Do I Need a Mic Preamp if I Have an Audio Interface? (Answered)

By Bob •  Updated: 05/06/21 •  6 min read

The answer is yes! If your interface doesn’t provide enough power, then the sound quality will be weak in the final mix of your recording, so yes, you will want to use one.

When it comes to recording vocals or any other type of audio, you need a mic preamp for your home studio.

But if you have an audio interface, do you still need one?

You may be wondering what the difference is between the two and whether they serve different purposes.

Why you need a preamp for recording music at home

A mic preamp is an essential piece of gear for any home recording studio.


A mic preamp will take the low or weak signal from your microphone and amplify it, making the instrument or vocal’s much stronger for recording.

If you don’t have a mic preamp or the one on your audio interface isn’t powerful enough, then it’s likely that the sound quality will be weak in the final mix of your recording.

You can use a mic preamp in conjunction with an audio interface to improve input/output signal flow by putting all of your inputs into the mic preamps first before being sent to your DAW as digital signals.

The preamp will boost the signal before it’s sent into your DAW, which will allow for a much more robust sound.

The mic preamp also has the added benefit of providing phantom power to condenser microphones that require an external power source.

A good microphone preamp is worth its weight in gold. It can make or break your home recording studio depending on what you have plugged into it.

What does a mic preamp do?

A mic preamp does two main things: it boosts the signal strength before sending it into your DAW and provides phantom power to condenser microphones that require an external power source.

Mic preamps can be a great addition to any home recording studio setup because they allow you to have stronger input levels even if your audio interface doesn’t supply this boost by default.

Phantom power is needed on specific microphones, which means those mics need their separate mic preamps with phantom power switching capabilities to work correctly.

For example, if you’re plugging in high-end condensers like the Neumann U87 or AKG C12VR Sennheiser MKH 416, then microphone preamp do?

What’s more important, the microphone or the preamp?

If you’re a home recording hobbyist, don’t worry too much about the mic preamp.

Your audio interface will have mic pres integrated into it to make up for any weakness in your microphone’s signal chain.

If you want to upgrade your gear down the line and find that having an external mic preamplifier is better than what comes with your interface, then, by all means, get one!

What are some good options?

In terms of the price range, there are plenty of budget options available right now – most at less than $100.

The Behringer UMC204HD and TASCAM iXZ both offer great bang for the buck when considering their features: MIDI I/O; USB interfacing; mic pres; and pristine 24-bit/192kHz conversion.

Here are some more detailed reviews of these two models:

Behringer UMC204HD vs. TASCAM iXZ

Both the Behringer UMC204HD and TASCAM iXZ provide a lot of bang for your buck, with most budget options less than $100.

The feature set is comparable in both products, but many find that the audio quality on the iXZ is superior to what’s offered by its competitor!

In terms of audio quality, it has been suggested that “the sound can only be described as ‘clean'”.

It also offers MIDI I/O, which helps when building out an interface between different MIDI devices.

If you’re looking for an audio interface with mic pres and pristine sound quality, this is the best option for your budget!

What musical instruments need a microphone preamp?

How does a mic preamp work?

A microphone can only do so much with its own power before reaching the limits of what’s possible.

The process of amplifying this sound requires extra electronics that aren’t necessary for other applications, such as recording through speakers or headphones.

To amplify these sounds correctly, they need voltage levels exceeding those provided by microphones themselves (typically in the range of millivolts).

Once there’s sufficient voltage applied at the right frequency, the line to a mic preamp is then “peaking,” which means that it’s been amplified and can now be sent on its way.

The result? A clear signal that won’t distort when being recorded through an interface input channel (even without one).

Do I need an audio interface if I have a microphone preamp?

An audio interface is a device that converts analog signals into digital ones.

When you plug your microphone straight in, it’ll be an analog signal which then gets converted to digital by the mic preamp.

This means that there’s not much of a difference between using the two devices if recording on location and close to home instead of doing so from afar without any other gear.

In contrast, when you use an external audio interface with outboard equipment like compressor or EQs-then, they are necessary for professional recordings.

When should I consider getting a mic preamp?

If you’re planning on just using one simple microphone (such as a condenser), then don’t worry about it too much; but if you want to have many mic inputs, you’ll want to use an audio interface with it.

If recording on location or at home without any other gear, there’s not as much difference between using the two devices.

However, if you’re planning on capturing professional recordings-then yes, they are necessary for things like EQs and compressors that are outboard from your computer.

The only time you really need a mic preamp (in addition to your audio interface) is when using an external device such as a compressor/EQ, which requires one through either MIDI I/O connections or digital input channels from your interface.


Microphone preamps don’t sound like they would be a vital component of the recording process, but it is.

A microphone preamp boosts an audio signal to line level to be plugged into a computer or other device without distortion.

If you are looking for more information on how to find the best mic preamp for your needs, read our in-depth guide here!