Review: Geneva Lab Model S Wireless speaker

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
One of the newest members of Geneva Lab's Audio System family, the Model S Wireless is the first of the company's in-home speakers to eschew the 30-pin dock in favor of Bluetooth connectivity, but does the added convenience justify a $300 price tag?

Model S Wireless


After introducing its first product in 2006, Geneva has become a recognizable marquee in iOS-minded speakers, extending a singular Apple-esque design theme across its entire range of audio products. With the Model S Wireless, the firm has tried to marry high quality cabinetry with equally robust sound that has traditionally required a hardwired connection in Apple's 30-pin dock connector.

Design

As with many Swiss audio firms, Geneva Lab spends a lot of time working out details in the wood shop. The Model S Wireless' walnut veneer cabinet is crafted, sanded, lacquered and polished all by hand. The end result is a product with a well executed design that feels as sturdy as it looks.

The aesthetic is stark. A simple, highly polished box with rounded edges and a metal speaker grille that bears the unit's one design flourish: a large extruded partial hemisphere. Ensconced in the straight lines, the large "bubble" becomes a strikingly bold feature, one that is carried across Geneva's entire product line.

Model S Wireless


Geneva Lab designed the S Wireless to be used with or without the included aluminum stand, which can be unscrewed from a threaded anchor located at the bottom of the speaker. Attached to the hefty pedestal is a generously thick slab of rubber that both isolates the unit from vibrations and provides a non-slip surface to rest on. Four feet made of the same soft rubber material are also provided for use when the stand is not attached.

The surface of the S is bare, with capacitive "hidden" controls aligned in the top right corner, as seen above. Symbols bearing a button's function are backlit in red when powered on, and disappear when off. A thumb-sized dimple, which is also touch sensitive, acts as the power button.

A simple LED display hidden behind the grille reads out sources and other information, while added extras include an alarm clock and FM radio compatibility. On the back is a line-in jack, FM aerial port and a socket for the built-in 20-watt power supply.

Model S Wireless

Performance

Listening to music streamed from an iPhone 5 over Bluetooth, the main attraction of the S Wireless, proved extremely clear, though it took some work to get there.

At first, we found the sound to be tinny, lacking body and texture. With the positioning of its bass ports and dual three-inch full-range drivers, the speaker needed to be placed in a "sweet spot" to reach even an acceptable level of output.

As with many small displacement cabinets, this is not a speaker that can standalone anywhere in the room and sound great.

After a few attempts at finding the right location, the S got its bass back, mixing nicely with mid-range and even the higher register tones that were previously overbearing. In testing, we found positioning the speaker about two to three feet away from a wall gave the best performance. A bit more room is needed if you're sitting in a corner or near a large window.

Once the location was dialed in, the speaker's character mellowed significantly. The S can be typified by its neutrality, though this is not to say that all genres were presented with equal aplomb.

Model S Wireless


When running over Bluetooth, the digital-to-analog converter's attenuation was a bit aggressive and the amplifier clipped bass somewhat, even when that setting was loosened to its max. Without feet to stand on, some genres with deep-thumping beats, like house, jungle and certain rock cuts, seemed anemic. Bass was present, and extremely tight, but lacked the "oomph" felt in competing products. Strings and woodwinds in chamber orchestras were faithfully reproduced, but the lack of resonating bass took away from the experience of some pieces.

There were times, however, that the perhaps overly neutral low end became a plus, especially with live "unplugged" recordings and modern pop tunes. The lack of a boomy bottom is well suited for a number of genres, especially technical listening and almost anything dominated by the vocalist. Jazz was hit or miss depending on the band, performer and arrangement.

The highs were well handled, with no sibilance present in any track we auditioned. There was a rough spot with a lack of proper decay for cymbals crashes, but the associated shimmer was impressive for a speaker without dedicated tweeters.

