Top 9 Preamp Plugins 2022 (For Vocals, Guitars & More!) + Free Preamps

A preamp is the most important stage of an audio chain. Without a good preamp, you won’t be able to get your signal from the mics through a long cable run and into whatever device you’re recording.

Engineers often use preamp emulations to improve results in the digital domain and even save artists from retakes. It’s not that hard, but it does require some research about what kinds of devices are best for different situations. That’s why we brought you a list of the best preamp emulation plugins.

How Do Preamps Work?

An audio preamplifier is an electronic device that amplifies the level of an audio signal, whether it comes from a microphone or an instrument. It’s essential to know how preamps work because they are the first line of defense against noise and hum when you plug in a microphone to your soundboard, mixer, or computer.

There are many different types of microphone preamps. Some are designed for instruments, and some for vocals. Others are intended for use in live sound applications. Microphone preamps are also available in multiple formats (rack mount, tabletop, etc.), and there are even standalone preamps that you can use with any source device.

Is a Preamp Necessary?

The truth is, not all microphones need a preamp. However, there are plenty of situations where you do need one. So it’s important to know what each does and when you should use it. If you’re not recording with a mic but with a guitar or bass, a preamp would also not be necessary.

It’s worth considering that preamps boost the signal strength, which is essential when using long guitar cables and helps prevent signal loss, maintaining the clarity of the sound. You can also use preamps to change a guitar’s tone. Usually, you’ll have overdrive and equalizer knobs on your guitar amp. A preamp pedal gives you control over both of these knobs, as well as extra features like delay or reverb.

Does Preamp Improve The Sound?

In simple terms, yes, they do. They improve the sound quality by boosting the signal’s volume and adding harmonic distortion before it enters your audio interface or mixer. In mixing, preamps are often used to enhance the depth and warmth of a particular sound source or an entire mix.

Can I Use a Preamp Without An Amp?

You can use it without an amp and plug it into your interface, but you’d always need something to plug it in to get any sound out of it. Preamps need to be plugged into the guitar and then into a sound system or amplifier, as it will only amplify the signal but not play it back.

Why is it Called a Preamp?

The word “Preamp” is short for preamplifier, so the name directly answers its function. It’s called a preamplifier because it’s the first gain stage in the chain. After the preamp does its thing, any further amplification is made on the previously amped signal, hence the name.

Top 9 Preamp Plugins 2022 (Vocals, Guitars & More)

1. NEOLD V76U73

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

Neold V76U73 is a faithful hardware emulation that combines a Telefunken V76 preamp with a U73, a classic vari-mu compressor/limiter known as “the German Fairchild.”

This plugin accurately represents the good old Telefunken, so you can scratch both smoother highs and a rounder low-end from the list because it copies the 40hz-15khz broadcasting bandwidth filter from the original gear. Regardless, you need to know that it has a function that enables a linear response, in case you find its 40hz-15khz broadcasting bandwidth filter too limiting.

Besides the tube preamp, you also get to play with the U73 and combine them. This possibility is an attractive trait, as it allows you to both shape and control your sound’s dynamics while enhancing the overall signal and stereo filed altogether.

NEOLD V76U73 - Top 9 Preamp Plugins 2022 (For Vocals, Guitars & More!) + Free Preamp Plugins | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Tone:
    Neold V76U73 makes itself noticed when you speak about coloring the signal, which for the most part, is safe to say that it’s a good thing, but on the downside, it can indeed become too much at times, depending on the signal. V76U73’s V76 model does a remarkable job with vocals, guitars, and any mid-frequency-focused source, since its tube transformers will add body and warmth to it and instantly make it sound a lot better.
  • Compressor/limiter:
    The U73 emulation also adds a lot to this release, as it gives an extra level of flexibility to what you can do with this plugin on your processing chain. This emulation features a 100hz side/chain filter that prevents the compressor from pumping and tights up the low-end. In addition, Neold included the possibility of controlling the attack time, which improves the original hardware with a fixed value.
NEOLD V76U73 | New from Plugin Alliance | Classic German Preamp and Compressor

Compatibility:

Supports Windows 7 or higher, and macOS 10.9  or higher, runs on 64 bit only, and comes in VST2, VST3 AU, and AAX formats.

Summary:

Neold V76U73 is a terrific choice if you’re looking for a warm, vintage tube console type of sound. Its user interface resembles a channel strip, making it easy to understand and navigate. You can adapt its use for just about any sound source and the limiter. However, it might not be the most transparent, can be a good addition to your mastering or mix buss processing chain if you’re aiming for an analog texture.

Nevertheless, I suggest being careful with the preamp distortion on low-frequency-based sound sources, as it is strongly mid-range-focused, and its harmonic distortion can also bring up some dirt on your low-end.

