10 Best Mic Preamps For Vocals – Add Clarity And Flavor To Your Recordings

Martin Kristiansen

Martin Kristiansen

My name is Martin Kristiansen and I’m the founder and chief editor of HomeStudioIdeas.com. I’ve been playing, recording and producing music for the last 10 years.

Mic preamps are a great way to add some flavor and character to your vocal recordings.

Although they shouldn’t be everyone’s top priority, they are certainly worth investing in if you want to improve the tonal characteristics of your recordings.

There’s a huge range out there and they can be very expensive. Tube preamps will give you that warm and round sound while Solid State preamps will bring a bit more transparency to the table.

Luckily, my hand-picked selection includes the very best vocal mic preamps for every budget and skill level!

Let’s jump right into it!

First thing first, do you REALLY need an external mic preamp?

Probably not.

Even more so if you’re new to the world of recording.

Take me for example, I bought my first standalone preamp 7 years into my journey as a music producer! I just didn’t feel the need for it before then.

Truth is, there are tons of audio interfaces that have high-quality mic preamps built-in, giving you all the wonderful tonal qualities you’d need.

The best way to learn is by using the gear you have and getting familiar with its capabilities.

Besides, if you want to drown your recordings in warm analog tube saturation, there are plenty of great VST plugins that can help you achieve this.

The lack of a standalone preamp in your setup is rarely the cause of sound quality issues!

Trust me, the additional gear won’t make you a better recording engineer.

While an external mic preamp can give your recordings a boost in quality, it can also add another layer of complexity to your setup.

So who should invest in an external vocal preamplifier?

Experienced producers who have outgrown their current setup and need a more robust solution, or engineers who record and mix a lot of vocals.

So which one should you choose?

My top pick Warm Audio WA12 MKII is a great bang for the buck and one of the best buys when it comes to single-channeled vocal preamps.

When I plugged it in for the first time, I was blown away by its rich tone and clarity.

I’ve been using the WA12 MKII in my studio for the past few weeks and have been having a blast with it. It’s one of my favorite preamps for vocals and acoustic instruments alike!

The warm coloration helps to add depth to the vocals, and the balanced inputs allow you to use it with a variety of microphones.

Besides, it also has a minimal noise floor and the capability of handling high SPL levels without breaking a sweat. I managed to get clear recordings of both subtle whispers and loud screams.

And the best part?

It won’t leave a giant hole in your wallet!

Read our full reviews below!

At a Glance: Best Vocal Preamps

Vocal Preamps Mini-Reviews

Warm Audio WA12 MKII – Best Overall

Quick specs – | Channels: 1 | Mic inputs: 1 | Line inputs: Yes | Onboard Signal Processing: None | Design: Desktop

Warm Audio WA12 MKII

Warm Audio’s WA12 MKII is a great way to give your vocal recordings a warm, vintage tone.

Its solid construction and warmth make this preamp a must-have for anyone serious about recording vocals. It’s a bit like having a classic Neve console in your pocket, but it doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg. 

You see, the capability of the WA12 MKII extends beyond just increasing the loudness of your microphone. Sure, it’s capable of adding up to 71 dB of mic gain which is plenty enough power to handle delicate ribbon mics.

But that’s not where the WA12 MKII shines!

It also colors your signal in a way that makes it sound like it was recorded with a classic console or outboard gear.

This can be used in the studio to give your recordings a vintage sound. 

Furthermore, this coloration will make your vocals sit in a mix like they were recorded in the golden age of recording.

You also have the Tone button that switches the input impedance from 600 to 150 ohms. It allows you to switch between transparent tones and more aggressive harmonic distortions.

Additionally, you will find a -20dB pad and phase reverse switch.

The -20dB pad is handy in case you’re recording a loud source and you don’t want to distort your preamp.

The phase reverse switch is handy because it allows you to reverse the polarity of the signal, which is useful for solving phase cancellation issues.

Any disadvantages?

This is a 1-channel preamp, meaning you can only record one mic/line input simultaneously. Still, this is a pretty standard offering in this price range and I would rather pay for quality than quantity.

Sonically, I found the WA12 MKII to be a bit harsh. However, this could easily be mitigated by using an EQ to attenuate frequencies around 10-12 kHz.

