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Meze Audio Rai Penta

Rating:
4.22727/5,
  1. ngoshawk
    Meze Rai Penta, how does one follow the Empyrean?
    Written by ngoshawk
    Published Nov 27, 2019
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Made by Meze
    Fit-n-finish
    "Affordable" TOTL
    Laid-back signature does not offend
    Excellent fit for my ears allows long listening sessions
    Does pretty much everything without offending
    Cons - Meze did not take enough of a chance, like they did with the Empyrean
    More bass wanted
    Mids a bit too laid back (to me)
    Does pretty much everything without offending
    Take a chance Meze!
    Meze Rai Penta ($1099): How does one follow the Empyrean?

    Rai Penta website: https://mezeaudio.com/products/rai-penta

    [​IMG]

    So…it begins. I will openly admit that until Andy sent a PM to those on this section of the tour, I had forgotten about the Rai Penta. I had forgotten I even applied. Shame on me for not keeping my notes up. Once the PM came though, I perused the reviews on this one. I often state that I do not for fear of jading my like/dislike of the item coming down my road. This was a case where I wanted to know what the kerfuffle was out in the yard. So, I peeled back the blinds to look in the yard, and of course my dog was chasing a squirrel. Anytime we say the SQ-word, she is a four-wheeler in action across our wooden floors, scratching for traction, and making any drifter worth their car jealous as her tail end slides gracefully out, but completely under control. Aussies tend to be that way…always in control and always passionate about the chase. I wouldn’t trade that for the world. We play hard, we fight hard, we snuggle hard. That is true love.

    [​IMG]


    This would also describe my love for the Empyrean. For to me it was and will most likely stay the best headphone I have ever heard. That is until another of that weight ($) comes along. It will be tough to top, period. With that in mind as I read the reviews, I anticipated the passion, the sweat of labor, the meticulous craftmanship that would imbue the Rai Penta. For I look at Meze the same way I look at my beloved 1988 Richard Sachs. A one-man show and meant to be that way. Both Antoine and Richard share that passion for making the best (and cycling). There are others, which would give rise or claim to the top, but you do not mind, for you have found your passion and it is good. So, I waited. And a few short days later (spent seeking death as an upgrade to the sickness I felt from the first virus of the school year) the package arrived. I may do an unboxing vid, I may not. There will be a finale vid of course.

    I will add here in the introit, that my initial impressions were not what I expected. After the Empyrean, one has such lofty expectations, that to not be met is a disappointment. But that would be a disservice to the Rai Penta. I will add more below.


    Specs:

    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


    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

    *Extra 2.5mm bal & 4.4mm bal cables included for testing. And I am glad!!


    [​IMG]


    Gear used/compared:

    MBP/iFi Pro iDSD
    XDuoo X10t ii/iFi Pro iDSD
    Dethonray DTR1
    Questyle QP2R
    Thebit Opus #2


    Campfire Atlas ($1299)
    Clear Tune Monitors Da Vinci X ($2400)
    Unique Melody Maestro V2 ($1599)
    Unique Melody Mentor V3 ($2099)



    Songs Used:


    Dr. John…RIP…

    Coldplay-All I Can think About Is You
    Coldplay-A Message
    Coldplay-White Shadows
    Dona Onete-Sonos de Adolescente
    Los Lonely Boys- Heaven (en Espanol)
    twenty one pilots-Trees
    twenty one pilots-Car Radio
    twenty one pilots-Heathens
    Damian Marley-Everybody Wants To Be Somebody
    Damian Marley-So A Child May Follow
    Damian Marley-The Struggle Discontinues
    Ziggy Marley-Lighthouse
    Ziggy Marely-See Dem Fake Leaders
    Mark Knopfler-Laughs And Jokes And Drinks And Smokes
    Santana w/ Mana- Corazon Espinado

    The new twenty one pilots album, Trench
    Tedeschi Trucks Band
    Mark Knopfler-Down The Road Wherever
    Bighead Todd & The Monsters-Beautiful World

    Dr. John-what a wonderful world

    [​IMG]

    Unboxing:

    Some reviews mentioned the lack of “quality box” for the Rai Penta was disappointing. I say what a load of horsecrap. I say this having what to me is the best box experience ever with the CTM Da Vinci X. You want fabulous, meticulous, informative? The CTM box is a cornucopia of sensual emotions as you peruse Da Vinci, and the makings of that beauty. Campfire Audio is another where the presentation is quite nice, replete with starlit night and camping. Two awesome boxes.

    [​IMG]

    That said, I had taken as much pleasure from the Unique Melody presentation, with the UM logo embossed and sunken in as the previous iterations. The Meze melds simplicity with organic shapes and features. Some killer pictures can be had, which are quite psychedelic as well. Sometimes to take a trip, one must be tripping. Well done, Meze in the simplicity. I like it.

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    On the back is an overlay (think old Anatomy overlays used to study A&P), complete with exploded view. Of particular jocularity are the BA’s marked “brilliance” and “beyond brilliance.” I know that the intention is for description of frequency reach, but one surely thinks of the movie Spinal Tap and one of the greatest lines ever, “but this one has 11.” An idiot’s response shrouded in brilliance. Editor’s note: one would never insinuate that Meze is close to idiocy, but one draws inspiration from being close to that line. Sometimes brilliance does come from the actions deemed idiocy…just saying.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Opening the box, and you find a quite nice presentation, with the leather oddball shaped case (think clamshell) below, and the IEM’s sheltered by themselves up top. Presentation is top notch and simple. Yet again, we see genius at work. The included accessories are impressive, and worthy of a TOTL IEM. Of note is the clean your inner ear length pick on the end of the cleaner. I have never seen a fiber that long on a cleaner and I would almost be afraid to use it, for making it all the way to the drivers. One is always careful with their gear though, right?

    [​IMG]

    Build quality:

    This get a separate heading here, not usually accorded me in others. I do so knowing the stellar build and fit-finish of the Empyrean. And yes, the Rai Penta is equal. Made of two halves and a longer-than-normal nozzle (GOOD!), the build is exquisite. I like the shape for it presents an almost “shelf” with which to grab ahold of the IEM on insertion. A guide into the ear almost. The color is superb of the anodization. I like the deep dark blue green (less green). Think Seattle Seahawks jerseys. Understated, but elegant. The silver-plated copper wire reminds me of the Campfire Audio Litz cables. Soft, supple and not prone to tangle. Typical Meze greenish brown colors adorn the splitter and jack. The former has the Meze triton, the latter the Meze Audio label and size. My only regret is that the cinch above the splitter is plastic. I would have liked another of Meze’s little trinkets to adorn the spot. Picky I know…

    Two vent holes are on the inside, one with a tri-shape Benz-like emblem, with holes between. The other a smaller hole. You see the bare metal, which may be off-putting, but when you consider the company, you know there be not worry, mate. A top-notch effort, with no obvious flaws.

    [​IMG]


    Fit-n-finish (less finish, more fit):

    As one might expect from Meze’s history, the fit and finish are quite good. No mismatches, and the cover does not promote fingerprints. I do rather enjoy the color as well.

    The fit is very good as well. With a smaller shaped housing, the Rai Penta fits fairly deep into my ear, without bother. The nozzle while longer than some does not dig in anywhere. Using the enclosed medium foam tips, the fit was good, but I did wish for a bit more isolation. It is good, but for the shape this is, I want a bit more. Silicon’s fit just fine, so getting the right fit should be easy. I was able to wear the Rai’s for extended listening sessions with either tip. No problem. Not even from the pre-formed ear guide. Longer than some, but not with the excruciating bend of the UM Mentor V3, the Rai Penta is made for long sessions. It also helps that the supple cable feel is pretty much tangle free. I have another in house right now, which has a cable that tangles at the mere suggestion. I use that for running as well, and must use my armband, with the cable tucked under my shirt. Not so with the Rai Penta (and NO, I did not go running with it…sheesh), it lays nicely and out of the way. I do wish the cinch above the very nice y-splitter was also metal. Adding the traditional Meze logo would have been boss. Semantics…

    [​IMG]

    Sound:

    I put the Rai Penta away for a couple of days. I listened to other IEM’s during that time. Coming back, I found no dissatisfaction or loss of what I liked. That “newness” had not worn off, because it hadn’t started in the first place. With a mellower sound (as described above), the Rai Penta provided me with a very nice way to enjoy music without a formalness, which can pervade some higher end IEM’s. While the Empire Ears Legend X just reached out and wowed you, the Rai Penta provided that calm confidence. I think I would call it safe tuning. And while there certainly isn’t anything wrong with safe tuning, it does not present itself as being overly good in any category. What I mean is that while very competent in all aspects, it does not shine in any one area. That is what I mean by safe. Consider this the jack of all trades. Almost.

    Bass is top quality, with sufficient reach, but not enough to make it rumble. It is present and very enjoyable, but not overwhelming like a Campfire audio tuning. And there isn’t anything wrong with that sort of tuning either. On the Tedeschi Trucks Band Midnight In Harlem, the bass presentation is sublime and subdued. Definitely playing the support role, it is exceptional. But it is meant to be on that song. I kept listening to this song over and over not only for Susan’s voice (oh…my…), but for that bass line and how it melds with her vocals and the upper. A very good mix on a mellow song. Two that are meant for each other.

    In that regard as well, the mids are there, but as others have mentioned, fall behind. Not that this would be the weak link, but what I will call the safe tuning, subdued part. I am unable to pick out the intricate detail like I can with my CTM Da Vinci X. It is almost on par with my UM Mentor V2 though. Almost. Clean, but subtle in presentation. Female vocals are good and male vocals are as well, but both are a bit too laidback for me with this tuning. Here is where I think Meze could have taken more of a chance. With the laidback signature, settling the mids more forward would have made the Rai Penta SING. At least to me. And that would have given it a superb presentation. Please do not take this as criticism, just my take on how the Rai Penta would have fit my tastes better. Still good, but not enough for me.

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    And thankfully, the treble is not over the top. I am ever so thankful for that. On Santana’s Los Invisibles, the vocals of Buika are on the higher range, and could become grating at higher volumes. But not with the Rai Penta. Especially run through the iFi Pro iDSD. That tube sound compliments the song well, and the Rai quite well. There is a bit of sparkle, but not like the Da Vinci. That can become too much for me on some songs, but the crystalline sound, which emanates as a result is a treasure. This is good. Very good, but I wish for a small bit more push up top. Of course, this could be my hearing as well. Take that as you may. Carlos sound grand on the Rai…

    Following Carlos, Mary Lane’s old blues voice is wonderful. While missing that bit of grit or depth in the mids, her voice sounds gruff and tough as it should. This is good stuff, just not enough of it. The Blues Give Me A Feeling give me a good feeling through the Rai Penta. Most blues songs have a somewhat narrower soundstage and here it is no different. Presented with a personable soundstage, it is not the widest or biggest, but it is a clean space. There is no background noise at all. A black background emanates from the Rai Penta. I appreciate the silence.

    I would rate the layering & detail to be on the better side than not. I can distinctly pick out differences and the detail while again laidback is good. Not the best clarity-wise, but quite good and on par with others at this price. I continue to like the overall signature of the Rai Penta. For a TOTL first IEM it is an excellent effort.

    [​IMG]

    Comparisons:

    Meze Rai Penta ($1099) v Campfire Atlas ($1299):

    I love the bass presentation of the Atlas. It is still superb after these few years. The mids fall behind the Rai Penta in “distinctness,” though. I find them falling behind the sound of the Rai, and not as enjoyable either. But that bass…. on Tedeschi Trucks Midnight In Harlem you have a definite rumble, and it is much appreciated. I still enjoy the Atlas sound signature, but the Rai Penta has surpassed it in terms of quality. But, with no muss and no fuss (except the cable can tangle), the Atlas can be on, in one’s ear and listening in a matter of seconds. An excellent commuting pair, the Atlas still garners much appreciation from my ears.

    But, the overall goes to the Rai Penta here, even with a bit narrower soundstage. Detail is better, treble presentation is tighter, and with less of a detached upper sound as well. To me the Atlas uppers have a sort of “go their own way” to them, which I think purposely draws a bit of attention away from the bass, lest you continually get blown away.


    Meze Rai Penta ($1099) v Clear Tune Monitors Da Vinci X ($2400):

    From the moment I heard the Da Vinci X on the tour, I knew it was in my future. I know consider it my top TOTL. My judge against the others. With a bit hotter treble than I like until I get reacclimated to the sound, the sparkle is marvelous. Bass is tight and just right. It does not have the rumble like the Atlas, but it isn’t meant to. No, it is all about quality. I heard some describe it as a bit too analytical. I disagree and call it precise. Like that surgeon who knows what the heck they are doing, and it shows. This is a phenomenal sound.

    So why include it against the Rai Penta then? Well flagship against flagship, that’s why. All of the ones I have listed were considered flagships at one point (or still are) by the company and as such you gauge your best against theirs. The Rai is definitely more laidback, and mids are no match. But that mellow sound makes for a really enjoyable long-term session. With the Da Vinci X, I must turn the sound down after some time. I prefer longer listening terms, but sometimes I just cannot with the X. It might be that the X is TOO precise for me. Maybe that is it, or maybe I am just overly sensitive to what comes through. That said, Please Don’t Tell Her is a phenomenal listen. Just about perfection to me. The Rai is good. The X is superb.


    Meze Rai Penta ($1099) v Unique Melody Maestro V2 ($1599):

    Every time I think of selling the Maestro V2 to fund another, I give it a listen and essentially think, “what the heck are you doing??!!” I still find joy in my official first TOTL IEM. I heard it one day and contacted Andrew at Musicteck to arrange a purchase the same day. I was sold. I still am. The bass is better than the CTM, with more (even if a bit more untamed). Vocals are sublime, and there is a definite push up top. I would not call it sparkle, but brilliance. Mids are not only cleaner, but clearer than the Rai Penta as well. Still on par with many of the TOTL I have heard, I marvel when I listen. It also has a bit wider soundstage as well. Then Crazy Mary comes on, and I just stop writing, and listen. Layered, distinct, placement, separation. It has the goods. I called the Maestro the cool kid who everyone likes because he is so cool. This still holds, but for mellowness, the Rai Penta has now surpassed the Maestro.

    I would call this the closest comparison to the Rai Penta in my arsenal. And it can most definitely hold court with the Rai. If the Rai Penta had the mids of the Maestro, it would be just about perfect to me. The bass of the Rai Penta is of better quality, but reach is a bit more surprisingly on the Maestro. I marvel at how lucky I am to be deciding between two flagships, one old and one new. It is an excellent conundrum to have and one, which the Rai Penta makes harder to judge. I do still prefer the Maestro overall, though. It just fits my bill better. Not a slam of the Rai Penta, just preference for the Maestro.


