Affordable quality mic pre-amps


macrumors regular
Oct 23, 2005
i did some a/b comparisons of the pres in my collection a while back and heres a summary for you that may help

digi 002 console, digi 003 rack, presonus digimax 96k, and a mackie onyx 800r, the brick, art mpa gold, art v3 tube mp, mbox 2

all pres tested with a u87, and audio technica 4047, an sm57, and a senn 421

results rundown:

1-great river - always sounded the best against the other pres. most depth, best low end response, never sounds fizzy or harsh. I wish i would have got one of these when i started recording. amazing on everything, especially bass and vocals. i wish i had a board with 24 of these things. very punchy. makes any mic you have sound 1000% better, 57s can be used on guitars again!

2- two way tie

onyx 800r/art mpa gold

onyx 800r - 8 channels, very clear, not over hyped, very versitile, good clean response that works well on drums and guitars. great dynamics and headroom

art mpa gold - 2 channels, upgraded cheap stock tubes(very easy) tons of variety in sound. great for getting nice tube clipping. has lots and lots of things to toy around with, mic impedance, plate voltage, tube saturation. sounds awesome awesome on snare drum, kick drum, vox(with high plate voltage), and clean guitars. all around great performer. easy to use

3 - groove tubes "the brick" - a little low on the gain side. upgraded the tubes. super awesome on bass and aggressive vocals. cool on acoustic guitar, crappy on a kick drum. implies a heavy "tube sound" on the signal(reduced extreme highs and lows, compressed mid range). very useful and relatively cheap.

5 - digi 003 rack internal pres/

digi 003 - decent overall pres, does not have the depth of of the mackie or great river but can be useful for things like toms or maybe guitars. not a bad pre but not spectacular. would always use the mackie before the digi 003

6 - presonus digimax - another decent pre. kind of harsh and fizzy but much better than a lot of stock board pres(mbox 2 and digi 002 im pointing at you). lacks a super clear low end but still very acceptable. sounds good better with dynamics than condensers, no go for ribbon mics. probably would not buy again and only use in a pinch.

7 - tie for last place

digi 002 - very flat(boring) sounding. no low end or punch. bad for vocals or anything that will be the focus of your mix. can be very harsh and nasally. dislike the most. good for demos. very noisy

mbox 2 pres - low headroom. sounds ok with dynamic mics but lacks actual dynamics. noise ridden. bad for condensers or anything with a dynamic range. avoid at all costs.

i hope that this helps you make a choice. to sum it up:

the great river is the best pre ive ever used. the mackie would be best if you need 8 channels (which you said you dont). and the art mpa gold would prbably fit your bill the best. lots of features, relatively cheap, great sound once the tubes are changed (they come with crappy tubes)


macrumors newbie
Feb 9, 2009
Detroit, MI
It's probably not really what your looking for, and you do have to stick with Logic pro, but I have been really satisfied with my apogee duet. It's probably the best piece of equipment I've purchased since I got into Audio Production.

It's got great conversion and preamps, but it is a bit limiting as to what you can do with it.


macrumors member
Jul 3, 2009
What A/D interfaces have the best pre-amps? I've been disappointed with every (admittedly low-end) interface I've owned, but I'd still like to have everything in one box (ideally with an analog compressor, but I guess beggars can't be choosers). I see there are some pre-amps with A/D and SPDIF -- is it easy/quality to route that directly into a mac's optical audio in?

I hear decent things about the Apogee, but the conventional wisdom always seems to be that you'll never get a high-quality pre-amp in an interface.


macrumors 601
Jul 18, 2002
I hear decent things about the Apogee, but the conventional wisdom always seems to be that you'll never get a high-quality pre-amp in an interface.
perhaps add the API A2D and the Metric Halo gear to that short list. typically, when you're spending that kind of money, the pieces are separate.


macrumors newbie
Oct 7, 2009
Langhorne, PA
Actually, the apogee isn't too bad. Of course its not as good since its part of an interface, but it is good enough if you're starting out. I am currently using it for the work I do for my remote recording company.

