Skipped the little KMF head amp for the time being. Running directly through the speaker taps with the 4-pin XLR headphone cable that came with the HE-5LE into a "pigtail" that cantsleep built (Neutrik gold plated 4-pin female plug and Cardas Smurf Blue cable). The wire ends are connected to the Linn using banana adapters (the Linn only accepts banana plugs). Volume is at 9:00, dialed up 60 degrees from the lowest setting at 7:00.
It's been several weeks since I ran the 5LE out of the speaker taps. In my estimation, both the 500 and the 5LE are now just barely turning the corner on 200 hours. The last time I used the Linn Intek, the 5LE sounded a little over stressed, brittle in the treble, sharp in the upper mids, a bit fuzzy and reticent in the bottom end. But my experience last night was much different, the 5LE seem to have opened up significantly over the last 50 or so hours since the last time I ran them in this mode.
Compared to their performance over the past couple of days on the 1W Bada PH-12 (which was, don't get me wrong, very good), the HE-5LE sound like a different headphone--improved with respect to every category--with the 50 WPC Linn Intek. Everything sounds tight, buttoned down, positively fastidious. Much faster. Dynamics can be explosive and unnerving [cf. "Rio Funk" from Lee Ritenour, Collection, GRP, 1991]. Tones sound snapped into focus with even more vibrant hues and more complete, coherent textures. The background is much quieter, with individual elements honed in precise space, anchored with great stability. The bass is much tighter and more responsive, deep, expressive and under iron-clad control. Compared to the 500's bass when using the Bada, the 5LE's bass when using the Linn is appreciably better in every respect.
The overall presentation is compact and efficient; nothing is wasted. Everything, from top to bottom, simply sounds prompt and "spot-on". Nothing of the 5LE's native capacities for vocal intimacy, even spectral, tonal and dynamic balance, overall coherency and transparency are lost; in fact a quantum step forward in each of these departments has been realized (and is easily recognizable).
The Linn, being all solid state, does not deliver the tube richness of the Bada, but what I do hear sounds clear, honest and involving. The 5LE lets me hear everything this fine integrated has to offer.
All of a sudden I'm thinking: "Next step: the HifiMAN HE-6 with the Kora Titan monoblocks". : )
The 500s have been running from the Denon AVR-1905 headphone output for most of the day. God willing, I'll give them a listen tonight running from the Linn Intek's speaker taps.
Edited by pataburd - 7/18/12 at 7:57pm