We may earn a commission if you make a purchase through one of our links. The LA Times newsroom or editorial staff was not involved in the creation of this content. Learn more

Review: Best Guitar Preamp

When you’re first starting out in the world of electric guitars, you may be satisfied with simply plugging your axe directly into an amp (or when recording, directly into a recording interface), but time and experience typically will lead you to a better path. Guitar preamps are ideal for players who want to improve their tone from the jump; they can be used to simply boost volume, or to bring out frequencies and EQ in a way that is unparalleled once you’ve dipped your toe into that particular pool. Simply put, once you’ve experienced how great your guitar sounds with a good preamp, it’s difficult to go back to any other way. Here are the best guitar preamps in 2021 we chosen, with each one manufactured in a pedal format so it can be easily integrated into your effects rig, they feature EQ settings that allow you to intricately sculpt the tone that the preamp provides, and they also offer different levels of gain boosting to crank up your signal as needed.

Best Guitar Preamps of 2021 Reviewed in Detail

A/DA APP Guitar Preamp - Best Guitar Preamp Overall

The A/DA APP1 channels the classic ‘80s rock sounds that the company was responsible for in the past and presents them in an easy to access preamp pedal. This pedal is designed to be the first stop before the signal hits your amp, so players can route their other effects and tuner directly into it. The APP1 offers a clean to high-gain 2-channel preamp, which includes tone-shaping controls to boot. Both channels offer a dynamics knob that allows you to gain an even tighter control over how your sound is processed. The learning curve on this pedal is a little steep, due to its various parameter controls and subtlety in how it can improve your sound, but give it some time and attention, and you’ll be wowed by what it can do for your tone.

Electro Harmonix Linear Power Booster Guitar Preamp - Runner Up

The Electro-Harmonix Classic LPB-2ube guitar preamp pedal offers a tonal boost that is driven by a pair of 12AX7 tubes. The two drive channels offer a great deal of range; they can be just slightly nudged into a subtle overdrive, or pumped further to really make things grittier. The channels are able to function independently from one another, but can also be linked together to really drive things even further. Despite the ability of this pedal to really make some noise, it’s also remarkably good at remaining quiet when it needs to be. Its true bypass status also ensures that there’s never any tone-changing interference coming from this pedal when it’s not in use within your rig.

Dunlop Echoplex Guitar Preamp - Honorable Mention

Dunlop’s Echoplex guitar preamp is based around the legendary EP-3 preamp, which played a crucial part in the rigs of iconic axemen such as Jimmy Page, Eddie Van Halen, and Eric Johnson. Like its predecessor, this preamp doesn’t just boost your signal, but also adds the bonus of an echo tape effect as well as a warm-sounding overdrive to your tone. The gain control on the Echoplex allows you to boost signal by up to 11+dB. Small enough to not take up a prohibitive amount of space in your rig, the pedal is also very easy to use, as it only features a single knob. The Echoplex is also true-bypass, meaning it won’t color your tone when it’s in your rig but not in use.

JHS Pedals Colour Box V2 Guitar Preamp - Consider

The Neve console has been an absolutely instrumental tool in crafting the sound of some of the greatest rock bands since the 1960s, including the Beatles, Lep Zeppelin, and Pink Floyd as well as some more relatively recent acts like Spoon, Nirvana, and U2. JHS Pedals created their Colour Box guitar preamp pedal with the same circuitry used in the legendary Neve machinations. The end result is a pedal that has all the feel and characteristics of a vintage board. The pedal offers three parts with a gain structure that allows players to adjust their pre volume, master gain, and step gain. There's also equalizer/tone control that allows players to tweak the treble, middle, and bass frequencies with +/- 17dB of control as well as a highpass filter that only allows high frequencies to pass. The Colour Box also features an additional XLR input and output, which allows the pedal to be used as a preamp for vocals, bass, acoustic guitar, and keyboard as well.

Xotic BB Guitar Preamp - Best Guitar Preamp

Xotic’s BB guitar preamp pedal can really do it all. The pedal offers 30dB+ of a clean boost, along with +/- 15dB EQ which can give players many options to play around with how their tone sounds. The pre-gain stage covers a wide territory range; this pedal provides the type of clean boost that just maximizes the volume without doing much to drastically change your tone, but it can also get super compressed and bring on a level of overdrive that really makes one have to consider this piece of gear to also be a distortion pedal. Regardless of what direction you want to take with the Xotic BB, when the pedal isn’t being used it won’t color your tone at all, thanks to it’s true bypass footswitch. Its small size also makes it ideal for players who don’t have much real estate on their pedalboard to dedicate to yet another pedal.

Buyer's Guide

You're trying to play the guitar, but it's distorted and noisy? Then you'll most likely want the best guitar preamp. The majority of built-in preamps and pickups are insufficient for sending a suitable signal to the amplifier. This results in unwanted feedback and obnoxious noise. You may always use a good preamp to set up your guitar and transmit the correct signal to the amplifier.

