While the entry-level mics can be driven easily using mobile phones or the built-in DAC of your computer, you’ll need preamps for utilizing the intermediate or professional microphones. Unless you use a preamp with these mics you won’t be able to juice out the maximum potential out of them.
This is why we highly recommend using a mic preamp if you own an expensive mic that boasts decent drivers. However, a lot of our readers have complained that getting a suitable mic preamp is quite challenging as it’s very easy to overspend.
To help everyone looking for a good microphone preamp for their new or existing recording setup, we’ll be talking about the best microphone preamps that you can get in 2021 online! We’ll also share some tips on how you can select the most suitable device for yourself.
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In this section, we’ll talk about some features that you’ll need to consider while choosing the best microphone preamp for yourself.
Mic preamps usually come with multiple types of ports. Two of the most commonly seen ports are XLR ports and ¼” input ports. The XLR ports are usually supported by advanced mics and even some basic mics that are built for music production. On the other hand, the ¼” line inputs are used for connecting guitars or other electronic instruments.
Mic preamps usually come with XLR jacks and a D-Sub connector as outputs. However, some modern preamps also come with USB, allowing you to connect the amp directly to the computer.
A stereo link will allow you to use modules that are specially made for recording in stereo mode. If this is something you need, then you should look for this feature.
Type of Preamp:
There are usually four types of preamps, and we’ll talk about two of them that are the most popular ones. These are tube amps and solid-state amps. What’s the difference between them?
Well, tube amps add an extra level of saturation and harmonic distortion to the recorded music, making them sound a bit warmer and colorful. On the other hand, the solid-state preamps will keep the music transparent. Both of them are great and are built for different purposes, and you should pick the one that’ll suit you better.
Some mics need extra power for performing to their fullest potential. This power can be provided through the XLR connections, which is why most preamps come with the capability of providing such power. Getting a cheaper preamp that can’t provide this extra power makes no sense, as this is one of the primary functions of the preamp.
Top 10 Best Microphone Preamp in 2021
Cloudlifter CL-2 (B002WZK3BC):
If you’re looking for a preamp for your ribbon mic, then the Cloudlifter CL-2 might be the best option for you. There are some drawbacks to this. For example, you’ll need to use short cables otherwise there will be noise in the mix. Then again, these are a bit heavy.
Other than these, the CL-2 preamps are perfect. You’ll be able to get a super-transparent tone out of these solid-state preamps, allowing you to record your favorite instrument perfectly.
- Great for ribbon mics
- Offers a clean and transparent tone
- Reasonable pricing
- Extremely low-level output
- Long cables can lead to noise
- A bit bulky
PreSonus AudioBox (B071W6YVDR):
Next up we have the PreSonus AudioBox. If you’re looking for a studio-grade mic preamp that offers two channels and an affordable price, then we highly recommend going for this one. You can get this interface in either black or blue color, and both of them look great.
The interface uses a studio-grade component for providing the best quality, and it’s perfectly compatible with different DAWs for providing a smooth experience.
- Compatible with different DAWs
- Smooth user-experience
- Studio-grade components
- Two XLR inputs
The included software doesn’t work well
ART TubeMPSTV3 (B0002E56IA):
If you’re looking for a tube amp at an affordable price, then we highly recommend going for the ART TubeMPSTV3. This preamp is one of the most durable ones that you can find, and the steel construction of the shell offers great resistance to physical blows.
However, it will get heavily damaged from falling as the internal tube might get broken. Due to the tube format, this preamp will offer some degree of warmth to the recorded tone.
- All-steel construction
- Warm tone
- Onboard controls
- Easily customizable
- Adds a bit of noise
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Grace Design m101 (B001SAKLQ4):
If you’re looking for a good single-channel preamp for your mic, then the Grace Design m101 might be the one for you. This is an expensive unit. However, you’ll be able to drive any expensive mic as well as a headphone with this preamp.
It’s a powerhouse, and it offers some decent features as well. The main selling point of this preamp is that it can provide enough power to run any mic. However, as it’s a single channel, people looking forward to using two mics simultaneously won’t like this one.
- Offers great power
- Accurate on-board controls
- The transparent and clean tone
- Clean gain
Behringer Ultragain Pro (B000CZ0RHY):
The Behringer Ultragain Pro is a mic preamp made for professionals who don’t have any budget constraints. These tube amps are great for music recording as they can enhance the input with high saturation and warmth. However, these will be completely overkilled for streamers.
