MOOER PreAMP Live Guitar Pedal
EarthQuaker Devices Arrows Preamp
Table of Contents
Preamp pedals offer a versatile design for the front of your signal chain. These units can function as a boost, EQ and drive in one. For this roundup, I’ve chosen the JHS Clover Preamp Boost Pedal as the best guitar preamp pedal on the market. It delivers nuanced tonal control and plenty of boost to nail any style you want to play.
While the Clover is my No. 1 pick, there are many great guitar preamp pedals to choose from. If you’re searching for the perfect pedal for your needs, check out my top 11 recommendations; it’s sure to save you a lot of time and effort.
The 11 Best Guitar Preamp Pedals:
JHS Clover Guitar Preamp Boost Pedal
JHS Pedals are known for updating classic designs with modern twists and their Clover guitar preamp pedal is no exception. This circuit is based on a Boss FA-1 pedal, popularized by U2 guitarist The Edge in the 1980s.
The Clover builds on that circuit with an amazing three-band EQ system and mode selector switch. Each EQ control — treble, mids and bass — can add or cut up to 15db of frequencies to further shape your tone.
Together with the volume knob, you can use these dials to tweak your clean tone or take a clean amp into gritty overdrive.
The mode selector knob is a bit more interesting. This dial allows you to turn certain EQ knobs on and off for a different tonal flavor. Leave all three on to achieve the highest control level, turn the mids off to mimic the Boss FA-1 or remove all the tone controls for straight-ahead overdrive.
The Clover also includes an XLR output to work as an acoustic preamp and bass unit.
EarthQuaker Devices Arrows Preamp
In terms of simplicity, it’s hard to beat the EarthQuaker Devices Arrows Preamp. This compact pedal includes one knob to deliver iconic tone in every situation.
The Arrows shares its DNA with many one-knob boost pedals. While it can sculpt your tone as well, it’s designed to fit into your signal chain like a drive pedal.
Behind the one volume knob, this pedal offers its own sonic signature. No matter your guitar or amp, it boosts the midrange, tightens and focuses the bass and injects extra treble shine for a perfect lead guitar sound.
The Arrows works alone as a clean boost, providing plenty of extra volume before breaking up. One of this pedal’s main strengths is its compatibility with other stompboxes. When cranked up alone or together with another unit, it provides both bright, crunchy tones and thick, syrupy fuzz.
MOOER PreAMP Live
For studio and live performers looking for the absolute best preamp pedal available, the Mooer PreAMP Live delivers on all fronts.
This massive unit includes 50 digital amplifier models along with boost controls, noise gates and a programmable effects loop. The pedal lets you carry 12 of those 50 models upfront, adding guitar effects and EQ adjustments to them as you go.
You can even tweak existing amp models and create new ones for your pedal with Mooer’s digital software.
The number and quality of options available make this the most comprehensive preamp pedal on the market. Beyond shaping your amplifier’s tone, it can provide a set of new fields for you to experiment with.
This pedal is perfect for studio guitarists and gigging professionals who need to have multiple amp sounds at their fingertips. If you’re a home player, you’ll be able to experiment with these different amplifier models without needing to buy each amp.
Dunlop Echoplex Guitar Preamp
Jim Dunlop’s namesake company is known primarily for its MXR line of classic pedals. In this case the Echoplex Guitar Preamp takes inspiration from the classic Echoplex unit.
The Echoplex preamp recreates those sounds — loved by the likes of Jimmy Page, Duane Allman and Eddie van Halen — and condenses the drive system into a compact, intuitive preamp pedal.
Like many preamps and boost pedals, the Echolplex tightens up the lower end of your sound. It also boosts middle and treble frequencies to provide a classic lead guitar tone.
With just one knob to control the gain, it’s simple and straightforward to use. It’s perfect for live environments where you need to get the right tone quickly.
It won’t get too dirty on its own, but with 11db of boost and cut available, it’s powerful enough to handle most guitarists’ daily needs. If you play styles with clean or lightly overdriven guitar, this might be the only boost and drive pedal you’ll need on your board.
Mooer Gas Station Micro Preamp
If you’re searching for ultra high-gain tones with plenty of adjustability, the Mooer Gas Station Micro Preamp might be a good fit for you.
This tiny pedal packs six controls onto its face. There are EQ dials for treble, mids and bass, along with a volume and gain control. The final control is where things get interesting.
The Gas Station also has a built-in speaker cabinet emulation system to create a full “guitar amp in a box” effect.
You can even switch between two different types of cab emulation with the footswitch. Both provide modern high-gain tone, allowing you to push your guitar into heavy distortion.
