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Meze Audio Rai Penta

  1. Wiljen
    The Meze Rai Penta, an in-ear for the ages.
    Written by Wiljen
    Published Sep 28, 2019
    Pros - Build quality is first class as is comfort, signature is very non-fatiguing for long listening sessions
    Cons - Very source dependent and only moderately extended at both ends
    disclaimer: I received the Rai Penta as part of a tour arranged by Meze and Head-fi. I have received no incentives in exchange for my review and the Rai Penta is on its way to the next reviewer as I write this. If you have an interest in the Rai Penta or other Meze products, check out their website. Received 9/12.

    Unboxing / Packaging:

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


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

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


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

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


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



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

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


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



    Meze Ria Penta FR.jpg


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


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


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

    Soundstage / Imaging:

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

    Thoughts / Conclusion:

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


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


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

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

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

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

    A not-quite-premium package

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Fit for a king

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

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

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

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


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

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

    RaiPenta_08.jpg RaiPenta_09.jpg

    Sound impressions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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


    Imaging, stage and separation

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

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

    Closing thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

    1. F700
      Reading your reviews is like bedtime stories for the audio enthusiast. This IEM does not seem to be my way to go in terms of sound signature, but hey, I enjoyed the read. Bravo
      PS: best pictures ever, nice hobby too :)
      F700, Sep 26, 2019
      gLer and Aslshark like this.
    2. twiceboss
      were u using this with m11 dap? i had that dap before. Your penta seems a heavy bass boost from the graph and your explanation. Totally different from my experience, i used apple dongle, phone, xcan, es100. Not sure if M11 did affect that or there was something happening in the driver department or tips selection.
      twiceboss, Oct 13, 2019
  3. davidmolliere
    Coup d’essai coup de maître !
    Written by davidmolliere
    Published Sep 22, 2019
    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

    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.

    • (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).


    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!


    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!


    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.

    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.

    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.


    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


    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


    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
  4. antdroid
    Meze Rai Penta Review
    Written by antdroid
    Published Aug 26, 2019
    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

    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.



    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.




    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.

    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