Testimonials




Here are a handful of unabridged emails from JB7 and B2 owners plus a couple of reviews from Amazon that were voted most helpful. You can find many more useful customer reviews on Amazon.



Brennan B2. It just takes a little time

Tina Clarke June 2016

After much deliberation between the cocktail Audio and the B2, I decided to go for the 2TB Brennan. And I'm so glad I did.
From out of the box the set up and ripping process is a breeze. Although Like all newly purchased products of this design, it takes a short while to become best of friends.

I have a fairly extensive cd collection and needed to truly downsize the space that such a collection consumes. This is where the labour of music love comes into play. Don't expect to zip through the ripping before lunch on the first day!

Each CD will burn in around 5 minutes. Some shorter, others longer. The software sets the rip speed. Anywhere between x5 and x20. It's at this time that you being to discover long lost treasures from deep within your CD collection. I mean Donald Fagans "The Nightfly" and Scott Walker's "Five easy Pieces" to name just two of the dust laden cd gems that I have unearthed.

Yes the B2 has some idiosyncratic tendencies. For instance it will lock up occasionally for no other apparent reason, other than it fancies doing it. A simple pull out the mains adaptor works. Only because the B2 isn't fitted with a simple power off and on switch.

Backing up to a 2TB external hardrive is a bit of a leap of faith. After a few attempts even after formating it connected to the B2, the unit didn't want to play ball. I have now found that disconnecting the usb transfer cable and pushing it back, allows my blinded B2 to see the backup drive and copy without any further issue. On initial copy to the B2 it transfers as a Wav file and then becomes really clever when you go to bed and starts re coding into lossless Flac files. Again it's not fast, although it gets there without issue.

It's been said up here many times, that the Brennan website is a very impressive source of information. Martin replies very quickly to email requests for additional information.

I have my B2 connected to a set of the Brennan bookshelf speakers and I must admit they compliment one another perfectly. Internet radio and blue tooth as standard is a great asset also.

So to sum up, it's a great bit of kit. Yes it's got its quirks but hey its been invented by a Brit whose always tinkering in his laboratory with software updates for B2 owners to download to keep your machine in shape.

Would I buy another? Too right I would, I love my B2 and Martin, I would love it even more if it had an off and on switch!

Update: August 2016.
After extensive listening to my B2 with the Brennan BSP 50 speakers i have decided to invest in a pair of Darli Zensor 1s running alongside the B2. The difference can only be described now as stunning.

Don't get me wrong, the bookshelf Brennan speakers performed as best as a £60 pair of speakers can. Now with the Zensors in the mix, I am truly being blown away as i write this update.
I can now hear parts of my music tracks that i never knew existed. The bass, treble and midrange has become truly orgasmic....!

If you invest in a B2 then go a little further and compliment it with the Zensors and a good set of bannana plugs and cables, I use QED. You truly will not be dissapointed in your added investment. A match has been made now in heaven.

The Zensor manual also informs me that the speakers will improve over the next hundred hours. If that's at all possible, then I'm in for the ride of my life. Best I strap in and keep those hands inside the car at all times.

Further update March 2017.
As I write this update with my best friend the B2 still working hard and number crunching all those 0s and 1s, I thought I would take the time to thank the real human faces back at Brennan Towers.

My B2 started causing me somewhat distress when it wouldn't connect to my Amazon Echo. A quick call to the ladies in the office, they deduced my Bluetooth Adaptor had gone kaput......
A replacement arrived next day and in less than 24 hours my B2 and Echo were once again talking.

My Brennan is on most of the day and a lot of the evening to, quietly keeping us entertained. If your still thinking about getting one, think no more. It's truly a beautiful machine that at times, between all those 0s and 1s I believe there's Martin keeping all those numbers in order and that my friends gives me great confidence in Brennan and my B2





Like The Man Says...A HiFi With its Own Web Site. Excellent!

C Green July 2016

Just before we moved house last year, during a slash-and-burn effort to reduce what we were taking with us, I gave my Yamaha CD player to a charity shop, thinking that the LG DVD-Player would serve just as well.

