The Brennan JB7

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The Brennan JB7

A relative has acquired a top of the range Brennan JB7 with the enhanced hard disc capacity which he feels has been a great success and I am thinking of making a similar purchase to relieve the pressure on space created by my very large CD collection. What do others think of the idea from a purely technical point of view (I could dispose of other things like books to make space, I suppose...).

RE: The Brennan JB7

I think the Brennan's a genius piece of kit, but depending on circumstances I'd be slightly worried about some of its limitations - primarily disk space (if you want ultimate quality) and amp power.  What do you plan to replace with it and how many CDs do you want to store?

RE: The Brennan JB7

John,  Thanks for your reply.  I would not transfer at anything less than the 320 kps rate, which means somewhat less than the advertised 5000 CDs capacity and would require the bigger hard drive to cope with my (around) 1400 CDs. 


How effective is the 'find' facility and does it have any serious blind spots?  Even the otherwise excellent search options on the iPod Classic has one or two, I have noticed.  

RE: The Brennan JB7

My brother has one, which he uses in a small room and, whilst entirely satisfied with the sound and capacity, he is unhappy with the interface. Specifically it is the need to scroll to find music, which can be very slow and cumbersome. He says that on reflection he would not have bought one for this reason. 

RE: The Brennan JB7

I've recently been asked to look at the Brennan by someone considering buying one, as well as by someone who'd like to buy our hard-drive-based music catalogue (at Pristine Classical).

To deal with the latter first: it seems the Brennan device will not read FLAC files - it likes MP3 or entirely uncompressed, but our hard drives, which are filled with lossless FLAC files, are not supported. I'm not quite sure what to tell our potential customer on that front, but it seems somewhat shortsighted not to support the format. By contrast, another recent customer who'd invested in a Linn system was delighted that our FLACs would play back directly in his system.

But ultimately I'm more concerned for the first enquiry I had - whether to buy one or not. It strikes me that the device is simply too locked down - the danger is that it becomes in a very short time the equivilent of a MiniDisc recorder, or worse. It's not clear from what I've been able to find out exactly what happens when the hard drive gets noisy after a couple of years, or what happens when it (inevitably) fails - or even if you just want more space.

I've also made the jump into a CD-free world, but decided to purchase a very small, quiet PC, a pro-quality external sound card, and a 4TB RAID mirrored server accessed by wi-fi. The PC runs XBMC, freeware software which plays just about every audio and video file I know of. The PC's HDMI output sends HD pictures to my TV set, and the sound card plugs directly into my existing hi-fi. It can convert my CDs into a lossy or lossless format, my data is permanently backed up, and any individual component of the system can be simply and easily upgraded if and when required - right now it seems reasonably future-proof. Because it's a PC with a web browser I can of course also use it to stream Radio Three and other music directly from the Internet to my hi-fi system (which is useful as I live in France).

It was certainly a little more fiddly to set up than unpacking a magic box which claims to do it all - but I have owned one of those before (not a Brennan) and, a very few months after purchase, various promised firmware upgrades had been abandoned by the manufacturer, along with any customers who didn't upgrade to their very latest models and ditch the older ones. I don't wish to imply than any other particular company would do such a thing to its customers, just that I didn't enjoy being left out in the cold with a box which didn't quite do everything it was supposed to do quite as well as it should have, and suffered from multiple limitations as a consequence of its design.


(While I'm here, could I ask Gramophone (and Andrew in particular) to consider some kind of comparitive review of high quality external (eg. USB) soundcards for the many people listening on PCs, Macs, laptops and so on? I've found information very hard to come by - as soon as you get very far into pro gear the assumption is you'll want at least 48 input and output channels! I'm personally happy with two...)

RE: The Brennan JB7

Like Andrew Rose I too use my pc to stream my music to my hi fi, in a simpler (and cheaper) solution I use a PS3 or my Xbox.  If you have a reasonable pc you can get good results usings something like DBpoweramp to rip your cds.