For me, it was the right choice, because the ensemble is a great interface, and has decent pres. This is allowing me to save up money for a really good set of pres, most likely Millenia (we do mostly live classical remote recordings). So instead of buying mid quality pres to hold me over, I invested in a great interface that has decent pres. This way, I've already got my interface that I'll be using for a while. Now I just have to save up a ton of money for the millenia. :p


macrumors newbie
Oct 7, 2009
Langhorne, PA
Honestly, the best mic pres that I've used are the Millennia Pres. I know that they are expensive (I think a 2 channel is about $1800), but they are the most transparent preamps that I have ever used.

I guess I should note that I do mostly classical recording, so transparency is a very important factor for me.


macrumors regular
Jul 19, 2006
Denver, CO
chiming in...

Looks like it's been a while since anyone posted to this thread. Some new things have been happening in the preamp world since anyone last posted. UA 710 was released, if anyone owns one, I'd like to hear their impression (I've read good things), Grace Design released the m103 and m501 (shout out for Colorado), and I didn't see anyone mention the Summit Audio 2BA-221.

I've personally used the 2BA and it's sibling the TLA-50 leveling amp. I found them to be noisier than I expected, but the setup had some other cheap wall-warts in the circuit which may have been causing problems. Other than what may have been just a grounding problem, I liked both units very much, the TLA-50 is a nice little leveling amp, to which the 2BA supplies some nice tube warmth. Worked great on instruments, but the noise kept me from ever trying vocals.

I'm dying to get my hands on an m103 and hear what Grace can do in the EQ/Comp world. I've used the original 101 and found it to be a crystal clear pre, at a great price point. Amazing on acoustic instruments, vocals, anything really that you need a good clean sound.


macrumors member
Jan 16, 2008
What are pre-amps for? is the same as a headphone amplifier? in what way does it help in music quality?

P.S: what is the story with FLAC? how can i get 24 bit-96 kHz FLAC HQ format? where can I buy this?


macrumors G4
Jan 5, 2006
Redondo Beach, California
What are pre-amps for? is the same as a headphone amplifier? in what way does it help in music quality?

P.S: what is the story with FLAC? how can i get 24 bit-96 kHz FLAC HQ format? where can I buy this?
Mics have very low level output and it needs to be raised before you can do anything with the signal. All audio interfaces have built-in mic preamps. In fact a mic preamp is inside anything that you plug a mic into. So, when most people say "preamp" they usually mean a very high quality external or stand alone preamp and not the one built into the computer's audio interface. But when comparing audio interfaces or mixers people might talk about the quality (or lack of quality) of the built-in mic preamp.

A stand alone mic preamp is likely one of the last pieces of gear you'd buy, You'd buy better quality mics first

FLAC is a file format like MP3. It is not a product but a description of a file type. You can't buy a format. Apple products use something like FLAC called "Apple Lossless format" and you can use that. It is really the same thing. But if you need FLAC format files to send to someone else you can convert to FLAC from "lossles" or WAV using free software like "XLD" Google will find XLD for you
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macrumors newbie
Jul 18, 2011
Looking for a pre for my home studio as well. Do you guys think apogee mini-me is a viable option? Just wondering if it is still supported by latest OSX.


macrumors 6502a
Jan 9, 2012
Boston, MA
The Yamaha N8 has REALLY nice preamps. I used the board a few months ago, but am trying to sell it now because it's way too much for my needs at the moment.

Also have a really nice Digi system with Pro Tools 9 at work, and it sounds great. I've also heard good things about the new Apogee Duet.


macrumors regular
Mar 22, 2012
For the brave cheapskates, I highly recommend Seventh Circle Audio kits. The chassis (cheap if you buy in a bundle) holds eight preamps, ranging in price from $150 to $350 a channel.

