Devialet’s Expensive Earbuds Do Exactly One Thing Extremely Well

Devialet’s Expensive Earbuds Do Exactly One Thing Extremely Well
Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

If you’re familiar with Devialet, you know this French audio company likes to dial everything up to 1,000. Their speakers feature mind-blowing sound, eye-popping designs, and price tags that’ll make you cry. The same is true for Devialet’s first truly wireless earbuds, the $US300 ($415) Gemini.

When Devialet first announced the Gemini, I almost did a spit take at the price. Even Bose’s QuietComfort Earbuds and Sony’s WF-1000XM4 Truly Wireless Earbuds are cheaper at $US280 ($387). The AirPods Pro are $US250 ($346). Meanwhile, the Amazfit Powerbuds Pro and Samsung’s Galaxy Buds 2 are proving that solid ANC can be found in buds that cost $US150 ($207). Bose and Sony lead the way in ANC, so for the Gemini to justify the price in any way they absolutely have to deliver excellent sound. And they do. Kind of. These buds will definitely appeal to a certain crowd, but whether they’re worth shelling out for will depend on if you want to use your earbuds for anything other than listening to music and noise cancellation.

Devialet Gemini

WHAT IS IT?

Expensive ANC earbuds

PRICE

$US300 ($415)

LIKE

Great ANC and sound quality. Long battery life. Comfortable despite bigger form factor.

NO LIKE

Connectivity quirks. Transparency mode isn't great. Price.

Editor’s Note: Stay tuned for local Australian pricing and availability.

Big Earbuds, but Subtle for Devialet

Devialet isn’t known for being understated. You just have to look at the Phantom, Phantom Reactor, and Phantom I to see what I mean. These speakers look like rice cookers from a cyberpunk dystopia. So by that measure, the Gemini look downright normal.

The oblong shape of the buds is a tongue-in-cheek callback to Devialet’s speakers, but other than that, all you’ve got to go off of is the signature Devialet D. They measure 38mm by 18mm by 15mm (LWH), and weigh 6 grams. That makes them similar in size to Sony’s WF-100XM4 and slightly smaller than the QuietComfort buds. However, their relatively flat shape makes them sit flush with your ear. Compared to my Jabra Elite 59 T, they protrude much less from my ear canal.

Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

As for fit, these come with four sizes of silicone ear tips — XS all the way up through L. I’d say the tips run a little small. I’m usually a size M, but for the Gemini, I needed to size up to the L. If you’re mostly running light errands or using these at your desk, the size and fit are comfortable and pretty secure. I wouldn’t recommend these for workouts though, especially if you’re planning to use them for activities like running. I took them on a few runs and while they stayed put, I constantly felt they were on the verge of falling out. Plus, they’re only rated IPX4 for water and sweat resistance, which isn’t the best if you sweat buckets or have ever gotten caught in a rainstorm.

The case is also absolutely massive. It’s twice as thick as the AirPods Pro case, and covers the entirety of my palm. And I have big lady hands that can easily use an iPhone 12 Pro Max singlehanded. This is not a case you can just toss into your pocket — or if you did, it’d definitely stick out.

Excellent Sound — Just Don’t Turn Off Noise Cancellation

If Devialet couldn’t go all out on design, they went ham on the tech inside the Gemini. Each bud has a custom 10mm driver, which Devialet says has a range of 5Hz to 20kHz. On top of that, the Gemini uses several proprietary technologies for ANC. Here’s a quick rundown.

First, the earbuds use something called “Pressure Balance Architecture,” which is a fancy way of saying the buds have a 3-vent decompression system to block out external noise and ensure ideal inner pressure. They also have two separate mics to enhance ANC. They also use something Devialet dubs “Internal Delay Compensation” — an algorithm designed to boost noise cancellation by making up for the greater delays at higher frequencies. Lastly, the buds have “Ear Active Matching,” a signal processing algorithm that adapts music based on where the bud is in your ear. Devialet says the buds can correct musical signals by measuring “acoustic leakage several thousand times per second.”

I admit I don’t know how much of this is marketing mumbo jumbo, but the ANC on these buds is excellent. It’s much better than the AirPods Pro. You get three levels of ANC: low, high, and plane mode. I wasn’t able to test plane mode on account of the pandemic putting a major damper on travel, but when on high, I can barely hear my air conditioner, the fridge, shower, or my husband typing on his keyboard. It doesn’t beat over-ear ANC headphones, but no ANC earbud really does.

