You are an acoustic guitar player and often perform live, then an acoustic guitar preamp is indispensable to increase the tone of your sound.
So do you own an acoustic preamp ideal yet? If not, and you’re a little confused as to how to buy the proper preamp for your acoustic guitar. Then there’s no reason not to stop for a few minutes at Fidlar looks through our list of the Best Acoustic Guitar Preamp 2021. Wait and see what we have to offer you.
Table of Contents
- 1 What’s The Acoustic Guitar Preamp?
- 2 Buying Guide – Key Considerations
- 3 Best Acoustic Guitar Preamps 2021
- 3.1 1. LR Baggs Para Acoustic D.I.
- 3.2 2. Fishman Aura Spectrum DI and Acoustic Guitar Preamp
- 3.3 3. BBE Acoustimax Sonic Maximizer/Preamp Pedal
- 3.4 4. Behringer V-Tone Acoustic ADI21
- 3.5 5. Tech 21 SansAmp Para Driver DI
- 3.6 6. Radial Tonebone Acoustic Preamp
- 3.7 7. Fire-Eye Red-Eye Twin
- 3.8 8. Audio Sprockets ToneDexter
- 3.9 9. Grace Design Alix
- 3.10 10. Di LR Baggs Session-DI
- 4 FAQs
- 5 Conclusion
What’s The Acoustic Guitar Preamp?
An acoustic preamp is a device that allows you to either add volume or shape your guitar’s tone. Most of you reading this are probably already familiar with acoustic preamps, believe it or not.
You know those black control panels you see on acoustic guitars? Those are preamps! Many aftermarket preamps are either marketed as DI boxes or combination DI and preamp units. However, the distinction between the two isn’t going to make much of a difference in this situation.
While a lot of the time, preamps are built-in, some manufacturers ship passive pickups. Passive pickups don’t feature a preamp, so the signal they output is shallow. This results in a weak and compressed tone, which, while functional in some instances, really isn’t ideal.
The cool thing about aftermarket preamps is that they give you more control over your tone than the preamps included with most acoustic guitars.
So even if your guitar already has an active acoustic pickup system, if you’re not satisfied with the tone, you may want to look at getting a preamp.
In addition to controlling high, mid, and bass frequencies, many also include a phase inversion switch, which in some situations can help eliminate unwanted artifacts from your tone.
Higher-end models can offer features like notch filters (which help eliminate feedback) or control over different frequency bands such as low-mids or high-mids.
Lastly, acoustic pickup preamps are similar to acoustic amps in that they can help guarantee you a consistent sound. Because you can fine-tune your tone to a high degree, you can also be more sure that when you plug into a P.A. that you’re unfamiliar with, you will have a sound that is at least somewhat reminiscent of your preferred tone.
If you gig (this also includes things like open mics), odds are you’re going to get a lot of value out of an acoustic pickup preamp.
Having access to a consistent tone is a benefit that should not be understated because part of what makes gigging so hard is that certain factors can push even the most seasoned musicians out of their comfort zone.
Knowing that your guitar is generally going to sound how you want it to will help increase your confidence, and having the ability to eliminate feedback or hum potentially will go a long way in helping your next performance go smoothly.
Buying Guide – Key Considerations
Ok, you know the benefits. What are the things to look out for when buying one of these gizmos? Let’s take a look.
Type of Pickup
There is a lot of confusion about the difference between passive and active pickups.
If your guitar has a built-in pickup, it’s likely an active pickup these pickups tend to include a preamp already, but as we mentioned earlier, they’re often inadequate.
The addition of an external preamp will increase your tonal options and reduce any unwanted noises or frequencies. Look out for something with five-band E.Q. to increase your tonal control.
If you have a passive pickup the kind you attach yourself the signal it produces will be lower than you’d require for a quality tone. You’ll need a preamp to boost this and to reduce any feedback that it may cause.
Magnetic pickups are very similar to those used in electric guitars. The more E.Q. and frequency settings you have here, the more you’ll be able to edit your sound until it’s as you think it should be.
What You Play Through
Mixing desks, with XLR inputs, are what we plug into at gigs. In situations like these, a preamp will act like a DI box to change the high impedance signal from your guitar into a low impedance signal and convert the connection to an XLR, going into a desk.
When you’re plugged in, you can then use it to shape your tone in a way that the mixing desk alone cannot do as effectively, as it’s designed with a broader range of instruments in mind.
Even so, many guitarists still choose to use an additional preamp for a higher level of controllability. Also, if you’re using a passive/piezo pickup, you’ll still require the signal boost of a preamp before you send your sound towards the amp.
