qdc Gemini

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Sound impressions

Gemini initially takes a moment to impress; its general presentation is reminiscent of several flagships I’ve heard before. For instance, it constructs a fairly classic stage in overall dimensions, being slightly wider than deep, in good proportions. But in overall size, it’s fairly average. Similarly, its instruments are neutral in body, as are its vocals. Gemini doesn’t sound lean, but equally, it doesn’t sound ‘big’, or overly forward; nothing out of the ordinary here. But it’s after you first hear the stroke of a violin, that the feeling sinks in that qdc has accomplished something very special here; this is pure clarity, but executed to perfection. A crispness in its sound, and a beautiful articulation of its notes. Yet despite its high portrayal of detail, its timbre seems spot, with a delicate, but masterfully tuned balance between clarity and smoothness. It’s a tuning that leaves little doubt this is exactly how a piano should sound: a beautiful lucidity in its higher keys, yet sufficient warmth in its midrange notes.
Even so, Gemini mostly sounds clear, rather than warm; the result of a fairly linear tuning, up to a subtle 5 KHz peak. While a similar peak equally defines iems as the Galaxy and Dream, the Gemini departs on an essential difference: it does so while refraining from sounding analytical. The aforementioned two more intentionally strive for a reference tuning, resulting in an articulate, precise sound, though occasionally coming at the cost of smoothness. But even though Gemini leans toward a brighter tuning, it maintains a beautiful timbre – I can’t help a recurrent thought going out to Aether, when Gemini is in my ears. Both monitors use a 5 KHz peak to their full advantage, adding clarity to their sound, but maintaining a general sense of naturalness in their signature. Even so, Gemini improves in resolution, resulting from greater extension on both ends.

But their similarities don’t stop there; like Aether, Gemini comes with a switch to modify its bass. In the ‘up’ setting, Gemini’s bass is neutral, laid-back even. Its bottom-end extension hovers around average, but it’s tight, relatively quick, and well-defined; a modest bass that knows its place, and mostly does its best not to interfere – a clean, audiophile bass if you will. When set on ‘down’, the bass gains in body, adding a nice touch of power. But even in this case, it’s not overdone; there’s a nice balance between sub- and mid-bass, and its general quantity remains in the neutral range. There’s a slight tradeoff for transparency, while offering slightly more body to its midrange notes. But importantly, it remains a clean bass, that doesn’t affect either the airiness of the stage, or the general tone. But it’s a functional switch with two equally useful options, that I regularly use when browsing through my music. For music involving acoustic instruments or female vocals I tend to leave the switch up, while turning it down for modern genres as pop or electronic music, to give it just a bit more power down low.
Gemini’s midrange mostly sounds clear, astoundingly so even, with only a light touch of warmth. But there’s musicality in its clarity, as its equally smooth. It’s a midrange that brings instruments forward, favoring especially string instruments; a violin sound sounds sweeping, competing for beauty with a gently plucked chord of an acoustic guitar – articulate in its attack, but soft in its decay. A very realistic timbre, that fairs best with classical pieces, or acoustic music in general. Electric guitars lower in pitch, or instruments relying on the upper bass and lower mids as cellos for instance, could occassionally use a bit of warmth to sound completely true. Nevertheless, they’re reproduced with clarity and precision, and sound musical in their own right.

In addition, Gemini offers an engaging vocal reproduction, with nice body and slight forwardness. It’s neutral in size, but sufficiently dense and solidified. The progression from the center to upper-midrange is seamless, resulting in a wonderful balance between depth and articulation. In line with its general tuning, it’s a midrange that slightly favors female vocals over male’s; there’s a sweetness in their tone, a sense of purity in their song. Male vocals in turn have sufficient body, although they could be a bit warmer to sound completely natural; although there is some source dependency and preference involved. The clarity with which they’re reproduced is certainly appealing, as is the detail with which it’s done. Remarkably, Gemini remains completely free of sibilance, despite the lower treble lift.
The final key in Gemini’s signature is its treble tuning: a lightly enhanced treble, with a beautiful sparkle reminiscent of the NT6pro – one of my favorite monitors when it comes to treble. A playful note, resulting from a gentle peak in the upper-treble region. A controlled treble that sparkles and shines, intently focusing on presenting a musical sound. It’s a treble that adds a selective sparkle to instrument notes as string instruments, rather than creating an even brightness throughout the signature. Even so, it’s a treble that comes with a caveat of its own, as it might be too bright for sensitive listeners. So while it’s a treble presentation I can certainly appreciate, some reader discretion is advised. Personally, I find it a well thought-out balance, as it remains coherent with the midrange. Articulate and detailed, even with faster notes – its proper top-end extension certainly helps.
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About Author

Nic is currently in pursuit of a PhD degree in social neuropsychology, while trying not to get too distracted by this hobby. In pursuit of theoretical knowledge by day, and audiophile excellence at night. Luckily for him, both activities are not mutually exclusive which helps to lighten the workload. Always on the go, Nic's enthusiasm for hi-fi is focused on all chains of the portable system: iems, cables and daps.

2 Comments

  1. Lau on

    Hi Nic, Lau here. Great review, good job! The designer page has a link in English, I thought it might be useful for readers.

    http://musicen.qdc.com/custom/2.html

    Before anyone bothers you in the thread, I shall ask first haha: is this top 5 shootout material?

    • flinkenick on

      Thanks Lau, I updated the links! Google always auto-translates but this is indeed better. Also, it was because of your impressions Gemini piqued my interest, so you can take credit for this review happening hehe.

      I would say the top 4 (including VE8) is pretty fixed at this point, but Gemini would be a nice alternative to iems as UE18+, Samba, Maestro V2, etc. Its separation and imaging could be a bit more precise in comparison with the top. However, in terms of signature, Gemini offers a musical sound that can easily compete with any iem. For instance, I can easily see people preferring Gemini over Zeus or 5-Way due to its playful sound and sparkle, so as usual it will depend on preference.

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