What is expected from a pair of headphones is pretty straightforward. You wear the headphones and then listen to what comes out of it. If you’re a music producer, then you’d expect high fidelity audio quality. If you’re a gamer, you’d expect positional audio to know where your enemies are. But what if a headphone offered more? If it did offer more, what would it be? Well, that’s the question we set out to answer when we got a pair of Vinci Smart Headphones.
Why does it have a screen on the side? What does it do? Is it a phone? These were some of the questions we asked ourselves the moment we saw the Vinci smart Headphones. Looking closer at the product, it becomes evident, that the Vinci smart headphone is not merely just Bluetooth enabled set of cans. It’s a whole lot more.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Priced at LKR 35,000/- these headphones aren’t exactly your run of the mill headphones. Available at Euro Entertainment Future Center at Majestic City, the Vinci Smart Headphones are available in colors of Red, White, Black, Yellow and Silver.
First off, the packaging
As soon as you set your eyes on the packaging, the craving to open it and get the headphones out is rather overwhelming. But we managed to control ourselves and calmly open up the packaging. A sheet of paper on top of the headphones has a small poem that creates a level of anticipation before unveiling the headphones. Once we were done drooling at the packaging, it was time to take a look at the Vinci headphones themselves.
Straight off the bat, the build quality of the Vinci Headphones is very noticeable. It looks premium and arguably feels better too. Rather than having traditional circular cups for earpieces, the Vinci headphone makes use of a rectangular design. This is to encompass the 3.5” IPS LCD display that is located on the right ear cup. Why a screen? Well, we’ll get to that in a little while.
“It feels like I’m wearing a Lumia”
Those are the first words of my friend and editor Mazin as he put on the earphones. As soon as you wear the headphones, it immediately blocks out most of the outside noise and creates a warm snug fit over your ears. This is due to the pleather material that is used for cushioning each ear cup. It does quite a nice job of being comfortable but is also a little on the heavy side. In fact, the headphones themselves weigh close to 264g.
I have fairly large ears and the Vinci Smart Headphones fit comfortably around them. The adjustable headband is made up of metal and plastic to increase the durability of the headphones, especially if you find yourself adjusting the headband several times a day.
The VINCI logo is etched into the left ear cup and once you look at it long enough, you come to realize that the Vinci Smart Headphones just looks really good. At the bottom of the right earpiece, you will find the power/sleep button along with a microUSB port for charging the headphones, a 3.5mm audio port for a cable and also the microphone.
So before we go ahead and use the Vinci Smart Headphones, we decided to see exactly what It offers. For starters, the Vinci smart headphones are the world’s first AI-powered headphones. Much like how Google has Google Assistant, Apple has Siri and Microsoft has Cortana, the Vinci headphones also has its own inbuilt assistant.
While you try to wrap your heads around that statement, lets list down all the other features it has. For example, the Vinci Smart Headphones have built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and 3G capabilities. Yes, you read that correctly. You can actually insert a SIM card into these headphones. The screen on the right side? That’s actually a touch-capable display that is used to interact with the headphones and also is a visualizer for your music as well.
Apart from that, the Vinci Smart Headphones are also equipped with a heart rate sensor, proximity sensor, Gyroscope, Compass and GPS. It also has a dual-core ARM Cortex A7 processor along with 16GB of internal storage as well. Why all these features? Well, that’s about to be explained.
Using the Vinci Smart Headphones
As soon as you switch on the Vinci Smart Headphones, you’re guided through a process to set it up. From here, you can connect the headphones to your Wi-Fi network or insert a 3G sim for network connectivity. You are also guided through the basic gesture controls for which the screen is used while wearing the Vinci Smart Headphones. For example, swiping up and down would increase and decrease the volume, whilst swiping left and right would switch between tracks being played.
As we said earlier, the Vinci Smart Headphones are Bluetooth enabled so you can pair it with any Bluetooth enabled device to stream your favourite music. In addition, you can also use the included 3.5mm to 3.5mm extension cable to connect the Vinci headphone to your devices. But that’s not all though. Rather than being an accessory to your smartphone, laptop or tablet, the goal of the developers of Vinci, Inspero Labs, is for Vinci to be a unit unto itself.
This is where the 16GB of internal storage come into play. You can actually transfer music to your headphones via the Wi-Fi transfer interface accessible through your web browser so you literally have your music with you wherever you go. In addition, the Vinci headphones also allow you to connect to music streaming services such as Spotify, SoundCloud and Amazon Music by means of Wi-Fi or 3G (hence the SIM card).
Rocking to your favourite tunes, wirelessly
Music playback on the Vinci Smart Headphones is quite enjoyable. We tried a variety of different genres of music on both wired and wireless methods and the Vinci headphones performed quite well. You won’t exactly get high fidelity audiophile quality but that doesn’t mean that these are bad headphones.
Rather, they reproduce low, mid and high-frequency details with a surprisingly high level of accuracy. If you’re an EDM or bass head, the Vinci headphones offer quite a punch to satisfy your needs. They’re not overly bass heavy like certain brands, but have just the right amount of bass.
Bluetooth audio certainly has come a long way and the aptX audio codec ensures that the audio you stream is played back exactly as it was intended. If you’ve used Bluetooth headsets in the past, you would know that there is a certain drop in audio quality when streaming audio over Bluetooth, but with the Vinci headphones, there’s no issue like that.
In terms of battery life, the headphones are rated at 10 hours of playback as a standalone player and 50 hour with Bluetooth playback. Sadly, this was not even close as we found ourselves dashing for the charging cable a mere 8 hours after playback via Bluetooth,
Fortunately, since the Vinci Smart Headphones are equipped with a 1,500mAh battery, charging time is relatively fast, but that also means it drains faster as well.
A really cool feature we like is that the headphones will stop playing music as soon as you take them off your head. This is where the proximity sensor comes into play. This is very helpful if you forgetfully take off your headphones and leave them somewhere only to find that the battery has died because it kept playing music. It seems like a simple idea, but the fact that no other wired or wireless headphones have implemented this feature makes us wonder why it took so long.
Another cool feature we found was the 3D sound recording and 3D real time virtualization effects. The former enables you to record your surrounding by adding a 3D effect that sounds pretty cool and accurate upon playback. The latter adds a 3D effect to your music. This was a tad of an annoyance as it gave all music a hollow cave-like environment so we decided to keep that off permanently.
Meet Vinci Assistant
Perhaps the most intriguing feature of the Vinci Smart Headphones (apart from what we’ve already covered) is the Vinci Assistant. The assistant is powered by Android and in fact, runs a modified version of the Android OS modified for Vinci. Hence the dual-core processor in the headphones.
The assistant makes use of machine learning and what Inspero Labs calls “biosensing software” to create a personalized audio experience based on your preferences, heart rate, and location. If you connect to an Amazon Alexa account, you can even ask Vinci a whole bunch of questions like you would with Google Assistant, Siri and Cortana.
Simply say “Hey Vinci” followed by your question and the answer would be read back to you. For us, this was a hit or miss feature. While it did give us the weather forecast for the day, it was for Seattle, not Sri Lanka. Vinci Assistant also had a bit of trouble recognizing a few artists we told it to play music from. This may be because of how our accents or how we pronounced the names.
Apart from asking Vinci to play songs, you can ask it to perform a variety of tasks such setting alarms, timers, checking your heart rate, asking how many steps you’ve walked and a number of other tasks. Think of it like Google Assistant or Siri in your headphones
Does Vinci Assistant really make the cut?
In our experience though, we found that the Vinci Assistant had much to be desired. Try as we might, it just would not cooperate with most of the commands we threw at it. The assistant also became slow and at times completely unresponsive after the 4th or 5th attempt and we had to restart the device in order to get the Vinci Assistant to be operational once more.
As we said, music playback is quite enjoyable in terms of the quality. But when it comes to asking Vinci to play you some music, you’re in for a rough ride. Despite us using our best accents, Vinci was unable to detect most of the artists that were in local storage and instead suggested artists that we hadn’t specified, the catch being that it didn’t play that music either.
In addition, Vinci Assistant also needs a constant internet connection to work. If you have a Wi-Fi connection close by or a 3G SIM to spare, then that shouldn’t be too much of an issue. Further, even though the Vinci Headphones are able to connect to your Spotify account to play music, it actually required a Spotify Premium account in order to function. We suspect this is why music would appear to play but in reality all we heard was the sound of silence (pun intended).
The bottom line
As you can see, the Vinci Smart Headphones certainly do have a lot going on for them. Once a simple Kickstarter project, now has the potential to be a groundbreaking device, if they get it right. Don’t get us wrong. These headphones are good.
The music playback, the build quality, the comfort, the sheer freedom of having wireless headphones, all of it is really good and we love it. But that’s not exactly what’s being pitched. Rather, it’s the AI element. And this AI aka Vinci Assistant is the Achilles Heel of these headphones.
Whether its poor quality control or just pure bad luck, we simply could not get Vinci Assistant to work the way we wanted it to. That’s a potential deal breaker for anyone forking over Rs. 35,000/- for a pair of headphones touted as being the world’s first AI-powered headphones. For that price, there are much better sounding wireless headphones in the market. If the headphones were pitched with the AI being a bonus, then that would not have made such an impact if it didn’t work.
With great software, comes great responsibility
However, the point here is that if you’re buying the Vinci Smart Headphones for their face value of being AI-powered, then you might be in for a bit of a disappointment. From where we stand, the only way that Inspero Labs can redeem themselves with the Vinci Headphones is if they can clean up the bugs in the software and push out an update reworking the AI to fix all its flaws.
Apart from the bugs in the AI, we also noticed that you would have to manually switch between a Spotify account and an Amazon Alexa account in order for each account to work individually because one would cause the other to log out.
In addition, the proximity sensor seemed to only work when paired via Bluetooth to play and pause music when the headphones are worn. It didn’t work as a separate headphone, which again makes us question why the Vinci is being called a separate device when it has trouble functioning by itself.
If the developers can guarantee that the bugs can be fixed with a software update, then the Vinci Headphones would certainly be worth the price tag of LKR 35,000. Else, despite all the features that the headphones boast, if the sticky glue that is the AI is unable to bring everything together, you’d be better off looking for another pair of headphones.
If you’re interested in seeing more of the Vinci Smart Headphones, you can visit their website.