Meze Audio Rai Penta

General Information

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RAI PENTA,
suggested retail price US$1,099

With 5 drivers harmoniously completing each other and ingeniously modeled ergonomic housing, the Rai Penta is all about detail, organic tonality and seamless fit.

“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

PENTA HYBRID DRIVER TECHNOLOGY

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The Penta Hybrid technology enables us to deliver harmonized sound frequencies without overlay of phase issues. For sound from the drivers to reach your eardrums it has to pass from through the housing / nozzle / eartip 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.

Our design eliminates imperfections that you can find in regular plastic Tube and Dampener systems, which are commonly used in multi driver assembly.

PRECISION MILLED INDIVIDUAL SOUND BORES

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ANATOMIC FIT

The comfier the IEM, the better the listening experience, this is a fact. Serious audiophiles will spend hours on end engaged in their music.

We have designed the RAI In Ear Monitors to deliver comfort and prolonged listening sessions allowing for a truly immersive experience for you and your music.

Attention to details to an extreme: round, soft edges designed to embrace the natural curves from one’s ear and to fit perfectly.

PRESSURE EQUALIZATION SYSTEM (PES)

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FULL METAL CNC SCULPTED CHASSIS

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.

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SUPER HIGH RESOLUTION SOUND COMPATIBLE

The Rai Penta work effortlessly with any device due to its low impedance and high sensitivity but to truly enjoy the potential of its painstakingly tuned driver array, we recommend a high resolution source. The response is super high resolution and is above any certificate or standard.

A balanced sound signature with impeccable micro-detailing provides unrivaled realism all across the wide frequency range, from 4Hz to 45 kHz.

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A TOP QUALITY CABLE TO BRING OUT THE BEST IN RAI PENTA

Highest 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.

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ACCESSORIES

• MMCX braided cables made of silver plated copper custom wires ending in high quality 3.5mm
• Hard Case: protective EVA case with Meze Audio metal logo
• 4 pairs of soft silicone eartips XS, S, M, L
• 1 double flanged eartips
• 2 deep insertion double flanged eartips
• 1 pair of comply foam eartips
• 3.5mm to 6.3mm adapter
• airplane 2 pin adapter
• cleaning tool

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UPGRADE CABLES

MMCX braided cables made of silver plated copper
custom wires ending in balanced 2.5 mm TRRS balanced
and 4.4 balanced as extra accessories sold separately.

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

Driver: PENTA-HYBRID DRIVER
(4 x Customized Balanced Armature and 1 x Dynamic
Driver working harmoniously together)
Frequency Range: 4Hz – 45kHz
Impedance: 20Ω
Sensitivity: 110dB SPL/1mW Sensitivity
Max Input Power: 30mW
Distortion: <1%
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
Warranty period: 2 years

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For More information, please Rai Penta page at Meze Audio website.

Latest reviews

Dobrescu George

Reviewer: AudiophileHeaven
Radically Smooth – Meze RAI Penta IEMs Review
Pros: + Great Ergonomics
+ Aesthetics are top notch
+ Clarity is great without being fatiguing
+ Smooth sound with a natural edge
Cons: - Not the most impressive package for the price point
- Won't work great for large ears
Radically Smooth – Meze RAI Penta IEMs Review








RAI Penta is an IEM or In-Ear Monitor from the Romanian producer Meze, which should be really interesting, but I will be perfectly fair to them, since I never got to review the Empyrean, which I really wished, so pardon me if I’m a bit too cold throughout the review, but I’m still a bit disappointed about that. The price point of the Rai Penta is about 1100 USD. It is made to compete with the best, so it will be put against Beyerdynamic Xelento, Clear Tune Monitors CTM Da Vinci IX, Dunu DK-4001, and Campfire Atlas. The pairing list will include FiiO M11, iBasso DX229 and QLS QA 361, all of which should make an interesting partner for the RAI Penta.




