Meze Audio Rai Penta

General Information



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



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



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.




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.



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.



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


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


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

Latest reviews

Pros: natural detailed full-bodied sound tuning, beautifully crafted shells, compact ergonomic design and very comfortable fit, quality removable SPC cable, premium selection of accessories.
Cons: laidback sound presentation (depending on your preference).
Pentatonix harmony!


The product was provided to me free of charge for the review purpose in exchange for my honest opinion. The review was originally posted on my blog, and now I would like to share it with my readers on Head-fi.

Manufacturer website: Meze Audio. Available for sale directly or from Audio 46.


Intro.

Call me shallow, but when Meze Audio RAI Penta flagship IEMs arrived at my doorstep for review, I wasn’t in a rush to put them in my ears. Instead, I spent a good 10-15 minutes just looking at these little Romanian beauties and then continued while examining the custom case and the cable. And we are not talking about some exotic shell material or fancy custom finish. What caught my attention from the get-go was the design details of Penta’s uniquely shaped shells.

Of course, it should always be about the sound first, with everything else coming in second as the icing on the cake. But when it comes to Meze Audio earphone and headphones, you can’t help but notice how hard they try to stand out both in the design looks and the sound quality. But looks can only get you so far before it is time to hear what’s behind the shells. That is exactly what I did after spending the last month testing and analyzing RAI Penta. Here is more about it.

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Unboxing and Accessories.

Considering how much thought goes into the design of Meze products, you should expect as much when it comes to the unboxing presentation. Starting with a packaging box, it has a textured wavy pattern surrounding the company logo and the model name on the top cover. Inside you have a foam inlay with custom cutouts to hold securely RAI Penta, all the eartips, and a custom shaped protective travel case. Yes, I’m a sucker when it comes to unboxing and I do enjoy accessories, especially when it’s something unique and custom.

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Here, you will find a ton of eartip pairs, such as soft black XS/S/M/L, a pair of regular double flanged and a two pairs of deep insertion double flange tips, plus a pair of Comply eartips. Considering a stock cable 3.5mm termination, included was also 3.5mm to 6.3mm adapter which can come in handy when dealing with desktop equipment. You also get a cleaning tool with a brush and a long flexible cleaning whisker, a 2pin airplane adapter (that one is antique), stickers, and instruction manual.

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My favorite accessory has to be a custom shaped protective EVA hard case. It’s not a real leather, this is EVA material, but it looks like a real leather and has a protective hard shell with a soft inner lining and a mesh pocket. On the outside, you have a metal Meze Audio logo and even a little loop to clip the case. Meze is always trying to stand out from the crowd with their unique designs, even if it’s just a case.

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The included removable cable also looks nice. According to Meze, this is higher purity silver plated copper (SPC), 4 twisted wire conductors with each having 20 litz strands. The IEM connector is MMCX plug inside of clear transparent housing with a color mark for right side, and seem to be good quality. The cable has a flexible heat-shrink pre-shaped earhook, custom y-split with Meze audio symbol, plastic chin-slider, and a matching custom Meze audio branded connector plug. The stock cable comes with 3.5mm rhodium plated plug, and Meze also offers optional 2.5mm and 4.4mm balanced terminated SPC cables.

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Design.

While some IEMs standout based on the material and the finish of their shells, the first thing you notice with Penta’s in your hand is the unique shape. Milled from solid aluminum piece, the shells are very compact, have rounded edges with sexy wavy design lines, and a very comfortable ergonomic fit inside the concha area of my ear. While the surface of the shells is anodized, the milled Meze logo on the faceplate reveals the aluminum material underneath, and the same on the inner part of the shell where you have milled L/R letters, and 2 vents.

One of the vents, referred to as Pressure Equalization System (PES), has a unique drilled shape to control the airflow which regulates the internal chamber pressure around the driver assembly. And btw, absolutely zero dynamic driver flex. The nozzle also has aluminum finish with 3 precision milled sound bores that bring out the sound from connected internal metal sound tubes (also precision milled). You are not going to find typical plastic tubes and dampeners inside the shell, instead Meze uses metal sound tubes, each one precisely cut to control the amount of air volume in front of the driver.

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As the name of this IEM suggests, we are dealing with Penta-hybrid configuration of DD and 4BA drivers inside the shell. Based on the internal diagram, 4BA drivers are split into groups of 2 each. While it wasn’t specified in the spec, I assume DD is for the bass, one pair of BAs is for the mids, and the other pair of BAs is for the high frequencies, with each group connected to its corresponding metal tube going to a separate sound bore at the tip of the nozzle.

