Devialet Gemini II review: Big improvements with a bigger price tag
Devialet Gemini II review: Big improvements, but at the cost of a big price tag
Note: This review was first published on 21 September 2023.
Small package, big changes
French audio company Devialet may be better known for its line of iconic Phantom speakers.
Its first-ever true wireless stereo (TWS) earbuds back in 2020 was a commendable effort, which was a pleasant surprise.
Now, Devialet is ready with its second-gen earbuds, the Devialet Gemini II, bringing on big improvements over its first attempt.
Having tried and used the first-generation buds, I can tell right off the bat that Gemini II's case's design was massively upgraded. The original Gemini had a case that could not fit into a normal pants pocket. Now, it’s a compact sleek case that slots perfectly into the coin pocket of a pair of jeans.
The case also sports an interesting polymer top and bottom, with a ridged design. Encasing it is a shiny, metallic coated strip around the centre. There are two standard colour options in white and black, although there’s also a very premium Opéra de Paris edition that comes with 24-carat gold plating on the centre strip.
Devialet has also managed to reduce the earbuds' size. It’s a minor reduction, but the new Gemini II earbuds sit much better in-ear at 6g, helping to negate fatigue or discomfort even after long periods of wear. The smaller size also allows for the buds to fit nicely in smaller ears, unlike the first-gen Gemini that pushed against the concha and resulted in a bit of pain.
Appearance-wise, the earbuds still keep the same design as their predecessor, with the bud's faceplate resembling a sideway view of the company’s Phantom speakers. Inside, there’s a new custom-made 10mm driver with a titanium-coated membrane. We'll touch on its sound quality impact later.
Greatly improved Active Noise Cancellation
Devialet Gemini II retains touch controls by default. The circular, touch-sensitive area on the faceplate is designed for playback and volume controls, track skipping, and switching between its two Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) modes: Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) and Adaptive Transparency. Adding volume controls is a nice touch, sparing me from pulling out my phone just to adjust the volume.
ANC has been greatly improved in this version. Without music playing, the earbuds' ANC can block out all but the highest-pitched sounds, like children squealing and cutlery clinking. With music and ANC active, commuting noise is perfectly cancelled out, and most other sounds, like the radio playing over speakers or people talking close by, are inaudible. Devialet claims up to 40dB of noise cancellation, and I’d say that the ANC is one of the best parts of the Gemini II.
The Adaptive Transparency mode lets you hear your surroundings without removing the earbuds. It works decently, but there’s still a bit of audible digital processing, and it doesn’t sound as natural as some of the other TWS options, like Apple's AirPods Pro.
Bluetooth Multipoint and wireless charging
There’s IPX4 water resistance on the Gemini II's buds, which we’d expect from an expensive pair of TWS earbuds in 2023.
It runs on Bluetooth 5.2 with support for multipoint connectivity up to two devices simultaneously, so you can easily switch audio sources between two active gadgets. I tried with a Windows laptop and Android phone, and the Devialet app even showed me the connected devices for easy management.
Codec support comes via SBC, AAC and aptX. It’s a shame LDAC wasn’t included here, as it would certainly have made the earbuds sound even better. For the S$629 price tag, I’d even go so far as to say it was unacceptable for Devialet to exclude either LDAC or aptX Adaptive.
Battery life was pretty average, clocking in five hours for the earbuds alone, totalling up to 22 hours if we count the charging case. It's not great, but it still falls within the relative ballpark (if on the lower end) for battery life among pricier earbuds that focus on sound quality, like the Bowers & Wilkins PI7 S2. There is Qi wireless charging here, but a small case meant it's finicky to align the charging coils perfectly.
The Devialet Gemini app is the companion app and allows for touch control customisation, battery level indicators and software updates. There’s also a nice EQ included here for tweaks to the sound. It’s a sleek, elegant app that fits in nicely with Devialet’s design aesthetic.
Mic and sound quality
The Gemini II's internal and external microphones work together with a bone-conduction voice sensor for a decent voice call quality. Unfortunately, voices can occasionally get a bit thin and hollow-sounding. There’s a new Active Wind Reduction (AWR) feature, which does help in making sure you don’t get that blustery wind noise going through the line when making calls in windy environments.
It does feel like the Gemini II's audio quality took a step forward. The first-gen was plagued by problems after launch, but my trial with the Gemini II has been an incredibly polished experience, only made better by how they sound. The low end has excellent detail and power, with the bass packing a punch while remaining well-controlled and accurate.
The mids get a touch of warmth. Guitar strums and vocals are nice and clear here, although it can feel a bit recessed occasionally. The treble is also great, with crispness and plenty of air for flutes and string instruments to shine. If you typically prefer a bit more energy in the treble, you’ll likely enjoy the Gemini II.
These earbuds do a lot of things right. They pack powerful ANC and clear, detailed sound in a small, fashionable package. Unfortunately, there are also things that Devialet hasn’t done right, like excluding any sort of higher-res codec support and shorter-than-average battery life.
While these are certainly much better than the original Devialet Gemini (S$459) earbuds, they also start at a much higher price than the originals. Gemini II retails at S$629; it’s very hard to recommend it to more TWS users because of the flaws mentioned earlier. Add that to the fact that there are equal (or even better) contenders regarding ANC, sound quality, battery life or overall package, and it feels like Devialet has dropped the ball with these earbuds.
If the Gemini II had been priced at the same S$459 as the originals, it would have been a no-brainer to recommend them wholeheartedly. Even if Devialet had raised the price mildly, we could still say it’s an option to consider. At the S$629 price tag, we can only recommend waiting for a big discount before pulling the trigger for these wonderful-sounding earbuds.