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Meze Audio Rai Penta

Rating:
4.07143/5,
  1. antdroid
    Meze Rai Penta Review
    Written by antdroid
    Published Aug 26, 2019
    3.0/5,
    Pros - Safe Tuning - take it how you want.
    Great build and design
    Package and accessories
    Punchy bass that isn't muddy
    Cons - Safe Tuning - take it how you want.
    Not very well extended (subbass or treble)
    Small to average soundstage
    [​IMG]

    Meze Audio is a headphone company based out of Romania and are most famous for their Meze 99 wood cup headphones, which have even recently seen a special Massdrop version made available. The company started making IEMs a couple years ago with budget offerings of the wooden Meze 11 and Meze 12, but these were targeted at entry level customers. Recently though, Meze has moved a little away from their wood crafted headphones and earphones and made an impressive looking carbon fiber and aluminum housing for their flagship planar-magnetic Empyrean and the aluminum CNC shells of the Meze Rai Penta.

    The $1099 Rai Penta is the subject at hand, and this unit was provided on loan by Kitsune Hifi, who are also known as Holo Audio USA, and are a Meze Audio dealer and currently one of the few places in the world to order these in stock.

    https://www.kitsunehifi.com/product...ive-driver-hybrid-technology-in-ear-monitors/


    [​IMG]



    The Rai Penta gets its name from having 5 total drivers: 1 dynamic driver, 2 mid BA drivers and 2 high BA drivers – making the Rai Penta an interesting hybrid design. In addition, the CNC aluminum shell features a couple vents to equalize pressure and provided air for bass. The shell is absolutely stunning.

    It’s a dark blue color in a very comfortable design that also sports anodized aluminum nozzle stem that is beautifully bored out with 3 holes at the front, and precision drilled holes for the vents. The Meze logo is milled out and engraved on the shell face giving this a very exquisite and luxurious and yet a modern simplistic look.

    Fit with the Rai Penta is pain-free. This type of size and design really works well with my ears and I found them to be extremely comfortable and good enough isolating to make me happy, despite having vents.

    The included cable is a tightly wound silver colored cable featuring mmcx connectors. The splitter and source connector are in a charcoal color and feature the Meze logo, and Meze Audio branding on them. Both are also made from anodized aluminum. Nice touches.

    In addition to the ear-tips and cable, Meze packages the Rai Penta with a cleaning brush tool, a 1/4 inch adapter, an airplane adapter, a set of tips, and a very attractive EVA hard case. This zippered case, has a metal Meze Audio logo on the front and has storage pockets to carry accessories and the IEMs. I find these to be one of the better-looking cases included with in-ear phones.

    [​IMG]

    Listener Profile

    Before I hit the sound category, let me give you a little look into what I find neutral and what I am using in this review. First off, I tend to lean towards the Diffuse Field target as a neutral signature as opposed to the Harman Target curve which is popular today. My own preferred curve is somewhere in between the two, but more of a warm DF curve with less treble emphasis. As a reference, I currently am using the qdc Anole VX as my daily driver IEM, and before that the Campfire Solaris. I also really enjoy the Moondrop Kanas Pro and ER2XR as a more budget tier IEM that fits my sound signature well.

    My sources used in this review include the RME ADI-2 DAC and it’s 3.5mm IEM output, and 4 different portable sources: The Astell & Kern SR15 A&Norma (warmer DAP), Pioneer XDP-300R (cooler and airy), Fiio M11 (neutral-ish airy), and the Samsung Galaxy S10e phone. I ended up using Final Audio E tips with the Fibae 7 for most of the usage.

    Punchy Cleanliness

    The Rai Penta presents a warm and slightly punchy diffuse-field like sound – that is, it is considered neutral with an intimate sound that doesn’t really emphasize any specific frequency over another. There is a small mid-bass hump that does pack the punchy character to an otherwise flat tuning.

