Pioneer has launched this new range of Lightning-powered “appcessories” called Rayz series. The Rayz, Rayz Plus and Rayz Rally are announced last year and officially retails in Singapore from February 2018 by Leader Radio Technologies (LRT). LRT sent over the Rayz Plus for my review. Is Rayz Plus one of the most intelligent wired earphones for iPhones? I would think so.
The difference between Rayz and Rayz Plus is on the additional in-line Lightning charging port to simultaneously charge iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch while the earphones are connected in use. And it’s $209 for Rayz Plus vs. $149 for Rayz. The Rayz are designed for Apple Lightning ports, and I do not use iPhones, so for the purpose of this review, I borrowed the iPhone X and downloaded my favourite albums from Spotify for review.
The retail unit comes with just the earphones and 3 sets of Comply foam tips and 6 sizes of silicone tips. The rubber-coated cables are a little rigid but fortunately do not cause microphonics (i.e. cable rubbing sounds that channel to the earbuds). The earphones run optimally with Rayz app, downloadable from the Apple Store. Once installed, the first thing the app does when I plug in the Rayz Plus is to check for the earphones firmware and updates it.
The app’s main screen is a list of functions that I can configure with the Rayz earphones.
- Smart Noise Cancelling
- Smart Button
- Audio Prompts
- Hey Siri
- Smart Mute
- Beep while Muted
- Voice Mic Volume Boost
On the in-line control of the Rayz Plus (and Rayz), there is an additional shortcut button that can be programmed with three actions: single click, double click, press-and-hold. By default, single click triggers noise cancelling, press-and-hold commences noise cancelling calibration. Other functions that can be added includes: HearThryu (Pioneer’s name for ambient sound), mic mute, start Apple Music, start Phone, start Onkyo HF Player. For now, there are no options to choose other apps or phone features.
Smart Noise Cancelling
Rayz earphones support active noise cancelling, but since everyone’s ears are different, the noise cancellation can be calibrated. During first time use, the app will go through the calibration once, but subsequently, the earphones can be calibrated by press-and-hold the Smart Button.
The quality of the active noise cancelling is pleasant, and the lower frequencies are removed to allow me to enjoy the music and pick up the audio details. Like all ANC, it is impossible to cancel out high pitch sounds completely. The irony in some cases is when the low frequencies are removed, the higher frequencies stand out. What Rayz does is to dull the higher frequencies sufficiently to not disrupt the overall listening experience. You can still hear the clatter and kids screaming, but they happen at a distant whereas the music is heard at a closer sound staging. The noise cancelling might not match the Bose QC series or Sony WH-1000XM2, but it is enough for me to be addicted to the earphones and use it exclusively when I am drafting my blog reviews in cafes.
The Smart Noise Cancelling cannot be manually fine-tuned.
This is Pioneer’s trademark name for ambient sound mode, allowing you to hear the ambient sounds at the same time when music is played. The usefulness cannot be overemphasised, and ambient sound is heard at lower frequencies while rolling off the upper frequencies, so you will not feel irritated with screams and screeches. Because of this, HearThru is not designed for conversations, and anyway, if you needed a real conversation, just remove the earbuds.
The HearThru level cannot be adjusted.
When both earbuds are removed, the music pauses. Put both earphones back on, and play resumes. I first experienced this on the Plantronics BackBeat PRO many years ago, and it took several more years before other makers put this feature in the headphones. Having this feature certainly helps me to continue where I left off and avoid the hassle of pausing the music manually. Worse, the music could keep playing on and on if I had forgotten about it. I believe Rayz earphones are the first in-ears to feature this capability. How Pioneer does is to use embedded microphones instead of proximity sensors to detect if the user is wearing the earbuds. Clever.
This feature apparently mutes the mic automatically when you are not talking during voice calls. I would recommend enabling this only if you are frequently in a conference call situation where you keep quiet most of the time. As like all technologies, it might not work perfectly, since it is not possible for any technology to predict accurately what you are doing next. I mean, you could be talking to a colleague next to you instead of the caller but the feature unmutes the mic.
Turn this on and the phone will be ready to spring into action once you say the magic word.
Talk, Listen and Charge
Rayz Plus is the first Lightning earphones that comes with an additional charging port, so that you can charge while using the earphones. This would be immensely useful for consumers who plugs in the earphones all day.
It is hard to imagine how could a pair of Pioneer brand earphones be of any audiophile standard, but I was really enjoying the audio tuning. The bass is fat, impactful, yet cushy, delivering an extended dynamic range across the lower frequencies without too massively overpowering. The treble is not excessively bright, but tuned to have sufficient presence, and enough echo to create a spatial roomy staging. Running through the Spotify playlist, I find the Rayz Plus very easy to listen to, even on the over-compressed EDM pop tracks.
If I were to be critical, I would feel that the treble is slightly hazy and not as detailed. I would prefer a slight boost on the EQ at 8kHz and dipping the 4kHz, but feel free to adjust on the EQ for your preferred sound.
Overall, I would say the Rayz Plus meets my listening preference, which is fun bass boom, warm mids, and clear highs without going overboard. Each frequency range is controlled to avoid drowning against one another.
Pioneer home electronics division is purchased by Onkyo in 2015, allowing the brands to leverage on the audio technologies and market strengths. The Rayz earphones offer a massive amount of smart features like auto-pause, smart mute, as well as premium listening functions like active noise cancelling, ambient sound. The Rayz Plus can even charge the phone at the same time.
Honestly, when the local distributor LRT approached me in early Feb for a review opportunity, I passed the offer because firstly, I did not own an iPhone (my wife does, but I can’t write a full review by testing for a few minutes), and second, I don’t believe I would be impressed with Pioneer earphones. When LRT asked again in late February, I happened to get hold of an iPhone, so I decided to try them out. After listening to them for over 3 weeks, I stand corrected, and wholeheartedly recommend Pioneer Rayz earphones.
Rayz Plus retails for S$209 available at weareready.sg, Lazada (affiliate link), and all leading electronics stores. The Rayz (without Lightning charger) retails for S$149, and it’s a spectacular price with great audio and all the features described above.
- Driver type: Dynamic
- Driver size: 9.2mm
- Frequency response: 10 – 22000 Hz
- Number of microphones: 6
- Connector: Apple Lightning
- Weight: 5g (without cord)
- Bitrate/ Sampling Frequency: up to 24-bit, 48000 Hz
- Supported devices: iPhone 5 or later, iPad (4th generation or later), iPad mini 2 or later, iPod touch (6th generation or later)
- Colours: Graphic, Bronze