2. Audiority Pre X7

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

The Pre X7 plugin is a modified digital recreation of an analog bass preamplifier.

Audiority has achieved a preamp on this release that you can quickly adapt to any sound source and have a pleasant reaction that works regardless. This plugin can calculate the 12AX7 tube models in real-time for input and output to prevent phase issues while preserving characteristic non-linearities.

They’ve kept it as simple as possible when designing the graphic interface by making it look like a rack mount. Like many of its pairs, which we’ll be checking out in this list, it also includes a mix dry/wet knob for onboard parallel processing and a brickwall clipping limiter.

Besides all of these standard features, it brings a Tone control knob to the table that easily allows you to quickly get to your sonic goal and move on to the next thing. In addition, it has four buttons: boost, pad, phase, and limiter.

Audiority Pre X7 - Top 9 Preamp Plugins 2022 (For Vocals, Guitars & More!) + Free Preamp Plugins | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Tone:
    The Pre X7 plugin has a very subtle and profound sound as opposed to the V76U73, which has a much more noticeable effect but is mainly focused on midrange frequencies. What makes the difference between both tube preamp emulations is that the Pre X7 is a lot more reliable, cleaner, and even lets you set the circuit simulation’s accuracy. In contrast, the V76U73 adds significantly more color to the signal and doesn’t give you as much control over it.
  • Dimension:
    If you also like to run your mixes through some light compression on your mix bus to glue things together and create a sense of space, you need to know that this preamp is an excellent way to go for it. You can hear how depth increases in your mix as you start increasing the amount of effect with the dry/wet control knob and simultaneously glues everything in a very particular musical way.
  • Unique features:
    This plugin sticks out from other preamps because of its tone control knob and the side buttons. The boost and pad buttons correspondingly increase and decrease the input signal before the first tube stage by +15db with boost and -20db with the pad button, the function Lim enables the limiter and invert the phase.
  • Right-click options:
    You can lock any parameter, so it doesn’t change its value, link input and output to automatically adjust for realistic a-b comparisons. Change the path of the low cut filter so that it will add more saturation on the lower frequencies, as it’ll move the filter after the input tube gain stage. That is good when you receive a very boomy kick drum, and you need to enhance the top-end to improve the attack.
Audiority Pre X7: Acoustic Music Demo

Compatibility:

Supports Windows 7 or higher, and macOS 10.9  or higher, runs on 64 bit only, and comes in VST2, VST3 AU, and AAX formats.

Summary:

This preamp is clean, flexible, and very straightforward. It takes only a few moments to find a lovely tone to work with if you’re using it at the top of your processing chain on any given source. It also makes a real difference when used against a whole mix, as you can easily add harmonic distortion to a specific side of the spectrum and blend in.

The tone control works just like any other, but it can make a genuine difference in sound. You can add some high frequencies to a muddy low bass guitar to bring back some life out of it and make a very thin snare sound a lot more aggressive and shallow.

3. Soundtoys Radiator (Preamp & Saturation)

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

Radiator is a digital model of the classic rack-mounted tube mixer Altec 1567A, turned into a dual drive tube input channel and EQ.

Radiator enables two different ways to load the transformers with its mic/line switch on the left side of the interface. This mic preamp is loud, colored, and warm-sounding. It has a two-knob tone control, bass, and treble, which recreates the frequency response from the original hardware. Its input and output amplification stages are independent to add more character.

Besides the mix knob, which works as a wet/dry control and was included as a feature for the convenience of parallel processing, Radiator meticulously recreates both gears from inside out, even maintaining an internal signal path of one channel of the 1567A.

Soundtoys Radiator - Top 9 Preamp Plugins 2022 (For Vocals, Guitars & More!) + Free Preamp Plugins | Integraudio.com

 - Top 9 Preamp Plugins 2022 (For Vocals, Guitars & More!) + Free Preamp Plugins | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Tone:
    Radiator is very smooth and warm-sounding. When it is there, it’s pretty evident in the sense of instant improvement of the source as soon as you load it up. Even if you crank up both stages at a time, it’ll still feel very natural and musical. Compared to the Neold plugin, although they share some similarities in their tone, Radiator is warmer and punchier, whilst V76U73 adds a lot of space to the overall sound and gives you more control over the tone and dynamics.
  • Signal Path:
    The input knob controls the level of the signal feeding into the first tube stage, then it runs through the two-band EQ, and finally goes to the output, which measures the signal coming out of the EQ section feeding into the second tube stage. This way, you have two separate saturation stages, which is highly appreciated if you want to add some analog texture but don’t want it to go too far.
  • Two-band EQ:
    Both knobs, bass, and treble provide simple broad curves. The bass curve goes from a smooth wide boost to a more centered cut, whereas the treble offers even more variation, especially as you reach the maximum.
  • Line/mix switch:
    This switch is part of the tone control section and can make up for cool, odd variations. Choosing the mic path will make the unit more transparent, slightly increasing the sense of space, while the line path will have a more consistent frequency response and enlarge the signal making for a fuller sound.
  • Little Radiator:
    Radiator comes with his little brother, but this one is made after another Altec unit called 1566A, a single-channel mic preamp from the ’60s. As with the larger Radiator, they’ve included a mix knob for parallel processing and the Heat knob that controls gain. One attractive trait of this model is its bias switch, which offers the option of different saturation characteristics from several 1566A units. Therefore, when it’s on, you get a more aggressive saturation, and when off, it’ll keep the subtlety of a well-maintained piece.
Radiator & Little Radiator: Introduction

