When I was growing up, my folks had a little Swiss travel clock we took on trips. It came in a tan leather case and folded out to a standup clock, and as soon as we were all awake in the morning, they'd fold it down and put it into the suitcase for use the next day. Now, about 40 years later, Geneva Lab has introduced the Geneva Sound System Model XS (US$249.99), a modern take on that old classic.
Like that travel alarm clock of old, the Model XS folds away into neat little leather-covered package. The review model (see photo gallery below) was wrapped in black leather, but you can also get white or red depending on your tastes. The device itself has a plastic case with a perforated metal grille on the front, through which you can see the red numbers of a digital alarm clock.
I've got to say that I love the fact that you don't need to dock an iPhone or iPad to the Model XS to use it as an alarm clock. You just tap the touch controls on the top of the device to activate them, tap the bell icon, and then use the volume arrows to set your wakeup time. There's no need to run a special app for the alarm.
As a Bluetooth device, the Model XS needs to be paired with your iPhone or iPad to use the speaker. The device does a great job of letting you know what's going on, displaying the word "Blue" with a flashing S to indicate that it's seeking a source, a flashing P to show that it's pairing with the source, and a C to show that it's connected.
The red LED display informs you of the time and Bluetooth status, and also helps when you're setting up the FM radio. Yes, there's a built-in FM radio with a telescoping antenna, and those same touch controls help you to seek and mark local stations.
I've tested a lot of Bluetooth speakers and "alarm docks", and the Model XS is one of the easiest to set up that I've ever used. I love that this isn't a "dock" and will work with any Bluetooth device that supports Bluetooth 2.1 A2DP, so if the next-generation iPhone doesn't come with a 30-pin dock connector, it'll still be relevant and useful. There's also a stereo mini line-in jack for connecting non-Bluetooth devices.
Geneva Lab says that the battery lasts for about five hours of playback, and I found that to be about right. For recharging, and if you're planning on using the Model XS in your office or bedroom, there's an AC adapter included.
Sound-wise, the Model XS is pretty good. I felt that vocals were extremely clear and realistic-sounding, as was anything on the high end of the sound spectrum. However, bass seemed to lack punch, probably due to the small speaker size.
The FM radio works nicely; when fully extended, the antenna pops out to a full 8 inches of length, and the receiver picks up local stations with little distortion.
The Geneva Lab Model XS is different from the run of the mill Bluetooth speakers that are flooding the market right now. The folding case is a great way to keep the working bits of the device protected while in transit. I love that I don't have to have my iPhone turned on to see what time it is, and I never have to guess how a Bluetooth connection is proceeding thanks to the bright red LED display.
The touch controls are sensitive and laid out logically, so you don't need an owner's manual to figure out how to use the Model XS. Compared with some of the other Bluetooth speakers and alarm docks I've reviewed, that makes the Model XS a winner in my book.
No-nonsense protective design
Red LED display makes setting the device easy, and the clock is visible all the time
Built-in FM radio is sensitive and useful
Touch controls are logical and simple to use
Good sound quality on the high end
Bass sounds are muted
Price is a bit high
Who is it for?
Travelers who want a high-quality, multitasking audio device