Vinci Headphones: What happened?

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Updated 04/06/20 with more information

The Vinci headphones were meant to be a revolutionary new type of headphone. They did not need a phone to work, as they had built-in storage, a SIM card tray that could support up to 3G and most interestingly, a screen on the side of the right earcup.

These headphones were running a skinned version of Android. You could access Spotify, use Amazon’s Alexa, or even their own virtual assistant, ‘Vinci’, which is, hands down, the worst virtual assistant ever created. There were touch controls, obviously, and these seemed to work pretty well. So, I was given a review unit and I was asked to give feedback.

Now, I have never owned an expensive pair of headphones, but let me tell you, they sounded good. However, as you can see in my reviewer’s notes (found below), there were LOTS of problems.

Pros

  • Nice padding, feels premium;
  • Sufficient ports;
  • The screen looks good with great viewing angles;
  • Music sounds good;
  • The headset is comfortable, even after long periods of use;
  • The touchscreen is bright and responsive;
  • The interface is clean and easy to use;
  • The packaging is nice and informative.

Cons

  • Software crashes;
  • There is a weird background noise when the device is in standby (only noticeable when wearing the headset);
  • The device feels a bit flimsy and creaks when moved;
  • The headset feels a bit too heavy to be manageable;
  • ‘Hi Vinci’ randomly activates during conversations;
  • Would like to see more music visualiser options (presets);
  • Bass does overdo the treble;
  • The device gets hot after moderate use;
  • Manuals aren’t informative enough;
  • Wi-Fi isn’t as strong as I would like;
  • Charging time is too long;
  • Battery life isn’t great;
  • ‘Hi Vinci’ can’t even perform easy tasks;
  • Boot-up takes too long;
  • Can’t play Spotify, SoundCloud, use the ‘Hi Vinci’ feature or access the rest of the UI when Bluetooth is connected.

I was not alone. In fact, when I visited the Kickstarter page, I was greeted with a flood of complaints. Not only were they not responding to this criticism, but they’re active on the page, as you can see on their Kickstarter profile.

This was not a low-key campaign. It raised nearly a million dollars, it won a bunch of design awards and was given some pretty good reviews by huge tech review outlets. It was made by this company called Inspero Inc, which has apparently gone bankrupt according to some Kickstarter comments. So I decided to check this out for myself. Their website has vanished from the internet, all of their promotional videos were taken off YouTube and nobody is responding to emails.

There seems to be very little information about the company apart from on their Kickstarter page, found below.

Team Vinci

Founded in September 2014, Inspero Inc. was started by two MIT MBA Alumni, David Zhu and Max Wu. Their vision was to completely rethink headphones by inventing a new way to experience and interact with sound.

The team now consists of 40 talented engineers and designers with many years of experience from companies such as Intel, Oracle, and Microsoft, and from universities such as MIT, Harvard, RISD, and Parsons.

Vinci is headquartered in Beijing with operations in Shenzhen, New York, and San Francisco.  Vinci made a strategic decision to be headquartered in China in order to take advantage of China’s robust and ever-innovating supply chain.

In October 2015, the company introduced its first Vinci headphones in China — the device sold out within six months. The team at Vinci knew its dream of reinventing headphones and the way we interact with sound was a reality.

http://bit.ly/2HTcnKo

The last update that they posted on the original Vinci Kickstarter page was on the 1st February 2018, where they were announcing the release of an update fixing some issues. However, this update seemed to brick many users’ devices (including my review unit, which they never asked me to send back), rendering them useless. From there, the company completely ignored the angry comments on their page, despite still logging into their Kickstarter profile to this day (as of 27/05/2020).

However, after the ‘successful’ launch of the first set of headphones, they decided to move on to Vinci 2.0, a much smaller, sports-oriented version. Yet again, this raised almost a million dollars, however on December 7th 2018, a final update was posted:

Dear Vinci 2.0 Backers 

We started this campaign over one year ago in Nov. 2017, with an ambitious plan to deliver a standalone smart wearable device that provides smart control to your music and other daily needs. We had developed Vinci 1.5 with significant success. Thereby we believed we were in a good position to move Vinci product to the next stage: make new generation more elegant, smaller and, overall, better. Vinci 2.0 inherits most of its UX functions from 1.5. But all the components inside are different. ICs will be updated. Android system will be updated and optmized for battery life. (Playback is projected to be more than 26 hours, standby will be 9 days) Moreover, we will add hardware voice wakeup IC and bone-conduct microphone to provide excellent performance in all kinds of usage scenarios.

However, although we have run our design three times over, there’re still a bunch of unfinished tasks: cracks will reveal while wearing on strong necks, AMOLED screen doesn’t pass fall-over test, etc. Overall, the final result is that we’ve spent all raised money yet the project is only half-done, maybe even less counting the quality requirements for mass production. We’ve tried our best to push the project forward, been contacting VCs since the beginning of this year. But no one is interested in funding the completion of this project, so development is pretty much stagnant. We are still trying to secure fundings for this project and if we do, we’ll definitely come back and post an update here. However, at this time we think it’s our responsibility to admit our failure and inform you of the project status as well.

There have been discussions, arguments, colleagues left the company with disappointment. Eventually, I’m the one of the only 12 left to post this and I can assure, no one is the winner, no one takes all, at least that’s what I know. It’s hard to face failure, especially those created by yourself, and I’m not going to be pretentious and tell you that you’ll learn from your failure so this might be a good lesson. No, this is not, this is a bad experience, for people who believed in others without knowing their names, who believed that they might change the world a little bit, who believed that things could be done.

Thank you so much for believing in us. We sincerely apologize for this ending.

Best Regards & Merry Christmas, 

Vinci Team

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/inspero/vinci-20-worlds-first-standalone-ai-sports-headpho/posts/2263932

And there we have it. The end of the Vinci saga – albeit a sad one.

So where do we go from here?

Sadly, it seems impossible to get into contact with somebody from the company, so unless they come forward with more information, then we’ll never know. The best thing you can do for now is stuff the headphones into a cupboard and forget about them.