    Meze Rai Penta ($1099) v Unique Melody Mentor V3 ($2099):

    Another tour purchase, the Mentor V3 came my way because I liked the signature more than the Mason V3. A bit better bass sound to me, and excellent detail retrieval, this is the closest to the Da Vinci X of what I have. More forward in upper mids, the Mentor provides me with the more mellow sound than the X. A nice compliment. Not quite as laidback as the Rai Penta, but another good representation. Again, not really a fair comparison, but one to possibly reach for when Meze goes full-Empyrean with their IEM. The Mentor also has a wider soundstage and better detail retrieval. Cleaner (which may seem antithesis to laidback), but that cleanliness comes through in the details. Not as precise as the X (not much is), but better than the Rai Penta, the Mentor just provides me with that very pleasant sound I relish.

    The Rai Penta here is a bit subdued, as one would expect. It still does well against the Mentor, and one could state that Meze aimed for all of the top brands TOTL with the Rai Penta. And it nearly succeeded.

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    Sources:

    Using the Shanling M5s, the combination was quite good. This is the combo, with which I could feel the mids were a bit light though. I enjoyed the combination due to the tight, taut bass and slightly warm presentation. I prefer the warm side of sound, and this was pretty good. Switching to the Questyle QP2R though, brought the whole level up. Opening the sound up to give more lift, the air between the notes using the 2.5bal cable was wonderful. Giving that silent blackness between notes a stage to me gave the pair validity. This was a sound in which I could happily live. Treble was better, with a nice opening up top to accommodate the music, gave a bit wider soundstage, but spread the notes better within that realm. More definition would be a good response.

    Switching the thebit Opus #2 made even the QP2R sound a bit flat. To me this was the best of the pairings I played, even against the MBP/iFi Pro iDSD combo. I had almost forgotten how much I like the Opus, and this pairing brought the best of each out. The Rai Penta dovetailed nicely into the signature of the Opus. Better bass quantity than the QP2R, as in a bit deeper reach and more of it; the Rai Penta finally had a bit of rumble in some songs. Not much, but enough to appreciate it. I spent at least two full days listening to the pair this way and wish I had spent longer. For the $2k you would spend on this pair you would be hard pressed to find a better set in my humble opinion. Of course, there are options, but I found this pairing to present the sound just the way I like: good bass, solid vocals (from the Opus), with good treble without peakiness. I was quite happy.

    Speaking of the MBP/iFi Pro iDSD combination, I find I use this the most when listening. Having Tidal Premium it is an easy judge of sound for many objects. I will also throw the XDuoo x10t ii on the iFi, and this is the subject of sound extraordinaire. Where the MBP relies upon the iFi to make it better, the XDuoo enhances what the iFi has, raising the level of both. The MBP is decently good through the iFi, the XDuoo is extraordinary. If I had to choose one home set up in that manner, it would be the XDuoo/iFi combination. I absolutely love this pairing. Clean clear, crisp and concise; I am reminded of a time when I could actually hear all that is good in the music. The MBP/iFi pairing is used as a tool to judge. The XDuoo/iFi is a tool to remember. I like both regularly, but for the critical decision making, the XDuoo wins. And it is good.

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    Conclusion:

    Well, my time is up. The Rai Penta leaves the midwestern state shortly and moves to points elsewhere. During its journey, I hope many enjoy the Meze as much as I have. To listen to a manufacturers first attempt at making the flagship, which starts a path towards their headphone TOTL, the Empyrean is no small feat. The bar was set extraordinarily high. Almost unattainable. And I will state that the Rai Penta does not do for IEM’s what the Empyrean did for headphones. It is not earth shattering, or paradigm redefining like the Empyrean was. I am disappointed in that, but upon deeper reflection, that is not the point. This may be more akin to when the 99Classic came about. At that price, it is still one of the few I truly recommend to friends who want to get into the market. An excellent starting point for movement upwards, or simply give the user a taste of what an audiophile headphone can sound like by spending a bit more than the “beats-generation,” I still like the 99’s, all iterations. And in that regard, when one compares what the 99’s did to what the Rai Penta may be setting the tone for in the future, it will be successful. It is good in that reign. It is wonderful for those who are searching for something in this price as an entry point into audiophile-dom. And here the Rai Penta largely succeeds. Build, which is second to none (as I would expect); a cable, which is soft, supple and does not tangle; fit, which is very good for those long sessions; and a sound, which is quite pleasant makes for success.

    I do like the mellow sound, but wish Meze had taken a bigger chance, like they did with the Empyrean. But as stated above, when one tempers that wishful thinking into solid logical reflection against what the 99 brought to the headphone market, the Rai Penta makes perfect sense. A sound, solid entry into the above-$1k market, and something in which we can anticipate a higher model should do for the IEM market what the Empyrean did for headphones. Anyhow from Tedeschi Trucks finishes my time, and it is fitting. Bringing out the goodness of signature, anytime, anyplace, anyhow. I look forward to the next iteration of what Antoine and company purvey our way, for it will be good.

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    I thank Meze and Andy Kong. For inclusion on the North American tour. My two weeks have been fabulous, and I wish those that follow the same success. It was fun.
    1. icefalkon
      Great review and great hat!
      icefalkon, Nov 28, 2019
      iBo0m likes this.
    2. ngoshawk
      Much obliged. Dr. John was an icon, and I love the influence he had on others. Cheers.
      ngoshawk, Nov 28, 2019
      iBo0m likes this.
    3. iBo0m
      I second @icefalkon . This is how a review should look like, mentioning the key features a "decent critisism :)" - nothing is "perfect", great pictures and comparison. It was a nice read! Thank You.
      iBo0m, Dec 4, 2019 at 11:00 AM
  2. icefalkon
    Fantastic IEM
    Written by icefalkon
    Published Nov 22, 2019
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Excellent sound, comfort, and fit.
    Cons - Price. I wish they were a bit more affordable.
    RAI PENTA BY MEZE AUDIO REVIEW
    mezeaudio.com

    Technical 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

    This month I’m reviewing a beautiful pair of Meze Rai Penta IEM’s. I received a pre-release pair as a review set and was able to put them through the paces for a month. Before going into the review I’d like to give a little background of Meze Audio.

    They are a high-end audio manufacturer out of Romania. They have had enormous success with their beautiful “99 Classics” in hand-polished walnut and their “99 Neo” line. Their foray into the high-end came with the fantastic sounding and equally expensive planar magnetic Empyrean that sent a message…

    Meze is here, and they’re here to stay.

    Antonio Meze, a designer, founded the company in 2011 in Baia Mare, Romania. His concept is simple, beautiful sounding headphones made with cutting edge technology. He researched, learned, and experimented before coming up with the first of the stellar lineup, the 99 Classics. After they launched it seemed as if everyone on Head-fi.org either had a pair or wanted a pair. They have a huge following there and it’s well deserved.

    I first came in contact with Meze at the 2016 NYC CanJam. I was working the convention for a manufacturer and ran across a really nice guy named Mircea who shared some of the same tastes in music as myself and he invited me to his booth. “Meze Audio?” I asked him, “what’s that mean”. He then told me the story of Antonio Meze and the lineup. I sampled the Walnut 99 Classics and bought them on the spot. Fast forward a few years, and another couple of shows where we’ve run into each other and here we are today.

    The Rai Penta is their top of the line in-ear monitors that were introduced in 2018. They are a 5 driver IEM that features four customized balanced armature drivers and one dynamic driver working flawlessly together to produce an amazing sound experience. These IEM’s feature what Meze calls Penta Hybrid Technology. According to their website, this technology allows them to deliver harmonized sound frequencies without the problems of phases overlaying each other. The sound goes from the drivers through chambers CNC’d into the aluminum and out through the ear nozzles instead of using some manner of plastic tubing. In recent times some testers have had an issue with the harmonics bleeding within the plastic tubing.

    Below is an image of the Penta Hybrid Technology.

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    Speaking of the anodized shell, I have to mention that these monitors are absolutely beautiful. I test a lot of IEM’s and I have to say, without a doubt, that these are the most comfortable and beautifully simplistic IEM’s I have tested to date. The rounded shell is smooth with a curve that fits perfectly in my conch. The CNC aluminum shell is emblazoned with the Meze logo and they use standard MMCX cables. They feel great in the hand AND in the ear.

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    As you can see in the visual, the ergonomic shape is brilliantly designed to fit in just about anyone’s ear comfortably. The solid aluminum body is milled with air chambers designed to perfectly deliver sound directly into your inner ear. This is accomplished by their PES System (Pressure Equalization System).

    [​IMG]
    The Rai Penta has a low impedance of 20Ω which allows them to sound beautiful with just about every portable source out on the market today without hissing or noise filling the black spaces in your music tracks. According to Meze, these drivers are meticulously tuned to provide a super high-resolution response with a frequency range of 4Hz to 45kHz. Visually and physically beautiful, these were a pleasure to get to test.

    The MMCX cable they come with is a high-quality silver-plated copper cable consisting of four wires, each with 20 strands of pure silver Litz. The included cable is terminated in a 3.5mm plug and the connectors are very well made to provide a lifetime of listening pleasure. As an aside, Meze also offers a balanced 2.5mm and balanced 4.4mm cable as an option.

    [​IMG]
    For this review, I am using an iBasso DX220 on high gain, a volume level of 40, and the equalizer off. My standard Test Music microSD card is loaded with high-resolution FLAC files of the genre’s I listen to the most, classic rock, classical, acoustic rock, EDM, and country. After the initial test, I put the IEM’s through their paces with a batch of DSD512 files.

    To start, I have to say that the clarity and tone of these IEM’s are pretty amazing. When listening to the Allman Brothers Band, “Midnight Rider”, the soulful notes are carried forward behind the signature guitar lick beautifully. You can hear the background bongo’s and second acoustic guitar playing even after the electric guitar begins the first solo of the song. I’m thinking to myself, WOW, great start!

    Moving on through a few songs, I ended up on Carly Simon’s, “Nobody Does It Better”. The classic James Bond song from the movie with the same name. The blending of the full orchestral symphony with the drums and piano combined with her angelic voice took me to another place. Remembering the movie scene where Mr. Bond is chatting while looking at the Great Pyramid of Giza brought a huge smile to my face! The sound coming out of these little IEM’s is blowing me away, and I’m only 20 songs in! When the brass section in the song came in, my eyes popped open. It was like I was feeling the blast right in my face. Again, WOW.

    After that, I figured it’s time for “Stairway to Heaven”, the classic Led Zeppelin song. Jimmy Page’s guitar during the intro and the flutes were magical and when Robert Plant began singing, I was pulled into the studio with them. When listening to John Bonham’s drumming, it is difficult to resist finger tapping. During the big solo, it was as if Page’s monitor was right in front of my face. Again my eyes popped open with Plant’s, “And as we wind on down the road…” My god, his voice is ridiculous. It was like listening to the song for the first time in years. That’s the emotion that these IEM’s brought out. I often use this song to determine the quality of sound coming out of headphones and IEM’s. The separation of instruments along with the harmony can tell a lot about the tuning of whatever I’m using to listen to at the time. These are beautifully tuned and I have nothing but appreciation for the Meze engineers.

    What I began to notice are the tightness of sound and absolute clarity. The highs were brilliant without being shrill, the mids come out with distinction, and the bass gives a welcome beat with an extra oomph that was surprising and pleasant. These are exceptional sounding IEM’s and I was thoroughly enjoying them.

    Another song of note was when I changed it up to some EDM. I played Don Diablo’s, “Never Change” and was so engrossed in the song that I didn’t notice my wife come home from work until she scared me by sticking her face into mine! These things are so clear and precise it’s as if I’m in the studio, with full-size cans on, playing with the mixing board!

    These IEM’s are definitely one of the most versatile that I’ve had the pleasure of testing recently. Every music genre I throw at them, they play flawlessly. Every note, whether it’s coming from a Steinway piano, or electric guitar sounds incredibly tight, and fast. The bass is punchy, and to me sounds like there’s an extra bump in its delivery. Once I began to really formulate an opinion on these, I decided to go a little heavier with my music tastes. Read that as bring on the AC/DC and Metallica! I use these two bands for my heavier tastes because their songs are iconic and classic as well as heavy. The Rai Penta played both “Hell’s Bells” and “Enter Sandman” like a champ. Before moving on to some classical tracks I had to play, “For Those About To Rock” by AC/DC. It was absolutely the right thing to do, as before the first line was out, my eyes were closed and I was singing along, loudly. There was no blurring of instruments here whatsoever. Angus Young’s lead guitar was distinct against his brother Malcolm Young’s’ rhythm guitar and Brian Johnson’s iconic voice. Yeah, my wife was NOT happy about this song playing, at ALL.

    In her words, “the neighbors can hear you, and your voice sucks.” LOL

    Yeah, whatever…

    I decided to pull it in with some of my favorite classical music tracks. Beethoven’s, “Bagatelle in A Minor (Fur Elise)” sounded beautiful with every note resounding clear and precise. Bach’s, “Air on a G String” is one of my favorite pieces ever, and listening to it on the Rai Penta was amazing. The beautiful intro just brought me joy and again the separation of instruments was sublime. A few more songs flew by and the one I remember most fondly is Pachelbel, “Canon in D”. The song was evocative of the best of classical music all wrapped up in one precise dance of notes. Amazing.

    I ended my two weeks of listening pleasure with Queen’s, “Bohemian Rhapsody”. I always use this as my last track because of the complexity of the song. So far these IEM’s have performed beautifully and they did not disappoint with Queen. Freddy Mercury’s voice, piano, and harmonization with the other members’ voices were just stellar. There really isn’t anything else to say about how the song sounded. It just sounded fantastic, classic, haunting, and beautiful. Now I had two weeks to write it all up…

    Conclusion

    It’s been a long couple of weeks that flew by listening to the Rai Penta’s. I smiled more than I have while listening to music in a long time. Often I had to stop tracks just to process how great they sounded. This is not normal for me, I usually approach testing headphones and monitors with one track after the other, a few times taking notes. This was different, very different. I became attached to these and started going off book. That is a rabbit hole for a reviewer and something I really refrain from doing. Going off your set playlist and just throwing random songs at something may seem innocent enough, but in reality, it makes your brain spin with either pleasure or changes your opinion of the item completely. Not so in this instance. I was happily going from genre to genre, from FLAC to DSD to Qobuz, enjoying the heck out of these.

    I place these in my highest category, Pretty Awesome. You get a fantastic bang for your buck with these IEM’s. To summarize, the tone, bass, clarity, precision are all hitting above their weight class. The fit is probably the best universal I have ever put inside my ears, and they were so comfortable that I fell asleep on my side while wearing them. I highly recommend these IEM’s.

