Best Acoustic Guitar Preamps of 2020 – Complete Round-up

The first guitar most people ever picked up is an acoustic guitar.

You can find decent ones at very affordable prices, and lots of good used models are available for less than $100.

Unfortunately, an acoustic guitar has limited sound potential – especially when playing with a band. An acoustic guitar preamp solves that problem.

Comparison Chart of the Best Acoustic Guitar Preamps

PRODUCT
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LR Baggs Para Acoustic D.I.

  • Best acoustic guitar preamp overall
  • Also helps to shape the existing tone of your guitar
  • Designed for the best possible control over the tone of your guitar
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Fishman Aura Spectrum DI

  • The most noticeable feature of this device is its ability to model Helmholtz resonance
  • This acoustic preamp comes with a balanced XLR D.I output and a built-in chromatic tuner
  • It also features award-winning Aura Acoustic Imaging technology, which tends to provide mix studio-mic’d sound
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Behringer V-Tone

  • Best acoustic guitar preamp for the money
  • You can mix its authentic tube emulation circuitry with the direct bass signal
  • Capable of competing with other expensive and popular products available on the markets
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LR Baggs iMix Onboard Blending System

  • Best Acoustic Guitar Onboard Preamp
  • Offer both the stereo and mono operation
  • This particular Preamp comes with the element and iBeam pickups
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LR Baggs Session-DI

  • Best Acoustic Guitar Preamp
  • The presence of notch filter (variable garret null) and phase switch is a plus
  • This preamp comes with a built-in multiband compression for best possible sound
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LR Baggs Venue DI Preamp Bundle

  • Best Acoustic Guitar Preamp Kit
  • Minimized interference of the feedback with its anti-feedback notch
  • Super low-noise transformer with an equalizer as well as the notch filter and chromatic tuner
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Grace Design m101

  • Best Mic Preamp for Acoustic Guitar
  • The sound produced is fully balanced without any noise disturbance
  • The preamp comes with a fast, musical trans-impedance architecture
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What is an Acoustic Guitar Preamp For?

Unless you are playing in an acoustically perfect setting, your acoustic guitar cannot be heard over an accompanying band. The sound just does not carry far enough or produce a loud enough tone to be heard over a sizable audience. The solution is an acoustic guitar preamp.

A preamp amplifies your sound without diminishing it. Every note sounds and plays just as well amplified as it does acoustically. An acoustic guitar preamp requires either passive or active pickups to amplify the sound. A passive pickup does not have a power source. It gets it from the signal path going to the amplifier. A preamp with active pickups provides its own power and gives you more gain.

An preamp also lets you adjust your tone. It might have a couple of controls for treble and bass. Or it might have a small equalizer built in that lets you sculpt your tone for your preferred playing style. Acoustic guitar preamps come in many types and brands. The following should help you to better choose the ideal one for your guitar.

How to Choose an Acoustic Guitar Preamp

If you have an acoustic guitar in its rawest form, you will need an appropriate preamp to work with an amplifier. The first thing you need is a pickup to translate the strings’ natural tone into a digital signal that winds up at the amplifier. You want that signal to make it all the way through without degrading or otherwise suffering ill effects. You want your acoustic guitar’s natural tone to come out in the amplifier. The best preamps do exactly that.

External Preamp and Phase Inverter Controls the Tone

Among choices is an external preamp box that lets you plug in your acoustic pickup and relay the signal to the amp. The best ones will have some type of equalizer that lets you sculpt and control the sound. Another necessity is a phase inverter, which helps you to control and either use or completely eliminate feedback. Most acoustic players prefer doing away with feedback altogether. Otherwise, they probably would be playing a solid body or semi-hollow body.

Cost and Construction Count

As always, cost is a critical factor. You need a preamp that does a good job without breaking your bank account. It needs to be sturdy, process your guitar’s natural tone accurately, and enhance your playing. If it does not, you have the wrong preamp for your acoustic guitar.

