Mic preamp for home studio? Is it necessary to have a mic preamp in your home studio? If you don’t already have a mic preamp, how do you know you need one?
In this article, I will answer these pressing questions, because a lot of young engineers and producers get confused when it comes to microphone preamplifiers.
Many don’t know what it does and if they should get one for their recording studio. So here you will learn what a microphone preamplifier or mic preamp for short is and why you would need one.
Finally, the article will finish off with a list of the best ones for home studios.
What Is A Mic Preamp Use For?
Microphone amplifier or mic preamp for short is an equipment used by sound engineers to increase the mic level to line level so that it is loud enough to precess.
Ever wondered why you never seen a microphone connected directly into a speaker?
You never saw this because a microphone signal is very weak about 1 to 2mV (thousandths of a Volt) and won’t be loud enough when reproduced by the speaker.
The microphone signal is too weak to be of any uses in your audio production process. This need to boost to ‘line level’.
This is where the mic preamp comes in handy it takes the low-level signal of the microphone and increased it to a level you can record, mix or process.
Your audio interface or any equipment in your studio with a microphone input has one or more built-in mic preamp. This is why you are able to record without a stand-alone mic preamp.
Do You Need A Mic Preamp?
If your audio interface has a built-in mic preamp and you can record audio without issues, you must be wondering why do you need to get a mic preamp.
If you are still questioning if you need a mic preamp or not maybe you are not yet ready for one.
Recording via the mic preamp that’s in the audio interface long enough, you will soon get to the point where the sound quality no longer cut it for you. Here you might decide to upgrade to a microphone preamplifier.
Compare to the built-in mic preamp of an audio interface a stand-alone mic preamp is a much better quality.
Stand-alone mic preamps not only improve the sound quality, but they also make a big difference to the tonal quality of the sound.
In a professional recording studio, there is usually more than one mic preamp to choose from, and the engineer makes a choice based on the microphone used and the tonal quality they seek.
The mic preamp helps the engineer to get a recording that will need little EQ at the mixing state.
Ready to record professional quality sounds that are similar to commercial quality music? Then you may be ready for a mic preamp.
Best Mic Preamp For Home Studio
Taking your budget and need in consideration I have broken the list of mic preamp in two categories; low-budget mic preamp and high-end mic preamp.
When deciding on a mic preamp for your home studio ask yourself, what is your budget, how many channels do you need and which instrument with you record the most?
Do want clean, natural sounds or a mic preamp that adds some colour to your sound? Solid-state design tends to be more natural sound whereas tube, for example, will add sonic colour.
By asking yourself these questions, you will have some ideas on which mic preamp is best for your home studio.
Below is a list of my best mic preamp for home studio under $1000, with the cheapest costing $149. Click each link to find the prices.
ART Pro MPAII Two Channel
The ART Pro MPA11 is a tube mic preamp. Tube mic preamps are known the add a warm tone to vocals and depth the guitar and bass.
This mic preamp is likely to colour the sonic quality of output signal whether the preamp is set to run the 12AX7 valves at low or high anode voltages.
The extra gain boost that the Art Pro offers allows you to run preamp at low gain but still maintain a high signal‑to‑noise ratio.
If you are looking for professional mic preamp functionality the ART Pro operates in duel mode, stereo and Mid/Side set up.
This solid state design mic preamp not only comes at a great price, but the ART Pro MPA11 also sounds great, it’s versatile with professional functionality that is great for a home studio.
Check price and reviews: ART Pro MPA11 Two Channel
PreSonus DigiMax D8
or the price, the PreSonus DigiMax D8 8-Channel mic preamp offers so much. Everything that your home studio needs.
Eight mic pre’s with a 20dB pad on each channel, 24-bit/48kHz resolution digital conversion, 2 DI inputs and an ultra-wide dynamic range.
The 2 DI inputs are on the front for easy access when you what to plug in an instrument. The only downside to this mic preamp is that the phantom power switches are on the back. This may be a problem if you mount this preamp on a rack.
