Just about every audio manufacturer offers some type of wireless speakers these days. They come in all shapes and sizes, for almost every type of budget. There are wireless speakers for indoors and outside, with some made for backpacking up the side of a mountain and others for accompanying your shower singing.
Like all of the wireless speakers out today, the V5US depends on wireless technology to make that beautiful music. It doesn’t have to be tethered to any devices—although that is an option, thanks to the AUX port around the back. However, the real hook on this speaker is that it doesn’t limit you to just one type of wireless technology. Instead, it includes options for AirPlay, Play-Fi and Bluetooth.
Out of the box, the V5US is slick and sturdy. Weighing in at 6.6 pounds, it’s not too heavy, but it wouldn’t be easily knocked off a table either. Inside, the V5US boasts two 3-inch throw drivers with 4-layer voice coils, as well as two 19mm soft dome tweeters. It also has an Intersil D2 Audio DSP-controlled Class D amplifier and the ability to operate on both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz wireless bands.
The front of the speaker is clean and cool looking, with sort of a parallelogram shape to it. The cabinet boasts real wood, which is available in Almond CrÃƒ:¨me Anigre and Espresso Wenge finishes. The right side features a power button, volume controls, and a Source button. Pressing that last button will toggle through LEDs for WiFi, Bluetooth and the AUX option. Around the back, there’s the AC input (yeah, it’s not totally wireless), a Setup button, the 3.5 AUX input, a USB port for service updates, and a Reset option. There’s also an EQ switch for tweaking the bass output.
The V5US comes with a power cord, a remote control, and a ginormous setup guide that you’ll crack open maybe once.
That’s because setup couldn’t be easier—especially if you’re planning to use Bluetooth. My iPad connected to the V5US within seconds, without having to press anything. Of course, you will need to enable Bluetooth on your portable, but otherwise, the iPad instantly recognized the speaker and I was streaming within seconds. My iPhone 4 (yeah, I need to update that) took a little longer. The speaker didn’t show up as a Bluetooth device, but a quick press of the Setup button on the back of the V5US corrected that quickly.
Thanks to Bluetooth with aptX, music sounded pretty great, whether it was stored on my devices or through apps like Spotify. The speaker seemed to be able to handle a nice range and could kick out a decent amount of bass. I didn’t really notice a difference between flipping that EQ switch, but where you place the speaker may deliver varied results.
I should mention that at one point when rocking out, I took my iPad into the kitchen and the sound began to break up. That was about 20 feet from the V5US speaker. This happened on a few occasions. Bluetooth isn’t really known for its lengthy reach though, so it’s hard to fault the speaker. It’s just something to mention.
For AirPlay, you will need that manual, but only briefly. This setup process involves getting the V5US on your WiFi network. Again, it was pretty pain-free, but did involve connecting my portable to the speaker and punching something into the iPhone’s web browser. It’s maybe a whole minute. Once connected, I was streaming music, as well as audio from Netflix and even the Dish Network app. It’s wonderful to be able to have the wealth of what’s available on the web, but with much better sound.
And yes, it sounded pretty wonderful. Netflix was always clear, whether streaming: movies or sitcoms. Switching over to the Dish Network app and Marvel’s The Avengers, I literally almost blew out my eardrum while sitting next to the V5US. It could crank pretty darn loud, without any distortion. It also made watching something so action-packed on a portable a lot less lame. It even: had a wider range than the Bluetooth, as I was able to take: my iPad outside and could still hear the sound coming out of the V5US.
Play-Fi is an interesting perk, since it offers whole-house audio. To use Play-Fi, you’ll need other V5US speakers or at least other Play-Fi speakers. Sadly, I didn’t have those to test out for this review. However, the beauty of Play-Fi is that you aren’t limited to one manufacturer, but the speakers will work together in complete harmony. You will need to download the free Play-Fi app to get this going. Once you have that installed, you should be able to stream audio to up to eight speakers, including the Wren V5US. I did check out the app and was able to stream with it. If you like having all: of your music apps (Pandora, Spotify, etc.), stored music and web radio in one place, the app is easy enough to use. I actually prefer going through the different apps, but I also didn’t have multiple speakers to control. I’m guessing this would be an easy way to pull everything together.
Wren makes some fine wireless speakers and the V5US is certainly one of them. My only big gripe is the price tag. At $499, this is a pricey speaker—pricier than what you can currently get from B&W and Sonos, which I prefer from an audio standpoint. That’s not to say that Wren is bad. In fact, it’s quite good. Of course, the hook is that this speaker does it all: AirPlay, Play-Fi and Bluetooth. If there’s a chance that you will use all three, this would be a worthy purchase. Otherwise, if you want to cut the price tag and are willing to cut back on some of the features, Wren also makes three other: wireless speakers, which are designed to handle one wireless technology at a time.