I received the following Quickstart Guide from Mike Hunter at DBX Harman International Technical Support

Start by setting all dials to the off position. And the output gain to 0 dB.


Gain-With the signal present, turn up the gain control until the 0 dB led lights, but the clip LED does not.

48V - This should only be pressed in if using a condenser mic that requires phantom power.

HighPass - Try pressing this button in. If the sound is too thin set it back out.

Bypass - This button should be in the out position.


Start with the density set to about 6
Drive - Turn up until you reach the desired amount of gain reduction.

Density - Adjust until the release of the gain reduction suits your taste. You really need to experiment with these settings to get the best results. You probably won’t want more than about 3-6 dB of gain reduction unless you are going for a certain effect or desire very heavy compression.


Frequency - Set to about 5K

Threshold - While making “ssss” sounds in the mic, turn up until you get the desired amount of control over the high frequencies. If no De-Essing is required, turn it off.


LF Detail - Slowly turn up until the lows sound good, but not overbearing.

HF Detail - Turn up until the high end sounds clear, but not harsh.


If no gate is needed, leave in the off position. If you want to set the gate, start by setting the ratio to 10:1.

Threshold - While talking or singing in the mic, bring up the threshold until the signal will no longer open the gate. Now back it off until the gate will open when the signal is present.

Ratio - Adjust this setting until the background noise once again becomes audible, then turn it back up slightly until the noise drops in level. Check the gate with the signal. What you are looking for here is the “happy medium”, where the noise is reduced but the gate sounds natural. You may not be able to fully remove the noise, but you should be able to lower it. If it doesn’t sound natural, try repeating this process.


Gain - Adjust this until you have the desired amount of level feeding the next device.

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Comment by Qquincy on November 30, 2013 at 7:07pm

The above settings are a good start. I tried it.

Comment by Kevin Genus on January 23, 2012 at 10:08pm

286a + 416 combo is a fairly simple setup.  Set your input gain to +40 and adjust so you're not clipping, set output gain to 0 and engage phantom power.  That's it.   If you feel you need more processing, sell it and get a Mic Port Pro or a Golden Age Pre-73 and call it a day.  Seriously.

Comment by Rich Stevens on October 8, 2010 at 12:40am
Just checking this out and would very much like to see your 416 settings:)
Comment by Alton (Al) Hoover on January 10, 2010 at 11:23pm

Just got a Senn 416 and will be dialing it in this coming w/e. I'll publish the DBX setting for all three (RE27 N/D, U87 Ai and MKH-416 P48).

Comment by Alton (Al) Hoover on December 30, 2009 at 2:11am
Another important note - For setting up your audio chain with your mic, DBX 286A and A/D interface you need to tune your Gain chain. IN the case of my chain this is either a EV RE27 N/D or a Neumann U87 Ai connected via XLR to the Mic Input on the DBX 286A and the DBX 286A Line Output connected via TRS to the Mic/Line 1 combo jack input on the back of my Mbox 2 Pro and the MBox 2 Pro connected via FW 400 cable to the SIIG 2-Port PCIe NN-E20012-S2 dual port FW400 card in my Mac Pro.

To set up the Gain Chain, I proceed as follows:

1 - With the mic connected XLR to the Mic Input on the DBX 286A and the DBX 286A "Process Bypass" switch "In" (Read No Processing) and the "Mic Preamp Gain" set to 0, I'll adjust the "Mic Preamp Gain" so that the -20, -10 and 0 dBu Level LEDs light depending on speaking level without the "Red" CLIP LED being lit. According to the DBX 286A manual the "Process Bypass" switch also bypasses the Output Gain control also. This will properly set the Mic Input Gain without the added Gain effect of the the Compressor processing.

2 - Then with the DBX 286A Output Gain set to 0 and the MBox 2 Pro Mic/Line In 1 Gain set to 0 , I'll turn the DBX 286A "Process Bypass" switch off to engage the 286A Compressor, De-Esser, Enhancer, and Expander/Gate processing circuitry and OUTPUT GAIN controls with my present set-up.

3 - If the signal is too hot/clipping with the MBox 2 Pro Mic/Line In Input 1 Gain control set to 0, I'll turn the -20dB pad "On" for the MBox 2 Pro Mic/Line In Input 1, If OK, I'll leave the -20dB Pad off.