However, if you are looking for a powerful mic preamp that is robust and versatile but without a massive price tag, the PreSonus DigiMax D8 is the best home studio mic preamp.
Check price and reviews: PreSonus DigiMax D8 8-Channel
Cloud Microphones CL-1
This unique piece of gear is something special. It is easy to set up, just plug in an XLR cable, turn-on the phantom power on the audio interface and you’re ready to go.
Design to give the mic signal more than 25dB boost without adding extra noise to the signal.
The cloudlifter was made specifically with dynamic microphones in mind. Although it is compatible with all microphone types, we recommend you stick to using it with your dynamic and ribbon microphones.
Cloudlifter runs on phantom power. This phantom power does not power the microphone!
Perfection if you are looking for a large amount of gain boost for your dynamic microphone while cutting useless noise for a more powerful and clean signal
Check price and reviews: Cloud Microphones Cloudlifter CL-1 Mic Activator
Warm Audio TB12-500
Warm Audio Tone Beast TB12 500 Series mic preamp is a high-voltage microphone preamp, it is very robust, you are able to push it into full-on distortion.
When pushed, the harmonic distortion saturates the signal giving it amazingly sweet tone. When the drive knob of the Tone Beast TB12 is not pushed into harmonic distortion, this mic preamp has a somewhat of a natural tone.
The Tone Beast TB12 is a one channel mic preamp with a gain boost of up to 71dB, a – 20 dB pad switch, high-pass filter, an XLR, TRS and an instrument input.
The professional quality mic preamp is a solid state design with saturation flexibility of both the opamps and transformers.
Check price and reviews: Warm Audio Tone Beast TB12 500 Series
Focusrite Scarlett OctoPre 8
The Focusrite Scarlett OctoPre 8 has eight mic/line channel and equipped with ADAT inputs, which allow you to increase the number of recording channel if you ever needed more.
Pads are on all 8 channels for extra headroom making this mic preamp ideal for loud sources such as drums and guitar/bass amp.
Focusrite Scarlett OctoPre 8 is a natural-sounding mic preamp with plenty of gain, low noise and minimal distortion.
Check price and reviews: Focusrite Scarlett OctoPre 8-Channel
High-end Mic Preamp Suitable For Home Studio
If you have a bit more money to spend and want a mic preamp like the one you see in a professional recording studio, here is a list of high-end preamps.
These mic preamps are more on the pricier side, but you will get the quality you pay for.
Grace Design M101
One channel with balanced XRL and a 1/4″ TRS connection and a TS unbalance for connecting instruments.
Extremely clean signal, with a large amount of gain and power to sound output and plenty of headroom.
The Grace M101 is a good choice if you are looking for professional quality sound, don’t need multiple channels and you don’t mind paying the upper range.
Check price and reviews: Grace Design M101
Universal Audio 710TFD Twin-Finity
If you love the clean natural sound of a solid-state mic preamp design but also love the warm musical tone of the tube design. Wish you could get both in a single mic preamp? Then wish no more.
The guys at Universal Audio have combined a solid-state circuit and tube circuit to create the 710TFD Twin-Finity.
This hybrid design is a single channel mic preamp with a mic, line and instrument DI connection.
The Tone-Blending know on the front allows you to select between the solid-state and tube sound or blend both.
Check price and reviews: Universal Audio 710TFD Twin-Finity Single-Channel Microphone Preamp
Black Lion Audio B173 Quad
The Black Lion B170 mic preamp has four-channel with a 1073 preamplification circuit, Cinemag input and a Transformer-balanced output.
This mic preamp design combines the vintage characteristic of 1073 with modern qualities for plenty of clarity, reduced noise floor and lower distortion level.
Unlike other 1073 preamp designs that have a dark, thick tone, the Black Lion has a brighter, cleaner sound.
Well built and at a very reasonable price when you consider what you get with this 4-channel mic preamp.
Check price and reviews: Black Lion Audio B173 Quad – 4 Channel Mic Preamp