Pioneer Rayz Plus review, lightning connected in-ear headphones, are they really worth the £150 price tag?

When I bought my first Sonos I realised my life had been missing something, then my man SuburbanGent bought himself a EU BOOM 2 to share his love of Peter Andre with the world and I knew that things would never be the same again. Here at TwoMenAboutTown we love our music but you’ll already know that if you follow SuburbanGent’s twitter feed which speaks for us both when it comes to demonstrating just how indiscriminate our musical tastes are. But neither the Sonos nor the Boom provide a particular personal experience, thankfully Pioneer have been making headphones for a long time so they should be pretty good at it by now. We would soon find out because with Apple’s newest attempt at global domination and personal bankruptcy all rolled into one with the iPhone X launch well underway, Pioneer have decided to use their considerable proficiency to launch their first foray into lightning connector powered earphones.

Apart from being as fashionable and down with the kids as possible by using a z instead of an s, the Rayz Plus is Pioneers premium offer of in-ear headphones with added ‘digital’. The features set seems impressive:

  • They are the only headphones currently available on the market with an additional lightning socket to let you charge the phone without unplugging your headphones.
  • “HearThru” allows the earphones to let a bit of outside noise through. If you are tramping through the streets of London, it’s great to be aware of what traffic is coming up around you while at the same time as not missing any of Stormzy’s latest.
  • But when you do have to reluctantly remove your earphones, the Rayz will autopause the music making sure you don’t miss anything – this is actually brilliant for audio books or podcasts and means you’re not fiddling around with controls whenever someone has the audacity to try and talk to you.
  • The active noise cancelling function in the Rayz Plus measures the ambient noise level and adapts the intensity of the dampening technology when appropriate. In the real world I did notice a real improvement when I turned the feature on, during commutes on the train in particular I was really surprised at just how much of a difference it actually made.
  • Another really clever feature is the smart mute function which automatically mutes the microphone if you are not talking, for those times when you take a conference call but you don’t want your boss to realise you are not in the office. This worked well when the noise level around me was low but walking along a busy street or in a coffee shop proved more tricky and I got the odd false positive when the microphone thought I was talking but it was music from a passing car or a couple talking on the table next to me. Generally though this is a great function and can only get better as the software gets updated.
The Rayz Plus box, photographed incredibly badly by me. You know, I really should learn how to do this sort of thing better

Along with the expected volume and toggle buttons on the in-line remote, the additional smart button is a programmable extra that can be used to operate a few selected features of the headphones and phone such as the HearThru, noise cancelling or even Apple music. Unfortunately you can’t use it to operate any app (I listen to Spotify rather than Apple music for example) and I suspect that unless it becomes more customisable, I probably won’t use the smart button too much but I’m sure some people will appreciate it more than me. This extra function does make the remote big though, just how big? Take a look:

What you get in the box; the headphones have a great finish to them and you can see here the size of that 4 button remote
The remote and earphones – both are enormous so don’t think you’ll ever be inconspicuous when wearing them

As I mentioned above, if a four button remote and some oddly long earbuds weren’t enough for you, Pioneer have also thrown in it’s own lightning port which lets you charge your phone without unplugging the headphones. True, it’s not as quick as usual but it doesn’t get in the way and if your phone needs a bump through the day at least you can still use it without disconnecting. In short, it’s an incredibly useful addition.

You get a huge 9 different earpieces in both plastic and foam variants which feel nice and light, making the whole device comfortable enough once you found a pair to fit and the app offers quite a lot of levels to fiddle with if that’s your bag. Messing about with the bass made a significant difference and I certainly couldn’t get them to distort before the volume got to an uncomfortable level. If you, unlike me, are a music aficionado reviewing the Rayz Plus then you might be able to bore people by complaining that the treble was too shrill and metallic while vocals merged and got a bit lost but if that is you, then you should probably keep it to yourself because that sort of thing doesn’t make you any friends.

The app automatically updates the firmware on the headphones so you will always get the latest features which is pretty cool
The Rayz Plus app is slick and it does give you a surprising amount of control over your headphones, have a fiddle with the EQ to sort things out just the way you like it

At the end of the day, even though 150 quid is well within the mid range of headphones these days if you are happy to spend that much you should want them to be pretty bloody good. If like me, you’ve been using a pair of 3 quid cans that you got on a plane 5 years ago, I assure you that you’ll be blown away by the quality of these things and more than happy with the experience. But £150 happy, really? In all honesty if I had that sort of money burning a hole in my pocket and nothing more important to spend it on than a pair of headphones I would probably be looking at Bose or a pair of 1More triple drivers which seem better value for money. You certainly won’t get the features (particularly the noise cancelling option) that you see in the Rayz Plus for that kind of cash anywhere else though, so I’m just happy that Pioneer has saved me from sticking anything else back in my ears again!

Pioneer sent us this product to review but they did not stipulate that we use it to experience more Andre than is good for us. That was entirely our own choice.

Check out the full details and experience them for yourself here:

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