    Thanks for reading.
      audio123 and josesol07 like this.
  3. kmmbd
    Meze Rai Penta Review: Master of One
    Written by kmmbd
    Published Nov 19, 2019
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Exceptional build quality and finish
    - Very comfortable
    - Natural tonality and timbre
    - Fantastic mid-range performance
    - Source agnostic for the most part
    - Doesn't get fatiguing even after long listening sessions
    Cons - Sub-par bass response
    - Treble extension leaves much to be desired
    - Average soundstage
    - No immediate "wow-factor" in the tuning
    - Price
    It’s hard being a flagship.

    Just being “pretty good” across the board won’t cut it. Outright supremacy is the aim here, and that’s the bar that Meze Audio has set for themselves with their flagship Rai Penta. It’s quite a jump considering that their previous highest-tier IEM was the Meze 12 Classics worth ~$80.

    Meze did take their sweet time with the whole building and tuning process of the Rai Penta, which added further to the expectations. Then again — better safe than sorry.

    So, how close do the Rai Pentas get close to excellence? Read on.

    IMG_4387_R.JPG

    Sources used: LG G7, Questyle QP1R, Yulong DAART Canary, VE Odyssey, Apple USB-C to 3.5mm dongle, iPhone SE

    Build: Well, Meze hit the ball off the park right at the start. The Rai Pentas are meticulously built, and the feel in hand/while wearing is especially sublime. They are sculpted from a single block of aluminium, and are as smooth as pebbles. You don’t feel the joints at all, and boy do they feel dense! The mmcx connectors are rather robust and didn’t seem to lose their solidity even after multiple cable swaps.
    The nozzle has three sound-bores: one for the dynamic driver, and the other two for the dual mid and high BA drivers. These bores are also milled from aluminium and is a rather unique feature of these IEMs since many multi-BA IEMs use plastic tubes to channel the sound towards the bore. On the back, there is a curiously designed vent (presumably for the dynamic driver) that Meze calls the PES (Pressure Equalization System). It does its job seemingly well as there is no noticeable driver flex.
    5/5

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    Accessories: The accessory set is more than adequate, but with a few caveats. You get basically everything you might need: 8 pair of tips (regular silicone, double-flanges and foams), a really good 4-core SPC cable with Rhodium plated jacks, a fancy-yet-practical carrying case, a 3.5mm to 6.3mm jack (handy for certain amps), an airplane adapter (a rare sight nowadays) and a small cleaning brush. All of these are of rather high quality and I personally didn’t feel the need to use a third-party tip.
    The most immediately obvious omission, however, is a balanced cable. Another caveat would be more subjective — the whole unboxing experience is kinda meh. You don’t get the exuberance of opening a Sony IEM package, and that’s a slight letdown.
    4/5

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    IMG_4289_r.JPG IMG_4301.JPG IMG_4302.JPG
    IMG_4308.JPG IMG_4330.JPG

    Comfort: The Rai Pentas are as comfortable as they come for a set of regular-fit universal IEMs. The smooth, beveled edges fit snugly in the ears and you can wear them for hours. Lying down with them is slightly problematic however as their weight tends to tilt them downwards. The stock tips are plenty comfortable for me, but you can of course try your favorite tips to see which fits best.
    4.5/5

    IMG_4314.JPG

    Now, on to the sound:

    Lows: Meze Rai Penta doesn’t have a bass-heavy signature, which is in stark contrast to their previous two IEMs (11 Neo and 12 Classics) both of which had prominent sub and mid-bass impact (a guilty pleasure, I concede). Bass decay is faster than average dynamic driver IEMs but nothing to write home about. There is a slight mid-bass bloom that adds body to snare hits and to certain baritone vocals but that’s about it. The sub-bass seems rather muted, which is disappointing. It’s more of a faint whimper than an actual rumble. In Audioslave’s Be Yourself, the opening bass-line can be heard, but not felt, and that’s the weakest part of these IEMs for me.
    Many prefer a bass-light signature, however, so this might be what they are looking for.
    3/5

    Mids: Midrange is where the Rai Penta shows its true prowess. This is one of the best midrange renditions I’ve heard in any IEM, period. Nothing is accentuated unevenly, no absurd 3K gain or scooped lower-mids *cough* LCD i4 *cough*. Vocals have a effortless quality to it, and even the highest-pitched female vocals don’t sound shrill or fatiguing. String instruments have a very natural attack and decay, and best of all — they don’t exhibit the “BA-timbre” that I often dread. Micro-detail retrieval is also a strong point, even though they are not exaggerated as certain other IEMs at this range and is mostly there if you want to focus on them rather than being obtrusive.
    Listening to Ben Howard’s Old Pine was an absolute delight, and you could hear every single breath that the singer drew. Switching to some metal, Deftone’s My Own Summer has an interesting mix of clean and growling vocals, and the transition between them is seamless. No phase-issues here (something that often plagues multi-BA hybrids) and it’s a job well done.
    One thing that the Rai Penta does really well is pulling out the mid-range details off of bass-heavy tracks. This can come handy if your library consists of some poorly mastered tracks.
    4.5/5

    Treble: Treble takes a back seat, just like the bass, though it’s less extreme in this regard. There is some treble energy around 8KHz so cymbals hits have a pretty noticeable initial attack (really useful if you listen to a lot of rock and metal). However, it take a nose-dive from there on and barely rises post 10KHz, resulting in a treble response that’s very relaxing and sibilance-free, but rather unexciting and unremarkable.
    It’s not an issue for slower tracks, as Dave Matthews Band’s Crash Into Me sounds oh-so-sweet and you don’t really notice anything missing. It’s the faster, heavier tracks that suffer. Machine Head’s Aesthetics of Hate could definitely sound better, especially around the solo section where there are numerous rapid cymbal hits. The Rai Penta doesn’t do justice to the grandeur of tracks like these, so it’s definitely an IEM more suited for slower genres.
    3.5/5

    tr
    IMG_4383.JPG

    Soundstage: Soundstage is average in width and above-average in terms of depth. It’s not a holographic sound-stage, neither is it a densely-packed one. Instruments have good layering but they are not spread apart like some other IEMs in its class. The mid-range being pulled forward is another factor here so I wouldn’t call this a huge negative.
    3.5/5

    Imaging: Imaging performance is good, but not exceptional. Cardinality (top-right/top-left) is where it suffers compared to other multi-BA flagships, which is surprising since Meze’s budget IEM, the 11 Neo, had fantastic imaging for its class. The Rai Penta is definitely not worse than the 11 Neo, but it is not class-leading like the 11 Neo was.
    In Yosi Horikawa’s Crossing (my go-to track for testing imaging performance), the initial passage is remarkably well done, but the moment the song gets busier with multiple instruments that fade in and out, the imaging loses its sharpness somewhat.
    The Rai Penta still has really good imaging in general, don’t get me wrong, but it lacks the immediate “wow” effect that many IEMs go for at this price range, for better or for worse.
    4/5
    IMG_4354.JPG
    Source and Amping: The Rai Penta is not too picky about sources like, say, Campfire Andromeda. There is some hiss with certain sources but it’s mostly kept under control. Going balanced can lead to slightly better separation on certain sources, but it’s more to do with the source itself than the IEMs.
    It’s perfectly suited to run from regular phones, and that’s a plus.

    IMG_4355.JPG
    Select Comparisons

    vs Beyerdynamic Xelento: The Xelentos are one of my favorite universal TOTL IEMs, and for good reasons. They are very comfortable and are built like a tank (though I’m always wary of the mmcx connectors), not too dissimilar to the Rai Penta. In terms of sound signature, however, they are somewhat the exact opposites of each other.
    Xelentos have an extended sub-bass that’s lifted a few dBs over the mid-bass, unlike the Pentas where you have a mid-bass boost while the sub-bass has a rather early roll-off. Mid-range takes a back seat on the Xelentos and are clearly an area of superiority for the Pentas. In case of treble, however, Xelentos are noticeably more emphasized on the regions between 5–8KHz, thus giving an impression of better detail retrieval. This does not work well for poorly mastered tracks, where Rai Pentas are more forgiving. Then again, if you want a more extended treble — Xelentos will provide you that unlike the Mezes.
    Soundstage goes to the Xelentos, while imaging is about par on both. In summary: the choice between them would depend upon your own preference, as they complement each other rather than truly compete.

    vs Campfire Andromeda: The Andromedas are build really well, but I’m not too fan of the paint-job myself (the green one that is) and they are significantly less comfortable than the Mezes. The stock cable of the Rai Penta is better, whereas the Andros got better stock eartips (Final E-type ftw!).

    A potential issue with the Andromeda is their hyper-sensitivity. These are too picky about sources, so you gotta spend some time (and most probably cash) to get them a suitable source where it doesn’t hiss like a kettle on a stove.

    In terms of sound, both have a lean bass presentation, but I still prefer the dynamic bass on the Mezes (though it’s only marginally better than the all-BA Andromeda). Midrange is where the Rai Pentas shine, again. The upper-mids on the Andromeda sounds slightly more stringent in comparison and lacks the fullness of the male vocals that the Rai Pentas can deliver.
    Treble, however, is the great differentiator between these two, with the Andromedas having one of the best treble responses around (even though they absolutely ravage poorly mastered tracks) while the Rai Pentas trading absolute detail retrieval for a more relaxing signature. Both are, however, not suitable for metal genres and sub-genres for the most part as those genres are usually not mastered well and can get either too intense (Andromeda) or too dull (Rai Penta). So if you are a closet metalhead like yours truly, I guess you will be left asking for something different entirely.

    In terms of soundstage and imaging, Andromeda reigns supreme. Period.

    IMG_4333_r.JPG

    Conclusion:

    The Rai Pentas are not the $1000+ end-all and be-all of things. It lacks a distinct wow-factor, and that perhaps is the biggest flaw of these IEMs.

    That’s a darn shame though, as the midrange here is beautifully rendered. Despite the lack of extension on both ends, I can see how these might captivate long-time who tend to focus more on the midrange.

    So while the Rai Pentas fall short of a number of aspects of the sound, they excel at certain others. The build quality is as good as it gets, and they do the midrange oh-so-well that it keeps a lingering “what if” in your mind — what if these got everything right?

    Ah well, who knows if such a thing even exists at all.

    Meze got part of the equation right with their initial attempt at a flagship. The rest of it — hopefully they hit the jackpot with the successor.

    Meanwhile, if you are solely looking for a flagship IEM that excels at vocals and acoustic genres — give these a try. They just might be what you are looking for.

    Test tracks (as YouTube playlist, often updated): https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLetb5RqtcrlXdSG4tSCjCJpvoszUb4OjG
      audio123 and angpsi like this.
  4. angpsi
    Mesmerising, but a mixed bag for a 1K IEM...
    Written by angpsi
    Published Nov 14, 2019
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Overall character and articulation, natural lower registers, fatigue-free
    Cons - perplexing tuning in the mids and highs, technicalities, maybe too far from a reference IEM for the asking price
    IMG_9144.jpeg

    The background

    Meze Audio is a Romanian company that has long been well-known in the Head-Fi circles through its affordable and widely used on-ear closed headphones 99 Classics and their variants, which were later followed by the equally accessible 11 Neo and 12 Classics IEMs. In recent years, Meze has shaken the waters with their €3,000 open-backed orthodynamic Empyrean, followed by their €1000 hybrid IEM Rai Penta. As these lines were being written, Meze also introduced their entry-level Rai Solo, which is a more accessible version of this new IEM series price-wise at €250 featuring their own take on a dynamic driver using proprietary technology.

    This review unit came to my hands through the European leg of the Meze Rai Penta World Tour, organised by @MezeTeam and @Andykong. Being the second reviewer in line, the Penta had already been broken in with at least 50 hours of listening. The packaging was sleek but also relatively simple for a €1000 IEM, and included headphones, a single-ended 20 litz four-strand silver-plated copper cable with MMCX terminals, a fairly extensive set of tips and a hard zippered case. Inside the case were also an airplane adapter and a 6.3mm adapter. Meze also offers 2.5mm and 4.4mm balanced cables, however they need to be purchased separately as they are not included in the standard package. Fortunately the organiser made sure we had both of these cables at our disposal.

    IMG_9143.jpeg

    The IEM

    Aesthetically, the Rai Penta is a small, CNC-shaped solid aluminium piece of jewellery, anodised in a satin blue petrol colour that I can only compare to something like the iPhone 11 Pro in its Midnight Green version. Both looks and touch give the Penta body a luxurious feel, while the combination of robustness and small size reminds me strongly of the RHA CL1's ceramic housings. The same also applies to the silver plated copper cable in a transparent shell, which achieves an exceptional combination of suppleness, weight and flexibility, without ever being microphonic. The name 'Penta' reflects the handset's setup using five driver units on each side, one dynamic and two BAs in pairs (2X2) customised by Meze. Meze gives great attention to controlling the airflow inside the Penta’s housing by using tubes of different length carved into the body of the chamber, combined with their twin ports which aim to balance the pressure inside the units with the body of air trapped inside the ear canal.
    [​IMG]
    (Source: Meze Audio)

    Both of these approaches are very interesting in their own respect: the first looks to take advantage of the inert aluminium body in order to better control the resonances inside the chamber, while the second gives the drivers more breathing space by working synergistically with the ear canal, which I found to result in a very welcome relief of the pressure that is usually accumulated on my eardrum. The body of the Penta is itself very well designed from an anatomical point of view, and sits very comfortably on the ear concha with minimal effort. Meze has also managed to fit the five driver units into a very convenient size that sits flush to the ear while hardly creates any sort of nuisance, thus allowing for long hours of listening sessions and yes, sleeping over them with very little pressure accumulating on the ear, albeit they will be felt eventually after some time because of their robust aluminium body (that is, if you’re sleeping on your side for the better part of the night).

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    (Source: Meze Audio)

    The nozzle is typical for a universal IEM and under certain conditions I found it long enough to provide a somewhat deep insertion, albeit still within universal IEM limitations and obviously nothing quite like what Etymotic does with their own IEMS. One interesting point here is that the thick stem tends to push most ear tips towards the back of the nozzle, resulting in a very shallow fit and therefore, a quite open baffle. I found this to be beneficial to my understanding of the Penta’s timbre, and my impressions are mostly based on this assumption. In any case, Meze provides the owner of the Penta with four pairs soft silicone tips (XS, S, M, L), one pair of double-flange tips, and one pair of foam tips.As for myself, I ended up using my last-gen Spiral Dots ++ which I found to give a more open sense of air, and a most welcome openness to the mid and lower high frequencies without messing greatly with the bottom end or the general signature of the Penta. On the other hand, I was unable to form impressions with cable rolling as I didn’t have suitable cables available in my inventory.

