Best Guitar Preamp Pedals – 2019 Ultimate Buyer’s Guide

So you already have a guitar amp with some EQ features, and you may be thinking – do I need a preamp pedal?

Unsurprisingly, many musicians think the same way – a preamp pedal might be unnecessary since most pedals have some preamp features, so why crowd the pedalboard?

Well, apart from cleaning the unwanted noise, adjusting the mids, and boosting weak signals, have a look in the next section to discover why a preamp pedal is a must-have. We will also highlight the five best preamp pedals on the market today to make your choice easy. 

Comparison Chart of the Best Guitar Preamp Pedals

Product

Rating

Price

Donner Black Devil Mini Preamp Pedal

Donner Black Devil Mini Preamp Metal Distortion Modern High Gain Guitar Effect Pedal with Reverb and Cab Simulator Functions and Automatically Save

Best Overall

JHS Clover Preamp/Boost Guitar Effects Pedal

JHS Clover Preamp/Boost Guitar Effects Pedal

Runner-up

Voodoo Lab Giggity Analog Mastering Preamp Pedal

Voodoo Lab Giggity Analog Mastering Preamp Guitar Effect Pedal

Best for the Money

Jim Dunlop MXR M81 Bass Preamp

MXR M81 Bass Preamp

Best Bass Preamp Pedal

Fishman Aura Spectrum DI Preamp Acoustic Pedal

Fishman Aura Spectrum DI Preamp Acoustic Pedal

Best Acoustic Preamp Pedal

What is a Preamp Pedal?

A preamplifier (preamp) pedal is used to amplify quiet sounds or signals. These preamp pedals are often used first in effect chains in order to amplify the weak signals coming from passive pickups. Any pedal can be used as a preamp – such as overdrive, distortion, or a chorus pedal, as they can all be placed first in the chain to deal with weak signals. 

While such pedals are quite simple, allowing you simple tone control, a preamp pedal is much more complex than that. It may have switches between different channels and more sophisticated and complex EQ, among others. 

What Does a Preamp Pedal Do?

There are some fantastic uses of preamp pedals, so here’s a short summary:

Adjusting the EQ points

All amps have standard EQ points. A preamp pedal can help you tweak them to adjust the overall quality of the sound. Think about a troublesome venue where the sound is just not right. A preamp pedal will help you adapt the sound to the stage. 

Easily Switch Between Guitars

A preamp pedal is a lifesaver if you often change guitars during a gig. Instead of having to walk to your amp and adjust to the next instrument, you can use the pedal without a fuss to select all the settings in no time. 

Pre-Gain Adjustments

A preamp pedal helps you finely adjust the tones right before the gain and fixed tone – a little EQ tweaking can go a long way. 

Additional gain control will help you broaden the tonal palette and you can switch between the pedal tone and amp tone in the blink of an eye. You can do that at any time, even in the middle of playing. A preamp can add warmth and grit without having to turn up the amp gain. 

Why Did These Pedals Make Our List?

There are so many options on the market – different features and prices can cause a lot of headaches when choosing a preamp pedal, especially when you are not sure what to look for. Here is what we focused on:

Versatility and Controls

Although the pedals are quite varied, we made sure they offered you all the control you need to tweak the sounds to your satisfaction. A good preamp will add a bit of everything so you can easily adjust the tones and add a bit extra to your sound to make you stand out. They are also highly recommended for all guitar players, despite different playing styles or music genres.  

Premium Quality

A prerequisite for making it to our list is, as usual, the quality of the products. Based on a thorough review of these products, the pedals are long-lasting, durable, but also extremely easy to use in any environment, including low-light settings (that’s what LED lights are for!). 

Value for Money

Last, but not least, the quality and versatility of the pedal need to at least match its price. Have a look in the next section to find out how you can get the best out of your investment. 

Review of the Best Guitar Preamp Pedals

Now that you know what to keep an eye out for, let’s take a look at some of the best options available on the market.

Donner Black Devil Mini Preamp Metal Distortion Modern High Gain Guitar Effect Pedal with Reverb and Cab Simulator Functions and Automatically Save

PROS

  • Easy to use and durable
  • Sturdy casing made of aluminum alloy
  • Has LED lights for better visibility in low-light settings
  • Affordable mini-pedal, ideal for a crowded pedalboard
  • Highly versatile, includes controls for reverb, gain, level, cab sim, low, middle, and high

CONS

  • Some might not enjoy the shimmer-style reverb

What Recent Buyers Report

What is truly great about this mini-pedal is that it combines two amp voices in one, allowing you for greater versatility and some good tweaks, especially due to the three-band EQ (low/middle/high). This is masterfully completed through an exquisite design, is long-lasting and well crafted, along with the minimalistic shape.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This digital circuit pedal not only comes in a minimalistic, rock-solid case made of aluminum alloy, but also scores high on functionality. It comes with seven controls, helping you to manage reverb, gain, level, cab sim, and low/middle/high. The LED lights offer you visibility and convenience.