Quick Take: 
Top 3 Picks

Review of the Best Acoustic Guitar Preamps

When it comes to quality, effectiveness, durability, and cost, the following preamps are our picks for the best of the bunch. Each offers subtle variations that might make it particularly useful for you. To help you better decide, here is a closer look at several of the best acoustic guitar preamps on the market.

LR Baggs Para Acoustic D.I.

PROS

  • Lets you adjust gain from +2dB to +24 dB
  • Generally regarded as the industry standard
  • Rated for more than 200 hours of battery life
  • Packs a lot of punch in a relatively compact package
  • Gives you a 5-band equalizer and phase inversion to control feedback

CONS

  • Only works on battery power
  • Takes some getting used to but is worth the effort

What Recent Buyers Report

The LR Baggs Para Acoustic DI is a highly respected and venerable preamp that is used in studios, on stages, and in professional players’ homes for many years. It takes the full potential of the best acoustic guitars and accurately relays it to the amp. So long as you have a good amp, the sound will sparkle.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The ability to properly and accurately translate acoustic notes into an amplified sound makes it a perfect preamp. That you can adjust the gain, control feedback, and dial in the perfect tone. Eight controls that affect low end, midrange, treble, presence, “notch,” and volume. Outstanding sound control and adaptability make it the industry standard.

Who Will Use This Most

Pro players, recording studios, and stages everywhere are equipped with the LR Baggs Para Acoustic DI. That is because it is the absolute best in the business. You can get one too, for a surprisingly affordable price. That is especially true considering it is the industry standard and beloved by professional acoustic guitarists around the globe.

Bottom Line

This is an outstanding preamp that lets you sculpt your sound to exactly how you want it. It is highly adaptable and will work with any quality amplifier.

Fishman Aura Spectrum DI Preamp Acoustic Pedal

PROS

  • Highly durable all-metal build
  • Built-in chromatic tuner is a great touch
  • You get 128 pre-loaded “images” to sculpt your tone
  • Three-band graphic equalizer and automatic anti-feedback control
  • Award-winning Aura Acoustic-Imaging processor enables sound mixing

CONS

  • High price
  • Easily frustrates those who do not take the time to learn it

What Recent Buyers Report

This is a great preamp and tuner that does a lot. It frustrates many who do not take the time to understand how to download images that help adjust settings to get the perfect tone. You can narrow the preamp to the specific instrument, mic, and amplifier used for perfect sound reproduction and amplification. Once you have it down, no other pedals are needed to deliver the ideal sound.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This is a very well-designed and well-built unit that you can use to get the perfect tone from nearly any acoustic guitar. While the price is high for many players, the additional benefit of a chromatic tuner makes this a truly all-in-one acoustic guitar preamp.

Who Will Use This Most

Anyone who does not mind paying a decent amount of money for an excellent preamp will appreciate this most. The chromatic tuner makes it a truly great preamp for any player of acoustic guitars. Those who take the time to learn to use the Acoustic Imaging Technology will get the best value and use from this preamp and tuner combination.

Bottom Line

So long as you have the money and desire to learn how to use it, this is a truly great preamp for any acoustic guitar. A quality acoustic requires quality sound reproduction. That is exactly what the Fishman does.

Best for the Money:
Behringer V-Tone

Behringer V-Tone Bass Driver DI BDI21 Bass Amp Modeler/Direct Recording Preamp/DI Box,Silver

PROS

  • Incredibly affordable
  • Works with amps or PA systems
  • Simple and effective two-band equalizer
  • Drive controls let you sculpt the ideal sound
  • Recrates three class amp models, three gain levels, and three faux mic positions

CONS

  • No power adapter included
  • ABS plastic construction to keep the price point low

What Recent Buyers Report

This fantastic preamp works well with acoustic or electric guitars. Models include several styles of amplifiers and a simple two-band equalizer that lets you adjust the bass and treble. Other controls take care of the amount of drive and level.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This very compact and user-friendly preamp does a good job of mimicking popular amplifier styles when played through a PA system. You get a fantastic deal on a truly great little preamp at a truly affordable price.

