The Best Tube Mic Preamps

The Best Tube Mic Preamps

Quick answer:

Universal Audio SOLO/610 – This is top suggestion to you if you’re looking for a versatile, well-built, great-sounding tube mic preamp that comes in a convenient and portable form factor.

ART Tube MP Microphone Preamp – If you’re looking for an extremely affordable, compact, easy-to-use, and versatile tube mic preamp that gives you a creamy and thick sound, check out the ART Tube MP.

Sometimes, all you need is a tube preamp to help you achieve a pleasant sound coloration to any recording, regardless of the mic you throw at it. Let’s help you  find the best tube mic preamps on the market.

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Table of Contents


About Our Top Choices

Universal Audio SOLO/610

Universal Audio SOLO/610@ Amazon / @ Sweetwater

More details…

Universal Audio SOLO/610 is a great choice if you’re looking for a versatile, well-built, great-sounding tube mic preamp that comes in a convenient and portable form factor.

Pros
  • Great sounding
  • Well-built
  • Versatile
  • Portable
Cons
  • Not exactly budget-friendly


ART Tube MP Microphone Preamp

ART Tube MP Microphone Preamp@ Amazon / @ Sweetwater

More details…

If you’re looking for an extremely affordable, compact, easy-to-use, and versatile tube mic preamp that gives you a creamy and thick sound, check out the ART Tube MP.

Pros
  • Affordable
  • Compact
  • Easy to use
  • Versatile
Cons
  • Doesn’t have a high‑impedance DI input
  • A power switch would have been great


Top 5 Best Tube Mic Preamps

  1. Universal Audio SOLO/610
  2. ART Tube MP Microphone Preamp
  3. ART Pro MPA II 2-channel Tube Microphone Preamp
  4. ART TPS II 2-channel Tube Microphone Preamp
  5. ART Tube MP Studio V3 Tube Microphone Preamp

Best Tube Mic Preamps Reviews


Universal Audio SOLO/610

Universal Audio SOLO/610

Pros
  • Great sounding
  • Well-built
  • Versatile
  • Portable
Cons
  • Not exactly budget-friendly
See price @ Amazon / @ Sweetwater

Universal Audio SOLO/610 is said to be one of the best quality in the industry, since it delivers the sound of the classic Putnam 610 console. It also comes in a very convenient and easily transportable form factor, which makes it a great choice to take with you.

Best features and specs

This preamp comes in a very solid and well-built form factor that is very portable, so it can travel with you over a long distance. Also, you’ll get level and gain controls that make it really easy to choose the desired type of coloration. This preamp gets you DI input, a high-pass filter, 48V phantom power, flexible dual impedance selection for DI and Mic inputs, and polarity reverse.

User impressions

Users tend to like that SOLO/610 is great for adding high-quality old-school tube character to any instrument and vocals. Users add that they like how it works as a DI box, with great results. They praise the build quality as well, saying that this unit has a sturdy build. Though, some wish that the price would be a bit lower.

What we think

What we like about this unit is its likeness to the Putnam 610 console. You get that charming warmth on anything you record. With it, bass becomes round and huge, drums are punchy and fat, and vocals are full of life. What’s not to love?

Bottomline

Universal Audio SOLO/610 is a great choice for someone who is looking for a versatile, well-built, great-sounding tube mic preamp that comes in a convenient and portable form factor. It lets you easily choose the desired amount of coloration. That said, if you’re on a tight budget, it would be better to look into other options on this list.


ART Tube MP Microphone Preamp

ART Tube MP Microphone Preamp

Pros
  • Affordable
  • Compact
  • Easy-to-use
  • Versatile
Cons
  • Doesn’t have a high‑impedance DI input
  • A power switch would have been great
See price @ Amazon / @ Sweetwater

It’s true that the ART Tube MP is likely the cheapest mic preamp on this list, though it’s mighty and capable of providing you with great tube warmth. Among its other benefits is having a pocket-size form factor which makes it extremely portable.

Best features and specs

ART Tube MP comes in a very compact form factor that makes it possible to take it with you literally everywhere. It has a classic 12AX7 tube that gives a fat, warm sound. Also, it gives up to 70 dB of gain, 48V phantom power, separate input and output gain controls, XLR and 1/4″ inputs, and a phase reverse switch.

