At just 23.5x15.6x17.6cm, the Geneva Sound System Model S tucks neatly away on an office desk, the kitchen counter, or a shelf in the family room. You can shrink the footprint even further by using the Model S's included circular-base stand, which is seven inches across and also adds three inches of height.
Despite its small size, though, the Geneva Sound System Model S isn't meant to be portable - the 3.2kg device lacks a handle or carrying case. The Model S that we received for testing was bright red, but the system is also available in white or black.
On the top of the Geneva Sound System Model S, at the back-right edge, is a small, discrete indentation, which is actually a touch-sensitive power button. Powering on the unit lights up the on-board controls, which are similarly touch-sensitive buttons arranged much like the classic iPod Click Wheel controls: In addition to Mode and Menu buttons, you get track controls (Back, Play/Pause, and Forward) and a pseudo-scrollwheel (complete with a Select button in the center).
The scroll wheel doubles as the Geneva Sound System Model S's volume control whenever you're not on an iPod/iPhone menu screen - that is, when you're instead on the iPod or iPhone's Now Playing screen, or when you're outside the iPod app on an iPhone or the Music app on an iPod touch. This is the only way to adjust the volume without using the included wireless remote.
One of the Geneva Sound System Model S's distinguishing characteristics is its unique approach to the iPod/iPhone dock. Rather than leave the dock-connector plug exposed, as it is on most iPod-dock speaker systems we've tested, the Model S's dock connector sits in a motorised tray. If you remove your iPod or iPhone and turn off the Model S (or switch it to radio mode), the tray automatically rotates around, sealing off the top of the unit.
This is a very slick design, but we'd be remiss if we didn't include one important caveat. Included in the Geneva Sound System Model S's packaging is a single plastic cradle, which the manual states is for securing iPhones. When we tried to snap the cradle into our unit (per the instructions), a finger grazed the touch-sensitive mode button, which caused the motorized tray to rotate with the insert sitting loose inside it. That was bad. When we then tried to press the mode button again - intentionally, this time - to get the tray to rotate back open, the plastic insert had jammed, preventing the dock from opening.
When we spoke to a Geneva representative, he indicated that the company had never heard of this issue before, and that we'd hit upon a fluke sequence of events - and we think that's a fair assessment. Still, when we used a pocket knife to bend the offending plastic insert into position so that the tray could rotate properly, it was with the security of knowing that the company could send a new review unit if necessary. You won't have that luxury, so we suggest not using the plastic insert at all. As long as you don't poke and prod your iPhone or iPod as it sits in the Model S, it should be fine. (Even with an iPhone in the dock, we were content to use the Geneva Sound System Model S's remote and on-board controls to navigate our music.)
And while the touch-sensitive controls are clever, as a right-hander, we frequently brushed against those controls when attempting to interact with a docked iPhone, triggering unintended commands. We found ourselves consciously avoiding the buttons, and carefully touching the phone, while the Geneva Sound System Model S was turned on.
The Geneva Sound System Model S's appearance is largely uncluttered by buttons, knobs, and connectors. The unit's metal-grill face covers two 3-inch, full-range speakers, each ported for better bass performance and driven by its own class-D digital amplifier. Near the upper-right corner of the face, behind the grill, is a bright and very readable red-LED clock. The clock includes an alarm feature, and it can keep time for up to an hour with no power. On the back of the Model S, near the bottom, is a removable telescoping antenna. Fully extended, the antenna detracts a bit from the Model S's otherwise chic look, but collapsed and tucked away, it's invisible from the front. Also on the back are a connection for the included AC adaptor and a 1/8-inch (3.5mm) line-in jack for connecting another audio source.
The included infrared remote, about as long as an iPhone's height but an inch narrower, works well and provides quite a bit of the system's control functionality - in fact, we'd love it if the Geneva Sound System Model S included a stand or holder so you don't lose the remote. The remote hosts buttons for volume level, toggling power on and off, adjusting the device's bass and treble levels, setting the clock and the alarm, toggling between audio sources, controlling playback (Back, Play/Pause, and Forward), and six radio station presets. Those presets are oddly marked as “P,” “R,” “E,” “S,” “E,” and “T,” which is cute but not exactly intuitive - is the oldies station you love the first “E,” or the second?
The FM radio is a solid addition, although you must use the remote to tune to your preferred station. To set presets, you hold down one of the letter buttons while tuned to the station you'd like to save. We needed the antenna fully extended to maintain good reception in our home, but as long as we did, everything sounded clear.
To snooze the Geneva Sound System Model S's alarm clock, you tap any of the unit's touch-sensitive buttons. To turn off the alarm, however, you must instead tap any button on the remote.
Whether you use the on-board scrollwheel or the remote to adjust the volume, the current volume level is shown - as a number between 0 and 100 - on theGeneva Sound System Model S's LED display. We never tested the Model S beyond a volume level of 60, which was seriously loud.
The Geneva Sound System Model S's sound quality is excellent given the system's compact size. Even with the bass at its default setting, we liked the fullness of the Model S's output; with the bass dialed up to the maximum, we found bass output to be substantial without distorting or sounding forced. The Model S easily filled any room in our home, although given the unit's small size, stereo separation is lacking compared to a stereo with separate left and right speakers. Even so, the Model S's sound quality impressed me.
Geneva claims compatibility with any iPhone, iPod touch, or iPod classic model, as well as the third- and fourth-generation iPod nano and the fourth- and fifth-generation iPod. The Geneva Sound System Model S system worked perfectly in testing with an iPod classic and an iPhone 3GS.
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