The Best Acoustic Guitar Preamp Pedal Complete Buyers Guide

acoustic preamps

Gone are the days when using microphones was the only way to faithfully reproduce the authentic sound of an acoustic guitar. With the best acoustic guitar preamp, you can now conveniently get a more natural sound while plugged in.

When it comes to an acoustic guitar, the sound it produces is heavily influenced by its body. Capturing this intricate sound requires specialized preamps designed for this purpose.

In this guide, we showcase the top acoustic preamps that can enhance your guitar’s natural acoustic sound, and give you excellent control over your sound.

These preamps offer essential features such as volume control and tone shaping through EQ. Some models also include extras like boost, reverb, and other effects.

More advanced acoustic preamps take it a step further by incorporating body resonance. It aims to make acoustic-electric guitars sound more natural. It does this by adding the characteristics of a mic’ed acoustic to the overall sound.

Below you’ll see our expertly curated list of the best acoustic guitar preamps based on the latest reviews and ratings data. (more about this in the methodology section).

It’s important to note that this guide focuses on external preamp pedals. Not onboard preamps that are built into acoustic-electric guitars.

Onboard preamps allow you to connect directly to acoustic amplifiers. Dedicated preamp units provide more control.

For many professionals, the tone-shaping features of the best acoustic preamp pedals are essential. If you plan to send your signal directly to a mixing desk, you’ll need a preamp to serve as an acoustic DI box. This will convert your signal to match the mixing desk‘s required levels.

Best Acoustic Guitar Preamp Pedals – 2024

Best Acoustic Guitar Preamp Pedals

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

Grace Design ALiX Acoustic Preamp

95
GEARANK
95 out of 100. Incorporating 40+ ratings and reviews.
$765.00
Grace Design
grace-design-alix-acoustic-preamp
At publication time this was the best acoustic preamp pedal tied with the JHS Clover and LR Baggs.

Cons

  • High price.
  • A special insert cable is needed to use the effects loop.

Pros

  • Impedance switch.
  • Studio-quality quiet signal path.
  • Versatile EQ controls.
  • Transparent and musical-sounding preamp.
  • Boost function.

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

One of the first things I noticed about this acoustic guitar preamp is that it addresses impedance issues quite well.

It is particularly useful since it offers three different input impedance settings. This flexibility means it works great with both active and passive pickups. It adapts seamlessly to whichever setup you have.

Its main feature is its versatile and natural-sounding EQ section. It allows precise adjustment of highs, lows, and mids through pass filters, notch, and parametric EQ controls.

This allows you to focus on specific frequencies that need to be cut or boosted while maintaining an intuitive layout.

Specifically, the high-pass filter can double as a notch filter, which is handy for dealing with low-end feedback or boominess on stage.

Additionally, it has a midrange EQ, which includes a selectable frequency and a variable Q.

It enables you to target and refine specific frequencies. This helps in eliminating any troublesome sounds/frequencies.

Be aware that there are additional DIP switches on the side for further control. The overall layout is well-designed and should be easy for experienced acoustic guitarists to grasp.

It also includes controls for gain and amp output, further enhancing its versatility. Additional features include a reverse phase switch, DI output, built-in tuner out, and an effects loop insert.

Another notable feature of the ALiX is its built-in boost function, complete with a dedicated boost knob and footswitch. The type of boost it provides is specifically tailored for acoustic instruments.

For live performances, the ALiX includes a boost function that's perfect for soloing or emphasizing certain parts of a song.

Complete with a dedicated boost knob and footswitch. It’s something I’ve found particularly useful when needing to increase volume without sacrificing sound quality.

While achieving a good sound is relatively easy with the ALiX, mastering all of the pedal's capabilities will take time. So, if you prefer simple preamps, this is not the one for you.

The Grace Design ALiX is definitely worth considering. If you have the budget and are seeking a high-quality single-channel preamp for your acoustic guitar. This unit exudes a premium and durable quality.

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

WebsiteSource*Rating Value
Acoustic GuitarDoug Young90/100
YouTubeShawn Tubbs95/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Demo

JHS Clover Electric Acoustic Preamp Pedal

95
GEARANK
95 out of 100. Incorporating 225+ ratings and reviews.
$199.00
JHS
jhs-clover-electric-acoustic-preamp-pedal
At publication time this was the best acoustic preamp pedal tied with the Grace Design ALiX and LR Baggs.

Cons

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

Pros

  • Enhanced transparency and harmonics.
  • Doubles as a boost effect.
  • Works well with both acoustic and electric guitars.
  • Versatile EQ modes and controls.