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Sound Analysis.

I analyzed RAI Penta sound performance driven by LPGT while playing a variety of test tracks, such as Agnes Obel “The curse”, Sandro Cavazza “So much better” (Avicii remix), C-Bool “Never go away”, Ed Sheeran “Shape of you”, Alan Walker “Darkside”, Galantis “Hunter”, Iggy Azalea “Black widow”, Indila “Boite en argent”, Counting Crows “Big yellow taxi”, David Elias “Vision of her”, and Michael Jackson “Dirty Diana”.

Penta has a natural full-bodied tonality with a nicely balanced signature. The presentation of the sound is slightly laid back, not too much in your face. I'm hearing a natural organic sound with a relatively coherent hybrid tuning, not too crisp or too analytical, but still will a decent amount of clarity and good retrieval of details. It doesn't stand out with super resolution or fun bass slam, it's more for a natural non fatigue enjoyment of the sound.

By the nature of Penta tuning, don't expect surgically separated layering of the sound with air in between, but you certainly should expect a distinct separation of vocals and instruments with the sound never getting congested or veil. This particular tuning is intended for enjoying the music rather than analyzing its micro details.

Soundstage had a very good width and depth expansion, not exactly on 3D holographic level, but it creates a natural space with a convincing positioning of instruments and vocals. You can easily distinguish and pin-point every sound in space, nothing is exaggerated.

Low end has a deep sub-bass rumble with a smooth analog texture that adds a fuller body weight under the mid-bass punch which has slightly above average speed/decay, not quite as fast as BA performance, but a little faster than average dynamic driver. The bass sounds natural and realistic, not super tight or very articulate, but with a very good control for a dynamic driver, without spilling into lower mids.

Lower mids are neutral and with a good amount of natural body which adds to an overall sound characteristics without adding too much to the thickness of the sound. It also creates a nice coherent transition from bass to mids, unlike some hybrids where you can hear a disconnect between DD and BAs. Upper mids have a good level of detail retrieval and natural resolution, never getting bright or thin. The lift around 2kHz is well executed and helps with clarity. It especially shines when it comes to vocals, both male and female, you can hear a very natural, organic, clear tonality.

Treble has a good extension, decent definition, modest amount of airiness and sparkle, not too much, just a moderate amount without going over the top. You are not going to miss the details of your crash cymbals, but the sparkle and the sizzle will be smoother. This makes the sound non-fatigue, without a single hint of sibilance, great for an extended enjoyable natural listening.

Once you get into listening, sometimes you just forget this is a hybrid IEMs with DD and 4BAs, because tuning is very coherent, with all drivers working in a balanced natural unison.

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Comparison.

Despite the fact that Penta is 5-driver hybrid, it has a unique tuning that could be compared to other 5-driver hybrids, or 5, 8, or 10 driver multi-BAs which I'm going to cover in the comparison below. In every case I was using LPGT as my reference source, Meze SPC cable with 4.4mm termination and adapters (if necessary) to match other IEM; also, volume matched in every comparison.

RAI Penta vs Campfire Audio Andromeda - the soundstage expansion in this comparison also has a lot of similarities, with depth being more out of your head while Penta's width is just a touch wider. Unlike the previous comparison with A91, compared to Andro I hear the same bass quantity, but not the same quality where Penta's bass is more articulate, having a little faster attack and shorter decay, giving it more control in comparison to Andro. But in general, the bass difference is not necessary night'n'day. Upper mids and treble is where I hear more difference. Again, with a focus around 2k peak which gives upper mids/vocals more crunch and clarity, Penta is more elevated and more forward, while Andro is pushed back and smoother and more laidback. But it reverses when it comes to treble where Andro is brighter and sometimes could get a little harsher in lower treble and has more airiness and more sparkle in upper treble, while Penta is noticeable smoother and more natural around the same peaks. As a result, Andro has a fun tuned signature with more focus around low end and treble, while Penta is more balanced and more naturally and evenly tuned.

RAI Penta vs Westone W80 - this is another very interesting comparison, despite that I'm stepping up to 8-driver multi-BA. Here, the soundstage in both width and depth are very similar. With bass, like in Andro comparison, quantity is very similar, but when it comes to quality the Penta has a faster/shorter attack and decay, giving its bass a better articulation. Treble is also nearly the same, well defined and still quite natural and non-harsh. Mids is where you will hear the biggest difference. Lower mids have a little more body in W80, giving the sound more thickness. Upper mids, especially around that 2k peak, is where you have the biggest difference where Penta has more forward presentation and vocals with more clarity, while W80 has its vocals more laid back, smoother, more organic.

