Meze RAIses the Bar on the IEM
Meze Audio is finally getting into the IEM business, bringing the power of 5 to their highly anticipated IEM: The Rai Penta. The company has already made a name for itself when they released the Empyrean Planar Magnetic headphone, a phenomenal headphone, and a favorite in the office at Moon Audio. With a long research and development phase, let’s see if the Rai Penta lives up to the hype.
A TIMELESS STATEMENT OF HI-FI
“The Rai Penta is the culmination of 3 years of researching the most ergonomic shape and most vivid sound for a Universal IEM. We could have released it earlier, but again, like with any of our other products, we wanted to make sure it is truly the best we can achieve.”
— Antonio Meze, Lead designer and Founder Meze Audio
What's In the Box
Sometimes good things come in small packages. The Rai Penta is no exception. Apart from the shell, the box includes a zippered hard shell carrying case made of a leather-esque material. Meze includes a high-quality cable with the Penta. High-purity silver-plated copper wires terminated in finely crafted metal plug shells ensures that cable assembly will stay strong and reliable for a long time. There are 4 wires. Each wire consists of 20 litz strands. MMCX plugs are top quality and plug termination is rhodium plated for best connectivity and durability. The connections were tight to all the devices I used and the connections on the shells were secure.
There’s a myriad of different ear tip types included, so you can be assured that you’ll find the right fit for your ears. I was skeptical, because I have very small ear canals, finding a tip that fits without adding too much pressure is usually a difficult task for me, and why I tend to stay away from universals. However, I was beyond shocked, when not only did I find the right fit, I was surprised to find how incredibly comfortable the Rai Penta is in my ears. Other shell designs tend to have a pressure point or two depending on the design, but Meze did their research and crafted a shell that is ergonomic to most ear shapes. Now I’m not assuring that it will fit 100% of ear sizes, but it did fit mine, and I consider myself on the abnormally picky side when it comes to sticking foreign objects inside my ears.
Included with the IEMs are both a flight adapter (for planes with x2 3.5mm jacks for headphones) and quarter-inch adapter, along with a cleaning brush, the manual and some stickers.
Materials, Quality, and Comfort
The Rai Penta is built incredibly well. It’s a full metal – CNC aluminum chassis. The shell is milled from a solid piece of aluminum and is thus much lighter than the body of the Rai Solo, their entry level IEM. One feature that helps the Rai Penta in overall comfort is the Pressure Equalization System (PES). Airflow control helps regulate internal chamber pressure through the finely tuned PES design in front and behind the driver assembly. This helps to relieve the pressure inside the canal after the seal is made. Usually if the ear tip is too large then it can create pressure and discomfort in the ear canal for the user, often creating an unpleasant listening experience for any amount of time.
Meze Audio did their research when it comes to design. Attention to details to an extreme: round, soft edges designed to embrace the natural curves from one’s ear and to fit perfectly. The Rai Penta is slightly wider and deeper than the Rai Solo which makes for a more solid fit and seal for me personally. It’s likely the Penta shell is larger due to the fact that it has 4 more drivers in it than the Solo. I’ve spent hours upon hours in the office listening to the Penta, with very little fatigue. With very little pressure and weight, most of the time I can’t even tell they are there.
The Rai Penta utilizes a premium rhodium-plated 3.5mm and mmcx connectors. Rhodium is corrosion proof, whereas gold-plated materials deteriorate over time and wear and tear from use (connecting and disconnecting). They are lovely connectors and a nice addition to make sure your investment not only looks and feels premium but sounds premium as well. You can be assured that ten years from now your connectors will sound just as good as the first day you plugged them in.
Penta Hybrid Driver Technology
The Penta is named so for its 5 independent drivers working together inside the chassis. Penta Hybrid technology delivers harmonized sound frequencies without the overlay of phase issue. For sound from the drivers to reach your eardrums, it has to pass through the housing, through the nozzle, and finally the ear tip assembly. The seamless functioning of 5 drivers is enabled by the very specific and precise length of each sound tube which basically determines the air volume in front of each driver in particular. Meze Audio’s design supposedly eliminates imperfections that you can find in regular plastic Tube and Dampener systems, which are commonly used in multi-driver assembly.
