Hifiman HE-5LE

The HE-5LE was a response to people finding the original HE5 too bright and “thin” sounding. It’s a bit heavy but comfort is better than some heavier planars such as the Audeze LCD2, Hifiman HE-500 or HE-6. The build is exactly the same as other Hifiman models from that era, with round plastic cups, metal yokes and pleather headband.

The HE-5LE is quite hard to drive, requiring much more current than most headphones. Hifiman claims it’s 87 db/mW while it is in reality measured close to 83dB/mW. I use it with a speaker amplifier, although a beefy regular headphone amp, like the THX789 or Bryston BHA-1, can drive it without issues.

○ Release : 2010
○ Current status : Discontinued
○ Type : Over-ear / Open-back
○ Measured weight : 439g
○ Impedance : 38 Ohms
○ Sensitivity : ~83-84 dB/mW
○ Average used price : $300-400 

Sound Impression
The HE5LE is less balanced than the others Hifiman I’ve heard because of a major dip I hear in the upper-midrange, around 2-4khz. As a result, overall tone is a bit V-shaped. On some tracks, it sounds very warm, warmer than an HD600 or even a LCD2F.

Bass is excellent – good slam and full sounding low-end, reaching very very low, with a slight bloom. I am not disappointed with the bass of these old HFMs (especially the HE-6), they hit harder than many planars on the market. Taut bass with great extension.

Bass to mids transition is perfect, and midrange sounds linear except that big recession in the presence region, taking away some midrange clarity. Lower-treble area (6-7khz) is a bit grating, an annoyance I also find on the HE-6. Past that region, treble sounds well behaved, with good (but not ethereal) extension and air.

Presentation is quite open and wide, and I suspect the withdrawn midrange plays a role in that. I like this headphone because, just like the HE500 and HE6, it has a good balance between speed and punch. Decay is not too fast ala Stax, and dynamics are excellent – it does not match the punch of the HE6 but it comes very close.

The HE5LE is a good combination of body, openness and punch, in a fun V-shaped sound. I used stock Hifiman pleather pads as I prefered them to Velour pads (too thin and forward in the upper-treble) and Focus pads (too hollow midrange), although velour pads give the best punch of all.

Measurements & Resource
FR shows a slight dip around 80-120hz that I couldnt hear. Bass roll-off caused by a lack of seal. Major dip around 1.5-4khz, too much for having good midrange tonality. Treble is quite elevated, more than what I was hearing – but I suspect Tyll measured the HE5LE with stock Hifiman velour pads, which are very mid-treble heavy.

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