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Devialet Gemini review: A tale of two sound modes

Andy White
12 Aug 2021
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
279
inc VAT

The Devialet Gemini possess a number of positive qualities, but there are better true wireless earbuds available for the money

Pros 
Impressive audio with ANC on
Effective noise cancellation
Comfortable
Cons 
Audio suffers with ANC off
Inconsistent touch controls
Chunky charging case
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Devialet is a company that seeks to define itself through audio innovation, and its first pair of true wireless earbuds – the Devialet Gemini – is a case in point.

The buds incorporate three patented technologies relating to audio and active noise cancelling, making them an intriguing package. But that intrigue fails to translate to class-leading quality, and the Gemini ultimately fall short of industry heavyweights such as the Sony WF-1000XM4, Bose QuietComfort Earbuds and Apple AirPods Pro.

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Devialet Gemini review: What do you get for the money?

The Devialet Gemini cost £279 but, aside from the trio of patented technologies, there’s not much in their core specifications to set them apart from similarly priced rivals.

The buds operate wirelessly over Bluetooth 5.0 and support the SBC, AAC and aptX codecs. However, they lack support for more advanced codecs such as aptX HD, aptX Adaptive and LDAC, leaving them lagging behind options from Bowers & Wilkins and Sony.

The Gemini are rather handsome things, however, and demonstrate Devialet’s keen eye for design. They don’t look nearly as outlandish as the French manufacturer’s range of Phantom wireless speakers, which wouldn’t look out of place tootling around in a Star Wars film, but they’re attractive nonetheless.

The buds are lozenge-shaped, and circular touchpads emblazoned with the company’s logo occupy the bottom half of their outer surface. The other half is a reflective silvery grey, which contrasts nicely with the buds’ black housing.

Measuring 58 x 74 x 31mm (WDH), the charging case is one of the largest around but it can be topped up wirelessly and is neatly designed, with a sliding lid that easily pushes open thanks to a textured grip where you place your thumb. The case provides three full charges of the buds, which themselves last up to six hours on a single charge with ANC enabled. In total, you’re looking at up to 24 hours of playback, which isn’t too shabby.

On the front of the case is a single battery status LED which is illuminated green when it’s got more than 50% battery remaining, orange when under 50% and red when you’re dangerously low on battery. Pop the buds into the charging case and the same LED patterns will show you how much juice they’ve got left, but for the most part, I opted to get a more exact figure via the Gemini app. Below the LED is a small depressible button that puts the buds into pairing mode when held down for a couple of seconds.

Comfort-wise, the Gemini feel very good to wear. Devialet includes a choice of four pairs of silicone eartips in the box, and I achieved a stable and comfortable fit using the largest set. They require a little bit of twisting to position snugly but I had no issues with them working loose once in place.

READ NEXT: The best Bluetooth headphones

An IPX4 rating means there’s a modicum of water protection here (they’ll resist “water jets from any angle”) and after getting caught out in a couple of summer downpours during testing, I can confirm they withstand the elements perfectly well.

The touch controls are basic. A single tap on either bud plays or pauses audio, a double tap on the left bud plays the previous track and the same action on the right bud skips you forward a track. Pressing and holding the touch panel on either earbud switches between ANC and transparency mode.

If you want to engage your voice assistant using touch controls, you can reassign a double tap to hail Siri or Google Assistant via the Gemini companion app. That’s the only control-related customisation option available, meaning there’s no way to adjust the volume using touch commands, which is a disappointing omission.

Executing commands proved a little inconsistent, too. You have to be very precise with where you touch the capacitive sensors, and there were a number of times where my commands weren’t registered. I had no such problems with the Gemini’s wear-detection. The buds were quick to sense whenever they were removed from my ears, pausing audio accordingly, and resumed promptly once they’d been popped back in.

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Devialet Gemini review: What are the patented technologies?

Finding innovative ways of improving the noise-cancelling earbuds formula is no mean feat, but that’s the task Devialet has set itself with the Gemini. To try and achieve that aim, it has incorporated three patented technologies into the buds: Ear Active Matching (EAM), Pressure Balance Architecture (PBA) and Internal Delay Compensation (IDC).