Compatibility:

Supports Windows 7 or higher, and macOS 10.8  or higher, runs on 64 bit only, and comes in VST2, VST3 AU, and AAX formats.

Summary:

Soundtoys worked hard to make the sound of this digital emulation as realistic, warm, smooth, and you can find some good use for it with drums and percussions, though it works well on anything. The graphic interface is intuitive, to a point where you can sit back and relax and let it do its thing.

Regardless, it is fair to say that Radiator is a lot darker-sounding than V76U73 and PreX7 but offers a cleaner sound. It doesn’t give you too many options to manipulate the sound more freely, as done by its predecessors, but this plugin is best if you look for an exciting color to add to your palette.

4. IK Multimedia EQ 73 (Preamp & EQ)

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

EQ73 is Ik Multimedia’s model of the Neve 1073, a legendary British equalizer and preamp.

This switching EQ can entirely change and improve the sound of just about any sound source. It reacts better on acoustic instruments, like drums, bass, and guitars, but you can really use it on anything and quickly make it sound better.

The EQ 73 is based on one of the most renowned pieces of hardware in music recording history that was initially part of a large-format British mixing console. The unit was first introduced as a standalone rackmount module in 1970 and quickly became a studio staple. It was favored by recording engineers worldwide for its thick class-A sound, rich in harmonics and fullness. Besides its preamp section, it had a 3-band EQ that was also a critical factor in shaping the richness and sound of any track.

IK Multimedia EQ 73 - Top 9 Preamp Plugins 2022 (For Vocals, Guitars & More!) + Free Preamp Plugins | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Tone:
    It has a sweet, tube sound, but at the same time, anything that runs through grows into a big, full, and thick sound due to the unique harmonic distortion created by its transformers. The plugin does a proper job recreating its sound and even doing it better than other versions of this piece from other big companies, like UAD, which sound thinner and has a less musical reaction to the mid and low frequencies in comparison.
  • EQ:
    The Neve preamp seems cleaner and dramatically affects the audio source. Like the Radiator, this plugin includes an equalizer. The difference is obviously on the number of bands as the Radiator only has a two-band EQ, and the 1073 model has three. You must know that this EQ is extremely colorful because it is very noticeable when activated.
UAD Neve 1073 vs IK Multimedia T-RackS EQ-73 Comparison

Compatibility:

Supports Windows 7 or higher, and macOS 10.10  or higher, runs on 64 bit only, and comes in VST2, VST3 AU, and AAX formats.

Summary:

The plugin sounds incredibly close to the original hardware and reacts to signal in the same way, adding harmonic distortion and even rescuing any given sound source, regardless. IK Multimedia wanted to make this right and recreated to detail the preamp behavior, saturation, and preamp/EQ interaction that preceded the reputation of this remarkable piece of gear.

In contrast with Radiator, which shares the most similar characteristics, Radiator sounds comparably as good. However, if you take the treble knob too far, it’ll start bringing more saturation and distortion, whereas the EQ73 maintains a clean sound at all times.

5. Lindell Audio 6X-500

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

Lindell Audio’s 6X-500 plugin is a digital recreation of their successful transformer-coupled analog preamp.

This plugin is a direct evolution of the analog piece. Right off the bat, it differentiates from the original hardware giving you variable-slope high-pass and low-pass filters. It also has other cool traits from the digital domain, like the possibility of linking input and output gain.

Another thing that’s much appreciated of this plugin is its low CPU usage, which is very helpful, especially when you’re using several instances of the plugin at a time, have a busy processing chain or have a low-end computer.

About its sound, it’s fairly accurate to the original hardware. It does a good job when you use it on percussive elements and guitars, as saturation can bring more definition in harmonics and even regulate dynamics. It has a Pultec-like two band-passive EQ, of which we’ll talk more in detail in a moment, as well as contrast it with its similar pair, Radiator.

