We have good news if you don’t know which preamp to choose for your studio. This article will show you the Top 12 Mic Preamps For Vocals and Other Instruments 2022 On Any Budget.
Many discussions are going on about whether a mic preamp is needed if many audio interfaces have built-in ones. That’s for you to decide, but one thing’s for sure: many professional recording studios still use this gear. It simply helps to prepare the signal for the next stages of processing and can saturate it with harmonics. Before we get to the list, let’s review some other questions.
Do preamps reduce noise?
Some high-end preamps can produce less noise. But really, a lot depends on other factors. For example, what kind of microphone do you use. As far as we know, a dynamic microphone often produces more noise than a condenser microphone. Also, the quality of the mic itself can affect this. So, pay attention to exactly what you record your source with.
Do preamps enhance sound quality & make difference?
Preamps can add saturation and coloration, but the quality of the audio largely depends on the performance itself or the instrument. Yes, expensive gear can make the sound a little more expressive. But what if it was recorded on a bad microphone? These things are relative. Preamps are just one part of the big picture called audio production. Each component affects the overall quality.
As for the differences, each preamp sounds different. Sometimes this difference can be insignificant. In general, a lot depends on the level of professionalism of the person listening. If you have a trained ear for years, you will hear the difference, making it meaningful to you.
Top 12 Microphone Preamps For Vocals 2022
1. SPL Goldmike 9844
The Goldmike 9844 from SPL gives you a warm and clean sound for your vocals and other instruments.
If you are interested in audio equipment, you know about the German company SPL. These guys have been working since the 80s and provide high-class products that surprise with good build and excellent sound quality. For example, look at their Vitalizer, which became a real hit with many producers and audio engineers.
But now we will talk about a two-channel tube preamp called the Goldmike 9844. So again, you get Class-A technology for each mono channel and, therefore, a corresponding sound. But beyond that, many features set this piece of equipment apart from others of a similar kind.
- +72 dB of Preamplification
The dynamic range of this preamplifier is 111 dB, and the amount of preamplification is up to +72 dB. Your main tools in this task will be the two black knobs for each channel. Just find the right level, and you’re good to go.
- Phantom Power Button
You will find several additional features in the form of black buttons at the bottom for each channel. The first is 48V Phantom Power. So you can apply it if you are using condenser microphones.
- Low Cut Filter
You can easily apply the Low Cut Filter if you need to get rid of unnecessary information in the low frequencies. You will also find this button on the front panel. So the preamp will make a filter around 50 hertz with 12 dB per octave.
- Add Some FLAIR
Let’s say you feel that your signal lacks more presence in the high frequencies. In that case, Goldmike 9844 allows you to apply a FLAIR circuit, which will provide some bump just in this range. But, overall, it works incredibly well for voice.
- Reverse & PAD
Another great addition to this preamp is the Reverse and PAD functions. The first is phase reversal, which can help if you’re working with two similar sources simultaneously. The second is a signal reduction down to -15 dB.
Character & Sound:
SPL Goldmike 9844 provides a clear and expressive sound. It is ideal for vocals and acoustic instruments. And thanks to the FLAIR function, you can get even more clarity and presence, especially for the voice.
The Goldmike 9844 preamp is built with German precision and quality. It’s a beautiful studio tube unit that gives you a more expressive and clean signal at the recording stage. Plus, it has a relatively affordable price for a two-channel unit of this quality – almost just over $400.
One disadvantage of this unit is that the VU Meters are too small and somewhat difficult to read. Also, some users claim that this preamp is too sensitive to noise, so you should take care of a clean electrical network and eliminate possible external noise sources.
2. Universal Audio 710 Twin-Finity
With Universal Audio’s 710 Twin-Finity, you get the best of both worlds of preamplification.
Imagine that you can use the transistors’ clarity and the tubes’ drive and even blend them. That’s exactly what the 710 Twin-Finity preamp from the famous American company Universal Audio is. So it’s a versatile solution to experiment and get the sound you want.
In general, it is a single-channel preamplifier that you can use both for voice and any other instruments. Its main feature is its two paths, one involving solid state technology and the other Class-A tube. And you can easily choose which one you prefer. Let’s now try to understand all the features in more detail.
