The microphone preamplifier is a critical part of any signal chain that includes a microphone.
This is because microphones output relatively low mic level signals and require microphone preamplifiers to boost the signal to line level for processing and recording in analog (and digital) audio.
It goes without saying that microphone amplifiers are very important and, therefore, there are many options to choose from on the market. This article aims to provide you with the best brands to watch for when looking for the right microphone preamp.
The top 13 best microphone preamplifiers brands are:
- Solid State Logic
- True Systems
- Universal Audio
- Great River Electronics
- Avalon Design
- Grace Design
- FMR Audio
- Black Lion Audio
Automated Processes Incorporated, better known as API, is an American manufacturer/brand of high-end professional-grade audio equipment for recording studios.
Since its birth in 1968, API has been successfully fulfilling it mission to create the highest possible quality professional audio gear, and then back it up with excellent customer service. More than 50 years later, the company continues to innovate and maintain is legendary status with modern production of its legacy products.
To this day, API builds its microphone preamps with the highest quality components to ensure the superior performance the company is known for.
The legendary 512 preamp is proof of this dedication to preserving API’s tradition of manufacturing the best analog recording equipment the world has to offer. This modular preamp, now offered as the 512c, has been largely unchanged and has maintained it warm analog character throughout the decades.
The 512v is a revamped version of the aforementioned class that includes a variable output feature.
If you’re looking for top-of-the-line name brand microphone preamplifiers (and other legendary analog audio hardware), then look no further than API!
Automated Processes, Inc. was founded in 1968 by Saul Walker and Lou Lindauer in New York City, New York, USA.
Solid State Logic
Solid State Logic is another highly sought after brand in professional recording studios around the world.
This revered company is the perhaps best known as the manufacturer of some of the world’s favourite (and most expensive) mixing consoles. SSL also produces some of the best microphone preamplifiers that money can buy though, they too, demand a rather high price point.
With modern technology, SSL has produced preamps that can offer both transparent/clear audio or add sonic character ranging from “warm” to “raging”. This “best of both worlds” approach to audio design makes SSL microphone preamps an excellent choice for high-end results in the studio.
Standout mic preamp: Solid State Logic Alpha VHD (link to check the price at B&H Photo/Video).
Solid State Logic was founded in 1969 by Colin Sanders in Stonesfiled, Oxfordshire. The company was sold to Audiotonix Group in 2017. It is headquartered in Begbroke, Oxfordshire, England.
Solid State Logic is also featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Audio Interface Brands In The World.
True Systems has made a name for itself as a manufacturer of one of the world’s most transparent microphone preamps.
With a True preamp, you’re getting the character of the microphone without the added character and noise present in many other analog preamps and without the digital harshness of many A/D converting preamps.
I’m certainly biased toward True Systems since my former school and employer both use True Systems Precision 8 preamps but this preamp is certainly my personal favourite.
True Systems microphone preamplifiers are some of the best on the market and a high quality tools for professional audio production and amateur productions alike. The company’s preamps offer exceptional sonic performance and superior value, making them go-to units for pros and hobbyists alike.
Standout mic preamp: True Systems Precision 8 (link to check the price at B&H Photo Video).
Sunrise Engineering and Design Inc., which is the company behind True Systems, was founded in 1995. The company is headquartered in Tucson, Arizona, USA.
Today, Universal Audio is probably best known for its incredible audio interfaces and digital audio plug-ins. However, the company is also a top-of-the-line manufacturer of microphone preamps and other hardware processor units. In fact, many of the plug-ins we know and love from UA are based on their legendary hardware!
Bill Putnam, who founded Universal Audio, has been a major player in the advancement of audio technology. For example, he was invaluable in the development of the modern recording console, the multi-band audio equalizer and the vocal booth. He was also the first engineer to use artificial reverb in a commercial recording and, with his friend Les Paul, was also involved with the early development of stereo recording.
Perhaps the most famous UA microphone tube preamplifier is the 610 which is modelled after the preamps in the company’s groundbreaking modular 610 console.
Univeral Audio is a renowned audio brand and is one of the best manufacturers of microphone preamplifier in the world today.
Standout mic preamp: Universal Audio SOLO/610 (link to check the price on Amazon).
