The Wren V5AP AirPlay speaker had an uphill struggle before it even left the drawing board, taking on a market filled with AirPlay speakers for your iPhone, iPad and Mac including those from some of the most well-established brands available including the B&W Zeppelin Air, the Sonos PLAY:5.
In fact you’d be forgiven for drawing a blank at the mention of Wren Sound, something that unsurprisingly, Wren is keen to change.
So here we are, its first speaker- the V5 - available in three formats, AirPlay, Play-Fi (for Android tablets and smartphones) and a yet to be launched Bluetooth version, as you can see we’ve been testing the Apple- friendly variant.
Wren V5AP AirPlay Speaker: Size and build
In a market amass with clinical whites and dark menacing blacks it was a welcome relief to open the box and find something that had even an ounce of nature in it.
In this case the V5AP actually has rather a lot of nature sporting an almost entirely wood body with the option to choose either Bamboo or Rosewood. We haven’t seen what the Rosewood looks like but the Bamboo looked great and was very well finished.
Elsewhere there’s a metal front with just four buttons on the side letting you turn the speaker on/off, change the volume and change the input source.
The Wren V5AP is a rare thing managing to be both beautiful thanks to its unique shape yet also unassuming enough that it won’t dominate the room within which it has been placed.
You also get a simple remote control, which adds extra functionality by letting you, play/pause and skip tracks through AirPlay. We’ll be honest, it’s not even slightly premium with a fairly basic plastic body but it does at least feel like it’ll last.
Wren V5AP AirPlay Speaker: Connections
On the back you’ll find a power socket, USB cable for setting up AirPlay and for playing music and finally an aux input.
We set up AirPlay using our iPhone 5 and the whole process took less than a minute. Once set up the system worked without fault when within range of our router.
If we had any problems it was with the speaker at the edge of Wi-Fi range and interestingly this was only a problem using our iPhone, the moment we connected a MacBook Air the issue was resolved.
It certainly isn’t a deal breaker as all Wi-Fi speakers suffer but it as a rule it’s definitely something to note if you’re looking for a wireless speaker that's reliant on the router.
Wren V5AP AirPlay Speaker: Audio quality
Clearly designed by an audiophile (in this case ex-Harman boffin Mike Giffin), the Wren V5AP has been built with problem-solving in mind.
Despite using a wooden frame, the V5AP uses an MDF dampener to handily eliminate resonance while a thick silicon dampening base on the bottom stabilizes the speaker and also helps further reduce any cabinet resonance.
As a result of this you get an incredibly rich sound that is both warm and welcoming in its bass tones while two 19mm edge-driven soft dome tweeters maintain balance by separating the higher notes entirely creating a very clearly defined range.
This was most prevalent when we played Hecq –Sura followed by Cinematic Orchestra’s Music Box with the Wren pounding out Sura’s deep bass whilst perfectly replicating the delicate guitar notes in Music Box.
Wren V5AP AirPlay Speaker: Verdict
Why should you buy the Wren V5AP then? Well for a start it’s around £255 thanks to the current exchange rate making it nearly £100 cheaper than the Cambridge Audio Minx and nearly £250 cheaper than the Zeppelin Air.
On the downside you will get a US plug, which means either buying a UK replacement from the outset (not difficult but a pain nevertheless) or finding an adaptor.
There’s also the issue of why Wren is releasing three versions of the same speaker. Releasing two, one for Apple and one for Android makes sense but releasing a solely Bluetooth variant is baffling, it’s like taking a sports car and then filling it with watered down fuel.
Finally you’ll also be faced with the question; does it do anything different to the competition? Certainly from a specs perspective the answer is going to be no. There are also plenty of AirPlay speakers out there that won’t need to be shipped from the US, and while it does sound very impressive it is on par with the competition.
Why you would buy the Wren V5AP then is because it’s a rare thing of beauty, combining a design that will actually age rather than scuff with a warm, rich sound quality that can match products costing twice as much and looking, in some cases a lot uglier. Just because it’s a nostalgic decision doesn’t mean it has to be a duff one.
Wren V5AP AirPlay Speaker: Out now
Wren V5AP AirPlay Speaker price: £255