Best Preamps In 2023! (Ultimate Guide)

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Are you looking for the Best Preamps In 2023 to enhance your sound quality? In this blog, we showcase the best preamplifiers of 2023, their features, advantages, and disadvantages. Additionally, we provide tips for selecting the right preamplifier for your equipment and budget. Don’t miss out on this definitive guide to the best preamplifiers of 2023.

1. Avalon VT-737SP          

VERSATILE TUBE STRIP

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2. Behringer ADA8200            

HIGH-QUALITY INTERFACE

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3. Universal Audio 710 Twin-Finity

FLEXIBLE TONE BLEND

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4. Universal Audio SOLO/610

CLASSIC TUBE SOUND

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5. ART Pro MPA-II               

VERSATILE DUAL CHANNEL

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6. Warm Audio WA-MPX

VINTAGE TAPE VIBES

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1. Avalon VT-737SP

VERSATILE TUBE STRIP

Three input selectionsCompressor with optical design.
Four-band sweepable equalizer.Large VU meter and durability
Picture by Avalon
Picture by Alesis

PROS

  • Do you want to sound like a star? Do you aim to record with maximum quality and warmth? Are you interested in tubes, optical compressors, and sweeping equalizers? Then the Avalon VT-737SP is perfect for you. Here are 4 reasons to acquire this incredible sound channel:

    1. The VT-737SP features a Class A tube preamplifier and three input selections: microphone, DI, and balanced line. This allows you to connect any source and achieve a clean, warm, and harmonious sound.

    2. The VT-737SP presents an optical compressor with minimal signal path and two Class A triode tubes. The optical attenuator acts as a passive level controller, enabling you to control your sound’s dynamics from gentle compression to hard limiting. Additionally, you can use the dual midrange equalizer to shape the sound or apply effects like de-essing.

    3. The VT-737SP offers a four-band sweepable equalizer: bass, low mids, high mids, and treble. You can use it to shape your sound’s tone, enhance or attenuate specific frequencies, or add high-frequency detail with the 32k air band. Furthermore, you can change the order of the equalizer and compressor for different effects and sounds.

    4. The VT-737SP includes a large VU meter displaying output level and compressor gain reduction. It also features an output level control to adjust your sound’s final volume. Moreover, its sturdy and durable construction, as well as its sleek design, ensure its quality.

    As you can see, the Avalon VT-737SP is a versatile and powerful sound channel that can enhance any sound source. It’s a favorite among many producers and renowned artists like Jay-Z, Dr. Dre, and Beyonce. If you want to sound like them, don’t hesitate to acquire your VT-737SP today.

CONS

  • The Avalon VT-737SP is a renowned tube channel strip appreciated for its preamplifier, compressor, equalizer, and metering capabilities all in a compact 2U rack space. Professional studios extensively use it to record various instruments like vocals, bass, and guitars. However, despite its popularity, there are a few drawbacks to keep in mind before making a purchase.
  • Firstly, it is quite expensive at $3,866, surpassing the cost of some audio interfaces or mixers. This might require extensive saving or searching for a second-hand unit. Moreover, the VT-737SP is heavy and takes up two rack spaces, making it cumbersome and inconvenient for those with limited space or who frequently travel. While it offers exceptional sound quality and versatility, potential buyers should thoroughly consider these cons before determining if the investment aligns with their specific needs and preferences.

2. Behringer ADA8200

HIGH-QUALITY INTERFACE

8 mic preamps with 24-bit converters.24-bit Cirrus Logic converters
Flexible clocking options for synchronization.compact, sturdy, easy operation.
Picture by Behringer

PROS

    • The Behringer ADA8200 is an affordable and versatile device that can greatly enhance your home or project studio. It offers several key features and benefits that make it a standout choice:

      Firstly, the ADA8200 boasts eight exceptional MIDAS-designed mic preamps. These preamps deliver outstanding sound quality, with minimal noise and distortion. They are perfect for recording vocals, instruments, and any other source that requires pristine audio clarity. The phantom power switch also allows for easy connection of condenser microphones.

