6 Best Guitar Preamp Pedals to Check Out in 2021

If you just want the top product, the best guitar preamp pedal is the JHS Clover Preamp.

Are you aware of the value a preamp pedal can bring?

While you don’t need one to play, preamp pedals can warm your sound, make it more authentic and make changes to your sound without altering your amp’s settings.

It also increases your guitar’s signal and helps your other pedals process effects.

So, consider using a guitar preamp to better your setup and enhance your sound.

With this in mind, here are the best guitar preamp pedals on the market in 2021:

Reviews of the Best Guitar Preamp Pedals of 2021

JHS Clover Preamp

Best Overall

JHS Clover Preamp
Acoustic/electric: Both, and bassLines in: ¼-inchLines out: ¼-inch, XLREQ: Three-band, two-band, or noneOther effects: GainBypass: Buffered

Straight off the bat, buyers adore this preamp because it has an array of useful features that many other guitar preamps don’t have. Some users find this preamp so useful that they keep it on at all times as a feature of their band’s sound.

One of the unique features is that you can turn off the EQ (equalizer) capabilities, or reduce it to two-band if you desire. This is great, letting you fine-tune your music to your liking differently each time.

You can also use the amp to boost your sound and add some EQ, but it’s up to you. There are three bands of EQ you can play with at any time, which is the minimum you need to alter the sound’s mids, highs and lows.

On top of that, there’s a switch that lets you reduce the lower tones’ sound if you’re going for an all-high sound.

The preamp and its features work with all guitar types, bringing out excellent sounds in each. You connect it to your chosen instrument by the standard ¼-inch cable, but there’s also an XLR output. This lets you plug your guitar in, yes, but also a mic—great for vocalists who play guitar.

In addition, the ground lift switch eliminates any hum from the pedal, ensuring you have a clean sound at all times.

Each feature is easy to use, which customers adore. They had nothing negative to say about the function, sound or usage. But, some customers say how the dials are rubbery and not as desirable as the controls on some other pedals.

Despite this, it’s a wonderfully portable, durable pedal with high-quality sound.

PROS

  • Select EQ mode.
  • Ground lift switch.
  • XLR output.
  • Easy to use.

CONS

  • Customers dislike the feel of the controls.

Tech 21 Q\Strip

Best Premium Preamp

Tech 21 Q\Strip
Acoustic/electric: Both, and bassLines in: ¼-inchLines out: ¼-inch, XLREQ: Four-bandOther effects: Gain, lower sound, high pass filter, low pass filterBypass: Buffered

This amp is popular among professionals and takes inspiration from ‘60s–’70s analog consoles that many seasoned players love.

The interface is busy, and the pedal is wide, making it less portable but no less functional. For example, the four-band EQ goes beyond the typical three-band, letting you alter more frequencies within your sound for a more unique tone.

Regardless of what EQ you use, you’ll have a warm tone that suits classic rock well but isn’t great for metal.

You can boost this sound by 10 decibels, reduce it by 20, and filter out undesirable tones using the high pass and low pass filters. According to purchasers and pros alike, the sound boost and alterations sound best when paired with other premium guitar gear.

Many professional guitarists, like Pete Thorn, only use this pedal for its EQ feature and nothing else—but Pete finds the EQ substantial enough to work perfectly, eliminating the need for EQ effects added after a recording session. It’s an excellent tool for eliminating work after-the-fact.

This appears to be one of Pete’s top picks in his best acoustic guitar preamp pedal, electric guitar preamp pedal and bass pedal collection.

It’s an all-around fantastic pedal that many users adore. They have very few complaints about it—the only one being that it may not fit neatly on a traditional pedalboard.

PROS

  • Useful with various guitar types.
  • Premium features.
  • Analog style is appealing to older players.
  • Impressive EQ.

CONS

  • Non-traditional pedal shape is more difficult to fit on a pedalboard and transport.
Radial Engineering Tonebone AC Driver Acoustic Preamp
Acoustic/electric: AcousticLines in: ¼-inch jackLines out: ¼-inch, XLR, tuner outEQ: NoOther effects: Low-cut filter, notch switching, level altering, mute functionBypass: Buffered

While every preamp pedal here is great under any circumstances, Radial Engineering has designed this one specifically for live performances.

Part of its suitability for stage use is its compact design, which users enjoyed. Despite its size, it’s packed full of features.

In particular, there are three outputs, where the preamp pedals above only feature two. The Tonebone pedal has the typical ¼-inch output and an XLR output, but there’s also a “Tuner Out.”

That output helps you tune your instrument silently, as well as switch seamlessly between instruments. It functions via a mute switch. Step on it, and it mutes all sounds, except the “Tuner Out.”

Additional features are the low-cut filtering, Notch Switching, and more. These are made to enhance sound for acoustic guitars and eliminate feedback.

Also, this preamp pedal creates a warm-sounding instrument, although some customers note that it colors the tone and sounds “wooly.” Even so, it doesn’t sound bad by any means.