RE: The Brennan JB7

Many thanks to everyone for all this information: I shall probably keep my present rather cluttered arrangement with shelved CDs, which at least look tidy if at time a bit overwhleming.  The option of operating my listening through my computer has logistical problems for me, so I'll wait and see what happens and in the meantime investigate other nooks and crannies for CD storage space.

RE: The Brennan JB7 RE: The Brennan JB7

SpiderJon wrote:
Rip your CDs to a computer using EAC and buy some sort of Squeezebox to stream music to your hi-fi - that may require you to get a wi-fi router, but they're cheap and easy enough to set up. (If you wanted to expand on your "logistical problems" no doubt people here could help.)

Job done, and for not a lot of money.

I agree with this approach, although I would use dBpoweramp in preference to EAC. I was faced with the same problem (more than 1000 discs to rip), and I'm half-way through. dBpoweramp does help to speed up the process.

I have three Squeezebox devices scattered around the house, so I have access to my music (and internet radio) wherever I choose to relax. This does mean I listen to more music, so for me it was certainly worth doing.

RE: The Brennan JB7 RE: The Brennan JB7

I agree with you here.  I am always suspicious of something that is advertised everywhere as revolutionary where to me it is no more than a hard disk recorder with some extra software.  I have not listened to it so don't know the sound quality, but I am seriously worried about how reliable and future-proof it may be - hard disks can fail and do fail.

I use an old laptop with an external 1TB drive to store downloads and music ripped from CDs.  Music is played through a Squeezebox.  All these are part of the home network (although strictly one doesn't need a home network, as the Squeezebox can be connected to the computer via a 2-way ethernet cable).  As part of the home network the music files also get backed up regularly to other hard drives on the network.  Like you said, job done, and for not a lot of money.  I would stay well clear of the Brennan, for if the hard drive goes, you lose the music collection and have to do the ripping again, unless of course you have backed them up - but in doing that you need a computer anyway.

RE: The Brennan JB7 RE: The Brennan JB7

The unit is quiet when playing, no fans etc. Sound good to me, I've
got mine hooked up to an old Pioneer LS7 Lifestyle system and the volume
and quality sounds great to me but I could be tone deaf!

admit its not cheap, but honestly.....its the best bit of kit I've ever
bought. It's the same size as my Colins Daily wired diary. I took it
around to a mates, pluged it in to a front socket on his amp and showed
him what it could do (and at the same time, copying his cds!)

any one has any doubts about buying one, look at their web site. Money
back if your not happy. I'll bet that you won't return it! Relieability?
When have we ever bought anything electronic and been concerned about
relieability...well, we are concerned but we still buy. Have a listen to
the people who own one, its easy to put the product down without giving
it a go. It does  exactly what its says on the tin!

be seeing you!

RE: The Brennan JB7 RE: The Brennan JB7

jethro wrote:

going to try loading the old vinyl on to her. Uncompressed first, to see what she sounds like. I haven't tried this yet, apparantly you just plug the deck in. After that, minidisc.


I'd be very interested to hear how that goes. I bought a gadget put out by Nero that promised to do the same, but the software was so unfriendly I couldn't get it to work. Its disappearance from the market since tells me few others could either.

RE: The Brennan JB7

Top of my list of concerns would be sound quality.  MP3 is great for music on the move, such as in the car, but I would be suspicious of the Brennan not supporting FLAC.

Last year I invested in a Linn Majik DS player and Ripnas ripping and storage device.  Having no computer skills at all, my dealer did all that side for me and I am now delighted with both the convenience and sound quality.  It's better than the CDs it copies from, and as well as that, I download studio quality masters at 24 bit (as opposed to CD's 16 bit) resolution.  And as if this were not enough, I recently latched on to internet radio through the DS player too.  Absolutely stunning sound that gives my LP12 a run for its money.

Digital streaming is the future of music - and FLAC its guarantor of sound quality. 