Big mistake; CDs don’t sound anywhere near as good when played from this source. Likewise, to compound the felony, and to de-clutter the lounge at our new house, we have our CD collection ‘filed’ away on one of our very ample landings which now looks more like a library!

It’s taken me about a year to notice that I couldn’t remember the last time I’d actually sat down to LISTEN to music. OK, my entire CD collection is now available to me in MP3 format in my car, courtesy of a 32gb USB memory stick, but good though that is, it’s just not the same.

So I set about looking for a replacement for the CD player. I remembered that an ‘internet friend’ of mine had written about the Brennan JB7 Hard Disk Hi-Fi player a while back, and this got me looking at the [...].

The only problem for me that I could see from the JB7 point of view was that its CD database had to be loaded from a CD-ROM and presumably renewed at intervals, especially if it started failing to recognise the disks you were trying to ‘rip’ to it. Thus it didn’t seem very ‘integrated’, just a compact ‘juke-box’.

I lied: there is another problem – it’s no longer available new.

Whilst this machine could handle 1000s of tracks depending on disk size, they were in compressed MP3 format. I can’t quite put my finger on it, and I’ve heard all the arguments how MP3 files are the same as the original just with all the inaudible bits taken out, but I find them slightly fatiguing to listen to for any length of time.

As it happens, Martin Brennan has addressed this and a whole lot more besides in the Brennan B2.

So I ordered one, with a 1 terabyte disk for £529. If that sounds like a hell of a lot of disk space just for MP3 files, that’s because they aren’t – MP3 files, that is.

It also sounds like a hell of a lot of money too, but that’s another story!
Strangely enough, what I actually ended up with was the gargantuan 2 terabyte model as the other was out of stock, for the same price!

“TAKING FLAC” AKA HAVING A RIPPING TIME

The Brennan B2’s default ‘ripping’ medium is ‘FLAC’, a so-called ‘free loss-less audio compression’ method, which, being loss-less can’t do anywhere near as good a job at making the original CD files much smaller. Let’s say that an MP3 file might be 20% of the original CD audio file, whereas, FLAC can only manage a cautious 60%.

As an analogy, think of an MP3 file as a book that’s had all the pages not salient to the plot ripped out – the end result is that you understand what went on, but because someone’s binned the discarded pages, you’ll never get to read the whole thing.

FLAC is a wholly different kettle of files. Imagine your ‘book’ in ring-file format this time. Every time a blank section is encountered, you remove those pages and leave a smaller Post-It note reminding you to “re-imagine them” before you read it. Thus the file is smaller for storage purposes but the overall detail is the same. In the computer world, the principle behind a ZIP file is similar.

SIZE DOESN’T MATTER

…or at least, it’s not the issue it used to be.

Since the Brennan JB7 came along, big hard disks have gotten a whole lot cheaper and smaller and the Brennan B2 cashes in on this.

Thus, even with more ‘expansive’ loss-less compression, my 2 terabyte of disk space will hold around 4400 CDs! This more than suits me as my existing CD collection doesn’t even come up to 25% of that.

It also suits me as I prefer to OWN an actual CD rather than just the licensing rights to listen to an inferior file format from a download. Streaming rights seem even more nebulous, especially if the company you stream from goes bust!

I calculate that even with no FLAC to economise on disc space, I still could copy across 2875 CDs. You can in fact turn it off, so you could theoretically make verbatim copies of your CDs in WAV format.

“A Hi-Fi WITH ITS OWN WEB-SITE”….

