Aces BM1082 Mixer
On the face of it, an unremarkable mixer, but look again. The BM1082 incorporates some unusual design features which make it compatible with any of the budget 8-track recorders currently available, whilst still retaining its simplicity of operation.
At first glance, you could easily be misled into thinking that the Aces BM1082 is just a simple 10-2 mixer. After all it's got ten input channels and two output channels so what's so special?
On closer examination however you will notice that each channel has a set of routing buttons, but routing to what?
This is where the innovative design comes in, as this mixer embodies some of the concepts developed for large inline mixing desks in order to give the maximum flexibility from a seemingly straightforward control layout. Instead of providing eight output groups, each with its own level fader, metering and so forth, the BM1082 can route any of its ten input channels to any of eight multitrack outputs located on the rear panel using only the routing buttons and the channel pan controls. The channel faders themselves are used to set the levels going to tape and, as it is assumed that your eight track recorder has some sort of metering, no further metering is really necessary. A disadvantage of this system, and one that is not as serious when working with only ten channels, is that you can't subgroup channels and then put that subgroup under the control of a single fader, which is a useful facility to have if you need to change the level of an entire drum mix for example.
A two track mastering machine may be permanently plumbed into the mixer without the need for external patching, but Aces have curiously adopted the 0VU = +4dBm standard which means that when using a semi-pro recorder, the record levels will need to be set using the meters on the recorder itself and not those on the mixer, again not a big problem.
For normal recording use, the multitrack outputs are permanently connected to the first eight line outputs except those on channels nine and ten (channel one being nearest to the output group), but it is possible to use the mic inputs with line level signals providing you turn them down at the source (where possible) and take care in setting the channel gain control.
No multitrack mixer would be complete without insert points and the 1082 has its send/return sockets mounted on the front panel. These are normalised so that the signal passes through uninterrupted unless a piece of equipment is patched into them.
This Aces offering is rather conservative in its styling, but it is very sturdily constructed. The grey enamelled mild steel metalwork is complemented by thick solid wooden end cheeks with the panel screening adding a touch of delicacy to the otherwise utilitarian appearance.The slider markings however are somewhat coarse and are not calibrated in any way.
"No multitrack mixer would be complete without insert points and the 1082 has its send/return sockets mounted on the front panel."
In ergonomic terms, everything is conveniently placed with all the connectors except for the insert and phones jacks placed round the back out of harm's way, the latter being along the front edge of the mixer. The mic inputs are balanced and require stereo quarter inch jacks as does the headphone outlet, but all other signals are unbalanced, and use standard quarter inch jack connectors. Mains is provided via an IEC type connector and a red LED on the front panel lights when the system is powered up.
The gain control is quite conventional and operates on mic or line inputs according to whichever is selected by the 'mic/line' switch,the mic input being electronically balanced. Slightly less conventional is the fact that this switch routes the multitrack returns to the 'Monitor Pan' and 'Auxiliary One' controls when mic is selected which enables the multitrack recorder to be conveniently monitored during recording, (channels one to eight). No master level controls are fitted for either auxiliary send which can make things difficult if your power amp is not close by as the level control on the amp must be used to set the level of the monitor mix.
In terms of EQ, the facilities are a little basic when compared to what is currently available from other manufacturers, but it has the advantage of being straightforward to use and it has a more than adequate range for most applications. Basically it is a three band fixed frequency equaliser section offering both cut and boost. As it is based on a standard Baxendall design consisting of frequency selective circuitry arranged round a single gain stage, some interaction between controls is to be expected and is in fact evident in use. This, though, should not cause problems except possibly at extreme settings of cut or boost.
'Auxiliary 1' is fed from the 'Effects/Pre' switch in the case of channels nine and ten, but is fed from the 'Effects/T'Cue' switch for channels one to eight, and in both cases this sets the level of the 'Aux 1 ' signal which is fed to the master 'Aux 1' output on the rear panel.
When set to 'Effects', the 'Aux 1' signal is post-fade for use as a conventional effects send. Channels one to eight, when selected to 'T'Cue' route the line in socket or tape return to the foldback monitoring output (providing the input selector is set to mic) for off tape monitoring, whilst channels nine and ten may be selected to 'Pre', again giving a foldback or monitoring signal.