The case may be massive, but it does at least support wireless charging or USB-C (Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo) The case may be massive, but it does at least support wireless charging or USB-C (Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo)

Less impressive is the transparency mode. There are two levels, low and high. Both have a lot of white noise, to the point where it’s more distracting than helpful. When outside, both levels are vulnerable to wind interference as well. You can get around that by flipping on ANC, but even then a strong breeze might cause some wind noise to slip through. This is yet another reason why these aren’t a good choice for outdoor exercise, though it’s mostly fine on a walk. The neutral mode — no ANC, no transparency — is alright, but the drop in sound quality from ANC to neutral is notable when playing bass-heavy music. If you’re gonna get these, there’s no real point in turning off ANC as the other modes just don’t hold up.

As for overall sound quality, these are among the best wireless buds I’ve ever tested. On Exo’s “Monster,” they handles the thumpy bass lines with aplomb without sacrificing the buttery smoothness of boy band falsettos and vocal runs. The same goes for Billie Eilish’s “Everything I Wanted.” Meanwhile, vocals sound rich on intimate acoustic tracks like D.O.’s “I’m Gonna Love You.” Songs like Mitski’s “Your Best American Girl,” which feature heavy distortion, dynamic volume shifts, and can make mincemeat of lesser speakers and headphones, sound great. I wouldn’t say the Gemini has the broadest soundstage, but it’s good enough. I went back and forth listening to the same songs on these and my AirPods Pro, and Devialet was the clear, unequivocal winner for every single song.

Call quality is also decent. I used these buds in several meetings and none of my colleagues or friends ever complained about misunderstanding me or my voice sounding tinny. As for battery life, the Gemini delivers an estimated six hours of continuous listening and the case gets you an additional 24 hours. I’m two weeks into testing these babies and I have yet to recharge the case, which still has 35% battery. This is after I’ve used the buds to run, cook, do errands, clean, and sit through several calls.

Light on Extra Features, Heavy on Quirks

The Devialet Gemini app is as barebones as these kinds of apps get — which can be a good thing depending on your needs. You can edit touch controls, futz around with preset equaliser options, change ANC and transparency modes, view battery life, and that’s it. I’m not the type who wants much more out of my earbud app than that, but if you like more customisation options, this app is probably too simple.

Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

Another quirk is that the touch controls and automatic pausing don’t always work as you want. Sometimes, I’d take an earbud out and the music would still be playing, only to pause when I put it back in my ear. Other times, I’d try to double press to pull up my voice assistant and it’d read it as a long press to switch between transparency and ANC modes. And sometimes these features would work perfectly. It’s not the biggest deal, but when you’re busy and trying to use shortcuts it’s a little annoying.

You can pair the Devialet Gemini to multiple devices, but switching between them isn’t smooth. I paired the buds to my iPhone, laptop, and iPad. Usually, if I want to switch between devices, I’ll just go to a Bluetooth menu on the device I want once they’re already in my ears. This… never worked out. Instead, I’d have to put the Gemini back in the case, close the case, reopen it, hold down the Bluetooth button and then select them from the Bluetooth menu. It works but it’s a whole song-and-dance compared to the AirPods Pro, which does this automatically. More than once I’ve opted for my AirPods even though I know the Devialet sounds better just because I know I’m going to be hopping between devices.

The other weird thing is sometimes when I was done using the buds, I’d drop them in the case only to find out they were still connected to my computer. I’d play a video expecting the sound to come out of my laptop… only to find it was coming from inside the Gemini’s case. Easily solved by disconnecting manually, but again, it’s odd.

By themselves, none of these quirks is all that bad. Together, however, it’s a tad irksome given that these buds cost $US300 ($415).

Is It Worth the Splurge?

The $US300 ($415) Devialet Gemini has some stiff competition. In this price range, there’s the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds, the Sony WF-1000XM4, and Master & Dynamics’ WM08. It might seem like a cop-out, but any one of these is a good use of your money. It just depends on what personally tips the scales for you.

AirPods Pro vs. Devialet Gemini. (Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo) AirPods Pro vs. Devialet Gemini. (Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo)

If you’re looking for a slightly more comfortable, less bulky form factor, the Devialet Gemini is a decent choice. They’re genuinely comfortable for long-term wear. Then again, so are the WM08 and those will get you better transparency mode. At this level, differences in sound quality start to boil down to subjective preferences. It helps if you’re familiar with what Sony’s sound is compared Bose’s, for example. If you’re a diehard Sony or Bose fan, you’re probably better off sticking with those — even though these sound great, too.

Basically, the Devialet Gemini is worth considering for anyone willing to pay a bit more for better-than-average ANC and sound quality. You just have to be OK with not getting much more than that.