Geneva Lab’s S sound system isn’t exactly new. In fact it’s been kicking around for a few years, but nonetheless it’s still very much a relevant thanks to its 30-pin dock and what many would regard as an opulent yet minimal aesthetic. That said, the S Sound System is very simplistic in nature and by all accounts seems best suited for the types that have a penchant for outfitting their living room with Eames chairs and those alike. For more great products like this, check out our best home theater systems reviews.
So needless to say, the red finish practically jumped out of the box when I opened it. Setup is pretty quick as the speaker, along with the dock, is contained in a single box. An old school collapsable antenna is included for those seeking some terresterial radio and a remote control that boasts the footprint of a credit card but the thickeness of half of deck of standard playing cards.
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Hidden behind the face of the red speaker grill, in the top right corner are a set of LED lights that display the volume, time, bass/treble setting and the radio station. Complementing that are a set of touch controls located on the top of the system that hark back to the days of the second generation iPod. And by that I am referring to a touch wheel that allows you to adjust the volume simply by dragging your finger in a clockwise or counter clockwise like fashion. There are also a set of track controls buttons that work with your iOS device’s iPod. All in all they’re surprising sensitive and despite having no tactile response, are very accurate.
For the sake of design, Geneva has opted to not mark the power button, which is instead denoted by a divot. The mode button cycles between the radio and the 30-pin dock. Tap it and the dock, which is hidden when not in use, rotates to reveal itself. Geneva includes a few adapters for iPods and older gen iPhones, but since I tested it with my iPhone they weren’t necessary. Switching to the radio with the iPhone in place simply discontinues playback from the iOS device. Remove the iPhone at this point, though, and the dock will return to its hidden position. Hardly necessary from a utility standpoint but a nice aesthetic touch, though it does lead me to wonder if and when the motor will break.
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Now, in terms of my sonic judgement of the dock I have to take into account other speakers currently on the market today. Also, I’m factoring price in to this equation. As I usually do, I tested the Geneva S with a variety of music that range from Avicci’s Good Feeling to Awolnation to Red Hot Chili Peppers. All genres of music performed admirably well, though at the top end of the volume range, above 80, the mids and highs tended to get slightly muddled with genres of music that are a bit more dynamic than say Usher’s “Climax”. That being said, the Geneva S doesn’t have a significant low end, even after maxing the bass, yet still is able to produce a relatively clean sound signature. Regardless, it wasn’t enough to satiate my need for a more full sound, and although I’m no teenager, I did expect more thud from the Geneva S, especially since this is what Sonos’ Play:3 speaker is able to produce and it too costs $300.
And at that price point there are a wide array of other docks on the market, such as Sony RX500ip that produce a much wider spectrum of sound, which ultimately leads me to conclude that the Geneva S is an underwhelming experience despite boasting a unique yet simple design. However, that all said keep in mind Geneva’s S isn’t quite like any other speaker system I’ve tested. They say that when the FM radio is in use it switches it digital amplifier mode into an analogue mode to cut down on interference. For those with a green conscience, you’ll appreciate that it purportedly uses 80% less power than comparable systems and that it’s hand crafted with up to 8 layers of piano lacquer. So suffice the say, the Geneva S may not be the best sounding or loudest dock on the market, but it most certainly boasts the care and compassion one would expect from a speaker dock of this price.
Bottom Line: A simple and uniquely designed speaker that is able to produce clean and crisp sound, but is ultimately marred and overshadowed by its lack of bass and $300 price tag. Just keep in mind it is hand built and tuned by audio engineers.
your comment about bass is interesting. i compared the geneva s with a sounddock side by side and found the geneva to somewhat sound fuller and the sounddock is not a bass-shy speaker to begin with.
i wasn’t too impressed with the performance of the play:3 either, especially at low volumes it sounded flat and lifeless. then from 70% upwards it lost all bass and sounded thin and harsh.
this was the first time i heard the model s and i really liked the sound.