dbx 286s Review – Enhance Your Audio
Enhancing Your Audio
Over the last several years my audio recording efforts have been constantly evolving. I started with a first gen line 6 ux2 paired with a $35 microphone, which worked, but wasn’t great. I tried a Blue Snowball for a bit, and eventually settled on the Blue Yeti USB Microphone. The Yeti recently died and I began researching to see if I could easily improve my audio quality even further. In my search I stumbled across Booth Junkie – a YouTube channel dedicated to the tech of at-home, professional voice over. He recommended the dbx 286s and I decided to give it a try.
Keep in mind, I’m a Cloud/Systems/Automation Engineer. I’m not an audio expert by an means. I’m not paid to review the 286s, but I’ve been pretty blown away by it’s performance, so I decided to share this review.
dbx 286s video review
If you prefer video format over written documentation you can see me review the 286s in the following Tech Thoughts video:
dbx 286s review
Hands down, my primary reason for trying out the dbx 286s was the Expander/Gate capability. Configured correctly, it is a highly effective noise gate. Have you seen my home lab? It’s where I record all of my content. There’s around 41 fans in my office in various pieces of tech gear. That’s a lot of background noise. If you pick up a great microphone, it’s going to pick up your voice really well. It turns out, it’s also going to pick up a lot of other noises really well too. The dbx 286s in nothing less than pure magic in this regard. It completely eliminates the background noise of my office. I didn’t think such a thing was possible. If you’re recording in an environment with consistent background noise, the dbx 286s is worth your purchase for this feature alone.
For me, everything else is bonus. A big bonus, because the dbx 286s is great at other stuff too. The mic preamp is dead simple. Set it until you’re consistently in the green, yellow when excited, and avoiding the red (clipping). The compressor is a little trickier, but once configured, does a great job of keeping your volume at even levels. If you are someone who changes volume a lot in the inflections of your speech, this will be a key feature for you. The De-Esser takes away, well, that annoying “s” sound when you speak about snakes slithering up a slope. The Enhancer’s LF Detail / HF Detail can respectively add a lot of warmth and clarity to your voice (use it sparingly).
That’s it, shortest review ever. Its just a great piece of dedicated hardware that you throw in your audio chain that makes a huge difference. Fantastic noise cancellation, great preamp, volume leveling, warmth, clarity, and less “s” sounds. It will absolutely improve your YouTube recordings, Twitch streams, podcasts, or other audio endeavors. Get it, pair it with a half-way decent XLR microphone, and your audio efforts will be greatly enhanced.
dbx 286s gotchas
The dbx 286s doesn’t have a native interface to your computer. By that I mean no USB, Thunderbolt, or other form of standard computer connection. There is a line out which you could line in to your motherboard or sound card but by most accounts, this is a terrible idea.
Most people I came across pair the dbx 286s with a Scarlett USB audio interface and connect the 286s via a XLR Male to 1/4-inch TRS MALE. There are a lot of different options to choose from, and I elected to go for the MG10XU as I wanted to input a couple of different devices other than my microphone. Regardless of what you settle on, just be conscious of the fact that you will likely need an additional component to get the 286s into your computer.
Complete Audio Gear List
- Audio-Technica AT2035
- dbx 286s
- Yamaha MG10XU Mixer
- Microphone Stand
- Pop Filter
- A to B USB 2.0 cable
- XLR Male to 1/4-inch TRS MALE
Note: I use amazon affiliate links to various pieces of gear in this article. I am not paid to review any of the above equipment. The affiliate links simply help support more TechThoughts content. Thanks!