Best microphone preamp (2018) – how to choose guide

Best microphone preamp (2018)

Which mic preamp is the right one? What to look for when buying mic preamps?

Advice on buying a best microphone preamp from the home recording studio to the professional recording studio

This buying guide will help you to find a suitable microphone preamp. Which of the “best mic preamp” is, of course, hard to say: There are many different, with one, two, four or eight channels, with tube, certain transformers, in the 19-inch rack, as API system 500 Cassette, desktop, 9.5 “device, with DI inputs, filters, pad and these and those accessories.

What is really important when looking for a mic pre? We help! In addition to our three recommendations, it goes a bit deeper into the matter, because not everyone has the same requirements for a microphone preamp.

Microphone preamp – our recommendations:

  • Price / performance winner characterful microphone preamplifier: Fredenstein VAS
  • The 9.5 “preamp is a very noble sound, which fits in well everywhere – and sounds much more expensive than it is. Current street price: 199 Euro!
  • Multichannel recommendation : Focusrite Scarlett OctoPre
  • Currently, you pay 349 euros for eight Focusrite channels – who wants to amplify several signals, is well advised.
  • Sound winner with history: Chandler Ltd. Abbey Road REDD.47
  • When Money Matters: The 19 “/ 2U amp is one of the best sounding mic preamps there is – and has a great history.

Why should I buy an external mic preamp?

You should really ask yourself this question! Are you unhappy with what your audio interface offers? What do not you like? Does he rush, he offers too little reinforcement, is he not fine enough dissolving, does he lack character? Mostly it is the latter that drives the purchase of an external microphone preamplifier. Mic preamps in current audio interfaces of ordinary manufacturers are mostly clean and good to good.

Buying Microphone Preamp: How many channels are needed?

It’s about vocals? Then, of course, usually a channel is enough. If you record drums, you can think about purchasing an eightfold preamp. However, one usually has to spend a good deal of money to get eight preamps in a quality that are really significantly better than those available in current interfaces. If you want to take off acoustic guitars or tune off guitaramps, you’ll do yourself a favor when you buy a two-channel amp, as you will often find yourself not only working with a mic – even if you have only one so far.

Which output should the micro-preamplifier have?

Actually, all have a balanced output, usually as XLR, more rarely than TRS, so “big stereo jack”. Only eight-preamps sometimes have multipin connectors because there is not enough space on the back panel. In such a case, you still have the investment for a cable whip in the house (but no single cable). There are also digital outputs sometimes, but then the preamp is more than just a preamp. In such a case, check if your interface has this connection and think about whether you would rather put the money in a better preamp.

Do I need a tube in the microphone preamp?

“Tube Mic Preamp” sounds great and makes an impression. Finally, the tube promises the rich, warm vintage sound. In the worst case, you spend money but only for a preamp has a tube. Unfortunately, preamp preamp preamp tuners that can really make the most of the benefits of tubing, adding beautiful, well-controlled harmonic distortion without scratching or losing details, cost a lot of money. Below 500 € you should rather distance yourself from this technique. For 1000 euros there is the Universal Audio Solo 610but then a classic, thick and “American” sounding mono microphone preamp. However, there are so-called “solid state preamps” (ie those with transistors for amplification), which also make strong characteristic sound colorations. And when it comes to clarity and detail, in the reasonably affordable range, a tube preamp is usually the wrong choice.

Universal Audio Solo 610

Best microphone preamp (2018)

The Solo 610 is a microphone and instrument preamp with two vacuum tubes inside, based on the circuitry of the original Putnam 610 Console Channel strip.

What do transformers do in the mic preamp?

The transformer, also called “transformer” or “tranny”, has various tasks in the preamp, including galvanic isolation or balancing, which are often found at the input, sometimes at the output and even “interstage”, ie within the actual amplifier circuit. There are some that work rather inconspicuously, such as most of the company Lundahl, but also those that are one of the most sound-producing elements known are those that work with iron core They tend to be signals “Handy” and “grainy.” Popular and well-known are Neve preamps such as the 1073 and replicas, such as Heritage Audio, the cheapest solution for such a sound:Fredenstein’s VAS .

AMS Neve 1073LB

Best microphone preamp (2018) AMS

The 1073LB shrinks the preamp of the legendary 1073 cassette into 500 format.