Introduction


Meze is a company from Romania who understood one thing from the start, that the customer satisfaction, along with the marketing are really important things. They invested lots in their marketing, having friendly and quick personnel, and they also kept improving with every chance, they have some of the best warranty you can get worldwide, and they are known to be in top 3 most reliable companies out there. Their products are never priced the lowest out there, but you do get the support you deserve for what you’re paying, and that speaks volumes, as at times they are better than Beyerdynamic and Sennheiser in offering help to their customers, and I know for sure they are much better than Denon (check out my Youtube video for more about that).


It should be noted that I have absolutely no affiliation with Meze, I am not receiving any incentive for this review or to sweeten things out. I’d like to thank Meze for providing the sample for this review, with me being responsible for paying the custom taxes. Every opinion expressed is mine and I stand by it, the purpose of this review is to help those interested in Meze Rai Penta find their next music companion.

Product Link: https://mezeaudio.com/products/rai-penta







About me


https://www.audiophile-heaven.com/p/about.html





Packaging


First things first, let’s get the packaging out of the way:










The package is not the best out there, and if I can say that, it is a bit of a letdown. The package itself is not bad, and you have a beautiful carrying case, but it lacks extras like a secondary cable, and you mainly get the IEMs, a few pairs of tips, a cable, and a case. For the price point, most of the competitors either include multiple cables, or modular cables.

Ironically, the cables of most competitors are not better than the ones found on Rai Penta, so they somewhat make up for it, but for those who like large packages, even FiiO’s FA9 and FH7 come with larger packages, and with more extras.

All in all, Meze emphasizes the quality of the package and not the number of extras or the overall quantity, and the quality is top notch, from the cable, to the carrying case included with RAI Penta.




What to look for when purchasing a high-end In-Ear Monitor

https://www.audiophile-heaven.com/what-to-look-into





Build Quality/Aesthetics/Fit/Comfort


The build quality of Rai Penta is outstanding, they are a full metallic IEM, with vents so they do not have any driver flex, and the best part is that they are quite ergonomic. The shape does not include any hard edges or odd shapes, so the IEM has a smooth surface, sits nice in my ears, and would fit smaller ears well too. The aesthetics are also a ten out of ten, and Meze is known for being one of those companies who knows how to produce a beautiful IEM or Headphone, their 99 Classics and 99 Neo still being pretty good in the ~300 USD price points, and let’s not forget, those two pairs are the first I seriously reviewed on Audiophile-heaven many years ago.




The fit of the Rai Penta is even better when you take into account the flexible cable that does not conduct microphonics, and the cable should be worn over-the-ear, so you also get a secure fit. The passive noise isolation is not great, about 15 dB of passive noise isolation in practice, as they are quite open, and the vent that protects you against driver flex is quite large. This also means that they leak quite a bit, so you don’t get an IEM that isolates that well, but this translates to some benefits in the sonic quality department.


The connectors at the IEM level are high-quality MMCX, and they are better than your run-of-the-mill MMCX, the click is more secure, and you’re not likely to break them easily. The best part is that you can use aftermarket cables, like Dunu Hulk, or FiiO Silver cables, if you want to, and although Dunu Hulk is not in my top recommended cables to use with the Rai Penta, because both are somewhat thick and warm, I do recommend silver cables for them, for a plus of brightness and sparkle.




Sound Quality


The sound quality of the Rai Penta is generally great, but they have a very specific signature, which is smooth, relaxed, lean, detailed, yet unintrusive. The dynamics are a surprise, as they are quite dynamic, but for a signature that does have a lot of mid presence, and a rolled off treble, they sound much more detailed than most competitors, like for example, Xelento, which is incredibly smooth, but fails to have the definition of the Rai Penta. The different drivers have a vastly different decay, which blends in nicely. The tuning is made for listening rather than assessing the best technical performance, and they have a slightly easygoing type of signature, without losing that rich touch in between.