    The sound
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    For the purpose of this review of the Meze Rai Penta, the following units were recruited
    1. On the IEM side, the RHA CL1 and T20i, the Ultimate Ears 900s, the FLC8s and the Etymotic Hf3 (later cross-checked with my Etymotic ER4s)
    2. On the sources side, the Chord Mojo, the FiiO X5iii and the FiiO BTR3, as well as the Questyle QP2R, and the Questyle CMA400i desktop DAC/amp which has a special IEM output.
    3. For reference tonality, the Sennheiser HD600, AKG K240DF, and Sennheiser HD800 with SDR and AnaxII mod (i.e., all of the original tuning minus the notorious 6kHz peak and subsequent ringing), played mainly by SPL Auditor and for the minor part from Questyle 400i.
    After the first few tests I ended up using mostly the Questyle QP2R, which seemed to fit the character of Rai Penta by bringing to the table a rugged body combined with very good technical ability. In contrast, the Mojo gave the Penta a solid foundation to its character but without giving it this extra gravitas that the Penta seem to benefit so greatly from (I’m not talking bass boost here, rather some better authority on the lower registers). Pairing with the FiiO BTR3 bluetooth receiver/DAC/portable amp was also interesting, as it proved to be a capable match highlighting both the FiiO’s tendency towards a sparkling airy sound and the Penta’s efficiency with lower powered devices. This same character of the BTR3 was evident also on the FiiO X5iii, albeit this time the AKM traits of airy and spacious mids were conveyed with much better confidence. That being said, I didn’t find the Penta completely transparent to their sources; instead I found them mostly to retain their own character with minor but discernible changes to the critical ear. I also found the same to be true while changing from single-ended to balanced: the latter managed to pin down everything in place with a more solid rendering of the scene, however I didn’t find the differences to be night-and-day. That said, it should be noted that due to the Penta’s sensitivity (110dB SPL / 1mW, with a maximum input power of 30mW) both the Questyle units gave an audible hiss which I chose to disregard in order to maintain the benefits of the pairing. Should the background were pitch-black, the differences between single-ended and balanced might have been more pronounced. For the same reason, I was unable to listen to the Penta through the SPL Auditor via the 6mm adapter.

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    Having said that, the first impression Penta gave me was that of a full-bodied handset, with a focus on low frequencies and mild (even relatively rolled-off) highs. Starting from the quite impressive yet very natural rumble at the lowest registers (if available on the track) the Penta cross over smoothly to the lower midrange without any noticeable bleeding, as well as without overwhelming any frequency from there up. The highs sound very natural, with a mesmerising smoothness that is perhaps costing in soundstage and air between the instruments. The soundstage appears deep rather than expansive, with good layering and good articulation, without reaping laurels in terms of technicalities or of precision on the placement of instruments in space.

    Based on the FR measurements found on several sites, the Rai Penta ultimately appear to have a smoothed over "U" character, with more pronounced bass up to 100 Hz, a smooth midrange dip at 400-500 Hz and a generous midrange boost up to 2kHz. The mild rise in the treble gives the Penta some air but it remains very smooth, therefore some may find themselves needing more some sparkle in the upper registers. It’s worth noting that the boost in the sub and lower registers that gives the Penta their quasi-visceral sensation doesn’t seem to overload the eardrum with pressure —such as I’ve often noticed with IEMs with similar characteristics such as the FLC8s or the CL1— which might have to do with Meze’s ‘Pressure Equalization System’. This results in the Rai Penta’s incredible capacity to sustain long listening sessions —and by “long”, in my case, I’m referring to 6-7 hours sessions with little to indiscernible fatigue.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    (Source: crinacle.com, antdroid.net)

    Based on sound signature alone, the Meze Rai Penta can quickly become extremely addictive. They performed with great confidence on all the test tracks of Dr Chesky's Ultimate Headphone Demonstration disk, 01_UltimateHeadphoneDemonstration.jpg while in the church organ track of Dr Chesky's Sensational, Fantastic, and Simply Amazing Binaural Sound Show they were able to show once again how well they fare with the lowest registers of the audible spectrum, especially concerning performances with analog instruments or live recordings. 02_BinauralSound.jpg
    This was quite evident with the O-zone Percussion Group's "Jazz Variants" on Manger's demo album, where Penta delivered percussion with superb naturalness, convincing attack and decay, capable texture and sufficient clarity.
    03_MangerDemo.jpg


    Equally striking was the Penta’s exuberance with Brahms' abysmal Ein Deutsches Requiem by the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Daniel Harding (Harmonia Mundi), where they managed to perform while maintaining a homogeneous ‘organic’ sense of character for the larger part of the spectrum, as well as a capable articulation that managed to hide a certain weakness in speed and transitions.
    04_Requiem.jpg
    Finally, Penta played just as convincingly in Lana del Rey's latest Norman ****ing Rockwell,
    05_NFR.jpg as well as in Airelle Besson's very charming jazz fusion album Radio One, 06_AirelleBesson.jpg Oliver Nelson's classic jazz album The Blues and the Abstract Truth, 07_OliverNelson.jpg and a tribute by Qobuz to the great, and the recently deceased, Jessye Norman. 08_JessyeNorman.jpg
    Meze claims that the Rai Penta were designed for “a balanced sound signature with impeccable micro-detailing provides unrivalled realism all across the wide frequency range, from 4Hz to 45 kHz”, a claim that doesn’t stray far from being true.

    Nonetheless, comparing with headphones that have a flatter response revealed some restraint in the midrange, which for some may be a concern. For example, Diana Krall's well-known grainy voice in The Girl in the Other Room seemed a bit pushed to the background, remaining embedded within the overall organic atmosphere that Penta conveyed to the scene,
    09_DianaKrall.jpg
    while in Hiromi's Duet with Chick Corea I found that the usually crystalline notes of the middle and high octaves of the pianos were rather overshadowed by the resonance of the pianos’ bodies.
    10_DuetHiromiChick.jpg
    This observation led me to return to some of the songs I had listened to earlier with a more critical ear, which revealed that despite their organic nature the Penta seemed to be lacking in the technical capability that some other headphones of the 1K tier may be more well-versed in, while the luscious mids may indeed be overshadowing the smoothed out higher frequencies of the Penta.

    IMG_0252.jpeg

    Conclusion

    In the end, the Penta's greatest asset seems to be their capacity to maintain an overall homogeneity of its character and good articulation throughout the full range of their 4 Hz to 45 kHz claimed spectrum. The former easily leads to the feeling that it is a mild and lush set of IEMs that can easily help someone to hours of fatigue-free listening, and the latter seems to hide some tonal imperfections that keep the Penta from being a reference tuning. Personally, I could easily imagine them as part of a collection that covers for someone’s critical auditions with other IEMs. In this respect, I can easily imagine the Penta as a daily driver that allows you to get lost in the music as you would get lost in your thoughts on your way to work or immersed in a book. On the other hand, those who are looking to the Rai Penta for critical listening and a ‘reference’ tuning may find it lacking. However, even so, the Rai Penta can be persuading simply by having you listen to the music. This may very well be the reason why they cover a spot on several reference lists in magazines and reviewers’ sites worldwide.



    ---------------------------------

    For this review I have to thank Andy Kong for offering access to the Meze Rai Penta, as well as John Demou at Aurion Audio, Greece, for lending me the Questyle CMA400i and Questyle QP2R. Aurion Audio is also the official importer of Meze for Greece. I'm not affiliated with Meze, Andy Kong, or Aurion Audio in any way other than the opportunity and support they gave me for this review. The Meze Rai Penta sample unit stayed with me for 10 days and is now on its way to continue the European part of the World Tour. All pics featured in this review are my own, courtesy of Audiohub.gr, unless otherwise noted. For a Greek version of this review see here.
      kmmbd likes this.
  5. Army-Firedawg
    An iem whos comfort matches its elegance.
    Written by Army-Firedawg
    Published Oct 27, 2019
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Beautiful design, very comfortable, great musical seperation.
    Cons - Doesn't have the "flesh/body" that most Meze's have


    Since my first experience with Meze and their 99 Classic headphones I have found every product that they offer to hit a wonderful sweet spot for my ears. The warmth and musicality that I experience with Meze had rapidly shot them to the forefront of my personal favorite company’s. Now, they’ve entered the summit class iem category with their Rai Penta, or Heaven/Paradise’s 5 (5 drivers). Some rather big words to have the product to live up to and I was quite excited to take the reigns of putting them to the test.


    A little about me

    I would like to say that first and foremost I am NOT an “audiophile” but rather an audio enthusiast. I listen to music to enjoy it. Do I prefer a lossless source? Yes, of course. But I can still be very happy streaming from Pandora or even my YouTube “My Mix” playlist. I also prefer equipment that sounds the best to me personally regardless of what frequency response it has or rather or not it's “sonically accurate” and I always have and shall continue to encourage others to do the same.

    I'm a firefighter for both the civilian and military sector and the cliché of wanting to do this since I was born couldn't be more present with me. I've worked hard over the last several years to earn this position and now it's time for me to work even harder to keep it.

    I enjoy fishing and relaxing to audio products and then reviewing them to help others decide on what products would work for them. Few things make me as an audio enthusiast/review feel more accomplished than when someone tells me that I helped them find the type of sound they've always been looking for.

    Now, the sound signature I personally favor is a relaxing, warm and sensual sound that just drifts me away in the emotional experience of the music being performed. Yes, accuracy is still important but I will happily sacrifice some of that if I'm presented with a clean, warm sound that can wisp me away into an experience that makes me yearn for more.

    My ideal signature are that of respectably forward mids and upper bass range with the bass being controlled but with some slight decay. I like my treble to have nice extension and detail reveal with a smooth roll off up top as to not become harsh in the least. Examples of products that have given me chills and keep giving me the yearning for more feels are (in no particular order) Bowers & Wilkins P7, Oppo PM-1/2, Empire Ears Hermes VI & Zeus XIV, Audeze LCD-XC, Meze Headphones 99 Classics.

    Equipment used at least some point during the review

    -Sources

    -LG G8/HP Pavilion

    -Playing Pandora, YouTube, and various format personal music


    Disclaimer

    I am by no means sponsored by this company or any of its affiliates. They were kind enough to send me a product for an arranged amount of time in exchange for my honest opinion. I am making no monetary compensation for this review.

    The following is my take on the product being reviewed. It is to be taken “with a grain of salt” per say and as I always tell people, it is YOUR opinion that matters. So regardless of my take or view on said product, I highly recommend you listen to it yourself and gauge your own opinion.



    The Opening Experience

    Why I feel so strongly about the initial unboxing experience

    Please allow me to explain why I feel so strongly about the initial unboxing experience with a product. Maybe it’s due to my southern roots in the hills of eastern Kentucky, but I’ve always been raised under the pretense of when you introduce yourself to someone for the first time you present yourself with confidence, class, character, pride, and competence. You greet the other person with a true warm smile, eye contact and a firm handshake. Anything less or short implies to other person that you either don’t care about them, are too full of yourself, too busy to be bothered by the likes of them, or worse, just generally disrespectful.

    As a consumer, I take this same belief to when I open a new product. Why? Because think about it this way. How else can a company introduce themselves to their customers? How do they present their products? Are they packaged with pride and presented in such a way that makes the listener eager to listen to them? Or maybe they’re just wrapped up and placed in an available space. How about the box itself? Is it bogged down with jargon that says look at this, look what I can do. I’m better than anything on the market and here’s why read this and check out that. Or, is the package clean, simplistic and classy? As if saying to the customer ‘Good day, pleasure to meet your acquaintance. Please give me a listen and allow me to show you what I can do and allow my actions to speak louder than my words.’

    This is why I feel so strongly about the initial presentation of a product, and I feel it’s truly a shame more people don’t. But with all that aside, let’s discuss how this products introduced itself shall we?






    Construction


    Beautiful. Truthfully, I could’ve just left this section with just that one word because it truthfully describes the Rai Penta perfectly but that kinda feels like a cop out. So starting with the frame and working down. The first and unavoidable thing I think one notices about the Rai Penta is the sheer beauty and elegance that the all aluminum chassis bestows. Soft and elegant twists and edging not only makes this iem stunning to look at but wondrously comfortable (as I’ll talk about next).

    The horn is also aluminum and differentiates itself from other iems by utilizing 3 individual bores, each being dedicated to their paired drivers respectably. Behind the horn you’ll see 2 ports that aren’t just there for looks. The ports are what Meze calls a Pressure Equalization System (PES) and are used to regulate the internal chamber pressures. Truthfully, I’ve no idea what benefits that offers for I’m certainly no engineer but it is something I can’t recall seeing elsewhere. Lastly and, at least in my opinion, one of the most important features that the Rai Penta possesses is that they utilize detachable cables, MMCX in their case. By default the Rai Penta comes with an unbalanced 3.5mm silver cable but you can purchase the upgraded balanced cable (terminated in 2.5mm or 4.4mm) for $150 from their site if you so choose. As for the quality of the cable itself, I must say that not only does it look stunning but it’s also, seemingly, very durable (I never pinched or did any real durability test during my review so I can only go by its outward appearance). The only thing notable I found is that the cable is fairly prone to tangling but in the same sentence it’s easily detangled so kinda cancels out.

    To conclude, the Rai Penta, from horn to termination, is not only build incredibly solid but also elegantly as well. Rai Penta doesn’t just hold the part, it looks it as well. For those who’re considering purchasing this totl iem, in terms of its longevity of service, you’ve nothing to fear.


    Comfort

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    The only other non custom iem that I’ve ever listened to with this level of comfort that I can recall from memory is the RCA CL2. Consistently I was able to have 4+ hour long listening sessions with the Rai Penta and not have the slightest of ear fatigue. The smooth edging that I discussed in the previous section goes a long way in making these able to be experienced for the long haul. Additionally, Meze included a massive amount of different tip styles and sizes so anyone could comfortably find their perfect tip and fully enjoy the experience the Heaven’s 5 presents to the listener. For those who follow me I’m sure it’s no surprise to any but I swear by the Comply memory foam tips so if using them is an option, it’s likely the route I would choose.

    For those who like to travel or be active while listening to your music the Rai Penta also keep up with you there too. The isolation factor of these is amazing. When I listened to these at work I couldn’t hear a darned thing (which sadly had me taking them off because I kinda need to hear things in my line of work), so drowning out the world around you and isolating you to your own Paradise is definitely a perk of these art pieces. Now, for those active users, the Rai Penta also stays firmly in place when I went for a light jog (stopped before sweating). Now, I will say do use these for physical exercise at your own risk because Meze, to my knowledge, doesn’t state these being sweat resistant in any shape, form or fashion.

    To conclude, Meze’s Rai Penta is one of the most comfortable pair of iem’s, non custom, that I’ve ever experienced. Also, even my wife with her rather petite ears was even able to comfortably wear these without discomfort of adjustments.


    Sound

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    Before I start this section. It should go without saying but though I link YouTube videos when I’m giving examples, this is for convenience only. If applicable, I HIGHLY encourage you to listen to the music I’m referencing on as high a quality as possible to experience the fullest sound possible.


