Its GOTTA BE TOUGH DECIDING WHICH FEATURES to put into a wireless speaker. Pick Apple AirPlay and you alienate Android fans. Omit AirPlay and you alienate Apple fans. Include only Bluetooth and you alienate audio aficionados. Wren Sound has a better idea: Give the people whatever they want.
Wren offers its V5 wireless speaker with your choice of AirPlay or Play-Fi, the platform-agnostic wireless standard licensed by DTS. (A Bluetooth version of the V5 is planned.) The company also offers an exchange program during the V5s warranty period: If within the next 3 years you dump the dinky iPhone for a nice big phablet, or vice versa, you can get a new V5 in a different wireless format for $99. It might be your safes t buy in a high- quality wireless system.
The V5 is also one of the most stylish buys in a wireless system. Veneered in real bamboo or rosewood, it exudes a retro Danish Modern vibe. It almost seems like the V5 should come with a free bottle of Early Times and a meerschaum pipe. The only controls on hand are for volume, power, and input select. Inside are stereo two-way speakers, each with a separate woofer and tweeter.
Eager to try Play-Fi, I chose the Play-Fi-equipped V5PF.To use it, I had to download Wrens Play-Fi Android app, then go through a simple setup process. It was as easy as configuring a Sonos wireless system, maybe easier. All I had to do was enter my Wi-Fi password into the app, then assign the V5PF to a room in my case, Living Room.
Play-Fi then presented me with a screen of listening options. The Music button brought up a menu of music currently available on my network.
The Media Server button accesses music from media servers connected to your network. The Internet Radio button calls up a menu of countless stations and podcasts. The More Music button lets you activate Pandora, QQ Music (available only in mainland China), and KKBOX (an Asian music service).
While Play-Fi works fine, the app seems to be in its infancy. For example, the onscreen volume control is right next to the Return button on the bot-tom of my phone, such that missing Return by a few millimeters brings the unit suddenly to full volume. The app also inserts unnecessary extra space between tunes. The streaming services cant match the 20 now offered on Sonos devices, and the radio player isnt as friendly as, say, TuneIn Radio: It has no metadata display to show what radio program is currently playing on each station.
Still, the app and the V5PF respond quickly and reliably, and operation is intuitive. Plus, like Airplay, Play-Fi doesnt apply lossy compression to audio signals, so it has the advantage that it doesnt degrade sound quality as Bluetooth does. (Although also like Airplay, it requires a Wi-Fi network to work.) Lets hope future updates improve the apps ergonomics.
Often when I test compact audio systems, I immediately play some hard-rock faves and turn the volume all the way up jus t to see what the thing can do much as a car reviewer might take a new 2+2 right out onto the track rather than wasting time puttering around the neighborhood.
As I unleashed the Cults Electric, I heard right away that the V5PF cranks. You can expect a good, clean 90 d В at a customary listening distance of 2 meters, loud enough to drown out conversation and bug the people in the apartment next door. The pumping bass line and pounding kick drum on Electric Ocean sounded full and tight, and the vocals and guitars sounded undistorted and largely uncolored even at full volume. I did notice that the mid- and upper treble sizzled a bit, which made a high-pitched instrument like a hi-hat sound a little harsh.
The emphasized treble didnt affect Cult vocalist Ian Astburys howling tenor, but I wondered if it would show up on female vocals. So I switched to Cme Catchor, from Cape Verdean singer Fantchas Criolinha. Not only did her voice sound smooth, but the V5PF exploded (literally, not figuratively) with bass. I felt the tunes insistent bass line vibrating the top of my laptop computer and heard it rattling stuff in my den. The Speedy Spectrum Analyzer app on my Samsung showed me I was getting strong output down to 70 Hz.
Jazz favorites had me wanting to reach for that proverbial meerschaum pipe and spend the whole night listening. Brother Hubbard from Kenny Garretts Songbook sounded great: solid bass, clear piano, Garretts edgy yet refined alto sax, and snappy snare and ride cymbal. What was missing? Bigger sound. With closely spaced drivers and no ambience enhancement, the V5PF is for all practical purposes a mono device.
+ (2) 3-in midrange/woofers, (2) 0.75-in tweeters
+ 2 x 25 watts per channel
+ Available with Play-Fi, AirPlay, or (soon) Bluetooth wireless
+ 3.5mm analog audio input
+ 6.125×4.25×16.625 in; 6.6 lb
The Wren Sound V5PF looks like something from the past, but its more like the system of the future: a good-sounding, versatile, wireless audio rig that delivers almost infinite entertainment options.