Auxiliary 2 is a dedicated post fade effects send and would normally be used to control the level of ancillary effects either during recording or at mixdown.
"When 'Aux 1' is operating as an off-tape monitor, the monitor pan control may be used to position the off-tape sound within the stereo mix."
When 'Aux 1' is operating as an off-tape monitor, the monitor pan control may be used to position the off-tape sound within the stereo mix, but during remix, it is not required because the channel pan control then performs this function. Interestingly, the pan control uses a dual pot which gives the correct law ensuring that the sum of the left and right hand channels remains constant for all pan positions.
As there are only two meters, and these are dedicated to the stereo output, Aces have sensibly incorporated PPI LEDs into each input channel; which illuminate whenever you are in danger of running out of headroom. Used in conjunction with the meters on your recorder, these should be quite adequate to ensure that you set up the optimum signal level throughout the system.
The two master faders are closely positioned which is very helpful for performing manual fades. Headphone monitoring is in stereo, which of course it should be, and this continuously monitors the stereo mix.
An auxiliary return input is fitted which has both level and pan controls whilst L/R and routing switches allow the return signal to be routed either to the master output or to any desired multitrack channel.
Talkback is also catered for via an XLR connector on the front panel which will accept a high impedance unbalanced microphone and the 'Talkback to Aux 1' switch overrides the channel Aux 1 bus and routes the talkback mic directly to the 'Aux 1' output socket.
"The way that its facilities have been organised to accomodate eight track working without going overboard on complexity is commendable."
To monitor from your mastering two track machine, the 'Mix, P'back' button, as its name implies, sends either the stereo mix or the stereo tape output to the monitors depending on its status.
The ten pairs of insert points, curiously named 'Patchbay' are physically located in the master section though they are really connected to the input channels. The effects loop comes after the EQ, but before the fader and is not present on the 'Aux 1' bus when this is set to 'Pre' or 'T'cue'.
The BM1082 is easy to connect up and very simple to use providing that you remember how the off-tape monitoring system works. Used with line level signals, the circuitry is reasonably quiet in operation, but used with low output microphones, it can become a problem. In this respect it was noticeably worse than my own mixer which has a specification typical of most budget desks. This was determined by using the same mic and setting the gain just short of feedback in each case.
If you don't use a lot of EQ, and I tend not to, then the range provided by three bands will most probably suffice. The weak spot is in the lower mid-range, often a problem area for drums and bass guitars, and a three band system does not offer particularly detailed control in this area. Interband interaction shows up if the mid-band is severely cut as the treble end is then noticeably affected too, but if you need that much control, there's probably something wrong with your original sound source or your miking technique.
Having insert points on the front of the mixer may seem a bit odd, but in practice, it is far more convenient than having to walk round the back of the mixer every time you want to connect an effect; you just have to be careful not to lose the mixer beneath a sea of cables.
It would have been nice to have insert points on the master stereo outputs for the insertion of further processors such as limiters, graphic equalisers or even an exciter, but one can always find ways around these problems.
"A lot of thought has obviously gone into making this mixer simple to use."
It must be borne in mind that as a multitrack mixer compatible with an eight track recorder, the BM1082 is relatively inexpensive, although it will still cost you around £511 + VAT - a not inconsiderable sum of money. The way that its facilities have been organised to accommodate eight track working without going overboard on complexity is commendable and must be a boon to anyone short of space, not to mention cash.
My only real reservations concern the slightly high mic-amp noise and the rather basic EQ and whilst the EQ will probably satisfy most general requirements, the noise problem may be more serious if you are using standard dynamic mics to record acoustic instruments or subdued vocals. PFL and mute buttons would also have been a welcome addition as would master auxiliary level controls.
Certainly the standard of construction is excellent, if a little unimaginative and the feel of the switches and long travel faders is reassuring. All the parts are easily obtainable, which is good news for the service engineer, especially as a set of circuit schematics is included in each handbook and the channel PCBs are easily accessible once the back cover has been removed.
A lot of thought has obviously gone into making this mixer simple to use, and little touches such as the plastic scribble scrip for chinagraph labelling attest to this fact, as does the comprehensive routing system.
Not a perfect mixer then, but one with a lot to offer to the budget conscious eight track user who wants a compact, easy to operate mixer.
Further information from Aces UK Ltd, (Contact Details).