    The part where I’m sure many of you care the most about, how the Heaven/Paradise’s 5 sound. Does the Rai Penta live up to the prestigious name? To me and my ears, they most certainly do, perhaps after I explain them you too will become excited to experience what they have to offer. My first impression when listening to the song “Castle of Glass” by Linkin Park is that these are definitely a Meze product. The musicality and house sound immediately became familiar to me but yet also a bit different. Though I would still qualify the Rai Penta’s as an overall musical sounding iem, they share the audiophile friendly analytical side as their bigger brother the Empyrean’s do.

    As far as overall characteristics, the Rai Penta has some very impressive separation that rivals, or even beats, many equally priced over ear models. A fantastic example is “Daft Punk” by Pentatonix. Throughout the performance I’m able to easily identify each different vocalist and not once did they mesh together (in the sense of being unable to hear them apart not musicality that they were going for). This video, though a good example, isn’t the best recorded but it came up on my playlist while writing this so bear with it. But the Rai Penta also has a great sense of depth and space. In the aforementioned video you’re sitting a few rows back from the stage and through the Rai Penta’s I’m aware of this fact with makes them even more so disappear in your ears and only leaving the music behind. I can discern the larger drum in the back left while also still hearing the smaller drums that take center stage. The Rai Penta, from my time with them, has shown me that they’re not out to make a statement about showing themselves off but instead showcasing the media you’re playing instead.


    Treble


    The eyes of the music, an audio products ability to reveal the slightest of detail while staying calm and controlled and never becoming harsh is something, to me, reminiscent of one's own eyes. As with the Rai Penta’s I think instead of eyes, gates would be more appropriate. Listen to one of my favorite pieces from an equally favorite anime, Your Lie In April, “Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso” by Camille Saint-Saëns. My disclaimer I put at the start of all my sound sections definitely apply with this piece but my goodness do I get so much energy and detail and sheer enjoyment out of this piece and the Rai Penta replicates that absolutely flawlessly. Even at the sharpest peaks it never grows harsh nor does it lose control or become strained to obtain those peaks. I stated that the gates make a good representation of the treble on the Rai Penta and I stand by that because it’s only a taste of the rest of the paradise that lies inside their realm.


    Mids


    My personal favorite area of a musical track, the soul of the music. Here is where the artist, their vocals and their emotions lie. To me and my musical tastes I want a product to allow me to physically feel the emotions that the artist is expressing. Joy, sorrow, anger, anguish, I want to feel it in the music I listen to. This is where the audiophile part I mentioned at the start of this review comes into play. Though the mids are quite neutral, to my ears, they still do a very good job at portraying the emotions I so seek while still maintaining the neutrality that most audiophiles prefer. The songs “Sound of Silence” by Disturbed and, a new favorite of mine, “Glassy Sky” by Yutaka Yamada are wonderful examples of how the Rai Penta maintains its musical sound while staying within an audiophiles neutral standards. I use the song “S.O.B.” by Nathaniel Rateliff to better explain this. Listen to the hands clapping as well as the fingers snapping. Yes you can hear them very well and very clearly but they, to me, don’t have that body and lifelike sound as real flesh hitting together has. This isn’t a pitfall of the Rai Penta’s but instead something that just about all audio products with neutral mids have.


    Bass


    The heartbeat of the music. Bass is what keeps the pace of the entirety of the musical track and without solid control and power the entire ensemble will die with it. Admittedly, when it comes to iems I rarely get excited with their bass. It’s nothing directly against them but it’s kinda hard to replicate the powerful bass full size cans can create when they don’t have near the size to work with. In regards to the Rai Penta I will say that they possess a very competent and fulfilling level of bass that never left me feeling that a song was empty; on the contrary, I was able to enjoy some fun house music such as Vigiland’s “Friday Night” and “Pong Dance.” What really impressed me with the Rai Penta’s bass wasn’t just the depth and respectable oomph that it had but its constant control and lack of decay. I really enjoyed listening to rock and house music because the Rai Penta provided the slam that got me the pump that I look for in said music.

    To be able to drop to the level of depth that the Rai Penta can then immediately reach the peaks I mentioned earlier in this review doesn’t just showcase the dynamic fortitude but an overall full iem that should satisfy about any audio enthusiasts need.


    Conclusion

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    My final thoughts on Meze audio’s flagship iem the Rai Penta is that it controls as much musical fortitude as it does design elegance. They maintain Meze’s musical house sound while also catering to the audiophiles desire for neutrality. The soundstage is as wide as the dynamics are vast and the fullness of the sound in between granted an experience that lives up to the Rai Penta’s name.






    Also, make sure to check out my unboxing and review videos. They’re pretty awesome AND you getta put a face to the Army-Firedawg name. If this review helped you out at all please hit that thumbs up button for it really helps me out a lot. Till next time my friends, stay safe.

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  6. twiceboss
    MEZE RAI PENTA (sILKy sMOOTh)
    Written by twiceboss
    Published Oct 11, 2019
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Mids - Yes you buy this because of its mids
    Vocals - full bodied, airy, textured, no bass bleed, perfect amount of weight
    Bass - controlled, i love controlled bass so this is a pro to me
    Signature - lush non fatiguing and beautiful vinyl-like sound
    Cons - Highs - i really want meze to upgrade the highs on this
    Imaging - Need better imaging for crowded track
    upload_2019-10-11_10-55-48.png

    OVERVIEW
    Build and comfort:
    These are outstanding! One of the best comforts no doubt.

    Sound signature: Smooth but not dark at all. Bass is flat with bump on midbass. Mids are excellent. Highs are good with a decent amount of extension. This is the IEM that will give soul to the vocals. Seriously, easily one of the top in my list! I LOVE THE VOCALS ON THIS! I like how it sounds tbh, basically for my playlist, Kpower Vocals, Dalkom Cafe etc. It is like a smooth/vinyl like sound.

    DETAILS
    Bass:
    Focusing on midbass with decent amount of subbass. Both are tight and not bleeding. Not really for basshead i would say but i like this kind of bass!

    Mids: Excellent mids. Beautiful without any noticeable bass bleed. Good, any iems that has bass bleed is a big no no for me.

    Vocals: Both male and female vocals are excellent. Yes, this set has no problem delivering vocals.

    Highs: Well extended. Not “surprising good” but not bad at all. Just good. Meaning, can be better. I would say, if the highs technicalities is top notch mimicking VX, KSE1200 etc, easily this is my endgame.

    Staging and Imaging: I would say this set delivers the imaging well but not exceptional.

    Soundstage: IEMs level of soundstage but really airy and open.

    Tips: I prefer best with Symbio W (the one with foam inside), Spiral dot is haze haze (worse imaging)

    TEST TRACKS:
    13 Test Track Spotify Link: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/1NDXTjaSGKqIAO5vz4yTEl?si=MxnBiWh0RleJ7aAqo7I-ow
    This test tracks contains almost everything to test about the performance.

    Paint by Moonmoon: (Male vocal centric)
    The male vocal sounds lush and no bass bleed, beautiful! The separation of the vocal and the instruments behind are well separated. This delivers the vocal with full emotion and soul.


    Love Alone by IU: (Female vocal centric)
    Female vocal sounds forward but controlled. The guitar is well separated. There is no obvious bass bleed to the vocal. So there is nothing that makes female vocal sounds thick. Again, beautiful vocals!


    Angel by Chancellor and Taeyeon: (Duet Male and Female vocals)
    This is a well recorded track. It is almost impossible to sound bad with this song. Both male and female vocals in this track is detail and this set delivers it in a smooth way.


    Every End of the Day by IU: (Female vocal centric with complex music)
    This is a bit tricky song for an IEM to be good for this track on handling the background music while giving shine on female vocals. Unfortunately, this set gives average impact on this song. While the female vocalist is forward but the background music feels lacking. Not enough highs separation.


    POPSICLE by UHSN: (Imaging, complex, separation song)
    Again, this set doesn't really shine. It is more relaxing than giving a wow feeling towards the track. Certain IEMs will make the sound at 0:17 amazingly well with imaging capability. This set is tuned to be relaxed and to be worn for hours without any fatigue issue.


    Occupied by Rich Brian: (Subbass and imaging track for male)
    The high pitch that moves left and right at the beginning of the song is presented well. No obvious flaw on that. The subbass unfortunate isn't that powerful to give impact to the track. The male vocal is fine nevertheless.


    Your text by Sundial: (Soundstage and pinpoint imaging test)
    The soundstage is mostly IEM level while not being congested and everything is separated well. Polite sound and the male/female voice is fine too. No bass bleed at all. Pinpoint imaging is not the greatest but again everything is well separated.


    Bad guy by Billie Eillish: (Subbass and layering for female)
    Again, the subbass is controlled, it is more midbass than subbass and hence the subbass will not give much impact. Due to that, there is no flaw on female vocals. The layering of multiple female vocals can be heard easily, no flaw on that.


    Psychosocial by Slipknot: (Multiple metal instruments track)
    The separation of guitars, drums, etc are well presented. Not really vast separated but not congested at all. The vocals are well presented. Mostly making metal becomes a bit relaxed and lush sounding. Take it with your own preference.


    Feel Special by Twice: (Pop electronic music)
    This sounds good tbh. Some electronic can be peaky on certain sets but this set is almost has no peak at all. You can hear the female vocals and everything balance. The imaging is average but the separation is quite good.


    Blah Blah Blah by Armin van Buuren: (EDM, almost dubstep but not a hardcore dubstep)
    Again, electronic music can be peaky at times but this set delivers a smooth sound. The bass focuses on midbass but not subbass. Easy to listen to.


    Cumbe by Rodrigo y Gabriela: (Can be a “typical” audiophile track?)
    Excellent separation for all instruments. The guitars and the drums do not sound congested at all. Bass is controlled and hence the guitar sounds clear. Less impact to make this track sound “wow” but take it with your own preference. Sometimes people like how smooth this set is.


    Chicken Noodle Soup by j-hope and Becky G: (Pop Hip Hop Top 40 Hitz kinda of track)
    This sounds great on this set even without high amount of subbass. The male and female vocals are clean. Separation is great and not congested at all.

    One bonus track for you to appreciate my bias IU.

    COMPARISONS: THE MOST INTERESTING PART
    Comparison: (most of these are more than 20/30hours of listening, should have no problem)


    KSE1200:
    A bit beyond this price but KSE is superior in almost every way except if people wanting for a relaxed sounding iem. Subbass is better on KSE while still maintaining its mids. However, KSEs vocal can be thin sometimes so Penta can be a better option if u are dead set on vocals only. Highs, I would say it is almost impossible to challenge KSEs highs capabilities in delivering technicalities.

    Andromeda:
    Andro sounds even thicker due to midbass. Vocals I would say sounds better on Penta but on both lows and highs extension, Andro leads. Andro also owns in terms of soundstage and imaging capabilities but with the exception of thicker vocals.

    EX1000:
    Both of these has almost flat lows but ex1k is exceptional in terms of DD bass. It can be raised up without any problem. Ex1k can be peaky to some but Penta is going to be lush sounding and will be a better set to listen for longer period.

    CL2:
    The vocal tonality for vocal centric is where cl2 shines better than Penta. But penta is more coherent throughout any genres. CL2 shines a lot on vocals, classic etc. CL2 has its own soul in vocals. Textured, clarity, etc in presenting vocals both male and female but Spiral dot is a must. However, CL2 vocals are not lush as penta. So if u are vocals whore, do choose between these two and which one u like; intense or lush.

    iSINE20:
    this is a different thing. 20 has its own open sound but the tonality can be a bit wonky at times. Penta is a safer tonality, better timbre I would say.

    ER4SR:
    This is thin neutral sound. Opposite to Penta. In short, just everything on penta is opposite to 4SR. Dry and clinical.

    Anole VX:
    VX is famous with technicalities and its boosted subbass. I personally not a fan on the boosted bass but really appreciate the technicalities that VX can give. I do need to use symbio W to tame the quantity of bass. The highs on VX is controlled and really really well extended resulting a detail monster. However comparing with KSE, KSE has all those technicalities but deliver it with next level staging, left, right, front, back, left back, right back etc. Bringing VX to compare with Penta is a bit out of league. I mean Penta is for smooth listening but VX is for aggressive listening.

    IER M9:
    Hehe this is the real battle between these sets. Remember I said Penta has the vocals with emotion and everything? but the highs are not really well tuned, vinyl-liked etc. So M9 to me solved the problems on Penta. With not 100% sealed tips, M9 can give the same amount of bass but brings the vocals almost the same level. The interesting part with M9 is the imaging. King of imaging. Better than Andro and almost on par with KSE1200. This is the reason why I gave Penta 4 stars and i hope Meze can improve the highs on the next model and will be one of the best tuned iem by far.

    The unique, The Conclusion, The End:

    Penta is like a vinyl sound to me. The vocals are full of emotion and if you are a vocal whore, this set will give you the best feeling ever. Penta lets a lead singer to have the best microphone in the stage to sing to you and give the backup vocalist the standard microphone resulting that you will get the most out of the lead singer. Meanwhile, Anole VX gives everyone on stage each microphone and sing together resulting that you will hear everyone of them but nothing special. Penta is one of the best iems for vocals period. You just need to have an extended listening since Penta will never wow u at first. Having a demo and listen to this at home is the best way to judge the Rai Penta.

    Credit to Meze, Andy Kong for sending this unit for a review from me. I hope this review will help you out there since this is most iems comparison ever.

    my Top 10 iem for benchmark: https://www.head-fi.org/threads/rank-the-iems-youve-heard.454855/page-140#post-15243715
      Niyologist likes this.
  7. Niyologist
    Rai Penta Review - Heavenly Smooth Sound
    Written by Niyologist
    Published Oct 11, 2019
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Smooth, yet neutral. Sounds natural as well. Lots of detail. Musical as well. 2-Year Warranty. Well built IEMs and Case. Great fit and Noise Isolation.
    Cons - I can't think of any cons at the moment. Maybe the thin mids and average soundstage. That's about it.
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    Introduction:


    As I grow older and nearing my 30s, I look back to acknowledge that I have listened to many songs and soundtracks. I have also noticed that while my taste in music has matured somewhat, I still listen to some of the earlier styles of musical preferences. Along with that, my brain had experienced some types of frequency fluctuations. I often remember that to recall the sounds I experience with the tools I use every day. Despite all of this, I am still relatively new to reviewing. Especially to high-end portable audio

    About Meze Audio:

    After reading Meze Audio's history, I have surmised the following: Meze Audio was founded at Baia Mare, Romania in 2011 by an individual named Anthony. He wanted to make a pair of headphones that can relate to his passion for music. After Team Meze Audio gathered the necessary parts and knowledge to make his dream come alive, the breakthrough happened in 2015. The Meze 99 Classics. Now Meze Audio made another breakthrough with the Rai Penta and this review will soon unveil why.

    Disclaimer: This review is strictly done because of the Meze Audio Rai Penta Tour. Thank you Andy Kong for selecting me to experience this IEM.

