Brennan JB7 Micro Jukebox
Sounds great, looks great
OK, so the unit does well at no compression, but taking things further we tried The Prodigy’s Fat of the Land, at 320Kb/s. We were surprise by how much bass the unit retained. Breath spilled out of the unit with all the required menace, while The Doors' Riders on the Storm showed the unit can be subtle at 320Kb/s as well, picking up all those atmospheric raindrops as well as the fat notes of the organ playing.
Tests at 128Kb/s and 192Kb/s showed changes in the depth of delivery, but the unit still performed well. Still, we would recommend sacrificing space to stick to the higher bit rates as the machine just does it so well. What's also really nice is that if you choose to move to a new track part way through another, the JB7 does this effortlessly, fading one out and one in at the same time.
The integrated track and album database is managed by CDDB, which currently has 2m CDs on its books, and recognition of album and track data is more or less instantaneous. You can also obtain CD-Rom discs to keep the database bang up to date. The CD deck itself is all about recording, and by the company’s own admission doesn't excel as a playback device, so users are much better getting the tracks off the CDs and onto the HDD.
The remote control handles all the unit's functions not just the basics
The JB7 presents the track data on a rather compact vacuum fluorescent display, but the 180 x 32 characters are large and change very quickly when you move from one track to thenext or scroll through the machine's options. The display's brightness can be adjusted to suit. The control interface itself consists of rounded, tactile knobs on the front of the unit and a credit card-sized remote.
Both the remote and the front panel give access to all the functions, but we found it was easier to select the first few letters of a song title for searches was using the the front panel than the remote. Searches are done in real time, the list of matches falling as you key in more letters.
The machine lets you search by album or track and also keeps a history of the tracks played so you can scroll through those as well. There is also more straightforward Album Browse section where you just read through an alphabetical list of the albums on the machine. It has a random play option too.
If we were going to be ultra picky, it might have been nice to able to choose random play, but specify a particular genre or mood. Nevertheless, playlists are also available, so this partly fulfils that role. There are ten folders named after the colours of the rainbow - nice touch, that - already set up in the player’s memory for you to load different moods or party mixes into. These can then be played back by one touch of the '0' to '9' buttons on the remote. You can also re-name tracks if you want to.