RAI Penta vs Fidue Sirius A91 - the soundstage expansion in this comparison is close, with both having a similar depth with out-of-your head sound placement, but Penta has just a touch more width. The bass of A91 has a little more quantity, while the quality of the bass extension and impact and the balance between sub-bass and mid-bass are similar. Mids is where I hear more difference, especially in upper mids. Both have a natural neutral lower mids, and both have a similar peak around 2k, but Penta has this peak higher, making upper mids and vocals a little brighter and more revealing, with a slightly more forward presentation, while A91 has upper mids smoother, more organic, and slightly pushed back especially since A91 has a little more bass. The same with lower treble where 7k peak of Penta is a little higher than A91, giving the sound slightly more crunch. You can't help but notice similarities in these two IEMs, but even with their more subtle sound difference, I hear A91 being smoother, warmer, and a little more relaxed, while Penta is more transparent, more revealing, and overall having a little more balanced signature.

RAI Penta vs EarSonics Grace - it has been awhile since I used Grace in my testing, but once I started listening to Penta, I felt it would be an interesting comparison. With soundstage, Penta has advantage of more width, while the depth is similar. When it comes to bass, Grace sub-bass extension and mid-bass slam is overwhelming more powerful than of Penta. Penta's bass is elevated for sure above neutral, but Grace bass hits closer to basshead level, shifting its sound sig even more toward L-shaped. As a result of this difference, Grace mids/vocals are not as forward and not as balanced when transitioning from low end to mids. Penta mids/vocals have a better balance and a little more clarity, but most of it due to bass being less overwhelming when compared to Grace. Treble is very similar, just with Grace having a little more sparkle, while Penta having a little smoother definition.

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Pair up.

RAI Penta has an average impedance (20 ohm) and a little higher sensitivity (110dB), still quite efficient and easy to drive from any portable source I tried it with. Also, I didn’t hear any hissing in the pair up examples I tried.

Lotoo LPGT – very wide soundstage expansion; balanced sound signature with a natural detailed tonality. Average speed, above neutral bass impact, natural detailed mids/vocals, well defined natural treble. This pair up probably exhibits the most balanced signature since bass impact is not as lifted.

Cayin N6ii w/E01 (Mode AB) – very wide soundstage expansion; balanced sound signature with a natural detailed tonality. The bass has a faster attack and more articulate punch, mids/vocals sound very natural and still quite detailed, and treble has a little more sparkle and airiness. Very good pair up which scales up the bass performance of Penta.

iBasso DX160 – very wide soundstage expansion; balanced sound signature with a natural detailed tonality. Average speed, above neutral bass impact, natural detailed more organic mids/vocals, and well-defined natural treble. Quite a balanced pair up here as well.

A&K SP1000 SS – wide soundstage expansion; balanced sound signature with a natural detailed tonality. While with some other sources the bass goes deeper (more sub-bass rumble), here I actually hear stronger mid-bass punch. Mids/vocals sound smooth and natural, a little more laid back. Treble is also a little smoother in this pair up.

Shanling M0 – wide soundstage expansion; balanced sound signature with a natural detailed tonality. The bass is a little deeper in this pair up, average speed, more typical of DD performance, mids/vocals are smooth, laidback, detailed. Treble is smooth, and still well defined. This pair up sounds a little smoother and warmer, with deeper bass impact.

FiiO M11 Pro – very wide soundstage expansion; balanced sound signature with a natural and slightly more revealing tonality. Bass here is faster and more articulate, with a performance which feels closer to BA rather than DD. Mids/vocals are still natural and detailed, but they do sound a little more revealing, slightly brighter. Treble also has a little more sparkle. Overall, this pair sounds a little more revealing.

Samsung Galaxy S9 (w/HibyMusic) – the soundstage is above average, but not as wide as with some other DAPs. Tonality is smoother, a little less resolving, while the signature is still quite balanced. The bass does have a little more impact (more lift), mids/vocals are warmer, while treble is still well defined and natural.

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Cable Rolling.

For those who are interested, here are a few comparisons to other cables I tried with RAI Penta. Majority of my cables are 2pin, thus I don’t have a big selection of MMCX cables.