Who Will Use This Most

Budding acoustic guitar players will enjoy the price and all that it delivers for a lot less than most other alternatives. Even experienced professionals will enjoy all that it provides for such a low cost.

Bottom Line

Just about any acoustic guitar player would benefit from having one of these on hand for practice, recording, or performing. The plastic construction is sturdy and keeps the price very affordable.

Best Acoustic Guitar Onboard Preamp:
LR Baggs iMix Onboard Blending System

L.R. Baggs IMIX Onboard Blending System

PROS

  • Tunable pickups
  • Mono and stereo capability
  • Comes with a remote control
  • Includes Element and iBeam pickups
  • Works with a 9-volt battery powering it
  • Sound hole-mounted volume and mixture controls

CONS

  • Professional installation might be necessary
  • Cannot use guitars that are not equipped with L.R. Baggs pickups

What Recent Buyers Report

The LR Baggs iMix is an outstanding system that works great with X-braced guitar bodies, which is a standard construction for acoustic guitars. The iMix creates a perfect tone and works well with amps or house sound systems. That helps you to get double duty from a great preamp.

Why it Stands Out to Us

It is an exceptional system that is priced low but does just about everything you could hope for in a preamp. The proprietary pickups mean you can convert any quality acoustic into an amplified guitar.

Who Will Use This Most

The LR Baggs iMix has a lot of technical features that might intimidate novice players. Experienced acoustic guitar players will thoroughly enjoy all that it can do to amplify their guitars without changing the sound or tone.

Bottom Line

Performs very well and is ideal for those who love to tinker with cool gadgets. Once you learn how to use it, you get outstanding sound reproduction at all times.

Best Acoustic Guitar Preamp DI:
Di LR Baggs Session-DI

L.R. Baggs SESSION-DI Acoustic Preamp

PROS

  • Three power options
  • Notch filter eliminates feedback
  • Compression and EQ features ensure ideal sound· 
  • Analog instead of digital processing adds character
  • It just plain looks incredibly cool and is built to last

CONS

  • DI portion does not work with a reverb pedal
  • Not as effective with guitars that already sound great naturally

What Recent Buyers Report

The Session-DI is fantastic for live gigs. Its saturation control adds warmth and thickness while playing. It controls overly high notes and blends them with very low ones to give you a more useful sound. The notch control eliminates feedback, and the onboard equalizer helps to level out your sound.

Why it Stands Out to Us

It provides exceptional tonal quality with a tube-like analog warmth added to your playing. You can fully control feedback and sculpt your tone while making it a lot easier for the audience to hear you. You get a lot of bang for your buck.

Who Will Use This Most

If you want to amplify your acoustic and maybe add some effects pedals, this is a perfect choice. The analog circuitry helps provide a lush tone that works great with tube amps. That makes it an ideal preamp for gigging acoustic guitar players who want to rock out a bit more.

Bottom Line

The LR Baggs Session-DI is a dynamite preamp that is relatively compact, fully controls feedback, and gives you lots of potential tonal variations. You even can add effects pedals.

Best Acoustic Guitar Preamp Kit:
LR Baggs Venue DI Preamp Bundle

LR Baggs Venue DI Acoustic Guitar Preamp Bundle with Blucoil Slim 9V Power Supply AC Adapter, 10' Straight Instrument Cable (1/4'), 10-FT Balanced XLR Cable, 2x Patch Cables, and 5x Cable Ties

PROS

  • Chromatic tuner included
  • Equalizer controls your guitar tone
  • Works as a very low-noise transformer
  • Maximizes noise isolation to eliminate hum or other noise
  • Wipes out feedback with the Garrett Null anti-feedback notch filter

CONS

  • Among higher-priced units
  • Cannot power the preamp via phantom power through the DI

What Recent Buyers Report

The LR Baggs Venue DI is an outstanding preamp that is very easy to use and comes with a lot of great additions. The chromatic tuner and effects loop make it an especially functional preamp that works well with most effects.

