Geneva Sound System Model L review: Geneva Sound System Model L

The disc player spins most types of CDs, including home-burned MP3 CDs. Just be sure to slip the disc in the correct direction (with the label facing forward).

If you've only heard pint-size iPod speakers like the Logitech mm50 or JBL On Stage II, the Model L's big sound will be something of a shock. The Model L can actually play rock and roll to a room full of people. We loved the bass and treble controls that let us adjust the sound to our taste. B&W's $600 Zeppelin iPod speaker has just a five-step bass level control (which is accessible from most, but not all, iPods).

A face-off between the Model L and Zeppelin proved interesting. Quieter acoustic music sounded more refined and clear on the Zeppelin. Its bass power and definition surpassed the Model L--but as soon as we played some rock and roll, the Model L pulled ahead and trumped the Zeppelin. Also, the Model L sounded better at higher volumes when the bass kicked harder. It consistently projected a bigger, more room-filling sound.

A digital display behind the speaker grille indicates which source is active.

The Model L also projects a wider stereo image--we actually felt it sounded best when we were 5 or more feet away from the speaker. Again, that's not true for most iPod speakers, which tend to sound smaller and smaller as you move away from them. Our extra-funky Prince CD's bass was solid and defined--this is one iPod speaker that could get a room full of people up and dancing.

We also fired up the Model L's big brother, the XL. That unit produced much deeper and more powerful bass with those Prince discs and could play a lot louder than the Model L. The advantages of adding double 8-inch subwoofers and six times more power are far from subtle. If you're really into bass and volume, the XL will be worth the extra loot. Otherwise, the Model L should be more than enough.

That said, the Model L is more an investment than an impulse purchase. For the same price as the Model L, you could buy a Yamaha RX-397 stereo receiver ($300), Pioneer PD-F407 25-disc CD changer ($120), and a pair of PSB Alpha B1 speakers ($279/pair). That system would likely sound much better overall, have much wider stereo separation, and you could always upgrade the speakers or add a subwoofer. On the other hand, unlike many puny iPod speaker systems, the Geneva Sound System Model L has the sonic gravitas and the smattering of extra features (radio, CD player) for it to be realistically considered as a stereo replacement. It's also dead simple to use and will (despite its large size) consume less living room space than a stereo receiver and a pair of speakers. If those advantages appeal to you, the Geneva Sound System Model L could be well worth its premium cost.

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