Roon Ready Writeup: Meze Audio Rai Penta and Advar In-Ear Monitors

In the last few DAC reviews I’ve written for The Roon Store, I’ve been somewhat coy about the headphones I used to demo the devices. And let me tell you, it was hard to keep the reason for that a secret. Now, I can dispense with mystery and reveal our new partnership with Meze Audio. Like most music fans and audio gearheads who have heard Meze Audio’s products, we’re blown away by their design, build quality and sound. 

Meze has taken the audio world by storm since the release of their 99 Classic in 2015. And, they’ve continued that streak with each follow-up product they’ve unveiled – dethroning some of the most revered headphones on the market in their quest for perfection. Now that we’ve spent quality time with their headphones, we can attest that their mountain of audio awards is well deserved.  

Our passion at The Roon Store is to help you get the most musical sound reproduction possible from your system. Our Meze partnership places us in a unique position to realize that goal; few devices can transport you to an entirely new acoustic space and elevate detailed listening and music appreciation in the way a quality pair of headphones or IEMs can. They’re high-quality audio devices you can take anywhere. The abundance of small portable, affordable DAC/amps means easy high-res audio on the go – everywhere you go.

Meze Audio Advar

Musical Mysticism:

Meze’s products have an alluring quality, inspired by the heritage of their Romanian birthplace. They create a stunning harmony made of timeless aesthetics and acoustic advancements fueled by a yearning to challenge the barriers accepted by the mainstream audio manufacturing community.  

I can’t say that I’ve been overly concerned with headphone cosmetics in the past. If they sound good and are reasonably comfortable, that’s been my benchmark. Meze changed that, their products are artworks that produce sound. Once you’ve seen and heard them, the thought of returning to ugly plastics is truly disheartening.

Advar takes its name from Romanian Mysticism, the Advar was a powerful talisman that blessed those who wore it. Just as the Meze Advar, finished in high-gloss black chrome and textured yellow gold, blesses the listener with a warm, dynamic sound. The precisely tuned 10.2 mm dynamic driver is easily driven by standard mobile devices but shines with a bump in power. Advar’s EQ curve sounds similar to the Meze 99 Classics, with a slight emphasis on the bass, upper midrange, and the mid-treble. 

The Rai Penta is Meze’s flagship IEM. The aesthetics, innovation, and build quality of their full-sized headphones are miniaturized in Rai Penta with incredible precision. They’re also the most lightweight, well-fitting, and comfortable IEM I’ve ever worn. The pebbled space-blue anodized finish is etched to display Meze’s lyre logo. Its beauty is matched only by its sound.

Rai Penta features a perfectly tuned, five-driver, hybrid array that delivers a pristine, harmonically balanced, sound signature with remarkable detail across their entire frequency spectrum. Meze’s Pressure Equalization System graces Rai Penta with a soundstage resembling their flagship Empyrean and Elite models – packing incredible value into its jewel-like enclosure. Like Advar, the efficiency of its driver array means it can be powered by ordinary mobile devices. But, when paired with a headphone DAC/amp it delivers lustrous listening.

Kick Out the Jams 

For our listening tests, I demoed each track with Advar, followed by Rai Penta, to reveal the unique sonic characteristics exhibited by the different models. They were paired with Chord’s Mojo 2 portable DAC with the EQ and Crossfeed features set to “off”.

Fleetwood Mac – Gold Dust Woman from Rumours

  • Advar: This is pure 1970s album rock gold-dust at its most sublime. Advar’s subtly enhanced voicing makes it a perfect companion for this track. Each instrument in the mix is afforded ample room to breathe. Mick Fleetwood’s metronome-like rim shots are crisp, and McVie’s bass line is warm, fat, and natural. Buckingham’s layered guitar parts sparkle while Christine’s keyboard adds understated yet perfect color. Stevie Nicks’ spellbinding vocals exhibit an intoxicating depth of emotion and yearning. As the song builds, and the mix thickens, the airy sense of space is retained. If I only had five minutes with Advar to make a purchase decision this track would seal the deal.
  • Rai Penta: Through Rai Penta, the experience is like sitting in the studio with the band for the final mixdown. Highs are spectacularly vivid and overall resolution is truly breathtaking. The soundstage is more spacious but not exaggerated. The instrumentation benefits from pronounced clarity and depth, the air around Stevie’s vocal is ethereal and vocal harmonies display added texture and nuance. There’s no denying that it’s a reference sound signature, but one that’s pleasing and inviting.