Stock SPC to ALO Super Litz SPC – nearly the same performance, with an exception of ALO cable being just a little bit brighter. But other than that, nearly identical performance.

Stock SPC to DITA Oslo – also, nearly the same performance, but DITA cable is also a little brighter, especially in upper mids/lower treble. Surprisingly, it was even brighter than ALO cable.

Stock SPC vs Linum SuperBaX – this is first cable comparison which I actually liked over the stock cable. Perhaps due to a very low impedance of SuperBaX cable, the changes are more pronounced with a tighter faster more articulate bass and still natural but a little more revealing mids/vocals and a bit more sparkle in treble.

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Conclusion.

It’s always a bonus to have a combination of beauty and brain, and that’s how I felt about RAI Penta. Of course, a beauty is in the eye of the beholder and the brain, which in this case the sound tuning, is subjective and depends on your preference. But you can’t deny, these are beautifully crafted IEMs with a natural detailed full-bodied sound tuning. To my surprise, I read a few polarizing impressions either praising or criticizing their tuning. If you want a big bass slam or extra revealing crisp treble details, the tuning of RAI Penta not going to fit your sound preference. Instead, RAI Penta has a more relaxed, more laidback sound presentation with natural detailed tonality and a balanced sound signature. I found Penta’s to sound great with any genre of music I threw at them, and personally I enjoyed their non-fatigue sound tuning over extended listening sessions.
Pros: exceptional build quality
- exceptional comfort
- world-class cable
- laid-back, smooth sound
Cons: perhaps too laid back at times
- bass is a little lazy
- vocals can sound too neutral and recessed
- lacks some speed and dynamics
- wide but not too deep sound-stage
Introduction:

Meze kindly lent me the Rai Penta for two weeks, in exchange for my honest opinion.
I have been a happy owner of the Empyrean for six months, and I was rather curious to hear how Meze’s flagship IEM compares to their flagship headphone.
Of course I am aware, that the comparison is not entirely fair, as the Rai Penta retails for £1000 and the Empyrean is £2700. They were also made for different purposes but still; they are two flagships from the same company.

It is also worth asking the questions, whether the Rai Penta is a worthy contender amongst other £1000 IEMs and whether it could be a good Empyrean substitute on the road.
In this review I will answer all these questions from my point of view.

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Background:

I have been in this hobby for about ten years. I started out with affordable IEMs like the Sennheiser IE80 and upgraded step by step as my wallet allowed. My daily driver and present system these days are the Empyreans with a Chord Hugo TT2. I used the TT2 with the Rai Penta for this review, but also tried briefly from my phone. The Meze top IEM sounds surprisingly loud and good out of a phone, but the improvement with the TT2 is clear.

Package, comfort, build quality:

The Rai Penta comes in a nice enough box. Eight pair of ear-tips and a pretty carrying case are included.
As I expected from Meze, the build quality is exceptional. I am particularly impressed by the cable; it is light, non-tangling, easy to use and comfortable. Thanks to the swivelling MMCX connector type the cable fits perfectly around the ears, which is often a struggle with other IEMs.
The shells of the IEMs feel strong, durable and sit very comfortable in the ear.
Both the cable and the IEMs are pleasant to the touch as well. Five out of five for build quality and comfort.

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Sound:

My first impression was, that the sound is more neutral than I expected. Quite smooth, relaxed, natural, but not too vivid.

Bass:

I would call the bass pleasant and never overpowering. It is pretty much in balance with the mids and treble when it comes to quantity. (If anything, the sound is a little ’U’ shaped with ever so slightly recessed mids.)
The Rai Penta’s bass is never intrusive, but it is there when the recording calls for it. That said, the Rai Penta is not the final word on bass clarity and quality. I would say, bass impact and speed/transients are a good average. All together I find the bass pleasant, but a little bit on the soft side.

Mids:

Vocals are not too forward on these IEMs, they do not stand out as clearly as they do on other IEMs like the much more affordable Lark Studio LSIV (RRP £369) for example. I have to say, mids and especially vocals on the Meze flagship IEM are not my most favourite part. Often doesn’t seem to be enough air around singers, voices sound too neutral and could use a little bit more energy. I prefer the mids on the previously mentioned LSIV for the extra air and aliveness, although in all other areas the Rai Penta is clearly the better in ear monitor.