Universal Audio was founded in 1958 by Bill Putnam as the manufacturing arm of the United Recording Corporation in Los Angeles, California. After a few acquisitions/mergers, the UA brand was practically phased out by 1967 after a rebranding as United Recording Electronics Industries. In 1999, Bill Putnam Jr. and Jim Putnam reestablished Universal Audio and the brand has since grown spectacularly to become one the best known and most cherished audio interface brands on the world market. The company is headquartered in Scotts Valley, California, USA.
Universal Audio is also featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Audio Interface Brands In The World.
Great River Electronics
Great River may not be as popular as the previously-mentioned brands but their handcrafted high-quality microphone preamplifiers are among the best in the world.
Extensive research and development are key in the designing of all Great River preamps and thorough testing and fine-tuning is completed on each product to ensure the preamps exceed the needs of audio professionals.
The company utilizes its deep experience and a wide variety of proven circuit style to deliver microphone preamplifiers that perform among the best. Their mic pres are designed and manufacturers with great reliability and sonic performance in mind.
Standout mic preamp: Great River MP-500NV (link to check the price on Amazon).
Great River Electronics was founded in 1990 by Dan Kennedy in South St. Paul, Minnesota, USA.
Avalon Design has made a name for itself as a manufacturer of pure Class A recording systems. Their microphone preamps and other hardware are found in state-of-the-art professional studios around the world.
Each Avalon mic pre utlizes 100% discrete, high-bias pure Class A audio amplifiers. The units are designed high-end components and a minimalistic approach (even with all the additional functionality). These design features give Avalon preamps a great deal of headroom and incredible transparency, allowing the microphone’s true character to shine.
The popular Avalon VT-737sp is a tube preamplifier that features an opto-compressor, sweep equalizer, output level and VU metering in a 2U space.
Avalon has a passion for achieving sonic excellence in all of its products and this shows up in all of their superb microphone preamplifiers.
Avalon Design was founded in 1986 by company Wynton Morro in Burbank, California, USA.
Neve Electronics was founded in 1961 by none other than the man credited with the invention of the recording console: Rupert Neve. In 1992, after having been acquired by the Siemens Group (1985), the company was combined with Advanced Music Systems to form AMS Neve.
Although Rupert Neve had split from the company to start a new company (Rupert Neve Designs), AMS Neve still benefits from the incredible breakthrough designs of Rupert from the earlier days of audio equipment development.
Since its inception, the Neve brand has been specializing in the finest professional audio consoles and systems, utilizing Class A designs and high-quality components to produce top-of-the-line equipment including, obviously, microphone preamplifiers.
Neve’s 1073 and 1084 microphone preamplifiers are world famous and have been the inspiration for countless other preamplifier designs (none of which are as pristine as the originals). The particular mic preamps are highly sought after by many a professional engineer.
Users of Neve preamps can expect top-notch performance and a durability that will outlast nearly all other mic pres on the market. The company offers continuing upgrades with the latest technological advances while maintaining the strength and character that Neve preamplifiers have been known for since the very beginning.
Standout mic preamp: AMS Neve 1073 (link to check the price at KMR Audio).
Neve Electronics was founded in 1961 by Rupert Neve in England. The company was acquired by the Siemens Group in 1985 and was later combined with another Siemens company (Advanced Music Systems) to form AMS Neve in 1992. Today the company is headquartered in Burnlet, Lancashire, United Kingdom.
Grace Design began as a custom microphone preamplifier manufacturer in the early 1990s and has since established itself as one of the best mic preamp brands in the world.
This relatively small family-owned business found great success with its model 801 microphone preamp which has become a highly sought after unit in the market. The 801mk2 is now available.
Grace Design prides itself on providing audio professionals and enthusiasts around the globe with some of the finest tools imaginable. The love of music and the art of recording is truly apparent in the superb microphone preamps designed and built by Grace Design.
So whether you’re a professional or an amateur, Grace Design should have a mic pre for you. With excellent reliability and customer service, the company is a great choice for your next preamp.
Standout mic preamp: Grace Design m101 (link to check the price on Amazon).
