Solid-state preamps use transistors to boost the level of the microphone. These preamps can be designed to produce as clear and detailed a sound as possible (often referred to as “transparent”) or can be designed to add a pleasing level of distortion (warmth) to your music. Solid-state preamps cost from a couple hundred to several thousand dollars.

A clean and clear solid-state preamp (such as the Earthworks or GML brands) is a great choice if you want as natural a sound as possible on your recording of an instrument or if you are using a microphone that has a sound quality that you want to hear as clearly as possible.

For example, the way that a solid-state preamp works in conjunction with a tube condenser or ribbon mic is a very nice combination. The warmth and smoothness of these types of microphones shine through clearly with a clean solid-state preamp.

On the other hand, a more aggressive (warm or pleasingly distorted) solid-state preamp, such as those modeled after the classic Neve designs, can add just a touch of “grit” to certain instruments. These types of preamps are great with dynamic, ribbon, or condenser mics, especially when recording drums, guitar, and some vocals.