Objective. The main goal of this work is to develop a model for multi-sensor signals such as MEG or EEG signals, that accounts for the inter-trial variability, suitable for corresponding binary classification problems. An important constraint is that the model be simple enough to handle small size and unbalanced datasets, as often encountered in BCI type experiments. Approach. The method involves linear mixed effects statistical model, wavelet transform and spatial filtering, and aims at the characterization of localized discriminant features in multi-sensor signals. After discrete wavelet transform and spatial filtering, a projection onto the relevant wavelet and spatial channels subspaces is used for dimension reduction. The projected signals are then decomposed as the sum of a signal of interest (i.e. discriminant) and background noise, using a very simple Gaussian linear mixed model. Main results. Thanks to the simplicity of the model, the corresponding parameter estimation problem is simplified. Robust estimates of class-covariance matrices are obtained from small sample sizes and an effective Bayes plug-in classifier is derived. The approach is applied to the detection of error potentials in multichannel EEG data, in a very unbalanced situation (detection of rare events). Classification results prove the relevance of the proposed approach in such a context. Significance. The combination of linear mixed model, wavelet transform and spatial filtering for EEG classification is, to the best of our knowledge, an original approach, which is proven to be effective. This paper improves on earlier results on similar problems, and the three main ingredients all play an important role.