Micro hi-fis are a great option if you’re still buying CDs, but what if you’ve been completely converted to the digital world? The JB7 from English hi-fi specialists Brennan could be the answer.
The tiny, bright-blue casing of the Brennan JB7 isn’t the only way it stands out from the crowd – the real headline is the built-in hard disk and CD ripping feature.
Pop a CD into the sleek slot-loader and it’ll rip it at 12-times playback speed. By default it rips into 192kbps MP3, but you can change this to 128, 320 or uncompressed.
Using our preferred rate of 320kbps still allows you to store 1,000 CDs on the 160GB HDD, and there are 80GB and 320GB versions available, too.
Ye olde database
Unfortunately the built-in CD database is quickly out of date. You can manually input track details but the irritatingly small, cluttered remote makes this tedious. While the buttons have surprisingly satisfying travel, there’s just too many of them.
Brennan will send you a database update CD, but this costs a fiver each time. Surely an Ethernet connection or database download from the website isn’t too much to ask for?
Plug and play
Luckily it’s more user-friendly in other ways. You can transfer music from your computer to the JB7, complete with track details, using the front-mounted USB socket, and there are also aux-in, line-out and headphone sockets on the back.
Hit the Next button and the Brennan will also turn on and automatically start playing your entire music collection on shuffle – perfect for when you just need some background tunes.
The other good news is that the JB7’s an entertaining listen, with decent balance through the tonal range, tight bass, and nice dynamics. It’ll go loud without sounding shocking, too.
There’s a little bit of clatter in the treble, but given the fun, unique nature of the wee beasty, we’re still very keen on it.
Brennan’s speakers add just £60 to the JB7, but they also cause occasional harshness in the treble. If you can stretch your budget a bit, pick up a pair of £99 Roth OLi1s instead – they’re more exciting but also more controlled at the top.