Review: Geneva Lab XS Portable Bluetooth Speaker

Sadly, I’m old enough to remember when the mark of a tech-savvy traveler was a hand-wound folding alarm clock. So, apparently, is someone at Geneva Lab, a company known for making stylish, capable — and pleasingly plump — iPod docks. The Lab’s new XS Bluetooth speaker/FM radio/alarm combines styling cues from the company’s larger systems and from classic analog travel clocks.

Like the old folding clocks, the XS has an integral case that also serves as its stand. To use it, open the case, fold out the audio section, and insert two little tabs from the top of the case into the back of the audio section. The clock display automatically lights up when the tabs are inserted. The whole rig rests securely on itself, and angles the speaker upward a bit to better fill your room at the Marriott Courtyard with clear sound.

For quick, wireless connection to your smartphone, Geneva Lab gave the XS Bluetooth capability. An integral FM tuner assures you’ll have music to soothe your frustration if you accidentally drop your smartphone in the toilet at Embassy Suites. There’s also a 3.5 mm stereo input on the back that connects to an MP3 player or other old-school “legacy” audio source.

As with other Geneva Lab stuff, a segmented, red LED display lights up from behind the perforated metal grille. The controls run along the top surface and light up in a matching red color. The FM antenna pulls out from the left side and folds up vertically. The XS is available in black, red, or white for $249.

If you’re listening to FM when you shut the XS off, the internal alarm clock will wake you to the same station. If you’re listening through Bluetooth or the line input, you’ll hear a beeper when the alarm goes off.

More than meets the eye

When I first saw the XS at the January CES, I assumed there was nothing inside but a crummy little 3-inch speaker driven by a cheap little chip amplifier. But there’s more under the hood here than I thought.

Providing the “bass” and midrange is a 2.5-inch, square-diaphragm “woofer.” Providing the highs are a couple of 1-inch cone tweeters placed directly adjacent to each other. (That doesn’t necessarily mean the XS pumps out glorified mono. I don’t know how Geneva Lab wired these up, but I do know there are ways to manipulate the phase of adjacent drivers to create an ambient effect.) According to Geneva Lab, each driver has its own acoustical chamber, tuned for optimal sound. The XS is even triamped, with two 3-watt amps for the tweeters and a 6-watter for the woofer. The amps use a hybrid digital/analog design that Geneva Lab calls Class A/D. Oh, well, Geneva Lab isn’t the first company to have made up its own amplifier class.