Top 10 Best Mic Preamps For Vocals 2020 – Buyer’s Guide

The arrival of social media has widened everything around our daily life circles. Some 5-10 years ago, nobody would have that social media will change the whole dynamics of the world economy. People are now investing in themselves in order to make a long-term and financially sustainable career. 

Video content is perhaps the most popular element when we think of producing your own content on social media. In our earlier articles, we talked about microphones and their importance in order quality content for online streaming platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram. 

Today, we’re going a little further from microphones and would talk about something that is coming before the microphones. You must have heard about microphones and their ability to produce quality sound. 

However, a vital role is also played by Microphone ‘Preamps’ and today, we’re going to talk about the best Microphone Preamps for vocals. There are basically two ways of understanding the Preamps. 

It basically comes in two forms. Sometimes it comes as a Preamplifier circuit within the device and sometimes it comes as a dedicated external device to contain such a circuit. The main job of a Preamp is to amplify the low-level signals to line level that is considered as the standard operating level of your microphone. 

Normally, microphone signals are well below the nominal level of operation and a lot more is required, typically about 30-60 dB. Guitars and basses do not need as much gain, but mostly approximately 20-30 dB. Also, line sources such as synthesizers may demand studio-level amplification, as different specifications are available.

For home audio and semi-pro equipment, the old standard is or perhaps it was -10 dBV, whereas technical equipment is running at +4 dBu, which is not a difference of 14 DB but about 12 DB due to different voltage references. Even inexpensive home studio equipment is today usually designed to a nominal level of +4 dBu, but electronic devices also frequently operate at -10 dBV or somewhere around it.  

And for almost every sound source, you need a Preamp. Nevertheless, this must not be an external machine. Most audio interfaces come with Preamps already built-in. And they’re generally great enough, to begin with. However, it should be remembered that much more costly audio interfaces have much better Preamps than lower-ranked and cheap audio interfaces.

Forget about an external preamp if you’re just starting out. Instead, get an audio setup slightly more costly with good preamps. When you deal with low output dynamic microphones or ribbons, an outer Preamp will greatly boost the sound quality. The external preamp makes less of a difference with high-level condenser mics.

An outdoor preamp is a decent second step towards improving your sound quality or having more volume, but before you do the first step, don’t jump to the second step. With the internal preamps and one or two high-quality condenser mics, you can only make decent recordings with your audio app.

Top 7 Best microphone preamps for Vocals 

This was a little introduction about our today’s topic, and now we will move on to shed light on some of the best microphone preamps for vocals that are currently available in the market. 

Dbx 286s Stereo

As a content creator, when you start a proper streaming channel on any of the above-mentioned platforms, then you also start working on the technical aspects of your content. 

The first and topmost priority for any content creator is the video quality, for obvious reasons. However, a professional content creator with long term ambitions would also take care of the sound and audio quality as much as he does for video quality. 

We have been trying many internal and external preamps and the journey started with first generation series of 6 ux2. 

We also spent our money on the Blue Snowball before moving to Blue Yeti for quite some time. As the Yeti was getting old some time ago, we decided to enhance our audio quality even further, and then someone suggested us to take a look at the Dbx 286s stereo preamp.

The most effective and primary reason for recommending the dbx 286s is the Expander gate ability. You can see it as a highly-effective noise gate and it’s going to do a lot of hard work in canceling the background noise for you that isn’t necessary. 

Offices and home labs are full of background noises and if you’re using a good microphone, you’d perhaps enhance your audio quality to a great level. It will also cancel all the unnecessary stuff around you really effectively. 

When you change your speech volume a lot, this will be a significant feature for you. Well, the De-Esser takes that disturbing sound away if you talk about snakes that slither up a hill. The LF / HF detail of the enhancer will add more warmth and clarity to your speech, using it sparingly.

The dbx 286s is an absolute magician in this field. This is an extremely suitable device for all the people that are working in a highly noise-affected area or office. This device has the ability to completely eliminate the background noise and let you produce high-quality content with appealing audio quality.

The dbx 286 has no native device system. There is no standard computer connection such as USB, thunderbolt, etc. You can use different USB audio interface devices to connect it such as the Scarlett USB interface device. 

This is one of the top-rated devices on Amazon and it is surely capable of providing a lot of value for its money. 

