The portable Bluetooth speaker market is rapidly heating up, and one of our favorite designs in recent memory in the super-portable range was the Geneva Model XS. It's sleek, minimalistic, and so retro. Unfortunately, one crippling design flaw (along with some strange control choices) means this $250, almost art-like speaker / clock-radio just doesn't work in the real world.
The flaw? The hinge on the outer case is made of like, paper-thin plastic. That's it. So, when I was first playing with the Model XS and figuring out how its interesting folding mechanics functioned, I dropped it - from a staggering height of about one foot. It landed awkwardly, and the hinge broke 75% of the way through, and now it's just a matter of time before the whole thing becomes utterly useless (and more useless than you'd think - but more on that later).
It's a shame. The XS is such a beautiful piece of minimalist design, and the sound it puts out is actually quite impressive.
Geneva Model XS: At A Glance
- What is it? A portable Bluetooth speaker that's also a clock radio - with a real retractable antenna!
- How Much? $250.
- What's in the box? The speaker, power adapter, and a carrying sleeve.
- Do I want it? No. Despite having some pretty decent audio and undeniably good looks, this thing is broken, and probably should have remained part of some designer's concept portfolio.
- Sound: For a speaker of such diminutive dimensions, the Model XS packs a pretty solid wallop (peak output is 12W). And it's not just noise, the quality is impressive, even over Bluetooth. This is basically in the same market as the Jambox, and compared to that, I'd say the Geneva puts out significantly louder, better sound, with more resonant bass. It even has a dedicated woofer. Then again, it is bigger - about twice as tall and 50% heavier than the Jambox.
- Design: Oh god it's pretty. Just look at the pictures. How could you not like the look of this thing? It's like 1960 with Bluetooth and LEDs.
- Radio: A Bluetooth speaker with a built-in FM tuner (no AM, sorry) and retractable antenna - what a great idea. Not only does the antenna look cool and add to the retro styling, it's just convenient.
- LED: The dedicated LEDs that display the time, radio station, volume, and input mode are another practical idea I really appreciate on the Model XS. Unfortunately, the perforated speaker grill makes these useful LEDs impossible to see at more extreme angles, which is kind of annoying when this is meant to be a bedside clock-radio.
- Connectivity: Bluetooth was a breeze to set up, sounded great, and I experienced no cut-outs. Line-in audio (a cable is included) also worked well.
The Not So Good
- The Hinge: I seriously don't know what the engineers on this project were thinking when they designed the hinge on the case. You know that ultra-thin plastic they use to make the hinges on 4 ounce DVD cases? That's what the Model XS has supporting it. And there are two reasons why that's even worse than it sounds. First, the speaker is permanently attached to the case as part of a folding arrangement, as you can see in the pictures. Second, the Model XS only turns on when you lock it into the unfolded position - at that exact angle. So if the back of the case completely falls off (read: hinge inevitably breaks), the speaker won't work anymore. Fantastic! This alone is a reason not to buy the Model XS.
- Battery Life: 5 hours of play time (at a moderate volume) is the manufacturer estimate. So you know that it's more like 4 hours in reality. The Jambox gets 15, and doesn't have a charging cable that gets stuck between the case / speaker body every time you plug it in. Crazy annoying. Also, the charging cable probably isn't long enough to just leave the XS permanently plugged in on your nightstand.
- Controls: All the controls are resistive touch, which is an annoyance in and of itself on a speaker - you should never have to look when you adjust the volume. Then come the other oddities - the volume is on a scale of 100. WHY? So I have to tap or hold down my way through 100 levels of volume on a clock radio speaker. That makes all sorts of sense, if you're a masochist. The FM radio is designed for Europe, so it goes through every frequency (eg, 98.1 / 98.2 / 98.3 etc.) instead of just the odd ones, which are not used for public broadcasting in the US. Setting the clock is a pain (they use a dot for AM vs. PM that's impossible to see). Setting the alarm is easy, but for some inexplicable reason you can only set it not to go off by pressing the alarm button when the speaker is "off" (on, but in clock-only mode).
- The Price: $250? Yikes. Even if the hinge wasn't so bad, the annoying controls and subpar battery life would be enough for me seriously hesitate on a recommendation for this thing. The sound is good, and it is pretty, but neither of those things make up for the rest of the XS's flaws.
The Achilles Hinge - post (failed) Gorilla Glue salvage attempt
It's a shame the Model XS has such tragic flaws holding it back. The sound is great, the folding mechanism is cool, and I'll say it again, it's just gorgeous. That said, even if all these problems were fixed, $250 is a lot for most people to stomach on a clock radio, even if is one with Bluetooth. However, it seems than Geneva is probably trying to target a more affluent consumer with all of its products.
Anyway, the Model XS, while a cool and stylishly executed idea, has definitely shot itself in the foot with what are, frankly, very fixable problems. Problems for which Geneva Lab has only itself to blame. Maybe they'll get it right next time.