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The 8 best mic preamps for recording vocals and instruments in 2024

When it comes to recording just about anything, having a high-quality preamp is paramount. Whether you’re a bedroom pop producer or a veteran audio engineer, investing in a solid preamp is crucial if you want to take your recordings to the next level.

This article will come through some of what I consider to be the best microphone preamps available across different budgetary needs to help you find the best solution for your setup.

About the author

Brandon is a producer and audio engineer with a decade’s worth of experience with a wide range of gear and recording techniques. He has worked with a myriad of different preamps and other gear, from Neve, Focusrite, Universal Audio, and more.

testing the best microphone preamps
Image: Higher Hz

How we chose the preamps for this list?

When I was looking through preamps for this article, there were a few components I had in mind when making my selection. Obviously, sound quality reigns supreme, so I sought performances with detail and transparency above all else.

Second to this was versatility, seeing how different recording scenarios will inevitably require different functionalities. Lastly, I tried to format the list so that there were two options per budgetary bracket.

Now, let’s get into it.

These are the best mic preamps to buy:

  1. sE Electronics DM2 TNT
  2. Cloud Cloudlifter CL-1
  3. Behringer ADA8200
  4. Focusrite Scarlett OctoPre
  5. ART Pro MPA II
  6. Warm Audio WA-MPX
  7. Universal Audio 710 Twin-Finity
  8. Neve 1073SPX

sE Electronics DM2 TNT 3.5

  • Type: Inline (booster)
  • Channels: 1
  • Gain: 15 dB or 30 dB
  • Phantom power: No
sE Electronics DM2 TNT inline mic preamp
Image: sE Electronics

The sE Electronics DM2 TNT is a cute little preamp designed for passive microphones. It provides two gain settings (15 dB and 30 dB) as well as eight load impedance settings.

The DM2 TNT delivers a fairly balanced sound with very minimal noise. It’s slim and compact, and a great option to consider if you’re looking for a more portable option.

The downside here is that it is not compatible with phantom power, so you can’t use it with your favorite ribbons or condensers.

What we like

  • Clean gain for passive mics.
  • A lot of settings for such a small preamp.
  • Low noise.
  • Portable.

What we don’t like

  • Not for phantom-powered mics, which is basically a war crime.
Buy sE Electronics DM2 TNT at: SweetwaterAmazon

Cloud Cloudlifter CL-1 3.2

  • Type: Inline (booster)
  • Channels: 1
  • Gain: 25 dB
  • Phantom power: No
Cloud Cloudlifter CL-1 microphone preamplifier
Image: Cloud Microphones

This is a one-channel mic activator that provides up to 25 dB of amplification. While the Cloudlifter doesn’t provide you with any flexibility in its function, its performance is transparent and noise-free.

If all you’re looking for is a bit of a boost for your low-output mics, look no further.

What we like

  • Compact.
  • Transparent and reliable performance.
  • There is beauty in its simplicity.

What we don’t like

  • What you see is what you get.
Buy Cloud Cloudlifter CL-1 at: SweetwaterAmazon

Behringer ADA8200 4.0

  • Type: Solid state
  • Channels: 8
  • Gain: 60 dB
  • Phantom power: Yes
Behringer ADA8200 microphone preamplifier
Image: Behringer

The Behringer ADA8200 is an affordable option that combines a mic preamp and an A/D converter into one unit. It provides you with eight MIDAS preamps, as well as Cirrus Logic 24-bit converters.

This is one of the more versatile budget options for small scale studios, especially with its flexible sample rate options, and its ability to work as a master clock for your external sources.

The ADA8200 preamp is perfect for small home studio owners looking for something under $300.

What we like

  • 8 channels.
  • Awesome A/D and D/A conversion.
  • Digital I/O on ADAT optical.

What we don’t like

  • Isn’t as luxurious as higher end pres.
Buy Behringer ADA8200 at: SweetwaterAmazon

Focusrite Scarlett OctoPre 4.6

  • Type: Solid state
  • Channels: 8
  • Gain: 50 dB
  • Phantom power: Yes
Focusrite Scarlett OctoPre microphone preamp
Image: Focusrite

This is a great option for anybody looking for more connectivity. The Scarlett OctoPre offers eight second-generation Focusrite preamps with plenty of headroom, clean and transparent gain, and low noise and distortion.

At just under $500, this unit also provides ADAT for further expansion, making it one of the best-value mic preamps on the market.

