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3 years ago

Mini marvel - Brennan

Mini marvel - Brennan

Brennan

Brennan JB7 music server system [ Review ] full-size servers can offer. The simple fact is, that in full (wav) audio quality it’s only about 50 hours of music when one takes into account overheads and the space used by the database. 80GB is a little over 100 hours. The default mode for the JB7 is 192kbps, though other bitrates are available and in a way, uncompressed mode may seem inappropriate for a device like this, but we’re glad it’s been included. FLAC or similar lossless encoding would have been a real bonus, mind you! Audio can be (slowly) loaded to hard disk from CD (8x speed is claimed, but ours seemed a little slower) or from MP3 players, or external hard drives connected via the front-panel USB socket. In fact, an external hard drive could easily be the salvation of this device when the internal one fills up. You can also use an external drive for backup. SOUND QUALITY Let’s start with the really good news. If you’ve been following the recent reviews of music servers in HFC, you’ll recall some heartfelt complaints about mechanical noise. And, while the JB7 is not strictly silent, it’s pretty much inaudible if your ear isn’t right up against the case. The hard drive makes very little noise and the unventilated case keeps most of it internal. In terms of what comes out of the electrical outputs, we’re happy to report on some very favourable impressions too. Let’s not get carried away and pretend that the results will displace a couple of grands’-worth of hi-fi separates, but the sound is really not at all bad. Noise is low (though there is just a hint of audible warbling in the background, if one listens carefully in a very quiet room) and the bass and treble seem admirably extended. However, there’s plenty of get-up-and-go to the sound and the dominant impression is of an altogether very enjoyable experience. Playback direct from CD is slightly marred by noise from the transport, but is otherwise is identical to hard disc playback. For the test, Brennan sent us a pair of its own bookshelf speakers (£60). We were rather impressed with these and if money’s really tight you could do a lot worse. In the interests of finding out more about the JB7 itself, though, we tried various rather more upmarket speaker models, including the magnificent “We can’t think of a better all-round solution for an office or spare room system, unless it’s a big space and you have cash to burn.” Bowers and Wilkins 803S. Their slightly tricky low impedance proved a taxing test for the JB7 and led us to the discovery that overload is not lightly glossed over; when this amp clips, you’ll know about it! The amp-friendlier ATC SCM20, however, gave us some really rather impressive sounds. Yes, there’s a lack of absolute clarity in the JB7’s output, if one is to judge it against good standalone amplifiers, but the extent of the confusion and grain it adds is not enough to mask the basic character of the music. We tried some classical tracks, various pop recordings and a few familiar jazz excerpts and while we might not have learned anything new about them, we enjoyed them all. If newcomer Brennan has set out to make a 21st-century all-round music system for people who hate hi-fi, they’ve probably succeeded. Operation is simple and the proliferation of gadgets, especially mobile phones, has made everyone familiar with the basic principle of control menus and database (index) searching. For those of us, meanwhile, who do take their sound systems seriously, this dinky little product still has plenty to offer. Offhand, we can’t think of a better all-round solution for an office or spare room system, for instance, unless, of course, your office or spare room is large and you’ve cash to burn. The JB7 takes up very little space and with its own or other decent mini speakers it can deliver a quality of sound which is good enough to be enjoyable even for those accustomed to fully-fledged hi-fi separates. For the price of a pair of mid-market speaker cables, you can’t get much better value than this! HFC Richard Black VERDICT SOUND FEATURES BUILD VALUE R PRO Surprisingly good sound adds excitement to an impressive feature list, with excellent convenience of use and exceptionally modest space requirements. S CON Hard disk capacity is inadequate to swallow many CD collections uncompressed. Theres some lack of insight and detail in the sound. CONCLUSION Its hard not to admire this product. It functions well as a server and the lone digital connection (USB) makes it expandable if need be. A fun, great value and low-hassle alternative to computer-based audio. OVERALL SCORE july 2008 HI-FI CHOICE 59 HFC308.brennan Sec1:59 8/5/08 15:09:32

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