The Internet is changing the world we live in. Raw data is sent around the world in a matter of moments! E-mail alone has vastly improved the sharing of knowledge let alone the good ol' chat rooms and mailing lists. In fact music lovers worldwide are rejoicing as thousands of songs are available for free via the compressed .mp3 (MP3) music format! Why free, why now? We have musicians who have found a new way to communicate to their fans. No longer is a band limited to their local clubs and radio stations as the simplest website can also offer a few songs in the MP3 format can be downloaded and replayed from Atlanta Georgia to far off Batam Island in Indonesia. All a web surfer needs is an Internet connection and tens of thousands of free songs are at ones fingertips!
i will assume most readers of Enjoy the Music.com know about MP3 and with a very good encoder music files can be "ripped" from a CD or original master tape and be sent over the Internet. Due to the compression, approximately a 12:1 ratio, some loss of quality can be heard. With the right high-quality encoder (which is tricky and is generally not free) and decoder (which is easier and free) a music file can sound very close to the original music file. The main problem has been not how to distribute MP3 music but how to replay it when not on your computer. Enter netDrives and their new Brujo.
The Brujo (pronounced brew-hoe) is the world's first home stereo system CD/MP3 player. The name Brujo is Spanish for "Wizard" according to the handy dandy AltaVista translator. At first there was suspicion of the unit's build quality as i have seen other company's foray into MP3 land with horribly made products. i am happy to report the netDrives Brujo is made surprisingly well! In fact it equals that of the well regarded likes of Adcom, Carver and other upper hi-fi products! Quite a nice surprise given the low $299 price which also includes a handy wireless remote control. Then again netDrives sells their product directly to the consumer... no overzealous middleman costs! To give a better picture (literally), my "under the hood" photo shot is seen below.
As you can see, a good quality 36x CD-Rom drive is on the left with the majority of the parts mounted on a circuit board to the right. The Brujo comes standard with a wall wart good for worldwide voltages ranging from 100 to 240 volts. The unit feels especially solid and uses a very sturdy metal chassis. No hint of that el cheapo plastic here! The Brujo is only 13.25 inches wide and therefore is smaller than industry standard 17 inches wide like most units. Personally i like it as it looks especially cute and can fit well in both full-sized home systems and those with simpler all-in-one shelf systems. A good compromise indeed!
A full function 31 key wireless remote control and unique headphone to stereo RCA adapters are included. With these RCA adapters you get male 1/8" headphone to male RCA cord and also a female 1/8" headphone jack to male RCA. When the two 1/8" jacks are connected together you get a standard RCA to RCA cord. When used separately you can use the supplied 1/8" front headphone jack on the Brujo for audio output to other home components. Of course the standard female RCA jacks appear on the rear of the unit as well. No pure digital output jack is supplied and there in no volume adjustment for headphone output.
As for versatility, you can play the normal CD, CD-Rom, CD-R, CD-RW, ISO-9660 and MPEG 1 & 2 Audio Layer III. Phew! As for programming, since you can fit many more MP3 files on a CD than the normal audio CD, netDrives wisely gave the Brujo programmability of up to 63 songs! The unit itself can play over 200 .mp3 files per disc and will also recognize folders within the disc. The designers of the Brujo really made sure to cover all the bases. Way to go netDrives! Of course the usual shuffle, repeat and scan modes are offered as well. A full one year warranty is included as is a toll free (in the USA) phone number for support just in case you have any questions or operational concerns. Quite a very impressive unit for a first-generation product indeed! But how does she work and sound? Aaaah, finally the fun stuff!!!