User impressions

Users praise ART Tube MP for being a mighty little beast, versatile, sturdy built, and capable of delivering creamy and thick sound to recordings. Though, some users say that it would be good if this preamp would have a high-impedance DI input as well as a power switch. But, despite that, many users add that after purchasing this one, they were so amazed by the quality and sound that they acquired the next one right away.

What we think

What we like about ART Tube MP is the warm and smooth character that it gives to the microphones. Also, it’s pretty versatile as it works great with piezo pickups and acoustic guitars, as well as amplifiers, recorders, signal processors, and consoles. How is it possible not to like such a mighty little beast?

Bottomline

ART Tube MP is a great choice for someone who is looking for an extremely affordable, compact, easy-to-use, and versatile tube mic preamp that gives you a creamy and thick sound. Note that it doesn’t have a high‑impedance DI input and a power switch.


ART Pro MPA II 2-channel Tube Microphone Preamp

ART Pro MPA II 2-channel Tube Microphone Preamp

Pros
  • Well-built
  • Feature-packed
  • Great-sounding
Cons
  • Requires 2 rack spaces
  • Might need to change the tubes to achieve better sound
See price @ Amazon / @ Sweetwater

ART Pro MPA II is a good 2-channel tube mic preamp that has amazing capabilities for sound-shaping. It offers impedance control for each channel and makes it possible to easily find new colors for microphones.

Best features and specs

ART Pro MPA II is a 2-channel unit that offers you an almost unlimited amount of sonic range regardless of which mics you own. It’s possible because for each channel, you can select phantom power and it’s more than enough gain onboard. Also, it features variable input impedance, a per-channel low-cut filter, selectable support for side/mid mic setups, a possibility to operate in stereo or dual-mono and at normal or high plate voltage.

User impressions

Users say that ART Pro MPA II is a really versatile and well-built unit that adds amazing warmth, tonality, and presence for vocals and warmth for a range of recorded instruments. However, some users would be happier if this unit didn’t require 2 rack spaces. Other users said that in time, they had to change the tubes to acquire better sound.

What we think

What we like about ART Pro MPA II is its front panel as it’s very well-organized and features only necessary elements. It has 2 professional VU meters that display input and output levels, as well as multicolored LED tumblers that show tube gain in average or peak hold position.

Bottomline

ART Pro MPA II is a great choice for someone who is looking for a feature-packed, versatile, and great-sounding tube mic preamp that is capable of giving you a pleasantly warm sound. You can tweak the impedance knob to achieve a new color for the mic. Note that it requires 2 rack spaces and it’s a high possibility that you would need to change the tubes to acquire better sound.


ART TPS II 2-channel Tube Microphone Preamp

ART TPS II 2-channel Tube Microphone Preamp

Pros
  • Sturdy-built
  • Versatile
  • Good-sounding
Cons
  • Mirrored controls
See price @ Amazon / @ Sweetwater

It’s hard to find another 2-channel preamp aside from ART TPS II that is worth every penny and offers you great tube warmth. With its unique feature, Variable Valve Voicing, you can easily dial-in any amount of tube character.

Best features and specs

ART TPS II is an affordable and versatile 2-channel mic preamp that is worth having in your studio. It offers a Variable Valve Voicing technology, variable input impedance, a possibility being a DI box, and Output Protection Limiting feature to normalize levels and control overshoots before clipping appears.

User impressions

Users like ART TPS II for being a go-to unit, versatile, affordable, and offering 2-channels. Users add that this unit does an outstanding job and is very quiet. Also, users say that they enjoy the process of tweaking the coloration knob and listening to results. Though, some users were a bit displeased by finding out that this mic preamp has mirrored controls, and they had to spend a certain amount of time until it became less confusing for them.

What we think

What we like about ART TPS II is 2 features, one being the Variable Valve Voicing feature that lets us easily tweak the desired amount of coloration and the second being variable input impedance, which lets us choose the appropriate color for any microphone.

Bottomline

ART TPS II  is a great choice for someone who is looking for an affordable, sturdy-built, versatile, and good-sounding tube mic preamp that offers a Variable Valve Voicing feature that lets easily tweak the desired amount of coloration. Note that it has mirrored controls, which may cause some unpleasantries.


ART Tube MP Studio V3 Tube Microphone Preamp

ART Tube MP Studio V3 Tube Microphone Preamp

Pros
  • Affordable
  • Easy-to-use
  • Great sounding presets
Cons
  • No balanced-jack output
See price @ Amazon / @ Sweetwater

ART Tube MP Studio V3 is another pocket-sized mic preamp that is extremely affordable and amazingly easy to use. It comes in a very sturdy-build box and offers a great deal of features.

