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Meet the first Lightning-powered speaker for iPhones

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You may have missed it but Pioneer recently started shipping in-ear noise-cancelling headphones that connect to an iOS device with a Lightning cable. The concept behind the Rayz and Rayz Plus isn't a new one, but Pioneer's Lighting-powered speaker, the Rayz Rally, is being billed as the first of its kind. 

It's available now worldwide in Apple Stores and from Apple.com in ice, onyx or space gray colors for $100, £100 or AU$160.

Aimed at "digital nomads" who work from anywhere, the tiny, pocket-sized speaker looks like a dongle of sorts and plugs into the Lightning port of your iOS device. It draws power from the host device, so there's no internal battery -- and no charging required. Ostensibly designed as a mini business-grade speakerphone, it has no trouble playing music or the sound from your video content.

Watching a CNET video with the Rayz Rally.

Richard Peterson, CNET

The single button on the speaker serves as a mute button during phone calls (so callers can't hear you) or a pause/play button while listening to music or videos. And like with the Rayz Plus headphone, there's a pass-through Lightning port integrated into the speaker that allows you to charge your phone with a separate Lightning cable.

In my initial tests, the speaker wasn't a big drain on my iPhone's battery, but -- again -- it does sip a little juice from your phone to power itself.

The speaker's software can be upgraded through the free Rayz companion app and there's a noise-reduction feature that helps cut down on background noise in a room while you're making a call. A simple cloth carrying pouch is included. 

As for sound, the speaker does sound louder and fuller than your iPhone's speakers, but it's not on the same level as a $100 Bluetooth speaker such as the JBL Flip 4 or UE Wonderboom. The Rally is a step up from your phone's internal speakers if you're listening to music (though it's not really an upgrade over the iPad Pro's speakers), but as a single speaker it's strongest in the midrange and tuned with an ear toward people's voices. It's not totally devoid of bass, but there certainly isn't much of it.

The Rayz Rally has a free companion app that allows you to upgrade the software on the speaker.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Ultimately, the Rally is at its best and excels as a speakerphone for making voice and video calls. My only issue with it is that its $100 price is pretty steep. It's new to the market, so we'll see how things shake out, but hopefully we'll see someday at closer to $50, because that's where it really should be priced.

I'll have a full review after I play around with it for a few more days.

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Pioneer Rayz Rally

Part Number: CNETPioneer Rayz Rally

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