- Blend Transistor With The Tube
The main feature here is the Blend knob, located in the center. You can get either 100% transistor preamplification or tube preamplification. What’s remarkable is that you can change this ratio in both directions. Just choose the sound that best suits your situation.
- Input & Output Control
You will also have two large knobs on either side of the front panel: the Input and Output knobs. So, for example, if you turn up the Input when using the tube path, you get the extra harmonics we all love so much about this technology.
- Detailed Metering
The preamp also has an analog VU Meter, which will allow you to monitor the performance of this piece of gear easily. On the right side, there is a switch for what it will show. For example, you can monitor Output or Drive, showing how you’re pushing the preamp stage.
- Mic or Line Modes
If you need to record voice or vocals, just set the appropriate switch on the front panel to Mic mode. If you are working with an instrument, set it to Line. The 710 Twin-Finity won’t limit you in these ways. As for the XLR ports you need, you’ll find them on the rear panel – Mic Input, Line Input, and Line Output.
- Low Cut & -15 dB PAD
Another cool feature is the ability to apply a -15 dB PAD. It will be helpful if you need to record the DI of an instrument with active electronics. There is also an option to use Low Cut, which will save you from the unnecessary rumble.
Character & Sound:
With the 710 Twin-Finity preamp, you get the opportunity to use two sounds at once. For example, the transistor will be unusually transparent, with a characteristic bite. As for the tube, it will sound warm with a big body. You can even get some distortion if you push the Input hard.
Universal Audio 710 Twin-Finity is an excellent preamp for experimenting with two different sounds. You get the ability to mix transistor and tube as well as quite a lot of additional features. So this gear is a fantastic option for those who take music production and their studio seriously.
Some users claim that the preamp does not give a nice distortion, but on the contrary – the sound becomes somewhat harsh. In addition, some did not find any unique character in its sound. As for the price, it is pretty high and is almost $800.
3. Chandler Limited REDD.47
If you’re a fan of a vintage-style sound, then the REDD.47 preamp from Chandler Limited would be a perfect option.
We all know the sound of Abbey Road Studio, whose engineers have produced many musical masterpieces. Now imagine if you could also have some of that tone, especially regarding preamplification. And this is made possible by Chandler Limited, which collaborated with EMI to create the REDD.47 unit.
The REDD.47 is based on the preamps from the EMI REDD.51 consoles that were used at Abbey Road Studio from 1959 to 1968. It was on this equipment that audio engineers recorded The Beatles albums of that time. All in all, the REDD.47 is a one-channel tube preamplifier with a pretty cool vintage look. Let’s take a look at its features.
- Record Mic or DI
You will have a special switch between Mic and DI modes on the front panel’s left side. Thus, the former will work with the XLR Input on the rear panel, which you can use for microphones. Switching to DI mode will use the jack input on the front near the switch itself.
- Voltage Gain Control
This knob, Voltage Gain Control, will be one of your main tools in working with the preamp. It has a range of 16 to 52 decibels. With it, you can rock the preamp stage more and get the drive and harmonics, which can be suitable for some creative cases.
- Fine Gain Set
REDD.47 has another gain control, which is to give you a neater adjustment. This knob is called Fine Gain Set and is located slightly to the right. With it, you can add or remove from 1 to 5 dB of your signal.
- Rumble Filter
Another cool feature of this unit is the Rumble Filter, which works like a high-pass filter. Thanks to it, you can roll back unnecessary low frequencies from 30 to 280 hertz. It is noteworthy that this control is stepped so you can adjust it quite accurately.
- Rotary Output Control
Of course, you cannot do without the Output regulator in such equipment. This separate knob is located at the bottom of the front panel. It will help you balance the Output if you drive the preamp too hard. The range of its operation is from 0 to -10 dB.
- 20 dB PAD & 48 Volt
In addition to all this, you can lower the signal by as much as 20 decibels if it is too hot. In addition, there is also a 48-volt phantom power option, which condenser microphones need.
Character & Sound:
The XChandler Limited REDD.47 can give you both clean and somewhat distorted sound in a good way. Of course, it all depends on how much you push the preamp. Overall, it can give a fat bottom-end and add punch and expressiveness. It’s a genuine coloring box for professional work.
