Review: Meze Audio Rai Penta – A Star

Fit, Comfort and Isolation

 

Meze has designed the Rai Penta IEM to deliver as much comfort as possible as they feel prolonged listening sessions allow for a truly immersive experience for you and your music. It’s ergonomics at its best.

The ear pieces are small, perfectly fit your ear and they even feel kind of soft inside your ear. I’ve been using these at the office for hours without a break and then never bothered or hurt me one bit. To achieve that Meze paid attention to detail and the round, soft edges are designed to embrace the natural curves from one’s ear and as a result, to fit perfectly.

The high precision CNC aluminium chassis, skillfully milled from solid aluminium, creates the perfect space for the sound to be precisely channeled to your inner ear directly and without distortion. At the same time this will always be a universal IEM and the isolation isn’t perfect. Me or my co-travelers haven’t complained about sound leaking out but there always is noise coming in. So if you want to completely block out noise, you better still need to look at a custom IEM. That also means that if you want to get the very best sound quality out of the Rai Penta, you better use it in silent conditions.

Comfort-wise I do also want to specifically talk about the cable, and more specific about the part that goes over your ear. The cable is pre-shaped and it is very persisting in a way that it will annoy you when you’re winding up the cable to store the IEM away. At the same time however the cable sits perfectly over your ear and the IEM (and cable) will stay in perfect position to get the best possible comfort and sound.

Sound – General: High Quality

The stock cable that comes with the Rai Penta is a 3.5mm single ended one and the impressions below are done with both the normal as well as the balanced cable (50/50). The source for this section is Astell&Kern SP1000M (balanced) as it’s one of the best sounding DAPs for this IEM (see later) and the Chord Electronics Mojo (single ended). Tips used are the Comply Foam ones.

It’s very safe to say that the Rai Penta has a musical neutral tuning where the amount of body overall varies from light to normal depending on the source used. That brings me to the next point and that is that the Rai Penta is very transparent. Hook it up to a different amplifier or source and you’ll immediately hear the difference. The same in fact goes for the cable you’re using it with: on some sources the single ended mode will be the best sounding and on other the balanced one will sound best. On most of my sources with balanced output however, the 2.5 and 4.4mm outputs always were the one to go with.

The Rai Penta sound very clean and very clear from top to bottom. Rai Penta is fast, tight and precise and I’d say it’s a linear and balanced sounding IEM even though that can be adjusted depending on the source used. The sound stage width and depth is good but this is a flagship IEM so I don’t expect it to be anything but good. Depending on the source in use the Rai Penta will go deep and it will display great layering (incredible). The separation level of course is excellent and there is just the right amount of air to let all the details come to the front and to produce a natural and dynamic sound. Rai Penta’s five drivers work perfectly together to achieve all this and timing is spot on. Overall you get a black an silent background but hook it up to a 2 x 15w tube amp and you’ll get noise all over. On a normal source, DAP or amp, you have nothing to worry about though.

Rai Penta has a linear and balanced tuning but the strength is also in the fact that the delivery is very musical at all times. You can make it a little smoother or warmer depending on the source used but in general that isn’t how one would describe Rai Penta’s sound. In this Meze creation it’s all about precision, control and correctness. From bass to treble you get great quality and it’s just all there: detail, very good speed (also attack), great transients and the top decay. Technically Rai Penta is strong and if that is your thing, you should not look elsewhere as it scores very well in this regard.

Sound – Styles

This is something I really like about the Rai Penta: it works for all musical genres. You can be listening to retro house and get impressed by the bass, stereo image and energetic treble, to then switch to classical and be blown away by the violins. You can hit it with jazz, pounding techno music or even R&B if someone is forcing you (I kid), the Rai Penta does it all.

Of course this IEM will never be a bass monster and it will never deliver skull crushing bass. It will never be a thick, warm and smooth sounding IEM either but that’s perfectly OK as it wasn’t developed to be that either. This is a high end IEM and everything it does, it does wonderfully so and for every type of music. Just in a balanced, linear and precise way, where quality is important. Most important.

We also shouldn’t forget that the Rai Penta is using best of both worlds: balanced armatures and a dynamic driver. So looking at it that way, it’s no surprise it can do everything so well. Do note though to always feed it with high quality recordings. It will also depend on your source but feed it with a from Youtube ripped 128 bitrate file, and the Rai Penta will very clearly tell you it sucks.

