19 Best Preamp VST Plugins 2024

There’s just something about classic analog consoles, isn’t there? The reason I bring it up is because of the preamps. These babies give you that toasty analog warmth that can greatly enhance otherwise dull sounding digital recordings.

Analog emulation isn’t always perfect, but it has come a long way, and there are some excellent options available. So, in this guide, we’ll be looking at the best preamp VST plugins.

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Pre 1973 by Arturia – Best Overall

Pre 1973 by Arturia – Best Overall

Looking to take stale, boring sounds to new levels? Try exciting them with Arturia’s Pre 1973, a preamp VST with a highly recognizable signature 70s British tone. This baby takes after the 1073 preamp, originally created by none other than Rupert Neve.

Here, Arturia does what they do best, utilizing their proprietary TAE technology to bring another classic to life and offer it to producers everywhere, in digital form, for a very moderate price.

Preamps are known to endow tracks with an extra bit of “magic,” but it’s no surprise why the Pre 1973 works so well, because it includes a three-band equalizer, input gain for controlling how much of the signal is being directed through the circuit, a high pass filter, and output trim for transparent volume control.

In total, Pre 1973 also comes with presets, 60 dB virtual continuous input gain, two output transformer types, +/- 24 dB output trim level, switchable EQ section, high shelf filter, midrange bell filter, low shelf filter, high pass filter, three stereo modes, and an output analog VU meter.

This is our best overall selection, but there are some other Arturia entries coming up that are on equal footing with this one. It's well worth checking out the alternatives if you’re after a different sound.

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Empirical Labs Mike-E Comp by Softube – Best Premium Option

Empirical Labs Mike-E Comp by Softube – Best Premium Option

Softube’s Empirical Labs Mike-E Comp was based on the hardware equivalent, with a unique saturation / compression effect that takes after the ELI Distressor. Multi-stage distortion is available thanks to the preamp and three emphasis modes (as well as NUKE!), features that let you take your distortion over the edge.

The CompSat circuitry is at the heart of the unit, based on one of the most loved compressors available (the previously mentioned ELI Distressor). With an array of controls, longer than usual attack time, and a multi-stage soft-clipping circuit saturator, this baby puts the power in your hands.

The preamp was modelled after the input section of the original. It comes with a stepped gain control, with the ability to put the distortion before the CompSat.

Altogether, you get a preamp with up to +18 dB of gain, hi-pass and phase, vintage style 18 dB / octave at 80 Hz, multi-stage soft-clipping saturator with drive and Toasty / Warm meter, three emphasis modes (HF, HF2, LF), compressor, NUKE mode, ratio presets, external sidechain, and dry / wet mix.

The Empirical Labs Mike-E Comp is our best premium option and we do think it’s well worth a look.

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Pre X7 by Audiority – Best Budget Option

Pre X7 by Audiority – Best Budget Option

Based on a classic tube preamp for bass guitar, Audiority’s Pre X7 was tweaked so that it could be used on a variety of audio material.

The real-time calculations of 12AX7 tube models (input and output) allow for non-linear performance. The interface also includes a high-pass filter, tone control, and brickwall clipper / limiter.

Pre X7 also includes four steps low cut (pre or post input tube), input / output linking, Baxandall tone control, brickwall clipping limiter, as well as boost, pad, and phase switches.

For a low-cost preamp, you’ll probably be hard pressed to do any better. This thing sounds great! And that makes it a shoo-in for our best budget option too.

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Pre TridA by Arturia

Pre TridA by Arturia

The Trident A Range console is known to have contributed to the sound of The Beatles, David Bowie, Genesis, Elton John, Peter Gabriel, Queen, and many, many others. Most of all, it became known for its musical EQ and rich tone. Only 13 units were ever made!

Arturia comes to the rescue with Pre TridA, emulated using their proprietary TAE technology so that anyone can take advantage of this legendary channel strip.

The Pre TridA features a four-band twin-channel EQ, low pass filter, input gain, high pass filter, mid / side mode, and output trim controls.

With a 40 dB virtual continuous input gain and +/- 24 dB output trim control, Pre TridA also features a switchable EQ section, three switchable low pass filters, high shelf filter, high midrange bell filter, low midrange bell filter, low shelf filter, high pass filter, three stereo modes, and output analog VU meter.

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Pre V76 by Arturia

Pre V76 by Arturia

Arturia’s Pre V76 was modeled after the much-coveted preamp included in the REDD mixing consoles, responsible for the sound of 60s pop music. Two words – White Album.

Not surprisingly, the V76 is in rare supply, and quite expensive besides. Arturia steps in again to model the sound of classic gear using their TAE tech. Of course, V76 is the meeting place of classic gear with modern augmentations.