The REDD.47 is a vintage-style preamp that will surprise you with excellent sound quality. You can use it for vocals, bass guitar, and other instruments if you want to get enough harmonics and coloration. All in all, it’s a fantastic choice for professionals who love the bright sound of the old days.
We should note that this equipment is quite expensive. So, to get REDD.47, you need to shell out about two and a half thousand dollars. But in general, this price is justified by the excellent sound quality of this piece of hardware.
4. Great River ME-1 NV
The ME-1 NV preamp from Great River can give you a classic ’70s sound.
It is a single-channel preamp from the American company Great River. It is simple enough to use but a versatile piece of equipment. That’s because here, you can get both clean and distorted sounds.
The input and output of the ME-1 NV are based on transformers. Therefore, you won’t find any tubes here, but you will still be able to add harmonics. In addition, there is a possibility of connecting for DI signals recording and other essential features. We will talk about them below.
- Up To 60 dB of Gain
The ME-1 NV will allow you to add up to 69 decibels of gain. You will be able to do this thanks to the large knob. The steps here are 5 dB each. After that, use the second Output Level knob to balance or compensate for the signal.
- Hi-Z Input
On the preamp’s front panel is Hi-Z Input, a jack where you can quickly connect your bass guitar or electric guitar. This feature is indispensable for recording DI signals.
- In & Out Monitoring
You can also easily monitor your signal strength thanks to the LED indicators on the front panel. These are two columns next to each other. The first is for the input signal level, and the second is for the output signal level. They light up in green, yellow, and red.
- Polarity and Phantom Buttons
If you need to turn the signal in reverse – you can always do it quickly, thanks to the separate Polarity button on the front panel. In addition, there is another Phantom function next to it, which applies 48-volt phantom power.
- Balanced & Unbalanced Outputs
All in all, you get a Balanced XLR output on the rear panel and another Unbalanced jack. The latter operates at -10 dBv. By the way, there is also a TRS Insert to the output amplifier.
Character & Sound:
The Great River ME-1 NV preamp can give more body to your signal. Its main feature is that it provides both clean sound and additional harmonics. The latter option will especially appeal to fans of rock music.
The ME-1 NV is an excellent single-channel preamp that will give you a classic sound. The Class A circuit and transformers will help you get some grit and coloration if you crank the Gain knob to the max. Plus, it makes it easy to record DI tracks and thus gives them more body. This equipment will be a good option for both beginners and intermediate-level professionals.
This single-channel preamp will somewhat strain your wallet. The equipment has a price tag of more than a thousand dollars. But it’s not a bad investment considering the quality of this piece of hardware.
5. Universal Audio Solo 610
This small Solo 610 preamp from Universal Audio will bring you excellent gain structure and silky sound.
Universal Audio has ensured that this little box, which looks like a ghost trap, provides the warmest sound to your material. The Solo 610 single-channel tube preamp is based on the gain section of the famous Putnam 610 consoles. And the portability and ease of use of this gear are exciting.
All in all, there are only two knobs and five additional switches. You can use this hardware for both vocal recording and direct input. So it is not only a preamp but also a DI box. Let’s see what’s hidden under the hood.
- Control Your Gain And Level
The main controls for Gain and Level preamp levels will be the two central black knobs. With the first one, you can adjust how much tube grit you want. And the second one will help to balance the overall signal.
- Hi-Z & Lo-Z Impedance Selector
Notably, you will be able to influence the tonal characteristics, even more, thanks to the Hi-Z & Lo-Z switch. This control will adjust the impedance, so your sound will vary depending on the chosen setting.
- Choose Between Mic or DI Modes
The Mic/DI switch on the front panel helps you quickly select an operating mode based on your recording material. So you can connect your XLR Mic Input at the back of the box and your bass guitar or other instruments at the front, thanks to the DI/THRU jacks.
- Get Rid Of The Rumble
In addition, you will also have the possibility to apply a hi-pass filter thanks to the Lo Cut function. This switch is located on the front panel. In the opposite position, it will operate in Flat mode and consider all low frequencies.
