Spiral Ear 5-Way Ultimate (€1699)
When it comes to timbre and naturalness in this price range, the 5-Way is the first to come to mind – or at least it should be. Oozing in naturalness, the 5-Way contrasts Gemini with a warmer tone, and smoother signature. Gemini sounds clearer and more articulate by comparison. This is equally reflected in their timbre; while the 5-Way offers a beautiful signature, its laidback treble doesn’t provide the crispness in a violin that Gemini can. A saxophone is a different story altogether, with the warmer 5-Way providing a sensual touch. In general, instruments relying on the lower to mid regions tend to sound more accurate and natural with the 5-Way, as wells as male vocals. Gemini in turn fairs better with upper-midrange to treble-oriented ones.
Jomo Samba ($1835)
Sharing a similar 8 BA design, Samba contrasts Gemini with a more technically-oriented approach: its imaging is more precise, while its transparency is greater. It’s a tuning designed for performance, resulting in a highly detailed presentation. It sounds especially clean, but equally, a bit drier in comparison. Gemini in turn takes a more musical approach, bringing life to its instruments. Where Samba primarily sounds neutral with a touch of brightness resulting from an upper-treble peak, Gemini has the more beautiful timbre – clear, but never bright.
Their bass is similar in terms of impact, with Gemini’s switch down. With the switch up, its bass is leaner. Their bottom-end extension is similar. Both share a fairly similar vocal presentation in terms of body and tone, although Gemini’s vocals sound just a bit sweeter. Samba’s treble in turn is more articulate and detailed, while having the greater extension. Gemini however offers the more realistic timbre, as well as a more natural form of sparkle.
Unique Melody Maestro V2 ($1968)
The Maestro V2 is a direct competitor, offering a fairly similar tonality; a primarily clear signature that never transcends to brightness, while importantly, remaining smooth. A beautiful timbre that more than anything, sounds realistic – especially for string instruments. Accordingly, both are top picks for classical music. But within a similar framework, both offer distinct variatons. Powered by its 12 drivers, Maestro constructs a larger, more three-dimensional stage. Especially the additional depth is conducive for the effortlessness of its separation. Gemini’s stage is more average by comparison, although equally airy.
In addition, Maestro provides more bodied instruments, as well as larger vocals; there’s more authority in its sound. Importantly, Gemini in turn counters with higher resolution, as well as transparency. In addition, there’s the versatility of its switch. Even so, Maestro’s bass has more quantity, and can be considered more engaging. Gemini in turn offers more crispness in its instruments, resulting from slightly more sparkle up top.
With Gemini, qdc presents itself as a strong contender on the ciem market; and not just with the signature of its flagship, but the presentation of its product as a whole. While packaging and build quality might just seem a sidenote, its premium packaging sends a powerful message that qdc didn’t start on a whim – they mean business. The same can be said of their build quality and accessories, reflecting a methodical approach aimed at the long run.
But naturally, the priority resides with the provided sound. And qdc’s flagship offering offers a powerfully clear sound, shining favorably on string and acoustic instruments. There’s a crispness in its tone, resulting in a natural form of detail. But importantly, while remaining smooth, resulting in a truly musical sound – this isn’t a bright, sterile signature by any means. Equally, its vocals are captivating. A nice inclusion is the switch, which offers a functional variation of its bass while remaining true to the intended signature. Taken together, qdc’s Gemini is a worthwhile addition to ciem market, and a company to keep a close eye on for future developments – I have a gut feeling this is only the begin.