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Wren V5US review: a worthy upgrade to the V5

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When I took a look at Wren’s V5AP a couple years ago, it was easily one of the best wireless speakers I’ve ever reviewed. Its combination of  wood cabinet and rare (at the time) AirPlay support stood out even among its peers, many of which still favor plastic construction and offer only Bluetooth support. Wren has offered a variety of models supporting different wireless standards, but their newest model, the V5US, brings universal wireless support for all your devices.

Wren V5US

Sounds Great sans Wires

If you’ve got an electronic gadget built in the last decade, chances are you’ll be able to stream music to the V5US. The “US” stands for Universal, and Wren’s packed AirPlay, Bluetooth, and Play-Fi wireless support into the V5US, as well as a standard 3.5 mm auxiliary in jack for wired connections. What hasn’t changed is the incredible sound Wren delivers in the V5. The soundstage is still wider than you’d expect from a single enclosure stereo setup, and musical details are rendered with precision, clarity, and warmth.

Wren V5USThe V5US comes in two new color options with updated aesthetics; although the old design is still beautiful, the new wood choices have a definitively high end feel. There’s an espresso Wenge with black grill and black accents, or almond creme Anigre with white accents and a whitish-silver grill. The Wenge option is sleek, understated, and refined, while the Anigre (which I received as a review unit) looks like it would be at home in trendy boutique home store like Anthropologie or Crate and Barrel.

Setup & Use

Wren offers two setup options for the V5US’s wireless functionality. You can use the Play-Fi app or connect to the V5’s WiFi and configure it using a web browser. Both options are well documented in the user guide with easy to follow instructions, and in no time at all I had the V5US joined to my home WiFi network and available to all my devices. I used it primarily as a companion speaker to my TV, but also streamed audio from my Mac, iPad, and iPhone. Fun fact: I’m not sure which protocol I used for that streaming. At first I was concerned that I couldn’t figure out if I was using Bluetooth or AirPlay, but the fact that it just works without any fuss means Wren’s knocked it out of the park on usability.

Ch-ch-ch-changes

Not everything about the Wren remains unchanged, but I have to give some serious props to the company for making only improvements. There are a handful of changes, none of which detract from the V5’s stylish aesthetic, ease of use, or signature sound. Everything that’s changed is a minor but welcome improvement over the older model, including:

  • Integrated power converter – No more power brick you’ve got to hide behind a piece of furniture
  • Drastically better remote – I didn’t ding Wren on the remote with the V5AP, but it wasn’t quite what I expected from a $400 stereo. Still, it was a minor quibble and the remote got the job done. Wren’s got a whole new remote for the V5US that’s made from textured aluminum. It has a pleasant heft, and the old chiclet-style rubber buttons have been replaced with a single sheet of smooth plastic with embossed buttons. You can control power, input source, volume/mute, and playback.
  • Bass EQ switch – The V5 has two midrange drivers and two tweeters with an accompanying bass reflex port, but I’ve always been amazed at the sheer amount of low end sound the speaker produces. That wasn’t always a good thing—as I noted in my review of the V5AP, I had to scoot the speaker away from the wall since the bass was overpowering. With the V5US you’ve got three bass modes: freestanding, on a wall, or in a corner. Controlled by a slider switch on the back panel, these modes adjust the bass output depending on your speaker placement
  • Integration of Bluetooth and AirPlay – When I reviewed the V5AP you had a choice of AirPlay or Bluetooth models of the V5. With the V5US, they’re both built in. You can now share a speaker even if you’ve got non AirPlay Apple devices or other gadgets. Play-Fi support is also built in, and while it provides a robust option for Android users, it also provides powerful options for iOS users as well. With the free Play-Fi app, you can connect up to eight Wren V5US speakers for whole-house sound, and you can group into zones to let you control music in different parts of the house from your iPhone.

Wren V5US

The Verdict

Aside from the remote control upgrade, all the changes in the V5US are improvements on what was already a stellar product. This is still one of the best sounding integrated speaker systems I’ve ever heard, and its new universal connectivity makes it even more valuable for multi-platform households. The changes aren’t enough to justify an upgrade from an older model of V5 (unless you’re looking to build a whole-house sound system), but the V5US’s price and features still make it a smart purchase if you’re looking for great sound and good looks from a wireless speaker.

Apple Channel Rating A

Buy the Wren V5US

Provides: Stereo audio output via AirPlay, Bluetooth, Play-Fi and auxiliary input
Developer: Wren
Minimum Requirements: Any AirPlay, Bluetooth, or Play-Fi compatible device, or an audio device with a 1/8″ headphone jack
Price: $499.00
Availability: Now

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