Lindell Audio 6X-500 - Top 9 Preamp Plugins 2022 (For Vocals, Guitars & More!) + Free Preamp Plugins | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Tone:
    This one is the most transparent of them all so far, as it doesn’t feel like it’s completely changing the source, but that’s improving it, which is crucial if you need to preserve the original tone of your track. However, the real magic happens in the mids and high-mids, making for a brighter tone, unlike Radiator, which is significantly warmer.
  • Passive two-bands EQ:
    This plugin includes a passive EQ that applies a Pultec-style high and low-frequency boost that you can set to one out of three frequencies. The high boost induces a modest harmonic distortion to high frequencies when the analog mode is on. Both add a shelving filter on each end.
Lindell 6X-500 Preamp Audio Plugin | REVIEW | Plugin-Alliance

Compatibility:

Supports Windows 7 or higher, and macOS 10.9  or higher, runs on 64 bit only, and comes in VST2, VST3 AU, and AAX formats

Summary:

Lindell Audio’s software model of their 6X-500 preamp is as much as you can expect from a solid hardware emulation. It adds a different type of non-linearities and its overall tone is a lot brighter and open than the other preamps we talked about due to its transformer-coupled circuitry. 6X-500 is a highly recommendable plugin to use at the top of your chain if you’re looking to add soft harmonic distortion to enhance any sound source. This plugin is also a good choice if you look to achieve a modern sound with your mix, as it’s very transparent and musical.

6. Klirrton Grindstein

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

Audiority teamed up with Klirrton and the metal producer, engineer, and Youtuber, Kristian Kohle from Kohlekeller Studio to bring the Grindstein pedal into the digital world.

This plugin is an entire guitar rig loaded with everything you need to achieve a wide variety of dirty high-gain tones, going from a vintage ’90s sounding death metal distortions to modern djent, core, and modern death metal tones.

Kohle and Klirrton had developed the original hardware back in 2019 and quickly became a big success. Then, Audiority invited them to collab on making an extended digital model, which would pretty much become the ultimate extreme metal virtual pedalboard on the market two years later, in 2021.

This metal solid plugin version is not only about the Grindstein but took it to a different level, featuring a noise gate, an EQ, and an amp simulator with impulse response.

Klirrton Grindstein - Top 9 Preamp Plugins 2022 (For Vocals, Guitars & More!) + Free Preamp Plugins | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Grindstein:
    It’s the heart of the plugin and recreates the analog Grindstein pedal, which sound is based on the Boss HM2 distortion. It’s a two-channel unit where you can blend the channels with the mix knob. They added a boost distortion that was not on the pedal, which is a mix between Klirrton’s Tube Screamer and Lichtbringer.
  • Schnauze Noise Gate:
    The first step in the modules chain is an emulation of the Schnauze noise pedal, also by Klirrton Manufaktur. This pedal has a built-in signal splitter capable of exclusively processing the noise without damaging the tone or causing level loss.
  • Fleisch EQ:
    This EQ includes seven knobs that have every possible move you’d make to blend a guitar tone into the mix. Dozer brings some low-end, boosting at 120hz, Cleansing takes away mud in the low mids cutting at 400hz, Scoop dips in 700hz, which achieves a sound reminiscent to the ’90s, Chainsaw brings the tone forth, adding 1.4Khz, and lastly, Blade boosts the top-mids with a shelving filter at 5Khz.
  • IR cabs simulators:
    Audiority included seven very different-sounding speaker combinations selected and recorded by Kristian Kohle himself, who crafted these aggressive, modern-sounding simulations exclusively for this plugin.
INSTANT PANTERA - Klirrton Grindstein Plugin

Compatibility:

Supports Windows 7 or higher, and macOS 10.8  or higher, runs on 64 bit only, and comes in VST2, VST3 AU, and AAX formats

Summary:

This plugin is an exquisite collection of Klirrton’s finest guitar pedals, and as if it wasn’t enough even includes seven impulse response amplifiers.

Grindstein is overkill for metal guitarists who look for a top-notch quality sound on a budget. The most impressive part of this software is the one responsible for its sound. The Grindstein preamp, with natural sound and particular traits, makes for a superior guitar tone.

7. Nembrini Audio – Acoustic Voice (Guitar Preamp)

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

Acoustic Voice by Nembrini combines Acoustic IR, preamp, EQ, compression, and a few effects.

Following up with guitar preamps, Acoustic Voice is a preamp with an IR guitar emulator that lets you choose between 6 acoustic guitars and three microphone emulations, including the all-mighty Shure SM-57.

The preamp features a semi-parametric EQ and a compressor; you can tailor the response of the plugin if you have piezo or magnetic pickups, and then there’s an effects section where you can add delay, reverb, modulation, and vibrato.

Acoustic Voice is an all-in-one preamp for acoustic guitar with very cool features, so let’s talk more details.

