Hi Everyone , Just wondered if any of you good people own a Brennan? I own roughly 2,800 cds (I know,it's frightening) and I have started putting them in those binders,you know the ones you see advertised in classic rock.I worked it out it will take up to around 20 of these binders to house all my cds and covers . Obviously the boxsets and digipacks would still have to go on shelves but the majority of the collection are in those horrible plastic cases. I was perusing the Brennan site and I just wondered ;is the sound quality affected to a massive degtree?I own a Rotel amp & cd player with BW speakers. Would one of those Brennan beasties be compatible with said set-up? Help!! fletch
I've just bought one of these, had it less than 24 hours. So far I've noticed some niggles and quirks but it's too early to really say if it's going to do everything I want. Some early observations:
1. It seems to exhibit some strange behaviour (and least mine did) in the early stages while you are filling up the database, but seems to settle down once you get a good number of CDs on. 2. Loading and copying CDs is quick, easy and virtually noiseless. Files are loaded as wav and compression (if you choose to compress) is done when the unit is on standby. Leaving it on overnight while you are loading your collection is a good idea. 3. The database used is freedb. It's good they use freedb in my view but there are some gaps in the db. freedb issue an updated archive every month and brennan will sell you a update CD for £5 which I think is too high. The lack of any ethernet connectivity is one of my major gripes, which affects the next point. 4. If the CD is not in the db, you can add the album/track names yourself, but the process is laborious using the miniscule remote. It can take a good 20 minutes for a single CD, plus you are limited to just numbers and letters (all in lower case). Forget about ID3 tags, sorting by genre or aything else. This and the earlier point are the two most annoying things so far. Would it have been difficult to provide a larger remote with a few more input options? And the lack of ethernet connectivity for db update. 5. Sound is excellent. Brennan will sell you a set of speakers or you can buy better ones, or, if you have an existing speaker dock, hook it up to that via stereo cable. I compress to 320kbps (don't know what they use to encode) and am very happy with the result. 6. There are only 7 built-in playlists but you can create as many as you like on the PC (separate directories) and transfer via USB. I haven't tested this yet. 7. I've contacted Brennan customer support a couple of times with indifferent results. Their ticketing system seems very new (and not exactly state of the art) and the knowledgebase is virtually empty. Documentation is generally sparse. They do respond quite quickly, but don't always answer the questions properly. 8. Build quality of the unit is very good. 9. It's portable. Just pick it up along with the speakers/dock and take it to whichever room you're in - that's one of the things that attracted me.
Conclusion: As I said, it's very early days. So far the actual loading/compressing/playing seem good, it's the back-end stuff that lets it down a bit. But the music server I'd really like weighs in at £900 and that's the entry-level model, so you have to take that into consideration.
EDIT: Just a quick update. I found you CAN use additional characters for inputting names, they're just not marked on the remote. This may be standard and well-known to texters, but I'm not one and it's undocumented. It does mean that you can get album/track names exactly how you want, but it doesn't alleviate the onerous method required to achieve it.
OK, I've had the db7 for a week or so now, so I have a few more observations. But first, a correction: I said using other characters other than those shown on the remote wasn't documented; actually it is, I just missed it in the manual.
As a general observation, quite a few things I didn't think could be done, can in fact be done. Not all are documented, or explained very well, but they are there.
I've copied all my CDs and have moved onto my mp3s, using the USB port. You can transfer all the directories on the flash drive or just one. The USB drive itself will appear as the temporary last album in the album list, from where you can select a single directory. Or you can just choose to copy all directories from the USB function menu. If doing that, you need to delete already copied directories from the USB drive first or you'll get duplicates. The folder name becomes the album name. The db7 won't transfer files it doesn't recognise but having lots of other stuff on the drive seems to confuse it a bit, and also slows the whole process, so keeping the drive clear of non-relevant stuff is a good idea. You can also copy single tracks which will normally be put in their own album.
You can't move tracks about as far as I know, but you can add tracks to existing albums either from a CD or USB stick. This is undocumented (unless I missed that too) but I found it by accident and it's very useful for updating your own playlists.
If you copy a CD with the unit set to no compression, a little 'p' will be shown against that album ('p' for protected). But you also get a 'p' alongside albums transferred via USB, even if they're mp3s. These will stay uncompressed, even if compression is later turned on. You can compress wav files from the maintenance menu under settings at any time.
I've got a bit quicker using the remote to change album details, but it's still tedious. However, after using the db7 for a while I've come to the conclusion that ethernet connectivity isn't the panacea many think. Firstly, even if a CD is in the database, it's not forced to be correct, or in the format you like. I've lost count of the number of times I've been gobsmacked by the ludicrous way people have input album and track names. Having ethernet isn't going to help that, unless you are going to correct all those entries yourself at freedb.org. Also, unless you buy a lot of CDs on an ongoing basis, the re-naming headache is very much a one-off task and for most people any solution after the initial load of CDs is going to be largely redundant.