The bass is generally controlled, it is slightly warm and has a large decay, which makes it really easy to listen to them, as they have a really large sustain in between notes. It is not overly punchy, and it has enough warmth to apply some magic to music, but while acoustic instruments have a good depth and fullness factor, they aren’t designed for EDM and Electronic music, being a top choice when listening to Jazz, Pop, Downdempo, and higher fidelity music. Acoustic music works especially well, and everything that doesn’t rely on a bump factor in the bass will work out beautifully through the Rai Penta.


The midrange is the major strength of Rai Penta, with a slight dip in the lower midrange (500hz-1kHz), and a more forward plateau between 1kHz and 3.5kHz. Their presentation of a soundstage is rounded, with both depth and width extending vastly, like a mini HIFIMAN Arya. Guitars come through as musical, lean, and smooth without a texture emphasis, but a musicality and lean factor emphasis. The tuning favors male voices slightly, with a slight dark overtone, and music tends to sound relaxed coming out of Rai Penta, rather than dramatic and peppy. It is similar to Dunu DK-4001, which was tuned in the same style in general, although DK-4001 follows a more technical approach, where Rai Penta leaves everything to music and the effortless flow of sound.


The treble is rolled off in general, with the most presence being in the 7kHz-9kHz, the above still having some presence, enough for them to have air and width, but most of the soundstage relies on how layered music is in the 1kHz-3kHz. It is polite and smooth, the texture of the treble in general is meant to be relaxing, and there’s nothing that could offend even the most picky of listeners, although one could argue that this doesn’t mean that percussion lacks definition, it is just how a company wanted to be polite and smooth in the tuning until the very top end.




Youtube Video







Comparisons



The comparison list could go on forever, since there is a large list of competitors, given the price point, but the most notable and important / relevant competitors are Dunu DK-4001, Clear Tune Monitors CTM Da Vinci IX, Campfire Atlas, and Beyerdynamic Xelento.




The price points of those IEMs are really close to that of Rai Penta, so all of the comparisons should come in handy if you’re looking for an interesting flagship when reading this review.


Meze Rai Penta vs Campfire Atlas (1100 USD vs 1300 USD) – Campfire Atlas does not have a perfect package either, and at their price point they are also controversially minimalistic, but they do come with more, and better tips from the default, where Rai Penta does not come with spinfit or Final Tips. The fit is actually better for Rai Penta, as they do not have driver flex, which Atlas has, and they are smaller, but Atlas allows for both straight-down and over-the-ear wearing styles. The sound is quite different, with Atlas being much more energetic, more aggressive, more detailed, more grand, with a wider stage. The midrange is more natural on Rai Penta, and although they totally lack treble, in comparison, Atlas has a pretty peppy treble that can sometimes be fatiguing, you’re either going for smooth and lean, or V-Shaped, punchy and energetic between those two.


Meze Rai Penta vs Clear Tune Monitors Da Vinci IX (1100 USD vs 2000 USD) – The package of the Da Vinci IX is much better than that of the Rai Penta, with a plastic, but better case, two cables coming from the factory, and with the 2000 USD price tag, they are much worse deal, and their price to performance ratio is much worse than that of the Rai Penta. The comfort is actually better on Rai Penta, and there is no driver flex on either, but Da Vinci IX is a bit larger. The sound is comparable, although on Da Vinci IX, it is warmer, more romantic, thicker, more bassy, and with a slightly higher treble presence, so basically a bit more engaging, more dynamic and more V-Shaped. Rai Penta is more lean, relaxed, smoother, cleaner in the midrange with less grain (Da Vinci IX is not grainy, but Rai Penta feels even smoother), and Da Vinci IX has a larger soundstage. For almost double the price, it is interesting to see how you’re getting some minor improvements, but not enough to recommend CTM IX over Rai Penta, even for those looking for a musical, lean, and smooth presentation.


