Forged in Romania, Meze’s notoriety was secured from the moment they released their first headphone, the 99 Classics. From there, they developed a handful of revisions before turning their attention to IEMs and more ambitious future projects. It’s been a few years and such ambitions have born fruit in the form of the flagship Empyrean headphone and Rai Penta earphone. The Penta is the product of 3 years of development; a 5-driver hybrid featuring a pressure equalization system and precision milled sound tubes that permit seamless integration of its 5 drivers into one coherent sound while omitting the need for detail-sapping dampeners. As can be expected from Meze, the earphone has a striking CNC aluminium housing and a focus on tone, detail and ergonomics. The Rai Penta, much like the Empyrean, represents a huge step forward for Meze in design and status. You can read more about the Rai Penta and treat yourself to one here.
The Rai Penta offers a mostly balanced sound with an emphasis on vocals. It features a lightly warm tone and coherent, well-bodied notes throughout; a presentation stemming from its lightly emphasized mid-bass and laid-back treble. Its low end is a strength to my ear, inviting with strong extension if reduced sub-bass emphasis, and a well-controlled and highly detailed mid-bass. Upper-bass doesn’t overwhelm with its warmth, sounding well integrated with the midrange. That said, mids do tend to steal attention with their enhanced quantity. In particular, vocals are forward and clear though, as the tone is warm and there is adequate body in the upper-bass, vocals are also well-resolved and natural. The Penta does come across as polite in the higher-frequencies which can make it sound overly-relaxed on certain tracks. In particular, a distinctly recessed lower-treble serves to increase the smoothness of its presentation, however, it does lack the bite and attack signature to most high-end IEMs as a result. Modest wide-band middle-treble emphasis redeems some crispness and clarity to foreground notes in addition to crafting a more open background with enhanced air. Sparkle is modest, not nearly as apparent as the similarly priced Andromeda, but extension is ample and resolution is worthy of its price.
Early Verdict –
From first listen, I already had an idea of Meze’s goal with this earphone, and it does stay true to the sound tuning ethos of the company as carried by the immensely popular 99 headphones before it and its brethren Empyrean. And, much like the majority of the more controversial high-end IEMs of late, the Rai Penta runs the risk of sounding overly polite. I’ve seen smooth treble described as an indicator of a safe tuning. However, in reality it is much the opposite. The Rai Penta is unconventional. Its emphasis and strengths lie in the low-end and midrange, as opposed to the highs; a frequency-range that is often the defining characteristic of the flagship IEM. Though not emphasized in this regard, the Rai Penta is still resolving and refined. Meze ultimately have chosen to prioritise superb tone and timbre over class-leading resolving power. Such a tuning arguably makes the Rai Penta more timeless in an innovative age of new summit-fi technology. I’ll be keeping the Penta close to my person and closer to my ears in the coming weeks, stay tuned!