Let’s discuss the best monitor amps & preamps for your studio 2023.
Most studio monitors are active. It means that they have built-in amplifiers and do not require external powering. However, some are also passive, such as the legendary Yamaha NS-10. To use them, you will need a separate amplifier.
If you are looking for such a unit – we have good news – we have just prepared a list of top equipment for you.
It is also worth noting that most hi-fi speakers are also passive. Therefore, the items presented in our list can also be suitable for this audio equipment. In addition, we will also show you some passive preamps that can be useful for adjusting the volume of active monitors or switching between several pairs of speakers..
The 8 Studio Monitor Amps & Preamps 2023
1. Nobsound NS 05P
If you need a single volume knob and the ability to switch between XLR and RCA, then Nobsound NS 05P is for you.
The first item on our list is not an amplifier but a passive preamp. It means you will not be able to amplify passive monitors with it. Nevertheless, this unit can be easily used as a separate volume control for active speakers. It will be handy, as you will have only one knob.
Nobsound NS 05P design is quite straightforward – it consists of two switches and a volume knob. You will find all the necessary connectors on the rear panel. Let’s try to understand the functionality of this unit in more detail.
- Two Switches And The Volume Knob
The front panel functionality of this unit is quite minimalistic: you will have one volume control and two switches. The RCA/XLR button for Out is located on the left side, and you will find the same button for In on the opposite side.
- XLR And RCA Connectors
As for all connectors, you will find them on the rear panel. In particular, there are two XLR Inputs for the right and left channels and two XLR Outputs. In addition, there are also two RCA connectors for the right and left channels.
- Won’t Change The Sound
This unit should not affect the audio in any way. It is because no amplifying circuit is used here. So, as a result, you will get clear sound from your active monitors.
- Small Size And Black Appearance
And, of course, it is also worth mentioning that this unit is quite small, so it will easily fit on your desk. Besides, Nobsound NS 05P is made in black color so that it will fit into almost any interior.
You can use this device if you have active monitors and want to adjust their volume conveniently. In addition, it will come in handy if you have two sources with XLR and RCA outputs. Thus, you can quickly switch between them and control the volume.
2. Avantone Pro CLA-200 Studio Reference Amplifier
The CLA-200 from Avantone Pro is a studio amplifier that will give you plenty of power and headroom.
The CLA-200 was created in collaboration with Avantone Pro and legendary producer and mixing engineer Chris Lord-Alge. The fact is that earlier, they created CLA-10 studio monitors, a recreation of the famous Yamaha NS-10. These products were successful, so the creators decided to complement them with a custom amplifier.
In total, you get a Class AB amplifier which will give you enough power for a studio of any format. Particularly noteworthy is the appearance of this unit, which has a rather vintage design: on the front panel, you will see two large VU Meters that will indicate the Power Output. Let’s now look at the features of the CLA-200 in order.
- 200 Watts Of Power
The Class AB amplifier of this unit has 200 watts of power. However, this is if you use 2 x at 8 ohms. There are also options 2 x 300 W at 4 ohms and 500 W at 8 ohms as a Bridged Mono.
- Low Harmonic Distortion
As for the frequency range, it is from 20 to 20,000 Hz. You will also get a low harmonic distortion of less than 0.1% and, therefore, a transparent sound. And the signal-to-noise ratio is > 94 dB.
- 2-Channel Amplifier
Also, Avanton CLA-200 has two channels, A and B, which regulators you will see on the front panel. As for the connectors, they are located on the back, and they are Bridge plus and minus, as well as two spicon outputs and XLR Ins and Links.
- Choose Your Mode
In addition, there is a Mode Switch on the amplifier’s rear panel. Here you can select Stereo, Parallel, or Bridge options. Remember that the unit must be turned off when you switch modes.
- Rack-Mounted Unit
Another feature of this amplifier is that it is rack-mounted. In particular, it has two handles on the front panel and four screw slots. This way, it will easily find its place in your rack.
Certainly, you can choose this product if you need an amplifier for passive studio monitors. As you can understand, CLA-200 will work perfectly with CLA-10s. However, the amplifier can also be used for Yamaha NS-10s or other passive speakers.
3. ART SLA-1 100-watt Power Amplifier
Studio Linear Amplifier SLA-1 from ART is a good budget option if you need 100 watts of power per channel.
ART is a well-known company that produces audio equipment at affordable prices. Among their range are a variety of studio units, monitors, and amplifiers. The latter is the following item on our list – the ART SLA-1 Studio Linear Amplifier. We are sure that you will be surprised by this product’s minimalism and affordable price.
It is a rack-mounted unit that does not take up much space due to its small size. It also has a SmartFan silent cooling system, so it should be suitable for studio applications. Nevertheless, the creators claim that you can also use it for some live scenarios. Let’s now talk about it in more detail.