The JHS Clover is a versatile preamp/boost pedal that is compatible with acoustic, electric, and bass guitars. It is similar to the FET preamp found in the 80's Boss FA-1, famously used by U2's The Edge, but it offers more tone shaping and output options.

At lower volume levels, the preamp provides a transparent sound with a subtle low-end boost, making it ideal for basic preamp use.

While its 24 dB boost primarily appeals to electric guitars, with some EQ adjustments, it can also work well with acoustic guitars. Just make sure that the volume knob is not pushed too hard.

The JHS Clover features a rotary switch that allows you to choose between three EQ modes: Full EQ, No Mid, and No EQ. These modes correspond to the 3-band EQ knobs on the preamp.

The No Mid setting disables the MID EQ control, resembling the original FA-1 pedal. The Full EQ mode engages all three EQ knobs, while the No EQ mode disables all three for preamp-only functionality.

This pedal provides both a regular 1/4" output and a balanced XLR output. It has an XLR output with a ground lift button, which can be handy for direct connections to mixers or recording interfaces.

The JHS Clover helps make your guitar sound more dynamic and responsive, especially when pushing an amp.

Although it may lack some advanced features, overall, it is still a capable preamp that can get the job done.

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

WebsiteSource*Rating Value
The Gear PageDecoWaves94/100
YouTubeThe Gear Cage95/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Demo

LR Baggs Para DI Acoustic Guitar Preamp

95
GEARANK
95 out of 100. Incorporating 650+ ratings and reviews.
$229.00
LR Baggs
lr-baggs-para-di-angle-acoustic-guitar-preamp
At publication time this was the best acoustic preamp pedal tied with the Grace Design ALiX and JHS Clover.

Cons

  • Small control knobs.
  • Absence of a gain clipping monitor.
  • No footswitch control. More of a tabletop device.

Pros

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

LR Baggs is well-known for its high-quality acoustic gear, and the Para DI is a great example of this brand's dedication to quality.

What makes the LR Baggs Para DI stand out is its versatile 5-band EQ with a tunable notch filter and midrange bands. These controls allow for extensive tone shaping that may not be available with other acoustic guitar preamp DI pedals.

The five-band EQ knobs have a wide range, which allows for subtle adjustments to address venue-related sound issues.

The tune knobs enable you to identify problematic frequencies and boost or lower them as needed. Just be careful with larger adjustments, as they can significantly shape the overall sound.

If you're playing in a band, you can use the Para DI to achieve a more mid-focused, cutting tone. You can accomplish all of this in a user-friendly manner without having to deal with complex menus and buttons.

At the heart of its great tone-shaping options is a transparent-sounding preamp. However, this transparency can cause feedback issues. Fortunately, you can easily reduce feedback by adjusting the notch filter and using phase inversion.

The Para DI is typically used with acoustic-electric guitars. But, it is also popular among other musicians playing pickup-equipped acoustic instruments.

The compact size and simple design of the PARA DI preamp make it suitable for floor or desk setups. However, the small knobs can make real-time adjustments during performances a bit challenging.

It is recommended to set the knobs before performing to avoid the need to make adjustments during your performance. But if you want an easier way, you could also use a programmable footswitch controller. This is useful, especially if you're playing many songs that require varied EQ settings.

The absence of a gain clipping monitor however, makes it difficult to properly set gain levels, which can be problematic especially for professional use.

If you play an acoustic guitar or other acoustic instruments, the LR Baggs Para DI could be the ideal preamp for you. Just be prepared to spend some time fine-tuning your EQ and notch filters.

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

WebsiteSource*Rating Value
MusicPlayersDerek Davodowich93/100
Rex and the BassRex94/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Demo

Radial Tonebone PZ-Pre Acoustic Preamp DI Box Pedal

92
GEARANK
92 out of 100. Incorporating 175+ ratings and reviews.
$409.99
Radial Engineering
radial-tonebone -pz-pre-acoustic-preamp-di-box-pedal

Cons

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

Pros

  • Ideal for live performance with stage-ready input/output options.
  • Versatile EQ controls.
  • 2-Channel Preamp with a footswitch.
  • Built-in boost with footswitch.
  • Extremely quiet.

Radial continues to perform well in the preamp market, thanks to their high-quality pro audio products. Notably, big-name artists like James Taylor, Jerry Douglas, and Keb Mo endorse the PZ-Pre.

The Tonebone PZ-Pre combines a preamp, DI box, booster, feedback reducer, A/B-Y switcher, and EQ all in one unit. This makes it an excellent choice if you need to manage multiple functions without carrying separate pieces of gear.

It offers expanded tone-shaping options and versatile input/output. While retaining Radial's acclaimed high-fidelity preamp and DI.

