Casting my mind back to a week or two before Christmas, which now seems like casting my mind back to pre-Roman times but is less than two months gone, I remember Mrs The Millbrooker and I deciding that we would treat ourselves to a present between us. Rather than splurging huge amounts on each other on our own, if you get what I'm trying to say.
The object of our desire was a heavily advertised system for digitally storing CDs as MP3 files, with the option to compress the data to varying degrees or even to leave the file completely uncompressed. We have quite a lot of orchestral and other classical CDs (the fantastic 1952-1853 complete Beethoven symphonies conducted by Herbert von Karajan box set, for example, is a recent addition to the collection), and you don't want to be losing anything from the top or bottom end on recordings like that; so the ability to transfer to a hard drive without compression was important.
So, I took it upon myself to read up about and, eventually, buy one of the much vaunted Brennan JB7 audio jobbers.
I ordered online. Four or five days later the order hadn't been acknowledged. Ah well - these things do happen; perhaps I'd made a mistake - with my eyesight it's remarkably easy to press the wrong key or fail to see a tick-box on screen to finalise a transaction.
I emailed the Brennan people and they emailed back - nope, they had no record of my order. I tried again, using GooglePay (Brennan's preferred method). I got an immediate response from GooglePay confirming all was well.
Two days later, no acknowledgement from Brennan. Another email. Another response that there was no record of my purchase. I checked with the credit card company - no transaction showed. Ok - I really want one of these things. I'll try again. This time I rang them.
The very nice young lady on the other end of the line took my order, took close on £500 from my credit card account and a few days later a box arrived at Millbrooker Towers to much excitement.
I unpacked the expensive little blue machine, pulled out a couple of CDs from the rack and began the process of loading our 350(ish) CD collection almost immediately.
Mrs The Millbrooker left me to it and headed off for a short Parish Council committee meeting. In the half to three quarters of an hour that she was out, the Brennan was tried, found wanting and was back in its box. And there was a very grumpy and disappointed Millbrooker. It wouldn't read a single CD. After three attempts to buy the bloody thing, they'd sent me faulty one. Arse.
Using the "three strikes and you're out" rule (two failed purchase attempts and a faulty machine = three), the Millbrooker-Brennan JB7 relationship was at an abrupt end.
The machine has been returned, most of the money refunded - the Brennan people are trying to hang onto the £10 postage/packing which is against Office of Fair Trading rules, so we'll get that back or plop them into as much shite as I can muster through formal complaints procedures.
To summarise about a Brennan JB7 - the company's online systems don't work, the machine itself might not work when you get it; they try to rip you off if you return the machine as faulty. Feel free to buy one, but don't say I didn't warn you.
On with the narrative . . .
Mrs The Millbrooker did cheering me up by investigating possible, less well advertised, alternatives online. She found several possibilities, the most interesting of which for our purposes looked to be the Cocktail X10. Available from here. should yo want to buy one and let me have a very small commission at the same time.
And a few days, and one short visit to Plymouth's Richer Sounds shop, later we became the proud owners of another few hundred pounds' worth of little metal box.
It does all the that the JB7 does and plenty more. For less money than the Brennan product (they have to pay for all that advertising somehow), you get double the memory (a whole terabyte - that's 1000GB). Enough memory, indeed, to store and playback 1300 CDs without any compression whatsoever.
You get the ability to create your own categories of music, as few or as many as you wish. We're trying to keep it simple with "Orchestral", "Chamber", "Folk", "Rock" and so on, but it's getting difficult with some of the more obscure or esoteric parts of the Millbrooker Towers music collection.
With a suitable dongle it also connects to internet radio and can play music streaming from a computer connected to the same wifi network. 'Tis almost magic.
Not to mention the read out is much clearer and contains more information than the JB7.
The seemingly off-kilter text in the shot above is because the CD title and Artist listing are scrolling from right to left as they're too long to be displayed completely. The big blue musical notation can be replaced with a photo or some cover art, but we've not around to that and probably won't bother.
So, in my self-appointed guise of consumer champion, should be thinking of buying a Brennan JB7 I'll strongly recommend that you think twice and consider instead a Cocktail X10. So far, it's been a terrific piece of kit.
Only 290 odd CDs left to load into it . . .ho hum . . .