Meze RAIses the Bar on the IEM
Meze Audio is finally getting into the IEM business by releasing a budget-friendly, entry-level model, the Rai Solo IEM. The Rai Solo features a premium single driver design with a stainless steel shell. 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. Being somewhat new territory for Meze, and with a long research and development phase, let’s see if the Rai Solo lives up to the hype.
What's In The Box
Sometimes good things come in small packages. The Meze Rai Solo is no exception. Apart from the shells themselves, the box includes a zippered hard shell carrying case made of a leather-esque material. 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. The cable for the Rai Solo is high quality. 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 tiny 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 Solo is. 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.
Because the shells on the Rai Solo are made from Stainless Steel, they are much heavier than the Penta IEM. The shell feels premium, but the added weight is not terribly noticeable while being used. The unboxing video for the Rai Solo can be found at the bottom of this review.
Rai Solo package contents:
- Hard case
- flight adapter (for planes with x2 3.5mm jacks for headphones)
- quarter-inch adapter
- Various ear tip sizes
- cleaning brush
Materials, Quality, & Comfort
The Rai Solo in-ear monitor is built incredibly well. The shell of the Solo is built from a stainless steel casing and has a nice heft to it. In developing the Rai Solo, Meze looked for a fun-neutral but well refined and controlled sound signature. The strongest correlation between the Rai Solo and the Rai Penta is the similar shape of the IEM. The use of Metal Injection Molding technology for the body of the Solo made it possible to have a very complex inner shape made in mass production with great accuracy.
Shape-wise the shell of the Rai Solo is very anatomical. 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 in comparison is slightly wider and deeper, but both shell designs are extremely comfortable. 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 with the Solo with very little fatigue.
The nice thing about the single-driver design is that there’s not much worry about multiple drivers potentially getting damaged if you drop them. I do not recommend dropping these of course, but the sturdiness of the stainless steel shells is reassuring that they would provide sufficient protection just in case.
"Rai Solo has been at the origin of the entire Rai IEM family so it shares a lot of design philosophy DNA with the flagship Rai Penta. It was supposed to be released ahead of Rai Penta, but we took our time to perfect it for mass production. The result is a high value, yet still affordable, IEM. Rai Solo has been born from our vision to offer entry-level audiophiles a solid built and great value IEM. Ergonomic design, sturdy stainless-steel shell, refined dynamic driver, all for one purpose: enchanting your senses through a pure listening experience."Meze Audio
In comparison to other in-ear monitors or high-end earphones with a standard dynamic driver, the Rai Solo is much more detailed and has a depth to it that is hard to find in other IEMs at the same price point. After listening to a variety of genres, I found the midrange to be present with clarity more so than I’ve experienced with other in-ears that have a single dynamic driver. The bass response is tight, although not as defined. The higher frequencies and the overall signature are balanced and “dynamic” in the sense that the music feels livelier than other IEMs - likely due to the engineering and design of the chassis.
These might be one of the best single-driver IEM’s I’ve heard. I’m a big fan of Meze Audio to begin with, but it says a lot when their entire product line just sounds phenomenal. As mentioned previously, they are tuned with a fun sound signature, or a V-shaped sound signature. This produces deeper lows and higher highs. This type of frequency response is consumer friendly, but lots of times these types of signatures completely mask the mid frequencies. I was surprised at how balanced the overall tuning of the IEM was despite this.
Rock music, or rather guitar-heavy music sounded beefy but resolute. Vocals usually get lost in V-shaped signatures because male vocals typically reside in the mids, and things like drums get boosted on the bottom end while guitars can oftentimes compete with the vocals since they reside in the same frequency range. Not so with the Rai Solo. Vocals were present and like their big brother, the Rai Pentas, have a great soundstage. Instrumentation had room to perform despite being “limited” by the single-driver design. It’s nothing compared to the Penta of course, but the Rai Solo can hold its own.
I really appreciated the Rai Solos presentation on classical and jazz. I keep talking about the limitations of the driver design when compared to the Rai Penta, but that’s almost a misnomer. You can’t really compare apples to oranges, and this is no different. However, the Rai Solo doesn’t sound like your typical single-driver in-ear, and much of that comes down to the engineering of the casing and materials being used. Using a stainless steel shell allows for low resonance, so the driver has very little to compete with and compensate for. Tune the drivers right, and you get one of the cleanest presentations in a single-driver design. Impressive is an understatement.
The Meze Rai Solo is fairly balanced on the spectrum (8 Hz - 22 kHz). It’s clear, resolute, and dynamic. You can’t really ask for anything else. Let’s take a look at some of the technology Meze Audio implements in the Rai Solo.
Rai Solo Features
Based on the popular Rai Penta design, the Meze Rai Solo features a single driver design for premium high-end audio at a lower price point. It features a refined electrodynamic driver with UPM balanced piston membrane motion encased in a durable and ergonomic stainless steel shell. In developing the Rai Solo, Meze looked for a fun-neutral but well refined and controlled sound signature. The strongest correlation between the Rai Solo and the Rai Penta is the similar shape of the IEM. The use of Metal Injection Molding technology for the body of the Solo made it possible to have a very complex inner shape made in mass production with great accuracy.
Rai Solo L and R
Traditional Driver Membrane: In a traditional electrodynamic driver, the voice coil lead wires are glued to the back side of the thin membrane. This is the major factor of the unbalanced vibration.
Wire Free UPM Design
The new UPM driver eliminates this inconvenience by using a totally different approach: the membrane itself is electrically conductive and, therefore, no wires are attached to the diaphragm. The result is a symmetric pistonic motion through its entire movement, without disturbance from the unbalance created by wires. The benefits of this design include low total harmonic distortion, a clear mid-range, and outstanding reproduction of low frequencies.
Vibration Reduction System
Stainless steel is an extremely rigid material, has low resonance and therefore delivers minimum interference to the vibration created by the driver unit. In terms of audio performance, these advantages contribute to a clean and dark background with well-defined imaging. The specially conceived shell architecture in conjunction with the steel chassis dampens vibration from the driver unit. The surface is raw Stainless Steel individually hand brushed.
Meze Audio has created some really great top of class contenders with the Rai Solo IEMs. The Rai Solo is a solid single-driver IEM that is going to offer some extra detail and clarity over other IEMs in the same price point. If you don’t want to break the bank but still want to get a pair of durable IEMs that sound better than the rest of the pack, then the Rai Solo is a great choice.
The thing Meze Audio does so well is making their products sound MUCH better than you think they cost. The Empyrean is one of the top contenders for Best Sounding Headphone in my book (the price does reflect that for some). The Rai Penta’s five-driver design and tuning make it sound like there’s double that and twice as large with the soundstage for an IEM. And I would never guess that the Rai Solo’s have an entry level price point considering the superb sound quality they provide.
It would be hard not to recommend these as a daily driver for most music listening scenarios. The Rai Solo's represent amazing sound for an incredible value. Meze Audio, welcome to the world of IEMs. I think you’re here to stay.
Meze Audio Rai Solo IEM Specifications
- Driver: 9.2mm UPM dynamic driver
- Stock cables: MMCX connector ending in 3.5mm
- Body Material: Stainless Steel
- Diaphragm thickness: 9μm
- Frequency Response: 18Hz - 22kHz
- Impedance: 16Ω
- SPL: 105±3dB at 1mW/1kHz
- Distortion: <1% at 1mW/1kHz