Next to the microphone (and the instrument itself), the microphone preamp can also have an effect on the recorded sound. Microphone preamps can be designed to be very clean and neutral sounding, or they can be designed to have a characteristic sound of their own. Some of them have multiple settings and can go from a fairly clean sound, to a sound with a lot of added character. I have assembled a nice collection of preamps, each with their own unique sound/character, and several of which can go from very clean and neutral to imparting a good amount of character to the audio. Most of these also work great as instrument DI’s, for recording guitar or bass direct.
Here is my list of microphone preamps as of June 2012:
- API 3124+ – 4 Channel API preamp… the classic API transformers and op amps, for that big aggressive rock sound! My first choice for rock drums, but great for aggressive vocals or guitar parts. Also have DI inputs for instruments.
- A Designs Pacifica – 2 Channel Microphone Preamp based on the classic Quad Eight designs. These preamps add a nice bit of high end air to the audio, and are often a great match with darker sounding microphones. Great for drum overheads as well!
- Presonus ADL 600 Tube Preamp – The ADL 600 is a high voltage two-channel original microphone preamplifier designed by world-renown analog tube circuit designer Anthony DeMaria. Although this is a tube preamp, it has a very clean, yet full and warm sound.
- Chandler Germanium Microphone Preamps (2) – Lots of buzz about these incredible sounding and versatile microphone preamps. I just had to buy two of them! These have a unique “Thick” switch to beef up the bottom end. Definitely great for bass guitars, as well as for vocals that could use a bit more “body”.
- Great River 1NV Microphone Preamp – Killer sounding microphone pre-amplifier based on a classic Neve designed but with a tighter low end response and lower noise. My favorite “go to” preamp! This preamp has several modes of operations. It has an output transformer that can be switched in or out of the signal path to thicken up the sound. It also has a separate output level control which you can use to drive the transformer as much or as little as you want. The combination of this output level control with the main preamp gain allows you to dial in a variety of tones depending on how much or little you drive each stage.
- RNP / RNC Combo – Great combination of clean sounding preamp and compressor from the fine folks at FMR Audio.
- YAMAHA O2R96 – As much as I love my great collection of preamps, which all have a character of their own, I also have 16 microphone preamps built into my O2R96 console. These have a neutral and clean sound, and come in handy when I have used all the other preamps and still need more channels.