Bluetooth speakers

Hands-on: The Wren wireless speaker lets your music fly

Bluetooth speakers

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Sometime before I started testing for a recent review of four portable Bluetooth speakers, I was also offered a chance to try out a new speaker from Wren Sound Systems. I accepted the offer, thinking that I would include it in the roundup. When it arrived, it was obvious that this speaker was in a completely different class altogether.

To begin with, the Wren V5 speaker is neither mobile (it needs to be plugged into a power source at all times) nor does it offer extras such as a mic for phone calls. It is a speaker that is simply meant to offer good audio quality for your digital music. And it succeeds.

Currently, the Wren comes in two models: The V5AP uses AirPlay to communicate from your Apple device to the speaker using a local Wi-Fi network, while the V5PF uses an Android Play-Fi app for the same purpose. A third model, the V5BT, which isn't yet on sale, will stream wireless from any Bluetooth-enabled device. I was sent the V5BT to try out.

Good looks and good sound

The 6.12-x 4.25-x-16.62-in., 6.6-lb. speaker is quite attractive -- it is constructed in a gracefully curved cabinet using either a bamboo or rosewood veneer. The controls for the V5BT are at one end: The review unit offered a power button, volume up/down and a source button, which switches your music source from Bluetooth to the Aux-in port at the back of the unit. On the back you can also find the power-in port and a USB port that lets you charge a smartphone or other small device. (The controls vary slightly depending on what model you have.)

Wren

Tech specs for the speakers include D2Audio digital amplification from Intersil, two 19mm soft dome tweeters and 3-in. throw drivers.

Specs aside, I listened to the Wren using with the same series of music samples that I used to test the four portable speakers and found audio quality to be impressive. Whereas I was able to easily pick out good and bad qualities in the performance of the smaller speakers, when it came to the Wren, I was blown away -- the sound was full, the bass was deep without being overwhelming and the experience was just great.

I did feel that there was a slight imbalance in the left/right channels -- but the fact that I could distinguish so clearly between left/right channels was impressive, considering the size of the system. I also found that if I walked out of the range of the speaker, and then returned, my Bluetooth connection wasn't automatically picked up again; since this is an early model, with any luck, that will be corrected.

If you like volume, the Wren is a good one to try. I made it as loud as I could without shaking up the neighbors too much, and the Wren managed it without a problem and without any audible distortion. In fact, I had the feeling it could have handled quite a bit more volume than I felt comfortable with.

There are advantages and disadvantages to each model, according to the manufacturer. Apparently, if you're connected via Wi-Fi using the V5AP (Apple) or V5PF (Android) models, you can stream to more than one speaker (unless you're using an iOS device). You also get higher audio quality than if connected to via Bluetooth, unless your mobile device offers CSR's aptX codec.

However, if all the different models are like the one I tried, I can definitely say that they have one major advantage: Great sound.

The Wren V5 speakers cost $399 each. Currently, there is no word on when exactly the V5BT will be on sale; a Wren representative simply said that it will be "available soon."

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