- Compatible With Condenser Mics
Another switch you will find here will enable the 48-volt phantom power mode. You can’t do without this if you are using condenser microphones. And, of course, there’s the Phase Flip feature.
Character & Sound:
You get the cleanest sound if the gain knob is before noon and the level is high. On the other hand, the preamp will add harmonic content to your signal by turning up the gain. All in all, you can get a lot of body, expressiveness, and a silky, warm sound.
The Solo 610 preamp is a fantastic choice if you want the sound of a Putnam 610 tube console. It’s compact, easy to use, and delivers very high-quality sound with all sources. Despite the single channel, it’s still versatile as it’s suitable for microphones and DI signals. So you can use it for the studio and the stage or rehearsal.
Like several previous preamps we have described, the Solo 610 is also quite expensive. Its price is over a thousand dollars. So this option may not be affordable if you are on a much smaller budget.
6. ART Pro MPA II
The ART Pro MPA II two-channel tube preamp will surprise you with the number of features and a friendly price.
ART Pro is known for its audio equipment that provides excellent sound quality without costing a fortune. For example, their Pro VLA II compressor has proven to be a godsend for many engineers at all levels. But now we’ll talk about their other product, the MPA II preamp.
All in all, this is a two-channel tube preamp that you can use for both microphones and DI recording. But its main advantage is quite a vast number of features. If you know how to use them properly, you can take your sound to the next level. So let’s see what’s here.
- A Lot Of Gain
Overall, you can add up to +40 dB of gain. But if that’s not enough for you, there’s a feature to add another +20 dB. It will be helpful if you want to boost the tubes of this preamp a lot and get maximum grit.
- Use It Dual or Stereo
The wonderful thing about this preamp is that you can use it both in Dual Mono and Stereo modes. A separate button, which you will find on the front panel’s right side, helps you do this. In Stereo Mode, the Output Level knob of the first channel will become Master for both.
- Choose Your Impedance
You can also change the Impedance of your signal. There is a separate knob on both channels for this. The range is from 150 to 3K ohms. The more you turn this knob, the more it will tame the high-end. By the way, this does not work for instrumental inputs.
- Two Instrument Inputs
As you may have already realized, two Instrument Inputs are on the front panel. So you can quickly connect a bass or an electric guitar here. It’s a nice feature to record direct inputs.
- Low Cut Filter
Notably, the MPA II preamp is equipped with a Low Cut Filter. But if in a lot of other gear you can’t tune its work, here you will have such an opportunity. These knobs allow you to eliminate unnecessary rumble in the range from 7.5 to 200 hertz.
- Plate Voltage Function
This preamp can provide even more saturation by activating the Plate Voltage function. You will find the corresponding buttons on each channel. It will boost the voltage that goes through the tubes and give you more grit and harmonics.
- Mid/Side Matrix
Another essential feature of this piece of hardware is the Mid/Side Matrix mode. You can turn it on by pressing a separate button in the center. So, if you use two mics at once, you can use the preamp for the Mid/Side recording.
Character & Sound:
The ART Pro MPA II can sound clean or with an added tube drive. At least you will have all the necessary features to make it possible. Overall, this gear can make your signal fatter and more affluent.
It is hard to imagine that you can get a tube preamp with such a set of functions and even at a friendly price of over $400. It will be a great option, both for beginners and professionals. At least for the latter, it will not be a costly investment. The ART Pro MPA II can handle everything from individual instruments to program material.
Some users do not like the plastic buttons, which do not inspire a sense of reliability. Also, some complain that there are some budget tubes. But that’s something you can always change.
7. Golden Age Project Pre-73 MKIII
The Golden Age Project Pre-73 MKIII is an unusually versatile entry-level preamp at a friendly price.
The Swedish company Golden Age Project has become known for creating Neve clones, which you will find at relatively affordable prices. Despite these price tags, the creators try incorporating as many features as possible into their products to provide versatility. That’s exactly what the Pre-73 MKIII preamp is.
Overall, this is a single-channel microphone preamplifier that you can also use to record DI signals. It has an excellent red color and robust knobs. In addition, Golden Age Project engineers put hi-pass filters and shelves for the high frequencies here. Let’s take a look at it in more detail.