    [​IMG]


    I found the Penta to work really well with most genres. In London Grammar’s If You Wait album, which is a bit dark, simple yet full of intricate bass lines and guitar plucks, as well as the hallowing voice of Hannah Reid, the Rai Penta shows some good clean low end response that has impact when needed but may not rumble as hard as I want at times. Reid’s voice really does shine, while also providing a little depth and openness.

    Where the Rai Penta does lack is the extension department. Subbass does roll-off slightly and the bass impact isn’t large or spectacular. It’s well-controlled, taut, and punchy. There is a small mid-bass hump, but minor enough to provide that punchy attack while not muddying up the waters in the mid range.

    I found vocals to be evenly distributed across the board. Male vocals like Chris Stapleton sound accurate and warm. There’s enough thickness here to give it some meat.

    There is a small dip in the lower treble which helps provide the Penta with some depth and stage but some may not like the possible hollowness it may bring. It’s not noticeable to me, as I’d take the small gain in width over a little dip here. That’s not to say the Rai Penta has a large soundstage or anything. It really doesn’t. It’s within the confines of your head space, and the lack of full treble extension in the upper bounds, does keep it from sounding refreshingly airy and sparkly. But it’s not also something I totally miss either. Rolling off treble a little early is much more preferred than say, exciting boosts to it which could create sibilance artifacts or shrill bright harsh artifacts.

    The lack of treble extension does make the intro of a song like Beach House’s Lemon Glow missing the tick-tick-tick hi-hat that leads the song that extra energy to make stand out a bit. But the little bass bump does help push the kick drum up a bit to provide a little slam for an otherwise tame bassline in a song that can really shake with certain headphones. So in a sense, this song does sound a tad boring, especially when compared to a more U- or V-shaped sound profile which emphasizes the bass and treble areas.

    In Norah Jones’s Seven Days, I found the Penta to be very engaging with good instrument separation between the bass strokes on the right ear and the guitar working its simple magic on the left. Jones’s voice sounds intimate and natural and coming at you right down the middle. During the section of the track where there’s a backup echo during the chorus, the vocals do seem a tad dry and missing some resolution, when compared to my qdc Anole VX, but that’s an IEM that’s double the price of this one. I did find this IEM comparable to the Custom Art Fibae 7, which I reviewed recently.

    So, where does that leave the Rai Penta vs the competition?

    I just hinted a little bit at this. But let’s run down a few select IEMs I’ve used a lot recently.


    [​IMG]


    qdc Anole VX
    The qdc Anole VX is my latest purchase and I am in love with it. It clicks a lot of boxes for me. Compared to the Meze Rai Penta is a tad unfair as it’s double the price. That said though, the Meze Rai Penta is a leaner sounding IEM compared to the VX. The flagship from qdc has a warmer rich tuning, no matter which switch you turn on versus the Rai Penta. The Penta also lacks some of the extension that the VX does, but can be punchier with that midbass hump that the VX does not exhibit. In general, the VX is an overall better IEM in technicalities, with clearer sound, detail resolution, and space, however the Meze does beat it in terms of a cleaner, more neutral sound, and a wonderful build and appearance.

    [​IMG]


    Campfire Solaris
    The Campfire flagship is a few hundred dollars more than the Meze flagship, and features a bigger bass boost which creates a thicker and warmer sound signature. The Meze may actually beat the Solaris in terms of bass resolution however, as the Solaris can sound sometimes a little smeared and lacking bass detail. That said, however, I like the bass decay and natural organic sound of the Solaris over the Rai Penta. The Penta does mids quite well, and tops the Solaris here working with vocals just a tad more cleanly. The Solaris however beats the Penta with it’s depth and height distance, while both are similarly wide. Treble on the Solaris sounds airier and more extended then the Penta, however with some people may find the additional treble boost a little harsh and fatiguing at times with the Solaris versus the Rai Penta.

    [​IMG]



    Custom Art Fibae 7
    The new flagship from Custom Art shares quite a bit of similarities to the Meze Rai Penta and I’ve captured much of it in my earlier review of the Fibae 7. Both follow a warm DF tuning, however the Penta sounds a bit punchier than the Fibae 7, and sometimes a little more detailed. The Rai Penta has the edge on soundstage over the more intimate Fibae 7, while the Fibae 7 extends slightly better. The Rai Penta design and aesthetics tops the charts for me, and the acrylic Fibae 7 housing can’t come close to the workmanship of the Rai Penta design.

