We could say Wren’s V5US ($500) speaker looked familiar to us when it arrived, but that would probably be understating the matter. Wren’s newest speaker has the same shape and design as the previous two Wren speakers we’ve reviewed — the Bluetooth Wren V5BT, and the previous AirPlay-only V5AP. Sometime after that, Wren also released the V5PF — instead of AirPlay or Bluetooth, that edition of the speaker used DTS Play-Fi, a newer lossless format targeted more toward Android users and not natively supported by Apple devices (DTS can be accessed in iOS through a Play-Fi app). And now, the inevitable: V5US does it all — AirPlay, aptX Bluetooth, and DTS Play-Fi, which lets users link multiple speakers to seamlessly play music in different rooms. There’s also an aux-in jack to connect devices that way. So V5US is versatile, but it’s also launching at $100 more than the original price of the V5AP and V5BT.
Again, Wren’s speaker has the same shape as its previous iterations — though the colors are now different — and is the same size. The speaker is encased inside a handsome wooden enclosure, and it’s the kind of design you’ll be proud of displaying. On the front-facing side of the speaker, there’s a power button, volume buttons, and a source button, which allows users to switch between Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and aux-in. On the back, there’s a setup button, aux-in port, USB service port — oddly, this port can no longer charge devices as it did in the past — a reset button, and an equalizer switch. The equalizer switch lets users adjust settings based on where the speaker is placed, such as in a corner or against a wall. V5US also comes with a remote.
V5US has the same two 3” drivers and two tweeters as it did in the previously reviewed models, so, for the most part, it sounds the same. (This is especially the case if you’re using the speaker to stream Bluetooth music from an iOS device.) It’s a strong-sounding speaker with a nice overall balance. And it can get loud enough to fill a large space. But if you’re only using Bluetooth, you might as well stick with the older, Bluetooth-only speaker. DTS Play-Fi and AirPlay will deliver lossless sound, but they come with their own issues.
Users wishing to stream Play-Fi sound on V5US must first download the app, then go through a setup process that involves putting in a Wi-Fi password, naming the speaker, and a few other things, such as downloading a firmware update. The Play-Fi app will transfer all your purchased music into the app for playback, but if you commonly use other music apps, you’ll likely be out of luck, and will have no choice but to use AirPlay or Bluetooth. The Play-Fi app itself is a mixed bag: the music sounds very good, but the app is a bit slow, and we experienced connection issues a number of times. Most iOS users will find themselves returning to AirPlay or Bluetooth. An Internet radio option gives listeners the ability to stream radio stations from around the country, which is nice.
If you’ve got the money to commit to a multi-room Play-Fi system, perhaps Wren’s V5US is worth a look. But for the majority of listeners, this speaker will prove too pricey for what it offers. The versatility is nice, but most will likely stick with one source when listening, making the speaker more clever in concept than it is in real life. While the sound is very good, it’s not mind-blowing, and we’d recommend looking at a more specific, less expensive speaker instead.
Company and Price
Company: Wren Sound
Compatible: iPads, iPhones, iPods