- Stepped Gain Control
As for the gain, you can boost it from 20 to 80 decibels, which is pretty cool for a preamp at this price. Plus, this control is stepped, so it will be easy for you to recall the settings. For example, from 20 to 40, the steps go to 10 dB, then 5 dB each.
- DI Jack On The Front
You’ll have a separate jack input to record bass or electric guitar on the front of the preamp. You can turn this mode on and off thanks to a separate button on the side. At the top, you will also find a switch between Mic and Line modes.
- Two Hi-Pass Filters
A remarkable feature of this preamp is the presence of two Hi-Pass Filters. You can apply them with a separate three-step switch. The first mode works as -3 dB at 40 Hz, and the second at 170 Hz.
- AIR1 & AIR2
In addition to the filters, you will also have two shelves for high frequencies. These are AIR1 and AIR2 modes, for which there is a separate switch. AIR1 does a +3 boost to 30 kHz, and AIR2 does a +6 dB boost.
- Switchable Impedance
Another great feature is that you can change the impedance of the microphones connected to the preamp. This feature is called Low-Z in the form of a separate button. So you can switch from 1200 Ohm to 300 Ohm.
- 48V and Phase Flip
And, of course, you will have the usual two preamp functions. The first is to turn on the 48-volt phantom power. The second is to invert the phase of the signal. Both are separate buttons on the front panel.
Character & Sound:
The Pre-73 MKIII preamp can make the low-end a little tighter and add more punch to your signal. All in all, it’s a pretty versatile preamp that can affect your sound in different ways, thanks to its many features.
The Golden Age Project Pre-73 MKIII can be a boon if you are an aspiring musician or producer. For one thing, it costs about two and a half hundred dollars. Second, for that price, you get quite a few features suitable for many creative scenarios.
Some users complain about the lack of detailed monitoring of the preamp. It is because only a few lights show -10, 0, +10, and Clip. But unfortunately, this is where the information ends. So if you want more detailed monitoring, look for another option.
8. Millennia Media HV-35
The Millennia HV-35 is a small 500-series preamp that will give you all the necessary features.
The 500 Series units have long been popular with audio professionals. Their main advantage is that they take up little space. So you can place more different boxes in one row without clogging up the last free space in your studio. That’s what the Millennia HV-35 is.
This mic preamp is easy to use because it has only one knob. On top of that, you get six additional buttons responsible for additional functions. Below we will tell you about them in more detail.
- Only One Knob
The only knob here is responsible for adding gain. This knob is located at the bottom of the unit’s front panel. With it, you can get from 15 to 60 dB of gain. It’s noteworthy that there is no Output control.
- Hi-Z Instrument Input
Even though it’s a small unit, you still get Input for an electric or bass guitar. You can plug it into a separate Hi-Z Instrument Input, located at the bottom of the front panel, under the gain knob.
- Ribbon Mic Function
We have good news for you if you have Ribbon mics in your arsenal. The Millennia Media HV-35 has a separate function for them. By pushing a separate button, the signal will go directly to the transformers and get an extra +10 decibels of boost.
- -15 dB PAD
You will also have the option of lowering the signal if it is too hot for the preamp. At the very top of the front panel is a separate button that will apply a PAD of -15 decibels.
- High-Pass Filter
Another function here is responsible for applying the High-Pass Filter. When turned on, the preamp will perform a -3 dB roll-off at 80 hertz. Thanks to this, you can quickly eliminate unnecessary rumble in the lowest frequencies.
Character & Sound:
The sound character of the Millennia HV-35 is unusually transparent. Therefore, it will be indispensable in situations where you do not need to have some coloring. In addition, it provides no harshness and is very responsive to microphones.
The Millennia Media HV-35 is an excellent preamp from a well-known American manufacturer. The 500-series format won’t take up much space in your studio, and a minimum of controls will make it easy and intuitive. In addition, you get a separate instrument input, which is a great bonus.
This option is not for you if you need audio distortion because its sound is transparent. As for the price, it’s a little above average, and it’s about $700.