Meze Rai Penta vs Dunu DK-4001 (1100 USD vs 1300 USD) – DK-4001 has a very similar signature to Rai Penta, and it is priced much more sensibly, at 900 USD, almost 200 USD less than Rai Penta. For this price, DK-4001 has a better package, with a better, modular cable, more tips, better tips, and presented professionally. The comfort is also better on DK-4001 which manages to be more ergonomic, to have a slightly smaller body, and still have zero driver flex, zero cable microphonics, just like Rai Penta. The sound, though, is a bit more technical on DK-4001 with slightly less even harmonics, and more odd ones, with Rai Penta sounding smoother, sweeter and more musical, despite DK-4001 being already quite into this presentation. DK-4001 has a larger soundstage with a deeper space in between instruments, but Rai Penta sounds a bit more dynamic, and although DK-4001 has technically more detail, Rai Penta has an edge when it comes to micro details.




Meze Rai Penta vs Beyerdynamic Xelento (1100 USD vs 1000 USD) – Xelento is a great example of how enthusiastic I was when I started reviewing, as it is a warm, smooth performer, with almost zero grain. Starting with the package, Xelento has a better package, with more accessories, but Rai Penta has the better fit and comfort, as Xelento has a pretty serious driver flex, and although they are not large, it is much easier to wear and feel comfortable with Rai Penta, than relying on the shallow fit of the Xelento. The sound is more detailed on Rai Penta, with more treble presence and air, and a bit more coherent sound. Xelento is smoother, but to the point where I often miss the treble in its signature, and although it is extremely warm, bassy, and full, I often find myself searching for an EQ to tune in a bit more sparkle. This does not happen with Rai Penta, which ends up being more balanced overall, more mid-focused, but without losing as much from both ends, and while the warmth and bass of Xelento surely make it a basshead’s favorite poison, Rai Penta will be a top choice for those looking for an easy way to enjoy a Jazz piece, some soft pop, or even some classical.




Recommended Pairings


The pairing list will include some notable DAPs or Music Players, like iBasso DX220 running AMP 9, FiiO M11, and QLS QA 361. Only the best flagships are fit to pair with Rai Penta to get the best performance out of it, although they are not very sensitive to hiss, and they are fairly easy to drive.



Meze Rai Penta + iBasso DX 229 (1100 USD + 900 USD) – When pairing DX220 with AMP 9, you have access to not only the best of audiophile tech in a DAP, but also the sound that makes it worth to order such an expensive DAP. There’s a magical midrange with DX229, and that midrange works especially well with Rai Penta, giving them a more musical and more detailed presentation. There’s also the EQ function which works very well on DX229, and I have to admit, more often than not, I find myself dialing in some bass and some treble to Rai Penta, but that’s just my guilty pleasure talking.


Meze Rai Penta + FiiO M11 (1100 USD + 460 USD) – There’s no hissing with M11, which surely is a relief, since that was an important test for Rai Penta. Here’s one of the things that it got better than the Atlas, which has quite a bit of hiss with M11. In fact, even more recent Campfire IEMs are a bit sensitive to hiss, but more about that in the full video and in-depth reviews of them. M11 is bright, somewhat glaring, with a digital edge, and a wide presentation, and it pairs perfectly with Rai Penta, giving them a bit more air, more edge in the highs, less overall dark cast, and a clearer, more detailed sound with a better overall revealing ability. The stage is also wider, and the whole synergy is simply great, especially considering the price point of M11, you would find yourself a perfect match.


Meze Rai Penta + QLS QA 361 (1100 USD + 800 USD) – QLS QA 361 is a DAP I know I don’t mention enough, but the support for it seems to have become sparse, and the company behind is not as open as I wish it was, so it is hard for me to tell what will become of it. Still, for those who either got it, or really fancy the design and build, the sound is still amazing, with one of the most gentle presentations out there, a beautiful overall detail level, and with no background noise. With Rai Penta, you have access to a truly magical pair, with a smooth midrange, smooth treble, effortless presentation with enough bass depth to be fun and with just everything that makes Rai Penta good, but without the compromise of it lacking detail, as QA 361 is detailed, yet musical.




