B2 Overview - and the lucky mistake
This picture gives you a good idea just how compact B2 really is. It also gives you a fair idea of the colour of the metallic front panel. It can be difficult to convey the actual colour of near black and lustrous materials.
B2 has a text based search that searches all artists, albums and track names for the snippet of text that you enter - either by remote control or by turning the knob. When you think the number of matches is low enough you press next and scroll through the matches. The scrolling help text tells you what to do. The high resolution white on black OLED display is very legible. Incidentally this picture shows the black B2. The main body of the B2 is black on both models. The letter "b" is printed in a glossy black and the number "2" is laser drilled in the pattern of pixels from a "2" on a JB7 display.
B2 displays something called an IP address. Type this number into a web browser on the same Wifi network and you can control the B2 from laptops, mobile phones and tablets - through the Web UI.
The Web UI
- See whats playing, change volume, back, stop, next buttons.
- Search the B2 with search results updated as you type.
- Infinite scrolling through seach results.
- Control the search to only search for Artists, Albums, Tracks or even search a specific Playlist.
- Drag and drop anything to play it.
- Double click to rename.
- Click on an artist and the Artist Window shows all the albums by that artists.
- Click on an album and the album Window shows all the tracks in that album.
- Playlist Window lets you add, reorder and delete withdrag and drop.
- Create new playlists and combine existing playlists
- Presets window lets you assign radio stations to the Remote control preset buttons.
- Upload Window lets you send music from your computer or mobile to B2
- CD Window lets you see whats in the CD slot and rip it.
- vTuner Window gives you access to 38,000 radio stations - organised geographically or text search.
My Million Pound Mistake
You know the story about Alexander Fleming’s mistake that led to the discovery of Penicillin - well it happened to me.
When I started out I built a number of prototypes - they worked but they looked rubbish.
I hit on the idea of buying audio equipment from a store - rip out the insides and replace with my electronics.
I did this to a few products but a car radio was the most challenging because it was so small and it had a detachable front panel with the display and buttons.
I got the complicated stuff right but didn’t notice that my PCB was 0.6mm too thick until the day before I had to show it to a potential customer.
Most of the buttons on the front panel didn’t work - some worked but were dodgy. Just two buttons near the edge of the front panel worked fine.
I didn’t have time to fix the problem so I asked myself - what can I do with two buttons? I made the top corner button play a track at random - and the lower button stop playing.
They loved it - they wanted to keep it - and I got the deal.
The thing is so did I - as it sat on my desk I kept playing with it. I could play music without taking my eyes off the computer. It was addictive.
I designed those two buttons into the JB7 and now the B2. Think of NEXT as a feelgood button.
B2 can play internet radio stations. There are more than 38,000 to choose from. Use the vTuner tab on the Web UI to explore them.
vTuner on Web UI
Play stations by dragging them to the now playing box. Assign stations to presets - then you can play them with the remote control.
Internet radio is good for everyday radio listening especially if your DAB or FM reception is poor - but it comes into it's own if you have moved away from home and want to keep in touch. Its also huge fun to listen to different cultures - I spent a long time listening to a Jamaican talk radio program.
You can play music from Bluetooth devices like mobile phones and tablets through your B2.
[You need to buy the optional Bluetooth dongle for the B2]
You don't have to do anything on the B2 - you will see BrennanB2 on your phone/tablet Bluetooth settings - tap to connect and then music playback on the device will be routed to the B2 speakers.
I played Spotify on my Nexus 10 tablet when I took the picture above.
News May 2016 - You can now also play the B2 into your Bluetooth Speakers or Headphones
B2 has an enhanced Playlist system. There are seven basic playlists named after colours of the rainbow.
These are associated with keys on the remote.
Playlists can be made up of a mix of artists, albums and tracks and can be played in order or randomly.
Just click twice on the remote to start a given playlist.
More playlists can be added with the Web UI and Playlists can be edited and combined.
The Web UI lets you build playlists easily so it's easy to build music collections for moods (relaxing, energetic, thought provoking) for occasions (dinner party, Christmas, Aerobics class), people (Dad’s CDs, The Kids), genres (Classical, Pop) or times of your life (Schooldays, courting, Ibiza92).
Use Playlists to avoid “musical car crashes” - you know when Mahler’s Fourth is followed by The Cheeky Girls. You could even compile a don’t play Playlist so you don’t hear Christmas Carols in Summer or block a particular track that drives you mad.
Or why not have His and Hers - like having two music systems - one each.
The Brennan BSP50 bookshelf loudspeakers are a perfect match for B2's size and power.
First of all they deliver music with a clarity that lets you hear lyrics you never listened to before. Then they back it up with a depth that you would expect from bigger more expensive speakers.
The first thought that goes through your head when you hear B2 is "where is it all coming from?". You tend to look around for some big boxes hidden in the furniture.
We sell the B2 and BSP50s separately for those customers that want to use the B2 with their existing hi-fi or for those customers that want to re-use their own loudspeakers. Your loudspeaker should ideally be 8 ohm and rated to handle 30 Watts for short periods but customers find that the B2 works with pretty much anything.
BSP50 bookshelf loudspeakers
B2 is simple to connect - you just need these
- 24V DC - from the AC adaptor
Extra connections - can be useful but not necessary
- Wifi dongle - shown in USB A
- Bluetooth dongle - shown in USB C
- SPDIF / Line out - picture shows our optical cable - sold separately.
- Aux in - tuner, turntable, ipod etc you can record from this input so you could use it to transfer from vinyl to mp3
NB USB B is only functional on B2 models without internal hard disks.
There are two slots for Ethernet cables. You need to unscrew the back panel to plug the cable directkly into the Raspberry Pi. You don't need Ethernet but it could be used to provide more consistent internet access if your Wifi is getting a bit congested and it frees up a USB port.
The HDMI socket comes directly from the Raspberry Pi - it is not used by the initial release of the B2 software - actually you will see a lot of diagnistic messages if you connect a TV - but it is likely that later releases of the B2 software will provide a TV based UI.
The SD card on the side goes directly into the Raspberry Pi. It has been left exposed like this so that hobbyists can experiment with the B2 hardware by substituting their own SD card.
Massive CD database
B2 can obtain album and track names from the internet. But it also has a huge internal database (like JB7) so it can work without an internet connection. The chart shows how the 3.2 million CD database divides into ten broad categories. The classical genre alone contains 300,000 CDs - that's 1.8 miles of different CDs side by side.