    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]


    Overall

    The Meze Rai Penta is a solid addition to the Meze lineup. It’s tuned a tad safe, but it should be appealing for use with multiple genres. It does lack extension in subbass and treble, however, it does well with keeping a generally clean coherent sound. The mids can be a little troubled at times, but I found that the upper-mid range/lower-treble drop that is commonly done on IEMs at this level really benefits increasing soundstage, which I can accept (as per my Solaris and Anole VX purchases in the recent past).

    The Rai Penta’s build is fantastic and the star of the show here. You really do get a great design that is also comfortable to wear for long periods of time, and the accessories package is on par if not topping many other IEMs in this price range.

    So, at the end of the day, while I do like the Meze Rai Penta, I find it a tad boring for my tastes. I think it’s a good tuning though, and will work well for many people and I can recommend it as a purchase, however keeping in mind that there are many other IEMs in this general class that may perform at or better in one, two, three or more areas of sound.


    [​IMG]
    1. Asspirin
      Outstanding and honest review. One of the best I've read in recent times. Thank you and keep up the good work!
      Asspirin, Sep 25, 2019
    2. rishabhgkp
      Nice review!
      rishabhgkp, Oct 14, 2019
  2. Sunstealer
    Aspirant but falls short of greatness.
    Written by Sunstealer
    Published Dec 9, 2019
    3.5/5,
    Pros - Strong, individual aesthetic
    Well built
    Cons - Need the best to get the best from them but even then, it isn’t enough
    Careful source / cable matching required
    Expensive
    Meze Rai Penta 4BA + 1DD Hybrid earphone.

    IMG_20191209_131412.jpg

    Unboxing & Package contents:

    A nicely understated matt black rectangular box with black gloss contouring. Contains the phones, silicone and foam tips, 3.5mm unbalanced cable and carrying case. For review purposes, Meze also supplied 4W SPC 2.5 and 4.4mm balanced cables.

    The monitors are beautifully sculpted anodised aluminium, cool and powdery to the touch. The pressure equalisation port and Meze logo have been milled into the coating to expose the bare aluminium. The ‘phones are a fascinating deep ocean / steel blue, which evokes in me a sense of depth and solidity.

    The case is formed leather with a bold metal Meze logo plate. It reminds me of a an Italian sportscar.

    Sensitivity:110 dB
    Impedance: 20W
    Pin Type: MMCX
    Frequency response range: 4Hz - 45KHz

    I use Spinfit CP240 biflange and generic large triflange silicone tips. Comply TS400 ended up attenuating the whole soundscape.

    Hardware:

    IMG_20191209_130307_Bokeh.jpg
    IMG_20191209_131911.jpg

    iBasso DX228 (Mango OS, High gain, Digital Filter 3)
    Cayin N6ii (Hdb, Slow Roll-off) – A01 and T01 modules
    Cayin 4.4-2.5mm adapter
    0.78mm 2 pin – MMCX adapters
    Cables: supplied Meze SPC 3.5mm SE, 2.5mm & 4.4mm 4W, NiceHCK 16-3, BGVP DM3 8W. Unfortunately, I do not possess any higher-end MMCX cables but there is an additional fillip….

    The N6ii is a loan unit from Cayin. All the non-Meze cables and other DAP hardware are my own. The Rai Pentas are free loan units and will be returned to Meze at the end of the review period. All thanks to Meze for the opportunity.

    Playlist:

    A mixture of MP3, 16/24-bit FLAC, DSD256.

    Sound:

    Overall, there was a definite improvement in sonic quality with increase in sampling/bitrate – i.e. the Pentas were at their sonic best when resolving DSD256. They seem to be indifferent or at least unflattering with MP3/FLAC.