….is how Brennan describe the B2 and with justification. For start, it comes with a wi-fi dongle and can also use a Bluetooth one designed to be plugged into two of its rear USB ports. The wi-fi access serves a multiple purpose.

a) The B2 is also an internet radio, streaming stations from all over the world to your hi-fi, thus neatly side-stepping the issue of whether you have DAB/FM reception.

b) The B2 can use the internet to keep its CD database, list of internet radio stations and software version up to date.

c) The B2’s own built-in web-page can be accessed from any members of your home network, be they PC, tablet of smart-phone. There’s no need for an ‘app’ as such, except for the one that scans your home network to find the B2 in the first place. Of course, if you set your router to fix the IP address of the Brennan, you only need to know what it is, e.g. something like 192.168.1.94 in my case and direct your browser to this instead of a URL – then save it as a ‘favourite’. Effectively, your smart-phone is now a remote control, although you do also get a dedicated slim-line remote too rather like a thick credit card, and equally easy to lose down the back of the sofa!

d) You can stream music to your B2 from your PC/Laptop from the Chrome Browser.

e) You can use the built-in web UI to ‘find’ music on your home network and ‘drag’n’drop’ it to your B2. I found this useful for a limited number of mp3 files for which I had no CD.

Bluetooth access started out as strictly a one-way affair being able only to stream music from a tablet/smart-phone, but as if to demonstrate the evolutionary nature of the B2, no sooner had I taken delivery when Bluetooth became available as an output to speakers too so you could actually have the B2 standing there apparently connected to nothing but its mains adapter. This works, and I do use the facility to bring my music to the dining room without wires all over the place.

WHAT’S IN THE BOX?

Of course, it depends largely on the package you ordered.

If for example, you intend to use the B2 as a ‘deck’, i.e. a part of a hi-fi/home cinema set-up, then you won’t have ordered speakers to go with its 15+15 watt amplifiers. What you might have ordered would be the oddly-named ‘TOSLink’ cable to create a fibre optic link to a digital amplifier or a 3.5mm ‘stereo-jack-to-two-phonos’ lead if an analogue amplifier is the destination.
The B2’s external 24v power supply is reminiscent of one for a laptop, and can run off anywhere between 100 volts 60 hz and 240 volts 50 hertz which covers most of the world. The mains lead is detachable, so you could change this to suit the location.
There’s no immediate need for any Ethernet connection since the machine can handle wi-fi.
However, if this is a problem for you, or if, like me, you like the idea of a house wired for Ethernet, then you CAN with a bit of fiddling fit an Ethernet cable, but get a flat one, as this is easier to fit. I’ll explain why later. The need for a fast reliable connection only really arises if you start streaming music to the B2. Internet radio seems to have modest bit-rate demands anyway. To use just the web interface, it can be as slow as you can stand!
B2s come with either a black or a gun-metal metallic facia, although the rest is black whatever you buy. Overall, the box is about the size of an old lift-out car radio or an external CD-ROM drive.

WHAT’S INSIDE THE BRENNAN?

Put simply, a hard-drive and a Raspberry Pi micro-computer. So far, that would put the hardware cost to you and me at around £150, so you have to ask yourself where the other £380 comes into the equation. Well, obviously the firm needs to make a profit and the package is prestigiously presented with a tough but compact quality case (tested by having someone tread on it) and a clear LED frontal display too, but you’re also buying into a system that’s still evolving (in a good way) from a company that actually tries to add its customers’ comments to their wish list and then implement them.

My e-mails were answered personally by Martin Brennan.

SETTING UP

Once unpacked, there’s not a lot to it. You insert the supplied SD card into the side of the case – this is the Raspberry Pi’s operating system and being ‘solid state’, it takes about 5 seconds to boot up.

Sound connections are simple enough. There’s a combined fibre-optic digital/co-axial analogue 3.5 mm outlet – presumably you’d only want one or the other.

There’s also an analogue input for recording maybe the output from a vinyl disk or tape deck and digitising it on the B2.

Along with this, there are two sets of red/black ‘banana jack’ sockets for speakers. These sockets are rather close together, so don’t use metal-bodied plugs for fear of ‘shorting’ them.

You also need to insert the tiny wi-fi dongle in USB A. USB C can be used for various reasons. Playing existing files, e.g. mp3, backing up and restoring the B2’s contents. USB B is only used in non-HDD versions.

