When I heard that Meze planned to release a more affordable earphone, I became almost catatonic with anticipation. Having loved the Rai Penta and the Meze Empyrean, I was hoping the company could manage an affordable earphone. But at $249, the Rai Solo falls within a fairly competive niche. So how does it fare against its competition? And does the sound justify the price?
Meze Rai Solo Review: Penta Performance for Less
The Rai Solo comes in a cardboard box that holds the earphones, a removable MMCX cable, a carrying case, and eight pairs of eartips.
Each housing features a stainless steel metal-injection build. Nestled inside each housing, there’s a single dynamic driver measuring 9.2 mm.
Both the nozzles and the MMCX cable connections feature blue and red color coding for easy left/right identification. The included cable measures a standard 4 ft (1.2 m) and terminates in a 3.5 mm single ended plug.
Once everything is hooked up and placed in my ears, the Rai Solo feels incredibly comfortable. And, once you’ve found the right tips, isolation comes across as decent, too. During my listening sessions, I could barely hear my coworkers arguing about the best Curb Your Enthusiasm episode (it’s “Palestinian Chicken”, dammit).
For my demo sessions, I used the Rai Solo connected to an iPhone 8 via a lightning adapter (okay) and a hooked up to an iPod with a pocket amp (amazing).
For the best performance, this earphone does benefit from just a smidgen of amplification. However, mobile listeners should still be able to get a decent sound out of this IEM sans amplifier.
Meze Rai Solo Review – Sound Quality
Having already heard both the Meze Empyrean and Meze Rai Penta, I was expecting more sub-bass extension from the Rai Solo. Having said that, I do like the sound of the bass here, and I think Meze has really zeroed in on the perfect amount. There’s enough punch overall and just enough sub extension to really give this headphone an emphatic (but not too bassy) sound. For instance, synth tracks sound a little bit weightier, and drums or bass guitars sound only a little thick, but still lifelike. This compliments the fidelity in the low end, too, where kicks and bass lines bounce and throb with clarity.
The mids seem just a tad bit recessed. When listening to rock and hip-hop tracks, the bass and treble seem to pull ahead of vocals and instrumentation in this part of the frequency range. Yet, this sound works well with the Rai Solo’s charm – namely, it’s thick and robust bass response. Vocals still come across as clear and contrasting, but just slightly less close than high- or low-frequency instrumentation.
And, for jazz and classical, these mids still hold up, offering enough detail to render the sound meaty and full. On tracks like Almost Like Being in Love by Chet Baker, or Ryo Fukui’s My Foolish Heart, you still get a gamut of detail that never seems too lopsided or uneven.
Ever-so-slightly bright, the Rai Solo delivers a pleasing high end that works for almost any genre of music. Bumping some pop tunes from my girls Kylie or Robyn, I’m impressed by how well this earphone tempers the highs and lows. For instance, there’s enough punch in the lows to register the back beat with energy, but never stealing focus from the vocals in the highs. While great for pop and electronica, the Solo remains equally well-suited to tackle classical tunes here – especially violins. Not too bright, there’s just a shade of verve and energy when it comes to highest high notes.
Not bad by any stretch of the definition, the Rai Solo delivers some decent space for an in-ear headphone. There’s plenty of depth, too, leading to a decent soundstage. More simplistic compositions or pieces with less instrumentation sound great, but more complicated symphonic tracks may seem a bit squished.
Meze Rai Solo Review – Conclusion
Pros and Cons
Pros: Fun and engaging sound that delivers good detail and an emotive listening experience. Balanced lows and highs and recessed mids work well with most genres, delivering a solid all-in-one listening option.
Cons: The lack of sub-bass extension may feel like a betrayal of the Empyrean or Rai Penta. This may also make it a no-go for unapologetic bassheads.
For $249, the Meze Rai Solo offers a decent listening experience that definitely feels worthy of the Meze brand. With a good, relatively punchy low end and emotive highs, this slightly v-shaped (but still balanced) sound will work wonders for most folks’ listening tastes. Admittedly, some may find the lack of sub-bass extension a heinous crime when comparing this earphone to the more premium Penta or Empyrian. But as a budget alternative to those high-end options, and in comparison to other earphones at this price point, the Rai Solo offers a pretty sweet proposition.
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