No cost limit for a studio pre-amp - solid-state or tube, doesn't matter which.

Which one would you buy for:

Vocals - (Katy Perry, etc. - contemporary pop)

Drums (any type of drum)

Voice Over (if you like a different one from vocal pre. This would be for bass voices for long-term narration)


  • Ryan
  • Good Question! Neve's are the best per Bruce Swedien.
    – brett
    Sep 25, 2010 at 2:32

2 Answers 2


It really depends on what mic are you using it with and the sound of the instrument. It is the whole signal chain that works together, not just the preamp.

Especially with vocals, you'll actually want a variety of mics and preamps since every voice is so different. Unless you are just recording one particular vocalist then try out mics and preamps for his/her voice to find a suitable combination.

You can take a look and listen to some signals chains that people have put up over at Signal Chains

  • @Hector Thanks. You're right. I tweaked my question a bit. Thanks for the Signal Chains website!
    – Utopia
    Sep 25, 2010 at 0:44
  • @Ryan Not a problem.
    – Hector Lee
    Sep 27, 2010 at 0:10

There's no real way to answer that question accurately.

I have my favorite preamps for different things, but it really comes down to a per-case choice. I love a Neve 1073 on vocals, but every voice is different. Even two people who have similar voices singing / speaking the same style may react differently with the same pre. Also depends very much on the mic, and you can't really pick a mic until you listen to a few different ones on the talent.

Always good to have a variety of preamps and mics available. Once you have your talent there, audition a few different mics and pres until you find which one you like best, then stick with that one. If you don't, you'll likely have less-than-stellar results.

So yeah, it's really an unanswerable question. You'll do yourself a disservice by trying to nail down "the best preamp" for whatever situation.

In general, I tend to find myself settling on API or SSL for drums, Neve or Chandler for Vocals, and Avalon, Focusrite or Nagra for VO, but I also work with the same talent / artists frequently, and I tend to be a creature of habit once I've found something I like. So when I work with someone new, I have to go through the whole discovery process again.

  • Alright. Let me ask this then: Those preamps you listed - are those the bare-bones variety you'd have in the rack? I'm putting together a plan for a new studio doing pop-type recordings, and VOs now and then - as well as ADR. What would you recommend as a bare necessity - cost not being an issue?
    – Utopia
    Sep 25, 2010 at 2:27
  • Probably a loaded API lunchbox, a handful of Neves, an Avalon, maybe a Focusrite, some SSL superanalogue stuff (if not an SSL console w/ 9000 series pres), then some boutique stuff, like some A-designs, Chandler, Manley, Hardy, etc... All depends on how much you want to spend and how big the studio would be. I wouldn't spend too much unless you have connections to fill the room though...
    – Colin Hart
    Sep 25, 2010 at 2:36
  • Yeah - don't worry about the connections - it's from the ground up. Have you tried those GML pres? I've already got 10 channels of 1073s, 12 channels of custom 8078s, 2 2-channel Avalon tubes, a pair of Avalon solid states, a UA 2-610, and an MSS-10 in there as well. Wondering what other people consider "gotta haves". Not much experience with the Focusrites. What do you use those on?
    – Utopia
    Sep 25, 2010 at 2:49
  • @Colin I also heard the Sontec pre was good, too. Any experience?
    – Utopia
    Sep 25, 2010 at 4:22
  • I would go with a nice console like an SSL or something to begin with. And top it up with outboard pres like Avalon, Neve. The Focusrite Reds are nice too. The SSL is great for drums especially if you have the mix buss compressor on it. If you're doing pop-type recordings you'll want some nice compressors and eqs too.
    – Hector Lee
    Sep 25, 2010 at 8:26

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