The Best Mic Preamps Reviewed
Sometimes equipment, just like people, needs a boost. It needs to elevated, needs to be made better than it is and driven to do what it was designed, and meant, to do.
Nothing in life, whether natural or man-made, is perfect, but all things, thanks to technology, can be pushed ever closer to excellence. All things can now be made to be all that they were supposed to be.
Microphones are a case in point. Beset by weak signals and low-frequency output, in order for them to deliver the sort of clean and reliable performance demanded by performers and audiences alike, they need a helping hand.
That’s where microphone, or mic as they’re more commonly and professionally know, preamps come into the equation.
Increasing and stabilising mic signal power while reducing distortion, a mic preamp is indispensable for anyone looking to record audio. No longer simply the purview of sound engineers, mic preamps are essential for all areas of home, as well, as professional recording.
Whether you’re an amateur who is preparing your bands latest demo, getting ready to enter the rapidly growing field of podcasting or a long time industry insider, a good mic preamp is priceless.
But how do you know what you’re looking for? How do you know which preamp is best suited to you, what you want it to do and most importantly, your budget? It’s a finely tuned balancing act that demands comparing available resources with the best technical specifications, ease of usage and customer satisfaction and if you’re not careful, the search for that perfect mic preamp can send you down a thousand different unnecessary rabbit holes and slowly chip away at your sanity.
Like we said at the beginning, sometimes everybody needs a helping hand. Sometimes, we all need a little assistance to find whatever it is that we’re looking for and some friendly, and appreciated, advice to guide us in the right direction.
So, take our hand and follow us through the maze of mic preamps as we take a long, hard look at five of the most realistically priced, technologically superior options that will deliver everything that the dedicated professional and enthusiastic beginning could possibly want them too.
It’s time to plug in, turn it up and get up close and personal with our top five picks. That said, this is our choice of the best Mic Preamps that’ll boost whatever you throw at them seven ways from Sunday and help you to sound a thousand times better than you ever imagined possible…
Best Mic Preamps
Implacability and reliability are the core values of everything that Grace Design, the little company that was founded by Michael Grace three decades ago, do. Like Apple before them, it was a combination of personalities that transformed Grace from an audio specialist serving a small but dedicated customer base into a world-renowned business. The addition of Michael’s brother Eben saw Grace grow into a business that catered and caters, to all sectors of the audio industry.
Favoured by studios and sound engineers, the Grace Design is a fixture of mixing boards the world over. Its combination of technology and functionality means that the Grace Design is a dependable workhorse that helps to deliver crisp, clean sound every single time it’s switched on.
While we’re talking about sound, let’s get right down to it. The Grace M-101 boosts whatever is plugged into it to almost unbelievable levels while eliminating any and all extraneous hiss and noise. Good things really do come in small packages and the Grace M-101 proves it.
- It’s made by Grace Design so consistency, fidelity and dependability are never going to be an issue. They’re a brand that you can put your faith in and bet on.
- Looks, as far as the M-101 is concerned, are deceiving. All that technology comes wrapped in a gorgeously stylish package that looks as good as it sounds.
- The M-101 makes sure that you can turn everything up to eleven and be content in the knowledge that there’ll be no sound decay and that the quality will remain consistently excellent. The M-101 is the real deal.
- Everyone who uses it, loves it. It doesn’t get bad reviews, just praise. It goes above and beyond the call of duty and keeps soldering on no matter what’s is plugged into, and thrown at, it.
- The M-101 isn’t inexpensive. All that functionality, reliability and technology comes at a price. And that price is reassuringly, and eye wateringly, high. The M-101 isn’t, realistically, for any but the most rabid hobbyist and is more suited to, priced for and aimed at, and toward, the professional end of the market.
- 12 position gold plated rotary gain switch
- The m101 is ready to give any mic preamplifier a run for its money
If you want to know all about delivering clean, crisp sound, how to do it effectively and what you’ll need to do the job properly, you ask audiophiles and engineers. That’s what ART is and why you can rely on them and their mic preamps. ART understand, and share the same passion, for sound that you do and they love what they, and you, do. They’re the aficionados and fanatics who have committed their lives to designing and fabricating incredible audio equipment.
The ProMPAII is a sturdy, substantial mic preamp that’s built like a tank, made to take a thrashing and keep doing what it does best day after day and night after night; which is to make sure that the song, recording, speech or performance always remains the same. If you want a tough, authentic and trustworthy mic preamp that doesn’t know how to let you down, then this is the machine for you.
