Martin Brennan’s CD ripper, the JB7, was brilliant for its time and The Shed has owned and mainly loved one since 2009.
When it is working right, playing your lifetime’s choices back to you at random, it is the perfect companion.
As all the critics say, you could get the same results cheaper with a small computer and Windows Media Player or something similar. But the point is that it’s not a computer. Brennan knew that a lot of us wanted a machine which made storing tunes as simple as switching on a kettle and he built a CD scanner and a computer into tiny box with an amplifier which has driven two chunky old Wharfedales for six years without requiring anywhere near full output.
As accused, the filing system is clunky, compared to the software you can now run on your tablet or laptop, but it is more fun than sitting at a screen.
It can, however, be buggy as hell. To be fair, Brennan was very good at taking it back for fixes and ours was practically rebuilt, and updated, in the course of tracking down a problem which eventually required a new motherboard. There was never any charge and our only complaint, in the end, was lack of communication from the contractors who did the after-sales servicing. They did not explain what they had found and you were never sure they had properly taken in what you told them. They just worked through a troubleshooting programme until they replaced the right bit. However, The Shed has read a former employee saying they were working 16 hours a day on piecework and our JB7 did eventually get back to running like a top for a couple of years.
Now the bugs are back. It will not recognise a CD has been inserted or it will stop and stick on Load Incomplete. It will go into a go-slow on searching for an album or a track which might take hours to work through and cannot be stopped without jamming the machine. And Brennan has stopped production and withdrawn the free back-up service for models which are out of guarantee.
The Shed has learned to bully the JB7 more or less back into line and it will play on at random from the database while we decide what to do. Repairs can still be got at a cost. Richer Sounds has the last of the unused JB7s on offer at around £450. And The Shed has most of its tunes backed up on an external hard drive.
Martin Brennan has moved on to a new box, due out very soon, with lossless compression instead of MP3 compromise; better facilities for dealing with downloads as opposed to CDs; and brains based on a Raspberry Pi, which can be taken out and replaced if necessary. He is getting a lot of abuse from JB7 owners but The Shed reckons he delivered a fair deal and will have learnt his lessons well and we have put ourselves down for the upgrade.
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And check out Martin’s recommendation for I’m New Here by Gil Scott-Heron