9. Chandler Limited TG2 Dual Mono Mic Preamp
The TG2 from Chandler Limited will give you that fat classic sound we all love.
If you are a fan of the old-school sound and can afford expensive hardware – the next unit on our list may well suit you. The fact is that this is a recreation of the preamps that were in the consoles at the studios of EMI, which later became known as Abbey Road. So you can hear this gear on the records of The Beatles and Pink Floyd.
It is a dual-mono preamp from Chandler Limited called TG2. You can see the EMI and Abbey Road logos on the front panel, which immediately let you know with whom Chandler Limited created this piece of equipment. You get a pretty simple set of settings with everything you need to give a secret sauce to your sound.
- +75 dB of Gain
The red knobs for both channels will be responsible for the amount of gain. You can crank this preamp up to +75 decibels of gain. Next to these controls are the blue Output knobs so that you can balance them out.
- Two DI Inputs
In addition, each of the two channels has a separate DI Input. Thanks to the white DI buttons, you can turn them on and off. Use these inputs to plug in your instruments, like bass or electric guitar.
- Add Some Brightness
If you feel that your microphone signal is too dark, you can always brighten it up a bit, thanks to the impedance change function. The white button called 300 is responsible for this. It’s a pretty good feature to change the tonal characteristics a bit.
- Additional Vital Features
The creators of the TG2 did not leave you without other vital features that such equipment needs. In particular, there is a PH button, which is responsible for phase reversal. In addition, you will also have a 48-volt on-off function. And because it’s a dual channel preamp, there’s also a Sum On and Sum Off mode switch.
Character & Sound:
The Chandler Limited TG2 can provide tight low-end, punchy midrange, and bright highs. All in all, the sound can range from clean to creamy and rich. But if you go even further, you get a saturated and dirty signal. So this box will be a real find for those who want full coloration.
The Chandler Limited TG2 is a first-class preamp that gives you a lot of possibilities for coloring your audio signal. All this will be possible by adjusting the gain and changing the microphone impedance. In addition, since it’s a two-channel unit, you can use it to record overheads or other sources. All in all, it’s suitable for any material.
The preamp has a pretty hefty price tag – over two thousand dollars. But this is the price to pay for equipment of this level. Besides, the unit needs a separate power supply.
10. DBX 286 S (Channel Strip With Preamp)
The dbx 286 S will surprise you with its friendly price and number of many features.
dbx is one of the most famous audio equipment manufacturers, dating back to the 1970s. For example, these guys are famous for their 160 VCA compressor, which you can hear on the drums in many famous albums. Since this is a mass manufacturer, it provides gear at affordable prices. And now we’re going to take a look at one of them.
The dbx 286 S is a single-channel preamp and mic processor that will help you achieve better sound from your recordings. Its main feature is that in addition to the preamp itself, you get a compressor, de-esser, enhancer, and expander/gate. And now, more about all of this.
- Mic Preamp
The Mic Preamp section, of course, will be the first in the chain of this unit. Here you get a Gain knob ranging from -15 to +45 dB. You will also have a small level indicator and a 48V Phantom Power button. In addition, there is also a High-Pass filter for 80 hertz.
- Use Some Compression
There are only two knobs in the Compressor section: Drive and Density. The first acts as a definition of the amount of compression and the second as a release. There is also a Gain Reduction indicator here to help you monitor your processing.
- Get Rid of Esses
Another great built-in feature here is De-Esser. It is a certain kind of compressor that takes into account upper frequencies to get rid of hissing sounds. You’ll have a frequency selection from 800 to 10K Hz, a Threshold knob, and a small operating indicator.
- Enhance The Signal
The dbx 286 S also has a built-in Enhancer that helps make the sound more prosperous and expressive by adding overtones. In particular, you will have two LF Detail knob for the bass and HF Detail for the highs.
And, of course, the last in the chain is Expander/Gate. This function helps you eliminate too obvious breaths or mute any signal after a certain threshold. You can control this with the Threshold and Ratio knobs. In addition, there is a small indicator here.
Character & Sound:
You won’t get rich harmonics here since this is not tube equipment. Nevertheless, the dbx 286 S gives more signal to dynamic and condenser microphones. Overall, the character of this professor’s sound is quite transparent.
