There are a lot of relatively cheap mic preamps out there that pack enough features for them to sufficiently offer almost the same kind of quality as the more expensive high quality microphone preamps. Since there is a huge number of under 500 dollar mic preamps to choose from, then it is best to narrow them down a bit. Here are some of the best mic preamps with a set of varying features that you can get for under 500 dollars.
1. Focusrite OctoPre MkII 8-Channel Microphone Preamplifier
Focusrite OctoPre MkII is probably one of the best sounding multi-channel mic preamps in its own price range. It offers a total of 8 high class channels of award-winning Focusrite preamps, while having a built-in 24-bit / 96 kHz ADAT output. It also features two good quality Hi-Z instrument inputs, as well as 5 LED input metering on every channel.
Focusrite OctoPre MkII also has direct outputs on every channel for routing and flexibility, which is useful in a live setting. You can also route any microphone pre to the mixer’s analog channels, with two mirrored ADAT outputs left free to send to digital recorders. Every channel is also capable of supplying phantom power in order to use together with most condenser microphones.
It also has digital output, so you can pretty much get the most out of the ADAT inputs. You can also connect the Focusrite OctoPre MkII to your audio interface’s ADAT input in order to produce a good quality multi-channel recording solution that would be great for tracking drums, keyboard, vocals and guitars. All in all it is a great mic preamp that offers a fair bit of useful features and costs just under 500 dollars.
2. Warm Audio TB12 Tonebeast Microphone Preamp
Now here is a mic preamp that is just slightly above the 500 dollar mark, but I am sure you can get a used one under 500 dollars without a problem. This flexible mic preamp comes with Discrete 312 preamp design along with Cinemag transformers, that deliver some truly sonic tone with up to 71dB of Gain. You can choose between Melcor or Jensen op-amps, that are socketed and swappable.
It also features Transformer bypass switch and a Tone Switch for providing ultra-clean character along with allowing variable mic impedence. Other features include output attenuation for saturation flexibility of both transformers and op-amps and a choice of steel or nickel output transformers in order to provide some more tonal possibilities.
Selectable capacitors and highpass filter also assist in shaping the tone, while the preamp also enables using inline processors and also packs a LED VU meter to monitor your levels.
This mic preamp is pretty good since it could also feature on a best mic preamp under 1000 dollars list, so you should definitely check it out.
3. DBX 286s Microphone Pre-amp Processor
Here is a studio quality microphone preamp and channel strip processor that comes with some classic dbx compression and thus provides you with some truly great sound. What is a plus is that the preamps four processors can be used independently or in any combination.
The DBX 286s Mic Preamp also features program adaptive Expander/Gate, along with an Enhancer that increases the definition and detail of both the low and high frequencies, while a Frequency tunable De-Esser reduces high frequency distortion as well as sibilance.
Another plus in the case of this mic preamp is wide-ranging input gain control along with switchable +48V phantom power, as well as an 80Hz high-pass filter for removing low frequency hum and rumble. The DBXs Mic Preamp also has full compliment of meters and status LEDs and precision detented controls. All of it makes it a great mic preamp for both the studio and live setting and the best microphone preamp on this list in terms of its cost.
4. PreSonus StudioChannel Tube Mic Preamp
This microphone preamp offers you a lot of features, as it basically combines a tube preamplifier, a VCA-based compressor, and a three-band parametric EQ. It is quite a multi-functional tube-based microphone preamp/channel strip, that is perfect for all types of mics and instruments.
The VCA compressor features variable threshold, attack, release and gain, while the 3-band EQ features variable-Q and delivers some truly great sounding gain/cut for some very smooth highs, deep solid lows and midrange with a fair bit of clarity. In addition to this, the multi-functional ballistic VU meter allows for some precise monitoring and control.
Other specifics include an analog VU meter for gain reduction and output, EQ Pre/Post compressor switch and an 80 Hz high-pass filter. All in all this preamp with its multitude of features is definitely a value for money deal.
5. ART TubeOpto 8 Tube Microphone Preamp
Here is another highly flexible 8-channel tube microphone preamp, that offers you eight fully featured Class-A vacuum tube mic preamps, together with ADAT digital 24-bit audio and 1/4″ TRS balanced outputs. This Mic Preamp also features input gain and output level controls on each channel that allow 70 dB of clean gain. All of those channels come with an input pad, phase flip and low frequency roll off switches.
As for some other features, this preamp has 2 additional front-mounted hi-Z instrument line inputs and direct-to-disc recorder or DAW. All of it means that while this preamp might not be the best mic preamp on this list, then it is extremely suitable for the studio, and also for the live setting if need be. Plus it has a pretty reasonable price as well.