I have something to proclaim – I am a die-hard Apple fanboy. Everything in my arsenal of tech gear is from the fruit company: a Mac Mini for my desktop, a Macbook Air for my lappy, and of course, a glorious iPhone X that looks amazing every time the OLED screen lights to life.
As much as the iPhone excels in possibly everything that you throw at it (just look here to see how awesome the A11 Bionic chip is), I am still really sore about the omission of the great ol’ 3.5mm headphone jack (this will never get old). It’s such a priceless gateway to not only everyday convenience, but also good audio peripherals. Forget about Apple’s open-back earpods though; there must be a reason why its not marketed to “revolutionise the way we listen to music.” Sounds all too familiar? Hah!
Instead, we’ll have to leave the honour of who gets to revolutionise audio quality on the iPhone to Pioneer, with its Rayz Plus earphones. Yes, they managed to innovate a pair of earphones without the OG 3.5mm standard; but with the Lightning Connector, Apple’s pride.
The Pioneer Rayz Plus is a dainty, simple-looking pair of dynamic noise-cancelling in-ear earphones targeted towards the more music-quality conscious crowd, with a cost of$209.00. One would think twice before spending over $200 on a pair of earphones, but the Pioneer is confident that the Rayz Plus will offer iDevice owners the best bang for their buck (we shall explore just exactly what, why, and how in just a bit).
Throughout my 3 months actively plugging the earphones for my daily commute, I have grown to become an addict of the sound quality that the Rayz Plus produces. In fact, the music quality is so good, that I would rarely leave the house without it, even if it was just a short 10 minutes trip to get something from the town center and back.
The Pioneer Rayz Plus impresses with its extremely balanced and natural soundstage, coupled with its very respectable sound clarity. To non-geeks, this basically means that there is not much discernible difference between hearing the singer sing live, and hearing it through the earphones. The Rayz Plus excels in this department largely thanks to the large 9.2mm drivers that lives within the earpiece housing.
Bass-heavy tracks such as David Guetta’s ‘Titanium’, Imagine Dragons’ ‘Radioactive’ perform exceptionally well on the earphones. The most surprising thing was that I actually felt the bass rumble. That is testament to how the sound from the earphones translates to an experience. That being said, the earphones were not able to deliver that same stellar bass experience at lower volumes – understandably so, but the responsibility needs to also be shared with your iDevice.
Vocal lovers will also be excited about how the Rayz Plus manages to deliver crisp vocals. For starters, Adele’s ‘Hello’ never felt more heartbreaking with the earphones, especially when her vocals make you feel as if she was calling over to you from your immediate left.
If you’re the kind will never be appeased unless you listen to FLAC music files, or fusses over all that techy nitty gritty, the Rayz Plus won’t disappoint either. It’s able to sample music at an impressive 24 bit/48 kHz. This means that if you subscribe to Spotify Premium or Apple Music, high-def playback will be compatible with the Rayz Plus.
Decked in graphite and bronze metallic finishes, you’ll look understatedly cool walking around with the Pioneer Rayz Plus. They give off the serious, no-joke feel, which is exactly what it conveys when music runs through the tributaries of the earphones. However, I must say that the metallic finish is prone to hairline scratches, so it does need meticulous owners.
The three pairs of Comply™ foam ear tips included in the box with the earphones are seriously a godsend. Not only do they look better (and more hygienic) than its silicone counterparts, but also, they feel substantially snuggier and comfier in the ear. Comply™ foam ear tips are memory foam ear tips, so they seal the ear regardless of how your ear canal might be. Many times, it’s the little things that count, truly!
Rayz Plus Notable mentions
1. Sleek in-line charging node to simultaneously charge iDevice
Gone the days where you have to mentally prepare for your earphones’ battery to hit red after binging 10 back-to-back episodes of Game of Thrones on Netflix. The Rayz Plus boasts an in-line charging node to charge your device while being immersed in your private entertainment, which is something worth bragging about. Also, the Rayz Plus supports fast charging with a USB-C-Lightning cable as well!
2. Smart Noise Cancellation
Smart Noise Cancellation is a patented technology that scans your ear and optimizes the noise-cancelling performance uniquely to your ear and environment. Rayz earphones also have a HearThru mode which lets in just the right amount of outside noise so you can stay in touch with your surroundings without taking your earphones off – perfect for your daily use in, be it at work, play or home.
3. Rayz companion app
To squeeze the most out of what the earphones can do for you, the Rayz companion app for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch offers many options to enable the user to personalise the overall listening experience. Apart from the de-facto equaliser setting, there are some great touches in the app. Smart Button is a handy feature, where you can program the smart button on the earphones to perform noise cancelling actions, launch Apple Music, phone app, or just mute the microphone.
HearThru™ is also quite the smart feature, which lets in just the right amount of outside noise so you can zone out, yet stay in touch with your surroundings without taking off your earphones. So now you can be more aware of your surroundings especially when at a potentially hazardous situation such as crossing the road. I’d still advise to take those earphones off in a heartbeat, though!
You’ve heard me go on about the Rayz Plus’ performance and looks, but it all boils down to how much you are getting out of your cash; is it worth the spend?
The S$200 price tag could also get you respectable audiophile-level headphones such as the legendary Audio Technica ATH-M50x, and Sennheiser HD 598. However, they lack one key thing: Portability.
Most important of all is that the Pioneer Rayz Plus is the first and only lightning headset with a sleek in-line charging node to simultaneously charge your iDevice while the earphones are connected in use. Because this feature alone addresses a fundamental #firstworldproblem, it bags it home for me.
Rayz Plus Verdict
If you, like me, have already sold your soul to Apple’s ecosystem and own many iDevices, there are merely a handful of audio options for that little lightning connector. Pioneer’s Rayz Plus lightning-powered earphones nails many of the traits you’d expect from a great pair of earphones, along with a robust companion app and a way for you to be immersed in what you’re listening without giving two hoots about battery woes.
This review was done after testing the Pioneer Rayz Plus in real-world usage for a period of 3 months. Visuals Courtesy of Pioneer Singapore.