Channel Compressor Gate Comparison: DBX 266xs vs DBX 286s

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What is a Channel Compressor Gate?

A Channel compressor gate is a device which controls the volume of the audio signal when recording. It essentially helps to give you a cleaner, more professional-sounding audio by allowing you to smooth out uneven vocals. The compressor gate connects to your microphone and can be set up to suit the individual’s audio preferences.

The DBX 266xs and DBX 286s are two popular compressor gates, and in this article, we will be pitting them against each other, to decide which is the better buy!

If you are also thinking on other ways to improve your quality audio, check out  the best microphones and also the best isolation shields.

DBX 266xs Review

The 266xs is the cheaper device of the two. It has a sleek, silver design that measures 48.26cm x 14.61cm x 4.45cm, which would take up very little room in your audio set-up.

The DBX 266xs arrives with some great features, including:

  • Device has balanced inputs and outputs on ¼” TRS and XLR connection points.
  • User has the option of using stereo or dual-mono operation.
  • Gate timing algorithms to provide the smoothest vocal audio.
  • Side chain insert
  • Sound control that works with any type of audio programme.
  • Individual LED displays for compression threshold, gain threshold, and gain reduction. This allows for speedy, easy set up.
  • Arrives with DBX’s well-loved “Auto” mode – perfect for beginners.

Users have noted that one downside is the absence of a power button on the machine, which can be slightly annoying. Some have also noted that the device emitted a low hissing sound which would have to be removed in audio editing later.

Overall, this is a sleek piece of kit that is a lot cheaper than other compressor gates on the market. Even though it arrives with lots of features, it’s designed to be very user-friendly. This is a great recording investment that should last you a long time.

DBX 286s Review

The DBX 286s is a Channel Strip processor that features a studio-quality mic preamplifier and four processors. Depending on your needs, these processors can be used all at once, or separately.

The device is a little more expensive than the 266xs, at £169.

It is a similar size device to the 266xs, coming in at 48.26cm x 14.61cm x 4.45cm.

The features of the 286s include:

  • Switchable +48V phantom power.
  • An 80Hz filter that removes unwanted extra noises like hums, rumbles, or wind.
  • De-esser which reduces harsh “s” sounds that naturally occur in speech.
  • An Enhancer HF Detail that adds crispness to the vocal.
  • Threshold and ratio controls allow you to reduce headphone leakage.
  • Balanced XLR Mic Input allows for easy microphone connection.
  • Wide-ranging input gain control that picks up everything you need.

One downside is that the plugin that comes the device is only a US version, so if you’re outside of the US you may have to purchase a separate plugin.

The 286s provides you with stellar microphone processing and is easy to use. Its range of features and different processors make a reliable piece of kit that can fine-tune your vocals to produce studio-quality audio.

Channel Compressor Gate Comparison: Our Verdict

In our opinion, the best option is the DBX 286s. Although it is £60 more expensive, you are paying for a much better piece of kit. The 286s has four different processors to play with, an 80Hz filter which will combat annoying sounds, and an Enhancer HF Detail for professional audio.

The only drawback is that the 286s only has one channel, whereas the 266xs has two. If this is a limiting factor to you, then the 266xs would be more suitable.

DBX 266xs vs DBX 286s: Summary

To summarize, we explained that a compressor gate is a device that assists recorders by subtly creating more polished, clear vocals.

We compared two popular compressor gates and concluded that while both have great features, the 286s would be the better choice due to the impressive features and great price point.