Apple's decision to remove the headphone jack from its iPhone 7 and 7 Plus last fall left iPhone users with a dilemma — listen to your tunes or charge your phone. With its Rayz Plus earphones, Pioneer wonders why you can't do both.
The $149 Rayz Plus actually made their debut earlier in February, but Mobile World Congress has given Pioneer a venue for showcasing its Lightning-port-friendly earphones. The noise-cancelling earbuds include an integrated charging port that lets you charge your phone even when you've got the headphones plugged in. (Pioneer also has a cheaper version, the $99 Rayz, that lack the in-line charging node, but match the other features offered by the Rayz Plus.)
A crowded exhibition area at a trade show is a lousy place to listen to music, particularly with every nearby conversation echoing through the stone courtyard at the University of Barcelona where I had the chance to try on the Rayz Plus. But the minute I popped the earphones in, the noise of the outside world disappeared and was overtaken by an Usher track.
Pioneer says the noise-cancelling features in the Rayz earphones adapt to your surroundings. That lets the Rayz tailor sound to wherever you happen to be, whether it's commuting, working in your office or standing in the middle of a busy trade show.
An app, which I didn't have the chance to try out, lets you customize earphone and smartphone settings. And the HearThru mode lets some ambient sounds past the noise-cancelling effect, so that you're at least a little bit aware of your surroundings.
One feature I really appreciated was the on-ear detection in the Rayz, which make the earphones smart enough to know when you've taken them out. Music stops playing and doesn't resume until you pop the earphones back into your ears.
Pioneer plans to extend that feature to six microphones included on the Rayz; a future software update will mute the microphones automatically once you stop speaking, cutting out background noise when you use the headphones to make a call. Until that software update comes, you've got a clickable button that can mute those mics.
It's an impressive feature set, though if you're an iPhone 7 user, the most welcome feature of will be the ability to charge your phone without having to press pause on your favorite tunes.