Just because technology is getting smaller and smaller, and more subservient to microchips and circuitry with every passing year, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s improving on what went before. Specialising in the sort of valve technology that made Vox the guitarist’s amplifier of choice and that has a proven track record in creating undimmed, gorgeous sound, ART put a little of themselves into everything that they produce. And their zeal for all that they do dwells in every atom of the ProMPAII.
- Inside its heavily armoured, built to last, exterior beats the heart of a roaring lion. The ProMPAII takes durability and longevity to the next level. It’s the AC/DC of the mic preamp world – dependable and made to last a lifetime.
- A rare combination of versatility and power, the ProMPAII embodies functionality with a staggeringly impressive list of features that’ll make even the most demanding professional grin from to ear.
- At half the price and more than a couple of times the size of the M-101, the ProMPAII is much more realistically priced.
- Bigger isn’t always better. If storage and space are an issue, then maybe this tough old juggernaut won’t fit into your life as easily as a more compact preamp would.
- Some users have reported quality issues and that the long term reliability isn’t quite what it’s been made out to be by the people who whom the ProMPAII is the be-all and end of mic preamps. Granted, the complaints have been few and far between but the fact that they do exist might be enough to give you pause for thought if you’re the more cautious type.
- While it comes in at just under half the price of the M-101, the ProMPAII is still a costly venture. If budget is a big concern, then maybe think long and hard about his beast of mic preamp.
- Variable Input Impedance For Flexible Microphone Voicing
- Selectable Plate Voltage
- Discrete Class-A Input Microphone Preamplifier
- Low Noise at Lower Gain Settings
- Extremely Low Total Harmonic Distortion
The industry has always been led by youthful innovation. While they haven’t been around anywhere near as long as some of their competition has, PreSonus certainly have their finger on the pulse of what it is people want from a mic preamp. That’s why they built the BlueTube DPV2.
Doubling as an instrument and vocal (mic) preamp, the BlueTube DP V2 looks, as you’d expect from a company with youth on their side, absolutely stunning. Its retro appeal is equalled by its smooth, powerful performance and plug in and play versatility.
It isn’t an earth-shattering, innovative, industry-changing mic preamp but it isn’t a bottom of the barrel choice either. It’s a middle of the road model that won’t bankrupt you and effortlessly fuses style with substance.
- If you want to hit the ground running without spiralling into debt, then the BlueTube ticks all the studio boxes on the list. It’s versatile, it’s functional and it looks good. The BlueTube might be a youngster, but it knows what it’s doing.
- Did we mention how good it looks? The BlueTube wouldn’t be out of place in an old Buck Rogers serial but delivers the sort of modern performance that the mic preamp yardstick is measured by.
- While it seems like we keep pushing the versatility factor, there’s a reason for that. Mic preamps live and die by their versatility and performance and this unit delivers both at a more than reasonable price.
- It isn’t a cutting edge, blow you away with everything that it does sort of preamp. It’s more than functional, does everything that you’ll need it to unit. But that’s about it. It’s a mid-entry machine. But then, the price reflects that.
- Some users have complained about reliability issues and have marked the BlueTube’s quality control ticket accordingly.
- Straight out of the box, the sound isn’t all that it could be and while it’s relatively easy to make it sound like a million dollars by replacing the tubes, the less technically minded might find it something of a chore. Plus, the whole “fixing” something brand new, and spending even more money to do so, isn’t really the best way to start a relationship with a mic preamp.
- Dual path, with both 12AX7 vacuum tube and solid-state gain stages
- Combo mic/instrument inputs with Class A XMAX mic preamplifiers and 48V phantom power
- Tube Drive tube-saturation control
- Illuminated analog VU input-level meter
- 80 Hz high-pass filter, -20 dB pad, Polarity-reverse switch
Who could possibly understand more about microphones and making the most out of their performance with a mic preamp than a microphone company? Cloud microphones pride themselves on being American made and leading the preamp revolution with their simple, straight forward, world-class CL-1.
Designed to do a specific job with purpose and vision in mind, the CL-1 or to give its full name, the CloudLifter is a phantom-powered miracle that boosts performance and clarity on all types of mic’s and is a go-to preamp for musicians and podcasters alike.
The CloudLifter’s fame is due in no small part to its staggering ability to wipe out background noise and unwanted hiss and let mic’s and their users do what they do best; the talking. And singing and playing.
Again, we going to go back to versatility and as we’ve already explained why, we’ll just focus on the fact that the CloudLifter, as well as being one of the most compatible preamps currently available, packs a whole lot of all that you’ll need from a preamp into a small, but breath-taking package. We’ve said it before, and we’ll almost certainly say it again, size really does matter.