The PZ-Pre allows you to easily shape the sound of your acoustic guitar to your preference.

The low EQ knob is paired with multiple low-cut modes that give you precision control over the lower frequencies. The mid controls include a frequency knob, and the unit also features a notch knob with multiple Notch Q modes.

Feedback control is thorough. It includes a high-pass filter, a notch filter, and two polarity reverse switches to handle feedback and hum issues on stage. There's also a boost switch offering up to 12 dB of variable boost, which can also control the effects loop.

More importantly, it does not color the sound as much as regular boost effects, thus retaining the sonic flavor of your instrument.

The Radial Tonebone PZ-Pre features a piezo buffer switch for passive pickups.

It is equipped with two preamps with dedicated footswitch control. It also has a pre- and post-EQ for precise sound control for both the FOH and the monitor. Plus, it also includes a loop-on feature.

However, the Tonebone PZ-Pre is bulky and heavy in comparison to the other units in this guide. So, if you prefer something simpler and more compact, consider units with Di Box functionality like the Fishman Aura Spectrum.

If you need a powerful and transparent Acoustic DI Box solution for your acoustic guitar or other acoustic instruments, consider checking out the Radial Tonebone PZ-Pre.

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

WebsiteSource*Rating Value
Audiofanzineiamqman80/100
Sound On SoundJames Dunkley98/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Demo

Things to Consider When Buying The Best Preamp for Acoustic Guitar

What is an Acoustic Guitar Preamp and How Does it Work?

Acoustic guitar preamps are specifically tuned for acoustic-electric guitars. They work like mini-amplifiers, in that they receive the audio signal from your pickup system and amplify it to your intended levels.

Preamps have other used in a signal chain, with its features that include EQ, notch filter, body resonance, and more. Oftentimes, these extra features are what make them worth getting.

Do I Need a Special Preamp for Acoustic Guitar?

You can get a good guitar tone with your acoustic-electric guitar's built-in electronics. Especially if it's plugged straight into a PA system or an acoustic amp. But if you want more control over your acoustic guitar sound, then you'll definitely benefit from an acoustic preamp.

If you're a set-and-forget type of player, you'll appreciate small preamps with limited features. They are easy to use and give consistently good results.

The more complex preamps are reserved for those who want more control over their acoustic sound. They come with expanded tone-shaping controls, and multiple switches for real-time adjustments. The downside is that you'll need to be knowledgeable about the different parameters to make the most of their features.

So, the short answer to this question is yes. The preamp pedal is one of those subtle effects that can have a profound impact on your sound when used properly.

Preamps and Acoustic Pickups

  • Active Piezo/Transducer Pickups

    Acoustic-electric guitars that have in-built 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 piezos tend to produce.

  • Passive Piezo Pickups

    These are the kinds that attach to an acoustic instrument to pick up the vibrations without built-in electronics. These can be used with acoustic guitars, banjos, cellos, violins and 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. This provides 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. To alleviate this, preamps are used to add back the body resonance of an acoustic guitar. Others use this pickup in conjunction with other acoustic pickups.

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. You can plug straight into an instrument input. But you can still use an acoustic preamp pedal for a richer tone. A preamp is a must if you want the best sound from a passive Piezo pickup.

Tone Shaping

Ideally, Preamps are meant to just amplify the natural tone of your instrument. But real-world scenarios and their impact require you to tweak the sound to get a good guitar tone. 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 for dynamic playing styles. Some acoustic preamps have a volume boost switch while others have a boost footswitch.

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. Simple ones like the LR Baggs Garret Null notch filter is also good, simple and useful anywhere you're playing. 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 Acoustic 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.
Read here to understand the difference between preamp vs power amp.

Best Acoustic Preamp Selection Methodology

The first Edition was published in 2016. The current edition was published on June 12, 2024

We started by looking at all the best acoustic preamp pedals that are readily available from United States retailers and that have been designed for live performance use. We then placed those with the most promising reviews and ratings on our shortlist to produce ratings for. This resulted in a short list of 33 preamps, and you can see their ratings in our Music Gear Database.

We collected over 7200 relevant opinions from forum discussions, reviews, ratings, and recommendations, including the most recent ones, 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

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

Jerome Arcon: Product research, Co-Writer.
Alden Acosta: Product research.
Jason Horton: Editing and Illustrating.

Media / Image Credit

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.

29 thoughts on “The Best Acoustic Guitar Preamp Pedal Complete Buyers Guide”

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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

  4. 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.

    1. 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.

  5. 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…

    1. 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.

    1. 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.

  6. 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.

    1. Avatar
      Alexander Briones

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

    2. 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.

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