As more recording and mix studios move to hybrid workflows, one thing is for sure... No one is leaving behind their analog outboard gear completely. Digital may be easier and getting closer in sound, but most engineers prefer to have a rack of analog goodies at the ready for working on tracks.

2020 was another banner year for outboard gear at Vintage King and we are going to break down our top ten best-selling mic pres, compressors, and EQs below. Continue on to find out what tried-and-true classics from Neve, API and Rupert Neve Designs made the list, in addition to some newer offerings from Solid State Logic, Radial Engineering and Cranborne Audio.

1. Neve 1073LB Microphone Preamp

Perhaps the most popular preamp ever made, the Neve 1073 is a piece of recording studio history. Originally released in 1970, this iconic preamp has been used on countless classic records. Now, you can capture the warm, rich sound of this legendary preamp right in your home studio with the 500-Series module version, the Neve 1073LB. Built using the original Class-A design, the 1073LB is 100% discrete and features custom hand-wound transformers for a silky-smooth sound. Plus, with a versatile XLR/line combo jack, you can quickly patch in and record with any mic or instrument.


2. Rupert Neve Designs Portico 511 Microphone Preamp

If you're looking for a more modern design but still want that classic Neve sound, check out the Rupert Neve Designs Portico 511. This powerful preamp combines features from some of Neve's most beloved designs, including the preamp from the 517, and the sweepable High-Pass Filter from the 5012. With a Class-A design and a custom transformer, the Portico 511 delivers a silky-smooth sound. And new features like the Texture controls give you even more tonal flexibility. Leave the dial at Min for the classic Neve sound, or crank it up to Max for 10 times the total harmonic distortion!

3. API 550A EQ

The API 550A EQ has become a staple in many engineers' racks. With 15 equalization points spread across three bands, the 550A is a versatile studio workhorse. Custom proportional Q circuitry automatically narrows filter Q as gain is increased, enabling wide, subtle bells or sharp, narrow filters. And with reciprocal and repeatable filtering, the API 550A puts endless tonal options at your fingertips. There's even a built-in high-pass filter and dedicated switches for toggling the high and low bands to shelves. Pick one up and see why so many engineers rely on the API 500A.

4. SSL Fusion Analog Master Processor

Looking for the ultimate mix bus signal chain? The new SSL Fusion has everything you need to give your mixes that professional polish. Combining five versatile tone-shaping tools into one simple signal processor, the SSL Fusion is a one-stop-shop for fine-tuning your mix. Dial-in the perfect amount of color using the Vintage Drive controls to add saturation and harmonics to your mix. Add powerful lows and brilliant highs using the new Violet EQ controls — SSL's first new EQ design in over 25 years. Glue your mix together using the SSL's classic bus compressor, or enhance the stereo image of your track using the new Space and Width controls. SSL Fusion is the perfect tool for making any recording sound like a record.


5. BAE 1073MPL Microphone Preamp

If you're looking for that classic Neve sound but don't need the additional EQ controls, the BAE 1073MPL preamp is the perfect choice. Modeled after Neve's legendary design, this 500-series module delivers the same harmonically rich low end, slight resonant highs, and focused mids as the original. It even uses the same Class-A components and Carnhill St Ives transformers as the original 1073 and 1084 modules. Just plug in your mic or instrument cable and enjoy the sound of the world's most popular preamp.

6. Rupert Neve Designs Shelford Channel

The Rupert Neve Designs Shelford Channel combines more than 50 years of innovative designs into one rackmount unit. It starts with a signature Class-A preamp circuit, modeled after the legendary 1073 preamp. Next comes a custom inductor EQ, with the low-band from the 1064, the midrange band from the 1073, and an all-new hybrid high band that combines the best features of Neve's vintage and modern circuits. Next, a custom diode bridge compressor inspired by the iconic 2254 that combines the classic, “in your face” sound of the original with a new level of precision and flexibility.


7. Shadows Hills Mono GAMA Microphone Preamp

The Shadow Hills Mono GAMA is a versatile preamp that's bursting with classic vintage tone. With a hearty Jensen input transformer and three custom selectable output transformers, the GAMA makes it easy to dial in the sound you're looking for. Choose Nickel for a clean, modern sound, Discrete for some light saturation, or Steel for a gritty tone that's bursting with character. Of course, you'll also find all of the features you'll need for tracking, including phantom power, phase reverse, a twenty dB pad, and direct input.

8. Tube-Tech CL1B Optical Tube Compressor

The Tube-Tech CL1B has been the secret weapon of many top engineers for decades. Known as the "go-to" vocal compressor for any genre, the CL1B uses an all-tube design to deliver smooth, musical compression without introducing any harshness. Used on countless hit records, this classic optical compressor is perfect for adding warmth and fatness to any mix. Featuring a selectable ratio from 2:1 to 10:1, attack times from .5 ms to 300 ms, and release times from .05 seconds to 10 seconds, this versatile tube compressor will surely find its way onto multiple tracks in your mix.


9. Radial Engineering EXTC 500 Series Guitar Interface

Looking to integrate something a little more "far out" into your signal chain? Pick up the Radial Engineering EXTC 500 guitar interface module and start using guitar pedals to shake up your stale channel strips. The EXTC automatically converts any signal to a hi-Z signal. enabling you to patch in your favorite stompboxes. Best of all, with fully-discrete, Class-A circuitry and built-in transform isolation, you can trust that you'll never have to deal with ground loop buzz or hum.

10. Universal Audio 1176LN Limiting Amplifier

The Universal Audio 1176LN is a faithful recreation of the classic Bill Putnam design. The first true peak limiter with all transistor circuitry, the 1176 has been a staple in pro studios all around the world for more than 50 years. Featuring custom Class-A output transformers, this legendary FET-style compressor delivers a truly one-of-a-kind sound. Featuring ultra-fast attack times and the classic "all buttons in mode," the Universal Audio 1176LN is sure to add excitement to any mix. Perfect for leveling out vocal performances, enhancing the attack of a snare drum, or increasing the perceived loudness of your room mics, the 1176 is a versatile studio workhorse that sounds great on nearly every instrument.


Honorable Mentions: Cranborne Audio Camden 500, AMS RMX16, Tegeler Audio Creme, Pultec EQP-500X and Retro Instruments 500PRE.

Joe DickinsonIf you have any questions about our list of best selling outboard gear or would like to purchase a piece for your studio, we're here to help! Contact a Vintage King Audio Consultant via email or by phone at 866.644.0160.