      Additionally, the ADA8200 is equipped with 24-bit Cirrus Logic converters, ensuring accurate and transparent A/D and D/A conversion. You can choose between 44.1 or 48 kHz sampling rates to match your digital audio system. The device also supports ADAT optical input and output, allowing for the expansion of your interface or mixer with eight additional channels of digital audio.

      Furthermore, the ADA8200 offers flexible clocking options, allowing you to sync it with your external devices. You have the choice to use it as the master clock or slave it to ADAT or word clock signals. This feature ensures that your digital audio signals remain aligned and free from any jitter or artifacts.

      Lastly, the ADA8200 boasts a compact and sturdy design that fits easily into a single rack space. Operating the device is simple, thanks to the LED indicators for signal presence, clip, and phantom power. The front panel also features gain controls for each channel and a headphone output with level control.

      Overall, the ADA8200 is an excellent addition to any studio that requires additional analog inputs and outputs, as well as reliable digital connectivity.

CONS

  • If you are in need of expanding your audio interface with more inputs and outputs without breaking the bank, the Behringer ADA8200 could potentially meet your needs. This digital interface offers eight microphone preamps and ADAT I/O, taking inspiration from the well-known ADA8000 model. However, it’s important to consider a couple of drawbacks before making a purchase.
  • Firstly, the ADA8200 has limited sample rate and clocking options, functioning solely at 44.1 or 48 kHz sample rates, which may not fulfill the demands of high-end applications. Additionally, it lacks a dedicated word clock output, restricting its use as a master clock for other devices. It can only synchronize with an external word clock or ADAT input, or act as a slave to another device’s internal clock.
  • Secondly, its sound quality and reliability are subpar. Although the ADA8200 supposedly boasts improved converters and mic preamps in comparison to the ADA8000, the difference is hardly noticeable. The audio output sounds somewhat dull and thin, lacking depth and detail. Some users have also experienced problems with noise, distortion, and channel dropouts. Moreover, the build quality of the ADA8200 is questionable, seeming cheap and flimsy. Ultimately, if you require a straightforward and cost-effective method to expand your setup with more channels, the Behringer ADA8200 could suffice. However, don’t anticipate exceptional sound quality or performance. It may be more beneficial to invest in a higher-quality interface or a dedicated microphone preamp instead.

3. Universal Audio 710 Twin-Finity

FLEXIBLE TONE BLEND

Handle mic, line, instrument inputs.High-quality hybrid with balanced signal.
Simple and user-friendly layout.Affordable pricing for high-quality.
Picture by Universal

PROS

  • The Universal Audio 710 Twin-Finity is a remarkable hybrid microphone preamp combining tube and solid-state circuitry in one unit, allowing the user to blend the two paths to achieve an array of tonal characteristics. There are four significant pros to this preamp:

    First, its versatility is evident as it can handle mic, line, and instrument inputs, catering to numerous sources and applications. Whether recording vocals, guitars, keyboards, or drums, the 710 Twin-Finity can handle it all. The blend knob allows for the perfect balance of tube and solid-state sound for each source.

    Secondly, its quality is undeniable, with top-notch components and design, such as a class-A tube stage running at 310V, a discrete FET circuit for the instrument input, and a trans-impedance input stage providing low noise and wide bandwidth. Additionally, the preamp’s solid-state balanced output stage ensures a clean and balanced signal to the interface or mixer.

    Thirdly, its ease of use is a notable feature, boasting a straightforward and intuitive layout with three primary knobs for gain, level, and blend. The preamp also includes a backlit VU meter displaying either the output level or drive level, effectively indicating the degree of distortion added by the tube or solid-state stage. It also offers switches for phantom power, mic/line input, phase invert, low cut filter, and pad.

    Finally, affordability is another strong suit of the 710 Twin-Finity. With a price tag of $999.99, it offers exceptional value and performance, rivaling more expensive preamps in sound quality and features.

    In conclusion, the Universal Audio 710 Twin-Finity is a fantastic choice for those seeking a versatile, high-quality, and budget-friendly preamp that can deliver both tube and solid-state tones. With its unique blend of warmth and clarity, it will undoubtedly enhance your recordings while providing the flexibility to shape your sound to your liking and requirements.