Value and Conclusion


Meze Rai Penta surely is a questionable thing when it comes to its value, it costs 1100 USD, and you can totally find better value in other IEMs, even those that follow the same signature. Not to mention package that is better, like Dunu DK-4001 which is a much easier choice, but at the end of the day, just like when I reviewed the Meze 99 Classics, my first official review on Audiophile-Heaven, I can’t help but say that Meze Rai Penta is indeed worth the money. It isn’t the IEM itself, it is that smart tuning that was made with enough care and passion for us music lovers to keep coming back to it for a listen.



Often it is much easier to recommend IEMs with great value, but Rai Penta is easy to recommend based on sound alone, although the build quality is great, it is a comfortable IEM, even for smaller ears, and it does not have any driver flex, microphonic noise, and it even manages to look cool.


The sound is smooth, relaxing, yet in a natural way, without losing the detail and technical ability in the process, just making sure to emphasize a natural sound that’s not unnaturally thick or bland, simply musical and lean.


At the end of the day, if you’re looking for what could be your next purchase as a musical flagship, if you appreciate both design, but also comfort, if you want to have a natural, slightly warm sound, with a liquid, musical midrange, and if you dislike strong treble, but still want some air, Meze Rai Penta makes an excellent purchase even now, and don’t forget to check with Meze, they sometimes include extra cables and specials with their IEMs and Headphones.




Full Playlist used for this review

While we listened to considerably more songs than those named in this playlist, those are excellent for identifying certain aspects of the sound, like PRaT, Texturization, Detail, Resolution, Dynamics, Impact, and overall tonality. We recommend trying most of the songs from this playlist, especially if you’re searching for new most, most of them being rather catchy.


Youtube Playlist


Tidal Playlist

https://listen.tidal.com/playlist/64555551-ec3c-4279-ae44-248fdfcf6c4b

I hope my review is helpful to you!
















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Mark-sf
Mark-sf
Great review! I am listening to the Rai Penta's paired with the M11 as I write this. :L3000:
icefalkon
icefalkon
George!! Great review as always brother!
Dobrescu George
Dobrescu George
@icefalkon - Always happy to help!!

@Mark-sf - Really happy to hear you're having an awesome combo there!!

Mark-sf

100+ Head-Fier
Pros: Top to bottom clarity with no significant colorations or resonances
As comfortable an light as custom IEMS
Extremely good spatial retrieval
Suitable for Mastering/Recording Engineer use
Beautifully cast and finished.
Cons: Inconsistent tip selection not suited for large ear canals
Does not ship with balanced cable
This review is of my personally purchased Meze Rai Penta IEMs and has not been solicited nor previewed by Meze. All opinions are my own. Meze offers the Rai Penta’s as a flagship IEM and their price at $1099 USD sets that expectation. The question is, do they deliver? Before starting I wanted to thank Andrew at Bloom Audio for providing excellent service in processing and shipping my order.

While having been in many aspects of the audio pro/re-production as both a vocation and avocation for over 50 years, I do not cycle through audio components continuously. I can be satisfied in the performance of a system until such time as a significant step forward is both available, desirable and affordable. Until the Rai Penta’s, I had considered my HD800S headphones w/ Bifrost 2 and Jotunheim as my serious music listening system for those more personal times. The combination of sheltering-in-place and working-from-home has altered my listening habits and led me to seek a more flexible and portable comparable experience than available from my Westone W40s.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

I was quite pleased with the presentation when unboxing and was thoroughly impressed by the Rai Penta’s level of design and finish. I had seen pictures, but you need to physically see and touch their exquisite craftsmanship.
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Anxious to begin listening, I checked out the array of tips.
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This resulted in one of my few disappointments as I need large tips and none of the offered pairs provided a decent seal. While the double-flange tip’s outside diameter could be considered Large, it fails, as its widest point is at the bottom edge which is too close to the Rai Penta’s body to fully insert.
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It is also made of very thin silicone that marginally seals if moved further up the nozzle. Fortunately, I had some tips from my old Triple-Fi’s that worked.