Compay Segundo – Yo Vengo Aquí from Nueva Antología. 20 Aniversario

  • Advar: Antologia (originally titled Yo Yengo Aquí when released) was recorded a year before Segundo garnered renewed fame as the elder statesman of the Buena Vista Social Club album and documentary. He’s joined here by a Trio from Madrid for a set of Cuban and Spanish folk standards. The soundstage here is gorgeous, the small lively recording space adds a rich organic compression to the track. Compay’s fluid guitar lines weave through the mix as his warm voice anchors the Grupo. Spanish lead vocalist Julio Fernández fits hand in glove with Segundo’s baritone and adds tasty maracas texture. Benito Suarez deps nicely on the second guitar as Salvador Repilado’s Contrabasso provides a robust foundation. Few listeners would believe this was a quickly assembled ensemble with just a few hours of rehearsal under their belt before these recordings. Yo Vengo Aquí flows from the Advars like pure honey.
  • Rai Penta: here Yo Vengo Aquí jumps from the Rai Penta like a dancer and mirrors the presentation of the previous track. Hidden details reveal themselves more effortlessly; the interplay of the instruments exhibits greater nuance and vocals are more distinct. The crispness of the acoustic guitars is enhanced, spotlighting their instrumental dexterity. Surprisingly the maracas feel slightly recessed when heard thru the Rai Penta. Rai Penta’s bass voice is full and natural but the added warmth and richness of Advar’s gentle bump in the lows is missing here. 

Gábor Szabó – Mizrab from The Socerer

  • Advar: Mizrab was recorded before a live audience at Boston’s Jazz Workshop in April 1967. The ringing decay of the hand cymbal in the opening perfectly showcases Advar’s smooth upper register as the remaining instrumentation highlights its accurate, life-like expressiveness. Szabo’s amplified acoustic unfurls fluid serpentine ribbons of mesmerizing gypsy jazz guitar throughout the piece. Hal Gordon’s hand drums feel like they’re just a few feet away as they establish a pulsing rhythmic exchange with Marty Morell’s kit. Advar places you right at the heart of Mizrab’s hypnotic musical journey.
  • Rai Penta: Mizrab benefits from Rai Penta’s accuracy and detailed imaging, the same opening finger cymbals exude stunning realism, sounding as if they’re inches away from the listener’s seat. The recording space becomes more apparent and defined. The same annoying live music attendees who yammer endlessly walked the earth in 1967, you can hear them in the background while the band coaxes Mizrab along its sinuous path. Its a mesmerizing listen, with a touch less warmth than with Advar but in no way less satisfying.

The Verdict:

Meze occupies a singular position among audio manufacturers. Their passion for innovation and “no-compromise” quest for perfection drives their every decision. It isn’t hollow marketing copy, it’s confirmed by the four mouse scrolls it takes to get through the accolades listed on their home page. Their engineering acumen, choice of materials, precision craftsmanship, and build quality testify to their dedication to excellence. Attention to detail extends to the most minute elements of their products.

Advar and Rai Penta demonstrate individual strengths and have uniquely tuned voices that gelled exceptionally well with the demo tracks we selected – and everything else we played through them. They’re pieces of sound art, designed to reveal subtle details with warmth and incredible accuracy that are built for a lifetime of enjoyment. If you’re in the market for a premium set of in-ear monitors that are comfortable and boast unrivaled sound quality they deserve your consideration. Surprising intricacies are waiting for discovery in your favorite songs, hear them again for the first time.

See our full Meze headphone offerings at the Roon Store. 

Additional Observations of Note:

  • Selecting the best fitting ear tip is essential to getting optimal sound and isolation from both Advar and Rai Penta. Experiment with the provided ear tips until you find the one that offers a snug fit. Advar seemed a bit thin in the Low/Mid Bass until I found the correct ear tip – once found, the frequency response was lush and full.
  • The MMCX connection on the Advar doesn’t fit as snuggly with the flange as it does with Rai Penta. There was no discernable loss of imaging or detail, but it creates the impression that it is not completely seated. 
Meze Audio Advar Rai Penta

Tech Specs:

ADVAR

  • Driver: 10.2mm Dynamic driver
  • Frequency Range: 10 Hz – 30 kHz
  • Impedance: 31 Ω
  • SPL: 111dB/mW
  • Distortion: <1% at 1kHz
  • Stock cable: braided cable made of SPC (silver plated copper) custom wires ending in gold plated 3.5mm
  • Materials: Solid stainless steel chassis produced by metal injection molding, with CNC finishing
  • Finish: High-gloss Black Chrome plating on the main shell