If you’re looking for a way to add some warmth to your audio recordings, this is definitely the preamp for you.

  • Adds a beautiful coloration to your voice
  • Records with a minimal noise floor and a large headroom
  • Offers incredible value at a relatively low cost
  • Somewhat harsh at 10-12 kHz on vocals
  • Single-channeled

dbx 286s – Best Value

Quick specs – | Type: Solid State | Channels: 1 | Mic inputs: 1 | Line inputs: Yes | Onboard Signal Processing: EQ, Compressor, De-esser, Enhancer, Expander/Gate | Design: 1U (Rackmounted)

dbx 286s

The dbx 286s is a one-channel preamp mic preamplifier that offers both incredible sound quality and features. It’s perfect for those who want the best of both worlds.

It takes the form of a channel strip that’s preferably mounted onto a studio rack.

At the back panel, you’ll find the balanced XLR input along with a classic line input for instruments.

The front panel consists of six separate sections that control the microphone input, channel volume, phantom power, and other onboard features.

The biggest strengths of the DBX’s 286S are all of its features and controls.

The built-in compressor allows you to quickly add some attitude to your vocals, drums, and other instruments. With only two knobs, it’s not the most tweakable compressor.

But, it does its job fairly well and the LED strip indicator visualizes the overall reduction.

Also, the de-esser is a welcoming feature as it helps to reduce those bothersome sibilances that can be very prominent when recording vocals.

All in all, the DBX 286S features a good set of tools when it comes to shaping the sound.

What about the tonal qualities?

As far as the performance of the mic preamps, it’s very good at what it does.

It has an airy sound with a good amount of detail and clarity that feels very natural and smooth.

I tested it with a variety of different microphones and the 286S offers much more transparency compared to Warm Audio’s WA12 MKII.

It’s a BIG difference and it’s also more versatile in comparison.

What I don’t like is the TRS output. It’s a standard unbalanced 1/8-inch connector, which doesn’t offer the same reliability as a balanced XLR output. This can be easily remedied by buying a TRS to XLR adapter.

  • High-quality DBX preamps
  • Tons of features in an affordable unit
  • Beginner-friendly and easy to use
  • Best used on a rackmount and not as a separate unit
  • The compressor and de-esser could use some additional knobs

Avalon VT-737sp – Best Premium Pick

Quick specs – | Type: Tube | Channels: 1 | Mic inputs: 1 | Line inputs: Yes | Onboard Signal Processing: EQ, Compressor | Design: 2U (Rackmounted)

Avalon VT-737sp

The Avalon VT-737sp is a high-end microphone preamplifier that is used in recording studios around the world. It is known for its clear and detailed sound, as well as its ability to add depth and dimension to recordings.

I’ve had the opportunity to use this preamp in my own studio. 

And I can say without hesitation that it is one of the best-sounding preamps I have ever operated.

Because of a well-organized 3-section layout, all the knobs and buttons are laid out intuitively.

The first stage is the input section.

Here, you have the crown jewel of the channel strip: a high-performance tube microphone pre-amp. As expected, it also features an optional 48V phantom power. 

The second stage is the built-in Opto-compressor.

Here, you can control the amount of compression as well as the attack and release time.

The third stage is the 4-band EQ. It lets you control the frequency as well as the gain of each band. 

So how does it sound?

The VT-737sp has a very clean and open sound, with excellent detail and resolution.

The low end is tight and articulate, while the highs are smooth and extended. The mids are lush and full, but never muddy.

This preamp really allows microphones to shine, and it brings out the best in every recording.

Truth be told, it’s hard to find any downsides.

Just like the dbx 286s, the VT-737sp is a rackmount preamp. It won’t sit nicely on your desk, and you can’t just pick it up and take it with you. 

In addition, the VT-737sp comes with a hefty price tag. It’s a solid piece of gear, but you might want to look elsewhere if you’re on a budget.

All in all, I have nothing to complain about!

