HiFiMAN’s tube-powered EF5 headphone amplifier ($399) was used throughout these tests, in part because HiFiMAN recommends the EF5 as suitable for powering the admittedly difficult-to-drive HE-5LE. However, my practical experience was that the EF5 (which will be the subject of a later Playback review) also gave good results with a variety of other headphones, including the Shure SRH840’s, the Beyerdynamic DT990’s, and Sennheiser’s HD650’s and HD800’s.
Source components included a Musical Fidelity kW SACD player and A5 CD player, plus a Nottingham Analogue Systems Space 294 turntable/Ace-Space 294 tonearm fitted with a Shelter 901 MkII phono cartridge and fed through a Fosgate Signature phono stage.
The HE-5LE is generally comfortable, though it is a relatively large and moderately heavy headphone, which may be a problem for some. The earcups are well padded and comfortable. One small problem I noted, however, is that the earcups tend to ride quite low relative to the top of the headband. Thus, even with the earcups raised as high as they could possibly go, I found the headband only just barely contacted the top of my head. For this reason, I would encourage HiFiMAN either to consider changing headband dimensions, or to provide a thicker headband pad.
The HE-5LE ships in a padded presentation case with detachable signal cables with OFC conductors and a 4-pin balanced XLR connector, plus an XLR-to-phone jack adapter cable.
HiFiMAN's HE-5LE is one of the most technically innovative and best-sounding headphones on the market today. It demands a high-powered, high-quality headphone amplifier to sound its best, but if you can meet that basic requirement you will be in for a sonic treat. At $699, the HE-5LE can and does stand tall in comparison to competitors twice its price, making it one of the best high-end headphones values we've yet found.
HiFiMAN HE-5LE Planar Magnetic Headphones
Accessories: as above.
Frequency response: 10Hz – 60kHz
Weight: 402 grams (without cables) (12.3 oz)
Sensitivity: 87.5 dB (1 mW input)
Impedance: 38 ohms