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The Best Microphone Preamps for Home Recording


Your Ultimate Guide to Microphone Preamps for Home Recording

Running a home recording studio setup is no excuse for you to skimp on recording studio essentials such as a microphone preamp. While microphone preamps are generally expensive, these devices are worth investing in if you want high-quality sound for your recordings — and trust us, it will make all the difference in your home recording quality.

To help make your search easier, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide on the best preamps for home recording!

Which Are the Best Microphone Preamps?

Editor's Choice

The Best Microphone Preamps for Home Recording
Best Overall
The Best Microphone Preamps for Home Recording
Best Budget Mic Preamp
The Best Microphone Preamps for Home Recording
Most Versatile Mic Preamp
Focusrite Scarlett OctoPre 8-Channel

The Focusrite Scarlett OctoPre 8-Channel is an industry favorite thanks to its versatility, sound quality amplification, and additional features.

Cloud Microphones Cloudlifter CL-1

The Cloud Microphones Cloudlifter CL-1 is a preamp and mic activator that can give a large gain boost to any microphone type.

PreSonus DigiMax D8

The PreSonus DigiMax D8 offers plenty of inputs and functions for the price and space of one preamp.

Quality: Design: Features:
Quality: Design: Features:
Quality: Design: Features:

Let’s Go Over Each Top Mic Preamp

The Best Microphone Preamps for Home Recording

Quality:  ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Design:  ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Features:  ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Benefitting from years of experience thus, establishing themselves as an industry legend, Focusrite has created one of the best mic preamps revered by many — the Scarlett OctoPre 8-Channel.

From the name itself, the Scarlett OctoPre has eight preamps. This 8-channel preamp also makes use of second-generation mic lines to help achieve clean gain, high headroom, and low noise. This allows your home recordings to come out natural-sounding as your microphone’s unique character and sound are captured.

Another feature that makes the Focusrite Scarlett OctoPre 8-Channel one of the best ones out there and different from most preamps is its numerous headroom and pads for “extreme inputs”. This feature allows two other instruments, such as keyboards or electric guitars, to be plugged into its front panel.

Thanks to the Scarlett OctoPre’s A/D conversion of 24-bit/192 kHz, you are assured that your instrument’s sound quality is excellent without any excess coloration.

Speaking of conversion, the Scarlett OctoPre can also help you monitor your digital audio quality through visible control using its LED and channel clip indicators.

Other features that make the Scarlett OctoPre 8-Channel more impressive are its digital interface, compatibility with other equipment using ADAT through a single cable, and an easy connection system with ADAT optical inputs. It’s also phantom-powered across all its inputs. Just make sure to use 48V so as not to damage the microphone preamp.

Additional features of the Scarlett OctoPre microphone preamp that make it all the more useful and our top pick are the plug-in suite inclusions. To further enhance the sound quality of your home recordings, the Scarlett OctoPre has the Softube Time and Tone bundle with the former including four channels or Softubes plug-ins, including Reverb and Delay.

Pros and Cons of the Focusrite Scarlett OctoPre 8-Channel

✔ 8 preamp channels
✔ Natural-sounding audio quality
✔ Has digital audio interfaces
✔ Great microphone and instruments preamp
✔ Has 2 ADAT outputs
✔ Includes plug-in suites
✔ Suitable for studio and live recording
✔ Durable metal frame perfect for traveling
✖️ Expansion plus audio interface model is pricey

The Best Microphone Preamps for Home Recording

Quality:  ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Design:  ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Features:  ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 

If ribbon mics are your preferred recording devices, then you would know that they tend to have low output and require a lot of preamp gain. However, the best ribbon mics are great at producing a natural and classic sound that can record vocals, instruments, and the room ambiance itself so it makes all the setup worth it.

However, there’s another way to prevent any possible harmonic distortion caused by ribbon mics, and that’s with a microphone preamp that has an excellent audio signal and line-level signal. Enter Cloud Microphones’ Cloudlifter CL-1.

While the Cloudlifter CL-1 was specifically designed for dynamic microphones, this preamp is compatible with all microphone types and can exceptionally amplify ribbon mode mics.

