The Wren V5AP is just about the best-looking speaker I’ve tested, with a tastefully contemporary case finished with bamboo and silvered cloth.
Works With: AirPlay devices, anything with a jack
It’s also one of the best sounding, and although it might not be as convenient as some other AirPlay speakers, it makes up for it in other ways.
What It Is
The Wren is a mains-powered AirPlay speaker that can also accept input via USB or a mini-jack. It has a bass port around back, a silicone pad underneath (for sound-damping and to stop it from sliding around) and a 25-watt-per-channel amp inside. The speaker comes with a small remote, and can charge your iPhone through its USB port.
I’m no audiophile, but I do play one in the shower in the mornings: (“The sprinkling shower water has a dry, almost brassy tone, and dropping the bottle of shower gel into the bath provides a heavy, open thump, the lower register ballooning into a beefy crunch.”)
That said, I have owned and obsessed over both bookshelf and floor-standing speakers in my time, and for a speaker this size (the Wren is just 44cm or 17 inches long) the V5AP sounds incredible. No, it won’t beat out a great pair of “proper” speakers coupled with a turntable and amp, but neither would you get a setup this good for just $400. And remember, this one sits on a shelf or table, scoring high on the Spousal Acceptance Scale.
Bass is big. A little too big if you place it close to a wall or on the floor, which is easy to fix by pulling it out a little. The mid and top ends are as clear as you need, able to pick out the creaks in Billie Holliday’s voice in her later more drunken recordings, while holding onto the vocals and chorussy guitar in Sleater-Kinney’s “Modern Girl” and splashing out the cymbals.
Another test: Squarepusher’s “The Coathanger” seems to have an absurd amount of space around the punching bassline, with the reverb seeming to echo off into the distance.
Let’s just say that you’re going to be very happy with the sound of the Wren.
In use, it’s easy. Plug your iPhone into the USB port using your regular cable and the speaker will grab the login details for your Wi-Fi network and hook up automatically. One note: If you’re using a dual-band router like the AirPort Extreme, you should connect your iPhone/iPad to the 2.8GHz channel first – the Wren won’t work with the 5GHz channel.
Once set up, the reception seems flawless. I had some initial hiccups, but these may or may not have been caused by the network-extending Airport Express I use (it needed a firmware reinstall and a good spanking to fix). Now, the signal is rock solid.
I’m used to moving speakers from room to room. It’s usually easier to do this than to pair with a different speaker in a different room. The Wren has no battery, so you’ll need to plug it in, and to switch it off and on every time you move it.
The remote is also rather crappy considering that you just spent $400 on the speaker. It works, but the buttons are so soft and fluffy you’re never sure if you pushed them or not. Still, it has controls for power, play/pause, skip, volume, source and mute, all of which work via AirPlay.
If you want a small-ish speaker, and if you don’t plan on moving it around a lot, then you should really check out the V5AP. It sounds great, looks fantastic, and will fool most people into thinking you have much bigger speakers hiding away somewhere.
If you don’t have AirPlay, though, you might want to wait for the Bluetooth version.
Product Name: Wren V5AP