What we like

  • Amazing sound quality.
  • ADAT capabilities.
Buy Focusrite Scarlett OctoPre at: SweetwaterAmazon

ART Pro MPA II 4.5

  • Type: Tube
  • Channels: 2
  • Gain: 75 dB
  • Phantom power: Yes
ART Pro MPA II tube microphone preamp
Image: ART Pro Audio

The ART Pro MPA II is a two-channel tube preamp that features flexible variable input impedance, allowing you to have more control over your tone.

The preamp supports dual-mono and stereo operation, as well as mid/side miking setups, providing versatility for various recording projects.

Monitoring is easy with huge VU meters and LED displays. It boasts a wide frequency response with minimal noise and little harmonic distortion.

What we like

  • Flexible variable input impedance for customizable tube tones.
  • Supports dual-mono and stereo operation.
  • Easy monitoring.
  • High-quality sound.
Buy ART Pro MPA II at: SweetwaterAmazon

Warm Audio WA-MPX 4.5

  • Type: Tube
  • Channels: 1
  • Gain: 90 dB
  • Phantom power: Yes
Warm Audio WA-MPX tube mic preamplifier
Image: Warm Audio

Here’s a one-channel tube preamp, which was inspired by the iconic Ampex 351 tape machine. This thing sounds great, and I’m amazed at how well Warm Audio was able to reproduce the 351’s sound.

While its tone feels fairly “vintage”, it also offers a great deal of modern features and flexibility. Tape saturation, tone switch for impedance modification, DI input, hi- and lo-pass filters, polarity invert, 48 V phantom power, and a high-gain switch which boosts the available gain from 70 dB to 90 dB.

What we like

  • Amazing sound quality and a truly genuine emulation of the Ampex 351.
  • Incredibly versatile.
  • Professional build and aesthetic.

What we don’t like

  • Only one channel.
Buy Warm Audio WA-MPX at: SweetwaterAmazon

Universal Audio 710 Twin-Finity 5.0

  • Type: Hybrid
  • Channels: 1
  • Gain: 70 dB
  • Phantom power: Yes
Universal Audio 710 Twin-Finity mic preamp
Image: Universal Audio

The Universal Audio 710 Twin-Finity is an incredibly versatile and powerful preamp. It offers a huge variety of tonal possibilities by allowing you to blend between tube and solid-state tones.

The 710 Twin-Finity is a preamp that can provide a lot of warmth and character to your recordings.

What we like

  • Offers both tube and solid-state tones.
  • Great sound quality.
  • Versatile.
  • High-quality build.
Buy Universal Audio 710 Twin-Finity at: SweetwaterAmazon

Neve 1073SPX 5.0

  • Type: Solid state
  • Channels: 1
  • Gain: 80 dB
  • Phantom power: Yes
Neve 1073SPX microphone preamp
Image: Neve

This will be the last entry here on our list, and it is by far the priciest and best performing. The 1073SPX is an authentic recreation of the Neve 1073 channel amplifier. It faithfully captures the presence and power of the original, and also provides you with the iconic “British EQ”.

It boasts 80 dB of gain and a wide variety of features, from filters to phase reverse, insert loops, and more. The layout is tasteful and intuitive, and the build quality is beautifully robust.

Ultimately, regardless of whether you’re recording vocals, drums, or guitars, the 1073SPX will deliver amazing results.

What we like

  • Genuine Neve sound.
  • Extremely versatile.
  • High-quality build.

What we don’t like

  • Not the easiest on your wallet.
Buy Neve 1073SPX at: SweetwaterAmazon

Questions to ask yourself when choosing a mic preamp

What will I be recording?

Will I need phantom power? Will I need multiple channels? Am I looking for something to provide a warmer tone to my records, or do I want something with less coloration?

If you’re going to be recording drums, maybe look into a multi-channel preamp. Otherwise, if you’re just sitting alone in your bedroom while your parents try to sleep, maybe look into a more discrete single-channel pre, like the Cloudlifter!

Is portability important to me?

Or would a stationary rack-mount be better for my setup?

This question goes hand in hand with the last question. Where are you recording mostly, and how often? If you often find yourself recording larger multi-mic setups out of your house, hopefully you charge a decent enough rate to buy yourself an OctoPre. If not, consider heightening your rate!

Would I benefit from more features such as EQ or compression?

If not, would I still like the option?

If you do happen to have a rack-mount setup, maybe it’s worth considering how much wiggle room you have. Maybe you have an old compressor you could flip in favor of a preamp with compression built-in!

In conclusion

While choosing the best mic preamp isn’t the easiest task, I hope this list can at least aid you with enough guidance so you can be confident in your decision.

It may be a given that not all preamplifiers are created equally, but ultimately, it comes down to how you use them.

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