DBX 286 S

458

This item runs exclusively on an operating voltage of 230V and therefore requires a voltage transformer to run in your country of United States of America.

Microphone processor

  • Studio / Live microphone preamp
  • 48V Phantom power, de-esser, enhancer, compressor and expander gate
  • Design: 19", 1U
available since January 2011
Item number 259111
sales unit 1 piece(s)
Compressor Yes
Gate No
Peak Limiter No
2-Channel Unit No
Attack/Release Adjustable Yes
Channels 1
Number of microphone inputs 1
Compressor/Limiter 1
De-Esser 1
Phantom power 1
External effect loops 1
Analogue Outputs Jack
Digitale Outputs None
Level Meter 1
Design 19" / 1U
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$145
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Channel strip at an unbeatable price

The dbx 286s is a full-featured channel strip that gives you a wide range of signal processing options. In addition to an input section for microphone and line signals, four other processors including a compressor and de-esser are available, which can be used individually and in different combinations. On the rear panel, the 286s offers an XLR microphone input and a line input and output plus an insert jack, which is located in the signal chain between the preamp and compressor. The dbx 286s also features several LED meters and status LEDs for important parameters such as gain reduction, clipping, and level. Thanks to its affordable price, the dbx 286s can be recommended for beginners in particular.

A five-in-one unit

The input section features a mic preamp with 60dB of gain, 48V phantom power, and an 80Hz high-pass filter. Next in the signal chain is the patented OverEasy® compressor with drive and density as well as a fixed 4:1 ratio. The attack and release parameters vary depending on the level. A de-esser section with adjustable frequency range and threshold is located at the end. The subsequent enhancer section comes with independent controls for bass and treble. As the LF enhancer boosts at 80Hz and cuts at 250Hz using a Bell EQ, the HF enhancer works with a level-dependent shelving filter, whereby both the amplitude and the input frequency are controlled. The final processor is a noise gate with controls for attack and threshold. At the end of the chain, the level can be lowered by 30dB or raised by 10dB via an output control.

Low-budget tip for beginners

With the dbx 286s, you get a lot of analogue processing options at an incredible price. Although the processors are limited to two adjustable parameters each, they deliver more than merely satisfactory results thanks to their preset parameters, some of which are level-dependent. This kind of easy-to-use control is especially useful for beginners who want to produce a decent sound in a short period of time without a lot of fuss. So if you don't have the budget for devices from SSL & Co. but still want to work "outside the box" with 19" hardware, you will have a lot of fun with the dbx 286s.

About dbx

dbx was founded in 1971 by David E. Blackmer and is now part of Harman Industries. Headquartered in the US state of Utah, it has always been involved in the development of high-quality audio products. The company gained worldwide fame with the dbx noise reduction system of the same name, the aim of which was to increase the dynamics of professional tape recorders in studios and that came onto the market as a competitor to Dolby A in the early 1970s. Introduced in the late 1970s, the dbx 160 VCA compressor represents another milestone in the company's history and remains a popular classic to this day. Today, various top-class signal processors in different formats are included in the dbx range.

Multiple combinations

The dbx 286s combines five essential tools in one unit, which can be used either all together, in different combinations, or individually for recording as well as for mixdowns. If you want to skip a processing step, the rotary knobs of the respective section have to be set to the corresponding position. In this way, for example, the compressor can be used for compression while the HF enhancer provides freshness, without any other editing of the signal. There is also the option to bypass the entire processing stage in order to use the dbx 286s as a pure microphone preamplifier with a switchable 80Hz high-pass filter.

SG
Professional value at affordable price
Steve Galloway 06.04.2020
I use voice recording in an office/studio which operates a lot of electrical equipment and and having a hardware sound chain and preamp in one channel strip like the dbx 286 S Microphone Processor helps me cope with white noise and outside traffic noise while coping with anything from Office 365 Teams telephony and professional voice production.