Treble:

I think the treble is nicely done here. It is natural but detailed and never harsh. The upper frequencies sound quite open; giving a bit of space to the sound. Percussion sounds lifelike and detailed. I think the treble could be 5/5 if the bass is 4/5 and the mids 3/5.

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Other qualities of the sound:

In my opinion the Rai Penta is a natural sounding IEM with nicely rounded edges, just like its shells. Overall the tone is quite neutral, perhaps not exciting enough for some. There is a pleasant smoothness to the sound though, which I am sure a good number of buyers will find appealing.
I found the head room average in size. The sound stage is quite wide, but not very deep and also not too tall. Something like the Unique Melody Mason V3 (RRP £2000 I know it is unfair again) in comparison sounds much more 3D-like. The Rai Penta is a bit two dimensional for the price, but at least with a wide stage.

Is the Rai Penta the Empyrean of IEMs then?

The quick answer is no, not at all. While they share similar genes like the brilliant Meze build quality, the sound is not even in the same ball park.
The Empyrean is light-years ahead in everything from spaciousness, life-likeness, speed, resolution, impact and so on. Let’s leave it at that.

To answer my other questions from the introduction; I am also hesitant to instantly recommend the Rai Penta as a strong choice for £1000 if somebody is after IEMs in this price range. I think the Meze in-ears are just not as exciting, not as refined and dynamic as some other contenders for this money. I would only recommend a blind buy if you are fan of a laid-back, rounded and smooth sound which is also rather neutral. In this case, give them a go, but know that there is punchier and cleaner bass out there if you are into EDM and you can also find more alive vocal presentation.

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I am still a little bit struggling to identify the target audience of the Rai Penta when it comes to sound signature. For audio enthusiasts who like a smooth and ‘musical’ sound, I think the Penta is just not alive, not lively enough. For people who are after technicalities and want speed with dynamics the Penta again, is not the best choice as with the smoothness we loose a degree of dynamics and speed.
While the Empyrean in my experience has absolutely hit the bulls eye when it comes to balancing all these needs (being 'musical' and technical at the same time), I think the Rai Penta has landed only near the target.

Would I personally buy the Penta as an Empyrean replacement on the go? Unlikely. I was ready for some compromise given the price difference, but the Rai Penta doesn’t remind me enough to the spacious, clear and detailed sound of the Empyrean where everything is bursting with life at the same time.

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Conclusion:

I think the Rai Penta is a nice try, but definitely won’t shake up the IEM world as much as the Empyrean did with the headphone universe.
I love the build, love the cable, comfort, but can’t say the same on all aspects of the sound. Somewhere between £600-800 I would consider the Penta a good if not excellent buy, but at £1000 the competition becomes pretty tough these days.
It may seem that I judged these IEMs hard, but at a price tag of £1000 reviewers are expected to run short of mercy. That said, I still like the sound of the Rai Penta in general, but it didn’t make me feel as enthusiastic as the Empyrean did and I do not think it is the IEM equivalent of the Empyrean for mobile use.
Pros: Lush, immersive musicality; natural timbre, coherent warm sound, excellent construction and design, very comfortable, easy to drive
Cons: A little sloppy bass, average technicalities, lack treble crispness...
MEZE RAI PENTA REVIEW :
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SOUND: 8.5/10
CONSTRUCTION: 10/10
DESIGN: 9.5/10
ACCESSORIES: 8/10

VALUE: 7.5/10


MEZE is mostly praise by audiophile for their headphones like the 99 classic and Neo. Sure, they got recognize too for their earphones, but I don’t think they get as much actively praised than the 99 Classic.

Still, they aren’t new to earphones conception and already have a line up of 4 budget friendly model which consist of two 12 classic iem made of wood housing and two 11 NEO made of metal material. All of them sell for under 100$. Unfortunately I didn’t hear any of them but expect warm, lush bassy signature sound of MEZE.

One would think MEZE go in higher price range gradually, but instead they jump right up to the top and enter flagship earphones market with their latest iem offering call the RAI PENTA.

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Priced at 1099$, the Rai Penta is sure a luxurious iem few could afford. This hybrid earphones hide 1 dynamic drivers + 4 balanced armature in it’s rather sleek sexy body. Construction is sincerely exceptional.

It take 3 years for MEZE to come out with the PENTA they feel confident to sell, after numerous prototypes, the end result is nothing less than mind blowing.

Now, let’s see in this review if it deliver a level of sound quality on par with it’s price range.