Who Will Use This Most

The build quality is as close to perfection as it gets. Whether you are just starting your journey with effect pedals or you are a professional, this pedal offers outstanding value for money, and is an absolute must-try. It offers flexibility and versatility, and the seven controls allow you to tweak the sound to your satisfaction.

Bottom Line

Overall, this tiny preamp pedal is a must-have for any guitarist. We guarantee you will not be disappointed – the quality of the pedal itself is outstanding and the clarity of the effects is breath-taking. You will find no weak spots there and it is worth every cent!

JHS Clover Preamp/Boost Guitar Effects Pedal

PROS

  • Amazing EQ capabilities
  • Strong and durable build
  • Highly versatile with multiple controls
  • Cleans the sounds and delivers the best performance
  • Extremely powerful and cleans muddy sounds due to low-cut dip switch

CONS

  • High price range

What Recent Buyers Report

If you want a clean boost, this is the pedal to try. It has numerous features and you can tweak the clear, punchy, and thick tones to your liking. What truly stands out are the EQ capabilities, all coupled with a premium quality build and great sounds.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This preamp pedal simply does not let any bad sounds come through. It has simple controls that allow you to tweak the volume, bass, mids, and treble, set it to full-EQ, no mid, and no EQ. The pedal is easy to use, extremely high quality, and offers you all the versatility and freedom you need.

Who Will Use This Most

Whether you are a metal, country, rock, or acoustic player, this pedal can be an essential tool for the betterment of your performance. It can also be used for electric, acoustic, or bass guitars, and is easy to use and ready to help you achieve your best potential. Thus, it is highly recommended for any guitar player!

Bottom Line

The versatility of this preamp pedal is truly incredible, although it is a bit on the expensive side. However, if you are a pro guitar player, you will soon figure it out that it is definitely worth the hassle. It will clean your sounds and help you tweak them to perfection.

Voodoo Lab Giggity Analog Mastering Preamp Guitar Effect Pedal

PROS

  • High-quality and sturdy design
  • Improves overall sound qualities
  • Broad spectrum of choices and options
  • Helps to clean up muddy tones and add presence
  • Highly versatile, can be placed in several places on effect chain for different results

CONS

  • The design could be improved
  • Control names are confusing – sun, moon, body, and air

What Recent Buyers Report

This pedal is not a simple pedal – its best asset is that it improves the overall sound, unlike other pedals, which often only enhance one sound quality. You can add brightness, use it as a treble booster perfect for leads, or you can just go for a tone neutral boost. Whatever you are looking to do, this pedal is worth the effort.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This true bypass preamp pedal offers you four unique preamp voicings, has a body and air fine-tuning circuits, and is highly reliable. This pedal is worth experimenting with; when placed first in the effect chain, you can use the air control to make the high-end shimmer in the pickups stand out. It is highly reliable and well-built.

Who Will Use This Most

If you want to explore the unlimited universe of preamp pedals, this product is a great option to tap into the endless possibilities. Whether you are looking for a bit of grind and thick bottom, or want a high-end shimmer detail, you can tweak your performance with this handmade U.S. pedal to satisfaction.

Bottom Line

Overall, if you find your tones muddy, this pedal will clear up and add some presence to the performance. It is highly versatile and can be experimented with and placed in different areas in the effect chain. It is high quality, long-lasting, and has a broad spectrum of options.

Best Bass Preamp Pedal:
Jim Dunlop MXR M81 Bass Preamp

MXR M81 Bass Preamp

PROS

  • Clears the tones
  • Professional quality and sturdy design
  • Has ground lift, eliminates ground loop hums
  • High-quality, minimalistic design to save pedalboard space
  • Input and output level controls, 3-band EQ for greater tonal flexibility

CONS

  • LED light is extremely bright
  • Does not add warmth (a bit of growl)
  • Not so many variations as other pedals

What Recent Buyers Report

Although the pedal is simply designed and easy to use, it offers you plenty of control over the bass, treble, mids, and also volume boost. It works just as a parametric EQ when it controls the mids. It adds clarity and makes tones punchy, clean, and tight.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This studio-quality preamp pedal provides crystal-clear tones and preserves pedalboard space. It has two separate input/output level controls, along with three-band EQ, which provides you with broad tonal flexibility. Additionally, it eliminates hum due to the ground lift for the best performance.