- Class AB Amplifier
This unit has a Class AB amplifier on board with a power of 100 watts at 8 ohms for each channel. It can also be used with 130 watts at 4 ohms and 260 watts at 8 ohms bridged. So, this power should be enough for many applications.
- Low Harmonic Distortion
As for the harmonic distortion level, it is less than 0.05 percent. Therefore, the creators assure you that you will get a transparent sound. Speaking about the frequency range is from 10 Hz to 40 kHz.
- SmartFan System
Also, one of the main features of this unit is that it is equipped with a SmartFan cooling system. It means you should get a quiet amplifier operation, which can be suitable for studio work.
- Sufficient Number of Connectors
As for the available connectors, they are all located on the rear panel. In particular, there are two XLR and TRS inputs for each channel. And, of course, you will have two sets of bridges for connecting cables.
- Stereo And Bridge Modes
It is also worth noting that this amplifier has two modes of operation – Stereo and Bridge, and it is logical in principle because of available connectors. You will find the necessary switch to select modes on the rear panel as a button.
You can consider buying ART SLA-1 if you need a budget amplifier that can be used both for studio work and for some live scenarios. In general, this unit can do its job quite well.
4. Nobsound Little Bear MC2
Nobsound’s Little Bear MC2 is a passive preamp that will amaze you with its low price.
Above we have already discussed a similar product of the Chinese company Nobsound, which boasts a compact size and affordable price. Now we will show you another passive preamp that you can use to control the volume of active monitors. And the good news is that it costs even cheaper and is Nobsound Little Bear MC2.
The main feature of this unit is a single volume knob and the ability to switch between XLR and RCA sources and speakers. In addition, this device also has no amplifying circuit, so the sound of your monitors should remain unchanged. Now let’s look at the features in more detail.
- Minimalistic Layout
Little Bear MC2 has a very restrained and minimalist design. Therefore, you will not find a large number of features here. However, in the center of the front panel, you will have a large volume control, and there are XLR to RCA switches on the sides.
- XLR And RCA Connectors
All connectors of this unit are located on the rear panel. In particular, you will find two XLR inputs and two outputs. In addition, you will have the same set of connectors for RCA cables.
- Compact Size
The small size of this unit is really impressive. To be more detailed, they are 80 x 148 x 48 millimeters. Thus, you can be sure that this box will easily fit on your desk, among other important devices and units.
The most obvious reason to choose this unit is that you need to switch between XLR and RCA sources and devices and quickly adjust their volume. For example, you can connect monitors to one slot and hi-fi speakers to the other.
5. Stewart Audio PA 50B 50W
The Stewart Audio PA 50B 50W may be a suitable option if you need a compact half-rack amplifier.
The next item on our list will suit you if you do not need amplifiers of large size and power. PA 50B 50W from Stewart Audio company can fully satisfy your needs. This unit has a small size, enough power, and a relatively affordable price.
If we talk about the main specifications of this unit, it has 50 watts for each side. You will also be able to switch between Bridge and Stereo modes. And, of course, the appearance of this unit deserves special attention. However, let’s try to cover other features first.
- Clean Full-Range Dynamic Power
This unit has a Class AB amplifier and a frequency range from 20 Hz to 20 kHz. You will be able to use 25 watts stereo into 8 ohms, 50 watts stereo into 4 ohms and 100 watts bridged power into 8 ohms.
- Convection Cooled
Another important fact is that Stewart Audio PA 50B 50W uses a Convection Cooling system. It means that there are no fans in it. Thus, you don’t have to worry about noise while working in a studio environment.
- Minimum Of Distortion
The amount of harmonic distortion in this unit is less than .1%. Therefore, you can not worry – the audio signal should be transparent. In addition, the signal-to-noise ratio is less than 100 decibels.
- TRS Connection
As for the connection, you can do it thanks to TRS cables. You will find these two slots on the rear panel. In addition, there are separate terminals for bare wires, thanks to which passive monitors are usually connected.
Of course, Stewart Audio PA 50B 50W is suitable if you need to amplify passive studio monitors. In addition, you can use it in broadcast applications and other conditions.
6. Monoprice 300-Watt
If you are limited in your budget, the Monoprice 300-Watt amplifier may also be a good option for your studio.
Monoprice is a Canadian company that manufactures electronics and accessories that you can find at affordable prices. And the good news is that among their assortment, there is also a studio amplifier for which you won’t need to rob the bank. It is the Monoprice 300-Watt.
It is a rack unit that occupies only one place. In general, it has a rather restrained design and a simple interface. If we take more details, then you will get 300 watts of power in your studio rack. But first, let’s try to analyze the features one by one.
