I’m going to share some tips to provide a starting point for voice overs for your videos. This is what I figured out what works for me, but you’ll want to tweak them to get the best sound for your voice. I will give examples of what each effect sounds like.
The DBX 286s sits between my Shure SM7B and my Clarette 2Pre interface. I was previously using a Cloudlifter which provides about 20dB of gain, now my DBX 286s provides 60dB gain. The added benefit is the ability to remove the background noise with the EXPANDER/GATE. This is the primary reason why I bought this. Here’s a quick example of it turned off. My Mac fan is on in the background.
Connecting it to your computer
Connecting the DBX 286s to your setup is pretty easy. Since it isn’t an audio interface, it does not have USB or Thunderbolt. You’ll need to connect the Mic using and XLR cable to the back of in MIC INPUT JACK. See the description for the links to all the devices discussed here.
Next, take the LINE OUTPUT jack which accepts either balanced or unbalanced quarter inch phone plugs. I used a TRS to XLR cable to connect it to my Clarett 2Pre Mic input. Once you have everything connected, just attach the power cable. Just note that the DBX doesn’t have a power button, but can be connected to a master switch. I have mine connected to a Uninterruptible power supply that also serves as a line conditioner to remove any line noise from dirty power.
Now we’ll go over the controls on the front.
Starting with the Mic Pre AMP section
You want your peaks to occasionally reach 0 dB, and the averages to live between -10 and -20 decibles. This will ensure that you have a clean, un-distorted signal leaving the preamp. To get the lowest noise possible, set the input on your audio interface for nominal levels. I have the Clarette 2Pre to match the MIC PREAMP of the DBX 286s.
48V Phantom Power
My SHURE SM7b does not require the 48V Phantom power. That mic is not affected if it is accidentally turned on, but be sure to keep it off for that microphone.
This filters out frequencies below 80Hz by 18dB before any compressing, de-essing, etc. This is most effective for reducing hum, rumble, wind, and other low frequency problems. The reason why I turn this on is to reduce the noise transferred from my desk to my microphone.
Next is the Process Bypass
Press this button IN to bypass the 286s Compressor, De-Esser, Enhancer, and Expander/Gate processing circuitry and the OUTPUT GAIN control. It essentially turns everything OFF to the right of the button to help make comparisons between processed and unprocessed signals. If you want to use your DBX 286s purely a a mic preamp without effects, turn this on..
The compressor helps adjust the gain accordingly between the loudest and quietest sounds. The best analogy is similar to watching TV. As soon as the commercials come on, you turn down the volume so it isn’t so loud. Then when the program comes back on, you turn the volume up. You are essentially acting as a live compressor with your remote.
For me, I use the compressor to keep my voice relatively consistent regardless of how far my mouth is from the microphone.
Higher DRIVE settings can cause the Compressor Section to add substantial gain to the signal especially with low input levels.
The density controls how long that compression lasts. There is no absolute “right” way to set it, but in general, slower settings (closer to 1) are useful for gating out noise present behind vocals. A good rule of thumb is to watch the lights fade out after 3 seconds. For normal speech set this between 2 and 4.
De-essing is the method of reducing the loudness of frequencies in the vocal range that cause spitting or piercing when an “ess or shh” sound is made. This is called sibilance. Sibilance is often centered between 5kHz to 8kHz but to be sure, check it in your DAW for a visual representation and adjust the FREQUENCY to your voice accordingly.
Use this to set the sensitivity of the De-esser as a percentage of the average program level. The LEDs light when the De-Esser is active.
The enhancer adds additional low frequency and high frequency detail to your vocals.
The LF detail lets you apply substantial bass boost without making it sound muddy or boomy due to excessive mid-bass.
This controls the amount of High Frequency added to your vocal to adjust clarity on the high end of the frequency range. Like salt and pepper, apply this very sparingly. Less is better.
This is where all the magic happens for me. Instead of having to set up my room with sound proofing, I use this to reduce the noise into my recordings and or live streaming. I tried doing this live with Garage band, but it just didn’t sound very good in real-time.
Think of threshold as a door only for sound you want loud enough to go through. Once it hits that threshold, the gate will open.
A ratio of 2:1 is what I have found to work best for me.
Add or remove gain after doing all the tweaks done to the left.
Microphone to DBX XLR Cable
DBX 286s to Audio Interface (TRS to XLR Cable)
Clarett 2Pre Thunderbolt Audio Interface:
Alternative Audio Interface:
Clarett 2Pre to Computer Thunderbolt Cable: