Two of the first AURALiC products reviewed by Hi-Fi+ were the firm’s superb TAURUS Mk II balanced-output headphone amplifier (£1,499) and VEGA digital audio processor (£2,890). Terrific performers though both units are, they are priced somewhat beyond reach for many ‘headphonistas’—even ones who care very deeply about sound quality. Recognising this, AURALiC founder and chief designer Xuanqian Wang set out to build an elegant, one-piece headphone amp/DAC solution that would offer much of the performance of the TAURUS Mk II/VEGA pair, yet would sell for less than half the price. The result is the GEMINI 2000 headphone amp/DAC/stand (£1,890), which—apart from its technical merits—is a lovely audio Objet d’Art.
The most visually striking part of the GEMINI is the stand section, the design for which has been licensed from the Swedish firm Klutz Design (whose famous headphone stand is known as the CanCan). The tall, curvaceous CanCan stand has long been a personal favourite for several reasons: first, it is beautiful; second, its gently rounded top section provides great support for headphones without creasing or crimping their headband pads; and third, its clever forward-facing posts serve as a handy ‘spool’ around which signal cables can be coiled for safe-keeping (you’d be amazed to learn how many headstand stand makers forget all about this important feature, leaving cables coiled up in a heap on the table or floor).
The Klutz stand design features a tall, slender, sculptural ‘tower’ with a rounded top section: the tower, in turn, is mounted upon a thick, cylinder shaped, polished metal plinth. The GEMINI closely matches the general look and feel of the Klutz stand so that, from a distance, you could mistake one product for the other, but as you draw closer to the GEMINI salient differences soon become apparent. First, near the bottom of the GEMINI’s stand section, one finds an inset, forward-facing, single-ended 6.35mm headphone output jack and a rear-facing, balanced-output, four-pin XLR headphone output jack. Then, on the side of the GEMINI’s plinth one finds a rotary, thumbwheel-type volume control (labelled, somewhat whimsically, the ‘Niceness’ control), plus two polished metal pushbuttons—one serving as the On/Off switch and the other as an input selector switch. Plugging headphones into the GEMINI’s front-mounted 6.35mm jack also automatically switches the unit on.