For a pedal so small, the Gas Station’s build quality is outstanding. Although it might be a bit difficult to adjust these dials on stage, the metal enclosure fits easily on any pedalboard and will last a long time.
JHS Colour Box V2 Guitar Preamp
The Colour Box V2 is a studio-quality preamp from JHS, designed to emulate a Neve mixing console. This preamp pedal captures the brilliant tones and specialized controls of a full-size console in a pedal you can use anywhere.
The Colour Box features 13 different controls, including a switch to adjust the clean headroom and a high-pass filter to scoop or boost treble frequencies.
The three red dials control the two gain stages and master volume. The preamp gain control moves in steps, allowing you to quickly dial in a general tone and fine-tune it with the pre-vol knob.
The EQ section includes treble, middle and bass controls as well as shift knobs to change the frequencies they emphasize. When used together, these knobs create sounds from bright, sparkling cleans to warm crunch and saturated overdrive.
Finally, the Colour Box V2 includes an XLR output on the side. This allows you to use it for acoustic guitar, keyboards, vocals and other instrument preamps.
Mooer Blacknight Micro Preamp Pedal
Another Micro Preamp Pedal from Mooer, the Blacknight compresses the high-gain overdrive of Richie Blackmore’s signature tube preamp into a more manageable piece of gear. It’s optimized for genres like classic rock, hard rock and even metal.
The preamp splits into two different channels, which allows you to switch between different tonal settings on the fly. To control each channel, you have gain, volume and EQ settings (treble, mids, and bass).
The Blacknight excels at crunchy overdrive for lead guitar and solos. With the gain cranked up, it offers a thick, saturated distortion that incorporates loads of sustain and natural harmonics.
The speaker emulation function gives you the ability to take the same preamps and simulate the sound of them running through a full-size cabinet. You can turn this on or off to give your guitar more presence and a fuller sound.
Diezel Herbert Two Channel Overdrive and Preamp
Diezel’s Herbert Overdrive & Preamp puts the sound of their famous Herbert tube amp in a preamp pedal enclosure. It’s a perfect guitar pedal for metal players who want to capture that tone no matter their amplifier or gear setup.
One channel offers a standard distortion, while the second channel provides a mid-cut circuit for more modern metal tones.
Both channels include separate master volume knobs, while the mid-cut circuit also features one intensity knob to adjust the amount of mid frequencies that you remove.
The channels share one gain control, a three-band EQ and presence and deep knobs. These two dials sculpt the high-end and low-end frequencies of the pedal, respectively. Together with the normal EQ controls, they provide all the punchy gain and tonal flexibility of the full-size amplifier.
Beyond a drive system, you can also use the pedal as a preamp before a power-stage amplifier. This is a great solution for gigging guitarists who want the tone of a Herbert but need to rely on backline amps provided at a venue.
Donner Green Land Mini Electric Guitar Preamp
For players looking for versatile guitar preamps on a tight budget, it’s hard to beat the Donner Green Land Mini. It includes two channels with Fender and Marshall sounds to cover a wide spectrum of clean and overdrive tones.
The pedal’s six controls include three EQ bands, level and gain dials and a built-in reverb that offers lush echo.
The most important feature, though, is the channel switch. Controlled with the footswitch, the channel feature simulates either a Fender Bassman (green mode) or a Marshall JTM45 (red mode).
The pedal can store and save your settings, allowing you to switch back and forth without needing to re-adjust the control knobs.
Unlike some other preamps on the market, it covers the full sonic signature of these amps. The cleans are smooth and bright without getting tinny and the distorted tones are punchy and saturated without losing clarity.
Mooer Regal Tone Micro Preamp Pedal
Mooer’s Regal Tone emulates the ToneKing Falcon to achieve lush vintage cleans and vibrant, musical overdrive. If you want a pedal that can deliver tweed-style clean tones and sound great at low- to medium-gain settings, the Regal Tone covers all the bases.
Like Mooer’s other Micro models, the Regal Tone includes three control dials for treble, mid, and bass frequencies. Those knobs combine with volume and gain controls to mimic the original ToneKing response structure.
The major benefit of this pedal is its two-channel design. Channel A offers lower-gain clean sounds, while channel B is an overdrive channel that’s great for searing lead lines. Both channels retain the warm, smooth character of a vintage tube amp, no matter how much gain you apply.
Switching between the channels with the footswitch allows you to play entire songs with one pedal. Just tap quickly to go from clean rhythm work to overdriven lead. If you’re a blues or rock ‘n roll player without a lot of guitar effects, the Regal Tone is an intuitive and affordable solution.