Next came the cable, which has great flexibility and construction. Unfortunately, it is not balanced. Now I am not one for exotic cables, but it turns out that the Rai Penta’s really scale well with the additional power that a balanced output provides when using my FiiO M11 or Jot. Given that one can always adapt a balanced to unbalanced, I am disappointed that Meze chose to make the balanced cable optional and quite expensive at $150 given that it is 4-core, silver-plated copper litz construction.
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I do like the cleaning brush, 1/4” and airplane adapters. I also like the case’s construction and style; however, I just wish it was narrower in its front-to-back dimension as it is not pants-pocketable unless you’re wearing cargo pants.

Even in unbalanced mode, listening to the Rai Penta’s was an unexpected experience. From the start, they did not present music as other IEMs, I have experienced. There is not the feeling of something closing off your ear. In its place is a wonderful openness very much inline with fine OTH open-backed headphones. This may be due to their innovative venting system, but in any case it makes a huge difference. This coupled with their extreme comfort results in an enveloping musical experience which is simply a joy.

TIPS

The Rai Penta’s for me are sensitive to the type of tip used and its bore. Since I had to find after-market tips, I ended up trying a selection before settling on the ones that work best for me and my large ear canals. Now the Rai Penta’s have a large bore where the different drivers do not mix their output until your ear canal. Therefore, I was surprised that the default tips had differing exit diameters. I have gotten great results with 3 models - SpinFit CP450, Mandarine Symbio W and Azla SednaEarfit.
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All three of these I have pictured and you’ll see that their output diameters are very close to that of the Rai Penta’s. I started off with the SpinFit’s
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but now have exclusively moved to the Azla’s. This is not due to a difference in tonal balance but more from a comfort perspective.
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When wearing the Azla’s I get a great seal but quickly they “disappear” from any sense of wearing them. The Mandarine’s being a hybrid foam/silicone design provide the best isolation of the three and will be great for traveling; however, they do keep me aware of them.
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You will note in the pictures, how all three insert deeper and have their widest diameter well away from the Rai Penta’s body for a great seal.

TONALITY

Turning to their tonal balance, I would like to describe them with a video analogy to set up my impressions and explanation. Please note that this is after two months of daily use. Any of you who are videophiles will know that there is the HDTV manufacturer’s default video mode (dynamic, vivid, etc.) and their “calibrated” mode (cinema, ISF, etc). If you have a quality HD/UDHDTV display calibrated as I have, you will immediately be struck by how there is less “pop” to the picture. The overall brightness is also noticeably lower and could even be classed as “boring”. However, once you live with that setting for a time, you’ll start to notice how it’s actually better balanced and has more visual detail without exaggeration. This is how I “view” the Rai Penta’s and their claim to TOTL status. The Rai Penta’s combination of openness and lack of colorations are qualities that take time to really appreciate and enjoy.

Moving finally into my tonal listening impressions, these were primarily done with a balanced TRN 8-core silver litz cable using my M11 and Jot with 2.5mm/XLR adapter. My listening tastes are varied, but I do not generally listen to metal, punk. rap, or highly compressed recordings.