DISCLAIMER : I wanna thanks MEZE for lending me the Rai Penta for rather long period of time. I was last on the list of loaner review and perhaps take too much my time...but i feel like Gollum with its precious treasure and hide myself alone on the top of a mountain with the Penta so nobody can stop me using it.



SPECS :

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


ACCESSORIES, CONSTRUCTION & DESIGN :

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UNBOXING experience is a luxuriously enjoyable one. You got a nice fancy box and when you open it you see everything you got for your 1K. Well, the cable is hide in the beautiful leather protective case but everything else is in front of you : the Rai Penta jewels, an impressive amount of eartips to be sure you find your proper fit (7 pairs of silicone and one pair of memory foams), a 4cores SPC cable, the elegant carrying case and a bunch of MEZE sticker for Fanboys like me. Okay, the boxing could have been even more luxurious due to high price range, but I have nothing to complaint about. Everything is there, yes an extra balanced cable would have been nice….but hey, it look like MEZE make a special right now that include an extra 2.5mm cable anyway!

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CONSTRUCTION of MEZE product are always preciously crafted, so my expectation for their top of the line iem was very high. And still, I'm in awe. If such thing like perfection exist, MEZE nail it with the Rai Penta housing. First thing that surprise me is how small it is for a multi hybrid iem. After this is how light it is for such sturdy looking all metal earphones. With iem in this price range I'm merciless about every aspect of construction and search for little details that can be negatively judged. One thing is about how the housing is durable in all way possible including scratch on it’s body. Well, the anodize cnc aluminum housing isn’t easy to scratch at all! Unlike DITA Fealty, Hifiman RE-2000 or Final Audio B1, you invest in a luxury iem that will not look like an old warrior full of battle scars after a year! The fact this review unit have been use by lot of other people and that I use it for a full month without ever using a carrying case and i can’t find a single little scratch on the body is supreme proof of how scratch resistant is the Rai Penta and yes, this is a big deal. The housing shape is sumptuous, with smooth organic curve, the dark blue colour is eye catching and reflect light in a intricate way. Body is make of 3 metal part, with a nozzle that have metal tube as well, so inner construction is as much carefully done than outside one. How the MEZE logo is engraved in housing is sumptuous too. Man, even the venting hole are artsy looking...I mean, i literally contemplate venting hole and find it beautiful with the Meze Rai Penta, I think it say alot about how refined are material used for construction.

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DESIGN can only be great if I praise that much the construction and I sincerely believe it really take 3 years of ergonomic research as MEZE state themself. This is a flawless design, that offer as much comfort than durability and beauty. It’s light, have smooth anodize aluminum shell with round curvy edge, the nozzle is neither too long or too short and even if it’s on the thick side it sit perfectly in ear canal as if it became a part of your body. With or without ear hook, the iem will stay still in your ears because of their perfect shape that embrace human anatomy.

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CABLE too is nice, not mind blowing like the earphones but a good high purity silver plated 4 cores braided cable similar to the one you get with Final Audio B1 or B3. Due to how unique the Penta look, i would have prefer an even fancier cable like a smooth 8cores SPC, but this is just a personal caprice. The cable is great.

DRIVEABILITY is very easy. At 20ohm with high 110db sensitivity, anything will drive properly the Penta. In fact, Penta don’t like too powerful amping. Neither too low. I find them a little capricious about pairing in the sens they will benefit from clear source with high SNR. My best pairing is with my Ibasso DX90 at low gain, to my ears, soundstage gain deepness because of low background noise floor.


SOUND :

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OVERALL PERSONAL SOUND APPRECIATION is mostly positive even if at this price range I sure judge more severely sound balance, tonality and timbre of an earphone. Even if MEZE did balance very well dynamic driver with 4 balanced armatures, it sure will have some limitation in soundstage and imaging that is inherent to this type of implementation and could only be avoid using very big housing, which the PENTA didn’t have. I’m not a pro about housing acoustic, but I think this explain overall thick dense macroscopic sound we have with the PENTA, to some extend it remind me a warmer, more refined and balanced BGVP DMG wich is a good value 160$ DualDD+2BA’s earphones.

The PENTA are slightly U shape sounding, with serious emphasis in sub bass which give a big thick slam, the lower mid range do get warmth a little, but in a good way which give vocal more density in body and presence even if overall clarity of mid range is a little too smooth in definition to offer a wider, clearer, airier vocal presentation. Cohesion of whole sound feel natural, more similar to what we would expect from a TOTL single dynamic driver that multi BA’s hybrid, this have a fluid muscular musicality that avoid any aggressiveness, well, if we don’t talk about weighty bass slam. You will not hear any sibilance in mids, no sharp peaks, its so lush and organic, yet it have good amount of details and well articulate layering. Now, here I think about Final Audio E5000, especially for how the treble is polished and laid back, giving smooth natural timbre which avoid any grain or harshness.