    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 [/B]

    Warranty period: 2 years

    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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    The hard leather case feels insanely durable.

    There are also 2.5mm and 4.4mm Upgrade Cables designed for the Rai Penta, but they are sold separately.

    Build Quality:

    Let's start with the Pressure Equalization System

    Based on what I've read from the Meze Audio website, the PES is made for Airflow control. This helps regulate the internal chamber pressure in front and behind the drivers.

    [​IMG]

    The Rai Penta's PES (Pressure Equalization System)

    The Rai Penta is well designed. It's perhaps the most well-designed IEM I have ever held and reviewed. These IEMs are almost as smooth as obsidian and are sculpted as if they were meant to compliment a certain Sports Car from recent memory. It kind of reminds me of the upcoming 2020 Maserati Alfieri.

    [​IMG]
    2020 Maserati Alfieri

    [​IMG]
    Rai Penta Hybrid Up Close

    The reason for the physical smoothness of the Rai Penta is because the surface of the housing is anodized.

    What is Anodizing? Anodizing is an electrochemical process that converts the metal surface into a decorative, durable, corrosion-resistant, anodic oxide finish. Aluminum is ideally suited to anodizing, although other nonferrous metals, such as magnesium and titanium, also can be anodized.

    https://www.anodizing.org/page/what_is_anodizing

    The housing of the Rai Penta is cut with a high precision CNC machine, and it's made out of Aluminum. The IEMs themselves feel very sturdy and I doubt that the Rai Penta will be scuffed or damaged for quite some time. The 3.5mm MMCX cable provided is well made and well designed. It's not too short and not too long. The Auxilary jack itself is made out of Rhodium Plating. It definitely feels sturdy to the touch and like metal too. That will inspire the feeling of long term durability.

    Fit/Noise Isolation: The fit of the Rai Penta is almost indistinguishable to not feeling anything at all. With the right selection of stock ear tips, the Rai Penta will feel like there's nothing at all. The noise isolation punches above average. What impresses me the most is that even with low volume, most surrounding everyday noises are effectively drowned out.

    Sources Used: Samsung Galaxy S9 w/iFi xDSD, Shanling M3S w/iFi xDSD, PC w/iFi nano iOne and Schiit Magni (Low Gain and Low Volume).

    Cables used: 3.5mm for all sources, except for the Shanling M3S. I used the 2.5mm MMCX cable instead.

    Sound Quality:

    Bass: Balanced and Smooth. That's the Rai Penta's personality all the way through. Despite that, the bass is also deep and not too aggressive or too light. The bass is also well-textured, but not basshead worthy for quantity. I have tried numerous bass-heavy soundtracks and the Rai Penta seems to be the type that would rather keep the bass very controlled, with refined speed and textures. The magical portrayal of the bass is what makes me impressed. The way the bass drums kick in the background seems quite realistic. One of the songs that really got me hearing this is “Papillon” by Stratovarius. You can really hear and feel the pulse.

    Mids: Once again, I hear excellent smoothness and excellent clarity. Like almost butter smooth. It's pleasing to the ear and brain. Almost alluring and hypnotizing. Even though it's pleasing to my brain, the details aren't the best. I'd consider the Rai Penta's mids to be detailed, but not analytical. I find the greater strength of the midrange from the Rai Penta to reside within the female vocals and slightly less so with male vocals. Why? I hear a notable dip in the lower mids. It’s not as significant as the opposing increase of decibels towards the upper mids, but it’s definitely there. The transitions between lower to upper mids are quite quick and the overall thickness of the mids isn't paper-thin, but not phone book thick either. The upper mids seem to have a rather interesting emphasis and it can be plainly heard in the soundtrack "Canon" by OVERWERK. You can hear the passion emanating from the drums. Almost got me tapping. As for guitar strumming, Stratofortress by Stratovarius is an excellent test for this and it’s simply great. The guitar soloist towards the middle of the song is really going at it. At the same time, you can hear him changing chords. I find that quite fascinating. While that’s happening, the cue for the drummer seems like he has a spotlight towards the right. I find that pretty cool.

    Treble: This part is interesting. There's smoothness here too, but there's a small emphasis in the lower treble region. I used another song from Stratovarius, which is named “Elements”. At the beginning of the song, you can hear the violinists escalating the chords rather well and I find it pretty vivid. Not bright and intense, but rather vivid and with tons of clarity. There's some extension there, but not very extended. Seem like there's a huge dip past the lower treble.

    Soundstage/Accuracy/Imaging: Let’s start with the soundstage. The best way I can describe this segment is that the dispersion of the sound is not quite like full-sized headphones, but it’s certainly sufficient enough for an IEM. The depth is above average and seems to replicate a miniature version of a stage. Although that’s because of the great accuracy and imaging that this IEM is capable of. What’s so neat about the Rai Penta is the spatial cues are vivid and this makes you hear where the spatial cues are coming from. A perfect example of this from the song “Soul of a Vagabond” by Stratovarius. The Rai Penta is giving you the nuances of the spatial cues around you in a 180-degree curvature angle. So yes, the soundstage is not only large, but it’s also three dimensional.

    Conclusion:

    I have tried many IEMs from CTM VS-2 to RE2000 from HifiMan, but this IEM seems somewhat different from the rest of them. This IEM doesn’t seem to exert itself too much or too little. It's neutral and can fi int many genres. Perhaps this IEM is musical? Probably. That’s somewhat hard to pull off. It’s an IEM that’s versatile and will fit the needs of many, but ultimately it’s almost the ultimate sound I have been seeking. In the end, even though this IEM possesses great detail rendering and is neutral, yet musical. With the wide array of accessories, elegant build quality, and excellent sound for $1,099, I’d say that it has great value.
    1. szore
      Really nice review!
      szore, Oct 14, 2019
      Niyologist likes this.
    2. Niyologist
      Thank you. :)
      Niyologist, Nov 1, 2019
  8. Wiljen
    The Meze Rai Penta, an in-ear for the ages.
    Written by Wiljen
    Published Sep 28, 2019
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Build quality is first class as is comfort, signature is very non-fatiguing for long listening sessions
    Cons - Very source dependent and only moderately extended at both ends
    disclaimer: I received the Rai Penta as part of a tour arranged by Meze and Head-fi. I have received no incentives in exchange for my review and the Rai Penta is on its way to the next reviewer as I write this. If you have an interest in the Rai Penta or other Meze products, check out their website. Received 9/12.



    Unboxing / Packaging:

    I was lucky number one on the tour so I got the same unboxing experience as a retail buyer. For those after me, I will do my best to return it to exactly the same state less the shrink wrap. The box front is satin black on flat black with the Meze logo in the center and the Rai Penta name beneath it. The reverse has an exploded view of the earpiece with the specs on the model beneath it. The third picture shows the side of the box that has some additional info regarding the build. This can be hard to see because of the black on black and under certain light was much more easily visible than in others. Lifting the box top reveals the tips nestled in foam, 8 sets of tips also in cut-outs and a clam-shell case with the cable and other accessories inside.





    Accessories:

    The Kit provided with the Tour unit was more complete than the standard retail kit as it came with both the 2.5mm and 4.4mm balanced cable in addition to the stock 3.5mm single ended cable. The stock retail kit comes with the case, 8 sets of tips (2 foam and 6 silicone), a cable tie, the soft case, a user manual, airline adapter, 6.3mm adapter, cleaning tool, and a couple of Meze Audio Stickers in the box. The case deserves a bit of extra discussion as it is a distinct step above the norm. The clamshell's exterior is leather with a Meze logo plate in the center of the top. The case is much stiffer than most "soft" cases and while it has some flex, it definitely has a layer under the leather that resists bending, punctures, and crushing. The inside is split into two compartments by a mesh net. The interior is felt lined to protect the earpieces. I do wish the case had a felt pocket to stash one tip and keep the two from touching in the case, but it is a well made case all the same.

    Meze-Ria-Penta-box-front.JPG Meze-Ria-Penta-box-rear.JPG Meze-Ria-Penta-box-side.JPG Meze-Ria-Penta-box-inner.JPG Meze-Ria-Penta-complete-kit.JPG Meze-Ria-Penta-kit.JPG

    Build/Fit:

    The Shell on the Rai is a 3 part design with an inner and outer shell and a separate nozzle. Shells are Metal injection molded and then polished to final shape. Anodizing is a deep blue and is very well matched between pieces. Vents are cut after anodizing so show the bare aluminum as does the Meze logo etched into the face. The pressure stabilization vent is particularly interesting in that is has 6 small circular vents with 3 cut to connect at the center and 3 that stand alone. Again, I am told this not just for looks but was found to be the best design to allow the proper amount of air movement around the dynamic driver, so this is both aesthetically interesting and functional. Shells are on medium sized and were very comfortable for this reviewer for extended wear. (As a comparison, size is similar to Magaosi K5, or RHA Cl2). Nozzles exit the top front of the shell with almost no rake thus allowing for fairly deep insertion. Isolation is average due to the venting and small size of the housing. Nozzles have 3 sound bores each of slightly different dimensions tuned to the drivers behind them. MMCX connectors are just very slightly recessed and have a ring between the connector and the shell. This is the only place I could find any fault with the construction as is visible in the photos below. The ring is just slightly off center. I don't think this has any impact on sound, connection quality, or fit, it just caught my eye while shooting the photos.

    Meze-Ria-Penta-mmcx-connector.JPG Meze-Ria-Penta-nozzle.JPG Meze-Ria-Penta-nozzle-rake.JPG Meze-Ria-Penta-outer-side.JPG Meze-Ria-Penta-pair1.JPG Meze-Ria-Penta-under-side.JPG Meze-Ria-Penta-under-side2.JPG Meze-Ria-Penta-vents1.JPG


    Internals:

    As the name implies, the Rai Penta is a 5 driver per side iem with 4 customized Knowles balanced armatures housed in pairs each with a single sound bore, and a 10mm dynamic driver designed specifically for the model. The drivers use the housing and metal sound bore tubes to funnel sound to the three sound bores in the nozzle. In speaking with Anto Meze, he stated that pretty much everything is custom tuned in house and was built from the ground up for this model. I asked specifically about the dynamic driver and if it was graphene, titanium, etc... and was told that Meze philosophy is that good sound relies more on fine tuning than on exotic materials. (So no, no titanium, beryllium, or Graphene to be found). The Rai has a nominal impedance of 20Ω with a sensitivity of 110dB/mW. I found the Rai easy to drive but did find that it scaled qualitatively as detail retrieval improved with better sources. I really like the Penta paired to the WM1A as it brings out the best of both.

    Meze-Ria-Penta-rai-penta-07.png



    Cable:

    This is the one place the tour package departs from the standard as the tour package includes the standard 3.5 mm single ended cable along with the 2.5 mm balanced and 4.4 mm balanced cables. We can speak to all three in one discussion as other than the jacks, all have similar construction. All are four wire Litz braids using silver coated oxygen free copper with 20 strands per wire. Connectors are all either rhodium plated (2.5 and 3.5) or gold plated (4.4) for extra durability and corrosion protection. Housings on the jacks and splitters are polished metal in a deep almost black gray with Meze Audio and the connector type on the jack housing and the Meze logo on the splitter. Chin sliders are clear plastic and work as expected. The North end of the cable terminates with pre-formed earhooks and gold plated mmcx connectors in clear housings. A red dot on the right housing is the only indicator or left/right arrangement but works. I found the cables extremely well made and very pliable with little microphonics. I spent most of my time using either the 3.5 mm or the 4.4 mm but spent enough time with the 2.5 mm plugged into the Opus#1S and the xCAN to say it works equally well.

    Meze-Ria-Penta-cable-box-rear25.JPG Meze-Ria-Penta-cable-box-rear44.JPG Meze-Ria-Penta-cable-box-front.JPG Meze-Ria-Penta-cable-jacks.JPG Meze-Ria-Penta-jack.JPG Meze-Ria-Penta-mmcx.JPG Meze-Ria-Penta-mmcx2.JPG Meze-Ria-Penta-splitter.JPG Meze-Ria-Penta-splitter2.JPG



    Tips:

    I found the Rai to be an interesting mix when rolling tips. As long as the tips do not obstruct the sound bores in the nozzle, they made little difference to the sound signature and allowed for finding a tip that fit best without having to compromise sound quality. Tips that do obstruct or constrict the output were generally undesirable as they reduced mid-bass and mids more than I would have preferred.

    Meze-Ria-Penta-tips.JPG



    Sound:

    Meze Ria Penta FR.jpg

    Bass:

    Bass is mildly boosted on the Rai with the boost centered around 100Hz. Sub-bass extension is moderate with roll-off only becoming evident below about 30Hz and good rumble when called upon. Sub-bass drops as it moves into mid-bass but remains elevated above the mids. Mid-bass has good punch and slam and can be very authoritative when a track calls for it. It does a good job of fading back into the mix when not. Speed is good with attack being just a shade faster than decay with leaves a little warmth and fullness without interfering or sounding clouded. Bass is more detailed than many and has good control throughout the range. I found timbre and tonality to be better on percussion and electric bass than on low strings, but this is nitpicking as both were above average.



    Mids:

    There is no mid-bass bleed to obscure the lower mids but the dynamic driver does contribute some warmth to the mids. The mids start climbing forward from the transition point with the mid-bass. Vocals have good clarity and thickness without feeling heavy and have very good tonality regardless of gender but the climb in the mids gives female vocals a bit more presence as they sit mildly ahead of their lower register counterparts. I would equate the detail level in the mids to that of the Empire Ears ESR as both are on near equal footing although the Rai does bring a bit more life to the mix somehow.



    Treble:

    Lower treble starts out on the same plateau as the upper-mids and then falls back fairly quickly to avoid any hint of stridency. Overall, the treble is tuned for politeness more than absolute extension. Attack and decay are fast (as expected) and yield good detail without requiring a big push forward to accomplish it. There is a drop-off in the 5-6kHz range that probably directly contributes to the lack of harsh treble. Another smaller push forward around 8kHz brings some air back into the top end and a final small push around 10kHz gives just a hint of sparkle. Those looking for prominent treble will fault the Rai for its lack of overall extension, but those looking for a polite listening companion that does not fatigue the user quickly will appreciate the tuning more. I found these slightly less detailed and transparent than the JH14, but equally well textured and a bit smoother making for a very easy, comfortable listen.



    Soundstage / Imaging:

    Stage is wider than deep but still has some depth and a reasonable sense of height. Seating the orchestra is straight forward aided by above average instrument separation. Imaging is precise and movements are easily recognized and pinpointed. I can't imagine many will use the Rai for gaming, but the spatial cues are good enough that it is one of the few iems where I think it would do quite well in that roll. Layering is also above average with no tendency to get muddy or compressed as tracks get more complex and faster. I would compare the sound stage to a small venue with seating in the first few rows.