He has amazingly spot-on versions of API, Neve, Millenium and John Hardy twin servo preamps.

His API clones sound nearly identical to (and I swear better than) my neighbor's API 512c preamp.

Not too hard to build and you can have lots of channels of boutique preamps for the price of prosumer crud.


macrumors member
May 6, 2012
I've spent the last few weeks looking at just about every good quality 1 and 2 channel mic pre-amp available.....

I went with the DAV BG-1
I wanted 2 good high quality clean channels for vocals, mic'd instruments and keyboards.

This unit is rock solid and is ideal for studio or stage.


Mick at DAV was the lead designer/engineer for Decca Records for 28 years.

Considering the caliber of DAVelectronics' clientel,
I was greatly impressed with how well I was treated.
All my concerns were answered in a friendly, professional and timely manner.

It's no wonder that word of his product line is spreading so rapidly.

I hope what I have learned with help some of you with your decision.

My next priority is a great all purpose vocal mic
and a good 2 channel compressor.

I'll keep you posted.
Hi there,

it's definitely a good choice to take the bg1. I tested the 500 version of this preamp and it sounded clear and great without much trying out. They are also great for drums - especially toms and snares. I just sent an email to the official bg1 email address and the owner answered himself:) the end I decided to buy an A-Designs Pacifica...which is a lot more expensive but it's more versatile and the main thing I use it for is drum overhead recordings....

Can you send us some samples of your recordings???
Would be cool.....if you like I can send you some drum recordings as well..



macrumors 6502
May 29, 2012
Bang fer yer Buck?

ART Pro MPA - The ORIGINAL Black one.

3 easy mods to an amazing pre!

Tubes, Bridging two signal path points, and 2 opamps - SWEEEET

I went as far as getting rid of my Avalon - which doesn't say tons, cause the 737 is a piece of crap!

I'll throw this modded ART Pro MPA up against any pre up to about the $1800 range

All in, cost of the pre and components, I'm all in for around $200 per build (Buying at $125-150 and raiding my stashes of tubes and opamps)

Something to consider.

Anyone wants mod info, just hit me up ;)

(Have used these on multiple major label projects, with Blue KIWI, JZ Stereo Flamingo - Magic Ear - Global Pre - Dolly - Pearl - Etc - U87's, TLM103's and TLM149's, etc)


macrumors 6502
Jan 11, 2008
This is a great thread that got me started for a replacement ore amp to my profile 2626.

How does the dav BG-1 compare today? Will it ( or any preamp) sound okay going through my 2626?

Any new recommendations?

( Ill be using this standalone for vocals and guitars) I saw that dav makes a version that accepts one xlr and also has one DI. I wonder how this DI and the preamps compare to the 2626.

Thanks for the great info!
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macrumors 6502a
Aug 17, 2012
someone above mentioned the GR pre - and I have to agree - it's where I think Neve would have ended up today if they kept developing the 1073.

BAE's version of the 1073 is also fantastic; both have their own character and both are more what i'd call "flavour" differences than one being better over the other.

I have no experience with the reissued 1073lb 500 series pre.

API's 512c is a .... dare i say it .. less colorful example of a terrific preamp. It just does its job w/o any fanfare or frills and typically the end product will be no worse for it (usually better).

All pre's do their own thing to your signal - which you prefer is up to you.

One of the reasons i'm partial to the GR is that the DI is simply outstanding on bass guitar. It's a good purchase that covers a wide array of input needs.



macrumors 68000
Jul 17, 2009
Der Wald
If you are lacking both a PreAmp and A/D converters then just getting the Apogee Duet is your best bang for the buck. Great converters with good PreAmps. And the best thing is that it will continue to serve you well if you expand your Preamp collection.

Two PreAmps not mentioned so far are the Presonus ADL600 and the Daking Mic Pre One. The former is a two channel PreAmp and latter a "brick". Either of these can be used for just about anything you can throw at them. The ADL in particular imparts some color in the form of "warmth".