IEMs

REVIEW: Rai Penta – Laid Back Luxury

REVIEW: Rai Penta – Laid Back Luxury

I was fortunate enough to be included in the Rai Penta World Tour, and special thanks goes to Meze and Andy Kong for sending them my way. 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. 

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.

Jump to Page 2 for fit impressions…