Nembrini Audio - Acoustic Voice - Top 9 Preamp Plugins 2022 (For Vocals, Guitars & More!) + Free Preamp Plugins | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Studio guitar emulation:
    After you connect your guitar and run it through the plugin, you can hear the improvement in the overall sound. The guitar emulator sounds very natural, rounds up the low-end, and enhances the higher frequencies, adding some really nice body and attack. The effects make a huge difference as they bring a lot to the stereo image and sound larger than life.
  • Mic emulation:
    It gives you a very flexible selection of microphones. It features an Audix Adx51 condenser mic, a Beyer dynamic M201, a Shure SM57, and a position and distance control to simulate a studio recording room. One cool thing to recall is that you can tailor the reaction of the IR with the pickup switch and choose magnetic pickups. This feature lets you plug an electric guitar and get a pretty solid acoustic guitar emulation, which can seriously save your day.
Nembrini Audio - Acoustic Voice Guitar Preamp / Yamaha SLG-100s / Studio Demo Plugen 2021

Compatibility:

Supports Windows 7 or higher, and macOS 10.9  or higher, runs on 64 bit only, and comes in VST2, VST3 AU, and AAX formats

Summary:

Acoustic Voice is convenient to achieve a clean ready-to-go acoustic guitar sound and gives you a high-quality set of effects to make your tone even bigger. It provides a variety of presets that work nicely as starting points that will accelerate your creative process for good.

The impulse response guitar emulation is very powerful, and it can seriously make a hundred-dollar guitar sound like a two-thousand-dollar guitar. The pickup switch is brilliant, and the fact that you can use an electric guitar and change the impulse control to react to your guitar makes you notice how much they’ve put into making it easier for artists who have a tight budget and can’t buy a new guitar.

8. Arturia Pre TridA (Preamp & EQ)

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

Arturia went all the way to Sweet Silence North in Denmark to model a channel strip of Grammy award-winning producer Flemming Rasmussen’s Trident A Range console to make this plugin.

Going back to the studio preamp emulations, you need to know about Pre Trida. It recreates a channel strip of this particular studio console to bring this great-sounding famous unit to the DAWs.

It’s got a completely switchable EQ section, which is fantastic for precision work and m/s processing and saves you from phase issues.  Besides, it has three stereo modes (L/R, M/S, dual mono) and a mono version.

Since we’re comparing and reviewing digital models of similar gear, we’ll also talk about Arturia’s Pre 1973 and Pre V76 and how they sound compared to IK Multimedia’s EQ73 and Neold’s version of the V76.

Arturia Pre TridA - Top 9 Preamp Plugins 2022 (For Vocals, Guitars & More!) + Free Preamp Plugins | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Pre Trida:
    Arturia did a remarkable replication of its subtle tone, and it has a way of creating a balance adding only enough high frequencies to be right where you want it. This model can help you increase depth while achieving an organic tone and enhancing harmonic details.
  • Arturia’s Pre 1973:
    Arturia’s version is more subtle than IK’s, which adds more notorious artifacts to the source and might be too much sometimes, but it gives you a clean enhancement in sound instead.
  • Arturia’s Pre V76:
    Arturia’s model sticks to the original hardware. There’s not much difference in sound when you compare it with Neold’s version of the preamp. Still, there’s a difference in features, like the linear/nonlinear response switch on Neold’s plugin exclusively.
Arturia TridA-Pre Review

Compatibility:

Supports Windows 8.1 or higher, and macOS 10.13  or higher, runs on 64 bit only, and comes in VST2, VST3 AU, and AAX formats

Summary:

These three preamps by Arturia are top-notch models of each of their analog counterparts. You’ll be able to hear a notorious difference in your mix, especially in overall depth and balance. Graphic interfaces stay faithful to their analog pairs: straightforward, visual, and simple. Arturia’s finest carefully designed all three plugins to make them as easy and efficient as possible.

9. Waves Scheps 73 (Preamp & EQ)

More Info & Price (Trial Available)

Waves Audio worked with world-renowned mixing engineer Andrew Scheps to craft a 1073 plugin that perfectly matches the hardware.

Speaking of the 1073, Waves Audio’s Scheps73 is Waves Audio’s version of the British classic. It features interrelated bands that adhere to the 1073’s original specs and accurately emulate its behavior.

It also features a switchable low and mid-range, 18db/oct high-pass filter and includes the 1078’s 10Khz mid-range band. You can go from simply adding color to entirely defining your signal’s tone and shape in less than a minute.

