Deciding on the recording equipment you need is quite confusing when you’re first starting out. Producing a clear, good-quality voice over for your eLearning course isn’t as complicated as you may think when you've got a little knowledge on your side.
Before you look into anything else, you’ll need a good voice over microphone to capture your voice. You don't want to compromise on the quality of your mic because it will have a huge impact on the overall quality of your voice overs. Another important piece of equipment in your recording toolkit may be a preamplifier for your microphone.
What Is a Microphone Preamp?
A microphone preamp is a tool that amplifies the electrical signal emitted by your microphone and converts it to a language that's understandable for your computer and recording software. It also works as an interface between your microphone and your computer to supply power to the mic.
Do You Need One?
In a word, YES!
Without a preamp, the quality of your recordings may be compromised to a significant extent. Conventional microphones have an output standard too low to be plugged into the recorder directly. A good-quality preamp will amplify the low-level signals of the microphone, ensuring louder and clearer mic signals.
That being said, most audio interfaces have a built-in preamplifier so many voice over artists don’t bother buying a preamp. However, if you’re recording voice overs for your eLearning course, you would want the quality to be as good as possible. Therefore, buying a preamplifier for your microphone is a good investment.
I've got one even though my audio interface also has one. Having a stand-alone microphone preamplifier results in better sound. The nice thing is, most of this equipment only requires one-time investment and it'll last for years.
I'll go through the best microphone preamps for you next, including the one I've got …
Best Microphone Preamps for Voice Overs
When it comes to music producers and recorders, they often look for brightly colored and stylish preamps. In the voice over world, that's really not something you'll care about. Go with quality and efficiency over color and excitement.
Because I realize keeping within a budget is important, the list starts out with the lower end mic preamps and ends up at the more expensive preamps.
Please note: Some of the links below are affiliate links which means I’ll receive a commission if you end up buying after clicking on one of my links. There’s no cost to you. I only review products I’ve used and believe could be useful to my readers.
Efficient Mic Preamps
The following are the most popular and efficient preamps that fall into the affordable category …
1. ART Tube MP Studio Mic Preamp
At the time I just didn't understand why I even needed one of these. I get it now and wish I would have invested in something a little more robust. Even with the low price, I think my recordings sound pretty good. I had been using much less expensive equipment (I had the all-time cheapest equipment when I started out) so what I've got now is much better.
This piece is easy to use. I like to plug everything in and then just go so this works for me. It works great with microphones and for a very inexpensive price, will add some warmth to your voice overs.
- Inexpensive, but still helps give your voice a boost.
- Smooth and warm sound quality.
- Provides over 70dB of gain.
- Have to plug it in and out each time you use it because there's no power button.
- It's not going to get you as much of a noticeable difference as some of the more expensive mic preamps.
–> Shop ART Tube MP Studio Mic Preamp
2. ART TubeMPSTV3 Variable Valve Voicing Tube Mic Preamp With Limiter
This one's better than what I've got and only slightly more expensive (it's priced at about $79). The ART TubeMPSTV3 Variable Valve Voicing Tube Mic Preamp includes the new V3 (Variable Valve Voicing) Technology.
This microphone preamplifier will increase the sound of your microphone for not much money. The controls allow setting of gain and output. Most people are very satisfied with the ART line of products.
- 20dB boost button is a nice feature.
- EQ presets knob.
- V3 also incorporates ART's OPL (Output Protection Limiter).
- Can get some crackling on the higher ends.
- Will have to plug it in and out.
- Again, not going to get as noticeable a difference as with the more expensive mic preamps.
3. ART Tube MP/C Tube Pre-Amplifier/Opto-Compressor-Limiter Project Series
Another step-up at $99, this microphone preamp is a great model offering high-quality voice recordings. This preamp ensures minimum distortion and background noise. Like all the ART tube products, this one is compact adding a touch of warmth to your projects. The compressor works well and is designed to keep the microphone at a steady consistent volume ranging from whispering to talking loud.
- Optical (VCA-less) compressor circuitry.
- LED meters for Tube Warmth, Gain Reduction and Output level.
- Very clean sound. The compressor does its job without coloring the sound noticeably.
- The power supply is quite noisy.
- With all tube microphone preamps, the tube may burn out over time.
4. Cloud Cloudlifter CL-1
This model offers amazing mic signals as well as a powerful gain range. With the self-sustainable phantom power, you can expect to get clear, loud, and distortion-free voice recording. It is highly compatible with all mics and is very easy to use. Made with high-grade material, it offers maximum durability and is a reliable investment.
- Offers loud, crisp voice.
