Released in 2019, as the company’s follow-up to the acclaimed Meze Empyrean, Rai Penta is the result of three years of research into not only executing their ideal sound signature, but also providing the highest level of comfort and ergonomics. So did all that research create an IEM that lives up to Meze’s legacy?
Build and Design
Rai Penta is a five driver IEM, with four balanced armature drivers and one dynamic driver. The five drivers reside in a lightweight anodized aluminum shell which is molded into a comfortable, ergonomic shape. I can attest that whatever research they did into the comfort of the IEM was 100% worth it. Rai Penta feels nearly weightless as it disappears into your ears, providing a good, secure fit.
The rest of the package is quite premium as well. The cable looks and feels more like an upgrade cable than a stock one, and the case is attractive and well crafted. The eartip collection is quite nice, offering a selection of sizes in silicone and foam tips. For my testing I used SpinFit CP155, which provided an excellent seal, enhanced by Rai Penta’s already excellent ergonomic properties.
Rai Penta starts with a neutral tuning, adds a helping of bass, and then balances it out with judiciously applied mids and highs. The bass is powerful, but also cohesive and natural sounding with loads of texture. The mids are well executed and detailed, but slightly pulled back. The treble is generally smooth but with a touch of air that balances out the sound signature. The soundstage is moderately sized, with clear, intimate imaging in the space. Vocals and acoustic instruments sound natural and transparent.
There seems to be some disagreement out there about the quantity of bass that Rai Solo delivers. Some opinions within the hi-fi community seem to hold that the bass is not particularly notable, while others hear more bass. Some other reviews and discussions I read even reported initially being impressed by the bass, but then finding it to be less voluminous at a later date. This disparity could be from any number of factors from listening environments to source audio to the DAC/Amp used, or even the eartips used. That initially made me doubt my own ears, but through multiple listening sessions, I found the bass to be a prominent characteristic of Rai Penta. My main testing setup was the Astell&Kern SE200 on the Sabre DAC channel, with hi-res Qobuz tracks.
On Jorja Smith’s performance of “Rose Rouge” of Blue Note Re:imagined, the Penta shines as it captures the nuances of the vocals and delivers the full rich bass with a deep impact. The trumpet and saxophone solos are smooth and playful. The soundstage provides plenty of space for the band and the imaging is clear, placing the main pieces of the band on stage with keys and guitars providing an ambience that envelopes the room in a soft glow.
The piano chords and chimes that start Santana’s “Singing Winds, Crying Beasts” are airy and bright. The various touches of percussion are tight and nicely layered. Throughout the track, there’s a number of psychedelic effects from panning cymbals or Carlos Santana’s guitar. When the guitar comes in it’s like an explosion right between your ears that shifts from side to side. The track moves right into “Black Magic Woman” where you again get a great sense of Rai Penta’s ability to deliver vivid stereo imaging, and deftly layer and position the band, creating a holographic presentation of the music.
Avicii’s “Wake Me Up” gives the Rai Penta an opportunity to demonstrate many of its strengths. The delivery of the acoustic guitar is natural, and the accompanying vocals are up front and personal. When the bass drops, it’s thick and physical, with the bright synth melody coming with powerful hits. As the song blends from a bluegrassy acoustic track into a dancehall banger, the Rai Penta captures the dynamic shifts delivering both emotional vocals and throbbing bass with aplomb.
On Soundgarden’s “Blow Up the Outside World,” the first thing that hits you is the natural, lifelike, and physically powerful kick drum. As the band builds around a simple beat and Chris Cornell’s softly sung vocals, the Rai Penta demonstrates it’s dynamics and fast response, and delivers incredible detail in the texture of the guitars and vocals. It’s completely at home through every step of the dynamic and tonal shifts throughout the song.
Comparison: Campfire Andromeda, Noble Tux 5
The Rai Penta, Campfire Andromeda, and Noble Tux 5 are all 5-driver IEMs in the $1000-$1300 price range (Andromeda and Rai Penta even share the $1099 price tag), and there are plenty of similarities and differences to go around. Let’s take a look at the specifics of how they’re similar and how they’re different.
The Campfire Audio Andromeda and Meze Rai Penta share some strong similarities in philosophy despite different executions. The overall tuning is fairly similar with a mix of good detail and a bit of low end emphasis. On tracks like “Wake Me Up” and “Rose Rouge,” Rai Penta provides a little more low end rumble and a touch more physical response, while Andromeda has a tighter punch and an overall greater quantity of mid-bass. There’s perhaps a bit more thickness in the Rai Penta’s mids, contrasted with a little bit more air in the Andromeda. On tracks like “Black Magic Woman” and “Blow Up the Outside World,” the instrumental timbre of Rai Penta seems a bit more natural, while the Andromeda provides a larger sense of space.
Tux 5 has the most extreme tuning of the three, with heavily boosted bass and heavily scooped mids, providing a darker sound. Tux 5 has better sub-bass extension, but Rai Penta provides a similar degree of low-end rumble, but Rai Penta has support through the mids that Tux 5 lacks. On rock tracks, Tux 5’s low end elevation provides a pleasant response that’s similar to how I would dial-in the 5-band EQ on my car in college, but with more bass heavy EDM and modern jazz tracks, the bass often overpowers the rest of the mix. In contrast, the Rai Penta and Andromeda are more well-balanced, offering ample helpings of mid-range to balance out the bass.
The Bottom Line
Rai Penta brings top-tier ergonomics along with a well-crafted, balanced sound bolstered by deep, powerful bass. If bass, balance, transparency, and comfort are your cup of tea, then the Rai Penta has the kettle all ready for you.