What Hi Fi Sound and Vision Fri, 29 Aug 2008, 3:00pm

Brennan JB7

Tested at £420
80100
4

An alternative to the ubiquitous iPod and dock, the Brennan’s well worth investigating

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For

  • Compact storage for thousands of CDs
  • pleasant, benign sound

Against

  • Speakers can be bettered
  • remote control

Fundamentally this is a CD player, amplifier and hard-drive in one compact box. Power is 60W per channel, and this unit packs a 160GB hard-drive – there are 40GB and 80GB versions also available.

There's a USB socket on the front of the unit, and headphone, line in and line out 3.5mm sockets on the back. The back panel also includes spring-clip speaker posts. And there's a small remote control with far too many buttons on it.

Load a CD into the slot, and the Brennan allows you to copy it straight to its hard-drive. Variable compression ratios are available, from 128 to 320kbps, and copying is done at 12-times playback speed.

The 160GB hard-drive should be big enough to store more than 2000 CDs. Music can also be moved to or from the unit using the USB input.

A nice, clear, balanced sound
Ergonomics (especially the remote) can take or moment or two to get your head around, but once it's playing the Brennan sounds inoffensive in the best sense of the word.

A rapidly ripped copy of Mahalia Jackson's Concert on Easter Sunday is reproduced with clarity and balance – low frequencies are nicely controlled, and Jackson's inimitable voice is packed with expression.

There's acceptable dynamic range, and the JB7 stays composed even at high volumes. Treble can clatter a little, but we found swapping the speakers (which make up £60 of the price) for something like Roth OLi1s makes for a calmer listen. Either way, this is an intriguing and appealing product.

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