4 - Then I will adjust the MBox 2 Pro Mic/Line In Input 1 Gain control to increase the input level of the microphone signal to a level of 0dB while monitoring the input for clipping in Pro Tools 8 track meter for the input 1 channel/track (track mixer slider set to 0 default level) and also watch the MBox 2 Pro Peak LED for Line In Input 1. If additional gain is needed, I'll increase the DBX 286A Output Gain so that the Pro Tools levels are approximately 0 dB for the input channel/track (no clipping).

Now you should have your Gain Chain balanced.

Just a tip! - Al
Comment by Alton (Al) Hoover on December 29, 2009 at 6:30pm
Another important note - For setting up your DBX 286A, it is "key" to have the Mic Preamp Gain set to the level of getting the -20, -10 and 0 dBu LED response in order for the Compressor, De-Esser, Enhancer, and Expander/Gate processing circuitry to work properly. If the Mic Preamp Gain levels are set too low, these do not work/function as expected. Just a tip! - Al
Comment by Alton (Al) Hoover on December 24, 2009 at 2:42pm
My settings for the RE27 N/D: Input Gain 30 Ticks = +40 Phantom Power Off High Bypass On Process Bypass Off Compressor Drive 13 Ticks = 3.25 Compressor Density 12 Ticks = 3 De-Esser Frequency 23 ticks De-Esser Threshold 20 ticks = 5 Enhancer LF Detail 12 Ticks = 3 Enhancer HF Detail 12 Ticks = 3 Expander/Gate Threshold 11 ticks Expander/Gate Ratio 20 ticks = 2:1 Output Gain 20 Ticks = 0

I'll post settings for the U87 after I dial it in.

Best - Al
Comment by Mike Elmore on December 24, 2009 at 9:48am
Zu Rek~ These settings work well with your 416?
Comment by Alton (Al) Hoover on December 23, 2009 at 12:58am
The DBX 286A has 10 dial adjustments.

Five of these Dial adjustments are non-linear (the scale is neither linear or logarithmic). These include: Mic Preamp Input Gain, De-Esser Frequency, Expander/Gate Threshold, Expander/Gate Ratio and Output Gain.

Each of these Dial adjustments have 40 Ticks/Detent Positions that increment the Dial Adjustment value through the available range although the Dial hash marks and five printed legend values for each of the adjustments do not track to either a linear progression or logarithmic progression of values.

Example – Input Gain has 4 hash marks between +10 and +15, 4 hash marks between +15 and +30, 4 hash marks between +30 and + 40 and 4 hash marks between +40 and +60. The expected values for the 4 hash marks between +10 and +15 would be +11, +12, +13, +14, (worth +1 each). The expected value for the 4 hash marks between +15 and +30 would be +18, +21, +24, +27 (worth +3 each). The expected value for the 4 hash marks between +30 and + 40 would be +42, +32, +36, +38 (worth +2 each) and the expected value for the 4 hash marks between +40 and +60 would be +44, +48, +52, +56 (worth +4 each). Progression = +1, +3, +2, +4.

Notice anything wrong here! (or are you already asleep)!

The only reliable method of communicating the Dial position for the DBX 286A is by counting the ticks/detent positions. All Dial positions have 40 ticks/detent positions.

The five linear Dial adjustments include: Compressor Drive, Compressor Density, De-Esser Threshold, Enhancer LF Detail, Enhancer HF Detail, For these Dial adjustments with legends 0ff-10 each with 40 tick/detent positions, each tick/detent position = +.25, each hash mark = +.5

It is strongly recommended that when you record/share DBX 286A setting, that you provide the actual number of ticks/detent positions above the 0/Off/beginning position of any range. This way all measures are absolute and unambiguous values, not based upon the observers interpretation/calculation of what the actual values for various hash marks/ranges are.

I have asked DBX Harmon International for the precise values and they do not have assigned values.

I’m keeping all my measurements for the DBX 286A settings in ticks/detent positions in a spreadsheet.

I hope this helps.

Best - Al
Comment by Jud Niven on December 23, 2009 at 12:00am
I just bought one and will be hooking it up over Christmas...this was great timing..THANKS for sharing!!

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