My Brujo was supplied with the amp3.com CD-ROM 104 Songs That Will Change Your Life. It contains 104 songs in the MP3 format plus Sonic Foundry's "Acid" music making software and the popular Music Match Jukebox 4.0 MP3 creation/management software. Of course you can use whatever MP3 encoding software you desire so long as the final CD-R/RW disc is made to the standard ISO 9660 format (included with all CD creation software i know of). But i want to hear music NOW! After hooking her up to my system in went amp3.com's CD-Rom into the 36x CD-Rom drive. Once the drawer closed it only took a few moments for the large red LED counter to reach 104 (as the drive initially will read and count the songs on the CD). The unit makes quite a loud whirling round as the 36x CD-Rom drive is not the most quiet. Pressing play unleashed all the music on the free CD-Rom supplied with the Brujo.
Sure i liked some songs better than others. After all, this is a compilation CD-Rom filled with many different types of music. Then again i found over 50 songs that were really enjoyable! Imagine how much it would have cost to find 50 songs i like or normal CDs. At $12 a disc and a high of five songs per disc i would have had to spend $120! Ahhh, but here is the killer cool part. A quick trip to amp3.com's website and mp3.com unleashed so many free songs that the music itself more than pays for the price of the Brujo! Music from not just relatively unknown bands, but also music from major artists as well! The big question many of those reading the Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine will ask is "How does it sound?" The only way to properly answer that is as follows.
By using a very well recorded CDs like those from Chesky Records, Reference Recordings, Mapleshade, etc. or those i made with my fave Digigram sound card and rip my own MP3 music with my CD-R/RW drive. By the way, i use the Digigram line of soundcards to record live music as they are the best in the industry. A word of caution: i have found that most free encoders do not offer good encoding. This is especially true with the ones that claim to offer "the fastest" or "very fast" music encoding. Beware the fast and free encoders!!! Proper file encoding takes time. High-quality encoding comes from software you pay for (Dartech, Digigram, Sonic Foundry, etc.). The difference between good and bad encoding is not subtle on even the most basic music reproduction systems. Once i had the music properly ripped it was time to really hear the Brujo at its best.
Wow what a difference! The songs on the amp3.com CD-ROM 104 Songs That Will Change Your Life can easily represent music recording from horrible home-brew to studio-quality. The Brujo quickly read my CD-RW made to ISO9660 and the music played. MP3 encoding does better on small ensemble work and this is where the Brujo shined the best too. The music was very well defined with proper soundscape and imaging. It was barely perceivable as to the difference in small duet/ensemble music. MP3 has a hard tome with large orchestra and the Brujo's decoder and analog section did a great job at showing the limitations of the MP3 format. Ok, the general consumer will probably not notice much of a loss with proper encoding, but those with exceptional ears and music reproduction systems will hear the loss of music due to the approximate 12:1 compression in making an MP3 file.
As for how the Brujo sounds playing a CD. After the usual "audiophile" 10 day wait called burn-in (for the electronics to "settle in") the Brujo is a nice well-rounded sounding CD player! Maybe a touch on the bright side yet the bass was very full sounding. When the music rocked so did the Brujo. While the stock RCA cable was ok, i found by using the moderately priced MonsterCable helped to reduce the slight hardness while also giving better musical quality. Once i used well recorded CDs, or better encoded music with the unit it was easy to see that netDrives has a big hit on their hands. The Brujo can easily bring great joy into discovering new music. And the music is free on the Internet! Does it get any better than this? i would put the sound quality on par with that from the old favorite Adcom and even that of NAD if you take away the NAD midbass bloat and add more clarity. It could be that by using a very capable 36x CD-Rom drive has something to do with it.
In the end the Brujo makes musical freedom more fun than shooting a barrel of Major Record Label Executives. The ability to discover thousands of bands offering tens of thousand of free songs is not something to ignore. The Brujo brings all this great music into your home stereo system for only $299! On our scale of 1 to 100 the Brujo is the first product to rate a perfect 100 in value for the money! The money you save from not needing to buy music more than covers the initial cost. For the first time all my net friends can rage to their fave MP3 music on CD using their home stereo system... without the need of a computer. All hail netDrives and their new Brujo! As always... Enjoy the Music!
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