Pioneer is launching the Rayz and the Rayz Plus, two noise-cancelling headphone models that can only be used with Apple iPad and iPhone devices via Lightning connection.
Pioneer unveils the Rayz series, a line-up of Apple-exclusive headphones, namely the Rayz and Rayz Plus, along with the Razy Rally loudspeaker. All devices share the fact they rely on Lightning connection, making them targeted to a relatively select section of the market.
[UPDATE: Information Accurate as of 19.06.2019]
It’s easy to see that Pioneer offers a first-rate product maintenance system, with numerous updates from the manufacturer released on a regular basis. Now, we have arrived at firmware version 3.6.0, which has been available for several months. The new features include improved transmission quality when making calls and support for “Hey Siri” in different languages. In addition, the Pioneer Rayz App has a new menu entry called “Find Your Fit”. This feature shows you in real time if your in-ears fit perfectly in your ears!
Another tip: Thanks to the USB-C on Lightning audio adapters from Anker (to the review) you can also connect the Rayz to Mac, PC, tablets, etc.!
[Update: Information Accurate as of 28.11.2018]
Awaiting the next update release, we have the version dubbed 3.4.2, available for several months as of the end of 2018. Among the new features offered in this update are improved microphone performance, as well as improved performance for VoIP applications.
In addition, the playback quality of the Rayz Pro has been improved upon. The Pro version of the Rayz Plus is relatively new to the market and addresses a problem every Apple user has certainly encountered when dealing with an iMac: the lack of a Lightning connector. So not to limit the market reach of the Rayz Plus, the series was extended to include the Pro model, which now boasts a USB-C adapter to render them more compatible with all Macs running at macOS Sierra 10.12 as a minimum. The Rayz series now also has the USB-C adapter in its line-up for which we have to give Pioneer a big thumbs up! However, the adapter is not backwards compatible and cannot be used with existing Rayz and Rayz Plus models, which is a shame.
[End of Update]
Problems & Potential
After the tech world shared a collective gasp when Apple retired the mini jack port from its handsets post iPhone 7 releases, those of us with an iPhone 8 or later had to get used to the fact some adapters simply had to stay on our persons at all times. There’s an elegant and slimline option, along with a chunky and robust version available. And, while the so-called “Gods of Usability” Apple have ignored the reality that listening to music is followed by a recharge, as a rule simply never happens, Pioneer has at long last integrated a charging socket with the Rayz Plus. It’s a simple solution and one that was seemingly beyond many a manufacturer, but it’s a welcome one and suddenly solves a problem you’ve might have only semi-acknowledged up until first use.
Of course, a purely digital audio transfer from smartphone to handset has plenty of advantages. The manufacturer can contend with the tricky conversation around how you convert digital to analogue, while you’re free to make use of all manner of clever functions and features. Smart Device functionality immediately springs to mind!
Almost Authentically Apple
Pioneer has worked closely with Apple to produce a pair of in-ears that deliver more when it comes to sound experience. Not only do these in-ears have active noise suppression as standard, but there’s plenty of fine-tuning possible thanks to the specially created app. The free app, simply called “Rayz”, welcomes you to its content and features with slick animations and undertakes a hearing test initially, before calibrating headphone settings to provide a more tailored set of preferences to enhance your listening. Unfortunately, Pioneer doesn’t exactly delve into the detail of this calibration, so we’re not completely sure as to what tweaks and tuning have been undertaken. Nevertheless, after firmware updates and calibration has been taken care of, we can adapt the Rayz Plus at least a bit more closely in line with our bespoke requirements. However, even after firmware update version 2.8.4, my preferred app is still unavailable, down to the fact that Pioneer still doesn’t get that “favourite app” means that which favoured by the user, not the manufacturer. In this case, that’s either Apple Music, the Rayz app, or the Onkyo HF player app. Apps like Spotify and Deezer are still missing, which is a pity for usability, as well as a cloud over an overall good impression regarding these headphones.