RAI PENTA

  • Driver: PENTA-HYBRID DRIVER (4 x Customized Balanced Armature and 1 x Dynamic Driver working harmoniously together)
  • Frequency Range: 4Hz – 45kHz
  • Impedance: 20Ω
  • Sensitivity: 100dB SPL/1mW
  • Max Input Power: 30mW
  • Distortion: <1%
  • Stock cable: braided cable made of SPC (silver plated copper) custom wires ending in gold plated 3.5mm
  • Materials: High precision sculpted chassis is CNC milled from solid aluminum
  • Finish: Pebbled anodized Space-Blue finish with aluminum Meze Lyre detail

What’s in the Box

ADVAR

  • Left and right in-ear monitors
  • 48″ braided audio cable with dual MMCX connectors and a straight 3.5mm plug
  • 5 Pairs of Final Audio silicone ear tips
  • Cleaning tool
  • MMCX removal tool
  • Hard Case: protective EVA case with Meze Audio metal logo
  • User Manual

RAI PENTA

  • Left and right in-ear monitors
  • 48″ Braided cable with dual MMCX connectors and a straight 3.5mm plug
  • 3.5mm-to-1/4″ Adapter
  • Airline adapter (female 3.5mm jack-to-dual 3.5mm male plugs)
  • 8 pairs of ear tips
  • Cleaning tool
  • Hard Case: protective EVA case with Meze Audio metal logo
  • User Manual

Roon Ready Writeup: Chord Mojo 2 and Poly Review

Audio gear for your Roon lifestyle

In December 2021 we launched The Roon Store, the only e-commerce gear site specifically designed with the needs of Roon users in mind. It’s focused entirely on audio equipment that pairs seamlessly with Roon. No matter where you are on your Roon journey, aspiring user, recent subscriber, or long-time customer – the Roon Store has something for you.

A new approach to gear reviews

The internet is chock full of specs-heavy reviews, and like many of our customers, we find those details fascinating. But technical specifications don’t generate much excitement when describing our relationship with the gear that provides the soundtrack to our lives. 

How many times have you heard someone reminisce lovingly about the sensitivity rating of their old JBL L100 speakers? You don’t, they talk about how well they remember and enjoyed their sound. So, we’re approaching reviews differently and with an intentionally Rooncentric focus. In Roon Ready Writeups, we’ll spotlight our favorite gear and describe how it enhances the enjoyment of Roon. You’ll come away with a feel for product performance; and a clear picture of how well it fits your needs and lifestyle. 

Chord Mojo 2: small size, big sound

We have an unabashed love for portable, small form factor DACs that improve desktop, mobile, and tablet listening. If you’ve heard Chord products in action, you’re probably familiar with their excellence in this area.  They fit perfectly with our Roon Ready philosophy: they just work, they provide lush, detailed sound, and most importantly, they help enrich our love of music. 

The Mojo 2 / Poly is one of our favorite Chord combos because its design facilitates multiple applications: it can pull double duty as a remarkable upgrade for a legacy system, or a formidable desktop audio solution. Let’s take a closer look at their characteristics.

Got My Mojo Working, Pt. 2

The Chord Mojo 2, the second generation of the Mojo (originally released in 2015), packs even more performance and features into a smaller enclosure than the original. The Mojo 2 boasts a DAC designed by Chord’s own Rob Watts, and supports up to 32-bit/768kHz PCM and DSD256. Hugely impressive for a DAC/amp that fits in my 11-year-old’s hand. Many costly full-size DACs can’t match the Mojo 2’s finesse. 

Battery management has been vastly improved, and intelligent desktop mode protects against overcharging while in desktop, or component, use. Fully charged, the battery provides 8 hours of listening time. The original Mojo’s input configuration is preserved on Mojo 2, ensuring compatibility with Poly. Those who complain about the USB-C input location of Mojo 2 can credit Chord when they realize it was an intentional customer-focused design decision. Mojo 2 can charge in tandem with Poly, even while in use, with a 2A (amps) rated charger.