Despite the minor sound issue, most customers found the preamp pedal incredibly useful, especially for musicians who frequently change instruments mid-performance. They’d prefer if the power adapter needed to use the preamp pedal was included with the purchase, though. You can find that here.

PROS

  • “Tuner Out” line and tuner function.
  • Excellent additional effects.
  • Great for switching instruments during live performances.
  • Easy to use and transport.

CONS

  • Slightly altered sound.
  • Power adapter sold separately.

Boss AD-2 Acoustic Preamp Guitar Pedal

Preamp Pedal with Reverb

Boss AD-2 Acoustic Preamp Guitar Pedal
Acoustic/electric: Acoustic, acoustic-electricLines in: ¼-inchLines out: ¼-inch, XLREQ: Single bandOther effects: Reverb, notch controlBypass: Buffered

Do you like adding reverb to your sound but feel your guitar and amp aren’t giving it enough oomph? According to customers, this pedal’s ambiance feature is reverb in disguise and is excellent, making your live performances sound studio-edited.

Overall, it’s an easy-to-use pedal and doesn’t come with too many fancy features. Its EQ is basic but adds some interesting sound tonality.

Something also to note is that its equalization abilities aren’t labeled as EQ, but acoustic resonance—just a heads-up if you can’t find the EQ.

If you find any frequencies within the EQ are providing feedback, no worries. The notch control lets you isolate and adjust that feedback until it’s at a level you’re okay with.

Users found its small number of features functional, but they had a gripe with the battery life—it lasts 6 hours.

Outside of that, other users had minor issues with the sound and found it alters the treble’s tones excessively. Ensure you have function EQ on your regular amp to cancel this out.

PROS

  • Reverb feature.
  • Easy-to-use interface.
  • Isolate feedback-producing features.

CONS

  • Short battery life.
  • Distorts treble tones.
  • Limited features work well.
EarthQuaker Devices Arrows Preamp
Acoustic/electric: BothLines in: ¼-inchLines out: ¼-inchEQ: NoneOther effects: NoneBypass: Buffered

If you don’t want fancy features and just need a preamp pedal for its bare minimum functions, this is the one for you. It has no changeable effects, just a dial that adjusts the level, making it ideal for beginners without lacking functionality.

The lack of fancy features makes it highly affordable and wonderfully compact. Place it next to your other pedals to achieve a sound with a boosted midrange, rich and tight low frequencies and clear treble.

Users find it perfect to use when playing lead guitar. Their sound pops as intended, even without additional gear.

Note that the preamp pedal is compatible with electric and acoustic guitars and all other pedal types, but players recommend it more for the latter. It opens up the tone and makes it bright, although it adds some “crunch” to electric guitar sounds, too.

Part of its sound comes from the built-in EQ, which the manufacturers designed to make all tones sound their best. While this is great, some users were disappointed that they couldn’t adjust the EQ.

Despite the letdown, users found the pedal a joy to work with.

PROS

  • Easy interface—perfect for beginners.
  • Compact.
  • Pairs well with other pedals.
  • Basic built-in EQ settings.

CONS

  • No way to adjust the built-in EQ.

Boss AD-10 Acoustic Guitar Hardware

Preamp Pedal with the Most Features

Acoustic/electric: BothLines in: ¼-inchLines out: 2x ¼-inch, 2x XLR, USBEQ: Four-band on two channelsOther effects: Anti-feedback, acoustic resonance, comp, delay/chorus, ambiance, boost, loopBypass: Buffered

If you value features above all else, here’s a pedal you’ll enjoy. It has everything you need in a pedal, including features found in several other pedal types.

First and foremost, this is a preamp pedal, and it functions well as one. There are four EQ bands, delay and chorus effects, ambiance control, acoustic resonance, and more. You can even work to reduce feedback on the pedal.

However, this isn’t just for one instrument. You can plug in two and alter their sound—separately with an EQ, as there are two separate sets of controls for it.

On top of that, the tuner will remember up to 10 sets of pre-set sound settings in its 10 memory banks. This is great for getting back to your desired sound quickly between songs with different vibes.

Speaking of optimizing performance, there’s a tuner and a looper built right into the pedal. After use, you can upload any recorded loops to a computer thanks to the USB connectivity. This will save you time as you won’t need to deal with multiple pedals and heavy editing when uploading.

It’s easy to get use out of all of these features as you can power the preamp pedal with a power supply (not included) or make it portable using 6 AA batteries (included).

Customers loved all of the features packed into this beauty, and they also enjoyed the preamp pedal’s quality. They say it’s incredibly durable, and some go as far as to state it’s “built like a tank.”

However, they didn’t love the display as much as they loved the features and the accurately reproduced line sound. They said the user interface is difficult to use, and you’ll require heavy manual-use for a long time after purchase.

They also disliked how there’s no way to mute instruments individually when two are connected to the pedal simultaneously.

PROS

  • Looper included.
  • Built-in tuner.
  • Vast memory banks for sound settings.
  • Battery-operated.