Model S Wireless


While the bass is shaky and the highs slightly underrepresented, the mids were exquisite. We have never tested a system so small with such smooth, extremely well balanced and silky mid-range reproduction. Sound like this is usually reserved for higher-end multi-component setups.

The midrange draws over a decently wide dynamic range with a non-fatiguing, clean sound. Vocals are delivered clearly and confidently, never slipping into pitfalls of over presenting or coloring the original recording. The S produces what is quite possibly the best midrange in its class.

As for stereo sound, the S Wireless has a narrow soundstage typical of small cabinet speakers. Because of the two drivers, however, output wasn't as laser-beam focused as some other competing products. At the appropriate distance and angle, the sound was more than acceptable. Overall, Geneva Lab did a great job in this regard.

Another plus is the Model S Wireless' lack of distortion at high volumes thanks to its two class D 15-watt amps. We cranked the unit up to its limiter after breaking in the coils for a few hours and heard zero cracks or distorted tones. Tonal balance surprisingly remained fairly consistent through to the top. The S Wireless may not be as loud as some other speakers, but it was enough to generate some concern from our neighbors.

Line-in from a CD transport offered more dynamic range than Bluetooth, but nothing to write home about. FM band reception was good and a nice added feature, though we hardly used it given the number of Internet radio options available to stream from our couch.

Model S Wireless


We did have some minor quibbles with the included remote, which felt like it was built by a different company. The creaky and hollow plastic body completely contrasts the built-like-a-tank S Wireless to which it pairs. Button clicks are nice, but we had problems transmitting signals from even short distances.

For a speaker that so heavily touts its wireless capabilities, which will presumedly be used to play music while away from the unit, the accompanying remote should be better executed.

Conclusion

In many ways, the Model S Wireless is a great speaker system. It may lack a powerful low end, but for many who intend to use it as a desk unit, this won't be a deal breaker. Room-shaking bass is not a feature befitting small cabinet speakers, and that Geneva Lab didn't overextend downward and sacrifice tonal balance is commendable. The bass that is represented is taut and accurate.

As mentioned above, the midrange is just amazing, and for us is worth the price of admission alone. Build quality for the speaker is almost as good, though the problems with the remote control still bother us.

Overall, Geneva Lab's Model S Wireless has a few minor shortcomings, but brings a lot to the table ? or desk ? for its size in connectivity and, most importantly, sound.

The Model S Wireless sells for $300 from Amazon and comes in Black, White and Red colors.

Score: 4

image

Pros:

  • Amazing midrange
  • Excellent build quality
  • Sleek design

Cons:

  • Conservative bass
  • Cheap remote control
  • Expensive
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 46
    Given the ubiquity of the Airport Express, who would buy this product, much less invest in this company?

    Spend $99 on an AE and $150 on good speakers. Save $50 and headaches down the road.
  • Reply 2 of 46
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,868member
    Oh my .. look at that controller! Why not an iPhone, iPad or Mac app? Maybe they have one as well?

    I must say though this sort of technology has been very slow to market in general. I remember years ago, in fact when i got my first ever HD TV, wanting wireless suround sound speakers only to find it was unheard of (heck even getting stereo wireless headphones was hard back then other than my Sony line of sight ones) . Airport Express became my go to solution along with several Apple TVs eventually.
  • Reply 3 of 46
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,868member
    vaporland wrote: »
    Given the ubiquity of the Airport Express, who would buy this product, much less invest in this company?

    Spend $99 on an AE and $150 on good speakers. Save $50 and headaches down the road.

    And a good amp ... mini powered speakers are not as much fun as a really nice amp and conventional speakers (I like studio monitors) :)
  • Reply 4 of 46
    robin huberrobin huber Posts: 3,224member
    Doesn't AirPlay produce better sound?
  • Reply 5 of 46
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,868member
    Doesn't AirPlay produce better sound?

    Wouldn't that depend on what equipment is being used to reproduce the audio?
  • Reply 6 of 46
    gazoobeegazoobee Posts: 3,754member
    I would say that is one really *unattractive* product, but YMMV.

