Romanian personal audio experts Meze are known for making headphones. For good reason, as the excellent original 99 Classics and the no-compromise Empyrean are highly prized and extremely well-loved by personal audio enthusiasts. Now, it faces that ‘difficult third album’ phase, and the expectation (based upon the actions of most personal audio makers) would be to make a third pair of headphones, possibly somewhere between the 99 Classics and Empyrean price and performance points. Instead, Meze produced the RAI range of universal-fit in-ear monitors, encompassing the value-driven single-driver RAI Solo and – the model tested here – the RAI Penta.
The clue is in the name. If the Solo has a single driver in its elegant raw aluminium body, the Penta features five drivers in its equally elegant anodised aluminium body. The Penta is a hybrid design, too, featuring four balanced armature drivers with one dynamic driver. In effect, that means the dynamic driver does the heavy lifting, with the balanced armatures filling in key points in the upper registers. The result is either a seamless way to combine the depth and range of dynamic drivers with the frequency precision of balanced armatures, or a way to make an inconsistent-sounding earphone that manages to make the worst of both possible worlds. In truth, we’ve heard both options in the past, and the potential worry is that a company used to dealing with headphones would simply fail to bring the same skills to the in-ear world. In fact, Meze knocked the RAI Penta out of the park, as we shall see.
Before that, it’s worth looking at the whole package. Literally... the packaging is extremely good. The RAI Penta ships in a sturdy cardboard box with a charcoal-coloured stiff foam insert. It comes with one of the largest arrays of eartips I’ve seen as standard (and including extra small as well as small, medium and large softies, double flanged tips, deep insertion double flange tips and Comply tips). In all there are eight pairs of tips and if you can’t find a match after all that, consider a new hobby!