    Thoughts / Conclusion:

    Up to this point, Meze has been known more for its over-ear models than its in-ears. The Rai Penta is not Meze first in-ear, but it is the first in this price class and when you price a product in the range with other companies flagships, you set expectations pretty high. The Rai certainly lives up to its flagship pricing where build is concerned. The ano is first rate, and the vents are quite elaborate. Cables share the same high quality build and with pricing being lower than some competitive models, I can see some using Meze cables on other iems. On the sound side, I found the Rai to be very revealing and thus very source dependent and it definitely pairs better with some sources than others. I even found that swapping cables between the 2.5 balanced and 3.5 single ended sometimes made significant differences from the same source device (and yes, I volume matched to be sure). Detail and micro-detail is well rendered and tonality is quite good. The tuning can probably best be referred to as polite and non-fatiguing which will make some happy and others disappointed as that is accomplished by limiting extension (particularly on the top end). Meze has focused on creating a musical listen and in large measure succeeded, is it reference flat, no, is it the best extended iem available, no, is it an iem you can forget about all the technical stuff and just enjoy, absolutely.

    images

    1. Meze-Ria-Penta-feature.JPG
      ExpatinJapan and lafeuill like this.
  9. gLer
    Rai Penta: Laid Back Luxury
    Written by gLer
    Published Sep 25, 2019
    4.5/5,
    Pros - >
    Outstanding build quality, design, materials and comfort.
    Smooth, refined tuning for hours of fatigue-free listening.
    Excellent detail retrieval despite easygoing signature.
    Cons - >
    Missing balanced cable is a missed opportunity.
    Sub-bass extension and rumble is lacking for some genres.
    Vocals can sound thin or strained on some tracks.
    I was fortunate enough to be included in the Rai Penta World Tour, and special thanks goes to @MezeTeam and @AndyKong for sending them my way. If I'm not mistaken, this is probably the first time a Rai Penta has been seen in South Africa, and I'm honoured to be the first to experience it here. Other than asking for impressions to be posted to Head-Fi, there were no demands or expectations made of me, and the views expressed below are entirely my own.

    RaiPenta_01.jpg

    As a designer and photographer, if I was to sum up my first impressions of the Rai Penta, Meze’s new flagship IEM, it would be very much along the lines of 'incredible attention to detail and aesthetics, with sound – good as it is – almost secondary'.

    The stars of the show are the fit, finish and polish. The Rai Penta is a sumptuous universal IEM, and I hardly think a custom version would make it any more so. In fact, I’d probably pick the Penta before I pick a CIEM, probably because they wouldn’t be able to make a CIEM using the silky soft metal shell and finish that they have here. Everything from the packaging to the design, build quality, and ergonomics is both premium and impressive, with meticulous attention paid to the smallest details – down to the perfect one-click fit of the mmcx connectors to the earpieces.

    That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with how they sound. On the contrary, they sound fantastic. I’ll get to the sound in more detail later in this review, but right off the bat, what sold me on the Penta was less what I was hearing and more what I was feeling – or more specifically not feeling, which in the case of most IEMs, is at least some degree of discomfort.

    But I digress. Let’s take this from the top.

    A not-quite-premium package

    In today’s hotly-contested mobile audio market, a flagship IEM brings with it at least some burden of expectation, even if that flagship is priced significantly lower than other so-called TOTL products.

    Aside from the jewel-like earpieces, included in the box is a generous selection of eartips – both silicone and foam, a uniquely designed hand-stitched leather case, a silver-plated single-ended copper cable, a cleaning tool, and some adapters for connecting the cable to larger amps and airplane armrests.

    You could argue that less is more, and what you get is actually more than enough for what you need to use and enjoy your Pentas. But the lack of a balanced cable in the box is a glaring omission and frankly a missed opportunity, given the fact that most Penta owners will likely be using them with above-average DAPs or amps that, more than likely, have balanced output as an option. For the record I made the same point about the lack of a balanced cable in my review of FiiO’s FH7 (linked here), so it’s even more surprising I have to do so again for a product costing more than twice as much.

    RaiPenta_03.jpg RaiPenta_04.jpg RaiPenta_06.jpg RaiPenta_05.jpg

    Before you start thinking it’s only my bugbear, at the start of the tour several users specifically requested that 2.5mm and 4.4mm balanced cables be included with the package, and Meze were kind enough to provide both. That at least one of these so-called ‘upgrade cables’ aren’t included with a $1,100 IEM is therefore a questionable decision, one I suspect was made more for profit than for audio-related reasons.

    I recall a similar issue being raised about the lack of a balanced cable as part of the flagship Empyrean package, an oversight that I believe has now been rectified. With any luck, Meze will see fit to at least give users the option of including a balanced cable as part of future Penta sales, or offer them at a discount to Penta users.

    Fit for a king

    Cable gripes aside, once you actually see, hold, touch and feel the Rai Penta in your hand, all other thoughts are banished. These really are the most beautifully made IEMs I’ve seen, bar none. They feel more like polished gems in the hand, anodised as they are in a deep blue hue with a slight glimmer, looking every bit the part as precious metal ornaments.

    The earpieces are surprisingly smaller than I expected, but it’s this lack of bulk that also makes them so incredibly comfortable. Until now I’ve been raving about the comfort of FiiO’s smoothly polished metal IEMs, and considered the FH7 to be the most comfortable IEM I’d worn. Not anymore; the Penta quite easily takes the comfort crown, and not by a small distance.

    The ultra-shallow nozzle barely enters the ear canal, relying on the size and width of the eartip to provide a proper seal. This is perhaps the only Achilles’ Heel for many, because much like the FiiO FH7 and FH5 before it, a shallow fit isn’t ideal for everyone. Personally, the Penta fit my ears like a glove, and the seal, while important, is not nearly as important as it is for the two FiiOs in terms of its effect on the sound.

    Both the stock cable and upgrade cables (I only opened the 2.5mm version, assuming the 4.4mm cable is the same) are made of a braided and sheathed material that’s light, flexible, tangle free and mostly free of microphonics. The audio connectors are made with rhodium composite for extra rigidity, and the mmcx connectors are gold-plated and perfectly angled.

    RaiPenta_07.jpg

    Unlike the anodized earpieces, the nozzles are a matte stainless steel finish that looks like it can take serious abuse without any problems. Each nozzle is indented to prevent the eartip from slipping off during use, a nice touch that’s missing from some other, more expensive IEMs I’ve used before.

    Surprisingly the three rather large sound bored on the nozzles are exposed and unprotected, and despite the inclusion of a cleaning tool, I think it’s just asking for trouble. That said, tips slide on easily, and longer tips with smaller openings should at least partly protect against errant wax deposits and other debris clogging up your precious Pentas. If, like me, your go-to tips are wide-bore JVC Spiral Dots, I suggest you exercise maximum caution and clean, clean, clean after every listen.

    RaiPenta_08.jpg RaiPenta_09.jpg

    Sound impressions

    I said at the start that the sound of the Pentas was secondary to its build and fit, and I was only half joking. So impressive is the design that you’re almost willing to forgive some flaws in the sound.

    Luckily you won’t have to be too forgiving, because the Rai Penta are a damn fine sounding pair of IEMs by any measure. They’re not immediately impressive – as in, you’re not going to put them on and say “wow, these are incredible!” – unless you’re switching from EarPods or some cheap Chi-Fi wannabes.

    It won’t come as any surprise, then, to hear me describe the sound profile as ‘comfortable’. It’s about as laid back and easy-going as I’ve heard in a pair of IEMs, but done in a way that still manages to engage you with the music. Veiled the Penta is not; the sound is finely balanced, fairly even and very natural, but also very safe.

    With four custom-made balanced armature drivers for the mids, highs and super highs, and a 10mm dynamic driver for the lows, the Penta manages to be highly resolving and solid at the same time. They're easy to drive, with an impedance of 20 ohms preventing unwanted hiss from more powerful DAPs, and also quite sensitive at 110dB SPL/1mW. There's some interesting technology built-in to the shells, most notably a pressure equalisation system that acts like a super vent to smooth out the response of the compactly-packed drivers (though not to be mistaken for ear de-pressurisation systems like Apex and ADEL).

    Other than one or two peaks (mostly in the upper midrange), you won’t find anything jarring about the Penta. In fact, you could play almost any genre and the Penta will turn it into ever-so-pleasant background music. It’s a laid back, luxurious listen in stark contrast to the V-shaped tunings so popular in today’s mainstream.

    To get a better appreciation of what the Penta can do, I fed it with a selection of my go-to test tracks, but also broadened it out to include new material, so pleasant – and sometimes peculiar – was the listen. I have a massive digital library of more than 4,000 lossless albums, and having the Penta around the house gave me the chance to discover numerous tracks I was hearing for the first time.

    All testing was done after a 50-hour burn-in period (mandatory for most dynamic driver and hybrid IEMs), using a FiiO M11 DAP, Spiral Dot tips and the 2.5mm balanced upgrade cable – having confirmed for myself how much better the Rai sounded balanced. The song list included, but wasn’t limited to, the likes of Lana Del Rey, Brandi Carlile, Beyries, Jethro Tull, Morcheeba, Feist, Sarah Blasko, Heart, Def Leppard, Foo Fighters and Tool.

    RaiPenta_15.jpg

    Bass

    The Penta is definitely warmer than true neutral, with a broad mid-bass lift that dominates the lower end but never, ever spills over to the mids. The bass isn’t overdone, with excellent texture and a decent kick where required, but I found sub-bass to be lacking compared to the mid- and upper-bass, and rolled off quite steeply (or at least masked by the mid-bass lift).

    Daft Punk’s ‘Random Access Memories’ is packed full of tracks to stretch your system’s bass muscles, and on the whole the Penta presented it with aplomb. The slight mid-bass emphasis gave the sound a warm and inviting foundation, with the epic ‘Giorgio by Moroder’ rendered with a lush and full palate.

    While it certainly packs a punch, the Penta isn’t quite the complete package when it comes to bass. Despite technical specs claiming a range as low as 4Hz, I found larger cinematic tracks where sub-bass plays a critical part in the mix to be somewhat lacking in drive and emotion. Audiomachine’s ‘Ashes of Time’, for example, lacked the necessary cohesion from the distinct lack of sub-bass, as was the case with numerous other movie-inspired soundtrack themes.

    That said, the cleanliness, texture and resolution of the Penta’s bass was always excellent. Jazz and vocal performances were, on the whole, very much on point, with accurate timbre and a natural, almost effortless presentation. The sheer realism conveyed in the basslines of Ingrid Michaelson’s ‘The Way I Am’, and the lower-register guitar plucks of Heidi Talbot’s ‘If You Stay’ was exceptionally satisfying.

    Bass was also distortion free to my ears and always controlled, setting the tone for what I came to appreciate as I became more and more familiar with the Penta’s sound.

    RaiPenta_11.jpg

    Mids

    While the mids are reasonably detailed and almost perfectly articulated, vocals are where the Penta both shines and frustrates in equal measure.

    One of the very first notes I made included the line: “some of the most natural sounding vocals I’ve ever heard, on any headphone.” A week of listening later and I stand by that statement, with the addendum: “depending on the track.”

    Whereas the lower mids are fairly even, the upper mids seem to be raised quite a bit, to the point where vocals are quite forward and occasionally shouty. The dip in the lower mids also gives some vocals a thinner feel.

    In The Lumineers’ ‘Salt & The Sea’ from their new album ‘III’, Wesley Schultz’s striking vocals can sound a bit strained as he hits the upper registers. Conversely the vocals in Alphaville’s 80s anthem ‘Forever Young’ sounded unusually flat and constricted. The same tracks were radiant on the two other IEMs I’ve been using alongside the Penta, the FH7 and IMR’s R2 Aten.

    Peaks aside, the tendency for vocals to be quite forward can also be a good thing. For example, it lifts Giovanni Giorgio’s monologue in ‘Giorgio by Moroder’, and his voice sounds rich and resolving against the background din of the crowd. There are other examples too, and on the whole, I’d say the Penta’s midrange is balanced with a good sense of separation and clarity throughout.

    RaiPenta_14.jpg

    Highs

    I like my highs slightly tapered, so the fact that the Penta rolls off its highs just in time to avoid any harshness sits very well with me. Again, this is all part of the safe tuning I spoke of. You couldn’t get the Penta to sound sibilant even if you essed into the microphone and played it back yourself.

    It’s not as if the Penta is just smoothing out the details either, because there are plenty of details up top. Brighter tracks like Owl City’s ‘The Saltwater Room’ aren’t suddenly dull; instead the listen is just smoother, less in-your-face but still very textured where it needs to be. Likewise, the high-hat splashes in Def Leppard’s ‘Love Bites’ that trip up so many IEMs and headphones alike are unimposing here.

    From what I understand, part of Antonio Meze’ design philosophy with the Penta was hours of listening comfort, and that extends from the fit to the sound. The Penta is utterly unfatiguing, and the treble tuning is one of the main reasons. I had it on for three hours the other day and at one point forgot they were on (and that music was playing!). Somehow there’s just enough sparkle to keep things lively, and enough crunch for electric guitars, but if you’re after a brighter and more energetic listening experience, I’d say look elsewhere.

    RaiPenta_13.jpg

    Imaging, stage and separation

    Natural is an overused word in this review, but alas I’m using it again to describe the Penta’s stage. Generous in width, height and depth for an IEM, but not overly so, the Penta just sounds ‘correct’, as if you’re in the same room as the singer or band. Instruments can sometimes trick you into thinking they’re being played further away than they are, but in truth most tracks are still ‘inside your head’ more than out.

    There’s nothing amiss about imaging either, but separation is what really sets the Penta apart, pun fully intended. Whereas many IEMs in this price range (and certainly below it) somewhat diffuse the placement of instruments and vocals in the stage, especially on ore complex tracks, the Penta renders spaces between instruments ink black. This isn’t always ideal, especially where instrument blending is mastered into a track for effect, but the Penta excels with well mastered instrumental and classical tracks.

    Closing thoughts

    If the 99 Classics announced Meze to the world, and the Empyrean cemented the company as a head-fi leader, the Rai Penta is a bold and beautiful statement of intent in the fast-paced, highly competitive world of mobile audio. Meze’s previous attempts at an IEM were, at best, very basic, but the Penta raises the bar almost, if not fully, to the top of the field.

    Three years in the making, the extent of R&D that must have gone into building the Penta is impressive. The build quality, shape and silky feel of the earpieces, so compact, light and cool to the touch on your skin, is above and beyond anything I’ve seen on the market. And while the sound may be safe and, for some, unexciting, it has a very refined, very polished persona that fits in well with the overall aesthetic.

    Think recliner chairs, beachside hammocks, and lazy Sundays. Slip them on and there’s nothing between you and your music, warm and inviting, delightfully easy on the ear. You can nitpick about missing cables and shouty recordings, a distinct lack of sub bass and highs that are never quite high enough for some, but none of that matters once you sit back, relax and lose yourself in the sound.