Best features and specs

ART Tube MP Studio V3 is another mic preamplifier that offers Variable Valve Voicing technology, but this time it comes in a much smaller and more convenient form factor. V3 gives you an opportunity to choose between lots of preamp settings that are made for a range of instruments and vocals. It offers really good-sounding presets for any instrument that you record so that they all sound professional. Also, it has an Output Protection Limiter that allows you to control the signal and normalize levels, 48V phantom power, +20dB switch, clip LED, and analog VU meter.

User impressions

Users agree that ART Tube MP Studio V3 is truly a great-sounding mic preamp as it adds warmth and depth and has many settings for different sources. Users like that this mic preamp is affordable and really well-built. The only thing that users wish this preamp would have is a balanced-jack output.

What we think

What we like about ART Tube MP Studio V3 is its compact form factor, which makes it effortless to take with you on road trips and gigs. In addition to that, it’s feature-packed and can be used as a DI box.

Bottomline

ART Tube MP Studio V3  is a great choice for someone who is looking for a compact-sized, versatile, great-sounding tube mic preamp that offers Variable Valve Voicing technology alongside many other useful features. Note that it doesn’t have a balanced-jack output.


Tube Mic Preamps Buying Guide

What is a tube mic preamp?

The tube microphone preamp is a device that takes a low-voltage signal from the mic and amplifies it using vacuum tubes to a much higher level.

Why would you need a tube mic preamp?

Tube mic preamps are well-known for giving musical, fat, and warm sound. Also, tubes are good in emphasizing second-order harmonics that sound pleasant to our ear, and tubes function as natural compressors and balance out attacks by soft-clipping.

Important features

When choosing a tube mic preamp, you should pay attention to the number of channels, form factor, and coloration.

Number of channels

When deciding on which tube mic preamp to choose, you should think about how many mics you intend to use in your recording process. If only one, then a 1-channel preamp will satisfy your needs. If you use 2, then you should pick 2-channel one.

Form factor

If you plan to be mobile or have a limited amount of space in your studio, then you should look for those tube mic preamps that have a very compact form factor and won’t add extra weight. If you’re working mostly from a studio and have an unlimited amount of space, then you can choose one that is rackmount.

Coloration

It’s true that all tube preamps make sounds warmer. Some of them tend to give a lot of that, others give less, while on some, you can tweak the amount of coloration that you want to achieve, which is always handy.

How to choose the right one for you?

When you are choosing the best tube mic preamps, you should base the decision on your musical needs and the space that you acquire. If you don’t plan to use 2 mics, then a 1-channel preamp will be a good choice. If you plan to gig a lot, then you should look for a preamp that will be compact and not bulky. As for coloration, you should choose based on your preferences, as it’s impossible to predict how much warmth you would set your heart on.


FAQs

Does a mic preamp make a difference?

Yes, it does. Mic preamp will help you to get a more accurate sound, add warmth, and lower the noise level.

Does a preamp affect sound quality?

It does, but it isn’t that easily noticeable, most likely, you will hear the difference in the sound when the gain is built up to maximum.

Do tube preamps sound better?

They do, as tube preamps tend to add more warmth to the sound, so it has more body, weight, and depth. Also, tube preamps tend to even out the transients from high-frequency content, which results in a more smooth and flattened sound.

What makes a good preamp?

There are a few parameters that contribute to the goodness of the preamp, among which are clean front end, transparency, coloration, versatility, and best go-to combinations.

A good mic preamp will ensure that you have a cleaner and more accurate signal, with lower noise, less distortion, higher gain, and more headroom. Transparency means that you wouldn’t expect any background noise in your signal and the sound will be captured as clean as possible. Ultimately, it’s better when you get to choose the amount of coloration that you need to apply to your sound to make it warmer or just add saturation. It’s pretty obvious why the mic preamp has to be versatile as it should do in any music recording situation. When we say go-to combinations, we mean that after some time, you know which particular combos of mic and preamp will lead to the best results possible.

Is tube better than solid-state?

Considering that you will use tube and solid-state preamps for different tasks, it’s hard to say which one is better. Tube preamplifiers will give you warmth and pleasant sound, while solid-state will give you clear sound with very little distortion. Both tube and solid-state preamps have their pros and cons, so you should choose according to your preferences.

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