  • Tons of controls for tonal shaping
  • High-quality vacuum triode tubes
  • The on-board compressor is superb
  • The hefty price tag
  • Not for beginners

Behringer ULTRAGAIN PRO MIC2200 – Best For Beginners

Quick specs – | Type: Tube | Channels: 2 | Mic inputs: 2 | Line inputs: Yes | Onboard Signal Processing: EQ | Design: 1U (Rackmounted)


Behringer has been getting a bad rep lately for their range of budget gear. However, the ULTRAGAIN PRO MIC2200 is a mic preamp that offers clean, clear sound reproduction and a wide range of features that make it perfect for both live and studio applications.

The unit has two channels, each with its own level control and 48V phantom power, making it ideal for use with condenser microphones.

The built-in compressor ensures that your signal remains consistent, while the Parametric EQ allows you to fine-tune your sound.

Furthermore, the 12dB highpass filter makes it easy to eliminate any unwanted low-end frequencies, commonly present in vocals.

At the end of the day, Behringer’s MIC2200 is a solid option for those looking to upgrade their sound while on a tight budget.

It offers an excellent value-to-price ratio and has all the features you need to get started with recording or performing live music. 

For added convenience, the MIC2200 comes with a built-in DI for direct connection to a mixer or recording device.

Any reasons to avoid the ULTRAGAIN PRO MIC2200?

I did find the tube preamps to be a bit noisy compared to Warm Audio’s WA12 MKII.

Also, the tube preamp on this particular model was not as warm sounding as some other tube preamps I’ve tested.

Still, the MIC2200 is half the price and in return, you get two channels of tube preamps. With proper gain staging, the noise levels are still acceptable for many applications.

Secondly, there is no compressor built into the MIC2200. Again, I find this acceptable for the relatively low cost.

Overall, the Behringer ULTRAGAIN PRO MIC2200 is an ideal choice for those who are just getting started with recording.

Its beginner-friendly interface and straightforward controls make it easy to use, while still providing the features you need to get a professional sound. 

  • Affordable
  • A solid build that doesn’t feel cheap
  • An excellent value-to-price ratio
  • The tube preamps are noisier than more premium alternatives
  • No built-in compressor

Grace Design m101 – Best For Home Studios

Quick specs – | Type: Solid State | Channels: 1 | Mic inputs: 1 | Line inputs: Yes | Onboard Signal Processing: None | Design: 1U (Rackmounted)

Grace Design m101

Many mic preamps are renowned for their coloring of the sound, imparting a warm or bright tone.

However, the Grace Design m101 is a mic preamp that is designed to give you a transparent and clean response.

The sound quality of the m101 is outstanding.

It adds just the right amount of warmth and body to vocals and instruments, without coloring the sound too much.

The highs are smooth and detailed, while the lows are tight and well-defined. Even if the sound is neutral, it stays musical and never gets clinical.

What struck me most about the m101 is how well it handles noise.

Sure, there is some audible hiss at the maximum gain setting but it’s minimal compared to other alternatives in this price range.

I tested it with the dynamic microphone Shure SM7B, known for being quiet. Surprisingly, I was able to reach standard levels without introducing hiss.

The m101 also performs well as an instrument DI.

It offers plenty of headroom which is ideal when recording loud guitars. I didn’t experience any distortion or unwanted sound artifacts from the initial transients of the guitar pickups.

The lack of a polarity reverse switch is a bit of a bummer. It’s a feature that I expect to see on a preamp in this price range.

Even so, the Grace Design m101 is an excellent mic preamp that offers transparent recordings that allow being further processed inside a DAW.

  • A clear and natural sound reproduction
  • Bright tone without sounding too harsh
  • Low noise floor
  • Quite expensive
  • Lacks bells and whistles

Universal Audio Apollo Twin X DUO – Best Audio Interface Preamp

Quick specs – | Type: Unison | Channels: 2 | Mic inputs: 2 | Line inputs: Yes | Onboard Signal Processing: None | Design: Desktop

Universal Audio Apollo Twin X DUO

Universal Audio is known for their high-quality preamps, and their series of audio interfaces are no exception.

The Apollo Twin X DUO is a high-quality audio interface, featuring UA’s acclaimed Unison preamps.

At its core, the Twin X DUO is a 10-in/6-out interface, meaning you can record up to 10 channels at once.