The first of these – EAM – is a proprietary form of digital signal processing (DSP) that automatically adjusts the Gemini’s audio signal based on how snugly they’re nestling in your inner ears. Acoustic leakage (the amount of sound escaping your ear canals) is measured several thousands of times a second and the Gemini adapt their EQ based on the results.

Next up is PBA, which relates to the internal structure of the buds and is designed to help regulate the air pressure in your ears. The premise is simple: air trapped in your ear canals makes its way out of the earbuds via a series of chambers, while an acoustic mesh lines the chambers to limit the amount of external noise that can get in. By reducing the amount of compressed air in your ear canals, Devialet says, the Gemini are able to dampen the impact that can have on sound quality and noise-cancelling performance.

Lastly, IDC seeks to bolster noise-cancelling performance. It’s a proprietary DSP algorithm that attempts to better combat the high-frequency sounds that are the bane of most ANC headphones. It’s supposed to compensate for the delay introduced when creating the noise-cancelling anti-sound that’s used to negate ambient noise. Devialet says the range of frequencies the Gemini can tackle is increased as a result.

READ NEXT: The best noise-cancelling headphones

Devialet Gemini review: How are audio and ANC performance?

It’s impossible to assess exactly how much of an impact those technologies are having while you’re using the Devialet Gemini but, after listening to them for some time, I can say sonic performance is a bit of a mixed bag.

Audio quality is rather good when you’ve got one of the three noise-cancelling profiles engaged. The soundstage isn’t the widest, but there’s a pleasing balance to the sound and bass reproduction is particularly well handled. Low-end frequencies possess real vigour, but not to an unnatural extent, and I had no complaints about how the Gemini coped with vocal-heavy tracks.

I did find treble a little severe when listening to certain songs at maximum volume, but that says more about how loud the Gemini go than their high-frequency delivery – they’re some of the most potent buds I’ve tested when it comes to sheer volume. At more moderate listening levels, I experienced no such issues.

Where the Gemini fall a little flat is how they sound in neutral mode, which doesn’t apply any noise-cancelling. Bass tones lose the impact and richness they had previously and you’re left with audio that just isn’t as satisfying as when you’re listening with ANC on. You can create a custom EQ in the Gemini companion app (or choose from one of five presets), but I was unable to find a customised option that performed as well as I wanted it to across the various sound modes.

The ANC on offer is impressive, though, and you can switch between the three noise-cancelling profiles – low, high and plane – using the companion app. The latter mode is tailored for use in aeroplane cabins so I wasn’t able to test it in the environment it was designed for, but the high setting did a top job of cutting down on external distractions.

The Gemini are capable of putting a big dent in low-frequency ambient noise and, although they don’t eradicate pesky high-pitched sounds entirely, they make a better fist of doing so than most ANC buds do. To my ears, Bose’s QC Earbuds still have the edge overall, but I have to commend Devialet for how well its ANC tech works. The Gemini successfully reduced the impact of an obnoxiously loud lawnmower outside to a level at which I could listen to music distraction-free at 20% volume.

The headphones also have two transparency modes – low and high – which are both effective at enhancing external sound when you want to hear what’s going on around you. The sound that filters in is a little artificial but I didn’t mind too much as I tended to only activate transparency mode while crossing roads and listening out for public service announcements.

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Devialet Gemini review: Should you buy them?

The Devialet Gemini are a fine pair of true wireless earbuds. They’re attractive and comfortable, and noise-cancelling performance is strong, as is sound quality when ANC is active. But a dip in audio quality in neutral mode and inconsistent touch controls hold them back from true wireless greatness.

Granted, you’re likely to be using ANC most of the time so the first of those issues isn’t a deal-breaker, but the latter is a less easy pill to swallow. With so many great alternatives available for similar or less money, that makes it difficult to wholeheartedly recommend the Devialet Gemini.

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