How using guitar preamps will be beneficial?

Low signal boosting

The major reason people use preamps is to boost low signals. If your guitar's signal is weak, it will get distorted as soon as you increase the volume. A preamp allows you to boost the loudness of your signal so that it reaches the amp at a reasonable level.

Signal modification

You might wish to experiment with your guitar's tone settings from time to time. Preamps allow you to fine-tune the signal coming in (i.e., your EQ). Do you need a little extra bass? Increase the lows. Is it too tinny? Reduce the volume of the highs.

EQ controls usually have three bands: high, mid, and low. Some pedals, on the other hand, provide more controllability by having five choices. This allows you to fine-tune anything. Some pedals don't feature five-band EQ, but they do include a mid-range shifter, allowing you to change the frequencies your controls are directed to.

Multiple signals blending

Another advantage is the ability to mix signals. On your guitar, you may wish to utilize a pickup and a microphone, both of which must be in sync. These two signals are combined by a preamp, which generates a single output to transmit to your amplifier.

Controlling your sound during performances

When you perform, a sound engineer is in charge of your signal, and he or she is unlikely to be familiar with you or your style. How can a sound engineer know what possibly work for you with all those factors to play? Carrying a tiny gadget that lets you adjust your EQ, eliminate feedback, and enhance your signal is essential for performing at your best.

What are some key considerations in purchasing the best guitar preamps?

Suppression of feedback

The reduction of feedback is a critical characteristics of a preamp. It is an important feature to have since it eliminates unwanted feedback, which causes the guitar to distort.

A notch filter is the most common form of feedback suppression device. If you want to limit input to a minimum or eliminate it entirely, this is the way to go.

EQ and effects

The EQ, or equalizer and additional effects are two more great things to have in a preamp. Reverb, signal boost, compression, satural control, and tone tuner are among the effects available. All of these features will elevate your sound to new heights and significantly improve the tone of your acoustic guitar.


Want to take advantage of all the effects a preamp has to offer? Then make sure it has simple controls.

We generally propose basic dials and a foot-operated pedal or button. Switches are also useful for managing the preamp, particularly for turning on and off effects as needed.

Design & construction

Finally, examine the overall quality of the preamp. There are many various designs and constructions available, each providing a unique experience.

Some versions, for example, are constructed of metal. If you want the preamp to last, this is a great material to consider.

However, even if it is robust, you would want it to be attractive. So don't ignore those preamps with appealing aesthetics that make playing your acoustic guitar even more enjoyable.

Which type of pickup compatibility will work the best for you?

The pickup on the preamps relates to how they operate, altering the sound as needed. Consider the following three types of pickups:

Active piezo pickup

It's also known as a "transducer" pickup, and it's great for acoustic-electric guitars. The purpose of this pickup is to alter the sound's tone.

You can minimize the quacking noise from the piezo if your tool has compatibility with pedal and active-piezo.

Because it has a built-in battery, an active piezo connects to the preamp independently from the guitar in most cases.

Passive piezo pickup

A passive piezo pickup is generally connected directly to the guitar or other instrument, unlike an active piezo. Before entering into an amplifier, it completely relies on the preamp to generate good sound.

The basic goal is to reduce sound while increasing total impedance. The majority of preamps work with piezo pickups and provide high-quality sound.

Magnetic pickup

Finally, preamps that are more compatible with magnetic pickups may be found. Thus, it allows you to plug the preamp directly to magnetic pickup without any issues.

However, because these pickups produce a sound closer to an electric guitar than an acoustic guitar, not all models are suitable.

In the pedal chain, where does a preamp go?

Despite the fact that preamps offer a variety of functions, most players utilize them as a boost pedal and an EQ. You can sculpt the tone as well as add some grit to get cleaner signals by boosting the pedal at the start of your signal chain.

Boost pedals should be placed before modulation and time-based effects so that the distortion does not color them. Some people like to place EQ models at the beginning of pedal chains to change the setting of all effects.

Placing the preamp on either of the first two pedals of the chain can work great. You may also experiment with other places throughout your chain once you've gotten a better understanding of how it works.

Best Guitar Preamps FAQs

Q: How a preamp differ from an amplifier?

A preamp is a device that comes in handy in boosting a weak guitar signal. The amplifier converts line-level audio to speaker-level audio. The preamp transforms the signal, while the amplifier makes it listenable.

Q: Is it possible to utilize a preamp without using an amplifier?

No, you won't be able to utilize a preamp on its own. If you experiment using preamp without an amplifier, either the sound will not be detected by the audio equipment at all, or the signal will be distorted and noisy.

Q: Can your acoustic guitar preamp be used with other music instruments?

Yes, some preamps are multi-instrument, which means they may be used with electric guitars and basses as well.

bestcovery team.jpg
Our research team searches out the best of everything so that you can confidently pick the perfect products and services for your needs.
Related Content
Go to top