FIDDLY BITS – CABLING FOR THE ETHERNET AND DITCH THE WI-FI

If you really want, or need to connect via a ‘hard-wired’ Ethernet connection, you still can despite there being no obvious socket on the rear panel. This is because the actual socket is on the Raspberry Pi’s motherboard and sitting at the wrong angle to be anywhere useful. To be fair, going from the Brennan web-site., it’s not a complicated job to slide out the innards, connect the cable and put it all back together again and it goes without saying that if they’re showing you how to do it, it doesn’t invalidate the warranty! A flat cable is best as it fits the hole on the rear panel better.

LOADING IT UP

On inserting a CD, you have choices. One is to just play the damned thing – radical I know.

However, apart from auditioning the disc to see if you really want to store it, you may as well go for ‘ripping’ it. At first, this doesn’t seem to take very long at all, as all the B2 is really doing is taking the CD-A file format on the audio CD and turning it into WAV files of the same size, but more suited to the ‘computer world’. It’s only when the machine spots an opportunity, like being put (or putting itself) into stand-by that it starts the lengthier process of making a FLAC-format file.

Things didn’t seem to start well – on insertion of a 10 CC album (the very first in my filing system), the database suggested a work by Chopin. I hadn’t realised that you could scroll through a list of suggestions until I read the Quick Start-Up Guide again. after which all was clear. Strangely enough that very first attempt at ripping was one of the few occasions where this happened anyway. With hindsight, it seems that the B2 searches the database for a CD’s (hopefully) unique combination of track numbers and lengths but occasionally will find more than one which matches the criteria – Windows Media Player identifies its discs like this too.

Of course you do get some albums going totally unrecognised. For example, a recent CD I bought at the Kew Musical Museum only showed up as ‘Album 49’ when ripped with only numbered tracks. This is easily rectified via the PC’s web access where editing spelling errors and the like can be carried out on a proper keyboard.

The database, or rather whoever it is that inputs the original details is inconsistent. For example, after having ripped all my Beatles albums, I was perturbed to find only half of them under ‘Beatles’. Of course, the other half were under ‘The Beatles’. If you prefer alphabetical order, then removing ‘The’ is the answer, or changing both directories to ‘Beatles, The’. Either way, all CDs listed now appear in one directory.

Another hierarchical problem is that it files by ‘forename order’, e.g. Bob Dylan under B. You could of course correct this by editing the name to be ‘Dylan, Bob’. This may seem laborious, but remember, you only have to do this once, and you can do it from a proper keyboard on your PC – the B2’s largely menu-driven two-line display is not highly suited to this purpose. The method for typing on the remote is akin to the original 2G mobile phones capable of text messaging – you know the kind of thing, press 7 four times to get ‘s’. Thank goodness for the web interface on your PC!

Once you’ve taken the considerable time and trouble of ripping your entire CD collection, it makes sense to back it up, especially if you’ve made a lot of typed alterations and the B2 has provision for doing just this via one of its USB ports to a suitable drive, i.e. one big enough!

B2 can also output a text file which with a bit of manipulation can become your printed CD list, a copy of which I now keep on my phone in case I’m ever in a ‘bargain situation’ like the current Poundland offer of refurbished CDs, and buy the same one twice.

NIGGLES?

Nothing earth-shattering. The LED display which is usually in the format of two lines of print, does not make for easy navigation, and you find yourself navigating sub-menus to get to where you want. Sensibly, “Browse Artists” is your first choice followed by Pick Album as you delve deeper.

The main control knob and the four other buttons on the front panel take a bit of pressure to ‘click’ them, leading to the box sliding back a bit on its four rubber feet when on any kind of smooth surface. This is a bit annoying as the control knob must be clicked to act as the equivalent of the remote control’s ‘OK’ button. Sitting back from the machine and using the remote instead demands pretty good eyesight especially on the lower line of text which is smaller!

The external ‘power brick’ and the B2 themselves do not have a low-energy stand-by mode so it you don’t want everything running ‘a bit warm’, you need to switch off at the mains which precludes doing what most people will be tempted to do – hide it round the back of the TV/hi-fi rack along with all the other dust bunnies.

