I've just revisited this page because someone asked about the pronunciation of these words and I wanted to pass on the link. I notice that you say the first "e" of both these words should sound like the (first) "e" of "elephant". Is this unique to your dialect? In Brazilian Portuguese the "e" of "ela" is open (like the "e" of "elephant") but the "e" of "ele" is close(d). This note describes what I mean: http://byuportuguese.weebly.com/uploads/1/3/4/3/13438895/open_and_closed_e_and_o2.pdf.
To me the robotic voice sounds fine, but hey I'm a native. =) When you really get used to it, there's no way you'll ever confuse those two words, believe me. Try and listen to more spoken Portuguese (news, music...), it will get better.
I think the discussion have been removed (its content), because I can read the comments, but in the discussion, the only thing written is "even in slow motion", and nothing else.
Maybe people explain, ele vs ela with words, but this one, the forvo link + your comments on it, I found it more useful for me , and quicker to understand.
I'm not a native speaker, but I think there are two differences you should be able to hear when the words are pronounced properly.
Both words are stressed on the first "e", but in "ele" it is pronounced like the "a'" in "pay" (this is called a closed "e" and when a stressed "e" has this sound it is usually written "ê" - in fact, for many years "ele" was written as "êle"). The "e" in "ela" is pronounced like the "e" in "bet" (this is called an open "e" and when a stressed "e" has this sound it is usually written "é"). The other difference you should hear is the short "ee" (as in "bee" but shorter) at the end of "ele" and the short "a" (as in "father" but shorter) sound at the end of "ela".
You are not alone in having a problem, the discussion about the difficulties of hearing the difference between these words is very popular: http://www.duolingo.com/comment/161301.