Pros:

  • Produces high-quality audio
  • Expander gate capability
  • LF/HF details enhance audio clarity 

Cons:

  • There is no native device system
  • You need an additional device to connect it
  • Studio quality mic preamp/channel strip processor
  • Classic dbx compression puts great sound within easy reach
  • Frequency tuneable de-esser reduces sibilance and high frequency distortion
  • Enhancer increases the detail and definition of the high and low frequencies
  • Program adaptive expander/Gate. Frequency response: 20Hz to 20kHz
  • Input: 1/4" TRS (x2) and XLR (x1); output: 1/4" TRS (x1)
  • Operating voltage: 120VAC 60Hz, 100VAC 50/60Hz
  • Purchase includes: dbx286s, power cord, operation manual, and rack mount screws and washers (x4)

Focusrite OctoPre

Devices that are associated with top-quality brands will always promise to deliver great and effective results. Focusrite is also a pretty huge company that works across both software and hardware industries. They have some high-end brands working under them such as RedNet, Novation and Amplify. 

If you’re an aspiring musician or a professional engineer, this company has got you covered in almost every field. The OctoPre is also one of their amazingly good devices and it is one of the standout preamps for vocals. This device has also won quite a few industry awards because of its high efficiency and 8 highly-quality channels.

The light pipe output that comes with its integrated ADAT has the ability to support ranges up to 110db. The anti-clip technology is also pretty impeccable and it will not affect the sound quality even in the hardest of situations. If you’re using it for playing drums, you’d get the highest quality possible because it is widely regarded as one of the best preamps for drums.

The LED input meters are one of the additional luxuries of this device and this device is perfectly suitable for all those artists that are looking to create precise and accurate sound. This is an extremely suitable machine to be used in dark and rapidly quick conditions such as bars and clubs etc.

This is an extremely suitable and recommended device for all the professionals and beginners that are looking to create high-quality sound and record something of their own. 

However, if you don’t get the desired results with this mic preamp then we would feel that the problem is not with the device. It is because; this device is perfectly capable of handling any kind of situation and still produces worthy results. 

Pros:

  • Award winning 8 channels 
  • Equipment is premium-level 
  • The LED display is pretty handy and precise

Cons:

  • You can’t use all three inputs while using a patchbay.  All three not usable at once
  • Eight natural-sounding 2nd generation Scarlett mic preamps and eight balanced line inputs and dual front-panel instrument inputs
  • Focusrite precision A-D conversion up to sample rates of 192 kHz
  • Pad on every channel for extra headroom - ideal for loud sources such as drums
  • Eight balanced line outputs - ideal for live use; Simple ADAT connectivity via optical cables
  • Includes Red 2 & Red 3 AAX, AU & VST Plug-in Suite, and Softube Time & Tone Bundle as a free download upon registration; 2-year limited warranty on manufacturing defects.Noise EIN:-127 dBu. Focusrite now offers a 3-Year Warranty on this and all other Focusrite products.

ART Tube MP Studio V3 Tube Microphone Preamp

This is another incredible piece of engineering that comes with V3 Technology. It stands for Variable Valve Voicing and this technology enables the optimized reference points to begin the process of recording. This technology has been set up by some of the most professionally trained sound engineers and studio experts of the industry.

The output peak signals are going to be controlled precisely and accurately with the help of ART’s Output Protection Limited (OPL). This function is preferable important in the protection of the next link in a single chain. It works pretty similarly to a hard-disk recording system or a sound card.

You’d get the opportunity to select among a multitude of preamp settings that are specifically designed for guitars, electronic instruments, keyboards, bass guitars, drums and vocals. 

It will also provide you with excellent presets for every single instrument that you’re recording and all of them are going to sound pretty professional. You can also tweak the presets by honing your perfect tone. Such is the impact of V3’s power.

The Tube MP Studio V3 can also be used as a direct compatibility box – it can suit impedance, amplify and boost the sound quality of a system connected to it. The Tube MP Studio V3 architecture enables a warm and fat signal to be added while preserving low noise.

The Tube MP Studio V3 is pretty much similar to its predecessor in terms of functionality and tone. This device also packs Phase reverse, +48v phantom power, clip LED and a +20dB switch as well along with an Analog VU meter to track the signals visually.