CONCLUSION

Whether there’s enough here to get you to change your JB7 for a B2 remains to be seen. However, starting from scratch, you’ve no choice as the JB7 is no longer available new.
To get the best from a Brennan B2, you really do need access to the original CDs to take advantage of the loss-less compression. Yes, it can handle and store some other common audio formats but all of them to one extent or another were designed for a space-critical environment, like an iPod or a smart-phone. These formats are limited to MP3, AAC or M4A. Users of Windows own WMA files are out of luck, although conversion to mp3 is not difficult. The other formats are WAV (the same size as the recorded CD files) and of course, FLAC. Both of the latter can be considered to be verbatim copies of what is on the CD.

Of course, it depends on just how ‘hi-fi’ the original CD was – since the Brennan B2 can neither detract from nor improve the original sound - silk purses and sows’ ears come to mind.

If I haven’t dwelt on how it sounds, this is why. Brennan make a big case for their output stages in particular, the digital optical output being good competition for the very best of esoteric hi-fis.

The diminutive size of the B2 means that you can take the machine to your CD collection, rather than bring the CDs to the B2. With or without wi-fi, you still have access to the enormous in-built CD database. So far, about 540 ‘ripped’ CDs down the line, it’s only been caught out once and failed to recognise a limited circulation job once. In the initial ‘burn’ to rip my CD collection to the B2, I sat it next to my PC, for two reasons really.

a) I could get on with something else, like writing this!

b) I could use the web interface where I could monitor the ripping process and nip in the bud any spelling errors or aspects of filing that I didn’t like.

This process took a period of days, on and off, so you also want to bear in mind the importance of backing up if you don’t want to go through this process twice! It’s an ‘additive’ back-up; it only backs up changes and additions, so subsequent back-ups don’t take as long.

It’s difficult to buttonhole the Brennan B2.

Some will be disappointed that it doesn’t go down the route of being a home server, especially with a disk this big! Yes, it can be streamed to, from phones and tablets, and now from Chrome Browser with a suitable add-in, but your home network can’t ‘see it’.

In short, it should be regarded as an intelligent bit of hi-fi, not the answer to all your home network media streaming needs.

Anyway, these are minor concerns that are over-ridden by the B2’s original purpose, i.e. to encapsulate my entire collection of CDs so I can actually easily listen to them, yay, even start buying them again.

After a year being deprived of my CDs in anything bigger than my car stereo, I’m revelling in turning the music up loud, with possibly the occasional ‘air guitar’ thrown in.

Ah the wonders of a detached house and a wife who goes out a lot!






 
Please let me have any questions or feedback about B2 here


Pilchard 14/7/16
Long term JB7 fan.


Well done Martin. Sounds brilliant and still having great fun with the old one which I bought at least 6 years ago! You're a genius

Brent 29/10/15


Hi Martin

First of all congratulations on the fantastic B2, as a disabled lad in a wheelchair it saves me a lot of hassle. I have had it running through a couple of Q Acoustic 2010i speakers, sounded great. I then decided to buy the optical cable and run it through a Denon amp with Boston Acoustic XS speakers.......Words do not do it justice except to say that all my favourite musicians now play in my back room. I have a radio station to add if you can, it's called progman, the address is http://stream.laut.fm/progman.m3u
Many Thanks Best Regards. Peter 7/10/15


Hello Martin,
Thank you for your reply to my recent query and rectifying the software problems.This is an excellent service and enhances you B2 even further.Imagine trying to contact the “Big Boys” Sony or such like with regard to their products,can’t imagine a personal reply! Your narrative with customers queries and questions is both interesting and informative.Imagine designing something according to what the customers would like !
After all this praise can I be so bold as to enquire regarding two small queries.Is it possible to delete immediately(aka JB7) a deleted track as it continues to play after selecting delete and plays until timed out or you select another track.Is a normaliser of some description possible in the software to limit volume levels of flac files,as some recordings are louder than others?
Best of luck with you ever evolving product and look forward to keeping in touch with your site.
Regards, Michael 8/11/15
 


Dear Martin,
B2 is working well. May I thank you for the extraordinary personal service you have provided for me, which continued until my problems were solved. There cannot be many organisations whose chief executive personally takes the time and trouble to solve one customer's difficulties. You and your staff are to be commended for your excellent personal service. Thank you again. Kind regards, Roger
P.S. I am happy for you to publish my comments should you wish to do so
8/7/16


Hi Brennan Team

I took a chance and purchased my new 2T b2 and it was delivered about a week ago. Since then I have learned more about computers, software, music files, WEB Radio and Wi Fi than in a life time of using computers.