Luckily, there’s nothing to complain about when it comes to the processing of the Rayz Plus. It’s a neat model with a quality material mix, with impressive levels of workmanship all round. The plug, remote and earpieces are finished in a graphite-coloured metal, while there’s also bronze, rose gold and black colourway variants available. However, the rose gold and black variants are only available for purchase from Apple directly. If you fancy the cheaper version, Rayz without the Plus, you’re limited to simple black and classic white colourway choices.
Other than that, these headphones don’t lack anything you’d expect. There are six pairs of silicone earmolds, ranging in size from extra small to XXL. There are also three pairs made from foam, with small, medium and large sizes included. These in-ears seem well suited to listening on the go, so it would have been nice if a good quality travel case or bag was provided along with the Rayz themselves.
Shutting Out Unwanted Sound
I’m standing on the platform, hearing the sound of a jet engine as a plane flies overhead. To the right of me, two women are chatting away loudly because they’re struggling to hear each other over the noisy surroundings. In need of some focus, I activate noise cancellation. I still hear…something, but of course that’s intentional. Thankfully, enough noise penetrates through so I’m not too isolated from the outside world. Low frequencies are well filtered, which means that deafening jet engine is whittled down to something closer to a whisper. However, the screeching arrival of a train is just as unpleasant as before, although it’s definitely quieter and higher in register. The voices of the talkative women nearby are now slightly muffled, but still understandable. You soon become aware that intelligent noise cancellation here doesn’t try and heavy-handedly filter out the exterior, but rather aim for a level of dampening more akin to what you’d expect from over-ear headphones. If you prefer absolute silence, however, these might not fit the bill. A practical perk here is the HearThru function, which activates integrated microphones so particularly important announcements, such as a train driver platform update or voice announcement from the pilot mid-flight, make their way through clearly. Furthermore, the Smart Mute function offers you an effective optional barrier against noise. The microphones are automatically muted as soon as your voice pauses for a moment, meaning that background noise isn’t transmitted while you’re quiet during your telephone calls.
Bass with Plenty of Character
One thing the Rayz Plus is not, is tame in terms of sound. Pioneer gives these headphones a tuned sound that’s suited to everyday listening, with a fat bass foundation and powerful foundation that’s warm and rich in character. These never sound neutral, but if you still want to control frequencies, you can make use of the equalizer within the Rayz app. There are five presets to choose from, with only the user-defined option a logical choice for those seeking more tailored settings.
Wondering how the Rayz Plus performed when we unleashed our Spotify Playlist test tracks on them? There’s not much to complain about when we listened to Querbeet, with plenty of fun to be had, even if I have to wrangle in the bass with the equalizer. There was just a little too much going on without doing so for my tastes. That’s a purely personal preference, however, coming from someone who grew up with 80s and 90s sound design and details. With these in-ears, older electronic music sounds more modern, while intimate acoustic numbers lack a little brilliance, suggesting that these Rayz would benefit from a touch more depth and transparency when it comes to larger, more complex arrangements.
With the Rayz and Rayz Plus, Pioneer has delivered a good choice of casual headphones that impress with their modern sound, intelligent noise cancellation and HearThru feature, not to mention the many additional functions waiting to be discovered within the app. If you’re someone who classes themselves as an Apple native and don’t have any immediate plans to jump ship, these Pioneer in-ears will definitely deliver the high-quality sound and user-friendly functionality you’re after.
- Ear couplingIn-ear
- Transducer principledynamic
- Frequency response (headphones)10 - 22.000 Hz
- Weight with cable22 g
- Cable length120 cm
What's in the box
- 6 pairs of silicone ear tips (XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL)
- 3 pairs of Comply Foam ear tips (S, M, L)
- Cable clip
- Compatible with: iPhone 5 or higher, iPad (4th generation or higher), iPad mini 2 or higher, iPod touch (6th generation or higher)
- Colour variations: Graphite, bronze, black, white
- Application: Rayz Appcessory Companion App
- Automatic pause when the handset is put off