- Class D Amplifier
This unit has a switching Class D amplifier with 300 watts of power. However, at 4 ohms, it gives 150 watts for each channel. At 8 ohms, it will be 100 watts. In addition, the amplifier will produce 500 watts in bridged mono mode.
- Extremely Flat
As for the frequency range of this amplifier, it is approximately from 20 hertz to 20 kilohertz. The creators also ensure that the unit has a fairly clean sound because there is less than 0.05% total harmonic distortion.
- Balanced And Unbalanced Connectors
It has balanced and unbalanced options if you need to know what connectors this preamp has. For example, the balanced ones are XLR and TRS inputs. However, connecting via unbalanced TS output and NL4 outputs is possible here.
- Built-In Limiter
Another great feature of the Monoprice 300-Watt is its built-in Optional Limiter. It serves as a brick wall and will not let you drive the amplifier into clipping. And this, in turn, can save your speakers from damage.
- Muting Function
Another feature worth mentioning is the Power on/off muting function. Thanks to it, you will not have situations when speakers pop when you turn the amplifier on or off. It can also be useful for the long life of monitors.
This amplifier can be a good solution if you need to power up your passive studio monitors but you don’t have money for fancy equipment. In addition, you can also use it in live applications. At least you can safely try this option because it will not make you bankrupt.
7. Behringer A800
The budget monster A800 from Behringer will give you enough power and no noise when working in the studio.
Now it’s time to talk about another budget unit, but this time – from a well-known manufacturer – Behringer. It is the A800 studio power amplifier, which promises to give you enough features for little money. So, we can be pleasantly surprised.
It generally has 400 watts of power per channel, a sufficient number of connectors, and a good design. Also, important features are noiselessness and weight, which is a little more than 3 kilograms. Let’s now talk about all this in more detail.
- 400 Watts Of Power
In general, Behringer A800 has 400 watts of power for each of the channels at 4 ohms. However, you can use other options, including 2 x 220 W at 8 ohms and 800 watts at 8 ohms in bridged mode.
- Silent Operation
Another advantage of this unit is that it does not make any noise. It is because it uses a convection-cooled system, and there is no fan. So, you can be calm – the amplifier will not bother you.
- Many Connection Options
It is also worth noting the many connectors on this unit. As for the inputs, you will have two XLR, TRS, and RCA connectors. You will also find two Speaker Twist and terminals as the outputs.
- Attractive Design
And, of course, the appearance of the amplifier deserves special attention. It is made in black finish and looks quite stylish. Plus, you will have two LED meters that will indicate the signal level for each channel.
Choose this unit if you need a powerful amplifier, not for all the money in the world. You can use it for powering passive studio monitors, home hi-fi acoustics, and live performances.
8. Samson Servo 120a Power Amplifier
Samson Servo 120a will give you 60 watts of power and a few small features at an excellent price.
Samson is an American company that manufactures audio equipment. We will discuss one of their wonderful units, the Samson Servo 120a power amplifier. It is a reliable box that will delight you with several helpful extra features.
In general, this rack format unit has 60 watts on each side in stereo mode. It also has LED indicators that will show you the signal level and several connection options. Let’s now talk about its features in more detail.
- 60 Watts Per Side
Using this unit in stereo mode on 4 ohms will give you 60 watts of power for each channel. However, you can get 120 watts at 8 ohms if you use the amplifier in bridged mono mode. The corresponding mode switch is located on the rear panel.
- Balanced & Unbalanced Inputs
As for the inputs, you will have two options: use an unbalanced RCA cable or a balanced TRS cable. Choose this based on the equipment that is to go into the amplifier.
- Phone Out and Speaker Button
Looking at the front panel, you will see the Power button on both sides – the Headphone Output and the Speaker Button. Thus, you can connect headphones directly to the amplifier and mute the speakers whenever you want.
- Convection-Cooled Design
Another important feature of the amplifier is that it uses Convection-Cooled Design. It means that there are no fans and no annoying noise from cooling the unit.
You can choose this power amp if you don’t need crazy power. This amp should be quite enough for passive studio monitors. Also, you can use it for home hi-fi speakers.
As you can see, you have plenty of amp options to power your studio monitors. In addition, we have shown you some passive preamps as well. To conclude this post, let us give you some tips on which equipment is especially worth paying attention to.
If you are a fan of the old-school punchy sound and use something like Yamaha NS-10, check out number 2 of our list – the Avantone Pro CLA-200. This amp is powerful and was created in collaboration with producer Chris Lord-Alge.
However, if you are on a budget, you can consider more affordable options, such as #6 Monoprice 300-Watt, #7 Behringer A800, and #8 Samson Servo 120a. These units promise to do their job well despite their relatively low prices.
Before choosing the equipment, read the reviews in detail on the Internet and make sure that it will suit your speakers. Good luck with your choice!
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