Instead of the traditional bass, mids, and treble comparison, I’m going to focus on the Rai Penta’s actual instrumental and voice reproduction. The simple reason is that IMHO, performing frequency range-based comparisons, miss their real point. I’ve done many live classical and jazz recordings and believe I know what properly reproduced instruments and vocals sound like. If you are after this type of musical experience, read on.
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I cued up the SF Symphony’s performance of Henry Brant’s Ice Field (Binaural Edition) on SFS Media. While admittedly benefitting from its binaural recording technique, this piece and recording is an excellent test due to its full frequency and dynamic range in a hall and with an orchestra I am intimately familiar. The attack and decay of the percussion section, especially the double tympani and bass drums are real and matched what I’ve heard at Davies Symphony Hall. All of the aural subtleties were there with no discernible transducer resonances to detract from the musical event. The deep bass was actually startling as it was reproduced as it is in a large hall. When the piece gets very dense, the strings stay true to their tone. When the organ comes in a very sound effect way, the Rai Penta’s keep it distinct from the bass and percussion sections. I was struck with how like the Magico’s the Rai Penta’s sounded due to their lack of any resonances and colorations to detract from their clarity. I believe the choice of an all-aluminum body and sound tubes is largely responsible.
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Next, I cued up a recording that I have been using for over 40 years for equipment evaluation. The Atrium Musicae de Marid’s Tarentule~Tarentelle on Harmonia Mundi is an excellent collection of early music using original instruments and a simple stereo two-mic setup Its rich array of instruments are superbly rendered by the Rai Penta’s with precise placement and separation. The sharper harmonics of these period instruments are reproduced without any stridency or harshness added. Of particular note is Tarantela I & VI which shows off the group’s full instrumentation and on lessor transducers can become a cacophony. The Rai Penta’s kept everything sorted out.
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Turning to a more conventionally mic’d recording, I played Pray Sing Love by Eric & Ulrika Bibb on Dixiefrog. This is a very intimate recording with close mic’d instruments and vocals which due to the nature of Eric’s and Ulrika’s voices, shows up any midrange issues. The Rai Penta’s spotlighted their performances as a you-are-there experience without emphasizing the recording’s natural sibilance. Once again I was struck by their clarity, especially on You Were Made for Me and May Our Love. If you enjoy live recordings, the Rai’ Penta’s should definitely be auditioned.
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This was reinforced when I next played Eva Cassidy’s Live at Blue’s Alley on Blix Street Records. This unforgettable song stylist (whose life was cut tragically short) is in fine voice during this 1996 live recording. It is a deeply personal performance and the Rai Penta’s convey her lovely voice infused with emotion and placing you in the club. This is especially true on the slower ballads such as Tall Trees of Georgia, Fields of Gold and Autumn Leaves.
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One of my favorite Jazz/World artists is Jesse Cook. His latest album, One World, on Entertainment One brings a diverse set of rhythms to the performance. This recording has significant synthesizer bass that can easily overshadow the strings, sitar and guitars such as on Steampunk Rickshaw. The Rai Penta’s let you know the bass is there but kept it from coloring the other instruments and even did this better than I heard live.

PRESENTATION

To me, presentation (staging L/R, F/B, width) is dependent on an individual’s capability to translate aural clues and makes absolute judgements unreliable. I did evaluate the Rai Penta’s presentation not only on recordings such as those mentioned, but my own. I found I could happily use them as my live/mastering monitors because they conveyed the spatial cues necessary to place mics and balance ensembles. They do not create ambience nor do they emphasize what is there. This can make them appear more L/R and lacking in depth on recordings that have little or no acoustic, but I do not consider this a shortcoming. The Rai Penta’s are also capable of vertical diferentiation and thus present an “out-of-head” experience quite similar to good open-back headphones such as my HD800S. This was quite unexpected in my experience with IEM’s and resulted in my not missing my TOTL cans when listening to the Rai Penta’s.
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BALANCED VS. UNBALANCED

I’ve included this section because it has been asked many times and I believe Meze should change its offering to match that of their flagship Empyrean’s where they offer a choice of cable type. These are after all marketed as their IEM flagship. Does it make a difference? To my ears it does but only at the frequency extremes or if you don’t have enough unbalanced power. While the Rai Penta’s 110db sensitivity and 20 ohm impedance means that most any amp will produce decent volume, I found that they do scale up nicely. When using my M11 or Jot and going from Bal tp SE I lose some bottom end extension and weight as well as experience a slight softening of the highest treble such as in snare drum, cymbal brushes and violin harmonics. Is this “night and day”? No, not even close; however, if you’re spending top dollar for IEMs, they should be equipped with cables that allow them to sound their best.