RE: The Brennan JB7

I'm busy loading up my new JB7 and must say that I find it all that it claims to be.  Sure - if you happen to have perfect pitch and super-sensitive hearing, sound quality may be lower than you like, but my experience is that most people are fooling themselves if they believe they can tell the difference between compressed and uncompressed files.  The JB7 is a convenience tool and it fills that role very well.

My only dissatisfaction lies with the information management aspect - having chosen to go with freedb, the user-generated database, Brennan have opted for the lowest level of quality and usability.  Frankly, it's a mess.  Clearly designed mainly for pop music, preference is given to artist over composer, so if you want to find all versions of Bruch's violin concerto that you may happen to have scattered over a number of discs - forget it.  By the time the screen shows the performer and, say, the London Symphony Orchestra, there's no space left to tell you whether you are looking at an organ piece or a fiddle concerto. This is because the database uses fixed field lengths so you can't actually get all the data on to the screen. The only thing to do to make sure that the information you need for retrieval is actually there is to input new data for each album after you've loaded it.

Of course, this is not untypical of techie-driven innovations - all the effort goes into the tech and the user end of things is barely touched upon.

RE: The Brennan JB7

I have had one for about 3 months - largest memory.

I have about 900 cds on it - mostly uncompressed.

I think it is absolutely brilliant, but I had to send it away for 4 weeks (!!) after something shorted when I was plugging into Audiolab amp.  Accompanying notes/booklet are/is a bit too brief.  No warning about having everything switched off at all times when faffing about - most people should know this, though.

Whoever says the scrolling to find items is tedious clearly does not understand that you can "search" and sometimes the first 3 or 4 letters you key in will reveal what you are looking for.  doh!

Exciting to play "random", though, all those tracks you never bothered to play over the years pop up and you realise, "Hey! this is good, I've been missing out".   Elgar followed by Chuck Berry, then Lionel Hampton - very stimulating, the surprise, the anticipation!

Now connected to new Roksan Kandy 2 and B&W 603s and I can hear no noise whatsoever that should not be there on playback - as clear as you could wish for!

Why anyone should say do not get it, I cannot understand.  I have been into hi-fi (not audiophile - it's the music that matters) since 1970 and still have the "Which" recommended Thorens TD 150/II I bought that year.  Everything else has been replaced two or three times over the decades, but I have to say, the JB7 is a milestone in listening for me.

About 900 CD cases have gone and the CDs are stored in 2 flight cases bought in recent sale at Maplins for £20 each.  The CD sleeves/info has been filed in alphabetical order in 2 small wooden trays I made.  This can be improved upon, I dare say.

Oh, Brennan emphasis the importance of backup, so the scare stories about "discs not lasting forever...." etc should not concern you if you have bought the Buffalo 500GB disc and copied all you stuff onto it.  Seemed to take about a fortnight, though, running night and day!!

RE: The Brennan JB7

This Forum discussion has all been about the Brennan JB7.  Are there no alternatives?

I had considered the JB7, but was put off by the evident difficulty in labelling and classifying.  I currently have my CDs classified via a database (on Microsoft Access) which allows me to classify more or less as Gramophone does (Orchestral, Chamber etc) and by composer alphabetically (or whatever).  But the system used by the Brennan doesn't seem likely to allow one to do that - e.g. to look at different versions of a particular piece.  And to re-write labels using the text system on the keypad sounds appallingly slow.

Am I wrong?


Mark HH

RE: The Brennan JB7

Well, it seems to me that the Brennan JB7 is a custom device for the older generation who wouldn't have the tech savvy to work out their own solution with a combination of PC work and mediacenter gear. So I couldn't knock it, because I think we all know it's nigh-on impossible to get many older people to adapt... regarding alternatives, although I don't know a custom one, I have seen touch-screen monitors even in supermarkets and I would prefer this with a mini format PC. I don't know enough about audiophile soundcards to comment on that.

Brennan might have thought of FLAC/M4A/APE/WV lossless formats as neither here nor there, but I think he will be forced to rethink this very soon.


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