The Pre V76 comes with a modified V612 two-band EQ, V76 input gain, multi-mode high-pass filter, output trim, and mid / side mode.

Altogether, the plugin features a virtual recreation of a classic German valve preamp, Germanium EQ and filter section, high tone filter, low tone filter, high pass filter, three stereo modes, and a vintage glowing output meter.

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Front DAW by United Plugins

Front DAW by United Plugins

Created in collaboration with English producer and remixer Greg Brimson, Front DAW was designed to grace sterile digital tracks with analog warmth.

Front DAW takes advantage of United’s own Variable Analogue Random Modeling (VARM) technology, developed to duplicate the erratic behavior of analog equipment. This randomness is exactly what made vintage equipment so sought after.

Front DAW comes with three types of saturation, which you can control using the BR (classic fat British), US (punchy American), and GE (vintage German tube) buttons. Use the Mojo knob to control saturation amount (it’s relatively subtle given that the plugin was designed to be used many tracks at the same time).

This plugin also features a great realistic looking GUI, 64-bit audio quality at any sampling rate, and smart bypass.

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STA Preamp 2 by Audified

STA Preamp 2 by Audified

Audified’s STA Preamp 2 gets its name from the Summing Tube Amplifier (STA) emulation technology. This technology utilizes two signal paths, one unprocessed, and one processed by spectral change or modulation. The two signals are blended using a vacuum tube.

The result is a very distinctive sound, regardless of effect (and there are several other STA effects in the same line of products).

STA Preamp is just as much a saturator as it is a preamp. The tonal color changes based on the Mode you’ve selected.

The five circuit modes are Presence (with added mid-high frequencies), Vintage (with smoothed out highs and more harmonic content), Brown (light high frequency roll off and harmonic punch), White (boosted high frequencies and balanced even and odd harmonics), and LoFi (with reduced low and high frequencies).

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UniChannel by United Plugins

UniChannel by United Plugins

For those who like the idea of not just having a preamp but a complete channel strip, there are a few worthy options for you to consider.

One such entry is United Plugins’ UniChannel. This plugin’s aim is to grace your tracks with the warmth of analog gear. Where vintage gear may be unreliable, and often cannot be used on multiple channels, you can use and abuse UniChannel on as many channels as you see fit.

With three preamp types, three EQ types, and three compressors, you get 27 total possible combinations, with the option of bypassing the EQ or compressor.

The VARM II technology ensures that your tracks are infused with the chaos and randomness analog gear is known for.

The German channel is perfect for the drums buss and vocals, and it’s especially sweet on jazzy music. The American channel was tailor made for toms and guitar with an 80s style EQ, and the 50s style tube compressor is exceptional at fattening vocals. Finally, the Classic British channel is ideally suited to kick drum, bass, and all things rock. It has a 70s style transformer preamp, EQ, and diode bridge compressor.

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FilkChannel Strip by Kiive Audio

FilkChannel Strip by Kiive Audio

The Kiive Audio FilkChannel Strip features three modules – preamp, EQ, and compression. The essentials! The channel strip was based on 70s Danner cassette modules. From light touches of analog warmth to aggressive, driven tones, FilkChannel Strip allows for an array of tonal colors for vocals, acoustic guitars, heavy electric guitars, drums, bass, and more.

The PRE70 is the preamp section and is where you can tweak the desired level of saturation. There is also a trim knob for attenuating added gain from the input. The dry / wet knob can be used to blend the distortion.

Then comes the EQ7D, which is the EQ section, as you probably guessed. This is a three-band parametric EQ with high pass and low pass filters from 20 Hz to 20 kHz. There’s also shelf buttons if you want to change the curve.

Finally, there’s the COMP2R module, which is the compressor section. Use the compressor to add punch and attack to your tracks, adjust the amount with the in and out knobs, and set the ratio with the variable-ratio knob.

You can further alter the amount of compression with the dry / wet mix knob, and there’s a sidechain filter, as well as a mode selection switch (normal and bus modes).

FilkChannel Strip also comes with a resizable GUI.

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bx_console SSL 4000 E by Brainworx

bx_console SSL 4000 E by Brainworx

The classic 72 channel E series desk is now available as a virtual channel strip in the form of the bx_console SSL 4000 E. Officially approved by SSL, the plugin takes after the very channel strip that was tailor made for mixing pop and rock music.

Brainworx says this is the most faithful recreation of the original hardware available. It comes with all the features, including a preamp, filter and dynamics sections, as well as EQ.

Overall, the bx_console SSL 4000 E features 72 TMT Channel emulations, switchable EQ modes (brown knob, black knob), dynamics section with E and G modes, continuously variable THD and Virtual Gain controls, scalable UI, and various presets.

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