Grace Design was founded in 1996 by Michael and Eben Grace in Boulder City, Colorado, USA.
dbx has been around since the 1970s and quickly made a name for itself as an innovative audio equipment manufacturer with the invention of the dbx Blackmer gain cell (a superior voltage controlled amplifier for professional audio applications).
This expertise and innovation in amplifier manufacturing are found in all of dbx’s microphone preamplifiers. Their wildly successful 286 model has made the slightest mention of the number 286 known to audio pros as a term that means “high-quality preamp”.
dbx focuses on professional-grade audio hardware and accessories for the pro studio. Their mic pres are among the best in the world.
Standout mic preamp: dbx 580 (link to check the price on Amazon).
dbx Inc. was founded in 1971 by David E. Blackmer in Sandy, Utah. After several acquisitions, dbx was bought by Harmon International Industries which is owned by Samsung Electronics. The dbx brand is still headquartered in Sandy, Utah, USA.
In today’s market, Focusrite is one of the most popular audio interface brands. That being said, the company had forged its name as a top manufacturer of uncompromising mic preamplifiers, beginning with the creation of their highly sought after ISA 110 model.
The microphone preamps are actually part of the Focusrite Pro brand which is technically separate from the ‘regular’ Focusrite brand within the group.
The ISA (Input Signal Amplifier) line has expanded since the early days. These microphone preamps are found in high-end recording studios around the world and cherished for their distinctive sound.
If you’re looking for a high-end preamplifier for your microphones, look no further than the ISA line by Focusrite Pro!
Standout mic preamp: Focusrite ISA One (link to check the price on Amazon).
Focusrite was founded in 1985 by none other than Rupert Neve in England. In 1989, the company was purchased by Phil Dudderidge (co-founder of Soundcraft Electronics Ltd). Today, the Focusite Group owns 6 distinct brands: Focusrite, Focusrite Pro, Martin Audio, ADAM Audio, Novation, and Ampify Music. The company is headquartered in Buckinghamshire, England, United Kingdom.
Focusrite is also featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Audio Interface Brands In The World.
Applied Research And Technology is one of the successful brands from the Canadian company Yorkville Sound.
ART is a brand focused on redefining the price to performance ratio of high-quality equipment. This has lead to innovations in the field and products that would be considered a great value.
Their microphone preamplifiers, then, are affordable to the owners of start up studios and the amateurs that want better sound from their mic pres.
ART boasts a full line of vacuum tube mic preamps that deliver warmth, tone and character at a fraction of what we’d expect of such units. If you’re looking to get into tube preamplifiers for your microphone, ART should be a brand you definitely consider!
Standout mic preamp: ART TPS II (link to check the price on Amazon).
Applied Research And Technology was founded in 1984 as a brand of the Canadian-based audio manufacturer Yorkville Sound. The company is headquartered in Pickering, Ontario, Canada.
Black Lion Audio
Black Lion Audio is an excellent company with a keen focus on audio hardware design and manufacturing; after market audio hardware modifications, and top-notch customer service.
The Chicago-based company produces an impressive line of microphone preamplifiers that deliver largely unmatched results when it comes to the power and clarity of the mic signal.
On top of the great products and services, BLA does its work at an exceptional price.
So whether you want a brand new mic preamp that’s bound to work as needed or you’re looking to modify/upgrade one of your current preamplifiers, Black Lion Audio could very well be your answer!
Black Lion Audio was founded in 2006 by Matt Newport in Chicago, Illinois, USA. The company switched ownership in 2013.
Audio Engineering Associates began as a ribbon microphone service and repair shop focused on the re-ribboning and restructuring of vintage RCA ribbon mics.
By 1998, the company began producing their own ribbon mics largely reminiscent of the original RCA models.
Some time after that, AEA found a niche in the market for microphone preamplifiers designed specifically for the relatively low-output ribbon microphones.
AEA’s ribbon microphone preamplifiers have become staples for anyone wanting to get the very most out of their ribbon microphones. These preamps provide an improved load impedance to their connected ribbon microphone and lots of ultra-clean gain to boost the ribbon mic to usable levels without added noise and distortion.
Standout mic preamp: AEA TRP 2(link to check the price on Amazon).
AEA was founded in 1976 by Wes Dooley and Bob Gerbracht in Pasadena, California, USA. The company in headquartered in Padadena, California, USA.