The dbx 286 S cannot be called top-of-the-line equipment, but it is an excellent option for beginners who want to get the most out of their microphones. In addition to the preamp, the unit will give you a whole bunch of additional features, like a full-fledged channel strip. So, you can use it not only for voice but also for other instruments. Plus, its price is only $138, which is quite friendly.
Some users have complained about the amount of noise this unit provides. Also, it is single-channel, so if you need to handle multiple microphones, look for another option.
11. Warm Audio WA12 MKII Black
This WA12 MKII Black preamp from Warm Audio will surprise you with its sound quality and relatively affordable price.
The American company Warm Audio is known for its vintage-inspired equipment that you can get your hands on without robbing the bank. Their range includes everything from microphones to preamps, as well as compressors and equalizers. Now we’re going to talk about one of those great units.
The Warm Audio WA12 MKII Black is a single-channel preamp for microphones and instruments. It packs two Cinemag USA transformers for input and output. It also has a vintage Socketed Discrete OpAmp. So you can be sure to add an old-school flavor to your sound.
- Adjust The Gain
The WA12 MKII Black allows you to add up to 71 decibels of gain. You will be able to adjust this thanks to the same-name knob. Then use the Output knob to balance the final signal.
- Choose Your Tone
You will also have a separate Tone switch. The essence of its operation is that it switches the resistance from 600 to 150 ohms. So you can get a more transparent sound, or you can add some aggression.
- Record Microphones and Instruments
This preamp allows you to record from both microphones and connect instruments directly. Thanks to the Hi-Z input with a 6.3 mm jack, it will be possible. The signal will also go through both transformers, giving you the same circuit as with a mic.
- 48V, PAD, and POL Functions
You get all the main functions of most preamps. These include phantom power, lowering the signal by -20 dB with the PAD, and reversing the polarity with the POL button.
- Detailed Meter
The preamp also allows you to monitor in detail how it processes the signal, thanks to a particular indicator on the right side of the front panel. There are three green lights with levels of -20, -8, and 0, a yellow +08, and a red +18 that reports clipping.
Character & Sound:
The WA12 MKII Black sounds like a vintage console. Thanks to the two transformers, it provides a punchy and massive sound for both instruments and microphones. However, you can also get a more transparent signal. It will depend on how much gain you crank out.
The main advantage of the Warm Audio WA12 MKII Black is that you can get the sound of a vintage console at a less than pleasant price. This preamp costs $400, which is relatively affordable. In addition, this equipment is versatile and suitable for voice, other instruments, and even drums.
The only drawback of this preamp may be that it is single-channel. However, we don’t see any other negative nuances, so check the reviews on the Internet.
12. API Audio 512c Mic Pre
The API Audio 512c is a first-class preamp that you will find in many professional studios.
We can’t help but include the API unit in our list, as it is one of the leading companies in audio equipment production. Its history stretches back to 1969. The company gained worldwide popularity thanks to its consoles and individual units, such as preamps, equalizers, compressors, and others.
We will now take a look at the API Audio 512c microphone preamp. It is a single-channel unit of the 500-series format, which is very easy to use. You will only have one gain knob and a few more buttons with additional functions. Let’s break it down.
- 65 dB Of Gain
You will have a single gain knob, designed in the typical API style, which will allow you to add up to +65 dB. You can apply a -20 dB PAD if the signal is too high. By the way, you won’t find a separate output control here.
- Mic & Hi-Z In On The Front
There are two inputs on the front of this unit: one is Hi-Z In, where you can connect instruments, and the other is Mic In. A separate white Mic button activates the latter.
- Phantom Power and Polarity Switch
On top of that, you’ll have a Pol button for phase reversal and 48V to power up the condenser mics. The former is in yellow and the latter in red. Use them based on operational needs.
- LED-VU Meter
The API 512c is also equipped with a LED-VU meter to show the signal level accurately. These are small indicators in the upper right corner of the unit. The monitoring range varies from -12 to +18 decibels.
Character & Sound:
The API 512c preamp provides a warm and expressive sound. You can use it for any source like vocals, guitars, bass, drums, and other instruments. Plus, it doesn’t produce noise because it’s a -129dB low-noise preamp.