    Unlike the FH7 or Aten, and other excellent IEMs that compete with the Penta on features and quality at a much lower price, the bar is that much higher when the price tag pushes north of a grand. At this level you need to be better than good to get a sale, and the Rai Penta is very, very good.

    Whether or not that’s enough to convince you is ultimately up to you and your pocket, your taste and your style. If you enjoy extreme sports like bungee jumping or rock climbing, they may not be for you. But you if you like poised, composed, refined pursuits – like figure-skating or gymnastics – then the Penta is worth a closer look.

    RaiPenta_16.jpg
    1. F700
      Reading your reviews is like bedtime stories for the audio enthusiast. This IEM does not seem to be my way to go in terms of sound signature, but hey, I enjoyed the read. Bravo
      PS: best pictures ever, nice hobby too :)
      F700, Sep 26, 2019
      gLer and Aslshark like this.
    2. twiceboss
      were u using this with m11 dap? i had that dap before. Your penta seems a heavy bass boost from the graph and your explanation. Totally different from my experience, i used apple dongle, phone, xcan, es100. Not sure if M11 did affect that or there was something happening in the driver department or tips selection.
      twiceboss, Oct 13, 2019
  10. davidmolliere
    Coup d’essai coup de maître !
    Written by davidmolliere
    Published Sep 22, 2019
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Musical and very natural sounding
    Excellent transparency to the source and the recording
    Imaging is solid with very good layering and separation
    Coherent soundstage with good width, height and depth
    Very good bass with great control
    Natural mids with reference tuning, very articulate
    Treble presentation balances energy and excitement nicely
    Good tonal balance and accurate timbre
    Fast IEM with very good pace rhythm and timing
    Black background
    Lightweight and compact shells make for a great fit, among the best in universal
    Cons - Isolation is very limited
    Mids are on the thinner side of the scale
    Male vocals lack power and density
    Translation of the title
    A french expression meaning the first try is a master’s performance! It doesn’t really have an equivalent expression in English that I know of.


    Special thanks

    Thanks to Meze Audio and in particular Andy Kong for organizing the Penta World Review Tour and giving me the opportunity to review the Penta! No incentive was provided for a favorable review this review is my honest opinion of the Penta. This is a review unit and has to be returned.

    Listening notes
    I burnt in the unit for 2 days and then spent approximately 40 hours with the Penta, listening both to DX220/AMP9 and AMP1 mk2 with various cables : Stock 3.5 and Whiplash TWcu v3 with AMP9, upgrade 2.5 and Campfire Audio Superlitz with AMP1 mK2


    Packaging
    The Penta comes with a very nice and premium packaging including :
    • 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
    Meze Audio was kind enough to provide both a 2.5 and 4.4 balanced upgrade cable for the Tour.


    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

    Fit, Build & Isolation
    The Penta shell is compact and lightweight which contributes to excellent comfort and the fit is top tier as far as universal goes. This is no small aspect of an IEM for every day use. The build is superb with very tight tolerances and immaculate anodized paint finish, totally flagship worthy and looks sturdy (up to the metal nozzle). Isolation is very average probably due to the vents but also the aluminium used for the shell, the Solaris also suffered from this problem to a lesser extent. There is also a bit of sound leaking that can be heard in a totally quiet environnement (not suitable to listen in bed with your significant other sleeping next to you :p).

    4DD2DE3C-2909-4215-B25A-0D747821885A.jpeg

    Introduction
    Meze Audio is not a new comer, founded by industrial designer Antonio Meze in 2011 in Romania, it became widely known to the audiophile community with the award winning Meze 99 Classics. I purchased a set and it’s one of my favorites headphones regardless of price, with great value for money. Since then, Meze move on to conquer the flagship headphones category with the innovative and already highly acclaimed Empyrean, which I unfortunately haven’t managed to get an audition as of yet.

    It was only natural after the Empyrean to launch a flagship hybrid IEM, namely the Rai Penta. Antonio Meze states : « Rai Penta is the culmination of 3 years of researching the most ergonomic shape and most vivid sound for a Universal IEM. ». The research certainly shows off both in design and masterful execution. Few manufacturer use customized balanced armatures in their IEM like the Penta does. Meze didn’t stop there and worked on the acoustics both with the shell design and development of a metal sound tube mechanism that reminds me of the concept behind Earsonics True Wave for the EM64 and Purple. The Penta also features a « Airflow control mechanism » that helps regulate internal chamber pressure in front and behind the driver assembly, something not too uncommon in hybrids or dynamic drivers. My experience is that it generally benefits bass control and soundstage and in the case of the Penta it certain does.

    Innovation is certainly interesting to a geek like me but my experience in this hobby is this can only come after the main thing : a clear tuning intent and masterful execution of said tuning. On the tuning Meze website states « the Rai Penta is all about detail, organic tonality » and the aim is to provide « the most vivid sound for a Universal IEM »… does this hold true? Let’s share my impressions on the Penta’s tuning and performance!

    4AB8FA05-28A7-4DA3-B774-A907075C18EB.jpeg

    Sound
    The Penta is one very natural sounding IEM, with a neutral tuning that strikes a delicate balance that cascades across the whole Penta tuning. Note attack, soundstage, frequency response are all highly coherent and well executed with a clear tuning intent : provide an exciting presentation without favoring any part of the frequency response, with no compromise in technical foundations and an absence of listening fatigue. It’s a mature tuning worthy of a flagship, hard to believe it’s the first iteration in fact. Meze said it could have released it sooner but wanted to get it right and spent 3 years developing the Penta : it certainly shows.

    With this in mind, it’s not surprising that resolution is very good, the Penta is able to retrieve a lof of detail in a very nuanced way, thanks both to a balanced frequency range (the tentation of boosted treble to highlight details was avoided) and a good balance in the attack of notes neither too soft (which tends to make for a laid back presentation) nor too sharp (that can lead to a fatiguing IEM). There is good snap and it plays a key role along with the drivers speed in pace, rhythm and timing (PRaT) but the note edge is not sharp.

    Also, soundstage is very coherent. The Penta is not the widest, tallest or deepest but certainly one of the most coherent soundstage I have heard and pinpoint precise imaging. Again, balance. I am not surprised by impressions I read from people that were not wowed at first listen. This is not that kind of IEM akin to something like InEar Profile 8 and it will take an experienced listener to quickly hear that the Penta is something that will grow on you (and keep you interested a long time) for that very reason : exquisite balance, clear intent, masterful execution. Call me impressed…

    Now, for all its balance the Penta deserves further description of the parts that make the whole so enjoyable… let’s dive a bit more!

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    Bass
    The Penta bass tuning is a show of maturity, that will clearly reveal itself when cycling through different music genres, albums and tracks. It’s transparent to the recording and while it could be disturbing for some it’s a testament to the Penta audiophile tuning. The Penta will just convey what’s there and nothing more, and will do so with plenty of bass detail. Note that this remark is with my custom silicon tips, which grant me perfect seal and deep insertion. Tip rolling might lower the bass presence or boost it, as usual with universal IEMs. For example, the Flare Earfoams that you can see in the picture is fairly close to the custom tips but don’t provide the same bass kick and sub bass presence, the flipside is it opens the soundstage a little bit.

    Sub bass extension is good but not up there with Campfire Solaris for sheer subwoofer like sub bass but I’d say it’s cleaner on the Penta, its dynamic driver is faster to my ears. I am willing to bet you’re going to enjoy sub bass rich tracks with the Penta, provided you’re not into a full blown bass head expectations. It’s quality bass and I think the venting system is to be credited here. Mid bass to provide a fun kick without any bleed into the mids. It also is the main foundation for the Penta’s body and weight (as we’ll see lower mids are on the leaner side).

    The bass line is strong and clear which contributes greatly to the Penta’s fun factor as well as PRaT. I found myself toe tapping more often than not, and despite all the top of the line BA CIEMs I own there is nothing like DD bass! I enjoyed both bass guitars and double bass a lot with the Penta. Last but not least the bass presence and layering ability certainly helps the soundstage depth.

    Mids
    The Penta’s mids reveal a reference tuning, it’s a very articulate mids with great separation and very accurate tonal balance, timbre are spot on to my ears both vocals and instruments. The mids play a key role in the Penta’s transparency and clarity, along with its treble. Despite that focus, it remains highly musical and is by no means clinical or sterile.

    Vocals are slightly forward making for a clear vocal presence but because of a leaner lower mid section, there is no added warmth and some might find male vocals lacking a bit. For the same reason, the Penta is on the thinner side of balanced. This being said, like I mentioned in the bass section, the Penta is also transparent of the recording and the source which means this will vary a bit depending on your source lower mids but also recording will come into play and while the Penta will never be thick it can gain quite a bit of body on some records.

    The upper mids section is nicely done, with enough presence to grant good articulation but not too much which makes for a fatigue free listen. Again and again, delicate balance.

    Treble
    And last but not least treble, like bass I find they integrate nicely with the rest of the signature, it’s a smart lower treble tuning with good sparkle to provide excitement but never too energetic to get fatiguing. The treble plays a key role in the Penta’s signature, providing great bite to guitars and proper tizz to high hats and energy to piano. I think the venting also helps keeping the balance and keep great control of the treble energy. Decay is fast and clean, the transients are quite fast making up for a feathery treble touch that I found very pleasing. Upper treble is well extended, providing good air, very good soundstage, separation and impressive resolution.

    472E31CA-E0B3-4BF1-8069-020CAF750B87.jpeg

    Verdict
    With the Rai Penta Meze promised us « the most ergonomic shape », « detail, organic tonality » and « the most vivid sound for a Universal IEM » I think it’s safe to say the 3 years of research, design and tuning adjustments have paid off and the Penta delivers on all count. It’s very clear that it’s a very well thought out product, with a clear intent from the get go and great execution as well. I expected no less from Meze Audio as they have shown that they are a force to be reckoned with first with great value for money products and then flagships that are here to take a deserved spot in the top tier of the market.

    Its design and sonic quality notwithstanding, this review was also a lot of listening fun and I’ll sure miss the Penta! This is clearly one of the best hybrid of the market with a superb build and ergonomics.

    If you’re looking for a decently priced all rounder flagship with a very natural sounding signature with top tier transparency, neutral and articulate mids and the ability to provide detail, fun bass and treble without fatigue then give an audition at the Penta you definitely can’t go wrong!

    If you like thicker signatures and can’t do without full bodied mids then you might want to check out my select comparison to Custom Art FIBAE 7 a very similarly priced flagship. If you’re into a more forward and snappier presentation with sharper attack then similarly priced Earsonics flagship the EM64 (CIEM, comparison also below) or Purple (universal) are worth a look.


    Select Comparisons

    Custom Art FIBAE7

    478AE675-5CD4-4A38-9BD2-20361F621448.jpeg

    The FIBAE7 is the latest flagship from Custom Art and priced very similar to the Penta at 1100€, which is quite competitive on the current (bullish) market. It can be purchased both in universal and custom version. I’ll be comparing the Penta with Custom Art Silicon tips and the custom FIBAE7 I have in my collection. The Penta and FIBAE7 share a beautifully executed balance across the frequency range, just a very different presentation and a warmer tilt to the FIBAE7. From this point of view the Penta is more reference and the FIBAE7 is more on the euphonic side of things.

    When switching from the Penta to the FIBAE7, the most important difference you’ll notice right away is how full bodied and thick the FIBAE7 sounds comparatively to the Rai Penta. The Penta almost has a feather like touch to notes compared to the FIBAE7. This is mainly due to the lower mids tuning, leaner on the Penta and significantly more present in the FIBAE7. Vocals are a bit more forward in the mix and lusher as well, this is a flattering presentation with more power to male vocals and sweeter tone to female. While they share similar ability to convey nuances of vocals and instruments, the Penta is more strictly accurate in its tone and more articulate.

    I also believe the absence of venting on the FIBAE7 makes for more dense presentation of notes overall including more bass presence and weight. Despite featuring 2 BA for bass against 1 DD for the Penta, the FIBAE7 has more bass kick and even subs can be physically felt which is something to behold. This carries over the treble section as well where the lower treble has significantly more weight and body the treble impact is greater. On the flip side the Penta has better layering and detail is more apparent with a clearer signature.

    The Penta feels more open and has better separation, the FIBAE7 feels more of a whole with less separation but more of a continuum of sound. The FIBAE7 is more organic, the overall signature is richer in a way that will be too much for some especially with thicker sounding sources. The Penta feel more open mainly thanks to the air brought by its thinner tuning versus the thicker FIBAE7. Soundstage wise, the Penta is wider but the FIBAE7 is taller and deeper. Note attack is snappier on the Penta and softer with the FIBAE7 which remains the epitome of buttery smooth at all times.

    Earsonics EM64

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    The EM64 is the new flagship of the Earsonics lineup replacing the long standing EM32. The EM64 is the first to feature their new generation big proprietary drivers and features the new « truewave » system not totally unlike the metal sound tube developed for the Penta.

    When switching from the Penta to the EM64, the most important thing you’ll notice right away is how much forward the EM64 is, the Penta has clear vocals that are fairly forward already but the EM64 places you right in front of the singer and the vocals are clearer as well as the general signature which is significantly brighter. The second thing you’ll notice is the snappier attack of notes of the EM64, which give it an edge on PRaT but the Penta is already pretty good only with softer attack you get less of a fast paced feeling. On top of this, the EM64 transients are much faster although the Penta is no slouch either it can’t beat the fastest BA IEM I know and I didn’t expect it would.

    In terms of signature, as hinted above the EM64 is presents detail in a more forward manner but I found the Penta to be very close in terms of detail retrieval which is impressive as the EM64 rates fairly high in my book. In terms of sheer resolution, I found the EM64 significantly more resolving but the Penta is not that far behind.

    Soundstage wise, the Penta clearly has the edge which is inherently a weak side of the more forward EM64 but despite that edge the EM64 has much better separation. On the flipside the Penta is less analytical. The EM64 is also much more fatiguing with its energetic, vibrant and fast paced presentation while the Penta with its softer attack and warmer tilt and of course its vent ports is much less fatiguing.

    Overall I am convinced the Penta will be more consensual over the EM64, which has a forward and clear tuning meant for professional on stage. I was quite impressed that in the A/B with the EM64, the Penta is able to hold its own on detail retrieval, speed and resolution while retaining a non fatiguing presentation. As I wrote in my review, the Penta has found delicate balance all over its tuning. Well done!
      alegar, F700, KopaneDePooj and 9 others like this.
    1. DeClaris
      What eartips you use on the first picture?
      DeClaris, Sep 22, 2019
    2. davidmolliere
      It's Flare audio Earfoams they shipped with the Flare PRO and can be ordered on their website.
      davidmolliere, Sep 23, 2019