be separate?

This week, I called Fishman

This week, I called Fishman and asked specifically about the Fishman Aura vs. Fishman Platinum. I liked the tuner better on the Aura, but wondered about my onboard electronics on my Taylor 814. They said the all-analog Platinum Pro EQ would be just as effective and possibly better for me. I explained that I missed the old Fishman Prefix Blender system in my old 2000 Taylor 714. I got the impression that the Aura doesn't always mesh well with the Taylor pickups. Thoughts? I wish I could have compared them side by side...

The LR Baggs Session DI

The LR Baggs Session DI initially had a spot on this list with its Gearank score of 86, but it was replaced by the better ranked LR Baggs Para DI.

From the data we gathered, the Session DI's compact size and deep tone shaping controls were well loved by users. Although there were some that complained about the complexity and the price tag.

Still, it's an easy recommendation if you prefer the stompbox form factor, and want a good handle of your amplified sound.

I've read a lot of great

I've read a lot of great things about the the Fire Eye Red-Eye, unfortunately it did not meet our criteria for availability, where it should be available from major music gear retailers.

Why did you not include the

Why did you not include the LR Baggs para DI? It would have been a good review with the LR Baggs para DI in the test.

We have updated the list to

We have updated the list to include the LR Baggs Para DI, indeed it deserves a spot on this list.

The LR Baggs Para DI

The LR Baggs Para DI currently has a Gearank score of 92 (I just updated it today) which means it will very likely be included when we do our next update of this Gear Guide which is scheduled for later this month.