The Meze Rai Penta is the company’s flagship Penta-hybrid universal monitor featuring a single dynamic driver and a quad BA driver design. It is priced at $1099.
Disclaimer: The Meze Rai Penta sent to us for this review is a purchased unit. We thank Meze for this opportunity.
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Note, this review follows our new scoring guidelines for 2020 which you can read up on here.
Meze Rai Penta
Overall, the Rai Penta is their most refined monitor by a long shot. A monitor that is tuned for listening, for vocal lovers, and for those with a wide range of listening preferences, (outside of classical).
So, we have had the Rai Penta now for a few months and have been putting it through its paces enough for a full review. For those of you who have read our First Contact, there is a degree of overlap on page 1 and you can skip to page 2 at the bottom for our in-depth sound impressions and comparisons. For everyone else, read on.
The Rai Penta is Meze’s latest in-ear monitor creation and is currently their flagship universal IEM at $1099. I have seen a fair few prototypes stretching back to March 2018 and again in August 2018 at some trade shows.
However, it was not until the last quarter of 2019 that I finally got to hear, touch and wear the final production version.
The Rai Penta is a hybrid monitor using a single 10mm dynamic driver and a quad balanced armature setup. I am presuming a 3-way crossover with the dynamic driver for the lows and 2 BA for the mids and 2 BA for the highs.
Now, Meze is also pushing a few other technical features of the internals of the Rai Penta that are worth mentioning. The first is their precision milled sound bores using variable-length steel tube instead of silicone or plastics to control the airflow and hence correct or harmonize phasing to produce a cleaner more precise level of sound going to your ear.
The second key feature is linked to airflow also with their pressurized equalization system or PES. The Rai Penta uses a dual venting system in front and behind the driver assembly to allow the dynamic driver plenty of room to breathe.
If there is one thing I have come to expect from Anton and the Meze team is a quality design. The Empyrean was stunning, and not just to look at but to also wear. Form and function are a rare combination in boutique audio and Meze nailed that one and then some.
Well then, the Rai Penta yet another beautiful but a more nuanced design. Now there are of course some limitations in bold designs with monitors. After all, they have to fit in your ear and feel comfortable.
That being said, the nuanced curving, milled logo, and shaping of the dark blue CNC sculpted chassis are beautiful if not incredibly difficult to pull off in any CNC process. I can well understand the long time it took to design and launch the Rai Penta now that I have it in my hand.
And yet, this 3-piece monitor remains pleasingly compact and whilst rejecting the custom universal design philosophy of its acrylic competitors it retains a very smooth anodized finish that doesn’t irritate the ear in the slightest.
Cable & Connectors
Meze has included a pretty decent cable with the Rai Penta stock package. This is a 1.2m 4-wire SPC in a 20-strand Litz configuration with some tight braiding inside a translucent PVC jacket. The Litz will keep that silvery shine going so next to no chance of it going green from oxidization.
The jacks and barrels are matching black aluminum with Meze branding on both and the 3.5mm terminated jack on this cable is rhodium plated. There is a little bit of memory wire but it is not the stiff type, more of a springy lightweight feel so very little pressure behind the ear. It doesn’t behave quite as well as some of the pricey aftermarket 26AWG options for minor kinks but it is super quiet, very microphonic free and very light.
Our initial impressions were done with the stock 3.5mm cable so we are happy to tell you we also have the 2.5mm balanced silver-plated option here in the same configuration. You can also order this cable with a 4.4mm termination and both will set you back an additional $149.
That won’t make any difference connecting to the likes of the Lotoo PAW Gold Touch which has similar performances from both outputs but for other DAP users that might be a clincher.
The connectors are MMCX but they use the older style squarish connector female port plates rather than the new rounded ones seen in IEMs such as the IO and Polaris 2 from Campfire Audio. There is not much of an operational difference in truth between old and new.
The connectors on the cables are actually very nicely finished translucent plastic with a nice clean view of the gold and brass plating underneath, The design of the shell leaves plenty of space also to snap on and off the connectors, so you will not be fiddling around so much trying to get them connected.
Comfort & Isolation
Very comfortable indeed. With that diminutive form factor and rounded curving, the Rai Penta feels very secure and comfortable in the ear. It also sits flush to the ear’s concha basin so you won’t find it sticking out either. The MMCX connectors also pass over the ear without eating into the skin so you won’t find any pressure build-up there either after prolonged use.
Isolation is fair, not the best and on par with some hybrid competitors due to the use of the dual venting system. I would suggest at this early stage sticking to the foams as they isolate a little better than the bi-flange or single bore silicone tips. They also feel a little steadier in the ear than the other options. Personally, I also like the tone changeups a bit more with the foams, particularly on the vocal weight.
Accessories & Packaging
The Rai Penta packaging is not the smallest due to the design layout they have chosen for the tips, accessories, and case. However, it is professionally done in an all-black and wavy line vinyl finish with the Meze and Rai Pena branding front and center.
Inside you get a fairly wide range of accessories as well as a carry case that is unmistakably Meze. The tip selection is decent with 4 pairs of single bore silicone tips, 3 bi-flange tips in various sizes but only one pair of Comply foam tips.
I would have loved to have seen maybe two. Not because they are a bugger to fit but rather their shelf life can often be quite limited and can split in as little as 6 months or less depending on your usage.
The rest of the accessories include their stock SPC 3.5mm unbalanced cable, an airline adapter, a cleaning tool, and a quarter jack conversion plug. The full list of accessories is as follows below:
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 ear tips XS, S, M, L
1 double-flanged ea tips
2 deep insertion double-flanged ear tips
1 pair of comply foam ear tips
3.5mm to 6.3mm adapter
Airplane 2 pin adapter
The little faux leather zipper case reminds me of a lot of the original Neo or 99 Classic headphones carry case with its domed curving and large Meze badge in the middle.
The inside has some mesh netting on the top to throw in your tips and adaptors and there is plenty of space left over for the Rai Penta drivers and the stock cable. It is stiffened but not inflexible so you can probably stuff a bit more in there without ripping it apart.
Click on Page 2 below for sound impressions and comparisons