The Brennan JB7

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RE: The Brennan JB7

I purchased the Brennan JB7 last summer and immediately had problems.  It started burning! Brennan took 3 weeks to repair it during which time they did not contact me once to explain what was happening. Recently I noticed a distortion on a new CD which I had added.  At first I assumed it was a poorly recorded CD but when I play in on my CD player it is perfectly OK.  Overall the JB7 is convenient but I've great reservations about the quality and the after sales service is very poor.

RE: The Brennan JB7

 

I bought one earlier this year - the largest capacity possible.

 

The leaflet that comes with the device is brief to the point of disbelief.

However, the Brennan web site is very useful and well worth reading. They are honest enough in pointing out its attractions as well as its deficiencies. There are lots of tips on how to get around problems for the user. I wanted to store the maximal number of CDs so opted for the 320K compression setting so I should be able to store up to 3000 CDs.

 

You cannot buy this in the shops and can only be bought direct from Brennan. The packing I was not impressed with but having said that it arrived undamaged after about three weeks. 

 

Loading the CDs is tedious and time consuming. It has taken me three months to load 2000 CDs. The advantage of the system is that the JB7 reads the CD and does the compression later whilst you are asleep or at work thus saving some time.  The main issues I have with the system is the identification of the CDs and tracks. This is very unsatisfactory. The machine has a database pre-loaded and the CD details are retrieved from this. If it cannot find the CD you have to enter all the data manually. For my collection I would say it could not find around 15% of the discs. The greater problem is that the retrieval of the music. To play a piece requires entering some sort of name. The database seems oriented towards pop and rock music with artists being emphasized. I don’t know about you but I tend to search for music by composer rather than artist. This it is not much help having a great list of music by LSO or Rattle but it may not be listed under Beethoven. To get around this problem you have to go in and re-name all the discs which are not labelled as you would want – and for me this was most of them. Quite a few just seem to have completely unrelated information attached to them. To correct this is another three months’ work, very tedious but can be speeded up by using a computer with a keyboard. However beware as the database is text and if you make an error it won’t re-load and just gives the line of the error which might be line 10405 for example. Who is going to count through that to find the error? So you end up having to re-load the original database thus losing your hard work. I therefore recommend re-loading new database information in very small chunks to avoid wasting even more of your life on it.

 

Also rather worryingly I have loaded many sets of operas and on trying to retieve them discover one or more of the discs cannot be found. I am still trying to work out why. It is often the first discs that are missing. I wonder if it overwrites with the subsequent discs if they have identical names. So far I have identified 80 CD sets where one or more disc is missing.

 

The Brennan can also be quite sensitive to any CD flaw and will sometimes reject a disc part way through loading. The disc often loads if you clean any dust off it (but not always). However there is only a very brief warning taht it has not loaded properly. If you walk out of the room for those few seconds the error displayed you would never know and so continue with the next disc obliviously.

 

The advantages over a regular ipod is really just the size of the drive.  If you get the smaller drive size it may be better to just get an ipod. It is certainly a lot easier to use than the Brennan.

 

Sound quality is acceptable. The music is compressed. If you are used to listening to music on expensive equipment then you will notice the compression. As Brennan point out they are not a hi-fi product but more of a consumer product. This is true, but the sound is perfectly acceptable especially as a second hi-fi set up in another part of the house with more ambient noise.

 

Reliability seems fine thus far. It is convenient but needs a lot of setting up.

As the set up is time consuming you must back the data up in case the hard drive fails. Again this is not straight forward as you need a drive of the same size formatted as FAT32 (not NTFS). Take care as most are NTFS and it takes a lot of reading of packaging to ensure you have the correct drive. For 500 GB drive I have used Buffalo Just Store Portable (£44). This works well. Back up takes ages – 2000 CDs took over a week day and night and I imagine re-building would take the same length of time..

 

The bottom line is that I have got fed up with it - it just sits on my desk. The re-labelling of loaded CDs is mind-numbingly tedious - I have got to P and lost heart. I dare say it is fine if you just want to programme it to play randomly. However if you are a relatively obsessive person, you will find this device infuriatingly frustrating and you should be prepared to dedicate six months of your life to setting it up, correcting all the erroneous data. Brennan really need to sort out the interface.

John
RE: The Brennan JB7 RE: The Brennan JB7

Yes, I agree although it wasn't just the fault that was the problem.  I was more irritated by their attitude and their complete disregard to try to communicate with me. I had purchased an expensive new machine, which caught fire, and they thought that it was ok to take weeks to repair it. When it was returned to me there was no note or explanation. 

RE: The Brennan JB7 RE: The Brennan JB7

Very interesting reading all the comments regarding this machine, for those who have had what would seem to me to be totally unacceptable faults, returning them without hesitation seems the wisest choice.       I would also agree it seems to have been placed into the market before it was ready                  What i find strange is that there has been no discernible improvements made to the specification of the unit since its inception, for example the remote appears to be all but useless and the hard drives are a little behind the times in terms of size, it seems a lot of research & development is needed to ensure the machine really fits the idea/requirement.                                                      Your comments have stopped me spending a great deal of money, thank you.                                                                                                              A question for those of you looking to store large numbers of discs, has anybody purchased the Cocktail 10? A Korean unit which stores music in most formats, streams radio and has hard drives up to 2TB, i would be interested in comments from anybody who has one .

RE: The Brennan JB7

I bought a 320GB JB7 with their speakers and an external hard drive from Brennan about four months ago. I'd been watching Brennan having seen their ads in Mojo and reading up on jukebox-style options for about 2 years, as it seemed to offer what I wanted: a small, effective means of storing all my music in one place that played well and gave me simplicity in operation.

I hadn't found this forum, and am neither an audio quality expert nor a detailed technical man.