Best Acoustic Guitar Preamps 2021
1. LR Baggs Para Acoustic D.I.
The weapon of choice for musicians the world over, LR Baggs has quickly gained a reputation as one of the premier manufacturers of acoustic amplification solutions.
The company has designed and manufactured some of the most innovative pickups and D.I. boxes ever, and they’re always moving the industry forward through their dedication to consistent improvement.
The critical thing to note about this D.I. is that it’s intended for musicians who will be gigging consistently. It packs features that are incredibly valuable to gigging and recording musicians, but the associated con is that this increases the overall price.
With that out of the way, the Para Acoustic has many powerful features for its diminutive size. The D.I. boasts a notch control and tune knob, both of which allow you to eliminate frequencies that can contribute to feedback in certain situations.
In addition to a three-band E.Q. (bass, mid, high/treble), the Para Acoustic also includes a presence control. A presence knob controls the character of high-end frequencies and can boost the frequencies above what the treble knob controls.
You can either make your high-end sound aggressive and cutting or manipulate it to have a more warm and creamy character.
The LR Baggs Para Acoustic D.I. is powered through either an included A.C. adapter or a 9-volt battery. A helpful feature of the device is that it also includes an LED status light, which shows you your battery’s current status.
The device also includes phantom power functionality. LR Baggs products are almost universally loved in guitar playing circles because they always do what they say they’re going to do. The company doesn’t make a product that doesn’t function as advertised, and Para Acoustic is no exception.
Provided you properly use the E.Q., it will have a very pleasing effect on your tone. The device doesn’t have its character because it’s intended to shape your instrument’s existing tone, which it is the best preamp pedal for acoustic guitar
As far as reliability is concerned, there’s nothing wrong to say. The casing is considered to be very durable, and the controls and input jacks are excellent.
And just in case something does happen to go wrong, the device does include a 1-year warranty. However, keep in mind that, like most warranties, operator error is not covered.
If there are flaws in artistry, you can send it in and either get your money back or receive a replacement, but if you modify it, you’re on your own.
The LR Baggs is a powerful device for gigging musicians, and it gives you a degree of control over your tone that you’re going to need if you’re serious about live performance.
2. Fishman Aura Spectrum DI and Acoustic Guitar Preamp
Fishman is the best guitar preamp. They amplify what Gibson and Fender are to electric guitars, producing some of the most innovative and powerful acoustic amplification solutions currently on the market.
The company has partnered with a variety of manufacturers. If you’re playing the guitar that came from the factory with a pickup installed, the odds are pretty good that it’s a Fishman-designed product.
While the company may be the best onboard preamp for acoustic guitar, they’ve had their hand in a pretty impressive variety of amplification technology. They make reliable all-in-one P.A. units, acoustic amplifiers, and DI boxes, and acoustic preamps.
Fishman has an excellent track record for producing quality technology at a price that most musicians can justify. No exception to this trend, the Fishman Aura Spectrum DI and Acoustic Guitar Preamp is a reliable option for anyone looking for a way to take their acoustic instrument’s tone to the next level.
The most notable feature of the Fishman Aura Spectrum DI is that it models Helmholtz resonance. In layman’s terms, relevant to what we’re currently discussing, this is essentially the tone produced by an unplugged acoustic instrument.
Because of how pickups function, many of them lose that acoustic sound and dynamic range, leading to an inorganic sounding tone. The Aura Spectrum doesn’t replicate this to the point where it compares to an unplugged instrument, but it has a positive impact.
While the Fishman does have controls reminiscent of a modeling amp, the image selector is intended to get you into the ballpark of whatever instrument it is that you’re playing.
While you can select whatever preset you think sounds best, this parameter is intended to allow you to reproduce the tone of your instrument faithfully.
You can control the ratio of Helmholtz resonance through the blend knob. The Fishman does include a standard three-band E.Q., which, while not quite as powerful as a five-band E.Q., does still give you the ability to fine-tune your tone. The pedal also comes with a one-knob simple compressor, feedback suppression functionality, and a chromatic tuner.
Think of this unit as an acoustic dynamic and tone enhancer. If you don’t like the sound of your pickup, to begin with, you’re probably not going to be in love with the sound you get from this unit, even though it will have a positive impact.
However, suppose you have a pickup that you do like, and you want to increase the representation of tonalities exclusive to an acoustic instrument. In that case, you’re probably going to end up pretty satisfied.
The unit can produce the right tone. You have to spend some time dialing in a tone that works with your gear. It can do an excellent job of eliminating the dreaded piezo quack.