    IMG_20191209_132205.jpg

    DX228:

    Lows: there is mid bass presence, but sub bass extension is distant and polite. No slam or pace. The only time I heard anything approaching visceral bass were low strings on Childish Gambino tracks or kick drums from Robyn. A minor improvement in separation and depth with the 16-3. Better control with the BGVP.

    Mids: There is good vocal decay and air, particularly with male vocalists. Female vocals are neutral, certainly not sweetened. All voices are held in the centre, like you are amongst the group, rather than watching them. Piano and strings feel dry and veiled. The 16-3 warms everything up and rounds out this portion of the response. BGVP gives a more natural mid-range with no specific colouration or attenuation.

    Highs: lean transients and sizzly percussion. Smoother with the 16-3 with greater separation but still verging on uncomfortable. BGVP in between but with pleasant timbre and tonality.

    Encouraged by the response to the hybrid BGVP, I used my 2 pin Ares 8W and EAC 8W hybrid with MMCX convertors to see if any improvements scaled. Well, they do but so do the undesirable elements. The Ares 8W certainly amplified and warmed the sub bass and mids but hardened percussive treble to a point where it became sibilant. Certain tracks swamped the Penta’s ability to resolve bass fully, whence it became muddy. The EAC was a perfect match for the Penta, promoting but not exacerbating the bass and smoothing but not obscuring the treble. I have a Fearless 7N 8W SPC which was a more resolving but similar version of the Meze SPC cable sound signature.

    IMG_20191209_130235_Bokeh.jpg

    N6ii Sound:

    A01: The SPC did not synergise well, with a thin, closed-in sound and edgy highs. The 16-3 was a better match, deepening the soundstage, warming the bass and mids but not rounding the highs as much as I would like. The bass, whilst fuller, felt looser. The hybrid BGVP was a better partner, bringing control and speed to the bass whilst sweetening and taming the highs. Overall the sound is warmer and more intimate compared to the DX228 but pleasurable in a different way. The T01 module is more mid/vocal centric, with a wider soundstage and improved separation and clarity but at the expense of bass extension and prominence. The Ares 8W added more bass and only removed a tiny portion of the beautifully precise and clear highs. The EAC expanded the soundstage but not the quantity of bass significantly.

    IMG_20191209_125505.jpg

    Soundstage:

    Average with the supplied SPC for both the DX228 and N6ii; everything feels very close and the sounds are directly forward and centrally - an intimate, interior soundstage. I have to concentrate to separate out components of the music. Steering is very hard to pick out against the overall soundscape. Better with the T01 module but not quite approaching the DX228. Hybrid cabling improves the soundstage in all cases.

    Pairing:

    For the balanced, energetic DX228, I would suggest a hybrid cable – the best of both worlds. This brings some much-needed weight to the bass region whilst taming the peaky treble.
    For the warmer, more intimate N6ii, I would suggest a hybrid cable to improve the sound staging and clarity. The T01 module is better with copper rather than SPC or a hybrid.

    IMG_20191209_132023.jpg

    Conclusion:

    The Pentas are beautiful to gaze upon and handle. Care and attention have been taken with the design and form factor. They look and feel like a quality item but…. I really struggled to get the best from the Pentas. It shouldn’t have been this hard! I was always left wanting more – definitely more bass, more energy, more…. fun. They are fussy about data, source and cable matching. I could only get the best from them with DSD, the DX228 and an 8W hybrid cable. The N6ii & T01 module with copper came a close second.

    I hesitate to recommend this IEM unless given a thorough audition with the highest quality gear you have. Only then can you begin to justify the price.

    images

    1. IMG_20191209_132328.jpg
      YCHANGE likes this.
  3. betula
    Meze Rai Penta: The Empyrean of IEMs?
    Written by betula
    Published Dec 15, 2019
    4.0/5,
    Pros - exceptional build quality
    - exceptional comfort
    - world-class cable
    - laid-back, smooth sound
    Cons - perhaps too laid back at times
    - bass is a little lazy
    - vocals can sound too neutral and recessed
    - lacks some speed and dynamics
    - wide but not too deep sound-stage
    Introduction:

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

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

    IMG_20191214_105316395.jpg

    Background:

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

    Package, comfort, build quality:

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

    IMG_20191210_183937814 (1).jpg

    Sound:

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

    Bass:

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

    Mids:

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

    Treble:

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

    IMG_20191214_105130561 (1).jpg

    Other qualities of the sound:

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

    Is the Rai Penta the Empyrean of IEMs then?