This is the first bit of High tech equipment I have purchased that worked straight out of the box, and yes all the necessary syntax etc has been included for even the most complicated UK passwords - but it has strayed far from the simplicity of the JB7.

The b2 is an elegantly designed and quality piece of kit worthy top hi end Hi Fi systems, fabulous audio quality - and to date ownership has been an exciting roller coaster ride. I cannot wait to download the the next software and radio upgrades, its like Christmas every week.

An amazing piece of entertainment and educational equipment.

Petty Critcisms – the display is a bit on the bright side. The tiny legends on the display and the remote are unreadable to my aged and bucolic eyes (Prefer the JB7) but the ability to read and control from my laptop, tablet and phone and link in a wireless keypad will be mitigated with promised upgrades in future I am sure. There is a pop in the speakers on switch on/off (earphone socket to ARCAM amp) which was not evident with the JB7.

Many thanks for your reply. Tony Norfolk 1/10/15



Dear 3GA/Regenersis Team,

I am taking the unusual step of writing to declare how absolutely amazed I am at your brilliant quality of service.

I welcomed the very manageable and efficient online booking repair form after my Brennan had given up the ghost over Christmas. Everything went very smoothly in terms of confirmation of repair reservation, and a very pleasant representative spoke and arranged with me when i subsequently phoned to say I'd drop it off at your Hinchingbrooke depot on Friday (8th January) - which I duly did.

That part of the experience was also very pleasant, especially because Chris who came out to talk with me and collect the Brennan was so encouraging about not losing the many CDs and other recordings that I have committed to the Breenan. It truly has become an indispensable part of our life - especially the marvellous change it has broughtto our music world. Chris was especially sympathetic when i explained that there was a voice recording of my late mother on the Brennan which I was anxious not to lose.

Unbelievably, just two working days later, I was informed through an efficient DPD email link that my device would be delivered back to our home today, and that I would be informed of a one hour window for that delivery. This was indeed very effectively and conveniently communicated, and there was an amazing state-of-the-art tracking system to follow today as to where Fred the cheerful courier had got to, so I absolutely knew when to stand on the doorstep to welcome him (and our Brenan) to the house.

This is incredible. Delivered to you at lunchtime Friday 8th January and returned repaired to us lunchtime Wednesday 13th January. At a very reasonable service charge and now fully working (playing happily inthe background as I type!) In addition there was a very kind note from Chris enclosed (Employee of the Year as far as we're concerned!) helping us to achieve a back-up of the invaluable recording of my Mum's voice in conversation.

Thank you so much and WELL DONE. We have never known quality service like this from anywhere ever before.

Yours sincerely,
Giles OBE 14/1/16





Hi Martin
Thanks for getting back to me. I seem to have sorted the issue by allocating a specific address for the Brennan, which was one of the solutions suggested in the faq section.
I must have missed it!
By the way as an over 60 I have to say the b2 is the most enjoyable piece of hifi I have ever bought. I am enjoying my music collection all over again.
It is obvious that it has been designed by a true music lover, not just a techie!
Having said that I do appreciate the technology that has gone into it.
The Bluetooth is another great feature that has enhance what is already a great product.
My Sennheiser MM400X headphones work brilliantly with the feature and even work downstairs. The B2 is upstairs.
A couple of wish list items: 
1. Would it be possible to have the display go even dimmer as it lights up my room at night even in its lowest setting.
2. Would it possible to have an on off as I hate unplugging it!
Finally please can you tell me when the 1tb models will be available again as I want to buy another one.
Thanks again Martin and your team for all of your great work on a product that's up there with the iPod on my list of great music products
Kind regards 
Robin 9/5/16