Sound – Classics

In general I would say bass is lighter but precise. Bass is detailed, goes deep when needed and is always tight. Depending on the source used the impact and body can be enlarged but he depth, precision and layering is always there.

Bass never runs into the mids and the dynamic bass driver is working in perfect harmony with the balanced armatures. Everything is perfectly in sync, unlike with some other IEMs (Polaris, I’m looking at you). As said, you have to think of a very high quality bass. If you’re expecting overpowering bass-head like bass, you’re listening to the wrong IEM. Bass body, impact and depth is pot on for me.

The mids show excellent clarity and precision. You again get tight notes, great depth and excellent layering. Separation is really impressive and everything is presented in a musical and spacious way, elevating the natural feel. Like with the bass, you could say mids have a lighter presentation but switch to a different musical style or feed the Rai Penta from a different source, and you will very pleasantly be surprised of how impressive it will sound. That’s of course because of the excellent transparency the Rai Penta excels in but you’ve all understood that by now.

Treble is very clear, precis and energetic. The highs extend well but at the same time there are other, higher driver count IEMs that have an even wider extension. I never felt the highs lacking though, especially because of the quality they deliver. Treble is perfectly in line with bass and mids and it will never jump out or overpower the rest of the spectrum. The Rai Penta just is a balanced, linear top IEM.

More on sound on the third page here, where we look at Portable Player Synergy, Amplification and more.

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Lieven is living in Europe and he's the leader of the gang. He's running Headfonia as a side project next to his full time day job in Digital Marketing & Consultancy. He's a big fan of tube amps and custom inear monitors and has published hundreds of product reviews over the years.

13 Comments

  • Reply March 7, 2019

    Booker

    I have to admit I’ve never owned any IEMs, full-sized cans are where it’s at for me. But I’ve been thinking about getting some for the ease of carrying around something smaller (much smaller!), and the Rai Penta’s tickle my fancy. Probably not the best portable solution though judging from your comments about isolation?

    Thanks for the detailed and thorough review 🙂

  • Reply March 7, 2019

    Nick

    Thanks for the long-awaited review Lieven!
    How does it sound in comparison to CA Solaris? Is Solaris superior in sound quality?

  • Reply March 9, 2019

    Nikolas

    Please, add a comparison with Andromeda. I am so curious why you kicked it out.
    Thanks for Headfonia and the review,

    • Reply March 9, 2019

      rantng

      +1 to this

    • Reply June 6, 2019

      warriorpoet

      +2

      Not having any comparisons makes this a difficult review to digest, especially when it results in removing a long-term HiFi benchmark from your list.

  • Reply March 11, 2019

    Sp12er

    There’s been a flurry of Hybrid IEM Flagships lately…. Is it time for the technology to really mature?

    As long as it stopped the unnecessary race for higher driver count, I’m good~~

  • Reply March 15, 2019

    Ryan Hewitt

    +1 to comparisons to Solaris. If possible, how does it compare to Solaris as well as hybrids like the Canary or Trinity? How does the treble hold up to the ES tweeter iems? Do the air vents seem to add soundstage or anything that puts it above other iems? Lastly how does it compare overall on technical level to other iems at any price? I have a feeling there’s a really high level of value with this one in price compared to other top-tier iems. Sorry for this amount of questions. I have nowhere to audition but if I can get comparisons I’ll likely buy either the Penta or one of the ES hybrids.

  • Reply March 15, 2019

    Ryan

    P.S. How could you also compare to the Khan?

  • Reply March 16, 2019

    Wills Chiu

    It seems that every Meze product review has no comparison. Coincident or there is nothing that can beat them?🤣

    • Reply April 3, 2019

      Steven Zore

      Maybe just nothing ‘like’ it; unique?

  • Reply August 3, 2019

    Nick

    I ju auditioned the Rai Penta- I felt it had way too much bass, even compared to my CA Solaris.

    I used my Chord Mojo/Poly in both cases (Rai Penta vs Solaris) using the same tracks and listening at the same volume.

    Not for me…

  • Reply August 8, 2019

    Niel

    Hey there can you tell me how the rai penta is against the fitear tg 334 if possible for rnb, jazz, hippop and andromeda trying to decide between the three, thanks

  • Reply October 10, 2019

    JK

    Would like to know if there is any comparison to Oriolus MK2, since this is also a hybrid UIEM.

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