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The Auralic Gemini 2000


When high-end audio components are broken down to their simplest denomination in terms of function, the terms are usually quite simple: source, amp, headphone or speaker. It is not too often that a company attempts to break new ground when it comes to combined functionality with an outside accessory. Auralic’s Gemini series of headphone stands offers up an entirely new proposition. Its a true headphone smogeseborg of everything you need to roll high in audiophile style on your computer-based desktop system, all connected with a single cable (2 if you count power supply).

A quick breakdown of the Gemini system reveals a variety of options, features, and added perks. The main structure of the stand begins with a Klutz design headphone stand. The stand itself is available in a variety of colors combinations and base finishes. As a stand the Gemini feels like top tier quality throughout. The weight is quite substantial and this lends itself to high stability with a low center of gravity. The brunt of the weight is derived from the base, where most of the heavy lifting for audio processing takes place. The solid metal circular block has been hollowed out slightly to make room for the DAC and amplifier chips. Output is limited to headphone connectivity only, but the Gemini 2000 does offer it up in both flavors, SE in the front (business?) and balanced in the back (party?). The complete aesthetics of these combined parts are very pleasing, pretty and conveniently tucked away in an upscale package. This agreeable combination is where the Gemini drives its finest and ultimately unique value. It’s a complete headphone system with storage that requires only a cable to your computer to make it sing. The fact that it looks like a thousand bucks (or two) in the process of doing so really rounds out the presentation.

The rear side of the stand includes a recessed enclosure that holds all of the connections (aside from the headphone jacks). A connection to an external power supply is required for use. One added perk is the inclusion of the SD card reader that can be utilized by a computer connected by said USB. The reader itself is not a standalone player within the stand, a computer running its own software must be used for proper playback, but it’s a nice addition to include regardless. Inputs include Android phone/tablet connectivity, Toslink up to 24/192, and of course USB audio. Like the rest of the Auralic family, the entire setup is DSD and 2x DSD compliant. For the size, the Gemini series probably one of the most full-featured devices that have come along in quite some time. There are actually two models available (2000 and 1000), both versions are available in black, white, yellow, blue or red. The 2k model has an additional option for the base in chrome or gold, the 1k comes with a titanium grey base. The review model we received was the black on chrome 2000 ($1,999), and appeared very well finished and aesthetically pleasing. In addition to the base color, the 2k includes fully balanced output and 2 watts of class-A output, while the 1k tops out at a single watt. Along with the class-A amplification comes a little heat off the base, but nothing you could cook an egg on (I’ve heard rumors that this demo has actually been done at audio shows with full size amps).

Upgrades from a standard computer headphone jack are immediate and obvious. More space, more air, more focused definition. A turn the “Niceness” volume dial and bass impact pushes vibrancy forward in an elegant arc that reaches up through the treble. Lively and dynamic, the DAC/Amp combination housed a well-accomplished sense of extension on both ends where definition is delivered by the truckload. It seems that the digital portion is sharp with detail, but still fairly direct in its response. Plenty of insights seemed to have trickled down from the outstanding VEGA DAC ($3,500) although the units input-only design didn’t really allow for a true separation of DAC and amplifier for comparison. Frequency response was perfectly balanced with no bumps or bruising.

High fidelity achieved, the Gemini 2000 audio “desk trophy” was further compared to Auralic’s own flagship separates, the VEGA and the Taurus Mk II headphone amplifier (connected with Wywires Silver balanced interconnects). While they did share a similar vibe, the $5k+ combination was able to take advantage of the extra internal real estate by producing a more natural presentation (a stand out trait of the VEGA) and a slightly smoother top end.

Designer Xuanqian Wang is on a roll. What does he have in store for us next? How many components can he squeeze into center of a Klutz stand? With the recent success of the new Aires digital bridge, perhaps a wireless version of the Gemini is next. In any case, it’s great to see a manufacturer push the envelope around and think outside the big silver/black box.

Like a lot of higher end hifi audio, the Gemini 2000 is a luxury good. And looking at it through that lens yields an interesting set of parameters and benefits. The desktop headphone experience is stripped down to a compact core, but yet no technological spec has been spared. DSD, balanced out and a finely crafted stand all give the luxury buyer exactly what they need in a tight, conversation-starter package. Could you find a better sounding rig for the same price? Given the extra space, even Auralic’s own Taurus Mk. II ($1,899) will spin out more dedicated versatility, but that’s not really the point of the product. It’s the all-in-one-lover’s all-in-one . The Gemini cleans up the extremities and puts the entire headphone listening experience in the footprint of a coaster. It makes an excellent compliment to any swinging desktop and is an end-to-end solution and then some.

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