sE Electronics Gemini II Microphone Review
sE Electronics provided their upgraded Gemini 2 microphone to us for an extended evaluation by our team of reviewers (their comments in quotes below). The mkII builds on the innovative original by adding some new features and refining other facets which made the first model so compelling. For those who are not familiar with the first incarnation of the Gemini, sE’s novel approach was to marry the warmth of a tube mic with the openness of a solid-state, transformerless model.
sE's Gemini II melds the best of tube and solid-state technology
What If You Could Combine The Velvet Of A Tube…
With The Air Of Transformerless?
One of the caveats of tube mics is their often soft top end, which loses some of the pop and presence associated with solid-state due to the nature of aligning the low impedance of the incoming signal with high impedance of the tube’s circuitry in the transformer-coupled outputs. Now many gravitate towards tube mics for their smooth character, but what if you could combine the velvet of a tube with the air of transformerless? The sE Electronics Gemini II begs to answer that question…
The large-diaphragm Gemini II has a fixed cardioid pattern and contains two tubes, a 12AX7 on the input and a 12AU7 on the output stage. With no FETs or transistors, the 12AU7 acts as the transformer. The mkII retains the same 1.07 inch, gold-coated, cardioid capsule as the original, but has revised electronics to combat self-noise and offer better off-axis rejection. The tubes are housed in porcelain bases without clips, but this combination does add considerable girth and weight to the microphone. Compared to other mics in our cabinet, the “super-sized” Gemini II, “dwarfs other mics like Godzilla taking on Tokyo.”
» Frequency Response: 20Hz-20KHz
» Sensitivity: 12.6mV/Pa – 38 ± 1dB (0dB=1V/Pa 1000Hz)
» Polar Pattern: Cardioid
» Impedance: ?200 Ohms
» Equivalent Noise Level: 12dB(A weighted)
» Max SPL for 0.5% THD@1000Hz: 135dB
» Power Requirement: External PSU (included)
» Connector: 3-pin
The two obvious additions to the second-coming of the Gemini are the new switchable 10dB pad and a low-cut filter. The filter was requested by users to better address noise and low-frequency hum, while the pad was added to for attenuating microphone level when encountering significant audio signals. The “generous” screw-on, 8-pin cable to connect the mic to the Power Supply Unit (PSU) is now 13 feet allowing for “plenty of flexibility.”
With its considerable weight, the included shock-mount was considered “suspect” by a couple of our evaluators who suggested either buying a “more robust mount,” or developing a “secondary system to secure the mic” in case of “unscheduled dismounts.” sE includes a “nice wooden mic coffin [case]” to hold the Gemini when not in use, but “it doesn’t appear that sE put a lot of effort into the aesthetics of the package.” In fact, the mic’s overall look divided the reviewers who felt that it either “wasn’t polished enough for a mic in this price range” or “liked the understated matte gray finish and dulled grille.” Although, it’s nice to pull out a handsome microphone, sound is paramount, so let’s direct our attention to that all-important attribute.
The Power Supply Unit of the Gemini II
sE positions the Gemini II as a vocal microphone, but our reviewers found many different uses for this unique design. The Gemini II is particularly suited for male vocals that have a resonant bottom end, but also contain an upper-register edge – think Bono as opposed to Sting. But females, who have mastered moving from a more pronounced and guttural delivery to a booming higher mid-range (Adele) would also benefit from this microphone’s signature.
One of our reviewers, a studio-engineer known for his guitar sound, felt the Gemini II “was a great choice for acoustic guitar and stand up bass.” The Gemini II “really captured the visceral finger on string detail, while at the same time reproduced the tubby energy from the resonant chamber.” The mic was also at home capturing reeded woodwinds, “especially the bassoon.” However, the biggest accolades came from an engineer who tested the Gemini II out on a pair of high-end LP congas. “To capture congas properly takes the right combination of several microphones…you can’t just setup a SM57 angled down at the skin and think that’s going to be the business. You have to mic the bottom port, the skin, as well as capture the bass resonance from the room. I found the Gemini to work great to capture the room and the skin, thanks to is dual tube design and nuanced detailed mid-range, and then just dial in some additional bass tone from air moving through the port.”
Our reviewers reported a small-bump between 8-12k, which aided the vocal aspects of the Gemini’s frequency response and contributed to the additional “presence.” The inherent transformerless design certainly contributes to the mic’s “in your face personality,” which is why sE went in this direction to combat the loss of high-end pop that often accompanies tube and transformer architecture.
The Gemini II is not without some distractions as noted by our reviewers. The biggest gripe was the included shock mount. “Considering the heft and size of the Gemini, the first order of business was to address the robustness of the shock mount, which doesn’t look like it would last through one session without an unschedule dismount,” one evaluator commented. Addressing the weight of the mic, another commented, “this is one, big mofo, and users better well make sure they have a beefy stand to support the Gemini II, otherwise this mic will faceplant faster then your over-confident friend in mogul field.” The fit and finish of the aluminum power supply and shock mount were also noted. “At this price point, you’d think that sE would have a more polished look and feel to the [power supply] and [shock mount]…it’s just too rough and tumble for a $1900 mic.”
The first Gemini pushed sE forward in the marketplace with not only it’s novel approach, but also it’s price point, which was on the same level as many major high-end brands. By refining the concept for the next incarnation, sE is not only demonstrating its commitment to the hybrid tube/transformerless technology, but also as a force to be reckoned with beyond strictly value-based, budget microphones. We salute sE for tackling this pioneering microphone concept and feel the Gemini II stands on it’s own as an innovative microphone that will find quite a lot of use as part of your recording arsenal.
As spotted by our evaluators, clearly the shock mount needs to be revisited.
» FutureMusic Rating: 85%
+ Sound Quality
+ Quality Of Results
+ Low Noise
– Shock Mount
– Size / Weight
“The extra long PSU to mic cable almost makes up for the corners sE cut on the dodgy shock mount.” —Greg Geller
“Although you need to transport the Gemini II with a forklift to move it around, sE has done a stellar job refining an already innovative mic and making it a even more compelling choice for your hard earned dollars.” —Dan Brotman
“Ballsy male singers who are still struggling to find their mic soul mate should spend some quality one-on-one time with the Gemini II…it could be love at first note.” —Garth Fields
The sE Electronics Gemini II is available now for $1599.