Meze Audio are the makers of the incredibly amazing Empyrean planar magnetic headphones priced at over £2,500 and they also make the stunning Neo 99 headphones at £189. Both are high level performing headphones at their given price point which serves to signal that Meze Audio know their products and they understand they are delivering outstanding value. These ‘entry-level’
Meze RAI Solo in-ear monitors are priced at £179 but they deliver so much more than this price point.
The Meze RAI Solo feature a new Unified Pistonic Motion (UPM) driver, developed by Meze themselves. The membrane in this driver is electrically conductive with the result that it has no wires physically on it to drive it along. This ensures a perfectly symmetrical sound wave can be generated by the full range driver to the ear. The driver is housed in a nicely weighted (and shaped) injection moulded stainless steel earpiece that is claimed to offer very low resonance and therefore leaves the driver unimpeded as it performs its task.
Meze does offer a choice of balanced cables to purchase to upgrade the Solos but the cable provided is very good indeed. The cable terminals on the buds are industry standard MMCX on a 1.3m long silver-plated copper cable housed in a very low noise ‘braided’ material. The monitors themselves are very ergonomic in my mind and have a preformed curled ear support to enable effective ear fitting and stability.
The full specification of the Meze RAI Solo is on the site here.
There is a beautiful aesthetic with these earbuds and their weight is nicely balanced for ear stability. The brushed steel finish, with the imprinted logo on each bud, is particularly striking and in my view give the in-ear monitors an expensive look above that on the price ticket. The preformed ear curl support is something I have only come across in more expensive in-ear monitors.
The hard case supplied is excellent, sturdy, rounded and houses the earbuds with ease and the lack of corners with the case makes it quite easy to slip into your pocket.
I have been listening on the desktop with a Chord Hugo 2 and on the move with Pioneer XDP-100 or my Pixel 4 with a Audioquest Dragonfly. I have been mainly using Qobuz and have and the playlist here.
I’m finding the Meze RAI Solo very easy to fit, I’m only using the small single bud in my ear instead of the double flanged varieties and I have had no retention issues at all, I’ve been wearing them for a good few weeks now on dog walking, etc. The preformed ear structure is very comfortable and makes for easy management, the buds rotate at the end of the cable into the ear. I really appreciate the red or blue collars on each bud finding the correct left/right ear.
I have had few nesting or tangling issues with the cable to speak of, obviously, wires are infuriating generally but I have been winding them on three fingers and using the storage box to good effect.
I am not getting any noise through the cable, for example, if I rub the cable with my fingers or on the leather on a chair there is no vibration imparted on the listening experience and this is good. Separately, as I have stated many times, I am a big fan of the right-angled 3.5mm jack for portable listening.
these ‘entry-level audiophile IEMs’ are delivering above and beyond their pay grade.
I am getting a very good sound from these in-ear monitors. With the better sources, and especially with the Chord Hugo 2, there is plenty here to enjoy. An examination of the low end in these monitors with Coldplay’s Everglow (Qobuz 24-bit/192kHz) reveals a perfectly acceptable curl and roll off the bass note. These in-ear monitors have enough low end to sustain the lingering bass response.
The mid range feels rather well organised to me. With Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue (Qobuz, 24-bit/96kHz) the album retains its smoky meandering and relaxed feel as each participant joins in, trumpet, piano, saxophone. All the while through this track there is space with these Meze RAI Solo to find the instrument you chose to tune into, in my case Paul Chambers’ double bass. Of course, the Chord Hugo 2 is doing the heavy lifting here in performance terms but these ‘entry-level audiophile IEMs’ are delivering above and beyond their pay grade.
The sense of space in the mid range is retained if I switch from the Hugo 2 to my Pixel 4 on the move though I must use the Audioquest Dragonfly for performance purposes. Noise isolation on the move is good, I have had better isolation, but I am using the smallest single bud, a double flange may isolate better. It is undoubtedly good in any case to have a bit of external leakage on the move in my view. Nonetheless, the Solos perform well on the move and the Dragonfly confirms the space I was marvelling at with the Hugo 2 on the desktop. Playing the same HiRes album, Kind of Blue, downloaded onto my Pioneer XDP I hear the same sense of space and a quick check on an older 5th generation iPod confirms the Solo are excellent all round performers and are easy to adapt.
There is little left behind too in respect of detail and for this, I turn to Grant Green’s Idle Moments (Qobuz, 24-bit/192kHz), more cool sounding late night jazz from the top drawer. Here, with the Hugo 2, the cymbals are so soft, and you can just feel the brushes on the snare as the bass lopes along. It is this fine detail that makes you appreciate not just the music but the rhythm and craftsmanship in pieces like this. And indeed, the performance of these Meze RAI Solo.
Turning up the rhythm and pace a notch or two, these Meze RAI Solo are nicely bouncy with more popular contemporary tracks, take, the Weeknd’s Remix of Save Your Tears with Ariana Grande (Qobuz, 24-bit/44.1kHz). The Solos leap along very comfortably and feel to me as if they plenty of dynamism.
Finally, classical pieces are well handled and Yo-Yo Ma’s Inspired by Bach: The Cello Suite (Qobuz, 16-bit/44.1kHz), one of my favourites, is delivered by the Meze RAI Solo with control and depth. Orchestral pieces are handled well too in my view, Rachmaninoff’s 2nd Piano Concerto performed by Askenasy (Qobuz 24bit 96kHz) comes across with swirling passion and there is plenty enough for me to enjoy.
It is true to say I am a huge fan of Meze with my experience of Empyrean and the 99 Neos. The Meze RAI Solo are fine performers and the tagline from Meze of ‘entry-level audiophile in-ear monitors’ really understates their excellent all-round performance, in my view. I will not hesitate to recommend these to anyone who asks me for my preferred in-ear monitors, no matter what budget they propose. These in-ear monitors come Highly Recommended from HF&MS.
Extremely good value for money
Right angle jack
Flexible performer with all sources
Driver: 9.2mm UPM dynamic driver
Diaphragm thickness: 9µm
Impedance: 16 Ohm
SPL: 105±3dB at 1mW/1kHz
Frequency response: 18Hz – 22kHz
Distortion: <1% at 1mW/1kHz
Stock cables: MMCX connector ending in 3.5mm
Warranty period: 2 years
Full details of the Specification are on the company’s site.
The Meze RAI Solo is distributed by SCV Distribution and is priced at £179 (May 2021).