A reader, Graeme Halford, writes – I should say wrote, because it’s so long ago he’s probably forgotten – to ask for “the best way to convert a large CD collection to digital form without loss of quality and without having to resort to iTunes and iPods”. Mr Halford, I can now give you a satisfactory answer: the Brennan B2, from inventor Martin Brennan’s small company in Cambridge. (Any electronics guy you call an “inventor” has to be British, of course, and Brennan is as British as they come, from the 1998-style website to a track record working with Sir Clive Sinclair and Lord Alan Sugar.)
But why my delayed response? Because, I have to confess, it was not a subject I had engaged with for many years. I did all my CD-to-digital ripping back in the early part of the century, when computers still had CD drives. As a result, all my CDs – which I gave away in a circa 2004 minimalist phase – now exist as rather naff 128kbps early iTunes files. Mr Halford, of course, is more sensible and has kept his CDs, as have most people over 45, and the well-designed and -built Brennan B2 offers the chance to rip them into big FLAC files, store a vast number and play them using a joyously simple interface.
It’s easy to see that a chap or chapess of a certain age with a lot of CDs is Brennan’s target market, and he serves them expertly. The B2 is a tough 17cm x 15.3cm x 4.8cm metal box weighing 1.2kg. In its 2TB version, it can store 5,000 ripped CDs. Five flippin’ thousand! Its amps pump out 15 watts per channel of quality sound – enough for most of us. Or it can just play CDs without ripping them. It also does all the modern stuff: streaming internet radio, Bluetooth, exploring with a web user interface, connection to Sonos multiroom systems, you name it. The B2 is internet connected, so future proofing is straightforward.
The more I think about it, I can’t praise this kit too highly. If I had any CDs, I’d buy it, even though it’s not quite audiophile stuff and the hifi geeks would hate it for being too user‑friendly. I should say, though, that the Brennan BSP speakers look good but sound every penny of their £72 price tag. The B2 can power much better small speakers – I’d match it with something from Q Audio or ATC.