Best Bass Preamp for Recording

Best Bass Preamp for Recording

Every bassist knows that decent technique and musicality of the performance are crucial parts of playing the bass. But we, audio engineers, know that the tone and, more importantly, tone-shaping capabilities are as crucial. It’s quite a difficult task to get a perfect bass tone, especially when it comes to home recording studios. So in this article, we will help you to find the best bass preamp for recording.

Top 7 Best Bass Preamp for Recording

  1. Warm Audio TB12 Tone Beast
  2. Warm Audio WA12 MKII
  3. Universal Audio SOLO/610
  4. Chandler Limited REDD.47
  5. Universal Audio LA-610 Mk II
  6. Avalon U5
  7. API 512c 500 Series

Bass Preamp for Recording Buying Guide

The first question you might ask yourself is, do you even need a bass preamp? Preamp is a clever piece of circuitry that allows you to change the tone of your bass guitar before it is amplified. So naturally, bass amps already have built-in preamps. And if you have a bass guitar with an active pick-up system, it basically also has a preamp.

And you’d think if you own one of those things or both, you’re good to go. Well, that’s only partly true. On the one hand, you’re perfectly equipped to record and produce very decent bass guitar sound. But on the other hand, you somewhat lack versatility, especially when you own either the amp or the bass with active pick-ups.

Adding a preamp to the mix will give you significantly more options when it comes to shaping the sound of a bass. And having this kind of versatility is crucial for any home production studio or any studio at all, for that matter.

Of course, you can do just fine without a preamp and use only VST plugins. Pretty decent results can be achieved that way, but considering a relatively reasonable price on hardware bass preamps, the value you add to a home studio by owning one gets significantly higher. And, thus, choosing the best bass preamp for recording might be your priority.

Best Bass Preamp for Recording Reviews

Warm Audio TB12 Tone Beast

Warm Audio TB12 Tone Beast

Pros
  • Relatively low price
  • High versatility
Cons
  • None that we know of
See price @ Amazon / @ Sweetwater
Best features and specs

Warm Audio TB12 Tone Beast shares its DNA with a vintage API 312 preamp, which is a pretty impressive heritage, to say the least. The ability to switch between different types of transformers and capacitors gives you almost unprecedented variability in choosing tone and coloration. Or you can bypass transformers altogether and get a stellar ultra-clean and transparent tone.

User impressions

Users are quite impressed with Warm Audio TB12 Tone Beast as it is a very reliable and versatile preamp. It will make the character of the bass subtle, not easily noticeable by the average listener. Not only that, but Tone Beast can make your bass sound meaty and thick when you’re engaging the transformers. In addition to that, Tone Beast also can be turned into a hefty distortion box with a lot of gain headroom. The only downside is that it can take you some time to get used to all the features that it’s generously packed with.

What we think

It’s rather impressive how many different tones you can get out of one 1U rack unit with so few knobs and buttons. Warm Audio TB12 Tone Beast is also impressive in the way it’s operated. In a matter of seconds, you can adjust the level, apply the high-pass filter, and dial in the preferable character. Considering the price for this preamp is rather humble, it doesn’t feel cheap at all. It doesn’t feel like any compromises were made whatsoever.

Bottomline

Warm Audio TB12 Tone Beast is a perfect choice for audio producers who are looking for a highly versatile preamp that gives you a lot of choices when it comes to the character and the tone of the sound. Apart from its price and versatility, it also acts as a mic pre or an amplifier for a DI electric guitar which pushes its versatility even further.

Warm Audio WA12 MKII

Warm Audio WA12 MKII

Pros
  • Relatively low price
  • 48V phantom power
Cons
  • Not a rack mount unit
See price @ Amazon / @ Sweetwater
Best features and specs

You can consider Warm Audio WA12 MKII to be a little brother of TB12 Tone Beast. If TB12 is all about versatility, this one is dedicated strictly to warmth. Apart from switching the input impedance, there’s nothing much you can do in terms of shaping the sound. But the thing is, you don’t really have to do it in the first place. From the get-go, it sounds extremely warm and yet, somehow, very clear and crisp.

User impressions

Users like Warm Audio WA12 MKII for its simplicity in terms of UI and understandability of the owner’s manual. It has a unique sonic signature that can’t be described only by having a character. There’s much more to it. It is more edgy, crisp, detailed, very noticeable, and with the warmth that all users find quite desirable. Users noted that with the help of this preamp, the bass could sound punchy and a bit distorted, but at the same time, it remains quite clear.

What we think

Warm Audio WA12 MKII is a pretty impressive and mighty little beast when it comes to the sound it can produce. But what we didn’t like about it is its form factor. We believe that there wasn’t any reason whatsoever not to make it a 1U rackmount unit. But instead, it has to sit on a table or a shelf.

Bottomline

Warm Audio WA12 MKII is a perfect choice for audio producers who are looking for a very simple but yet powerful preamp box that is highly capable of making everything sound more warm and crisp. And since it has built-in phantom power, you can also connect a condenser mic to it.

Universal Audio SOLO/610

Universal Audio SOLO/610

Pros
  • Made by Universal Audio
  • Tube preamp
Cons
  • Weird form factor
See price @ Sweetwater
Best features and specs

Universal Audio SOLO/610 is based on the sound of a vintage Putnam 610 console, and it’s, of course, made by the company that is first and foremost known for the build quality of their gear. Universal Audio SOLO/610 gives you a very distinguishably vintage tube sound but with very modern sonic characteristics to it.

User impressions

Users say that Universal Audio SOLO/610 has a pretty intuitive and straightforward UI. This mighty preamp can be clean to a certain point that you wouldn’t particularly notice. At the same time, it can provide nice crunchy distortion, thickness with noticeable harmonic enhancement. SOLO/610 can make the bass sound pushy and at the same time, it can soften all the parts that sound harsh. Users add that you can get some really classy vintage sounds out of this preamp.

What we think

Although it is not a rack unit, it’s a very stylish and elegant box with a stainless steel chassis. Even if you didn’t use it often, it still would add value to your studio just by sitting on your desk, looking pretty. But it wouldn’t be very wise not to use it. Because what it actually does is adding a certain charm and a vintage character on anything you put through it.

Bottomline

Universal Audio SOLO/610 is a perfect choice for audio producers who are looking for a robust modern preamp with a noticeable vintage heritage. One might argue that not every sound benefits from a vintage tube flavor, and for exactly this reason you have the ability to turn the coloration down or turn it off altogether.

Chandler Limited REDD.47

Chandler Limited REDD.47

Pros
  • Sound of legendary Abbey Roads studio
Cons
  • A bit pricey
See price @ Sweetwater
Best features and specs

Chandler Limited REDD.47 is a mic preamp that thoroughly recreates tube line amps that were used in EMI REDD.51 recording consoles. Those consoles were custom-built for the legendary Abbey Road Studio and became its signature sound. These days, those consoles are either non-existent or in the hands of private collectors. So when someone gives you an opportunity to sound like The Beatles, you should definitely take it.

User impressions

Users like Chandler Limited REDD.47 for its UI, which is super intuitive and user-friendly. It provides fine coloration and dirtiness of the sound that is controlled. REDD.47 sounds larger but noticeably softer on the bottom end. Also, it has a dynamic, punchy mid-range character and a subtle, attractive grainy character at the top end. Users say that REDD.47 has the versatility to deliver fine, clean and delicate, or strong and colorful, character equally well.

What we think

You may easily find Chandler Limited REDD.47 to be somewhat pricey. But considering that this preamp makes everything you put through it sound like a legend, is it really that pricey? Of course, you also may say that this preamp is just a one-trick pony, but we believe that if the trick amazes you every time, it’s totally worth it.

Bottomline

Chandler Limited REDD.47 is a perfect choice for audio producers who are looking for a legendary vintage tone that just makes everything sound better and more expensive. Of course, as it was mentioned before, not everything benefits from a vintage flavor, especially a flavor that strong. And using it on everything, of course, wouldn’t be very wise, but just the option of making your studio sound like Abbey Roads is just priceless.

Universal Audio LA-610 Mk II

Universal Audio LA-610 Mk II

Pros
  • Addition of opto-compressor
  • 2U rackmount unit
  • Made by Universal Audio
Cons
  • Might be more than you need
See price @ Sweetwater
Best features and specs

Universal Audio LA-610 Mk II isn’t just a tube preamp but actually a fully-featured modern channel strip with a 2 band EQ and an opto-compressor. The preamp unit is based on a SOLO/610 that was already mentioned on this list and the compressor is a slightly modernized version of a legendary Teletronix LA-2A, which is a great benefit in itself.

User impressions

Users agree that Universal Audio LA-610 Mk II is pretty flexible in terms of gain staging. With a higher gain, you can get a clean and transparent sound. With higher input settings, you can have that desirable warmth. Users add that this preamp is quite versatile and sounds equally good on everything from bass to vocals.

What we think

On one hand, if you are looking for just a preamp, there wouldn’t be any reason to pay extra for features you don’t need. But on the other hand, it’s hard to imagine the situation where sound wouldn’t benefit from LA-2A compression. Universal Audio LA-610 Mk II gives you exactly that opportunity. To have an almost perfect preamp and a legendary compressor all in one package.

Bottomline

Universal Audio LA-610 Mk II is a perfect choice for audio producers who are looking for a preamp with a fully featured channel strip that also gives them an opportunity to have an LA-2A compressor at their disposal. One might feel that this might be a little bit excessive, but we believe that it is a great opportunity of having an LA-2A if you, of course, don’t own one.

Avalon U5

Avalon U5

Pros
  • Very easy to use
  • Compact form factor
Cons
  • A bit heavy
See price @ Sweetwater
Best features and specs

Avalon U5 is a DI preamp with very intuitive and easy-to-use controls. Apart from the conventional gain and high cut, you also have a tone selector that lets you choose from 6 different types of characters. Additionally, it has an extremely low noise floor which means that it’ll always sound very clean and crisp.

User impressions

Users say that Avalon U5 has a bit of a futuristic-looking UI and yet is very intuitive and straightforward. This preamp is ultra-quiet and very useful for maintaining a clean, balanced signal path. It makes the plugged-in bass sound really beefy with a solid low end and lots of grunt. Avalon U5 doesn’t have a really noticeable strong color, but it adds what sounds like depth and solidity to the tone. The downside that some live giggers pointed out is that this preamp is a bit bulky and heavy.

What we think

It seems like Avalon U5 was intended as a very robust and reliable workhorse. It doesn’t really have anything extra special about it, but yet it does its job thoroughly and consistently. Although there are 6 different types of character to choose from, it always sounds very crisp and clean even when pushed really hard.

Bottomline

Avalon U5 is a perfect choice for audio producers who are looking for a very reliable and clean DI preamp for day-to-day usage. Although the tone selection is rather noticeable, this preamp never sounds exaggerated and thus could be used for any possible audio production job. That being said, it’s very hard to make it sound overdriven, so if you’re into those kinds of things, you probably should pass this along.

API 512c 500 Series

API 512c 500 Series

Pros
  • Vintage API sound
Cons
  • 3U rack unit
See price @ Sweetwater
Best features and specs

API 512c 500 Series has its ancestry in vintage 1967 mic preamps and shares the same sonic characteristics. That being said, it easily meets modern demands and has considerably more headroom than its original counterpart. This means that you can push it rather hard and still get a very clean and polished tone. It has the kind of tone that is fundamentally vintage but yet never gets old.

User impressions

Users like that API 512c 500 Series sounds so good that with some basses, almost no EQ is needed for it to sit nicely in the mix. It also emphasizes distinct mids of heavy guitars that make the guitars cut through the mix without sounding thin and losing weight. Users add that at the low end it sounds very fast and clean, and at higher gain – fast and punchy.

What we think

API 512c 500 Series is a perfectly capable and overall excellent preamp, but we think that it should have been in a different form factor. Although it has different mount options, slim 3U rack units just generally don’t feel right to us. It’s either covering the empty space in your rack with something or constantly fighting with a desire to fill it up with a lot of units of the same size.

Bottomline

API 512c 500 Series is a perfect choice for audio producers who are looking for a very capable and versatile preamp with a vintage character that doesn’t distract. Its round and polished tone is highly suitable for any occasion, especially when it comes to creating a very defined and clean sound. And don’t mind our personal opinion on rack mounts, just put it on the table, and you will be fine.

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