Brennan answered my pre-sales queries fine; sold me the kit very efficiently; and I set it up quickly and easily. Looked great. Loaded a few CD's onto it to test it. Took a little while (about 3 mins a CD) and converted automatically in the background, so seemed fine.

Then came the trickier bit. I knew it wouldn't be straightforward but I hadn't fully appreciated how hard it would get. I have 1300 albums on my laptop. It has taken me about 2 years to transfer all my vinyl, tapes and cds to wma files. The Brennan would make my life simpler and my music more accessible. (that was the objective). It took four days to convert to mp3 files (following Brennan's recommended path using the freeware Switch file converter); 2.5 days to load the mp3 files to the external FAT32 harddrive (I had converted them initially to mp3's on a NTFS external drive to give me additional back-up); and then four days to load up and compress them to the JB7. It was all in the background so I wasn't fussed.

Thats when the fun started. I wasn't happy with the labelling but couldn't find a solution in the box. So I exported the file names (all 15,600 lines of it) to wordpad via a USB and started editing them manually on my laptop. Two months later of one hour per weekday evening and 4 hours per weekend working later I got them as I wanted them: artist; album title; track title. No track number. In random mode it does exactly want I want it to. If I want an album or a track then it gets a bit more fiddly (see supplementary post that follows). I like the playlist feature. The remote is small but I haven't had a problem with it. To my untrained and uncritical ears the sound is fine (small room; largely lower volume; more background soundtrack - rock; pop; ambient; electronic; folk, some classical and a lot of modern jazz).The 64 character restriction for labelling isn't a problem for most of my style of music. I can imagine that the labelling issue for classical music could be more of an issues, as could track or album recognition.

The built-in database has been largely fine, especially for older, established CD's. Most are recognised and the labelling OK but I always check it. I have to load the CD (3 mins); export the album information to laptop via USB; check and edit it; then import it back on the Brennan. If the database doesn't recognise the CD title, then I load it to .wma on my laptop; convert it to mp3; load it to usb; import it; export the titles; edit them; import them back. A bit of a pain, but after 15,600 lines of editing I can cope with this!

If I hadn't already spent a long time digitising my collection, I might have given up. The labelling issue was a pain. Having got it where I want it I am largely delighted with it. There is variable sound volume of individual recordings, but thats probably down to me in capturing and transferring music not the JB7. I haven't had any faults (touch wood) and I haven't needed to talk to them about it after buying it. The alarm feature to wake me to music is marvellous (but only as a possible benefit - I'd rather not install it in my bedroom) - but even at volume 1 it would probably give me a heart-attack....

3.5 stars overall; 5 for convenience and simplicy (and the idea) 1 star for the painful journey.

If anyone has found a better way to access tracks or albums or artists, or in labelling / ordering then I'd like to know. Thanks for reading this (long) post.

Leslie Sopp

RE: The Brennan JB7

I should add that I haven't been able to road test all of the functionality in the JB7 yet, and it maybe that there are solutions to my access needs in the box, but I have yet to find them. I agree with other comments that the documentation isn't good enough. It isn't written or presented from a consumer / user perspective.

Leslie Sopp

RE: The Brennan JB7

Interesting to read all the comments on this device as I had thought of buying one but in the end came up with an alternative solution which others may be interested in. I bought a Western Digital Elements Play media player with a 1TB hard drive originally for the purpose of viewing photographs on the TV.
As our TV is connected to the Hifi (Musical Fidelity A3.5 CD player
and A5 amp into Spendor S5e speakers) I decided to rip some CD's into iTunes using Apple lossless format and then load them onto
this device. I was amazed by the sound quality and despite it going
via the TV could not detect any difference from the CD. In case it
was my ageing ears I sat my son, who is a professional musician, down in front of the Hifi and we played various recordings switching
between the two sources. He could not pick out a difference. I've so
far added nearly 600 CD's and from this calculate that 1TB of storage
will equate to around 3,600 CD's using the Apple lossless format. The
cost of this media player is only a little over £100 and there is
also a 2TB hard drive version. You do need a pretty organised folder
structure on the hard drive to get to what you want quickly but then
it works extremely well. One downside is I haven't yet figured out
how to listen to music whilst turning off the TV display.

 

RE: The Brennan JB7 RE: The Brennan JB7

I'd like to clarify my previous comment on the issue of the JB7 catching fire. It did not catch fire but it did burn. I had just spent a month loading my CDs, the display went blank and I smelt burning.   Sorry if anyone has interpreted what I wrote literally.  

RE: The Brennan JB7

MODERATORS: some posts - and some direct responses to those posts - have been removed from this thread.

Backup the 'hard' way

I wanted to back-up my new JB7's hard drive. Power right off, then 4 screws open the case. Plug a standard SATA-extender cable into the original drive (note tiny seals on socket). Power still off, use that as ‘source’ in e.g. a £30 ‘BT-340’ drive duplicator, with a spare SATA drive as ‘target’. After 2 hours, the spare drive will also work in the JB7: same operating system, same music snapshot. Exchange cables in duplicator to restore the original, if ever stuck. Taking out the original drive would be trickier - hidden screws.

Alternatively, although Windows on a PC won’t ‘see’ the proprietary-format drive via the SATA-extender cable, software like ‘r-Studio’ will access it for imaging to a folder on a big PC drive in about 5 hours (free trial available, if you know how to burn a bootable ISO CD and switch drives in your PC around). The virgin drive compresses to less than 1 GB, so can file away safely on a DVD-R. I also tried backup via SATA in Linux, but didn’t know how to ‘mount’ the curious drive, so couldn’t use the (slow) ‘dd’ command.

Oh, and the JB7 works perfectly for me - delighted to have the giant 'Bach 2000' compendium at my fingertips at last.

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