With the ability to give any mic signal a boost of more than 25dB without adding any extra noise or harmonic distortion to the signal path, the Cloudlifter does an impressive job at increasing the output from microphones. This feature allows you to have a better mic for your home recording needs!

Since the Cloudlifter CL-1 is phantom-powered, users may be worried about damaging their delicate ribbon mics’ moving coil. However, this is one issue you need not be concerned about as the Cloudlifter CL-1’s phantom power does not pass any voltage through its inputs.

Key features of Cloudlifter CL-1 are its ease of “plug-and-play” setup and its affordable price compared to most microphone preamps. To power the Cloudlifter CL-1, you need only to plug in an XLR cable, turn on the phantom power, and turn on the audio interface, and you’re ready to start using this best cheap preamp and mic activator for your home recording needs!

Pros and Cons of the Cloud Microphones Cloudlifter CL-1

✔ Produces a powerful and clean signal path
✔ Provides a large gain boost to all microphone types
✔ Phantom-powered but voltage does not run through microphones
✔ Easy set-up
✖️ Bulky design

The Best Microphone Preamps for Home Recording

Quality:  ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Design:  ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Features:  ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

When building or upgrading your home studio, then you know that every inch of space is valuable. For that, you will need versatile equipment so it can do all and be all while only taking up one small corner of your home studio space. Here is where the PreSonus DigiMax D8 Solid State Preamp can be of help.

Unlike most mic pre, the PreSonus Digimax D8 combines analog and digital technology while functioning as an ADAT-equipped preamp. This preamp also has plenty of inputs as it sports 24-bit/48kHz audio interfaces with eight Class A XMAX mic preamps plus additional eight analog outputs to send external signals.

Sporting eight XLR mic inputs and another eight TRX jack outputs, it goes without saying that you have plenty of line input to choose from and use for both microphones and instruments with the PreSonus DigiMax D8.

This versatile preamp also has a gain-trim control, a 20Db pad button, 2 DI box inputs, an ultra-wide dynamic range, and is phantom-powered making use of 48V.

Pros and Cons of the PreSonus DigiMax D8

✔ Versatile and feature-filled
✔ Has a gain knob
✔ Plenty of inputs
✖️ Placement of inputs and outputs can make it difficult to mount it on a rack

Quality:  ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Design:  ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 
Features:  ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

With several nominations and awards on its belt, the Warm Audio WA73 is a high-end and iconic preamp. Warm Audio WA73 is a single-channel and dual-channel strip preamp that has defined the tone of many pop and rock records for decades.

Classified as a staple in many recording studios, especially in British audio history, the WA73 brings vintage to both sound and design making it the perfect preamp for condenser mics, dynamic mics, and ribbon microphones.

With an 80dB gain and a Carnhill Transformer balanced class signal path, the WA73 is well-suited for expressive sound sources such as vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass guitar, drums, percussions, orchestras, keyboards, and more.

There are two models to choose from: the single channel preamplifier and channel preamplifier — both can come with or without EQ controls. No matter the model you opt for, all WA73 preamps are hand-wired and hand-assembled making them all the more premium.

They also make use of tantalum and polystyrene capacitors in the signal path plus an output transistor to help achieve a smooth and pristine sound even when your gain settings are set on high.

Pros and Cons of the Warm Audio WA73

✔ Offers both single-channel and dual-channel models
✔ Low distortion sound quality
✔ Can be used for vocals and instruments
✖️ Expensive

The Best Microphone Preamps for Home Recording

Quality:  ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Design:  ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Features:  ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 

The Universal Audio 710TFD Twin-Finity combines the best of both worlds by being a solid-state and tube preamp rolled into one hybrid single-channel preamp.

The 710TFD Twin-Finity is one of the best mic preamps in the list that can strike a balance between churning out a classic retro warm sound thanks to its vacuum tubes and a crisp sound because of its solid-state circuit. It makes for tonal versatility and blending that most interfaces from other mic pre cannot quite perfect.