This is where the Import/Export feature comes in. You can export the jb7 catalogue to USB, stick it on the PC, correct all the album and track names in one go, then re-import it to the jb7. Obviously you would only want to do this rarely, once you've finished loading all your music the first time, for instance. Once you've got everything the way you want it, updating the odd new CD with the remote isn't going to be a huge task. If people aren't so anal as me about naming their music correctly, then they can just accept what's in the db, and rely on Brennan's monthly CDs, but I think providing a download as an alternative to a CD is something they could have done. One last note on re-naming: a consistent naming scheme will help a lot when using the search feature.
There's no equalizer as such, but you can change both bass and treble separately. Changing either from the default sounds a bit strange to me, but then I never change it on Winamp either. All CDs are different anyway, but you can alter bass and treble if you want to. Now I've added some of my own mp3s (encoded with LAME at 320kbps) any difference in quality between those and the ones the db7 produces isn't obvious even using headphones. Without headphones I don't think anyone will notice anything at all. Of course there's nothing to stop you ripping everything on the PC using EAC/LAME and transferring to the jb7 via USB. It'll take a bit longer but OTOH will cut out any re-naming issues at source. The jb7 unforunately doesn't support other useful formats such as Ogg, Flac or Ape. Flac would have been particularly welcome.
Actually quite easy, so long as you pay attention to naming correctly. Just select album search (or track search) and use the remote (case insensitive) to input letters. Each letter pressed will give a different number of results, e.g. when I tested it 'y' gave me 58, 'ye' gave me 8 and 'yes' gave me 4. It searches on the whole album field, including artist if one is included. There's no separate artist field. You then just scroll though the final list and select the one you want.
Normal Mode is a bit strange and I'm still trying to figure out what it's doing. It's supposed to play a selected album in sequence, then the next album etc. What it SEEMS to do is just that, but it also has some sort of memory, so if you select an album, then do something else, load a CD, play another album, it will sometimes pop back to the first album you selected and then jump between the albums you selected at various times. There's probably a way to clear the slate at the beginning but I haven't sussed that out yet. It doesn't appear to be a malfunction and it's not something that bothers me. The other modes seem to work as specified.
There are stll some things I haven't tested, for instance recording from record. I would never do it anyway because most records need a bit of cleaning up and you can only do that on a computer. I also haven't created any playlists yet.
My main initial gripes about the jb7 - lack of ethernet connectivity and the re-naming issue - have largely been alleviated by the Import/Export catalogue feature. I can't compare the unit to other music servers in the same price category because I know nothing about them. What I can say is that the features of the jb7 have been well-thought-out, better so than I had given the makers credit for in the beginning. I also think the problems surrounding the database are ones which would be faced by all similar units and that the jb7's solution of being able to export, update and import the catalogue is as good as any. The method of providing database updates is certainly not the best. I think they should be free and an alternative download could be provided. But this is a minor gripe for me because I don't buy many new CDs. It may be more of an issue for others.
Soundwise, I'm very pleased. I'm playing through a Sony speaker dock (which means I haven't tested speaker output either) and the sound is very good. The music server I mentioned above is the Olive O3HD which costs about £900 (but only $1000 in the US, us Brits getting ripped off again). This has a better interface, can store and sort more categories of info, has a bigger hard drive and supports a couple more formats, but can't play music while copying CDs like the jb7 can. The extra features aren't worth the £500+ price hike. The jb7 is clearly the better buy. At the moment I'm pleased with this purchase and think it worth the money, especially as I ordered the 160GB model and got the 320GB one instead :)
I won't be posting more on this unless something radically bad (or good) happens, or I discover a mistake. But I'll follow the thread for a bit and if anyone has a specific question I'll try and answer it.
EDIT: re: Normal Mode. I think the strange behaviour only occurs when you are also loading CDs. It seems to work as per spec otherwise. My best guess is that while the index is being written, it can't seek properly within it for what should be the next sequential track. If that's the case it's not an issue. Other servers (see above) don't even attempt to play music while loading CDs.
It's been on 24/7 but that's because I've been leaving it on at night to compress the CDs I loaded during the day. Normally I'd switch it off at night. It has a clock and an alarm and can function as an alarm clock. If you switch off it still keeps the time (at least for the short period I tried it).
I have had one of these for just over a year and now I don't know what I would do without it. When you let it run in Random mode you will find great music you'd forgotten you had. Hour after hour of great music and no disc jockey filling the gaps with inane chat! Fantastic
I have read the previous posts with interest. I have had a JB7 for a year or so now and have it mated to a pair of Brennan speakers. Whilst appreciating having been able to load all my CDs onto the hard-drive I have been disappointed by the sound quality, to my ear it sounds "muddy" and unsatisfying. When funds permit I shall buy a small amplifier, perhaps this will drive the speakers more effectively.
I think I read somewhere that the Brennan speakers aren't the best and the post advised something better, specifically Roth OLi speakers. Although the sound from the dock is quite good, good quality speakers (and quality cable) would undoubtedly improve it.