Moreover, two of the inputs are UA’s stunning preamps Unison. The Unison technology allows you to emulate classic preamps in real-time via the accompanying UA’s Console software or LUNA Recording System.

What makes this interface a prizewinner is the UAD processing. It includes an astonishing built-in DSP which allows you to emulate your recordings in real-time.

Besides the incredible preamps, the X DUO also features an integrated talkback. The talkback allows you to have a conversation with your bandmates from the control room, or with the musicians in their rehearsal space.

Lastly, the interface comes packaged with an amazing software bundle, including five award-winning plug-ins.

So what about the downsides?

Unfortunately, 8 inputs are only available through ADAT and S/PDIF, making the sample rate limited to 48 kHz.

Sure, the standard sample rate for music is 44.1kHz. Still, you’ll have to use a different interface if you’re looking to record at 98 kHz on more channels.

In addition, the Apollo Twin X DUO doesn’t include any MIDI INS/OUTS. 


You’ll have to invest in additional gear if you’re planning on using your DAW to control external MIDI hardware.

Also, Universal Audio doesn’t include a Thunderbolt cable in the package. I feel like this should be included considering their price point.

  • Best-in-class Unison preamps
  • Superb DSP allows you to process the signal in real-time
  • Seamless integration with Luna Recording System
  • 8 of the 10 inputs are ADAT or S/PDIF
  • Doesn’t feature a built-in MIDI interface

Universal Audio SOLO/610 – Best Desktop Tube Preamp

Quick specs – | Type: Tube | Channels: 1 | Mic inputs: 1 | Line inputs: Yes | Onboard Signal Processing: None | Design: Desktop

Universal Audio SOLO-610

An industry-standard mic preamp loved by top engineers worldwide, the Universal Audio SOLO 610 delivers analog tube warmth without breaking the bank.

The SOLO/610 features all-discrete circuitry, carefully tuned to deliver the rich and warm tones you’d expect from a classic tube mic preamp.

The single mic preamp gives vocals and instruments a rich, full sound that is hard to beat.

I find the SOLO 610 particularly useful on harsh sounds that need to be softened.

It can round the edges of intense sounds and give them a smoother feel.

Simply push the input gain, and the SOLO 610 will provide the warmest analog sound you can get. I’ve used it on vocals, guitars, and even some synths.

Additionally, I really like that it’s not rackable. You can easily set it up on your studio desk, plug it in, and start recording.

Also, the SOLO/610 features a DI input with loop-through functionality. 

This is convenient as it allows you to send a clean unprocessed signal directly to a DAW, while at the same time feeding your amplifier with the processed sound.

What about drawbacks?

First, the lack of a compressor in the unit is a bit of a downer as it would make gain staging much simpler.

But then again, it’s not that hard to add a compressor to the chain once it’s recorded.

Also, some controls and inputs are on the back of the unit. This makes it a bit difficult to reach them from the front.

I know, these are small issues that can easily be overcome.

All things considered, Universal Audio’s SOLO/610 is a solid, well-built unit that delivers a full-bodied signal without much tweaking.

  • Analog warmth at its finest
  • Compact and portable
  • DI input with loop-through
  • No onboard effects

Focusrite Scarlett OctoPre – Best Multichannel Preamp

Quick specs – | Type: Solid State | Channels: 8 | Mic inputs: 8 | Line inputs: Yes | Onboard Signal Processing: EQ | Design: 1U (Rackmounted)

Focusrite Scarlett OctoPre

The Focusrite Scarlett OctoPre is a great mic preamp for those who are looking for an affordable multi-channeled option that doesn’t sacrifice quality.

The OctoPre has eight channels of pre-amplification, making it great for recording multiple sources at once.

Plus, the high headroom and low noise performance mean that you can record loud sources without worrying about clipping or distortion.

8 preamps might be sufficient for most producers, but there is more to it.

You also have the ADAT functionality, meaning you can hook it up to an ADAT-supported audio interface and expand your channel count up to 16. All you need is an optical cable.

Pretty neat, right?

The Word Clock feature is another great reason to get the OctoPre. It allows you to sync up multiple digital audio devices without having to worry about any timing errors.

This can be important if you’re working with post-production, as you want to guarantee a perfect sync between audio and video.