Packaged in a 19" rackmount form factor may terrify those who are new to audio production, but the unit enjoys plenty of professional YouTube commentary to help understand the learning curve and configure this workhorse. The unit is excellent for those moving up from entry level microphones to prosumer and professional tools. Also, a hardware sound chain like the dbx 286 S may be quicker to get to grips with than learning audio processing software to achieve the same results in tools like Audacity, Reaper, and other post processing apps.

I can disable the sound processing chain and record raw mic input for post processing, and I can always fall back to preconfigured settings for telephony/rush recordings, casting etc. In this respect the High Pass filters and Expander/Gate really help cope with outside neighbourhood noise and suppressing electronics fans etc.

I marked down the the "Features" by one star because the unit does not have a power on/off button. This means having to unplug the unit from my rackmount power strip, and it is a feature I would be very pleased to see included in future iterations.
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Worth buying just for the gate
EthanM 07.02.2022
Having seen some negative reviews on this unit in recent years I was slightly dubious, but having taken the plunge I have to say that I’m highly impressed, the dbx 286s is well presented and well assembled, all the knobs and switches are well fitting, and the dials have a nice granular ‘clicking’ to help set levels with finer precision. Once you learn how to set this up it becomes a very powerful tool for any live audio or recording setup. I’ve been most impressed by the expander/gate in this unit, it’s extremely responsive and effective when set properly. The only slightly negative thing I noticed was that the unit emits a slight continuous buzzing noise because the transformer in it is directly bolted to the housing without any rubber washers or anything to insulate it from the housing. The noise is definitely not a deal breaker, but it is noticeable if the unit is sitting on the desk next to you. Note that it does not come through in the audio, and it’s better that the unit has a proper transformer instead of a switch mode power supply.
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MG
You'll love this thing
Micha G 25.01.2021
Years ago I decided I wanted this pre, but through unforeseen circumstances I never got to buy it. Since then, I have upgraded my signal chain from a 1st gen Scarlett 2i2 to a Clarett. As I am starting a new production I thought: what the hell, just buy it. At this price you really can't go wrong.

And you can't. I have been using it for two day now and I must say: I'm very impressed. We use it for the vocal tracks on singer/songwriter music and the artist is so much more comfortable using this then going 'dry' into he Clarett (using the Rode NT1000 or the Audio Technica AT 2035). It eliminates background hum, airplanes and other stuff. The compressor tightens the vocals in a very musical way. I give his voice a very subtle boost in the lows, which brings his 'chest' sound up just a notch - brilliant.

Don't overdo it as driving this unit too high gives strange effects.

In conclusion: I always thought that the way to get a better sound is through better microphones and/or AD conversion. This is true, but the power of this nifty unit made me overthink this. So, if your vocals sound too thin or dull to your ears, you might stick to your present signal chain and invest in this DBX thingy instead of buying other mics.

4 instead of 5 stars for the hum the transformer in the unit produces. I have the same thing with my Kawai piano. I'll have to live with that. And the expander/gates filters it out anyway.
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Perfect for improving audio during video meetings!
mrozzzz 10.07.2020
I bought the DBX during the COVID lockdown primarily for video meetings, because I wanted to have a better audio when using my Rode NT1A microphone.

At first I tried various digital workarounds (microphone routed through DAW with noise reduction/gate plugins, compressor, EQ, and looped back) but I had loads of problems that way. Sometimes it worked perfectly, other times my coworkers complained about all sorts of problems that I didn’t hear on my end, not to mention the extra latency.
Eventually I gave up and started looking at hardware options. After watching loads of reviews online I decided on the DBX and it worked great! The compressor and noise gate were especially helpful.

I think that for video meetings/calls or for streaming the DBX is the best choice for this price. However for the usual audio recordings (vocals or voice over) I use it only as a preamp with processing bypassed and then do all the post processing in my DAW afterwards, because that gives me more wiggle room to process the recordings anyway I want.
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