Donner Incredible V Mini Preamp Pedal
Like the Green Land, Donner’s Incredible V simulates both Fender and Marshall amplifiers in one pedal. This design models a Fender Twin on the green channel and a Marshall Plexi on the red channel.
For players who love blues, classic rock and hard rock, these amps are a perfect combination. The Fender offers an American scooped mid profile, while the Marshall model emphasizes the mid-range for an upfront British sound.
The pedal includes three-band EQ controls, volume and gain dials and a built-in reverb to fill out your sound.
If you often play through solid-state amps or basic tube amps without built-in reverb, these features will provide an instant upgrade to your basic tone.
The ability to experiment with both clean and distorted tones is another major plus. The Fender model excels with clean sounds or light overdrive, while the Marshall offers searing lead tones with fuzzy distortion.
Guitar Preamp Pedals: What They Are and Why You Need One
At its core, a guitar preamp pedal combines an EQ pedal with a volume boost. In fact, they’re sometimes confused with overdrive pedals because they can add gain to your signal. Other players treat them more like standard EQ pedals, without paying attention to the extra gain available.
Some preamps (like the JHS Colour Box V2) include EQ dials while others (like the Earthquaker Arrows) hardwire a set of equalization presets into the circuit itself. That’s partly because many manufacturers design guitar preamp pedals to emulate famous full-size preamps.
Makers set the frequency signatures to give you the sound of these amplifiers in a pedal format that you can use in front of any speaker.
Fender, Marshall and metal amplifier emulations are particularly common. Some of our featured models, like the Donner Green Land Mini and the Mooer Blacknight, are designed with specific amp tones in mind. If these emulations include control knobs, they work like the controls on the original amp.
If you play acoustic guitar, you might also find some specific acoustic preamp models optimized for acoustic guitar. They generally don’t include an effects loop or ultra high-gain boosts, but they’re still a great way to focus your tone and improve your overall sound.
Why You Need a Preamp Pedal
Preamps are some of the most versatile guitar pedals you can buy. Because they provide so many functions in one, they’re a great pick for guitarists who are either new to pedals or are on a budget.
Buying the best guitar preamp you can will actually save you money because you won’t have to buy two or three other pedals to get the same effect. In fact, many players use one preamp pedal instead of a full effects loop. Preamps which incorporate reverb along with the drive and EQ functions are even more cost-effective.
Preamp pedals are also more flexible than many drive pedals. If you want a boost or drive unit that you can fine-tune to your exact liking, the EQ section on preamps offers more power to adjust your tone than the average boost pedal does.
Finally, many preamps deliver the specific sound of one amplifier. For guitarists on a budget, preamps are the best way to experiment with different sonic signatures without spending thousands on dozens of full-size amps.
Where Does a Preamp Go in the Pedal Chain?
Though preamps have a few features, most players use them as a boost pedal and an EQ unit. Both of these functions work well at the start of your pedal chain.
A boost pedal at the beginning of your signal chain is a good way to shape your tone and add some dirt to your clean signal. You want to put boost pedals before modulation and time-based effects so the distortion doesn’t color those other effects.
An EQ pedal can go a few more places, depending on your preference. Most players, however, like to use them toward the front of their pedal chains. This allows you to tweak your settings once and have that adjustment apply for all of the effects further down the line.
It’s a good idea to place your preamp as the first or second pedal on your board. Once you get more comfortable with how it works, you can also experiment with different positions throughout your chain.
Other Guitar Preamp Pedals Worth Mentioning
Aside from the models I’ve already mentioned, there are a few other preamp pedals worth checking out:
The Voodoo Labs Giggity Analog Mastering Preamp features a unique sun to moon control system to offer a range of tones from bright and spanky to dark and smooth. The air and earth controls emphasize treble and bass frequencies, respectively. It’s got plenty of nuance for clean and distorted styles alike and it can even work as an acoustic preamp.
The Jackson Audio Prism Preamp Pedal offers three completely separate circuits within one pedal. Those circuits deliver a transparent boost, a tube amp emulator and a colorful silicon treble booster. Tone and body controls also deliver an outstanding 15db of cut or boost, which gives you more control than most other preamps over your high and low end.
The ZVEX Effects Ultra High-Impedance Preamp prioritizes clarity and transparency. It’s got 8db of boost packed into a simple one-knob enclosure. If you have an amplifier that you already love and just want a preamp to boost your clear signal, this could be a good choice.
For the top spot on my list, I’ve picked the JHS Clover. It covers all the bases of a great preamp, with detailed EQ and multiple drive options to suit any playing style. It’s also budget-friendly, considering all of the features it provides.
What’s your favorite preamp pedal? How do you like to use it? Let me know in the comments section.