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SOUNDSTAGE is average for the price, it have rather good wideness but lack in both tallness and deepness, making overall presentation quite intimate.

IMAGING is lower than average for the price, instrument separation lack air and space, it’s not very easy to define their placement and while it do not really feel congested even with crowded music, thick layering will make it sound less accurate in resolution.

CLARITY isn’t at the highest level here, which explain why the PENTA make me think of Final Audio E5000, its warm, its thick, it’s not super transparent. If you expect vivid detailed and fast presentation from the Balanced armature, think again, because the BA’s in there make me think of Knowles BA’s sound which isn’t about high definition but natural, lush timbre.

TIMBRE is how I like it : full and natural with well rounded density and just enough texture to make it sound smooth as butter.

BASS is beefy without going into full basshead territory. It haven’t long transparent and super controlled extension we could find with more neutral iem like the DITA Fidelity, but a thick bumped sub bass mixed with lower mid bass, its very round to the point it’s more about authoritative slam than fast thigh punch. U shape in soul, but W shape with smoothed treble in nature, the PENTA have more juice to share than controlled vividness. Can’t say bass is boomy, but it sure isn’t a maestro of control and speed. This type of low end is great for cello which sound fuller as well as acoustic bass and synth bass, less so for fast slap bass and kick drum.

MID RANGE have a lush laid back feel to it that strangely keep a good level of naturalness. Its dense, and seat on the bass with its thick presence. Vocal of both male and female are sweet and polished in upper mids, which avoid any hint of sibilance or harshness without overly affecting attack of other instruments. Piano sound round and smooth, with good weight but soft attack and not alot of realistic resonance, I really like how full bodied the piano is presented. Violin can play fast without loosing its pace, but definition will lack texture for some. Yep, we are in warm mids territory that deliver a clean well articulate sound, which is more about musicality than technicality.

TREBLE emphasis is more in lower and mid region and begin a drop around 10khz, there no hint of aggressiveness and rather offer a smooth rendering with nuanced timbre and well layered details. Percussion are crunchy and well define, not pushed artificial forwards, giving highs good natural balance that sound opposite to clinical earphones without feeling it really lack in analytical approach. No splashiness, but not alot of sparkle either, you have as well minimal brilliance so I would not suggest the PENTA for fan of classical guitar, harp or harpsichord. Transition from low to mid to high is rather liquid, like thick hot transparent caramel. It really taste good, and sweetness isn’t unhealthy. This is organic old fashioned caramel, carefully homemade by your grandma. I reassuringly tasty, but sure, I would have like a little more spice in treble. Instrument like saxophone, electric guitar, violin and piano earn some extra attack speed when playing in this range, but again, with good hearted warmth to it. Cannot go better rounded than this, and this might be dream come true for treble sensitive people searching for revealing inoffensive listen.

SUB BASS : 8/10
MID BASS : 7.5/10
MID RANGE : 8.5/10
TREBLE : 8/10
TIMBRE : 8.5/10
CLARITY : 7.5/10
SOUNDSTAGE : 7.5/10
IMAGING : 7.5/10
ATTACK-DECAY : 7.5/10



COMPARISIONS:

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VS DITA FIDELITY (1300$) :

How could compare an high end single dynamic against the flagship triple drivers Penta?
Well, let’s begin by saying it wasn’t that easy to compare both due to different amping need, Fidelity being seriously harder to drive and Penta being sensible to over power that can affect sound balance, it wasn't an easy task.
Now, when it come to construction, both are fabulously crafted, but the Rai Penta win in term of comfort and fit, because the DITA is less ergonomic in shape and its earhook cable is thicker and can go off the ears.