Connection points include:

  • Co-axial, Optical, Mini USB, and USB-C inputs 
  • Dual 3.5 stereo headphone outs
  • Mini USB charging port
Chord Mojo 2

Pristine wireless streaming with Poly

Poly is a Roon Ready streaming module that snaps into the inputs of the Mojo 2, making it visible on your home network to Roon. Chord calls it a “fully fledged high-resolution wireless network music player, streamer and SD card playback device with wireless playback and control from smartphones.”

In addition to Roon, it supports DNLA, AirPlay, and Bluetooth 4.1 connectivity and FLAC, WAV, ACC, AIFF, OGG VORBIS, ALAC, WMA, and MP3 file formats. PCM handling up to 24-bit/768kHz, DSD via DoP to DSD256, and SD card DSD playback. A full charge offers 9 hours of Roon Ready streaming. Setup was quick and painless with the Chord GoFigure app. Check out our Poly setup video in The Roon Store for help with that.

A few additional observations of note:

  • The Mojo 2’s headphone outputs lack individual volume controls. 
  • Poly’s internal Hot Spot functionality is a touch tricky. 
  • Poly requires a few steps for waking up the unit and initiating use. 
  • The devices can get pretty warm when using the leather case during extended listening.
  • MQA fans may need to look elsewhere as Mojo 2 doesn’t offer MQA support.

Style and grace

The Mojo 2 / Poly combo provides a huge soundstage in a small footprint and exudes exceptionally fine design, features, and sound. Mojo 2 is housed in a robust, bead-blasted aluminum enclosure, finished in satin black, with lovely polychromatic spherical controls for volume, power, and the menu. The controls appear complicated in the manual but are easily mastered in a few hours of use. Chord has graciously included a handy decoder card to help with that. More details on Mojo 2’s tone-shaping features in a moment.

Chord Mojo 2

Pint-sized solutions

  • The Mojo 2 / Poly partnership provides a clever way to integrate Roon with a sweet-sounding legacy setup, using just a quality 3.5 mm to RCA interconnect cable. When I connected the duo to a vintage Yahama amp powering my old B&W DM603 S3 towers I was gobsmacked by what I heard. My old setup sounded like a modern system just by adding those two devices.
  • The highly flexible design facilitates high-res desktop and handheld device audio.
  • High-quality system or DAC/headphone audio solution for a small space.
  • The design makes this combo a perfect point of entry for the aspiring audiophile because its flexibility serves multiple uses.
  • SD Card slot provides easy onboard high-res listening on the go.

Problem free reliability

The Mojo 2 / Poly dynamic duo provided rock-solid Roon stability both as a wired and wireless RAAT streaming endpoint. The long-range WiFi capability of the Poly placed my outdoor hammock within range of my network, a first and a pleasant surprise. A fully-charged Mojo 2 / Poly combo clocked in at just under 10 hours of sublime headphone listening. 

If problem-free Roon integration and reliability are top of your list, your worries are over. I didn’t have a single issue with this pair; how incredible they sound together is a bonus. 

Chord Mojo 2 Poly

Sonics that strike a Chord

Whether alone, or paired with Poly, Mojo 2 delivers a stunning, attention-grabbing listening experience. Mojo 2 features a revolutionary lossless UHD DSP (Ultra-High Definition Digital Signal Processor), EQ, & Crossfeed that begs exploration. 

DSP EQ offers 4 bands of tone control (lower bass, mid-bass, lower treble, and upper treble) with 18 steps of adjustment in each band – providing a bewildering 130,000 + possible EQ customizations. Dialing in adjustments while listening to personal reference tracks by Jackie McLean, George Harrison, Bob Marley, The Beatles, and The Grateful Dead revealed spellbinding texture and detail. I heard nuance and heft in these tracks that made them feel fresh and exciting again. 

Mojo 2’s new Crossfeed feature was borrowed from Hugo’s flagship Dave and Hugo 2 DACs. It improves spatial effects for a more ‘speaker-like’ soundstage when using headphones by subtly mixing both channels to achieve a more natural sound. Crossfeed may not seem noticeable initially, but I immediately missed it upon switching it off after a few days’ use. It added an energizing, live music vibe to listening sessions that I quickly grew to enjoy. 

The Mojo 2 / Poly partnership shined when tested with a variety of high-quality headphones. I’m withholding those details for now – but only because you’ll be hearing more about them soon in a coming review. 

If you’re looking for a small form factor portable Roon Ready DAC with great aesthetics, features, and breathtaking sound reproduction the Chord Mojo 2 / Poly pairing is one to experience. Visit the Roon Store, we’ll help you do that!