CONCLUSION

If you made it this far, you’ll have noted that my negatives have been about the accessories versus the Rai Penta’s themselves. This is because, I find nothing to criticize about their performance for my taste. I believe Meze has really achieved a top IEM here. Some may prefer chocolate to strawberry, but once you get beyond flavors you really begin to appreciate their clarity, freedom from colorations, and engineered comfort. They simply disappear and leave the musical performance as presented by your system. I don’t write many reviews; however, the excellence of the Meze Rai Penta’s deserve to be extolled. It goes without saying that, if you are looking for a TOTL IEM, whether custom or universal, you need to give these an audition. Take full advantage of their 60-day in-home trial as it takes time for them to fully reveal their excellence. Highest Recommendation!
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Mark-sf
Mark-sf
I have listened to the SE846 in the past but not in direct comparison. They are of comparable size but the fit is different and I would say depends upon ear shape. In my case the Penta's fit like a CIEM where the Shures were more like my Westone's which stick out more and the cable entry angle is less comfortable for over-ear routing.
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Spie1904
Hmm I see! Thank you! I have rather small ears so I’m not sure the Penta would fit me. Shure se846 for example are a bit too wide for my taste as they don’t sit inside the concha area!
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Spie1904
I have gotten myself a pair since and I have to say that this review is spot on for me. I echo many of the thoughts described here.
The comfort is top notch and better than shure SE846 for me!

robthemac

100+ Head-Fier
Pros: Balanced sound signature
Decent technicalities
Visually attractive
Cons: Limited sub-bass extension
A bit boring
I was given the opportunity to try the Rai Penta as part of a world tour. Thanks to Andy for the opportunity.

The Rai Penta was used primarily with an iBasso DX-90 for portable use and JDS Atom at home. Tips were Comply foam. IEMs used for comparison were the Shure SE-846, 64 Audio U-10 and Hifiman RE-2000. My own supply of Comply foam tips used on all IEMs.

Fit: square external shell but nicely rounded on the internal aspect. Comfortable, reasonably secure. Metal is very nice to look at but can be uncomfortably cold to wear initially on cooler days. Below-average isolation, suited for inside use but not public transport or live performance.

Cable: supple, well-made, few microphonics but tangle-prone. Not as bad as the 64 Audio stock cable in that respect.

Bass: weighted toward mid-bass rather than sub-bass. Tight, good slam compared to all of the above with the exception of the pure DD RE-20. My personal preference is for a little more sub-bass extension, but that is subjective.

Mid-range: well balanced, no frequencies in particular jumping out or sitting too far back in the mix. Some bleed from bass into lower-mids. Never harsh or unpleasant.

Treble: weighted towards the lower frequencies, limited extension up above 8k. Result is a sound that is never overly bright, but does lack a bit of sparkle, especially on cymbals and brushes.

Technicalities: decent instrument separation, better than RE-2000 and SE-846 but not up to U10 standards. Soundstage is modest.

Drivability: played nicely with desktop and mobile sources. Easily driven, not overly revealing of poorly recorded music or sources. More sensitive than most of the above IEMs, but very little hiss.


Summary: over-all, I think the Rai Penta a good all-rounder. It does everything well. There are not real weak points (unless you're a big fan of sub-bass). The frequency response is well balanced. It's comfortable. I think the biggest issue for me is that it was just a bit boring in comparison to my other IEMs. The RE-2000 is deeply flawed, but exciting. The SE-846 has that deep, rich bass. The U10 is a techincal beast with sub-bass and upper treble extension to give it some energy. Overall, it's not an IEM I will miss particularly. However, if I were asked for a recommendation for someone who doesn't have a lot of IEM experience and no preferences in terms of frequency response, the Rai Penta would get a recommendation for me.
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storab
Would you recommend an upgrade from Se846 to Rai Penta?
How is the treble compared to Se846?
robthemac
robthemac
@storab

I think if you want something more neutral and balanced, the Rai Penta would be an upgrade. Otherwise, I liked my SE846.

Treble is interesting on the SE846. Stock, I found it way too rolled-off above 8kHz or so. But with the trishd mod, you get a nice lift in the upper treble. Brooko did some great FR graphs demonstrating this in his review of the SE846.

If you want lower treble emphasis or more balanced, go the Rai Penta. If you're treble-avoidant, go for the stock SE848. If you want soft treble with a little bit of sparkle, go for the SE846 with the trishd mod.

Hope that helps!

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