Last but not least, the unit can withstand the rigors of the road. It is housed in a sturdy metal chassis that has a ton of protection for all your inputs and outputs. 

The good things aside, what could be improved?

First, phantom power is not on a per-channel basis.

Instead, it’s provided in banks of 4 channels, meaning you’ll have to keep track of which channels need it and plug your microphones accordingly.

Secondly, there is no built-in high-pass filter.

That’s always a welcoming addition when recording vocals, as it helps eliminate the low-end rumble from vibrations coming from the floor.

Overall, the Focusrite Scarlett OctoPre is a great mic preamp that offers all the essentials and a few in-between features.

  • High-headroom preamps
  • Premium audio conversion
  • Can be further expanded with the ADAT connectivity
  • Can synchronize multiple signals with the Word Clock
  • No individual HP filter per channel 

Golden Age Project Pre-73 MKIII – Best Vintage Preamp

Quick specs – | Type: Solid State | Channels: 1 | Mic inputs: 1 | Line inputs: Yes | Onboard Signal Processing: None | Design: Desktop

Golden Age Project Pre-73 MKIII

Golden Age Project is known for their affordable and quality mic pres.

The Pre-73 MKIII is no exception. If you’re on a budget but still want bags of classic warmth, this is a great one to check out.

For starters, the Pre-73 MKIII is based on the vintage Neve 1073 preamps.

If you’re not familiar, Neve’s 1073 is an analog classic still used by some of the biggest names in the industry. It was a standard in studios and its rich and warm sound has made it popular among many artists.

After testing the Pre-73 MKIII for a few months, I was really impressed with how it sounded.

It has a lot of sonic similarities to the original 1073 preamp, offering that deep and warm tone that works so well on vocals and guitars.

But it’s not all about coloration.

You can also get a clean transparent sound. In fact, I managed to get ultra-clean guitar tones from the DI. 

I find this to be rare at this price range as most budget preamps suffer from a high noise floor. 

What I don’t like:

The Pre-73 features combo inputs (mic/line). This is usually fine, but the Pre-73 is configured in a way that phantom power is applied to both the mic and line inputs.

To prevent frying your equipment, you need to make sure that the phantom power is turned off when connecting a 1/4″ cable to the jack section.

In addition, the red color is easy to scrape off. Additionally, the paint will rub off if you accidentally bump the unit. Even if the build feels solid, it won’t look new after a while.

Nevertheless, the Golden Age Project Pre-73 MKIII is an exceptional mic preamp that will give your recordings a vintage Neve 1073 sound without breaking the bank. Highly recommended!

  • Smooth saturation on vocals
  • Useable feature set
  • Comfortable price tag
  • Phantom power is applied on the jack section of the combo input
  • The pain scrapes off really easy

IK Multimedia iRig Pre 2 – Best Preamp for Mobile Devices

Quick specs – | Type: N/A | Channels: 1 | Mic inputs: 1 | Line inputs: No | Onboard Signal Processing: None | Design: Portable

IK Multimedia iRig Pre-2

The IK Multimedia iRig Pre 2 is the perfect solution if you’ve ever wanted to record high-quality audio on your smartphone or tablet.

This mic preamp gives you all the features you need to get great sound, including phantom power, gain control, and a headphone output.

Plus, it’s small enough to fit in your pocket.

Even if it’s powered with two AA batteries, it’s capable of adding a considerable amount of gain.

In addition, the battery life is baffling at seven hours if you’re recording with phantom power turned on.

If you record with a dynamic microphone that doesn’t require the extra +48V, it lasts twenty-two hours. Pretty impressive!

One cool feature is the automatic detection of recording devices. Simply plug your cable into the 1/8″ jack, and the preamp automatically knows where to send the signal.

In addition, the iRig Pre 2 is compatible with DSLR cameras, making it a perfect companion for your video shoots.

In terms of recording quality, I got the best results when using a sensitive condenser microphone up close.

Less responsive dynamics require more gain which made hiss and noise more prominent in my vocal recordings.

This portable device comes with a few weaknesses.

Sure, the iRig Pre 2 is easy to use, and it sounds great. In fact, I was able to get great recordings of my vocals without any problem.