CONS

  • The Universal Audio 710 Twin-Finity is a versatile hybrid microphone preamp that combines tube and solid-state signal paths, providing a wide range of tones and colors for various applications. Despite its flexibility, there are a couple of drawbacks that potential users should consider.

    Firstly, some users have expressed dissatisfaction with the controls. The knobs on the 710 Twin-Finity are criticized for being too small, close together, and loose. Furthermore, the lack of stepped gain and level controls can make it difficult to accurately replicate settings or match channels. Similarly, the blend control lacks precision with no markings or detents indicating the specific tube-to-solid-state ratio.

    Secondly, the device is prone to overdrive. While the abundance of gain can be advantageous for low-output sources or adding distortion, achieving a clean and transparent sound may pose challenges. The tube circuit may clip even at low drive settings while the solid-state circuit can produce harsh and brittle tones when pushed too hard. Although the output level control can mitigate the issue, it might impact headroom and noise performance in the preamp.

    Overall, while the Universal Audio 710 Twin-Finity offers flexibility and an array of tonal possibilities, its control limitations and the potential for overdrive should be taken into account by users seeking a specific sound and functionality.

4. Universal Audio SOLO/610

CLASSIC TUBE SOUND

Silky, vintage warmth with iconic tones.Versatile gain control for varied sounds.
48v, lo-cut, phase reverse, dual impedance.Convenient, versatile and portable device.
Picture by Universal Audio

PROS

  • The Universal Audio SOLO/610 is a portable and versatile tube-based microphone preamp and DI box that faithfully reproduces the classic sound of the Putnam 610 console. With its impressive features and capabilities, here are four significant advantages of the SOLO/610:

    1. This device offers the iconic tones and vintage warmth of the original console’s mic amp design, adding a touch of elegance and refinement to any microphone or instrument.
    2. The SOLO/610 provides continuous gain control with an extended range, enabling precise gain structuring and a wide sonic palette that spans from clean and transparent to richly colored sounds.
    3. Designed to meet the needs of professionals, it includes essential features such as 48v phantom power, lo-cut filtering, phase reverse, and flexible dual impedance selection for both mic and DI inputs.
    4. With its convenient form factor, the SOLO/610 effortlessly integrates into any studio, live performance, or desktop setup. Additionally, it offers a DI throughput, a ground lift, and a mic/line level output switch, ensuring maximum flexibility.

    For those seeking the iconic tube sound of the Putnam 610 console within a compact and affordable package, the SOLO/610 is an excellent choice.

CONS

  • The Universal Audio SOLO/610 is a renowned tube preamp that provides a pleasant and lavish sound for vocals, instruments, and direct inputs, yet it does carry a few downsides.
  • To begin with, the SOLO/610 is not very flexible when it comes to tone shaping. It only offers limited control options such as input gain and output level, without any EQ or filters. The tone is predominantly reliant on the input impedance switch, which offers a choice between 500 or 2k ohms. Consequently, users have restricted possibilities to tailor the sound to their liking or cater to diverse sources.
  • Furthermore, the SOLO/610 is relatively costly in comparison to other single-channel preamps, priced at approximately $1,200. This exceeds the cost of some multi-channel preamps with additional features, such as the Focusrite ISA Two which offers two channels of superior preamps with variable impedance, high-pass filter, and insert points, all at a cost of $900. While the SOLO/610’s vintage character and quality might make it worth the expense, it might not offer the best value for money for certain users.

5. ART Pro MPA-II

VERSATILE DUAL CHANNEL

Variable input impedance: 150Ω-2.4kΩSwitch between high/normal plate voltage.
M/S decoding for stereo image.VU metering and tube indicators.
Picture by ART

PROS

  • If you are in search of a versatile and affordable tube microphone preamp, the ART Pro MPA-II is worth considering. This 2-channel device provides a range of features and options that can elevate your recordings and offer more sonic possibilities. Here are four key benefits of the ART Pro MPA-II:

    1. Variable input impedance: This feature allows you to adjust the preamp’s impedance to match your microphone or explore different tones and responses. Impedance affects the microphone’s sound, particularly dynamic and ribbon models, by altering the frequency response and sensitivity. With the ART Pro MPA-II, you have the flexibility to select from 150Ω to 2.4kΩ for each channel, granting you greater control over your sound.