- Durable, stylish design.
- Has an impressive phantom power and mic signal range.
- Not very travel-friendly.
–> Shop Cloud Cloudlifter CL-1
Expensive Microphone Preamps
Here’s a list of the best microphone preamps that are a lot more expensive than the previously mentioned models.
Do keep in mind that you're not using these for recording music, only for your voice. If buying an expensive microphone preamp is a good investment for your business, then here are some good options …
1. Focusrite ISA One
For a higher-end, but still decent price, this preamp is a well-designed, flexible option. One-step upgrade from the stock preamps in your audio interface, the Focusrite ISA One is not only very easy to use but also offers maximum flexibility with your tone. If you tend to travel a lot, this self-contained device may be the ideal choice.
- Allows you to adjust your tone as needed.
- Is easy to use and portable.
- Doesn’t come with a TRS output.
–> Shop Focusrite ISA One
2. Grace Design M101
Grace Design offers some of the best microphone preamps in terms of clarity of tone and the M101 is no exception to the case. Featuring a clean, uncolored, and precise tone, this preamplifier is ideal for recording voice overs for your eLearning course. This model features a strong solid body with a transformer-less mic input and a high-impedance instrument input.
- Has a sturdy, all-metal body.
- Offers a clean, high-quality tone.
- Lacks a polarity-reverse switch.
- Doesn’t have an indicator light with the phantom power switch.
–> Shop Grace Design M101
3. A Design P1
Featuring a shiny, beautiful design, the A Design P1 is a stunning model. It is very easy to use and is the perfect addition to your home studio for recording eLearning voice overs. While it adds richness to your tone, its voice quality is also very clean. In addition to this, it also provides a bit of color as compared to other mic preamps falling into the affordable category.
- Has a sleek, modern look.
- Offers a rich, clean voice.
- Easy to use.
- Provides a certain level of color.
- Comes with a red indicator light for phantom power switch.
- Requires an API 500 rack or an external power.
–> Shop A Design P1
4. Avalon 737
Featuring a compressor and an EQ, this model is specially designed for eLearning voice overs. This preamp not only enhances the sound of the microphone but also takes care of problems, including harsh tones and sibilance.
- Comes with a compressor and EQ.
- Offers maximum input and output level.
- Has a high gain switch.
- A bit costly.
–> Shop Avalon 737
5. MIllenia STT1
This model includes twin mic preamps, giving you two options on clean audio. If you’re looking for a preamp that offers maximum flexibility while selecting tones yet doesn’t compromise on the quality of the audio, this should be your go-to preamplifier for your microphone.
As far as the processing section of this model is concerned, it has two separate solid state and tube paths. Moreover, the bypassable input transformer gives you complete control over your sound quality.
- Offers a sound as clear as water.
- Gives you multiple options while recording.
- Ideal for recording at a home studio.
- Is a bit expensive.
–> Shop MIllenia STT1
6. Universal Audio 6176
The Universal Audio 6176 allows you to enjoy the benefits of a tube mic preamp and 1176LN compressor in one model. This microphone preamplifier offers a warm, clear tone and comes with a ‘split’ and ‘join’ switch to offer a choice between a separate or series operation of the preamp and compressor.
- Has the best solid-state compressor ever.
- With the ‘split’ and ‘join’ switch, it offers maximum flexibility.
- Falls in the expensive category.
–> Shop Universal Audio 6176
7. Manley Voxbox
The Manley Voxbox is a channel-strip preamp model that offers all-tube signal path. In addition to a microphone amplifier section, it has an opto-compressor. Not only this, it also features a transformer balanced XLR output. The switchable VU meter allows you to select your desired level from monitor line input, preamp output, and final output audio levels.
- Offers an all-tube path for microphone signals.
- Has an adjustable VU meter.
- The opto-compressor guarantees loud, clear voice.
- It is a bit expensive than other preamps.
–> Shop Manley Voxbox
8. Solid State Logic Alpha VHD
The Solid State Logic Alpha VHD has a clean, shiny, low-cut appearance. It features input and output gain switch for each of the four channels along with a VHD knob. Giving major vintage vibes, this model comes with XLR inputs and outputs for each channel.
- Offers four channels.
- Separate XLR inputs and outputs for every channel.
- Has an old-school look.
- Promises to deliver transparent and clear voice.
- Doesn’t have a built-in digital converter or audio interface.
- It's expensive.
–> Shop Solid State Logic Alpha VHD
You've got a big list of preamplifiers to choose from here. If you're planning on recording eLearning voice overs, then you may want to see a complete home recording studio package. Get what you need to start recording audio for your online course!