Waves Scheps 73 - Top 9 Preamp Plugins 2022 (For Vocals, Guitars & More!) + Free Preamp Plugins | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Input/output link:
    There’s a unique function to this plugin that uses inverse gain staging, which allows you to have realistic monitoring of the processing you’re adding. This monitoring helps you have the ability to determine how much overdrive you’re feeding into the signal and allows you to make better adjustments because your perception won’t be affected by the variation of gain.
  • Stereo mode:
    The plugin operates on the stereo, dual, and m/s mode. On stereo mode, the left and right settings are linked, and every adjustment applies to both sides equally. If you work in dual mode, you can adjust each side independently, and if you change back to stereo, they’ll stay offset from each other so that any adjustment you make will remain the same. Finally, if you’re set to m/s mode, it adds a mid/side processor to the left EQ, so you’d control the middle with the left knob and the sides with the right.
  • Monitor section:
    Allows you to monitor the left and right signal independently, mono, or stereo. This feature is helpful because it gives you different options to make better evaluations and adjustments when listening to the signal
  • EQ section:
    It has just about anything any EQ should have, but what’s particular about the EQ section is that in addition to the fixed frequencies that you get with the plugin, they’ve also included the 10Khz midrange band from the 1078, which separates it from the original piece. Each band has an in/out switch so that you can bypass them individually.
Waves Scheps 73 Review

Compatibility:

Supports Windows 10 or higher, and macOS 10.14.6  or higher, runs on 64 bit only, and comes in VST2, VST3 AU, and AAX formats

Summary:

You can hear the openness and character of the neve. What makes this plugin unique is its control over the preamp and the ability to work with the tonal character. The modeling of the EQ is remarkably faithful to its analog counterpart. With all of the fantastic features added to it, it offers a broad palette of sound and character that separates this plugin from the rest.

Regardless, if you get this plugin, make sure to watch out for the output, since it can quickly go wild and be all over the place or hurt your ears if your monitor system is on a high level. The drive option sounds great, but it’s too much in terms of how much gain it adds and the significant amplitude difference.

6 Best Free Preamp Plugins 2022

1. Analog Obsession PreBOX

More Info & Download

PreBox is a freeware that emulates 11 different analog preamps and tape saturation, including a Neve 1081, an SSL 9000, a Fairchild 692, and a V76.

It has an overall warm tube-like color with various textures to select the one that perfectly fits your source. If you use this plugin on a vocal, you’ll get a very subtle and musical analog sound as soon as you open it.

HPF emulates the V76 frequency response. It’s got a very intuitive user interface with a simple and optimized layout that keeps everything reachable in a comfortable way.

Analog Obsession PreBOX - Top 9 Preamp Plugins 2022 (For Vocals, Guitars & More!) + Free Preamp Plugins | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

Overall quality:
PreBox is well crafted, and its emulations are remarkably accurate for being free software. The graphic interface is self-explaining, and it’s generally a nice preamp to get a quick musical harmonic distortion on any source. However, if you crank up the input signal too hard, things sound particularly muddy or stuffy, which might not be desired.

V76 comparison:
You can tell the amount of work behind this plugin when comparing its V76 emulation to other paid versions like Neold’s or Arturia’s. PreBox’s harmonic distortion has more midrange information, differently from both of its pairs, which are less aggressive in this area and more on the high-frequency side of the spectrum. It also brings forward some muddy low-mid information. Still, the high-pass filter makes a huge difference in tone with this plugin and gets it very close to both of his pairs, which is impressive.

Analog emulations:
As you may see, this plugin has ten analog preamp models and tape saturation. Among these models, you have a Hamptone Mic Pre, a very interesting SSL 9000, a REDD47, a Neve 1081, an Alembic F2B, an Ampex AM-10, which is terrific if you want to add some distorted brittle, a lovely emulation and personal favorite Fairchild 692 and more.

Analog Obsession Prebox | What's Its Sound?

Compatibility:

Supports Windows 7 or higher, and macOS 10.14.6  or higher, runs on 64 bit only, and comes in VST2, VST3, and AU formats

Summary:

Analog obsession made this interesting preamp that doesn’t need to be too fancy and sounds
impressive, and most importantly, is free. The preamp emulations are relatively accurate and very well-devised and add a unique color to the eleven steps. The tape saturation responds very musically. I would recommend this plugin for guitars, piano, and it works beautifully on a snare drum blindfolded.

2. Analog Obsession PREDD

More Info & Download

Predd is a free plugin that emulates the legendary EMI REDD.51 console from Abbey Roads Studios.

Analog obsession made their own good-looking version of the REDD.51 with a fully compensated 20sB PAD, a 10dB high boost, pole phase invert, and a rumble filter.

Predd has been carefully modeled after the EMI REDD.51 console to deliver a faithful emulation of this classic console. It has the most straightforward graphic interface, and if you’re on a budget, you should check this out.