However, the inherent noise floor becomes significantly audible if you increase the gain.

Additionally, you’ll have to buy the appropriate TRRS mini-jack to Lightning/USB-C adapter cable if you have one of the latest mobile devices or tablets without the input jack. 

  • The most portable mic preamp on the market
  • Easy setup with the automatic detection feature
  • Long battery life
  • High self-noise at higher gain settings

Buying Guide – Choosing The Best Mic Preamp For Vocals

What Is A Mic Preamp And What Do They Do?

A mic preamp, also known as a microphone preamplifier, is a critical piece of audio equipment.

How come?

Mic preamps amplify the low voltage coming out of microphones, also known as mic-level signals.

Simply put, microphones must be amplified to be compatible with other gear such as mixers or recording interfaces. And after the preamp stage, you’ll have a stronger and more usable line-level signal.

Consequently, mic preamps are used in a wide variety of audio applications.

From live sound reinforcement and recording studios to broadcast and podcasting. 

It’s worth mentioning that most mixers and audio interfaces have built-in mic preamps. However, standalone units often offer more tonal alterations.

This can be used to add coloration or distortion to a microphone signal, which can be useful for creative purposes. Some lunchbox mic preamps even offer different types of EQ or filtering options.

Furthermore, mic preamps typically have controls for gain, phantom power, and EQ. Some also have filters, compression, and other features that can shape the sound of the microphone.

Do I Need A Mic Preamp For Vocals?

Technically, yes. You will need some sort of preamp to boost the signal from your microphone up to line level, which is the standard for audio gear.

With that being said, you don’t necessarily need a standalone preamp. You can use the incorporated preamps on your audio interface or mixer.

Also, USB microphones have a built-in preamp, so you can plug them directly into your computer and still get functional signal levels.

Important Specs To Consider

There is a lot to consider when choosing a mic preamp. It’s more than the obvious things like price and sound quality. 

Aspects you should consider include:

  • I/O: Number of inputs and outputs
  • Channels: Single-channel, Dual-channel, or Multichannel
  • Type: Tube Preamp, Solid State Preamp, or Hybrid Preamps
  • Form: Rackmount, 500 Series, or Desktop
  • On-Board Signal Processing: Filters, EQ, Compression, etc.

Let’s take a look at each of these features!

Different Types Of Preamplifiers

Tube Preamps

As the name suggests, a tube preamp uses vacuum tubes to amplify the signal from a low-level source.

Tube preamps are often used in recording studios to provide a warm, smooth sound.

This warm attribute comes from the way tubes naturally apply smooth distortion to incoming signals. It’s not a distortion in a sense of overdrive, but rather a gentle rounding of the edges generated by even harmonics.

Tube preamps generally have two or more stages of amplification, each using one or more vacuum tubes.

The first stage is typically a differential amplifier, which amplifies the difference between the signals on the two inputs. The second stage is usually a single-ended amplifier, which amplifies the signal on one input only.

The output of the tube preamp is then fed to a power amplifier, which increases the level of the signal so it can be sent to speakers or other devices.


  • Warm and smooth tonal quality
  • Expensive and delicate
  • Requires maintenance
  • Tube tones changes after a while

Solid State Preamps

A solid-state preamplifier uses transistors instead of vacuum tubes. 

Transistors are made of semiconductor material, usually silicon. When electricity is applied to the transistor, it either blocks or allows electrons to flow through, depending on the type of transistor. This action amplifies the signal. 

Different types of transistors can be used for different purposes in a preamplifier circuit. The most common type used in audio equipment is the bipolar junction transistor (BJT). Field-effect transistors (FETs) are also used in some cases.

Solid-state preamps are known for their transparency and low noise levels. They don’t have the warmth that tube preamps provide, but they do have a very clinical sound.


  • Transparent tones
  • Can handle higher gain levels
  • Relatively cheap

Hybrid Preamps

A hybrid preamp is a type of audio preamplifier that uses both solid-state and vacuum tube components.

The idea of hybrid preamps is that they offer the best of both worlds: 

Solid-state circuitry provides accurate and noise-free amplification, while the vacuum tubes add warmth and richness to the sound.

