Geneva Sound System Model M Price: $649.95 ($699.95 for Walnut) Rating: Strong Recommend* The days of the hi-fi in every home has long passed. In fact, in the era of the iPod, you might even be strained to find a dedicated audio system anywhere, as computer speakers, home theater systems playing double duty, and headphones have replaced dedicated sound systems in the average home. Is there still space for a dedicated sound system? If it's the compact Geneva Model M, we'd wholeheartedly reply, "why yes..most certainly, yes!"...
Design: Taking a page out of the "less is more" book, Swiss based Geneva has engineered a handmade iPod dock with a minimalist design which belies its audiophile capabilities hidden within a bookshelf friendly design. Four digital amplifiers power four speaker drivers hidden behind a deceptively plain grill facade, a design which extends over to the hideaway built-in dock up top. We love this hideaway feature, offering owners the option to disguise the Model M's docking capability (always an eyesore, in our opinion), presenting the understated presence of classic midcentury radio design (as one guest initially mistook our review model). On looks alone, there's no iPod speaker dock which looks this good (perhaps one could make an argument for the Geneva Model M's smaller sibling, the Model S), especially in the handsome real hardwood walnut cabinet finish (a piano-lacquer finish in red, white and black are also available).
Setup: Setting up the Model M is as simple as one would expect from a design pared down to the essentials. Plug it in, dock your iPod, and turn it on. Our first listen was setup to be tested within the enclosed space of our bedroom (it was the only free surface for the 16lbs 14-3/8"W x 7-7/8"H x 9-7/8" cabinet). We loaded up Balmorhea's Constellations and nearly fell over upon first listen, a "whoa" escaping our lips, not simply because it was loud (it was), but because the Model M was able to miraculously fill the room with a natural honeyed audio experience we could compare to our full-size vintage Bang & Olufsen system.
Sound: Clear without artificiality, Geneva's signal processing system reproduced delicate strings, the sostenuto of piano notes, and the whole range of vocals with nary a fault, sounds living remarkably all around the listener without specific hard points. The effect is best compared to listening to music in an acoustically optimized studio, without the harsh reflective and directional qualities of other iPod docking systems or even a fair share of dedicated speakers on the mid range. When turned up for louder material, the Model M had no trouble handling the bass driven The White Bird by Arbouretum, the throaty churning emanating from the two 4" mid/woofers revealing a satisfying leviathan depth suited for all but the biggest rooms.
The touch sensitive controls on top and included remote reflects the Model M's engineered simplicity; a docked iOS device and FM radio can be controlled by either (over the air reception was excellent, even with the extendable antenna at it's shortest setting), while additional volume controls permit bass and treble customization, with the only extra feature being a programmable alarm. We mention this all as a positive, as the pared down features make using the Model M a throwback to a "never needing to refer to the manual" experience.
One feature missing from the Model M is the lack of any wireless connection out of the box. Being avid Airplay users, we simply hooked up the Model M to an Airport Express device, thus solving this omission. But we do hope future updates to the Geneva Model M offer an integrated solution, specifically integration with Airplay, as we suspect a great deal of the customer base will be those sharing an Apple aesthetic.
Final thoughts: Being the middle child can be tough, but in the case of the Geneva Model M, the "M" should not only stand for "medium", but also "magnificent", the standard bearer of audio quality and design in its category, satiating both the audiophile and design critic within. The nearly $700 price tag makes the Geneva Model M a luxury category audio device, but one will likely not live with regret after enjoying the sonic performance offered in a bookshelf form factor. Pros: Sets audio standard for iPod dock sound system, understated and modern-day classic design, hideaway flush mount iPod/iPhone dock, excellent FM radio reception, the tactile quality of walnut adds an extra warmth in use/presence. Cons: No wireless/Airplay option, price, could have better warranty Geneva Model M Specs:
- compatible with iPhone and iPhone 3G
- iPod charging while docked
- two 4" mid/woofers and two 1" dome tweeters
- bass-reflex (ported) cabinet
- four Class D amplifiers -- one for each driver
- EmbracingSound sound processor
- frequency response: 47- 20,000 Hz
- digital FM tuner with 6 station presets
- digital clock with alarm
- red LED display behind speaker grille
- hardwood cabinet with piano lacquer finish
- minijack auxiliary input (cable included)
- backlit, touch-sensitive controls
- remote control
- AC power adapter
- 14-3/8"W x 7-7/8"H x 9-7/8"D
- weight: 16 lbs
- warranty: 1 year