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

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

    IMG_20191214_105417437.jpg

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

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

    IMG_20191214_105539185.jpg

    Conclusion:

    I think the Rai Penta is a nice try, but definitely won’t shake up the IEM world as much as the Empyrean did with the headphone universe.
    I love the build, love the cable, comfort, but can’t say the same on all aspects of the sound. Somewhere between £600-800 I would consider the Penta a good if not excellent buy, but at £1000 the competition becomes pretty tough these days.
    It may seem that I judged these IEMs hard, but at a price tag of £1000 reviewers are expected to run short of mercy. That said, I still like the sound of the Rai Penta in general, but it didn’t make me feel as enthusiastic as the Empyrean did and I do not think it is the IEM equivalent of the Empyrean for mobile use.
  4. NymPHONOmaniac
    Gorgeous looking, Laid back sounding
    Written by NymPHONOmaniac
    Published Dec 11, 2019
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Lush, immersive musicality; natural timbre, coherent warm sound, excellent construction and design, very comfortable, easy to drive
    Cons - A little sloppy bass, average technicalities, lack treble crispness...
    MEZE RAI PENTA REVIEW :
    P1040842.JPG

    SOUND: 8.5/10
    CONSTRUCTION: 10/10
    DESIGN: 9.5/10
    ACCESSORIES: 8/10

    VALUE: 7.5/10


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

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

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

    P1040873.JPG

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

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

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

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



    SPECS :

    Driver: PENTA-HYBRID DRIVER
    (4 x Customized Balanced Armature and 1 x Dynamic
    Driver working harmoniously together)
    Frequency Range: 4Hz – 45kHz
    Impedance: 20Ω
    Sensitivity: 110dB SPL/1mW Sensitivity
    Max Input Power: 30mW
    Distortion: <1%
    Stock cables: MMCX connector ending in 3.5mm, Rhodium plated
    Upgrade cables: MMCX connector ending in
    2.5mm TRRS balanced and 4.4mm balanced as extra accessories
    Warranty period: 2 years


    ACCESSORIES, CONSTRUCTION & DESIGN :

    P1040856.JPG P1040859.JPG

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

    P1040848.JPG P1040851.JPG P1040852.JPG P1040847.JPG


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

    P1040869.JPG

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

    P1040860.JPG


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

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


    SOUND :

    P1040865.JPG

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

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

    P1040864.JPG

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



    COMPARISIONS:

    P1040845.JPG

    VS DITA FIDELITY (1300$) :

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

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

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

    P1040843.JPG

    VS FINAL AUDIO B1 (700$) :


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

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

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

    P1040844.JPG

    VS DITA TWIN FEALTY (1300$) :


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


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

    CONCLUSION:

    P1040866.JPG

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

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

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

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

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    1. HardstyleLoco96
      Great review :)
      HardstyleLoco96, Dec 12, 2019
  5. 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

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    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.

    [​IMG]

    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.

    [​IMG]

    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.

    [​IMG]

    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.

    [​IMG]

    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.

    [​IMG]



    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.
      alegar, iBo0m, B9Scrambler and 2 others like this.
    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
  6. 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

    IMG_4322.JPG
    IMG_4323.JPG
    IMG_4348.JPG

    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

    IMG_4288_r.JPG
    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.
  7. 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
    IMG_0251.jpeg

    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.

    IMG_0260.jpeg

    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.
  8. 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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      alegar, YCHANGE, animalsrush and 2 others like this.
  9. 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
      alegar and Niyologist like this.
  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).

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    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!

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    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.

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    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

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    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