Devialet is a big name in the luxury audio space. The Parisian company started with the invention of the world’s first hybrid amplification technology and grew into selling many stylish speakers costing many thousands of dollars.
With that reputation in mind, it’s fair to say I’m a little excited about the company’s first big foray into true wireless earbuds — the Devialet Gemini.
With 15 years of sound experience crammed into a portable product, big high excursion drivers, and up to 24 hours of battery life, these should be a home run, right?
Well, not exactly. Let me explain before you splurge and drop $300 on a pair of these.
Devialet Gemini: Availability and price
The Devialet Gemini earbuds are now available for $300 (£279). If you know a thing or two about Devialet’s luxury audio background, this high price is not a surprise. It puts the Gemini in competition with the likes of Master & Dynamic MW08 and Apple AirPods Pro.
Devialet Gemini: Design
Devialet has disappointed me in the design department. The company’s stylistic frustration is evident, moving from its grand speakers to a utilitarian ultraportable device like earbuds. With an all-plastic construction, however, you can get far more premium buds like the MW08s for the same price.
It’s clear to see what the company went for in the pill-shaped IPX4 water resistant earbud, made from a durable plastic that fills out the concha of your ear causing a natural noise isolation alongside the ANC. However, at 1.2 x 0.7 x 0.6 inches and a weight of 0.28 ounces, these were just a bit too chunky to be comfortable over long listening sessions (the Master & Dynamic MW08s measure in at a far shorter 0.9 x 0.7 x 0.9 inches), and kind of heavy too (AirPods Pro are 0.19 ounces).
The chunkiness doesn’t stop at the buds though, as we turn our attention to the case. To its credit, the build is durable and the sliding door is strong, but at 2.9 x 2.3 x 1.2 inches and a weight of 2.7 ounces, this thing is a beast. I mean seriously, Devialet. What have you got against skinny jean pockets?
This far exceeds the AirPods Pro case (2.4 x 1.8 x 0.9 inches, 1.6 ounces) and even the stainless steel MW08 case is only slightly heavier (2.8 ounces) while still being smaller (2.5 x 1.9 x 0.9 inches). It’s simply not as portable as other earbuds and this needs to be addressed with the second-gen Gemini.
Devialet Gemini: Controls and digital assistant
The capacitive touch controls on Devialet’s Gemini earbuds offer you a range of tap and hold interactions for your device. There is a limited amount of customization on the app (more on that later) and in-ear detection is quick to respond to you wearing or taking these buds out.
This falls in the middle of the pinch-based controls of the AirPods Pro and the physical buttons of the MW08. Personally, I will always prefer buttons, but the touch surfaces here are decently responsive without registering unintended brushes.
And speaking of controls, voice operation via the smart assistant gives you a whole other method of control and the microphones effectively pick up your voice. Both Google Assistant and Siri understood every verbal command I threw at them and responded quickly with action.
Devialet Gemini: Active noise cancellation and ambient listening
My impression of Devialet’s active noise cancellation is pretty positive. Sure the physical hardware design doesn’t lend itself to a secure, noise-isolating fit over long periods of time, but the ANC itself does a good job of neutralizing high and low frequencies in the background.
In total, you get three ANC modes: low, high and plane. I couldn’t tell the difference at all between the latter two, but the end result keeps things immersive. On the other end of the scale, low and high transparency modes emphasise the sounds around you without the audible hiss of the microphones at work.
All-in-all, Gemini are a powerful option in this field — matching the AirPods Pro and MW08s and giving you a versatile listening experience that is effective whatever you are doing.
Devialet Gemini: Audio quality
Devialet starts strong with 10mm custom high-excursion drivers with a 5Hz to 20kHz frequency range. This is 1mm smaller and slightly less on the top end than the AirPods Pro 21kHz, but with that Devialet tuning expertise, the end result is an expressive soundstage with plenty of depth, definition and personality that gives Apple a run for its money.
Starting where I always do with pop punk royalty, in the form of Four Year Strong’s cover of “Bittersweet Symphony,” this simple, but loud composition was handled with great ease by the Gemini. They even went so far as to add a little extra bite to the distorted guitar and glow to the high-flying harmonised vocals.
Pivoting to an R&B banger, “Millionaire” by Kelis is a good test of the finer details in a musical composition. The subtle mid-tones have room to breathe without being overwhelmed by the bass punch or the harshness of the hi hats. And none of these wide ranging tones hamper the timbre of Andre 3000’s captivating verse, whereas on the AirPods Pro, the sharpness of the cymbals blows out some of the composition.
And, of course, it wouldn’t be one of my reviews if I didn’t put them through my go-to song: “A Day in The Life” by The Beatles. The Devialet Gemini stays on top of the orchestral cacophony, giving each of the 50+ instruments detail and proving the sheer versatility of these earbuds ranks up there amongst the MW08s and AirPods Pro.
In terms of sound quality, you will not be disappointed.
Devialet Gemini: App
The Devialet Gemini app is available for free on iOS and Android, and it has a nice, easy-to-use design with a customizable EQ, noise cancellation tweaking and a test to ensure you have the right size tips and minimize noise leakage.
You can also customize the touch controls and view the battery life of your earbuds and case, alongside the levels of transparency. I would’ve liked to have seen a more granular level of control tweaking beyond picking between skipping tracks and activating the voice assistant.
Also, kudos on the fast firmware updates here. Normally, I’m spending between 5-10 minutes waiting for software to install, but at 2 minutes, this was speedy.
Devialet Gemini: Battery life
Devialet promises six hours of listening time on one charge, which I hit and managed to exceed with an average of 6:36. This falls well short of Master & Dynamic MW08’s 10 hours, but comfortably beats the AirPods Pro’s 4 hours.
In real world use, this means you can get a full day of podcast listening while you work with a bit of charging over lunch. You can juice these back up to full from 0% in 90 minutes in this case.
Speaking of, the Qi wireless charging-compatible case is huge, but that doesn’t necessarily add any more additional battery life than you’d expect — extending it by an additional 18 to the full 24 hours.
Devialet Gemini: Call quality and connectivity
But call quality is where things start to take a dive. Don’t get me wrong, the noise cancellation adapts well and isolates the caller’s voice, so you can hear them clearly. The microphone picking up your voice, however, struggles in outdoor use.
During my normal testing of walking down a street with the occasional car passing by, the Geminis struggled to isolate my voice and caused plenty of calls to break down into the awkward rigmarole of having to switch back to my phone.
The AirPods Pro continue to be one of the best performers in this space and the MW08s are more serviceable than Devialet’s option.
Devialet Gemini: Verdict
Devialet has made it really hard for me to like the Gemini earbuds — shooting themselves in the foot with some really strange decisions.
With an uncomfortably chunky case, a strange earbud design that is unwearable over longer periods of time and sketchy call quality because of said design, these are simply not good enough for day-to-day use.
This is a huge shame, because if these self-inflicted problems didn’t exist, I would be giving these a far higher score thanks to the stellar audio quality and powerful noise cancellation. Devialet needs to head back to the drawing board and fix these problems before that big price tag becomes worthwhile.