Analog Obsession PREDD - Top 9 Preamp Plugins 2022 (For Vocals, Guitars & More!) + Free Preamp Plugins | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • GUI:
    As with many other preamps, you get the mic/preamp switch. It has a low cut of 180hz and a high-frequency boost of 12Khz. You can control plugins input gain and distortion with the voltage gain knob. The plugin also has a PAD switch that enhances depth and sense of space along with oversampling capabilities.
  • Overall sound:
    PREDD uses a combination of warm and rich analog tones and a proprietary distortion algorithm to create a familiar and new sound. It is crunchy and crisp in extreme settings, making it an excellent plugin if you’re working with rock or metal music.
PREDD by Analog Obsession⎮Tested On Drum, Bass & Vocal ✓

Compatibility:

Supports Windows 7 or higher, and macOS 10.14.6  or higher, runs on 64 bit only, and comes in VST2, VST3, and AU formats

Summary:

PREDD is a fairly decent piece of freeware with a very nice warm tone and color. It does sound a bit fuzzy on the highs and distorts pretty severely when the settings are taken to the extreme. However, if used with care and not exaggerating, it adds an exciting color on the low mids that makes anything it touches feel fuller.

3. SoftAmp PSA

More Info & Download

Soft Amp’s PSA is a rack mount Tech 21 PSA guitar preamp pedal model that features a compressor and a noise gate that they made for 2016’s KVR Audio Development Challenge.

It has up to five distortion stages based on op-amps with Zener diodes in the feedback chain and two op-amps overdriven into saturation. Each overdrive shapes frequencies differently and all stages are modeled as nonlinear filters with their outputs.

This plugin has several different character controls, gain stages, EQ, and much more, and it’s like a multi-effect for distortion that should not be mistaken with a guitar amp because it will not pull the trick.

SoftAmp PSA - Top 9 Preamp Plugins 2022 (For Vocals, Guitars & More!) + Free Preamp Plugins | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Gain stages:
    First, you’ve got the preamp, which pushes into the following three stages of distortion, so there are low, mid, and high character knobs, and then there’s an overall drive control that works differently from the preamp. 
  • PSI Denoiser:
  • PSA includes a noise gate with adaptive release time and a “Learn” function. The gate threshold automatically matches your noise level. Then it applies directly to the input signal when the LED goes off. 
  • Compressor
    The plugin applies the compressor to the signal right before going through the PSA preamp. Depending on the gain and bias setting, it acts as an upward and downward compressor.
Mixing With SansAmp Style Plugins || SoftAmp PSA

Compatibility:

Supports Windows 7 or higher, and comes in VST format.

Summary:

SoftAmp’s plugin is over the top for bass guitar and drums. It lets you control your speaker simulator and has a multi-band EQ and compressor that perfectly blends your distortion. Overall, it is a pretty good plugin, especially if you do not work in Pro Tools, which has its own version of this analog pedal. Ironically enough, its worst performance is on guitars, as it sounds plastic and doesn’t work.

4. Analog Obsession MPReq 

More Info & Download

MPPReq by Analog obsession is a preamp with an EQ inspired on several units from the ’50s decade.

This plugin has a 2-band passive EQ similar to the Pultec EQP-1A, counts with two fixed frequency bands, and doesn’t have bandwidth control.

The saturation and nonlinearities of the amps are carefully stimulated; however, this is a very viable tool to bring a warm and vintage sound to your recordings.

Analog Obsession MPReq  - Top 9 Preamp Plugins 2022 (For Vocals, Guitars & More!) + Free Preamp Plugins | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Saturation:
    MPPREq’s saturation is very rounded and glues everything together. It has a pretty noticeable distortion that you might like on drums, bass, or guitars. As you take the gain knob forth, you can hear how it crushes the signal.
  • EQ section:
    You can shape the sound of your distortion and enhance your tone by cutting or boosting on 100hz or 12khz to add clarity and low-end to your signal.
  • GUI:
    It has an analog-style graphic interface, and it’s as simple as it gets, displaying everything this plugin has to offer without any waste of space. It has a beautiful layout that resembles the classic Pultec EQP 1A passive EQ.

 

Compatibility:

Supports Windows 7 or higher, and macOS 10.14.6  or higher, runs on 64 bit only, and comes in VST2, VST3, and AU formats

Summary:

MPPReq by Analog obsession brings us a fascinating-sounding Pultect-based vintage preamp. It gives you an aggressive distortion that is amazing on guitars and vocals and adds some substance into your mix.

It’s recommendable not to use this plugin on low-frequency-based gear as it can be extreme on the low-mids, and things can quickly get dirty.

5. Analog Obsession CHANNEV

More Info & Download

Analog Obsession recreated an entire Neve channel strip and gave it away for free.

The plugin’s a digital model of a Neve 1073’s channel strip with de-esser, preamp, a four-band EQ, a compressor, and a limiter, as well as tape emulation and an output knob.

