What I do notice with the HE5LE, is that the upper midrange is a little distant HE5LE, and this is one area that I wish they could’ve done differently. I notice this on recordings such as Bob Dylan, Rolling Stones, as well as modern stuff like John Mayer. If your singer’s vocals lie in the upper midrange range (and many of them do), the music doesn’t engage as much on the HE5LE because the upper midrange is a little distant. I also get the impression that those region gets a little muddy sometimes. You may not notice this if you’re listening out of an amplifier that naturally boost that region, like on my TPA6120 balanced amp. But on something like the Beta22, it’s very evident.
On my computer set up, I can tweak the EQ fairly easily via iTunes, and that’s what I did: a simple EQ on the 1-2kHz region will make for a much better sound, in my opinion. (I also raised the 500Hz and 4kHz to make a smoother transition):
Of course, a lot of people doesn’t use equalizers, and likewise my main listening rig doesn’t have one either. So in that case, it becomes a problem. Damping can probably fix it, but that’s a whole different ballgame. But I don’t know if this is going to be evident to everyone, because some amplifiers have a non linear frequency balance, and may actually have a boost in the upper midrange. If you’re using tube amplifiers, tube rolling can probably get you the right sound. Otherwise, try to turn the volume higher, and the upper midrange will not sound as distant. But then you won’t want to do that if you’re used to listening on moderate volume.
If you have a recording that’s quite balanced and not so hot in the treble, I find that the original HE5 actually gives a more engaging sound because the upper midrange is more intimate and right on the spot. Just the way I like it.
I mentioned earlier that there is an increase in bass presence from the upper bass region and down on the HE5LE. This is nice, of course. And it does help to make the HE5LE quite warmer sounding than the original. The additional bass presence can get just slightly boomy. I’m not talking about boomy as in a boom-boom sound that you find on low quality headphones. Yes, it’s slightly uncontrolled, but overall I say that the change is welcome. It certainly will make music more enjoyable for most people. Again, the HE5 and the HE5LE gives different presentations of the music, and it is up to you to choose which version you like better. You can always buy both if the bank allows it.