With the availability of pocket-sized iPods that can literally hold thousands of CDs, and a booming market for docks that can turn the tiny dynamos into home stereo systems, it’s no wonder that not many companies bother putting out home theater components for storing MP3s anymore – a portable can do most of the same things, and better. But there’s still one nagging problem that no portable has yet to solve: the reliance on a computer system to load up and maintain a player’s library. For the audio buff who don’t want to be bothered with downloading programs to rip CDs and playing around with encoder settings, there still aren’t many alternatives out there.
Enter the Brennan JB7, a do-it-all music system designed to liberate listeners from the shackles of the almighty mouse and keyboard. It can rip tracks, store them, play them, and transfer them to portables, all without a computer. It’s the Swiss army knife of music devices.
Brennan rolled all of these functions into a box only a little bigger than the CD-ROM you might find in a desktop computer. A simple blue display adorns the front, along with a handful of buttons for building and managing your digital music collection. Most of the unit’s more advanced functions are accessed through the credit-card sized remote.
Image Courtesy of Brennan
Ripping a CD has been simplified to a three-step process: pop a CD in, tell it to load it to the library, confirm the album title (which is automatically culled from a library of 2.2 million) and a moment later it’s pulling your disc onto the built-in hard drive. It can even play existing tracks while it rips, and encode at three different quality levels. For the computer averse, it’s doesn’t get much easier.
The JB7 also eliminates the need for other audio components to play music with two powered speaker outputs on its back, as well as a headphone jack. The built-in amp provides 60 watts of output, which should be just right for an average pair of bookshelf speakers – although you probably won’t be racking up any noise citations.
Users can use the remote to sift through the unit’s 80GB drive, which can hold anywhere from 600 to 1200 CDs depending on compression. Despite a lack of keyboard, a simple cell-phone-style alphabet on the remote makes it possible to queue up specific songs or albums from afar by typing out the first few letters of the name.
Since the JB7 makes no attempt to replace truly portable devices, it’s also been designed to play nicely with them. By connecting a compatible player to the USB port on the front, the JB7 can push tracks to a portable device or play songs off of it. It can do the same with other USB storage devices such as thumb drives and external hard drives, making it possible to backup an entire library or tote it somewhere else without bringing the whole machine along.
There’s no question that desktop computers remain the indisputable kings of music management when it comes to flexibility and capability, but Brennan has carved a niche below them with a machine that caters to simplicity. The 20GB, 40GB and 80GB versions of the device retail for £249 ($485 USD), £299 ($582), and £319 ($620) respectively. Cheap? Not exactly, but convenience demands a premium, and for those who would rather enjoy their music than figure out how to manually catalog it, the JB7 may just hit the spot. More information can be found at Brennan’s Web site.