The 7 Best Guitar Preamp Pedals (2024)
A guitar preamp is one of the essential parts of every guitar chain, which has a drastic impact on tone shaping. This article explains what they are and which are the best ones to use.
A preamp pedal is something you will find in any signal chain of every guitarist in the world. In most cases, it comes as a part of a guitar amp, along with a power amp. However, you can also find it in the form of a single unit, whether it’s about a rack unit, pedal, or something third.
Later on, in this article, I’m going to explain exactly what a preamp is, the difference between preamps and power amps, and the overall benefits of using a good preamp.
My top recommended preamp guitar pedal is the Strymon Iridium Amp and IR Cab Simulator Pedal. This is a high-end and high-quality pedal with exceptional tonal qualities.
My second recommended preamp guitar pedal is the JOYO JF-13 AC Tone Vintage Tube Amplifier Effects Pedal. If you’re on a budget, then the JOYO pedal is an excellent option with a very affordable price tag.
Check out our guide on how to setup a guitar pedalboard.
- The 7 Best Guitar Preamp Pedals (2024)
- 1. Strymon Iridium Amp and IR Cab Simulator Pedal
- 2. JOYO JF-13 AC Tone Vintage Tube Amplifier Effects Pedal
- 3. Revv G3
- 4. JHS Clover Preamp/Boost
- 5. Orange Bax Bangeetar Guitar Pre-EQ Pedal – White
- 6. Xotic BB Preamp V 1.5 Pedal
- 7. Fishman Platinum Pro EQ/DI Analog Preamp Pedal
- What is a guitar preamp?
- What is the difference between preamps and power amps?
- What are the benefits of a guitar preamp?
- Where does a Preamp go in a Pedal Chain?
The 7 Best Guitar Preamp Pedals (2024)
Let’s compare these in more detail.
The Strymon Iridium Amp and IR Cab Simulator Pedal is a high-quality preamp that can be found in the best pedalboards. This high-end preamp has three amp modeling options to offer for great tube staging. It has a roaring 2-stage DSP processor that ensures great EQ and compression.
Among the essentials, as well as the Round, Chime, and Punch tube amps, it has 9 speaker cabs, three for each tube amp which delivers exceptional tonal qualities and shaping. It also features an onboard reverb for that ambient feel.
This Strymon beast also incorporates inputs/outputs for mono and stereo pedal setups, plus, an expression pedal TRS input for even more versatility. This preamp pedal offers so much but at a given price, of course, albeit worth it, it allows for great tonal shaping and power behind it.
Overall, the Strymon Iridium Amp and IR Cab Simulator Pedal is a high-quality and responsive pedal that will suit many guitar players.
2. JOYO JF-13 AC Tone Vintage Tube Amplifier Effects Pedal
Essentially, preamp pedals aren’t much different compared to classic distortion or boost pedals, so many players also use such units as preamps. The JF-13 is somewhere in between and if you are looking for a classic vintage VOX amp tone in a cheap way, this is the product for you. The pedal is simple and super-compact, while the sound characteristics are more than decent.
In terms of control, you will find nothing but common knobs. There are two rows and six knobs in total. The upper section includes typical EQ controls, while the lower one comes with Level, Voice, and Drive knobs. You can manipulate a lot with them and find that legendary AC30 tone with ease.
The pedal is well-built and the company claims you will find nothing but quality components inside the housing. More importantly, the pedal is super-easy to use and features compact dimensions. It is a perfect addition to your pedalboard, especially if we consider that it features a true bypass.
A great balance between price and quality is probably the main reason why this pedal is so popular among guitar players. Simply, you will hardly find a pedal at this price range that offers such a high level of versatility and sounds amazing at the same time.
The key feature of this small preamp unit is a small toggle switch in the middle, which allows you to choose between three aggression levels. In that way, you can calibrate the gain knob and make this unit suitable for any music genre.
Other than that, this is a typical preamp pedal, which comes with typical EQ controls, as well as Gain and Volume knobs.
This unit is compact and fits any pedalboard. Also, it will sound great whether you’re about to use it as a preamp pedal and go directly into a cab simulator, or you want to use it as a typical distortion pedal. You won’t be disappointed in any way.
Many guitar players like to keep things simple and if you are one of them, this is the preamp pedal for you. With this unit, you won’t get any fancy control options. You won’t get an overdrive either. On the other side, you will get a superior EQ section, which includes several knobs and switches.
Besides typical EQ knob controls, there is also a nice rotary switch, which lets you choose between three different EQ modes – Full EQ, No Mids, and No EQ.
To make this pedal even more versatile, the manufacturer has also installed a small Low Cut switch, which cuts bass frequencies and tightens your tone even more. All these EQ controls make the JGS Clover suitable for any type of guitar, whether it’s acoustic, electric, or even bass guitar.