The 512c can be a good option if you want a premium preamp. This unit has been proven on many albums in top recording studios. Plus, it’s a 500-series unit, so that it won’t take up much space in your studio.
Among the disadvantages of this preamp is the lack of output control. In addition, it has no high-pass filter. And, of course, since it is the top hardware, its price is high – it’s almost a thousand dollars.
Manley Voxbox (Channel Strip With Preamp)
Manley Voxbox will serve you not only as a preamp but also as a first-class channel strip.
Now it’s time to look at another high-end unit, and it’s the Voxbox from Manley, a company that makes high-quality studio gear. Overall, it’s a single-channel tube preamp that includes an electro-optical compressor. But the presence of additional features here is incredible.
In addition to the preamp, you will have a compressor, de-esser, and EQ. So you can get a more or less mixed vocal track even at the recording stage. But this does not mean that Manley created the Voxbox exclusively for voice. You can efficiently run other instruments through it. Let’s now take a closer look at the features.
- Preamp Stage
The first section in the circuit of this unit is the Preamp. You will find it on the left side of the front panel. Here you will have an Input and Gain control, with which you can tune negative feedback from 40 to 60 dB. In addition, there is Phase Reversal, Phantom Power, and a separate Instrument Input.
- Use Some Compression
The developers of Voxbox also implemented a Compressor here with a fixed ratio of 3:1. You will have five attack and release modes, from fast to slow, and a Threshold knob. In addition, there is a separate switch that you can use to put the compressor in Bypass mode.
- Simple De-Esser
As for De-Esser, it’s pretty straightforward here. You can apply it to the 3K, 6K, 9K, and 12K range or as a 10:1 limiter. And, of course, the Threshold knob will help you adjust it more accurately and determine the amount of de-essing.
- Pultec-Style EQ
Another great feature is the Pultec-style EQ, which you will find in the last section of this unit. In general, you will have three knobs, Low Peak, Mid Dip, and Hi Peak, which can boost up to +10 dB. In addition, you can take this equalizer and apply it separately, thanks to the EQ Out on the back panel.
- Detailed VU Meter
And, of course, the creators of Voxbox did not leave you without a VU Meter. Thanks to it, you can monitor the unit’s work pretty clearly. In addition, there are several measuring modes, including G-R, Line In, PreOut, EQ Out, and D-S.
Character & Sound:
The Manley Voxbox will provide silky and expressive sounding vocals and a fat bass DI. You can experiment and apply it to other instruments, as this unit is quite versatile and gives you a lot of room for action.
It is top-of-the-line equipment that will be a great tool in your studio. The main advantage of the Voxbox is its versatility because, in addition to the preamp, you can also use compression, de-esser, and EQ. This box holds everything you need to process vocals and other instruments professionally.
The only disadvantage of this unit may be its enormous price, which is more than 4 thousand dollars. But that’s what you have to pay for equipment of this quality. Also, the Voxbox has only one channel, which can also seem like a limitation.
As you can see, there is a whole bunch of different preamps that can be a great tool in your studio. However, they all have different sounds and price tags. In the end, we’ll offer some tips to make it easier for you to decide which gear to choose.
If you want to take your production to the next level with enough resources, check out the #2 Universal Audio 710 Twin-Finity, #3 Chandler Limited REDD.47, #9 Chandler Limited TG2, and #12 API Audio 512c. And if you want to get the most out of your gear, the bonus of our list, the Manley Voxbox, might not be a bad option.
But if you’re tight on budget, we also have some excellent options. These include the number 6 ART Pro MPA II, number 7 Golden Age Project Pre-73 MKIII, and the number 11 Warm Audio WA12 MKII Black. Also, you might like the low-priced option #10 DBX 286 S.
If you know someone who uses preamps in the studio, we suggest you listen to how they work. You must have an idea of what kind of sound you like. We are sure that you will find what you need. Good luck!
Ilarion Ivanenko is a remote mixing and mastering engineer from Ukraine, a musician with more than 15 years of experience. Specializes in rock, metal, progressive and the other genres. He can’t imagine his life without music, as it is the biggest passion in his life