The Fishman Aura Spectrum DI and Acoustic pickup Preamp offer a lot of utility for musicians who are looking to make their instrument sound more organic and natural when amplified.
- Adjustable gain for both passive and active pickups
3. BBE Acoustimax Sonic Maximizer/Preamp Pedal
Founded in 1985, BBE has been the best guitar preamp pedal for high-end digital equipment for more than two decades. The company is among a host of others inspired to design and create equipment for musicians that were vastly superior, more versatile, and more portable than the expensive and unwieldy studio-quality effects of their time.
BBE is an acoustic guitar preamp with effects, they’ve also launched a few products that are incredibly innovative in their own right.
They’re not a company that’s content with just enhancing an existing effect. Instead, they’ve shown a commitment to furthering the technological advancement of music as a whole.
A perfect example of the company’s dedication to innovation, the BBE Acoustimax Sonic Maximizer/Preamp is perfect for any musician looking to transform their guitar’s tone. To learn more about what this effect does and how it stacks up to the competition, check out the specifications below.
The first thing to know about this preamp is that it’s an effect known as an “Exciter.” Without getting too technical, an exciter enhances harmonics present in a tone.
It was initially a rackmount effect used in early studios because tracks tend to lose their crispness in the high-end following repeated overdubs. While exciters aren’t going to be used for this purpose by the average musician, they do have a lot of utility for any guitarist or bassist looking to enhance their tone.
They’re perfect for dull-sounding pickups, that while having a pleasing tone overall, that doesn’t have enough clarity. This also holds for piezo, which can tend to have an underwhelming high-end.
As implied by the name of the product, the Acoustimax also has the functionality of a preamp. It has a three-band active EQ (this means that it can cut and boost frequencies), an XLR equipped Direct Box, a tuner output, as well as a notch filter.
A notch filter is essential if you’re an acoustic musician because it’s a lifesaver if you’re having issues with feedback. It works because it cuts a narrow frequency range, which allows you to target the frequency that’s causing the feedback and eliminate it.
It’s not a cure-all, but it will help in most situations. The Acoustimax includes a 12v power supply and comes outfitted with non-slip rubber feet.
This pedal can help to increase the representation of treble and high-mid frequencies present in a quality pickup. So long as it has a base level of quality to work with, it can make your tone more articulate and clear without making it piercing.
The BBE Acoustimax Sonic Maximizer/Preamp Pedal is a good investment for musicians who already have a quality acoustic pickup that they’re looking to enhance.
4. Behringer V-Tone Acoustic ADI21
Founded by Uli Behringer in 1989, Behringer is a company noted for catering to musicians on a budget. Behringer started due to Uli not being able to access equipment at his alma mater, the Robert Schumman Conservatory.
The university had a limited amount of equipment that students could use to have the equipment he needed to further their studies and abilities; he started designing and producing digital effects.
While Uli only intended to build products for his use, his fellow students also purchased gear from him due to the shortage of quality instrument accessories available at the school. Soon enough, the demand for his products outpaced his ability to produce them, leading to the formation of Behringer Inc.
While the Behringer we know today is a far cry from its humble roots, Uli has never lost his commitment to making quality instrument accessories available to musicians on a limited budget.
A perfect example of the company’s ethos is the Behringer V-Tone Acoustic Adi21 Acoustic Amp Modeler/Direct Recording Preamp/DI Box.
While this preamp does have an EQ, its most notable feature is that it emulates the warmth of analog components and a hybrid instrument’s natural response.
While it would be unreasonable to expect that this device would be capable of genuinely replicating an organic tone, considering how no preamp currently available has been able to do so, it does have a positive impact on the tone. The presence of the mic/tube emulation can be increased or decreased through the blend knob.
The EQ on the device is functional, though it is only a three-band EQ. It’s enough to offer plenty of control, but it’s not going to let you fine-tune your tone to the extent you’d be able to with a five or seven-band EQ.
The EQ presence does help eliminate feedback when used appropriately, but it should be noted that the unit does not have a dedicated control to reduce feedback.
It does have a ground lift, so at the very least, you should be able to reduce the amount of hum present in your signal should it occur (if not eliminate it).
The unit does come with a boost so that you can increase the signal on passive acoustic pickups. As previously stated, the V-Tone does a passable job of making the tone of acoustic pickups a bit more organic.
While it doesn’t have as many features as high-end preamps, this preamp does an adequate job, and you can pick one up for a third of the price you’d pay for a boutique option. So if you’re on a budget then it is the best preamp pedal
- Professional preamp/DI for performing and recording with acoustic-electric guitar
5. Tech 21 SansAmp Para Driver DI
Tech 21 is perfect for those who are playing through passive pickups. It actively balances out some of the weaknesses of piezo pickups to give a warmer and more natural sound.