Although the Universal Audio 710TFD Twin-Finity only uses a single channel, it makes up for it with other key features. One of which is its front panel, which will allow you to easily track vocals and instruments such as guitar, bass, or keyboards. Another is its input stage for ¼” Hi-Z instruments.

Pros and Cons of the Universal Audio 710TFD Twin-Finity

✔ Hybrid design with both a solid-state and tube circuit
✔ Versatile front panel
✔ Produces a retro warm sound while maintaining its bite
✔ Tonal versatility and blend
✖️ Expensive
✖️ Single channel can be limiting

Do I Need a Mic Preamp for Recording?

While many audio interfaces come equipped with built-in mic pres, dedicated microphone preamps offer superior sonic performance and versatility. Whether you’re recording vocals, instruments, or podcasts, a dedicated preamp type can elevate the quality of your recordings by providing cleaner gain, enhanced tonal shaping, and greater dynamic range.

Does a Preamp Improve Sound Quality?

A high-quality microphone preamp serves as the critical link between your microphone and the recording device, amplifying the signal with minimal coloration or distortion. By maintaining signal integrity and providing clean gain, a preamp ensures that your recordings capture the full spectrum of sound with clarity and fidelity.

Do Expensive Mic Preamps Make a Difference?

While budget-friendly preamps can certainly get the job done, investing in high-end preamps can yield noticeable improvements in sound quality. Higher-end preamps often feature high-quality components, advanced circuitry, and meticulous craftsmanship, resulting in superior transparency, dynamics, and sonic and subtle details. For discerning producers and engineers striving for professional-grade recordings, the difference is unmistakable.

Who Has the Best Preamps?

The market abounds with reputable brands offering exceptional microphone preamps tailored to various budgets and preferences. Some standout contenders include Universal Audio and Focusrite. Universal Audio is Renowned for its classic analog sound and cutting-edge digital modeling technology and is beloved by professionals worldwide for its warmth, character, and versatility. Focusrite combines quality craftsmanship with affordability and its preamps deliver transparent, professional-grade audio performance suitable for a wide range of recording applications.

What Are the Best Preamps for Vocals?

Some of the best mic preamps for vocals are the Neve 1073 DPX, Grace Design m101, and Focusrite ISA One. The Neve 1073 DPX is a preamp with dual channels that has a high impedance, a switchable channel located in the front panel, and a built-in EQ and highpass filter. It’s also useful for vocal recordings because of its direct headphones monitoring feature.

Grace Design’s feature is the Ribbon Mode, which will allow you to increase input impedance, increase gain range, and bypass phantom power when you’re using a ribbon mic, while the Focusrite ISA One is one of the few preamps that have a headphone output and A-D card for standalone recording.

Final Note

With different preamps available in the market, it can get quite intimidating to choose which is the best one for your home recording studio and audio requirements. Generally, what you will need to keep in mind are the flexible features, desired sound character, channel strips, and more inputs you will be requiring for your preamp so you can get the most out of it!

Although the premium price tag of preamps can be a bit off-putting, investing in this equipment can make your microphone and recording audio quality better and reduce harmonic distortion.

The Best Microphone Preamps for Home Recording

Editor’s Choice

Backed by industry legend, Focusrite, the Scarlett OctoPre 8-Channel is a can-do of all dedicated mic preamps.

Carrying not just one channel strip, but eight channel strips with second-generation mic/line preamps, the Scarlett OctoPre can give a clean gain, high headroom, and low noise floor natural sound that amplifies the unique character of your microphone and instruments.

This ADAT-compatible microphone preamp can also be powered by 48V phantom power across all inputs, which is useful when you want to further expand your recording system.

With an exceptional A/D conversion and digital interface, the Scarlett OctoPre can handle 24-bit/192kHz while allowing visible control. It even comes with the Focusrite Red 2 and 3 plug-in suite, Softube Time, and Tone Bundle.

Ash Burnett

Hailing from Chicago, IL - Ash made his break into journalism at the age of 23 writing music reviews for a local website. Now in his late 30's and after being pulled closer towards the technical side of the music and live gig industry, he founded Shout4Music to write thorough microphone reviews.

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