CONS

  • Difficult-to-use interface.
  • No separate mute functions when used on two instruments.

How To Choose a Preamp Pedal For Your Guitar

X Best Guitar Preamp Pedals To Check Out In 2021

If you’ve already decided on one of the above preamp pedals, great!

If not, work your way through the guide below to help pick one out.

Equalizer (EQ)

Examples of different sound frequencies
source

Notes aren’t made up of a single tone, but many. Each note has a range of highs, mids and lows to it, and an equalizer lets you alter that.

Most preamp pedals have an equalizer, but what kind of equalizer is best depends on the preamp’s quality and complexity.

Single-Band EQ

Single-band equalizers allow you to adjust the sound’s overall tone and frequencies. While you can create some interesting alterations with this, the tones will all change to the same degree, and the sound won’t be in-depth.

The Boss AD-2 Acoustic Preamp Guitar Pedal is great for your single-band EQ needs.

Two-Band EQ

When you jump up to two-band, you can control the highs and the lows of the sound. Tweak the frequencies to create a lighter, bassier, distorted, or whatever-else tone.

It’s with two-band that you can start fine-tuning and getting your sound incredibly unique, making it a desirable listening experience for the people at your shows.

Three-Band EQ

Three-band is the peak of EQ. Not only can you control the highs and lows but the mids, too. With three-band EQ, you can create the most dynamic listening experience, crafting a unique overall sound for your music.

You have so much variety to play with when you have three-band EQ. While single or two-band is fine, three-band is what you want to go for optimization.

Check out the JHS Clover Preamp for a three-band EQ that you can also change to a two-bands.

Other

Some preamp pedals lack EQ, which is fine if it’s not a priority for you. Some also have four or more bands, but these are more for professionals.

Still, four or more EQ bands make for an incredibly interesting sound. Consider the Boss AD-10 Acoustic Guitar Hardware for a four-band pedal.

Effects

Preamp pedals can add more than EQ. You have distortion, more precise volume control, and more, depending on the individual preamp pedal.

The pedals above vary wildly with what effects they offer, so read carefully and consider what you think would boost your sound.

Keep in mind; you don’t have to go too fancy with your preamp pedal, as many amplifiers come with superior and additional features.

If effects are your thing, the Boss AD-10 Acoustic Guitar Hardware has the most. Try the Tech 21 QStrip for a smaller selection but a nice balance.

Portability

Preamp pedals aren’t particularly bulky, but some take up more space than others, making portability an issue. An example of this is the Boss AD-10 Acoustic Guitar Hardware

If you plan to use your preamp pedal in one room or on one stage, that’s fine. You can get one of any size and shape and leave it there.

Consider one of the smaller, neater options with a simple interface, like the Boss AD-2 Acoustic Preamp Guitar Pedal, if you’re going to be moving around a lot. It’s only a slightly different shape, but it can save you a lot of room in a travel case.

Line Level Boost Quality

While this feature isn’t as important as EQ and effects, it’s still something to pay attention to.

Mic signals and line signals sound different, with a line’s signal being greater than what you’d get from a mic.

With a microphone input, which you can use to boost your guitar’s sound, you’re getting a mono sound that’s good, but not great.

Line sounding level brings you up to professional levels with a stereo sound, and all guitar preamps bring you up to this level.

You won’t learn much about the sound quality of preamp pedals before you make a purchase. We’ve included mentions of sound quality in the reviews above, where possible, to help you make a decision.

Bypass Type

True Bypass

True bypass routes the signal from your instrument directly through the preamp to the amplifier. Many players find this a desirable aspect, but it’s mostly professionals that like this bypass mode.

Preamp pedals with true bypass are difficult for beginners to understand, but the perks of true bypass are most noticeable when you’re playing with distortion or a lot of gain. Many amps will alter the sound slightly, but you won’t get that with true bypass.

Though, if you’re a beginner, bypass type doesn’t matter that much, but true bypass may not be your best choice despite the superior sound. There’s a compatibility error if you have a tuner on your medal board, which we’ll talk about in a moment.

Buffer Bypass

Buffer bypass is useful for guitarists who have a tuner on their pedalboard. Tuners often pick up the guitar signal and thin it out as you try to connect to various pedals at once. So, you’ll need to plug out your true bypass tuner before you play with your true bypass preamp.

Consider how much plugging in and out you’re willing to do on stage. If you don’t use a pedal tuner, you won’t have this issue, though all the pedals above are buffered bypass. We want this list to be accessible to everyone and understand we can’t all jump up and down, unplugging and replugging in gear all the time.

Best Guitar Preamp Pedal: Clear Winner

Yes, there are more premium and more feature-dense pedals on our list, but the JHS Clover Preamp has to win out over the rest of the pedals here.

The manufacturers are in-tune with how guitarists need variety, and so the various EQ options are something you won’t find in many other pedals.

On top of that, the sound is fantastic, and user complaints are almost non-existent with the pedal. If the worst thing people can say about a pedal is that its dials are rubbery, you know you’ve found a keeper!



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