Why it Stands Out to Us

You get exceptional build quality and phenomenal sound output that make it as good as any acoustic guitar preamp. It has a high price range that is much more affordable when you factor in the chromatic tuner, equalizer, and effects loop.

Who Will Use This Most

Any acoustic guitar player who wants to go electric and have some rock-like tones produced with potential effects will love it. The tuner makes it a real winner, and its great looks and sturdy build add to its value.

Bottom Line

You cannot go wrong with this preamp. The price might be steep for some, but it really is worth every penny you spend on it.

Best Mic Preamp for Acoustic Guitar:
Grace Design m101

Grace Design m101 Single channel microphone preamplifier

PROS

  • Class-leading quality
  • Produces a superbly clean sound
  • Makes even cheap microphones sound great
  • Completely silent for accurate voice reproduction

CONS

  • Very expensive
  • Intended for microphones but can work with guitars

What Recent Buyers Report

The Grace Design m101 outperforms similar products that often are regarded as the best. It makes cheap microphones sound much better and provides superbly clean sound reproduction.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The Grace PreAmp provides spectacular sonic control for your voice or your favorite amplified instrument. It has exceptional gain control and truly brings out the best in your sonic capabilities. While it is designed as a microphone preamp, it works exceptionally well with many different instruments, including the electric guitar and electric bass. 

Who Will Use This Most

Gigging and studio musicians will find this to be a very useful tool. They can use it on their microphones or patch in their amplified instruments and gain superb tonal control. Its entry price is the highest of the bunch but worth the investment. You get the cleanest possible sound output.

Bottom Line

If you sing vocals, this could be an outstanding addition to your rig. Otherwise, you can find better values for acoustic guitar preamps.

What Do I Need to Know Before Buying?

A preamp only will work if your acoustic has pickups. Many acoustic electrics provide that portion to work well with preamps. If you have a fully organic acoustic with no pickups, you need to find a preamp that provides one or more for sound reproduction. Then, you need to make sure it accurately reproduces your guitar’s sound without degrading it. If you want some rock effects to go with it, you can find preamps that will enable that.

How to Use Your Acoustic Guitar Preamp

The guitar preamp is a relatively simple concept to grasp. Instead of relying on the sound vibrations produced by your acoustic guitar strings for volume, a preamp will pick up the vibrations and translate them into an amplified signal that works great.

If your guitar has one or more pickups, you can just run the signal from the guitar to the preamp. Otherwise, you need to add one or more pickups, and then run that signal to the preamp. From there, you can send the signal to the amplifier or the soundboard and use the house PA system.

Conclusion

If you want to play live with an acoustic guitar, you need a preamp to really make it sing. Anything less and you likely will get drowned out by louder instruments and singers who have the benefit of amplification helping their performance.

People Also Ask

The acoustic guitar preamp does essentially the same thing in all its versions. Although there are some commonly asked questions. The following are answers to many of these.

Do I Need an Acoustic Preamp?

If you have an acoustic guitar and want to boost the sound so others can hear, then, yes, you need an acoustic preamp.

Can You Use a Preamp Without an Amp?

Yes. Many work well with public address systems and can patch straight into a soundboard to use the house sound system instead of an amplifier.

Does a Preamp Improve Sound Quality?

A truly good acoustic guitar does not need its sound quality improved. Instead, it needs to preserve and amplify it to deliver truly remarkable, accurate sound reproduction.

Where Does a Preamp go in the Pedal Chain?

A preamp, when used, goes between your guitar and the amplifier. If it has an effects loop jack, you can add effects pedals and run them through the amplifier’s effects loop.

Can You Use a Regular Amp For an Acoustic Guitar?

Only if you have a preamp to process the signal. Otherwise no sound will get to the amp.