Hifiman HE5LE First Impression

The build is almost identical to the original HE5, except that this version has a more serious all-black finish. The weight feels the same on my head, and the pads again is still too stiff to sit comfortably while providing a good seal on my head. So, not much changes in ergonomics from the original HE5. But, the pad surface are softer than the HE5, and it does make the headphone’s comfort significantly better. Checking back to the original HE5 pads, I can confirm that the cloth material used to wrap the pads is indeed different, and that contributes to a softer touch on the skin. The headband is also slightly wider than the original HE5, as you can see from the photo, but on the head, the feel of the headband is identical.

You may not notice it at first, but the HE5LE headband is a little wider.

If the original HE5 comes with a black cardboard box, the LE version comes with a nicer box with an artificial wood surface. When I first saw the box, I thought “Awesome, the LE comes with a wooden box!”, so I was a little disappointed to find out that the box is not real wood, but still it’s a much welcome change from the black box of the original HE5. The standard cable is also quite unique because they come terminated with a 4-pin XLR, then Head-direct supplied the appropriate 4-pin XLR to 1/4 TRS adapter for single ended amp user. It’s almost like they have anticipated that people will be plugging this to balanced amp.

Though not real wood, the box still looks very nice.

The HE5LE inside the box.

Okay, moving to the sound, the HE5LE may sound darker than the original HE5 because it has lost the aggressive and bright treble. PBig and open soundstage, although it’s quite flat to what I’m used to in the HD800.

When I first received the HE5LE, the treble was a little harsh, but I think most of the harshness was already gone after 12 hours, and I certainly don’t notice too much change from 12 to 24 hours.

I really haven’t listened to the HE5LE enough, as I just received it a few days ago. So I can’t really write a full proper review. At the moment I’m still trying to get a good sinergy with the HE5LE. I’ve tried it with a few different amplifiers, from the small Audiotrak Imamp (which works suprisingly well to drive this big orthodynamic), to the TPA6120 balanced amp (in single ended and balanced), and the Beta22 in balanced. The built in amps on the Matrix Mini-I, the Nuforce uDAC, and the Dr. DAC DX2 simply was inadequate. It works, as long as you keep it in low volume, but on higher volumes they’ll start do distort. I did notice that despite the lower impedance (25 Ohms vs 30 Ohms) the LE version requires higher volume level to achieve the same loudness, but it’s really not that much different in amping requirements than the original.

There are some physical changes around the driver between the HE5LE and the original. With the LE version, the holes on the grill are bigger and is shaped like a honeycomb. You can see that there is a cloth right behind the grills, whereas the original doesn’t. According to Fang at Head-Direct, removing the black cloth from behind the grill is an easy way to get a brighter sound on the LE. I personally haven’t tried this.

The grill on the original HE5.

The grill on the HE5LE has bigger, hexagonal holes, and a covering cloth right behind it, which the original HE5 doesn't have.

Inside dust cover of the original HE5.

HE5LE inside dust cover seems to be thinner, and with a finer mesh.

Close up view of the HE5LE dust cover. The driver is visible through it.

Close up view of the HE5 dust cover. Same lighting as the other shot, but you can barely see the driver.

I’ll try to post a more in-depth comparison between the HE5 and the LE as I get more familiar with the sound.

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27 Comments

  • Reply May 15, 2010

    Bouncer

    Hello Mike,

    Thanks for the initial impression.

    May i know if the Audinst HUD-MX1 will be able to drive the HE5LE properly?

    • Reply May 15, 2010

      Mike

      Hi. I haven't tried that combo. I'll let you know by next week.

    • Reply May 18, 2010

      Mike

      I tried that just now, and I would say yes, the Audinst HUD-MX1 can drive the HE5LE, though not optimally. About 1 o'clock on the volume knob on low gain, and 10-11 o'clock on high gain provides enough loudness for me.

      • Reply May 18, 2010

        Bouncer

        I see, thanks alot for your time.

        When using high gain, is there noticeable grain in the sound coming from HE5LE?

        May i also know would the Audiotrack Imamp or the Audinst HUD-MX1 drive those cans better?