The architecture of Tube MP Studio V3 offers a professional recording studio experience with results at a portion of comparable equipment prices, whether you are working on computers, disk drives or a digital multi-track recorder.

Pros: 

  • Lightweight and strong build quality
  • Provides one-year warranty 
  • V3 technology is great 
  • Excellent presets for every instrument 
  • Phantom power

Cons: 

  • There is no balanced-jack output option available 
  • It doesn’t have the high-voltage tube circuitry of elite models
  • Dimensions: 5.0"D x 5.5"W x 2.0"H
  • Weight: 1.5 lbs
  • Rugged all-steel construction
  • Designed for years of continuous, reliable performance
  • 1 year warranty

BEHRINGER Audio Interface UM2

The black metal color is becoming quite popular in this particular industry and the Behringer UM2 has this similarity with so many other audio interfaces that are currently available in the market. 

This device is made with plastic rather than metal parts just like its other competitors. However, that makes it pretty lightweight compared to the others and the build quality is pretty strong as well. Don’t worry about the plastic parts because they are made with precision and accuracy. 

The plastic is of very good quality on the outside and has a high degree of toughness. It says that when putting other heavy devices in a bag for travel purposes you are not advised to place them over the UM2 so that unintended harm can be prevented.

There are also plastic switches and controls for the unit. The first feeling when you start working with them is a little lumpiness, but in the studio environment they work out extremely well, especially when we talk about a home studio.

It comes with 2×2 USB audio interfaces for recording microphones and instruments and you’d also get Audiophile 48 kHz resolution for professional audio quality. The maximum sampling rate of 48 kHz whereas it is also compatible with popular recording software such as Avid Pro Tools, Ableton Live, Steinberg Cubase, etc.

This device has the ability to steam 2 inputs and 2 outputs with ultra-low latency to your computer. It is also supported by Mac OS and Windows XP or higher. 

It can be defined as the State-of-the-art, +48 V-powered XENYX Mic Preamp comparable to stand-alone boutique preamps. With the careful use of volume levels and subtle settings both on the audio interface and in DAW, laudability and high sound quality can be achieved.

It is an extremely suitable device for beginners and amateurs that are starting their own content creation and are looking to achieve effective results as far as their audio quality is concerned.

Pros: 

  • Amazing performer 
  • Excellent built-in headphone amplifier 
  • Produces high-quality sound
  • The clarity of sound is crisp and clean 

Cons:

  • It can cause problems with Digital Audio Workstations
  • Not suitable for professional music producers or artists 
  • 2x2 USB audio interface for recording microphones and instruments
  • Audiophile 48 kHz resolution for professional audio quality.Maximum Sampling Rate: 48 kHz
  • Compatible with popular recording software including Avid Pro Tools*, Ableton Live*, Steinberg Cubase*, etc.
  • Streams 2 inputs / 2 outputs with ultra-low latency to your computer, supporting Mac OS X* and Windows XP* or higher
  • State-of-the-art, +48 V-powered XENYX Mic Preamp comparable to stand-alone boutique preamps

ART Pro MPA-II 2-channel Tube Microphone

We shall move on with our list of best microphone preamps for vocals and here we are with another outstanding device that has the ability to deliver a very high-quality sonic upgrade for any home or studio recording project. The ART PRO MPA-II is coming with a value-packed 2-channel tube microphone amplifier. 

You can select from a plethora of tube tones to match your microphone. You’d also get dual-mono and stereo support along with a mid/side miking switch that allow the flexibility you require to tackle a wide range of projects and recordings with this particular device.

It is coming with two channels of flexible tube preamplification and it also Supports dual-mono and stereo operation along with mid/side miking. The multi-colored LED displays will also play a huge role in taking your viewing experience to the next level and it has large VU meters as well.

Other notable features of this device are its backlit function switches, discrete class-A input microphone preamplifier along with low noise at lower gain settings. You’d also get extremely low total harmonic distortion with a wide frequency response.

The additional front-mounted instrument input jack is also pretty useful and this device operates at the +4dm/-10dbv output. The selectable stereo/dual operation of output controls is also amazingly handy. The automatic instrument input selection is an additional feature of this amazing performer.