Who Will Use This Most

If you give this pedal a shot, it will be almost impossible to turn it off. It is an excellent choice for any guitar player looking to improve control over sound quality and add some personality to the tones. This is especially recommended for the improvement of the mids.

Bottom Line

Overall, this is built as sturdy as a brick and offers exciting options. Although not as versatile as other products, some might prefer to keep it simple. We believe this would be suitable for many players, but most likely would go hand-in-hand for slap-style bass lines.

Fishman Aura Spectrum DI Preamp Acoustic Pedal

PROS

  • Premium quality
  • Access to software with expanding list of images
  • Extremely versatile, with endless possible combinations
  • Ability to achieve a milky, pristine acoustic guitar sound
  • Ideal for professional use, either on stage or in the studio

CONS

  • Premium pricing
  • Not suitable for beginners
  • Takes patience and time to understand how to use it due to complex features

What Recent Buyers Report

This product is extremely versatile and has numerous controls. It offers the most realistic and high-quality acoustic sound you definitely want on a stage or in a studio. The top-notch performance of this pedal is purely outstanding and it is impossible to point out any flaws.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This is our best acoustic preamp pedal for many reasons. It can be summed up as the final solution for acoustic players. It contains three-band EQ, a one-knob compressor, a chromatic tuner, an effects loop, automatic feedback suppression, and an XLR, along with software for ever-expanding instrument images.

Who Will Use This Most

This is highly recommended for acoustic players, especially for stage performers or studio recordings. It takes some experience and patience to make this gear work, although an angel-like, milky sound is definitely one purchase away. It is highly recommended for professional or experienced players.

Bottom Line

Overall, the Aura Spectrum D.I. is designed to recreate an entirely acoustic sound to hurl your audience into a tonal paradise. It is an expensive piece of equipment designed for professional use. This a wise investment, and it takes time and practice to fully master all of its complex controls.

Benefits of Investing in a Quality Preamp Pedal

Here is a shortlist of the gains of investing in one of our recommended pedals:

Add Some Juice to Your Tone

Our premium quality pedals will definitely add some character to your sounds. They are flexible and highly versatile, offering a broad spectrum of choices to shape the tones. In fact, this is why you should buy one in the first place – to allow you to tweak the tones to your liking. 

Adjust EQ Settings

Another benefit is that a high-quality preamp pedal will allow you more flexibility with the EQ settings. You can either adjust EQ settings for certain songs or just experiment until you find your favorite sound and then keep it on all the time. 

Boost the Tones

As the name suggests, most guitarists use preamp pedals to significantly boost weaker signals. A high-quality preamp pedal can be a lifesaver if you have a low budget guitar, too, or if you often play in venues where you have trouble with the sound quality. 

Conclusion

Overall, we briefly reviewed why you need a good quality preamp pedal and what you get out of it. In the end, one might argue that guitarists quite under-appreciate them since most believe that there is no need for a preamp, since you already have similar controls in other pedals. Despite this, it is clear that a preamp pedal is a must-have accessory if you are in the search of the perfect sound. 

People Also Ask

Here is a short FAQ section to clarify some more details about preamp pedals, such as where to place it in the effect chain, how it can improve the sounds, and whether you need one or if it is just optional. 

Where to Put Preamp in Pedal Chain?

The best answer to this is to experiment and find out what you enjoy most. They can be placed either in the front or at the end of the effect chain. As a general rule, you should use the preamp pedal in the front if you want some grit, or place it at the end of the chain to keep its tone-shaping abilities. 

Does a Preamp Improve Sound Quality?

One first obvious benefit of using a preamp pedal is its ability to clean the noise and give you clearer sounds. The preamp will help you improve the sound quality in several ways. Here are the most common issues a preamp pedal helps to solve: thin sound, weak signal, unbalanced signal, noisy/scratch signal, feedback. 

Do I Need a Preamp for Guitar?

A preamp guitar will help you clear the tones and reduce the noise some other pedals might cause. Additionally, you can greatly shape tones to your liking, apart from several other perks. A preamp pedal is not a definite requirement, of course; however, we highly recommend that you try it out – you might be surprised!

What is the Difference Between a Preamp and an Amplifier?

The simple definition of an amplifier is that it amplifies the line-level sound, while a preamp amplifies a weak signal to the line-level sound. A preamp will help you shape and tweak the basic, or core, sound of the guitar through the EQ settings, thus, the preamp does not boost the actual sound – this is actually what the amplifier does.