    Also:

    - doesn't do airplay
    - sounds "tinny"

    What's the point?
  • Reply 7 of 46
    gazoobeegazoobee Posts: 3,754member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Robin Huber View Post



    Doesn't AirPlay produce better sound?


     


    It certainly makes the speaker easier and more convenient to use.  Everyone makes Bluetooth speakers instead because they can cover off the Android market at the same time and because AirPlay actually takes work to implement. 

  • Reply 8 of 46
    mrialmrial Posts: 10member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post





    Wouldn't that depend on what equipment is being used to reproduce the audio?


    Perhaps he should have said isn't airplay capable of producing a better sound.  The answer to that would be yes.

  • Reply 9 of 46
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,868member
    mrial wrote: »
    Perhaps he should have said isn't airplay capable of producing a better sound.  The answer to that would be yes.

    Gotchya, I wasn't being picky, i misunderstood. My bad.
  • Reply 10 of 46
    Maybe it's time for Apple to resurrect and update it's own early speaker. Make it a reference design to stimulate others to copy and raise the bar for wireless speakers.
  • Reply 11 of 46
    gazoobeegazoobee Posts: 3,754member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by vaporland View Post



    Given the ubiquity of the Airport Express, who would buy this product, much less invest in this company?



    Spend $99 on an AE and $150 on good speakers. Save $50 and headaches down the road.


     


    This is not a good comparison.  The point of wireless speakers is their wireless-ness.  


     


    That being said, there are many more attractive and better sounding wireless speakers, and many of those have Airplay and better sound as well. 

  • Reply 12 of 46
    jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member
    gazoobee wrote: »
    This is not a good comparison.  The point of wireless speakers is their wireless-ness.  

    That being said, there are many more attractive and better sounding wireless speakers, and many of those have Airplay and better sound as well. 

    Except that the "wireless" speaker will still be plugged into the wall (ignoring cheapo battery powered speakers), so Airport Express doesn't make it any less convenient.

    I need a wireless speaker for the rear speaker on my home theater since there's no way to run a wire from the amp to the speaker without it being visible. For this (common) situation, a wireless speaker and an airplay connected to a wired speaker are essentially the same in terms of convenience.
  • Reply 13 of 46
    gazoobeegazoobee Posts: 3,754member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Robin Huber View Post



    Maybe it's time for Apple to resurrect and update it's own early speaker. Make it a reference design to stimulate others to copy and raise the bar for wireless speakers.


     


    I agree, but it is unlikely to work out as the design of Apple's original speaker, despite being extremely prescient in regards the future of sound design was universally reviled.  It's become one of those touch-stones for haters (mostly audiophile weenies and Apple snobs), wherein you can't consider yourself a true Apple supporter unless you hate it.  


     


    Bringing it back, even with the much improved sound that modern technology can now afford it, will just bring all those guys (let's face it, we know they are all guys), out of the woodwork to talk about it's deficiencies rather than it's plusses.  They will compare whatever the new speaker is to the old, bring all their imaginary sound biases to bear and somehow all anyone will walk away with is the idea that Apple speakers are "bad." 

  • Reply 14 of 46
    gazoobeegazoobee Posts: 3,754member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by jragosta View Post





    Except that the "wireless" speaker will still be plugged into the wall (ignoring cheapo battery powered speakers), so Airport Express doesn't make it any less convenient.



    I need a wireless speaker for the rear speaker on my home theater since there's no way to run a wire from the amp to the speaker without it being visible. For this (common) situation, a wireless speaker and an airplay connected to a wired speaker are essentially the same in terms of convenience.


     


    Well, of course you have to plug it in sometimes, but I would argue that most wireless speakers are not "plugged in to the wall."  Mine isn't.  It has a charging stand that it sits on which is plugged in, but the whole point of it is that you can pick it up and take it in the next room or outside etc.  


