If you haven’t noticed, there have been a lot (i.e. a flood) of new audio products hitting the market recently. New technologies and features have been added to speaker systems to add value and maintain a competitive edge.
Tablets and smartphones make it easier to enjoy music just about anywhere, but the quality of listening is starting to head back toward that of Hi-Fi. This is especially so in speaker systems that are portable or portable-enough.
While the Wren V5BT speaker requires a constant power connection, it’s small and light enough to be carried with ease. This small’ish speaker makes some bold claims, and oh boy does it back it up with a fervor.
Design & Controls
The Wren V5BT has a unique, somewhat swanky design to it in a retro/throwback kind of way. The curves on each end is a refreshing departure from the typical, boxy shape that most speakers tend to adopt. It’s great when the Wren speaker is positioned so one can view it with perspective. But if it happens to be sandwiched between a couple of shelves, like in an entertainment cabinet, it’ll look boxy like most everything else.
The base of the Wren V5BT has a thick pad of silicone to keep the system set in place. You can play whatever music you want as loud as you want, and the speaker is not going to budge whatsoever (I tried).
The concave buttons on the side click nicely and are backlit as well. The controls are simple and more or less self-explanatory. You can toggle wireless and wired connectivity, and there is even a USB port in the back to charge a device (e.g. smartphone, MP3 player, etc.). It’s actually both thoughtful and handy, especially if you leave a USB cable right there.
I have a love-hate relationship with the overall look of the Wren V5Bt. I really like the dark Rosewood, even it’s just veneer. It’s smooth and maintains a clean polish. The speaker has even more wood – it’s what the interior cabinet is made of.
The MDF (medium density fiberboard) is denser and stronger than plywood and particle board. This construction is likely what leads to a lighter speaker with true-sounding timbre.
That’s where my liking for the material ends. I think that the style and/or color of the front grill cheapens the appearance of the Wren V5BT speaker.
It’s plastic and looks it. Black or charcoal-gray would have been a much better choice. Or at least something darker that looked far less artificial. At least with the Rosewood coloration.
When it comes to the Wren V5BT speaker, you can expect big sound that carries across and through rooms. Like most speakers, the music will start to distort as the volume gets close to maxing out. However, the vocals maintain a strength and clarity that’s relatively untouched by extreme volume output.
The Wren V5BT speaker projects forward very well – almost too well. Even though I can hear music from all around it, there seems to be a “cone of ideal listening.” This cone is approximately a 70 degree arc from the speaker’s center, from about 8 feet away. While standing in this cone, I bask in the Wren’s intense beam of musical energy and all of its glory.
Once I move outside this area, the sound changes. It’s sort of like side-stepping out of the direct sun into partial shade. Some of the details fade out some and are a little bit harder to pick up on. Mostly from the speaker side I’m moving away from. With this in mind, proper placement of the Wren speaker should be top priority. You’ll want to be front and center to get the full experience.
Beautiful tones are heard in the upper registers. For the most part, the treble is sweet and lush, catering to acoustic music filled with violins and flutes. As I listen to Glenn Morgan’s album, Southwind, I can hear how flurries of notes still remain distinct. Plucked string instruments have that natural-sounding, lingering decay. Wind instruments sound crisp and don’t bleed or blend into each other.
Sometimes I feel as if the treble lacks air, possibly because of how well the music projects. I also find hi-hats a little on the light side, almost bordering toy’ish. But not quite. Thankfully, there’s no sizzle.
There is a lot of vibrant energy that streams out from the mids, and the speaker delivers a great sense of space to tracks as they play. I find the mid and low-mid guitars and bass to be smooth and full.
The vocals are fantastic. If you listen to “A Martyr For My Love For You” off the White Stripes album, Icky Thump, you’ll catch how well Jack White’s vocals are forward, front and center. There is a clean separation of his voice to the other instruments, which are behind and off to the side.
The individual balance of volume by the Wren V5BT speaker is controlled. If you listen carefully, you can hear the gradual volume increase/decrease of specific instruments as they pick up and play or fade out. There is this added sense of depth and atmosphere as no one instrument overpowers another. The result is being able to hear moving layers that sound both rich and alive.
I was most surprised by the output of the lower registers. Drums hit hard and come right at you with a quick attack. Even though the lows can’t achieve the same spaciousness or rumbling force as larger speaker systems do, what you hear is very natural-sounding and tight.
Not only can you feel the proper weight of the instruments in the low end, the Wren V5BT speaker brings out details that are both clear and visceral. The track “Here Come the Bastards” from Sailing The Seas of Cheese, by Primus, delivers an appropriately throaty bass output. Listen to “Seven Nation Army” by the White Stripes. You get a sense of body and substance as the song leads off with the bass guitar and kick drum.
“Mind Heist” by Zack Hemsey; The Wren V5BT delivers a performance that prickles the hair on the back of my neck. The reproduction of the orchestrated lows are, in a word, majestic.
The wireless signal is very strong with this one. I can maintain a solid signal from my Galaxy Note 2 as I move about the house. We’re talking through walls, floors, and doors. Bodies passing between the Wren V5BT and smartphone are no big deal either. As long as I’m within 40 feet or so, there are no breaks, no pops, no fuzz. Just a pure music stream.
It’s really hard to find much of any fault or drawback to owning the Wren V5BT speaker. This small wooden box doesn’t strain itself in order to deliver some serious power and volume, all the while maintaining a keen balance. I’ve been pleased with virtually all the music I’ve put on, especially when I’m zoned into the sweet spot.
Bass-heads, and/or those who want some seriously juicy booms, might quibble over the size of the sound that comes out of the lows. Nitpicking aside, there is no denying the quality that you get. When you take the size into consideration as well, it becomes almost ridiculous to not be impressed.
My biggest gripe with the Wren V5BT is how it looks. Of course, this matter of color choice doesn’t affect how I feel about the sound. But if I am lukewarm to its appearance, I know others will be too (and, controversially, there’s likely many many more who love it, haha). Price? I’m sure that many would be on the fence about that too, but aren’t we all “on the fence” about price for most everything?
For an indoor-portable speaker with strong Bluetooth wireless, ample connectivity, and sound output that betrays its size, the Wren V5BT is a solid choice for the money spent. Put on some of your favorite music or watch a movie, and any buyer’s regret will melt away before you know it.