Once you’ve ripped a few discs, browsing is straightforward too. The bright blue display uses the same vacuum fluorescent display as the Logitech Squeezebox and its large lettering makes flipping through albums, songs and artist names a joy – no more squinting from the sofa. You can do the expected digital music stuff, such as shuffling tracks and browsing by album, plus there’s a text search, which works brilliantly for when you get bored of browsing, title-by-title.
Bizarrely, though, despite the onboard database, which catalogues genres, artist names, composers and so on, the JB7 only lets you search and browse by track and album name. And you can’t manually name tracks either. Apart from this, the only thing the JB7 is in need of is a decent remote control – it’s grid of blister buttons makes it extremely difficult to use straightaway until you’ve got used to it.
It’s a shame as the rest of the system is luxuriously well-appointed, and is as well-designed as the interface is easy-to-use. It looks and feels smart with its rubberised grey casing and electric-blue aluminium front plate, and practical features abound. The front panel is adorned with a large, clickable knob used to select and browse music, and for adjusting the volume when music is playing. Other controls are limited to four buttons for play/stop, eject, and skipping back and forth through tracks.
There’s also a USB socket on the left edge of the front panel for not only hooking up an MP3 player, external hard disk or thumb drive, but also to back up the music you have stored on the JB7 to an external hard disk and load music the other way. If you already have your music ripped to disk, this is a great time saver, though it’s worth noting that the Brennan is restricted in the format of music files it will play back – only MP3s are supported.
But do you want to know the best bit about the Brennan JB7? It’s the sheer size of the thing. Incredibly, all these features are packed into a chassis just over one-and-a-half times the width of a CD (220mm) and a mere 48mm high. It’s a great box for anyone with a penchant for minimalism, or who can’t afford a spacious, four-bedroom house.
And I haven’t yet reached the end of the JB7’s feature list. Packed into its tiny frame, along with the hard disk, is a 30W per channel amplifier and a set of spring clip terminals on the rear panel to hook up a pair of standard speakers – basically, all you need for your digital music system. The rear panel also boasts a 3.5mm headphone output, 3.5mm line-out and, handily, a 3.5mm stereo aux in. The latter enables you to record that analogue source direct to MP3.