From the first moment that I put on the HE5LE, I immediately like this version better than the original HE5! The changes is significant enough that even when I didn’t have the HE5 with me, I was able to tell that this is clearly a more balanced version of the HE5 sound. Yes, the sound is darker, but we’re not talking HD650 dark here. The change for the darker sound really makes the LE version more neutral and more balanced. I really can’t say if people will immediately like the HE5LE better than the HE5, as I’ve read some comments that say the LE version is veiled. Although it’s certainly not veiled, I can see where the comment is coming from. With the original HE5, its bright presentation does make details in the music very, very evident. The HE5LE still has the wonderful detail of the HE5, but it doesn’t try too hard to show off the details.
A lot of people feel that the treble of the original HE5 is too hot. They like the overall sound, but they are trying very hard, often trying to pair with a dark amplifier to try to alleviate the hot treble. If you are one of those, then the LE version is for you.
Personally, I am liking the change. It’s not a very dark headphone, and it still has a brilliant treble, and it’s still able to give an exciting and lively sound, but this time not as bright as the predecessor. The speed is still there, very fast, yet with a more natural decay than what I found on the Lambda Staxes (of course the HE5 is not as fast as the SR404s.) The detail is mostly unchanged, and likewise the soundstage.
In addition to the darker sound, the HE5LE also comes with more bass presence. I think the HE5 may have been fine for accoustic jazz, rock, and perhaps even metal. But when I tried to listen to some electronica like Prodigy’s Fat of the Land, the original HE5 sounded really sharp and bright, and likewise playing Hotel Costes Vol. 1, I’m missing a lot of the needed bass presence to make the ambiance sounds right for a house music. Not so with the HE5LE. Nice bass presence from the upper bass down, with punch of the original HE5.