This is a versatile product, which combines three-band EQ with a mid-shift control for extra equalization options.
There’s also an overdrive effect, should you want a bit of an edge or full-on dirtiness. As well as working for acoustic guitars, you can use this for your electric guitars or bass guitars, making it a more versatile piece of kit.
It can boost and cut 12db with dedicated buttons for quickly switching between lead and rhythm. It can also be used with solid-body instruments, making it potentially more useful and versatile. There’s a full range of tone-shaping knobs, including a mid-shift control so that you can set your mid-range for extra controllability.
6. Radial Tonebone Acoustic Preamp
The Radial Tonebone Acoustic preamp is one of the best preamps for acoustic guitar. This is because the Radial Tonebone is a 6-in-1 gadget with functionalities of a preamp, DI, Feedback reduction, an EQ, a booster, and the ease of plugging two guitars same time.
This is a lot to get from a single device! This preamp comes with pre and post-EQ outputs, effects loop, and can be combined with other pedals. Its feedback reduction feature helps reduce the feedback significantly and gives out a robust, sharp tone. The preamp comes with a 15v power supply option, which is not a standard among preamps.
The preamp also features the setting, allowing two guitars to be plugged simultaneously, but there are no separate EQs. This means that the EQ setting for one guitar would need to be applied on the other guitar, which might not always be appropriate.
The Radial Tonebone Acoustic, with its great features, is one of the most expensive preamps in the market. Still, it justifies its cost by the fantastic sound it produces and the multitude of controls and effects it provides. This one finds its way into the best acoustic preamp list.
- Completely redesigned from the ground up, the all-analog Platinum Pro EQ universal instrument preamp delivers incredibly accurate sonic detail for any acoustic instrument.
7. Fire-Eye Red-Eye Twin
As the name implies, the Red-Eye Twin packs two all-analog Red-Eye preamps into one compact unit, including two inputs for two instruments – each having a dedicated gain and treble knobs.
It is meant for musicians who switch between multiple instruments at gigs, simplifying instrument switching while providing transparent high-fidelity preamplification and DI-box functions.
There’s also a switch that lets use both preamps simultaneously with separate instruments.
There’s not much to work with in tone shaping, but it has a clean boost footswitch for emphasizing certain musical lines.
8. Audio Sprockets ToneDexter
The ToneDexter is the best acoustic preamp pedal with microphone modeling in an exciting feature called WaveMap, which captures and applies a mic’s character to your tone.
By blending its WaveMap signal with that of your piezo pickups, it produces a resulting sound that is more natural and a-kin to a studio miked acoustic.
But unlike the Fishman Aura, ToneDexter works well with all types of soundboard and under-saddle transducers – not just piezo.
You can use the WaveMap feature to capture the response of various mics to your acoustic by merely recording a couple of minutes of play, and you can store up to 22 of these WaveMaps for use whenever you want to.
While it is primarily meant for acoustic guitar, it can also work with other acoustic-electric instruments, including the mandolin, ukulele, violin, banjo, upright bass, and more.
- The Aura Spectrum DI features award-winning Aura Acoustic Imaging technology that enables players to mix studio-mic’d sound with the signal from their undersaddle or soundhole pickup
9. Grace Design Alix
The Grace Design Alix is the best preamp acoustic guitar with expanded EQ controls and a studio-quality quiet signal path.
Its focal feature is its versatile and natural sounding EQ section, which lets you adjust highs, lows, and mids via parametric knobs, precisely where they are needed to be adjusted. It does all of this while maintaining an intuitive layout of knobs.
Other features include 3-input impedance for matching your pickup, DI output with source, and output level controls. It has a built-in variable boost function with a dedicated footswitch.
10. Di LR Baggs Session-DI
The Session-DI is the best acoustic guitar onboard preamp. Its saturation control adds warmth and thickness while playing. It controls overly high notes and blends them with shallow ones to give you a more useful sound. The notch control eliminates feedback, and the onboard equalizer helps to level out your sound.
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 from you. You get a lot of bang for your buck.
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.
The LR Baggs Session-DI is a relatively compact dynamite preamp, fully controls feedback, and gives you lots of potential tonal variations. You even can add effects pedals.
- An analog acoustic preamp with digital effects and looper function.
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 Preamp Improve Sound Quality?
A perfect 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.
If you want to play live with an acoustic guitar, you need a preamp to 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. Fidlar hopes that our best preamp for acoustic guitar guide will help you find the best one.
Last update on 2021-04-10 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API