Fredenstein VAS

Best microphone preamp (2018) - 3

Make something – and not just sonic: Fredenstein’s VAS preamp

Does my microphone preamp need DI input, phantom power, footfall sound and pre-attenuation?

A DI input allows direct recording of bass, guitar, e-piano and other instruments that do not output line-level. Especially with sound-colored preamps, it is advantageous not to let the sound character benefit not only microphone signals.

Phantom power is a must for almost all condenser microphones. There are also a few preamps that do without the supply voltage of 48 volts. Often, however, they do so for conceptual reasons, such as the dynamic- system preamps True Systems P-Solo Ribbon and the AEA TRP. An impact sound filter is convenient, but especially dispensable if the microphone has that too. A pad is needed if you have really loud signals, like drums, brass and guitar amps.

TRUE Systems P-SOLO Ribbon

If you are looking for a clean sounding specialist for recording with ribbon microphones, you will find the TRUE Systems P-SOLO Ribbon.

How much gain does the mic preamp have?

If you work with condenser microphones, you’ll probably get far enough with a mic preamp below 60 decibels. If you use dynamic microphones such as voice coil microphones and passive ribbon microphones, it should be much more, ie 70 dB and more!

Which ohm number do I need? Does the impedance have to be switchable?

Almost all mic preamps provide over-matching, which is more than five times the input impedance of the microphone’s output impedance. You can not do anything wrong today. But: Switchable impedance has come into vogue in recent years and can cause a small sound change, especially with dynamic microphones, ie tapes and voice coils. That’s nice, but also completely dispensable.

What values ​​should I pay attention to when buying a microphone preamplifier?

The frequency response is usually a naked graph, which helps little in the selection, even the specification of the dynamics does not say too much about the quality. So there are devices that measured measured a little more noise than others, the nature of the noise sound but not very disturbing. From about 200 euros per channel you do not have to worry about such problems basically. A good indication is, however, if the frequency response to the top goes very far. Some are well over 100 kHz!

19 “, 9.5”, System-500, Desktop: Which format should the microphone preamp have?

The industry standard of 19 “is practical, but only if you have several devices in this format or will buy and there is enough space for it.For the typical desktop producers, small microphone preamplifier are often more practical, besides, they can be quickly in the laptop 9,5 “are a nice compromise, because these devices fit in every small niche, but can be screwed into the rack if necessary. This is usually with (sometimes optional) accessories.

Lately, the API’s Series 500 system , also called the “lunchbox module system”, is experiencing a true run. Here, small cassettes are plugged into a backbone that provides inputs and outputs on the back – and a power supply. There are six, ten, but also three, two, or even a single API 500 module. By the way: A good power supply is an important pillar for a good audio quality!

What else should I pay attention to if I want to buy a preamp?

Try it with your microphone! It’s best to make two or three shortlisted ones that you can compare directly. Choose a microphone with an instrument and a microphone that you know well and decide what sounds best to you. Take your time and use the signals in the mix! Quickly one lets oneself be blinded by a “warm” and “rich” sound, which later becomes muddy in the mix of the song.

Are there any tips for good, inexpensive microphone amps?

Clear! Fredenstein builds with the VAS , praised above as a price-performance winner, a nice “handy” and with the HD a clean preamp for little money. Even with Black Lion Audio , Warm and Golden Age you get not too much money full of character, but good to act Pres. Universal Audios TwinFinity delivers a fairly inexpensive, solid state to tube fuzzy microphone preamp.


Fredenstein VAS

Fredenstein VAS

Frequency response up to almost 1 MHz: Fredenstein HD

Fredenstein HD

Fredenstein HD

Compared to its predecessor, the BLA Auteur impresses with a more detailed signal processing and yet a slightly warm sound.


Black Lion Audio Auteur Mk2

Warm Audio WA12-500 MKII

Warm Audio WA12-500 MKII

The microphone preamplifier Warm Audio WA12 exudes quite a high-end flair despite its slightly prosaic shell.

Golden Age Project Pre-73 MKIII

Golden Age Project Pre-73 MKIII

The PREQ-73 offers a balanced, practical range of functions with the proven sound quality of the manufacturer, and at a more than fair price.

Universal Audio 710 Twin-Finity

Universal Audio 710 Twin-Finity

The Universal Audio TwinFinity 710 is undoubtedly an excellent device, which would be a reasonable microphone even without a solid-state signal for this price.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *