The Best Preamp Plugins

The Best Preamp Plugins

We all know that EQs and compressors are the best tools to shape the tone and dynamics of your mix. But there are other ways to affect the sonics of your production. Using a preamp, for example, can give your sound a much-needed character and shape its tonal balance even before you apply an EQ to it. So in this article, we’ll find out what is the best preamp plugin to use on any mix.

Top 7 Best Preamp Plugins

  1. Audiority Pre X7
  2. Waves Scheps 73
  3. United Plugins Front DAW
  4. Arturia 1973-Pre
  5. Arturia TridA-Pre
  6. Arturia V76-Pre
  7. Mellowmuse CS1V Console Channel

Preamp Plugins Buying Guide

Usually, when we say “preamp,” what we really mean is “vintage”. Or at least analog, for that matter. With very few exceptions, most digital preamps, available on the market today, are designed to give your sound some non-linear behavior in a very pleasant way. Most of the time, manufacturers model and recreate various vintage equipment to achieve this. For us, audio engineers, this means the opportunity to sound like the records we grew up on without breaking a bank.

Important features

Most of the digital preamps you can find in one way or the other emulate the preamps that were used in various vintage consoles. And the question is the sound of which console would be preferable in which mixing situation? When it comes to your sound, the only mixing engineer who knows the answer to that question is you. And therefore, with this list, we’ve decided to give you as much variability as possible when it comes to coloration and character.

We also wanted to include preamps that would give you a significant amount of control over the tone. But at the same time, some of the entries on this list were meant for audio engineers who prefer a fast workflow. Of course, when it comes to the character itself, it is always rather convenient to have as many options as possible. So we’ve tried to make a process of choosing between gritty American style of console and more polished British sound to be more convenient. And remember that while choosing the best preamp plugin, you must rely first and foremost on your own musicality and common sense.

Best Preamp Plugins Reviews

Audiority Pre X7

Audiority Pre X7

Pros
  • CPU friendly
  • Low priced
Cons
  • 64 bits OS only
See price @ Plugin Boutique
Best features and specs

Audiority Pre X7 is a preamp based on a vintage tube amplifier for a bass guitar. A few adjustments were made to expand its usability on other instruments and sound sources. It has a high-pass filter and a tone control which lets you make the sound darker or brighter before it reaches the output tubes. It also has a brickwall limiter that lets you push it to the extremes.

User impressions

Users say that Audiority Pre X7 is a preamp with the best tube emulation ever as it produces the sound which is particularly close to the real thing. This plugin has a very good tone and is easily operated. It has a very straightforward and user-friendly GUI and is extremely fun to use. Audiority Pre X7 is a very versatile plugin and can be used on a range of instruments and also vocals. The downside that is noted by some users is that this plugin cuts a tiny bit of sub frequencies which you need to be aware of if you plan to use it on complex busses.

What we think

We’ve been using Audiority Pre X7 for quite a few years now, and it must be said that it’s a wonderful tool for adding warmth to the sound without making it overly exaggerated. We must warn you, though, that the HQ button in the top left corner should be engaged at all times. It’s not that it sounds bad without it. It just sounds disproportionally better with it engaged.

Bottomline

Audiority Pre X7 is a perfect choice for audio producers who are looking for a preamp with a very gentle tube distortion that has a very authentic non-linear behavior but, at the same time, doesn’t sound too vintage. And given that the price for this preamp is extremely low, you should definitely check it out for yourself.

Waves Scheps 73

Waves Scheps 73

Pros
Cons
  • None that we know of
See price @ Waves Audio / @ Sweetwater
Best features and specs

Waves Scheps 73 is based on a preamp unit from a legendary vintage Neve mixing desk. This plugin was made in collaboration with great Andrew Scheps, a mixing engineer who won several Grammy’s for his work on Adelle’s “21” and Red Hot Chili Peppers “Stadium Arcadium”. It has a dedicated EQ section from Neve 1073 console. The EQ and the preamp behave exactly as the original unit did in every little detail. For convenience, the stereo version of the plugin has built-in mid-side processing.

User impressions

Users like Waves Scheps 73 for the sound that is unbelievably punchy and drastic. This plugin has an amazing ability to find the best frequencies in a sound to process. This preamp almost instantly gives your tracks a warm and fat sound. Scheps 73 can tame the boomy low end on live recordings and give warmth in return with a nicely controlled low end. Also, by applying upper-mid boost to said live recordings, several users got a bit of crispness to the sound without any undesirable harshness. Waves Scheps 73 proves its versatility when used on individual instruments in terms of not losing the characteristic sound of that specific part.

What we think

We believe that Waves Scheps 73 is a very powerful preamp with a very convincing and iconic vintage sound. Having an EQ doesn’t hurt either since you can shape the sound very thoroughly before it hits a preamp. Although you won’t use it exclusively on every production, you certainly will use it a lot. Needless to say that it sounds extremely vintage, but at the same time, it isn’t exuberant, which makes this preamp very usable in more modern projects.

Bottomline

Waves Scheps 73 is a perfect choice for audio engineers who are looking for a classic Neve sound. Since it was made by Waves Audio, you can be sure that the sound quality is simply sublime. And considering that Andrew Scheps wasn’t there just as a commercial attraction, this plugin most certainly is one of the best Neve emulations you could find.

United Plugins Front DAW

United Plugins Front DAW

Pros
  • 2-week free trial
  • CPU friendly
Cons
  • None, really
See price @ Plugin Boutique
Best features and specs

United Plugins Front DAW is a rather interesting take on virtual preamps. With this one, you have not one but 3 different types of consoles. You have a classic British console, a rather aggressive American, and a silky German tube console. You can freely switch between these 3 types of saturations, and with the addition of United Plugins custom VARM technology, you can be sure that this plugin will behave as randomly as a real analog console would do.

User impressions

Users say that United Plugins Front DAW has a very straightforward and user-friendly GUI. This plugin adds gain and subtle saturation to the tracks. Using VARM will make each track sound slightly different than another despite the same settings. Users like the variability that this preamp offers with its 3 types of saturation circuits, be it the fat British consoles, the legendary punchy American style input, or the velvet-sounding colorful vintage German tube console.

What we think

Although United Plugins Front DAW sounds and behaves rather amazingly, this isn’t the best part about this plugin. What really inspired us is that when trial time runs out, you’ll get what guys from United Plugins called “a second-hand version”. Basically, you get a free version of this plugin with limited functionality. Some buttons will “fall off” from the GUI permanently, thus preventing you from using it. We believe it’s a rather fresh and interesting take on free software.

Bottomline

United Plugins Front DAW is a perfect choice for audio producers who are looking for a very versatile and straightforward vintage preamp, that can provide different types and levels of saturation and impressive flexibility. Although it’s very reasonably priced, you can actually use this plugin for free with limited functionality after the trial runs out.

Arturia 1973-Pre

Arturia 1973-Pre

Pros
  • CPU friendly
  • Reasonably priced
Cons
  • 64 bit only
See price @ Sweetwater / @ Plugin Boutique
Best features and specs

Neves 1073 always were the Holy Grail for audio engineers around the world, so no wonder that a lot of audio software manufacturers are trying to recreate it. This take is a little bit different since Arturia is rather famous for its physical modeling technology, which lets them recreate the behavior of each piece of circuitry individually rather than just the output of the console.

User impressions

Users are quite impressed with Arturia 1973-Pre as it has unbelievable warmth, clarity, and sound really analog. It will add that Neve-esque coloration desirable by many. It’s quite versatile as you can apply it on vocals, busses, and individual instruments.

What we think

Arturia 1973-Pre is an extremely accurate and thorough recreation of a legendary vintage preamp. Apart from its amazing sound, it won our hearts just by the sheer feeling of using the real analog equipment that it gave us. The EQ section itself is another thing to be amazed by since it has midside capabilities and a simply stunning high-shelf knob.

Bottomline

Arturia 1973-Pre is a perfect choice for audio engineers who want to have the very authentic sound of a famous vintage preamp at their disposal, but with the convenience and reliability that only a digital plugin can offer. You can easily check it out yourself since it offers you a fully functioning demo with no limitation, except it will stop working after 30 minutes of usage.