Channev includes models for the Pre-72 mic pre, D-03 de-esser, an EQ-87 equalizer, C-64 on compression, and the T-01 tape saturation. Processing on this plugin follows the same order as mentioned.

Analog Obsession CHANNEV - Top 9 Preamp Plugins 2022 (For Vocals, Guitars & More!) + Free Preamp Plugins | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Mic Preamp:
    It’s surprisingly wide and fat on the low-end, and as a matter of fact, it sounds better than the Scheps73 plugin by Waves Audio on a bass guitar. When making a side-by-side comparison, the difference was clear and audible to the point where Channev surpassed Waves’ plugin, even adding more space and color.
  • D-03
    You have two modes for sibilance control: bell & soft, which refers to the intensity and processing for the de-esser to behave. One thing to point out about this feature is that you don’t have control over its frequency, so you will need to bypass it and add a different tool if it doesn’t solve the problem. Either way, it does a reasonably good job of keeping those high frequencies controlled.
  • EQ-81:
    Based on the all-time British classic Neve 1081, it delivers a four-band EQ with pre-determined frequencies. On high frequencies, you’ll have from 3.3khz up to 15khz. Then, on the high mids, it hands over control from 1.5khz to 9.2 0Khz. Right next, we’ve got the low-mids from 220hz to 1200hz. You can use a Hi-Q feature on the high-mids to narrow that particular processing band.
  • Compressor/Limiter C-64 and L64:
    These sections are based on the compressor/limiter 2264 with the difference that they’re entirely independent of each other, and both have their external sidechain. This is a very punchy compressor and very aggressive, too; it works very well on just about anything, and I suggest using this entire plugin on the mix bus and seeing results for yourself.
New NEVE Channel Strip FREE VST PLUGIN - Channev by ANALOG OBSESSION - In depth Analysis & Tutorial

Compatibility:

Supports Windows 7 or higher, and macOS 10.14.6  or higher, runs on 64 bit only, and comes in VST2, VST3, and AU formats

Summary:

Analog Obsession doesn’t care about doing things halfway, so they went all-in with this excellent freeware that can be easily compared and even out-perform a two-hundred-buck plugin. It’s got a top-notch sound, the distortion and saturation are rich, you can use it on any sound source and have a great outcome from it, and as if it’s not enough, it has a low CPU usage.

On the downside, it seems to have some bugs, as crashes and volume dips on the input, but it doesn’t seem general and is still more than worth it as it only takes a free download and sounds remarkably good.

6. Shattered Glass Audio SGA1566

More Info & Download

The SGA1566 plugin models tube preamplification with two 12ax7 tube stages.

This plugin is good to add warmth to your tracks with a solid-state digital preamps. It also works as a saturation compressor and even as an overdrive.

This plugin is most helpful on guitar, female vocals, bass (especially DI), or synthesizers, and you can add it to your mastering chain to add some tube warmth.

It’s got a 2-channel baxandall EQ with bass and treble options that you can set up to engage before or after the preamp. You have input, output, and gain controls on the preamp section, and you can turn it to low or high CPU usage. The tube emulation will be more precise when set on high CPU usage.

Shattered Glass Audio SGA1566 - Top 9 Preamp Plugins 2022 (For Vocals, Guitars & More!) + Free Preamp Plugins | Integraudio.com

Key Features:

  • Overall sound:
    It adds a charming tube warmth and overdrive. It’s aggressive-sounding, particularly on vocals, making it a great pick if you’re into mixing or producing heavy music. You could also benefit from adding it to your mix bus to get some tube warmth and punch.
  • Easy-to-use:
    It’s got a simple yet effective user interface that keeps a very easy-on-the-eyes, balanced design where everything is right there, but it’s all in its proper place. It keeps the analog appearance intuitive and enables you to navigate through rapidly.
Shattered Glass Audio SGA1566 | FREE PLUG-IN WEEKLY

Compatibility:

Supports Windows 7 or higher, and macOS 10.14.6  or higher, runs on 64 bit only, and comes in VST2, VST3, and AU formats

Summary:

The SGA1566 is a powerful plugin that can help you improve your signal’s quality, enhance low-end, add body, and give it a tube lift. With this plugin, you can go from a soft tube warmth to aggressive overdriven distortion. You will love what this thing does to female vocals and rock guitars.

Conclusion

So here we have it, folks. In this article, we’ve talked about many different types of preamps, how to use them, and compared their sound to find the best possible option.

Preamps are an excellent way of coloring your signal and getting professional results. They can also bring depth and add heavy distortion to a source. These are highly versatile tools to add to your arsenal and have amazing results.

Finally, preamps can help you find different textures for your guitar or bass tone to create a unique sound for your playing. These plugins will also help you quickly achieve that goal, regardless of whether you’re on a budget or don’t know how to use them, etc., as they are highly intuitive and mostly straightforward.

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