Oh, and while Cloud calls it a “Mic Activator”, don’t be fooled by the label. The CL1 is a mic preamp. Don’t believe what you read on the label, just trust in the product.
- For such a relatively small unit, it delivers a devastating amount of power and gain to whatever mic it’s being used with.
- Have you seen that price? No wonder it’s caught so many users in its spell. It’d be cheap at twice the price.
- If you’re looking for a mic preamp that’s all about clean, effective noise reduction the CL-1 is the tool you’ll need for the job you want to do. And its wide-ranging product compatibility isn’t something that should be taken for granted either.
- That previously mentioned gap that exists between newbies and old-timers and amateurs and professionals? The CloudLifter has almost single-handedly made that thing of the past. Almost.
- We searched far and wide and the only problems we could with the CloudLifter find centred around users claiming that it didn’t work for their set-up for a variety of issues. You know your set-up. You know what you’re looking for. You know what you want it to do. Check that it will actually do what you want, and need, it to before you think about buying it and all will be well.
- GET STUDIO QUALITY SOUND - Turns your low-output microphones into a studio-quality ribbon mic preamp by boosting the source signal without the unwanted noise.
- NOISE-FREE AMPLIFICATION - Gives +25dB of noise-free amplification to your low-output microphones.
- PREMIUM CIRCUITY PRISTINE SOUNDS - Protects the natural tone of your microphone with ultra-transparent Class A JFET circuitry.
- REDUCE FEEDBACK - Reduces the feedback by letting you cut through the mix on stage with increased gain.
- INCLUDES - Cloud Microphones CL-1 Cloudlifter 1-Channel Mic Activator. Blucoil 10-Foot Balanced XLR Cable - Premium Series 3-Pin Cable for Microphones, Speakers and Pro Devices (Male-to-Female). 5-Pack of Blucoil Reusable Velcro Cable Ties.
And like that, we’re back with those young upstarts and whippersnappers, PreSonus. Two preamps in the top five should tell you everything that you need to know about these audio maniacs. They may well be young, but they’re among the best at what they do. At least, they are when it comes to producing reliable, versatile mic preamps.
This eight-track monster is perfect for controlling home studio set-ups and while it doesn’t reinvent the wheel, it follows the PreSonus blueprint to the letter. It’s a powerful, functional and dependable preamp that fulfils its role perfectly.
As comfortable handling large set-ups as it is leading the charge in smaller studios, the DigiMax D8 is a more costly unit than the BlueTube, but it’s made for a different purpose. This is one of PreSonus’ big guns and it’s priced accordingly.
- The name of the game is power, versatility and functionality and the D8 takes the gold in all three categories.
- Given everything that it does, and does well, it’s a remarkably priced machine that won’t damage your pocketbook too badly. All that quality for that kind of money? Who would have thought it was possible? PreSonus did and they made it happen.
- If it was our money, this is the mic preamp that we’d be laying our cash down, and out, for.
- For some reason known only to themselves, PreSonus located the power switch at the back of the unit. It probably had something to do with them cramming all that incredible technology into the D8. Whatever it was, it doesn’t change the fact that the switch is a little awkward and difficult to access.
- Eight Class-A mic preamps w/ balanced analog output
- 24-bit / 48K resolution
- Ultra-wide dynamic range
- 20 dB PAD, +48V phantom power
- Word clock input
Frequently asked Questions
Do I Really Need a Mic Preamp?
If you’re looking at becoming involved in, or are already immersed in, any form of semi-professional or professional recording where quality is paramount, then the answer is yes. An essential component of any home, or otherwise, studio, when it comes to mixing and recording a mic preamp is worth its weight in gold.
With more and more people becoming involved in the world of audio production, quality not quantity is what really matters. That quality is all often dependent on a good mic preamp being used properly and effectively.
What kind of Mic Preamp Do I Need?
That depends entirely on what you want to use it for. Are you a podcaster who wants to record a single, or multiple, voice(s)? Are you looking to build a professional homes studio? Maybe you’re in a band that wants to track demos and take its own vocal rig on the road?
Or maybe you want to use a mic preamp for one of the thousands of other things they were made to do. Whatever it is you want a mic preamp to do, it can do it and there’s a machine out there, and on this list, that’ll do exactly what you need it to. Only you know what you want it for and what you wat it to help you do.
So plug-in, turn up your mic preamp and hit the on switch. It’s recording time…