Arturia TridA-Pre

Arturia TridA-Pre

Pros
  • Reasonably priced
Cons
  • 64 bit only
See price @ Sweetwater / @ Plugin Boutique
Best features and specs

Arturia TridA-Pre is modeled after a vintage Trident A Range console which was the centerpiece of London’s Trident Studio, where almost every British artists you can imagine made records. As we have established before, Arturia’s True Analog Emulation technology makes wonders and you can rely on the sound of this vintage preamp with a deep confidence.

User impressions

Users agree that Arturia TridA-Pre has a very gorgeous and user-friendly GUI. This preamp offers a very musical EQ and a fat, rich tone.

What we think

When it comes to vintage consoles, this one is incredibly rare. Truth be told, we’ve actually never heard of it before, but once we started testing it we were amazed how our tracks instantly started to sound exactly like the records we grew up on, and in our book this is enough of a reason to fall in love with it.

Bottomline

Arturia TridA-Pre is a perfect choice for audio producers who are looking for a preamp that will give them a very stylish analog sound with a very subtle vintage embellishment. Although it has a very capable built-in EQ with a lot of useful features, this one is really about color. And you can be sure that you will get plenty of it.

Arturia V76-Pre

Arturia V76-Pre

Pros
  • Reasonably priced
Cons
  • 64 bit only
See price @ Sweetwater / @ Plugin Boutique
Best features and specs

Arturia V76-Pre is based on the legendary vintage Telefunken preamps that were part of the iconic REDD consoles that were used in Abbey Road Studios. Chances are that you already know how they sound, but if you are still in doubt, think of Beatles “White Album” and that should give you a pretty accurate idea.

User impressions

Users like Arturia V76-Pre for the astonishing vintage tone of an iconic vintage tube console. It has a state-of-art, gorgeous, intuitive GUI. You can enhance your tracks with an eminently musical tone and high-quality EQ.

What we think

Since REDD consoles have such an iconic sound, there are a lot of manufacturers who are trying to recreate it with a variable degree of success. This one feels different, since this one doesn’t scream in your face with its “vintageness”. Instead it feels very subtle and contained. Just add a tape machine and you are golden.

Bottomline

Arturia V76-Pre is a perfect choice for audio engineers who are looking for a very convincing and believable 60’s tone, that adds subtle vintage flavor to any given material. As it is with every Arturia product, this preamp has a sublime sound quality and offers a free trial version.

Mellowmuse CS1V Console Channel

Mellowmuse CS1V Console Channel

Pros
  • Very simple and intuitive GUI
  • 2 analog console models
Cons
  • 64 bits only
See price @ Sweetwater / @ Plugin Boutique
Best features and specs

Mellowmuse CS1V Console Channel is a very simple and reliable analog saturation plugin. It’s not specified which two consoles were modeled, but with one you get a darker character and the other will give you a flatter frequency response. A simple switch gives you an option to choose between mono and stereo processing, where in stereo mode this plugin will add a bit of a crosstalk which is a distinguishable feature of vintage consoles.

User impressions

Users like Mellowmuse CS1V Console Channel for its sleek and glossy GUI. It also helps to bring the warmth and character to the tracks as it has harmonic distortion. This preamp will add depth and coloration of the analog console. Users say that the two knobs are specifically useful. Tone knob will subtly shave the top end off the track and slightly boost the low end, which together helps increase overall warmth. Drive knob simply adds more grit and harmonic distortion to the signal chain. Mellowmuse CS1V Console Channel is very versatile and sounds equally good on vocals and a range of other instruments.

What we think

Sometimes chasing vintage consoles emulations could be a bit distracting. Mellowmuse CS1V Console Channel gives you an opportunity to add character to the sound without worrying how authentic it is to its analog predecessor. It lets you focus on the music which the main thing here. It was clearly intended to be used throughout the whole mix on every track, so needless to say that it is very subtle even when pushed really hard.

Bottomline

Mellowmuse CS1V Console Channel is a perfect choice for audio producers who are looking for a vintage analog saturation plugin and do not worry about the authenticity and thoroughness of the modeling. It gives your sound a very distinguishable analog flavor that is so subtle that it can be used in almost every mixing situation imaginable. It may lack the grandeur of the other entries on this list but it gets the job done and that’s what matters.

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