I have some fairly decent hi-fi equipment in my home to enable me to play my music. However I can't pack it up and take it away with me. I can with my Brennan. I can take all my 500 CDs, the Brennan and its 2 speakers in a cardboard box 15"x15"x 12", including packing. OK, not on a flight, but to anywhere with a power supply! What's not to like? And, as previously posted, put it on "random" and rediscover your collection! Bob, Walsall
Just thought that I should emphasise that, although Mr Amazon identifies me as my wife, Lynne, I am indeed Bob. There is another website that identifies, even more than nicolocin, the technical shortcomings of the Brennan. Let us be sure that nothing can surpass the pleasure of playing warm vinyl. Can it? I have 500 LPs, some of which I have tried to convert to "digital" via a variety of means. None of them seem to work. But that is not the fault of Brennan. If you want to import your old LPs and casettes into your Brennan then you have got to use your computer first to "clean" them. Otherwise you are left with importing them in "real time" and listening to the fluff grow on the needle. So, OK, real time is involved whichever way you choose to do it. My point is this; you will get from your Brennan what you are prepared to put into it. It will not clean up your old vinyl collection. It is not hi-fi (but not at all bad). But it's great fun. If you are tapping away at your computer and this song/music comes on and you say to yourself "what's that, I didn't know I had that" well you can find out! Again. Bob Walsall
About converting LP's ,In days gone past the BBC used turntables that sat in a liquid bath prevent dust build up at the needle and reducing noise. I took this idea and modified it. By using a cleaning arm brush on the vinyl as it is playing and using an eyedropper,lay a trail of methylated spirits at the brush ,this cleans out crud from the groove and traps dust to the cleaning arm. I found this reduced crackle considerably. In the past I would record to the computer sound card with the aid of a Maplins pre-amp available then. The JB7 wasn't around then of course. for the very best result I used to run it through Soundforge noise reduction suite. I have had my JB7 for over a week and I'm still filling it, but have decided when it's full I will export the whole lot (as a backup) onto a USB hard drive, then use the computer to re-arrange all of it alphanumerically,the blank the JB7 drive, and re-import the hard drive contents.
I used to use isopropyl alcohol to clean records but it can be dangerous so I never recommend it. Using a cleaning arm is a good idea, I never tried that. I use an old version of Sound Forge as well, but generally steer clear of the noise reduction filters because they always affect the music to a degree. I get rid of clicks and pops by hand and I don't mind a bit of leftover noise so long as the music is true to the record. I agree the lack of an album sort facility on the Brennan is a pain but I don't see a permanent solution.
I tried using the USB keyboard from my Intel iMac (4 years old) instead of the remote, but the got the message "USB NG" from the Brennan. I'm guessing that Mac keyboards don't work and it's the Windows/PC-type ones that do. It's not a problem - I've become surprisingly adept at 'txting'.
I'll add my note of satisfaction regarding the Brennan, with the caveat that it would be very wise move to get a backup drive. I've digitised our audio tapes and LPs, and even the thought of re-entering all those track names in the (possible, but remote) event of HD failure in the Brennan is a nightmare.
I am still a fan of the JB7, but my enjoyment has been spoilt somewhat by reliability issues. In the last year it has been back to Brennan three times and I have been without it for nine weeks. I am currently hoping to get it back for Christmas, but they have missed two return dates that they promised.
Our first two problems were with back up. We bought the recommended Freecom 2.5'' 320G hard drive, but not from Brennan. After a few weeks, the JB7 started to have difficulty recognising the Freecom and in the end, back up became impossible. We returned the JB7 to Brennan, who said that there was nothing wrong with it and that there must be a compatability problem with the Freecom. They said that this wouldn't have happened if we had bought the Freecom from them. Not being computer literate, we took the easy way out and bought another Freecom 2.5'' 320G , but this time from Brennan. However, after a few weeks we had further back up problems and returned both to Brennan, who took 3-4 weeks to put it right. Our current problem is that we get no sound on one side .This time we have been without our JB7 for nearly five weeks. We have expressed our dissatisfaction to Brennan on a number of occasions. Clearly they need to attach much more importance to reliability and customer service or the company will fail, which would be a great pity. When the JB7 works it's great, but buyers need to be aware of potential problems.
I still think the Brennan JB7 is the best device of its kind - a small, portable, all-in-one solution to CD replacement. However, its limitations have become more annoying to me, the main ones being no FLAC support and difficult music management, both playing and sorting/arranging. It's only when you get hundreds of CDs on the drive that it starts to niggle you. A temporary solution to the sorting issue would be to rip everything on the PC, get it all in the order you want, then transfer it en-bloc to the Brennan via USB. That solution goes out the window, though, as soon as you start adding new music.
I've decided to abandon and sell the Brennan and move to a home network, probably Squeezebox. Much more complicated to set up, not portable outside the home, but much more flexible and many more options inside.
Here's the thing I don't understand about this product. Why wouldn't you buy a nettop PC and use (say) iTunes? It'd be cheaper, even with the cost of a separate amplifier, and it would solve all of the little usability and missing-feature niggles. The sound would probably be better, too. Why buy this?