Pros:

  • Variable Input Impedance For Flexible Microphone Voicing (150 Ohms To 2400 Ohms)
  • Selectable Plate Voltage
  • Large VU Meters
  • Backlit Function Switches
  • Operates at +4dbm/-10dbv Output
  • Selectable Stereo/Dual Operation of Output Controls
  • Automatic Instrument Input Selection

Cons:

  • A little expensive and not in everybody’s reach 
  • The design is pretty unstylish and simple
  • Variable Input Impedance For Flexible Microphone Voicing
  • Selectable Plate Voltage
  • Discrete Class-A Input Microphone Preamplifier
  • Low Noise at Lower Gain Settings
  • Extremely Low Total Harmonic Distortion

ART Tube MP Microphone Preamp

If you’re looking for something that won’t break the bank for you but still provides decent quality of audio, then you have to consider this amazingly talented Tube MP. 

It is a compact device that has the portability and quality to give you impressive results at an affordable price range. It will also provide clarity to your voice and digital records.

It is a pretty versatile microphone preamp and has the ability to produce sound quality that is good enough for professional digital recorders. It is a great device of acoustic and piezo pickups. It has over 70dB of gain with smooth tube sound quality. The noise level is pretty low and it has outstanding signal quality.

If we talk about its core features then it is a hand-selected microphone preamp with 12AX7 vacuum tubes. The 70dB gain is also pretty handy and useful along with its smooth, warm and fat sound quality. It also comes with variable input and output gain controls. It works brilliantly as a tube DI.

Other worth-mentioning features of this device are XLR and 1/4” inputs and outputs with 48 volts of phantom power. The phase reversal switch of this device comes in handy in crucial situations. 

The device is capable enough to give you superior sonic performance compared to other onboard preamps that we have discussed so far. The AC power supply is another additional luxury in this device.

Pros: 

  • Hand-selected 12AX7 vacuum tubes
  • Provides over 70dB of gain
  • Smooth, warm and fat sound quality
  • 48 volts phantom power
  • Includes AC power supply

Cons:

  • Performance can go down after excessive usage 
  • Superior preamplification
  • Over 70dB of gain
  • Smooth warm and fat sound quality
  • Variable input and output controls
  • Phase reversal switch

BEHRINGER TUBE ULTRAGAIN MIC500USB

We’re into the last product of our list and this one is another high-end pre-amplification for all microphones, instruments, and line-level sources. The device has been specifically designed for studio-grade condenser microphones. 

It suits your studio, lives, and hard disk recording setup because it is brilliant in what it does. You’d be able to optimize your records through the ultra-flexible preamp modeling.

There are more than 15 preamp voicings that are designed for electric and acoustic guitars, keyboards, bass guitars, drums, and vocals. It can connect directly to your computer through the USB-Audio interface. You’d also get a free audio recording with editing, podcasting software along with 150 instruments/effect plug-ins.

It comes with powerful phones output and level control with direct monitor selection. It has a hand-selected 12AX7 vacuum tube with UTC technology for amazing clarity, warmth, and low noise. 

If you’re using it as a high-end DI-box, then be ready to get some outstanding signal transparency. 

It has a sophisticated output limiter that prevents the output signals from clipping. The unnecessary noise is going to be eliminated by the dedicated low cut filter. It comes with +48 V phantom-powers along with Phase reverse switch and 20dB Pad for extreme flexibility.

Pros:

  • Highly accurate 8-segment LED level meter
  • Balanced outputs and inputs
  • 3-Year Warranty Program

Cons: 

  • The design is a bit outdated 
  • Extreme outdoor weather conditions can affect its performance 

Conclusion:

That was the list guys; we have presented a list of some of the best microphone preamps available in the market currently. Now, it’s totally up to you which device is the most suitable for you. 

We have reviewed devices of different companies with their respective features and we have also tried to cover devices of almost every price range. The devices reviewed in this product are listed according to their Amazon ratings and reviews. 

FAQs:

Do I need a preamp for recording vocals?

Ans: It is one of the most necessary things to record high-quality audio.

Does a mic preamp make a difference?

Ans: Of course they do, they are especially needed when you’re using a condenser microphone.

What does a mic preamp do?

Ans: It prepares a microphone signal to be processed by other equipment.