Devialet Gemini True Wireless Earbuds Review
Coming to the fight this late means only one thing – this contender has something serious to prove, says Matthew Jens…
Gemini True Wireless Earbuds
US$299 | S$459 RRP
Born, raised, and thriving in France, Devialet is synonymous with fine design and intricate technology, partly due to its flagship Phantom loudspeaker series. Known for its attractive, unusual styling, the latter employs clever technologies that appeal to both design-minded and audio enthusiast types alike. The company is also no stranger to breaking ground with its high-end amplification systems, which employ innovative proprietary technologies developed in-house.
Like a handful of other high-end audio brands, Devialet has decided to jump into the true wireless earbud game with a product called Gemini. The true wireless market is a busy and tricky one to compete in, especially when you have brands such as Audio-Technica, Sennheiser, Technics, and Bowers & Wilkins nipping at the heels of the class-leading Apple Airpods Pro. Coming to the fight this late can only mean one thing – this contender has something serious to prove. Let's see how it fares after a few rounds…
Each matte black earbud is made of lightweight plastic and weighs 8 grams, around 2.5 grams heavier than an Airpod Pro. With no jagged or squared-off edges to be seen, the curved lines of the buds have been carefully engineered to preserve an IPx4 IP rating – which confers minor dust and water resistance. While the design is far from disappointing, it's a slightly vanilla look compared to the more bespoke and beautiful offerings that we're used to from Devialet. Battery wise, we are looking at six hours of playtime per charge, with another three charges left in the case.
This case, by the way, is hard to miss – not only because of its unmistakably bulky form factor, but mainly because the way you open it is reminiscent of a slide-top mobile phone from the movie The Matrix. Sliding the cover open is as quick and easy as a flick from the thumb. The magnetic sliding mechanism is addictive, and gently pushing it closed will confidently snap it shut with ease. This mechanism also has the unique hidden benefit of remaining open when upright. This means that upon completing a listening session, you can drop them from your ears into the waiting case and snap them closed. Very clean. The case is charged in just 1.5 hours via USB-C and also supports wireless charging.
Inside, both buds sport whopping proprietary 10mm, high excursion drivers. I think this may just be the biggest IEM driver I've come across in recent years. Feeding these monstrous creations is an aptX enabled Bluetooth 5.0 chipset, controlled via Devialet's own Android and Apple apps.
The Devialet website says that the Gemini shape, “is designed to fit in every ear”. I'm not sure I wholeheartedly agree – they may not be the heaviest things out there, but are certainly one of the largest. The bulk won't stop you from getting a comfortable fit while lounging around the house or sitting on public transport, thankfully. However, I wouldn't go running with these. Generally speaking, I can comfortably go boxing with something like the Audio-Technica ATH-ANC300BT due to its compact size, but I wouldn't try it with these as they'd probably go flying…
Once you have inserted them into your outer ears, the app will do a form of calibration to ensure you get a good fit within five seconds. Sadly, this feature doesn't seem to be working on Android devices at the time of writing. Upon initial insertion, there's a cringe-inducing driver flex noise, a sort of scrunching paper sound. It doesn't appear to cause any issues with sound quality, but one can't help but wonder about driver longevity if this is an ongoing issue.
Its touch controls are reasonably intuitive but cannot be customised. It's a typical song and dance of tapping to skip tracks, long press to toggle ANC modes (or activating Google Assistant/Siri), but no volume control. The controls work well enough, and I didn't have any unintentional touches wreaking havoc with my listening experience.
The app talks easily to the buds and doesn't have any significant quirks or concerns to speak of. It offers fewer customisation options than its Sennheiser counterpart but more than the standard currently offered by Apple. It's clean, well designed and easy to use. Noise-cancelling options are plentiful, with three levels – one neutral setting and two transparency mode settings. A microphone on each earpiece is on external noise duties here.
Phone call quality is good. It's clearly better than the Audio-Technica and Sennheiser offerings in a similar price bracket, and around the same agreeable level as the Apple Airpods Pro. While not reinventing the wheel, making and taking calls satisfactorily is an annoyingly rare quality in this segment, quickly becoming an afterthought beyond audio playback.
Powering the Devialet Gemini with my trusty Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2, I immediately set out to see just how much power these 10mm drivers could bring. One thing became immediately apparent – these phones do sub-bass like none other. Ray of Sun by Sub Focus is an excellent way of testing this. The driving low end was ever-present and demonstrated how deep and hard these drivers can punch. They can also sustain lengthy bouts of bass hits without showing any signs of slowing down.
If someone put these in my ears and told me, “they have a large dynamic driver dedicated to low end”, I would eagerly reply, “yep, I can hear it!” When discussing bass feel, the saying “there's no replacement for displacement” comes to mind. It might be a tired old beaten horse of a phrase, but I'm happy to recite it here and refine that horse to a fine purée. Bass can be boosted even further via the included six-band EQ. The large drivers are extraordinarily responsive and snappy when tweaked this way. Thankfully there is a balance control, often boldly omitted from true wireless releases.
The Gemini also holds its head high regarding midrange refinement in tonality and voicing. Much like other Devialet products, the Gemini focuses more on having an emotional, fun listening experience than a clinically accurate one that some would find boring. Movement 6 by Floating Points with the London Symphony Orchestra neatly demonstrated this emotion. The long, drawn-out string sections were full of feeling. As they wavered back and forth into the forefront of the mix, the dynamic range of the 10mm drivers kept up perfectly. While I wouldn't dare use something like this if I were in the sound engineer's chair, I'd be more than happy to don these to enjoy the final mixdown – preferably with a glass of wine in hand, eyes closed.
Without deploying any psycho-acoustic trickery, the soundstage is formidable without being overly wide. It is far from being a claustrophobic experience, yet doesn't deliver any wild out-of-the-head experiences. Ludwig Goransson's rendition of Posterity – part of the soundtrack for the movie Tenet – has a deep, dark and haunting mixture of orchestral and electronic elements, with driving deep kick drums that feel like they'll explode into a dance music track at any second. The Gemini did a top job retaining the orchestral details and presence while delivering deep bass slam – all without overpowering any one area of the frequency spectrum.
Interestingly, the Gemini sings the strongest when the noise cancelling is set to its highest setting. It's almost as if Devialet tuned the drivers with ANC switched on. Don't get me wrong; this is fantastic! Too often have we seen fabulous headphones get let down with poor tuning when noise cancelling gets involved. Much like a van that drives more smoothly under heavy load, the Gemini craves to be put under pressure before it delivers the goods.
The noise-cancelling itself is also worthy of mention. As in-flight travel is rare these days, I instead chose to simulate aircraft noise by playing some out of a sizeable home hi-fi system. Doing this test, I concluded that the ANC performance of the Gemini sits somewhere between the Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 and the Apple Airpods Pro, leaving the Audio-Technica ATH-ANC300BT and Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 behind.
Although not beyond criticism, the new Gemini is a capable contender at the price. It's a bulky design with a powerful, rousing sound and plenty of deep-reaching sub-bass to boot. It packs some very neat tech, and that cool slide-top case is a highly welcome addition to an otherwise safe design. Devialet has taken some big swings here, and punches hard for its weight class. So if you're looking for something a little different, this may be the contender for you.
Constantly keeping himself busy, Matthew is a production manager, Brazilian jiu-jitsu blue belt, Head-Fi fanatic, coffee enthusiast and all-round cool Dad.
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