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What Are The Best Acoustic Guitar Preamps? (REVIEW)

Travelling light is something an acoustic guitarist should be able to take for granted. Unfortunately, there are so many difficulties getting the right tone when plugged into a PA system or amp that you often find yourself losing the natural vibrancy of your unplugged sound.

Thankfully, using a decent preamp pedal can make it much easier to have a great gig. Just having a small degree of control over your tone can be a massive help, and the best acoustic guitar preamps we feature here do a lot more than just shape your tone - they’re a one stop box for most, if not all, of your equipment needs.

At a Glance: Our Choice Of The Best Acoustic Guitar Preamps On The Market

Note: The links above take you to more information, current prices and customer reviews on Amazon. If you do purchase something we get a small commission, which has absolutely no effect on the eventual price that you pay.

Buyer's Tips: What to look for when buying the best acoustic guitar preamps 

  • Buying an acoustic preamp that can balance the tone of your guitar regardless of what type of pickups you’re using can help keep costs lower in the long run as you won’t need to change your equipment as often
  • The more EQ options and tone shaping capabilities you have, the less reliant you will be on a venue having a top notch PA and doesn’t leave you completely in the hands of the sound guy for your gig
  • Having battery power as an option is absolutely essential if you want to play outdoors and is useful for keeping your setup as simple as possible
  • Some preamps also allow you to quickly boost or cut the volume of your guitar with a single switch, and if you play as part of a group this can be useful for emphasising different instruments or swapping in and out of lead and rhythm roles (or for cutting out a blast of feedback)
  • Make sure the impedance of your preamp is appropriate for your pickups - if the pickups are unable to drive enough current you will struggle to get the optimum sound

Ok let's look at each product in more detail. To make things easier for you, we've added pros and cons for each guitar pedal, as well as a video demonstration so you can see them in action. So without further ado, let’s take a look...

Best Acoustic Guitar Preamps 

1. LR Baggs Venue DI Acoustic Guitar Effect Pedal (Editor's Choice)

LR Baggs Venue DI Acoustic Guitar Effect Pedal

A true professional’s acoustic preamp. It’s an all-in-one solution that combines preamp, EQ and DI box functionalities along with a chromatic tuner and a few other handy features.

  • Saves buying extra pedals by combining a lot of what you’ll need for an acoustic set up in one package
  • Volume boost switch allows you to easily take the spotlight during solos
  • Can be either battery or DC powered
  • The tuner shuts off automatically after too much time has passed, which can make it irritating to keep cycling back through if you get distracted
  • It’s an expensive piece of gear, but due to the combination of functions it has it’s cheaper than buying multiple mid-range pedals that only do one thing each

Let's take a look at this product...

2. BBE Acoustimax Acoustic Instrument Preamp Pedal with Full Featured Sonic Maximizer (Budget Choice)

BBE Acoustimax Acoustic Instrument Preamp Pedal with Full Featured Sonic Maximizer

Great for live gigging situations and does an excellent job of balancing your frequencies without needing to use more complicated gear setups or software.

  • Tightens up the frequencies easily and gives you a nice range of controls to shape your sound
  • Not too expensive
  • Works with both active and passive pickups
  • Doesn’t have a tuner
  • Very large, and seems to be oversized with a lot of wasted space

Let's take a look at this product...

3. Fishman Aura Spectrum DI Preamp Acoustic Pedal

Fishman Aura Spectrum DI Preamp Acoustic Pedal

One of the best acoustic guitar preamps for steel string players, it has the usual EQ knobs but also has a large amount of modelling capabilities that allow you to transform your sound completely.

  • Incorporates the Aura Acoustic Imaging technology that allows recreation of the tonal qualities of various acoustic guitars and other instruments
  • Also has a chromatic tuner
  • Easy to control feedback
  • Using the Aura imaging takes a lot of tweaking to get a good tone
  • Less useful for nylon strings and other instruments such as mandolins
  • Some of the components are a little fragile

Let's take a look at this product...

4. Tech 21 SansAmp Para Driver DI

Tech 21 SansAmp Para Driver DI

A versatile acoustic preamp that offers a large amount of tone shaping capabilities and helps to actively balance out some of the weaknesses of piezo pickups to give a warmer and more natural sound.

  • Can boost and cut 12db with dedicated buttons for quickly switching between lead and rhythm
  • Can also be used with solid-body instruments, making it a more versatile piece of equipment if you need something for both acoustic and amped set ups
  • Full range of tone shaping knobs including a mid sweep selector
  • Adds a significant colour to your tone
  • Quite expensive

Let's take a look at this product...

5. Radial Tonebone PZ-Pre Acoustic Preamp

Radial Tonebone PZ-Pre Acoustic Preamp

An extremely popular unit among many well known guitarists, it’s purpose built for use with acoustics and has a lot of functionality for a single piece of equipment.

  • Very transparent, it allows your guitar’s own sound to come through whilst tweaking it slightly through the EQ settings, filters and additional DI features
  • Has two channels for making the most out of your pickups - although it’s not designed for use with multiple instruments at once
  • Also includes a tuner
  • Very high price, making it one of the most expensive preamps
  • Can generate a large amount of noise
  • Isn’t battery powered, so you won’t be able to use it whilst busking

Let's take a look at this product...

So What Are The Best Acoustic Guitar Preamps? 

The LR Baggs Venue DI was our top pick of the best acoustic guitar preamps as it enabled us to significantly reduce the number of various pieces of equipment we were carrying back and forth to every gig, and the quality of the tone shaping options was excellent.

However, if you like to get a little more variety in the kind of sound you produce rather than just tightening up the frequencies here and there, the Fishman Aura Spectrum DI gives the most versatility, so this is well worth a look - just beware that many of the different ‘images’ have novelty value and won’t see much use, so you might consider the value for money in terms of what actually gets used quite low.

Since many of the best acoustic guitar preamps are also quite expensive, it might be worth checking out the BBE Acoustimax if keeping the total cost as low as possible is your main priority. It does what it does well, but it’s not an all in one box like the LR Baggs Venue or the Radial Tonebone PZ-Pre, so keep in mind that while it’s cheaper, it’s because you’re getting less functionality.

As a final note, many preamps aren’t necessarily designed to be used for acoustic guitars from the ground up. This usually isn’t a problem, but some of the subtler nuances of acoustic amplification can be lost. If you want to be absolutely certain that you’ll get the right tone shaping properties for your acoustic guitar, the Radial Tonebone PZ-Pre gives you the most fine tuning control by allowing you to use multiple channels for your pickups and get a more tightly defined overall sound.

P.S. Whilst on the topic of acoustic guitar... here is our choice on some of the best acoustic guitars available for you!

Featured image source: Alex Harden CC BY 2.0

Ged is Founder and Editor-in-chief at Zing Instruments. He’s a guitarist for London based gypsy jazz band ‘Django Mango’ and a lover of all things music. When he’s not ripping up and down the fretboard, he’s tinkering with his ’79 Campervan.

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