     


    The most popular wireless speakers are actually the ones you are calling the "cheapo battery powered" ones, and what I would call the "small" ones.  Kids take them to the beach or each others houses.  The batteries last quite a long time, easily as long as the traditional ghetto blasters they replace.  I don't think these would work for your situation though. 

  • Reply 15 of 46
    gazoobee wrote: »
    That being said, there are many more attractive and better sounding wireless speakers, and many of those have Airplay and better sound as well. 

    Examples? Recommendations?
  • Reply 16 of 46
    "%u2026the large "bubble" becomes a strikingly bold feature%u2026"

    Wow. Seriously? Overstate much? This line alone pretty much tells me AI is being paid to wax eloquent over this little box.

    Oh, and about that lovingly hand-finished cabinet: "...walnut veneer cabinet is crafted, sanded, lacquered and polished all by hand%u2026" Um, you do know what veneer is, right? It's hard for me to connect the idea of "veneer" with the "high quality carpentry craft" implied in this text.

    So is this another oversold, paid PR piece pretending to be a 'review"? Ah, ok. gotcha.
  • Reply 17 of 46
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by jragosta View Post



    Except that the "wireless" speaker will still be plugged into the wall (ignoring cheapo battery powered speakers), so Airport Express doesn't make it any less convenient.

     


    According to the article this wireless speaker needs to be positioned in a "sweet spot" in the room such as 2-3 feet from a wall to be able to reproduce quality audio. So the power cable must be draped across the floor to wherever the nearest wall outlet is? No thanks. I would prefer to position speakers where I want them and then provide hard wire for at least the power, regardless of how difficult that might be going through the attic, walls, etc. Actually for optimum sound quality, you probably need an acoustical engineer to design your system with noise cancellation features in addition to the main speakers. If that is too much trouble then perhaps one should settle for a potable audio dock of some sort for your iDevice.

  • Reply 18 of 46
    drblankdrblank Posts: 3,383member
    Not to be a ass about it, but I would suggest that AI stick to Apple computers and mobile devices and not go into reviewing audio products. Stick to what you know.

    This company is trying to go for a more accurate inexpensive AIO design. If you want more low end bass, then you'll have to go with a bigger speaker driver. Can't really do much about physics.


    Here's another review of the same product.

    http://www.audioholics.com/computer-speaker-reviews/geneva-lab-model-s-wireless-speaker

    For these types of systems, go listen to them with the type of music you listen to most frequently and judge for yourself.

    Also, check out the rCubes. I've read great reviews of the product. Geneva Labs also has other models to choose from.

    For me, I just use my desktop and connect to an external DAC and then off to a pair of powered mini-monitors and then I have all of my content in one location and I can remote control from my iDevice.
  • Reply 19 of 46
    drblankdrblank Posts: 3,383member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Gazoobee View Post


     


    I agree, but it is unlikely to work out as the design of Apple's original speaker, despite being extremely prescient in regards the future of sound design was universally reviled.  It's become one of those touch-stones for haters (mostly audiophile weenies and Apple snobs), wherein you can't consider yourself a true Apple supporter unless you hate it.  


     


    Bringing it back, even with the much improved sound that modern technology can now afford it, will just bring all those guys (let's face it, we know they are all guys), out of the woodwork to talk about it's deficiencies rather than it's plusses.  They will compare whatever the new speaker is to the old, bring all their imaginary sound biases to bear and somehow all anyone will walk away with is the idea that Apple speakers are "bad." 



    Audiophile weenies?  And what do you consider an audiophile weenie?  What do you consider a good audio system?   What do you recommend Mr. Expert?

  • Reply 20 of 46
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 8,360member


    Wireless/airplay speakers are surely useful, but I'm not a fan of these one speaker designs. Do the majority of humans not have two ears? I realize that many people probably listen to crap mp3's and audio quality is not a big concern anymore for most people (especially the younger generation which gravitates towards crap and has low standards), but at least give me stereo speakers, as in two of them, a left & right speaker!

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