To make things even more convenient, the manufacturer has installed a balanced XLR out, so you can go directly into a recording device, mixer, or modeler.
This is a type of preamp pedal that can be used in any way you want. You can use it in front of your amp, you can go directly into PA, or use it for direct recording. There is a classic output, as well as a Cab Sim out, but that’s not the only reason why this pedal is so amazing.
The best thing about this pedal is the EQ section, which is amazing. Unlike most other products on the market that come with a typical 3-band EQ, this one is far more complex.
There are knobs for lows and highs, but middle frequencies are where things become interesting. Three knobs cover mid ranges. Besides the typical Mid knob, there are also Q and Freq knobs, which allow you to do all kinds of fine-tunings and control the bandwidth.
Besides this amazing EQ section, you will also find typical Volume and Gain knobs, while another amazing thing is that you can also count on a boost switch and buffered bypass. We also like the fact that this pedal comes with an internal charge pump, so you may count on an 18V performance from a 9V power source.
The Xotic BB Preamp V 1.5 Pedal is a budget-friendly and pretty simple preamp for guitar users. This analog stompbox has a very useful 2-band EQ with a great variety of controls and tone shaping, all for a reasonable price. It features a Gain, Treble, Volume, and Bass knob and looks pretty slick.
The BB Preamp delivers a good overdrive with great sustain and a powerful boost. Along with True Bypass, it’s a mix of all useful and highly-needed functions and has a very easy-to-use setup. With no bells and whistles, this is the perfect and compact preamp pedal for the price.
Overall, the Xotic BB Preamp V 1.5 Pedal is a straightforward and compact pedal with a minimalistic design that won’t take up much space on your pedalboard. It offers great sonic versatility and has an amazing value-for-price ratio.
Last, but certainly not least is the Fishman Platinum Pro EQ/DI Analog Preamp Pedal. This high-quality preamp comes with a hefty price tag but for very good reason. This acoustic preamp pedal offers excellent sonic capabilities while offering incredible versatility for tone shaping.
The preamp features a 5-band EQ with great filters, greatly reduced feedback for even more value, and a built-in compressor to further smooth things out. You can control the dynamic range of your sound with the many knobs at your disposal.
Not to mention the chromatic tuner incorporated within the design, the footswitch with a volume boost, and the XLR DI. It can also be used for bass guitars, adding even more value for the price.
To sum it up, this Fishman beast is your all-in-one preamp pedal. Granted, the price is a little steep but considering the many features and tone-shaping options, as well as the quality, you get what you paid for and will not be disappointed.
What is a guitar preamp?
As I’ve mentioned, a guitar preamp is one of the most critical parts of a guitar chain, which gives the core sound of your guitar. The signal that is picked by a pickup is weak and pretty anemic and what a preamp does is boost a guitar signal to “line level”.
This means it makes it loud enough to manipulate it and create specific colors and characters. In short, it raises the signal to the audible volume. Furthermore, it also comes with a compressor, which is critical in terms of dynamical consistency.
What is the difference between preamps and power amps?
While a preamp is among the first things in a guitar signal chain, a power amp is among the last ones. A power amp goes not only after a preamp but also after all effects. While a preamp amplifies the signal to “line level”, a power amp amplifies volume to a “stage level”. Such a boosted signal then goes to speakers and that’s the final “product” of a guitar chain.
What are the benefits of a guitar preamp?
Even these days, most players use classic guitar amps, which consist of both preamp and power amp. However, more and more guitarists are switching to separate units. Such an approach provides a much wider tonal diversity, as it allows players to combine different preamps with different power amps. Such flexibility is definitely one of the biggest benefits of a separate preamp.
Another obvious benefit is the size. Guitar amps are usually bulky, while a separate preamp can easily be found in the form of a pedal, which is highly beneficial if you’re on a constant move. Such products aren’t any different from other pedals and can easily fit any pedalboard.
Where does a Preamp go in a Pedal Chain?
You’d want your preamp boost pedal at the beginning of your pedalboard. Since boosting your signal and the much-needed tone-shaping that goes along with it is extremely important, you want it to be within reach and among the first pedals you use.
It’s usually best to place the preamp first, or second among your pedal chain for easy access. Once you get used to it and can easily navigate your entire pedalboard, you can start by experimenting with different positions and putting other pedals first.
Preamp pedals are essential for shaping your guitar tone. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, with a variety of features. It’s important to find the right one for your needs and to experiment with different placements in your pedal chain. With the right preamp pedal, you can easily achieve the tone you’re looking for.
My top pick is the Strymon Iridium Amp and IR Cab Simulator Pedal, a high-quality pedal with great amp modeling and tonal capabilities.
My budget pick is the JOYO JF-13 AC Tone Vintage Tube Amplifier Effects Pedal. For those on a tighter budget looking for a decent preamp, the JOYO will not disappoint.