The 10 Best Mic Preamps Under $1000

As you build your home studio you’ll hear a lot about which gear is the most important.

Some will shout “you need a better audio interface!” or “upgrade from free VSTs!” while others will tell you need the perfect vintage microphone.

But the true audio pros will tell you to invest in a great microphone preamp—and they’re not wrong.

In most cases, an outboard mic preamp is a huge step up from the ones that come built-in to your audio interface.

But buying a mic preamp is intimidating. There’s so many out there and even the cost-effective mic preamps can be expensive…

Don’t worry, it’s not hard once you know what to look for in a mic preamp and which affordable options are out there.

Here are the 10 best affordable mic preamps on the market today.

What is a mic preamp?

A mic preamp (or microphone preamplifier) is a device that increases the level of the audio signal from a microphone until it is strong enough to connect to other studio equipment.

It’s the first place in your signal chain where gain is added to your signal.

Many audio interfaces come with onboard microphone preamps. With this type of interface you don’t specifically need an outboard mic preamp.

But not all mic preamps are created equal… Every mic pre (no matter how transparent it claims to be) has its own sound.

Every mic pre (no matter how transparent it claims to be) has its own sound.

It may seem subtle at first, but high-end mic preamps are coveted in the pro audio community for a reason.

The sound of your preamp is the “baked-in” tone of your recordings. Sometimes it’s not easy to hear unless you have a few different models side-by-side.

And even then, the influence of your preamps is much less important overall than the quality of the player, instrument they’re playing and the microphone you use to capture it.

But you will start to notice the effect of bad mic preamps in a busy session with lots of tracks stacked up.

The right preamp will enhance every signal you run through it, and the effect of lots of tracks makes it worth it!

The best Mic Preamps under $1000:

1. Focusrite ISA One

Channels: 1
Street Price: $539.99 USD
Focusrite’s handsome ISA One desktop preamp is based on the design of their legendary vintage console.

The ISA’s transformer coupled design sounds clean yet flattering with lots of gain on tap. A great choice for all around preamp duties.

2. Golden Age Pre73

Channels: 1
Street Price: $349.99 USD

The Golden Age Project Pre73 was one of the first affordable preamps based on the circuit design of the legendary Neve 1073 preamp.

The Pre73 isn’t quite a dead-on clone of the 1073, but it comes very close to the pleasing character of a Neve style preamp for an extremely reasonable price.

Nothing beats the tone of a Neve-style preamp for studio vocals!

Nothing beats the tone of a Neve-style preamp for studio vocals!

3. Universal Audio Twinfinity

Channels: 1
Street Price: $899 USD

This entry pushes the definition of “affordable”, but it’s worth it if you can stretch your budget a bit.

The Twinfinity is based on a unique topology that allows you to go from tube warmth to solid state tightness and definition at the turn of a dial.

That gives you the best of both worlds—like having two preamps in one.

4. Warm Audio WA12 MKII

Channels: 1
Street Price: $469 USD

Warm Audio’s first breakthrough product was the WA12 preamp.

Based around the design of the classic API 312, the WA12 is shockingly affordable for how great it sounds.

API preamps are renowned for their punchy upper mids and fast transients

Get the classic 70’s American console sound without breaking the bank!

5. Black Lion Auteur MK2

Channels: 2
Street Price: $399 USD

Black Lion is a boutique builder that specializes in hi-fi audio mods to common prosumer gear.

Their Auteur dual channel preamp is an original design that’s another great choice on an intermediate budget.

The sound of the Auteur bridges the gap between clean and coloured with a clean front end and transformer output stage.

6. FMR Audio RNP

Channels: 2
Street Price: $480 USD

FMR Audio’s RNP stands for ‘Really Nice Preamp.’ True to its name, this a great dual channel mic preamp with tons of clean gain available.

FMR Audio’s RNP stands for ‘Really Nice Preamp.’

The RNP is less coloured than some of the other offerings on this list, but sometimes you need it clean!

If you’re looking for a great pair of preamps with a natural sound, try theFMR RNP.

7. ART Pro MPA II

Channels: 2
Street Price: $319.00 USD

The ART pro MPA II is a real tube microphone preamplifier for a great price.

Many pros dismiss budget tube gear as a gimmick, but this preamp delivers the goods.

With tons of features like adjustable impedance and plate voltage (and onboard mid/side decoding!) it’s extremely versatile.

And the tube tone is a great warm front end for the sterile digital environment of a DAW.

8. Black Lion B173

Channels: 1
Street Price: $499

The Black Lion B173 is another Neve-style preamp at a great price.

The output trim control is perfect for getting just the right amount of drive and colouration from the Cinemag transformer coupled input section.

9. Warm Audio WA73

Channels: 1
Street Price: $599 USD

The market for budget-friendly Neve-style preamps is getting more crowded every day. The WA73 is Warm Audio’s take on the classic preamplifier circuit.

Featuring authentic UK-made Carnhill transformers, the WA73 is a great option to get the sound of 70s British consoles into your recordings.

10. Fredenstein V.A.S.

Channels: 1
Street Price: $299 USD

Fredenstein is new player on the budget pro-audio scene. but comes with an impressive offering in the V.A.S preamp.

With pro features like an insert point, adjustable input impedance and output stage gain trim, the V.A.S is an outboard preamp worth considering.

Preamplification station

Microphone preamps are one of the most exciting pieces of gear to buy for your studio

They all have their own unique qualities and character to impart to your recordings.

Now that you have an idea of which preamps are available, go find out which one is your next studio purchase.

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