AMS Neve BCM10/2 MK2

10 channel mixing console

AMS Neve BCM10/2 MK2

Review by Russell Cottier

Neve have been building high-end characterful consoles for decades, the BCM10 being one such desk. These classic consoles have become a favourite sidecar option for larger studios but the limited functionality and rarity of these beasts has lead Neve to release an updated version ready for the frontline of DAW based recording in the 21st century.

Like the original the BCM10/2 Mk2 uses Class A amplifiers for its mixing, so essentially we are talking about voltage mixing (as opposed to current based mixing) which completely removes crossover distortion and arguably sounds superior. Available in 10, 16, 24 and 36 channel options, the BCM10/2 Mk2 can be stocked with a variety of preamp modules. Conveniently all I/O is on D-subs, adding a patch bay is simple but the console also has the key connections as XLR on the rear. The optional wheeled stand allows the BCM10/2 Mk2 to be rolled into a studio and plugged in within minutes for those producers who want to bring some of their own flavour with them. This mahogany clad workhorse has all the familiar looks of a vintage Neve, the large grey knobs, the bluish panels and the glowing VU meters. However it has a whole host of functionality packed inside.

Starting at the top of the channel, essentially we see a 45 series option slot. Each channel can take a 1073N, 1073 Classic or 1084 Classic though the standard specification console comes loaded with the ten 1073Ns. These modules behave exactly as you would imagine offering the familiar range of sounds from smooth to crunchy. One point of note here is the sheer size of the knobs. For those of us used to working on more modern consoles the added precision this affords is quite welcome. The concentric controls also offer prudent use of the real estate on offer. At the bottom of the modules we of course see the EQ bypass and Phase flip buttons in the classic chunky white plastic.

AMS Neve BCM10/2 MK2

The 1952 Auxiliary module is next, and it is worth noting that the digital control on this section really brings the console into the modern era. This reviewer was lucky enough to have Robin Porter (designer) pull out the module and talk through the circuit. Rest assured that although the unit has digital control and surface mount components, all the necessary audio path circuitry is built in the old-school manner. The module starts with a red Direct out level pot that can be pressed to toggle pre or post insert with status indicated by a red LED. A recessed trim control nearby calibrates the centre detent value. A set of white rectangular buttons, in typical Neve styling, control phantom power and insert.

Five staggered sends follow, again push pots with adjacent LEDs to show if the send is engaged and indicate pre-fade mode. There are four mono Aux sends and one stereo Cue, as well as individually pressing the Aux pots, the Master Sel section allows a global selection of the Aux and Cue for on/off and pre mode. The stereo Cue input can be derived from the main channel input, pre or post fade, however there is also the option to feed the Cue from a Simple Input path, allowing a kind of in-line operation. Notably the Cue bus can be routed to the Stereo bus, therein doubling the number of inputs. This kind of system has been implemented in other consoles over the years but seems ever more relevant in today’s DAW world. There is of course a Pan control with a Pan engage button. Below this are buttons for Cue 1 and Cue 2 buses so simply hard routing is an option also. Alternatively both buttons can be engaged and the signal panned in stereo.

The bottom section of the 1952 module offers a toggle switch to allow selection of one of two mute groups, Cut A or Cut B. Next we have the large grey Pan pot, again engaged with a small black button. The fader can be hard routed to either side of the Stereo bus, both or panned in the stereo panorama. This might seem like a pretty old-school approach ... well it is! However it does open up certain options, not least simple and effective summing recall. Which will surely be a key use of any analogue console in today’s industry. The Pan pot can also be pressed to toggle the Simple Input being returned onto the channel. Ideal for perhaps adding a little extra analogue processing without having to re-patch manually. The square Solo and Cut buttons can also receive deeper control functionality from the master section.

AMS Neve BCM10/2 MK2

You get smooth 100mm P&G faders, sadly not automated and a small Channel Input LED meter displays level in PPM. There is no meter next to the Master fader but a good sized pair of VU meters crown the master section of the console. These can be fed with one of many selections offered by the chunky rotary meter selection control, including L/R, C/S, Ls/Rs, Rev returns, Aux output levels etc. A -10dB button allows desensitisation of the VU meters too if you tend to mix a little hotter.

Below this are positioned the 8 line amplifiers, for the Stereo, Cue and Aux buses — again, let us not forget that these are class A 1272 amplifiers and put simply — they sound great. The console also offers a Studio loudspeaker (SLS) output and headphone control. Each of these has a level pot and source selection that allows all sorts of routing and workflow options, either of these could be used as a second set of Cue mixes.

There are two stereo reverb returns with level, width, balance and AFL. These can be assigned to feed stereo mix and/or Cue. Neve have implemented a clever Solo Isolate system for the returns allowing a solo safe mode. This is selected with a long press of the push pot, the implementation of microprocessor control offers clever little features like this that of course don’t require physical buttons of their own. Below are two mono DI inputs, these could be used for bringing in a mix from another console, additional inputs or returns or even as a return from parallel processing.

To the right of this there is a rather unusual approach to a mix bus insert, two 500 series slots that come loaded with Neve’s own 2264ALB compressors and they can be inserted with a button press.
 Of course these can be swapped out for other flavours of 500 Series from different manufacturers or even other processors such as EQ. They can also be accessed via the patch bay when the mix insert button is not engaged. Pre and post fade selection is also available so one could perhaps ride the master fader to drive a unit more or less throughout a mix. There is a push pot that can be engaged to implement parallel processing of this section too which proved extremely useful indeed for adding body without clamping down on the dynamics too much.

There are even two talkback paths, internal Talkback with buttons and level controls for Cue, SLS and Slate, plus a Return Talkback. This is an external mic input that can be routed to M2 loudspeakers or the Cue bus as an additional producer’s talkback. Dim of the Cue mix can be implemented when talkback is engaged to assist audibility. Also Neve have popped in a Red Light button, something you don’t often see these days. The Master Selection section is a cluster of square illuminating buttons, including three solo modes and solo isolate (solo safe) plus global selection of Aux modes. Nestled in the corner of this section we also find the A/B cut buses.

The Monitor section of the console offers a mind boggling array of selection options and whilst the mixer is essentially stereo a 5.1 monitoring system has been implemented to allow monitoring in surround from your DAW of choice. There are two categories of sources, internal which includes all internal buses and external which has three 5.1 and three stereo external inputs. A summing button allows selection of multiple sources at once and there are even features like flipping the Ls and Rs of a 5.1 input to the front speakers.

The main control room level is via a stepped attenuator maintaining the analogue path of the stereo mix, though the 5.1 level control is VCA implemented due to the impracticalities of building an accurate six channel analogue attenuator. The Monitor section of course includes speaker selection from the two stereo and one 5.1 outputs. There are Dim controls, Mono, Master Cut and individual speaker cuts plus other useful features including 80Hz lowpass for the sub output.

In the age of the DAW we have become used to designing whatever functionality and routing we require and Neve have really stepped up to the plate offering a hardware solution that is both flexible and simple. Sonically the desk has a super smooth analogue sheen, but the stereo bus can be driven to achieve that extra harmonic saturation. With a price tag starting at £39,950 (+ VAT) this is a serious purchase, but the classic design and modern implementation suggest that it will hold its value. Yes, there are other designers that have console options in the same price bracket, but each manufacturer at this level offers a different approach and a different sound so the BCM10/2 MK2 really sits in its own niche. If you love vintage Neve consoles but hate the maintenance costs and limiting architecture this could be your solution.