The Penta-Hybrid driver consists of 4 customized balanced armature drivers and 1 dynamic driver working together to create a surprisingly wide soundstage and incredible fidelity for an in-ear monitor. Like Meze Audio’s flagship headphone, the Empyrean, the Rai Penta is the big arena show sound compared to the Solo. More definition, punch, overall fidelity, and life to your music. Combine that with the amazing comfort and fit, and this is one of my favorite universal IEMs. To learn more about the Meze Empyrean and how it sounds, check out our Empyrean review here.
The Penta is incredibly resolute. Music is detailed with nice extension in the bottom end and the higher frequencies are smooth and balanced. Listening to some classical music, I was impressed with how much the low basses really came out in the mix, when oftentimes they get masked by the cellos in other IEMs I’ve used. In rock music the guitars are punchy and in-your-face, but not overpowering vocals like they sometimes do; the rhythm sections really fill out the low-end frequencies.
The Rai Penta really excels at high resolution audio. The Penta works effortlessly with any device due to its low impedance and high sensitivity, and Meze Audio likes to recommend high resolution music sources to really show off the potential and effort they put into tuning their driver array. Meze claims that the response is super high resolution above any certificate or standard. The clarity from the driver array is one thing that struck me the most about the IEM. They sound phenomenal.
These are going to sound great for every genre out there. The spaciousness of the soundstage is going to make classical and jazz much more expressive and expansive. I mentioned the bass response earlier, but the overall tuning of the drivers has a wonderful balance across the spectrum, making sure the highs are present but rolled off for the highest and piercing frequencies. Jazz ensembles sound full and detailed: listening to Coltrane and Chet is personal and intimate.
What I really appreciate with a headphone or IEM is its ability to make something not just expansive via the soundstage but the overall blend of the instrumentation. Of course, some of this is determined by the mix itself, but there are times where a headphone has such a wide presentation that the blend, or rather lack thereof, can be distracting and take away from the overall performance. This is a small critique on a device, but the tuning of the drivers can alleviate this issue, and the Rai Penta does it with flying colors.
I was impressed with how rock, pop, rap, even EDM sounded on the Rai Penta. Of course the Penta is not tuned for a fun, or bass-heavy sound signature, but the presentation was enjoyable even for these genres. I don’t like to adjust my music with digital EQ, but if you want to push the bass response, know that the Rai Penta is certainly up to the task. The Rai Penta has impeccable micro-detailing providing realism across the wide frequency range of 4Hz to 45 kHz. It really makes a difference with added definition, weight, and separation for such a small package.
Meze Audio has created some really great top-of-class contenders with the Rai Penta. I really want to say the Rai Penta is like a little Meze Empyrean - but it’s not quite there. The sound and tuning are remarkably similar, and with the 5 independent drivers the soundstage mimics that of a larger open-back headphone. Meze Empyrean lovers will probably be fans of the Rai Penta then, and with enough sonic similarities, they are a good alternative to bringing your Empyreans on the road.
For those unfamiliar with the Empyrean, the Rai Penta is nicely balanced, and the natural timbre of instrumentation really stands out. Drums and mids are clear and unveiled, vocals shine, and bass is present with lots of depth. Meze Audio has done a superb job tuning the 5 drivers in the Penta. The overall fidelity is impressive, and combined with the ergonomic and anatomically shaped shell, you have the best of both worlds: great sound and comfort. The Rai Penta feels premium in every way. The low impedance and high sensitivity of the Rai Penta assures that it will work effortlessly with almost any device.
The Rai Penta is an outstanding in-ear monitor. If you’re in the market for some high-end IEMs, it would be hard not to recommend the Rai Penta.
Meze Audio, welcome to the world of IEMs. I think you’re here to stay.
Driver: PENTA-HYBRID DRIVER
(4 x Customized Balanced Armature and 1 x Dynamic Driver working harmoniously together)
Stock cables: MMCX connector ending in 3.5mm, Rhodium-plated
Upgrade cables: MMCX connector ending in 2.5mm TRRS balanced and 4.4mm balanced as extra accessories
Frequency Range: 4Hz – 45kHz
Sensitivity: 110dB SPL/1mW Sensitivity
Max Input Power: 30mW