        • Reply May 18, 2010

          Mike

          Hi,

          Noticeable grain on high gain? Do you mean noise?

          I don't have the ImAmp with me right now, because Hadi is using it, but from my past experience using the ImAmp with other cans, I would say that it has a better amplifier section than the Audinst HUD-MX1.

          • Reply May 19, 2010

            Bouncer

            Hi,

            I see.

            Yeah i did meant noise, pardon me for my bad english.

            • Reply May 19, 2010

              Mike

              Hi, sinclair, I heard no noise on the HUD-MX1 even at maximum volume.

              • Reply June 17, 2010

                不撒

                彩电撒旦撒旦撒旦萨低层次才撒

  • Reply May 15, 2010

    h.rav

    How is the build quality? I didn't like the original HE-5's build quality, it's quite poor, IMO…

    • Reply May 15, 2010

      Mike

      The build quality would be almost identical aside from the slight differences I mentioned. I really didn't think it was that bad though. If you can live with a Grado, you certainly can live with this.

  • Reply May 15, 2010

    Jose

    Nice to know you got them! any plans to try the HE5LE out without the protective cloth?

    • Reply May 16, 2010

      Mike

      Hi Jose,
      For sure I will try them out. HE5LE without the cloth compared to the HE5.

  • Reply May 16, 2010

    buz

    Could you try whether the Lehmann can drive the HE5-LE properly? I’m using getting a pair to combine it with my M-Stage 🙂

  • Reply May 17, 2010

    Mike

    Hi Buz, I don't own the Lehmann Black Cube amplifier so I can't really try that combination. But it's a powerful amp, and I don't think it should have problems driving the HE5-LE. As far as sinergy is concerned, I can't be too sure, as ultimately it'll go back to your music and personal preferences.

  • Reply May 18, 2010

    Jay

    Thank you! THANK you!! THANK YOU!!!

    Do you have to do these reviews the way you do?! I don’t even got 5 hours on my current equipment, and now I have to buy this and that, and that and this!!!

    Just kidding. As always, excellent review. Keep up the good work, and the great tease.

    • Reply May 19, 2010

      Mike

      Hey Jay, I'm glad I can make your wallet suffer. Keep on coming back here for even bigger damages. Hehehehe

      Just kidding.

  • Reply June 6, 2010

    charles de bourquene

    Hello,

    I buy a Hifiman he-5le, and I would know what amp advised for overcome the acute.

    I have one m3, I prefer the DIY but I can buy already made

    Thank you

    • Reply June 6, 2010

      Mike

      Hi Charles, I'm not sure what you mean by "overcome the acute".

      The EF5 amplifier has such a great sinergy with the HE5 and the HE5LE, and I'd highly recommend it. In fact, I'm thinking of writing a review on the EF5.

  • Reply June 6, 2010

    charles de bourquene

    The small EF5 is better than one m3 with opamp discrete?

    I have the impression that the small ef5 is not excellent.

    I have a large budget ($700) I think that I could have better, isn't it ?

    • Reply June 5, 2010

      Mike

      Hi Charles,
      I’ve never auditioned the M^3 amp before. I’m sure it’s very good. But amplifier sinergy is real, and the EF5 to me has a better sinergy to the HE5/HE5LE even compared to my fully balanced Beta22 amplifier (which is the bigger brother of your M^3). You really should give it a try.

      Cheers.

      • Reply June 6, 2010

        charles de bourquene

        I will like to listen the EF5. But in Paris, hifiman is unknown. I will look feedback of ef5

        Thank you very much.

        • Reply June 6, 2010

          Mike

          Yes, please do give it a listen. The EF5 is unknown almost everywhere. I've listened to a lot of more expensive amp, but the EF5 seems to be designed and voiced for the HE5.

  • Reply June 18, 2010

    不撒

    你们写的什么啊?

    • Reply June 17, 2010

      Mike

      Hi Senjo,
      Your comments show up as boxes on my browser. I don’t think I have the appropriate language pack installed. 🙁 Care to use english? 🙂

  • Reply December 3, 2010

    Barun

    Hey Mike,
    Do you think that the Little Dot Mk III Tube amp(Mullard 8161, EF92) will be able to drive these headphones?

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