    2. High or normal plate voltage: This capability enables you to switch between two operation modes for the 12AX7 tubes in the preamp. The high plate voltage mode delivers added headroom, transparency, and clarity, while the normal plate voltage mode introduces more warmth, saturation, and harmonics. Utilize this feature to customize the preamp’s sound to suit various sources and styles.

    3. M/S decoding matrix: This functionality allows you to utilize the preamp with a mid/side microphone setup, comprising a cardioid mic focused on the sound source (mid) and a figure-8 mic placed at a 90-degree angle (side). The preamp decodes the signals from both mics and outputs a standard stereo signal, which can be adjusted in width and balance. This technique creates a natural and spacious stereo image compatible with mono playback.

    4. VU metering and tube warmth indicators: These features aid in monitoring the preamp’s levels and drive. The large backlit VU meters display the output level of each channel, which can be calibrated to match your output setting (+4dBu or -10dBv). The LED bar-graph meters illustrate the amount of tube drive being applied, which can vary based on input gain, plate voltage, and impedance settings. These features assist in achieving optimal levels and preventing clipping or distortion.

    These advantages represent just a few of the ART Pro MPA-II’s strengths. It is a tube microphone preamp that offers exceptional value for the price. To learn more about this device, consider checking out reviews from Sound On Sound, Sweetwater, or Gearspace.

CONS

  • The ART Pro MPA-II is a reasonably priced two-channel tube microphone preamp that offers great features and flexibility. However, it does have a couple of drawbacks worth noting.
  • Firstly, the stock tubes are not of high quality, as many users have reported experiencing noise, dullness, or microphonic behavior with the 12AX7 tubes provided. To maximize performance, it might be necessary to invest in better tubes like Psvane, JJ, or Mullard.
  • Secondly, the VU meters on the front panel are not very accurate or useful, often appearing too dim, too bright, or improperly calibrated. They also struggle to respond well to fast transients or low frequencies. Despite these drawbacks, the ART Pro MPA-II can still be a valuable addition to your studio, but it’s essential to be aware of these factors before purchasing.

6. Warm Audio WA-MPX

VINTAGE TAPE VIBES

Authentic reproduction with premium components.Versatile feature set for customization.
High-gain switch for low-output mics.Reasonable price compared to competitors.
Picture by Warm

PROS

  • If you’re in search of a tube mic preamp that can provide your recordings with the vintage warmth and color, look no further than the Warm Audio WA-MPX. This preamp is modeled after the renowned tape machine tube preamp that countless iconic artists and producers utilized during the golden age of analog recording. The Warm Audio WA-MPX offers several notable advantages:

    1. It faithfully reproduces the original circuit design, employing top-notch components like custom-wound CineMag transformers, three vacuum tubes, and a discrete tape saturation circuit.
    2. It boasts a versatile range of features, allowing you to tailor the input impedance, gain structure, highpass and lowpass filters, polarity, and phantom power to suit various sources and applications.
    3. It includes a high-gain switch that elevates the gain from 70dB to 90dB, making it perfect for low-output dynamic and ribbon microphones.
    4. It offers an affordable price point compared to other tube mic preamps available, providing exceptional value given its remarkable quality and performance.

    The Warm Audio WA-MPX is a tube-based tone-shaping powerhouse that can breathe life into your recordings with the signature sound of a tape-era legend.

CONS

  • The Warm Audio WA-MPX is a tube mic preamp that emulates the renowned Ampex 351 tape machine preamp, receiving widespread acclaim from users and experts due to its vintage and mellifluous tone. However, it’s essential to be aware of its drawbacks should you consider purchasing it.
  • Firstly, the WA-MPX necessitates balanced cables for input and output connections, restricting the use of unbalanced patch cables or instruments like guitars without a DI box or transformer, adding both cost and inconvenience.
  • Secondly, lacking a pad switch or low-cut filter, commonly found on modern preamps, can pose challenges in combating high-level signals or undesirable low frequencies. These limitations should be carefully weighed before deciding on the Warm Audio WA-MPX, keeping in mind individual preferences and requirements as a recording engineer or musician.

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