SOUNDSTAGE is slightly larger with the DITA, while the PENTA win in deepnest, but still have an overall more intimate presentation and this deepness clarity can be affected by bass veil.
IMAGING tend to be more accurate and sharper with the DITA, especially in mids and highs, tough the lower bass is more easy to discern with PENTA.
BASS is more U shape and emphases with the PENTA, its thicker, warmer, weightier and more muscular than the flatter, slightly dry lower end of DITA which have more energy in mid bass making kick drum less thick but more realist and textured.
MID RANGE is warmer with the PENTA, its a little thicker and more opaque too, it will have more presence when there no sub bass bleed occurring but the brighter timbre of DITA tend to offer higher clarity, tough male vocal will sound thinner and female vocal can rarely create slight sibilance, attack for violin is faster too.
TREBLE is more extended, sharper and more sparkly with the DITA, percussion are more forward and clearer, but this can affect overall balance and make the DITA sound a little more clinical than more mellow and natural treble response of PENTA.

All in all, PENTA is more bassy, warmer and lusher while the FIDELITY is more neutral, brighter and accurate.

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VS FINAL AUDIO B1 (700$) :


Both this earphones share similar warm, bassy and intimate soundsignature, but the B1 is more V shape and warmer. SOUNDSTAGE is similar, just enough wide to don’t feel stock in your head, but the PENTA are notably deeper as well as a little taller, make it more out of your head and spacious than B1.
IMAGING is more accurate with crisper clarity with the PENTA, as if with the B1 your too near musicians to have proper instrument separation.

BASS is more controlled and linear with the PENTA, it sound faster than more pumped up bass of B1 that tend to warm lower mids more than the PENTA. B1 have slightly thicker and juicier sub bass but it’s less textured than PENTA.
MID RANGE is clearer, slightly brighter and more accurate with the PENTA, the presentation is wider and less intimate and prompt to congestion than B1. B1 have more mellow mid range, but female vocals are more prompt to (rare) sibilance, dynamic and attack is more energic with the PENTA.
TREBLE is more extended with the PENTA, delivering crisper highs and more micro details on top, this make them more W shape while the B1 are more L shape with extra mids push. No doubt that the PENTA deliver higher definition, more texture and a livelier musicality.

All in all, the B1 will please those who search thick sound with lush mids and intimate laidback musicality, while the PENTA is clearly superior in technicalities, bass control and imaging.

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VS DITA TWIN FEALTY (1300$) :


SOUNDSTAGE is slightly wider with the PENTA but we have notably more deepness and tallness with the DITA which make it sound more out of your head and airy.
IMAGING being more spacious with the DITA, instrument separation have more air between them and tend to give clearer and more accurate positioning, as well, DITA have more transparency which benefit layering resolution.
CLARITY is sharper with the DITA, especially in mid range where its clean from any bass warmth. TIMBRE is thicker, juicier and smoother with the PENTA, while the DITA is more bright and transparent. BASS is seriously more beefy, weighty and punchy with the PENTA, its thick and beautifully rounded even if it tend to warm lower mid range more than dryer, flatter and more textured bass of DITA. MID RANGE of DITA sound more revealing and fully covered, slightly more forward too, but with upper mids emphasis that while barely even make any micro sibilance, tend to offer a less smoothness than warmer, more opaque mids of PENTA. Here, DITA offer higher level of definition and clarity, making the PENTA sound less balanced and refined. TREBLE is a little more extended with the DITA, but extra micro-details we find is more due to higher level of clarity, anyway, highs have more natural sparkle-brilliance-decay to them while PENTA is again softer-dryier on top.


All in all, PENTA is bassier, warmer, more laid back and softer sounding while the DITA have better technicalities, more balanced near neutral sound and slightly brighter timbre that permit higher level of definition.

CONCLUSION:

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Musically, the Rai Penta is a champion with it’s lush, thick, bassy and coherent sound. Technically, it’s less convincing with it’s slightly loose bass response, warm definition, smooth attack and average transient response.

While I find sound value is in the low benefit return tangent, i think the extremely comfortable and well crafted Penta justify it’s higher price range to some extend. Why? Because we can’t expect high sound value with 99% of iem costing more than 1000$. Well, I still am searching for the one that can be consider as a versatile spectacular sounding end game iem. To be honest, I don’t think it exist.

In the other hand, the fact level of resolution isn’t analytical and choose to be lush and transparent instead of sharp and crisp make the Penta never aggressive or artificial sounding whatever music style you listen to. This could be a problem for metal or fast rock that need thigh punchy bass and fast transient response, but for most music like classical, jazz, pop, rap and electronic the result is very addictive.

If your wallet is thick enough and you search for a top of the line warm, laid back, bassy and lush sounding earphones with incredibly beautiful and sturdy construction, the Meze Rai Penta might become your beloved guilty pleasure.

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HardstyleLoco96
HardstyleLoco96
Great review :)

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