These preamps are capable of supporting multiple XLR as well as line-in inputs. They come with an ultrawide range that spans from 10Hz to 200kHz, allowing them to provide a much more open-sounding output.
- Great frequency range
- Multiple XLR and Line-in inputs
- Good for music production
- Fully parametric EQ
- For music production only
Universal Audio SOLO (B00GXMI5PG):
The Universal Audio SOLO is a classic tube amp that can help you drive even the most power hog mics. This preamp comes with a classic Putnam console and it looks like a device from the 80s. Don’t be fooled by that, as it can provide all the features that you might ask for.
If you’re looking for a tube amp that can provide great levels and a vivid and warm tone while sounding completely clean, then these are the right devices for you.
- Beautiful warm tone
- Clean sounding
- Detailed on-board console
- Sturdy build
- A bit hard to get started
ART ProMPAII (B0020IYOO8):
The ART ProMPAII is made and designed for professionals. These preamps are not for those who just want something that can help them produce better music, but these are for enthusiasts who would want to experiment with different settings to find out what works the best for them.
These are labeled as Class-A mic preamps, and they offer features that can justify this. You can select a definite plate voltage of your choice, and you’ll also be able to customize the input impedance. The total harmonic distortion offered by these preamps is extremely low. With these, the recorded sound won’t be completely clean, but they won’t be over-saturated either. In fact, the sound offered by the preamps has its own fanbase.
Overall, these are great preamps, and they are capable of running every mic that you can think of, no matter how power-hungry that might be. This is why these are considered to be among the best microphone preamps that you can buy now.
- Built for professionals
- Class-A preamp
- Low total harmonic distortion
- Clean sound
- The stock tubes are cheap
Cloudlifter CL-1 (B004MQSV04):
The CL-1 from Cloudlifter is much more expensive than the CL-2, and there are certain features that make paying the premium worth it. Unlike the CL-2, these are single-channel preamps. This might make you question why they are more expensive.
As you can see, not everyone will require dual channel preamps, and single channels are the most used. So, most people will find these to be more practical. Then again, these are far smaller and lighter than the usual 2 channel CL-2. Plus, these also come with straps that will allow you to carry them easily.
Despite being small and light modules, the CL-1s come with Phantom Power that’s capable of driving any mic up to +25dB, allowing you to get higher levels than usual. If you have a passive dynamic mic, then these are the perfect units for you.
- Offers phantom power
- Light and small
- Universal compatibility
- Best for passive dynamic mics
- Doesn’t come with any cable
ART TPS II (B0002E58DS):
The ART TPS II is another mic preamp that’s made for professional purposes. Just like the other preamp from ART, the TPS II comes with variable impedance input too. With this feature you’ll be able to dial in custom impedance value manually, allowing you to match any type of mic perfectly.
There’s this feature called V3 built into this preamp. This feature will help you find the reference points for the beginning recording of different instruments or vocals. This preamp also features a wide frequency range of 5hz-50kHz. This will allow you to record even the subtle bass and highest pitch.
There are two analog meters and one digital LED input meter that’ll allow you to monitor the levels in this preamp. The best thing about these preamps is that they offer all of these for a very reasonable price. If you’re a professional, then this is one of the cheapest preamps that you can get without having to compromise on any features.
If you’re an enthusiast and you just want to get the experience of using one of these, then you’re in luck, as these are quite affordable.
- The wide frequency range of 5Hz to 50kHz.
- Enhanced OPL output protection limiter
- V3 feature for better reference points
- Level monitoring
- The build quality isn’t top-notch
dbx 286s (B004LWH79A):
If you’re looking for a professional preamp for a mic that will provide you amazing features like support for a 2-way stereo, then you can take a look at the dbx 286s. This preamp also supports 4-way mono, which is found in only a handful of preamps at this price range.
This preamp also features a good compression that’ll keep your sound clean. There’s a built-in enhancer that can help you improve the definition of the sound recorded on it. The frequency range of this preamp is 20Hz to 20kHz.
- Wide frequency range
- 2-way stereo support
- 4-way mono channel support
- Detail enhancer
- The unit feels cheap
If you’re looking for the best microphone preamps, then you won’t have to look anywhere other than this list. If you follow our buying guide, then you’ll be able to choose the right product from this list.