Still, the tubes on hybrid preamps don’t offer the warm, full-bodied sound found on true tube preamps. 

Preamp vs. Audio Interface

Most audio interfaces have built-in preamps that boost mic-level signals to line-level signals. But, it’s not their main purpose!

So what’s the difference?

Audio interfaces are all-in-one devices that not only amplify your audio signal but also have A/D converters.

A/D converters?

A/D stands for Analog to Digital and is used to convert the mic’s analog signal into digital.

Since digital music files are made up of binary values, it’s a necessary part of any recording setup 

A/D converters convert analog audio into a digital format so that it can be recorded onto your computer.

So what about preamps?

Preamps are apparatuses that boost your audio signal before it hits your recording device. And that’s it!

They typically have multiple inputs and outputs, meaning you can plug in multiple instruments or microphones at once. Usually, they also feature built-in processors such as EQ, compressors, etc.

So why should I invest in a quality vocal preamp?

Generally, standalone preamps often have superior sound quality compared to built-in preamps on audio interfaces.

Still, the UA’s Apollo Twin X DUO has a killer built-in preamp that’s comparable to many standalone preamps.

Multichannel vs. Single-Channel Preamps

Multichannel mic preamps have multiple channels that can be used simultaneously, while single-channel mic preamps have only one channel. 

Let’s take an example!

You will need a multichannel mic preamp if you’re recording a band or a group of people with multiple microphones.

However, if you are only recording one person at a time, then a single-channel mic preamp will suffice.

It goes without saying but multichannel mic preamps are generally more expensive than single-channel mic preamps.


Simply because they have more components and offer more flexibility.

With that being said, a high-quality single-channel mic preamp is the better option if you’re only recording one person at a time.

Channel Strips

A channel strip is a self-contained unit that typically has all the necessary controls and connections for recording, mixing, and mastering audio.

Essentially a mic preamp with built-in modules for signal processing!

Besides the mic preamp, channel strips like the dbx 286s usually include an EQ and a compressor. It may also have other features such as a gate, limiter, de-esser, and expander.

Preamp Formats


A rackmount preamp is a type of audio preamplifier that is designed to be mounted in a standard 19-inch equipment rack.

They’re typically used in professional audio applications, such as recording studios, live sound venues, and broadcast facilities.

Rackmounted preamps are the biggest format. Therefore, they generally offer more features and flexibility than their desktop counterparts.

For example, many rackmount preamps include multiple input and output connectors, gain controls, EQ sections, and other features that can be very useful in professional audio applications.

In addition, rackmount preamps often have much higher quality components and circuitry than desktop models, which results in better sound quality.

If you already own a 19-inch rack and have space available, then a rackmount model is likely the best option.


As the name suggests, desktop units are designed to be placed on your studio desk.

They are smaller than their rackmount counterparts and may have fewer features. Consequently, they’re preferred in home studio setups where space is limited.

Still, they’re very capable of producing studio-quality sound.

500 Series Racks (Lunchboxes)

Lunchbox preamps are designed to be used in conjunction with 500 series racks.

Think of them as a midway between the desktop and rackmount format.

They’re smaller in size compared to rackmounts but can still feature a variety of input and output options.

Lunchbox mic preamps are typically used by producers/musicians who need a portable option for recording rehearsals and live performances.


Let me end where I began – Buying a vocal preamp shouldn’t be a top priority for beginners.

It won’t automatically give you higher-quality recordings or make you a better singer.

Instead, you should be focusing on learning the craft of recording. Take time to experiment with gain staging, different mic placements, and basic signal processing.

On the other hand, mic preamps are a great addition if you’re a professional who’s looking to spice up your studio.


Top-quality preamps will give you a warm sound and an extra bit of clarity that can make your recordings stand out.

And Warm Audio’s WA12 MKII is my favorite for several reasons.

First, it’s extremely versatile and can give you both transparency and coloration. Also, it records with a minimal noise floor and a large headroom, giving you a wide dynamic range.

And the best part? It won’t cost you a fortune. The WA12 MKII stands its ground against preamps that cost hundreds of dollars more.

And there you have it! If you have any questions or comments, please let me know! Happy recording!

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