Does anything better than the starfields exist?

Topic title is a bit of a troll title, don’t take it too seriously but here’s my dilemna, I love my starfields (w/ foam tips) and haven’t found anything I liked more yet.

This includes the KATO, Dusk, FDX1, ISN H40, Penon Orb, kbear believe, Tripowin mele, ER2XR, 1more triple driver, bgvp dmg + lz a6 filter and whatever else I’ve tried.

The closest I’ve gotten to the starfields in terms of enjoyment are the ER2XR (triple flange), and then after that the KZ DQ6 (foam tips) w/ tape mod + a little eq and in third place I guess the ISN H40 (foam tip).

I played around with the apo eq on my PC using my e1da 9038s, I liked the oratary target more than stock on my er2xr, but I didn’t like it more than stock tuning on my starfields. My favorite eq target outside of stock tuning on the starfields was leaving the bass shelf unadjusted and adjusting the upper range to crinacle’s ief neutral target. I believe this was the older ief neutral target, before crinacle added a few extra db in gain. I still preferred stock tuning on most tracks but on some tracks where the treble or upper mids were a little more harsh I found the ief target eq to work better.

I’m looking for something under $300 that can fit what I’m looking for and sound better than the starfields. Here’s what I’ve figured out so far many iems later…

  • I’m really sensitive to harsh upper mids and treble so this has made my search a little hard. Even the mele hurt my ears with it’s “tame” treble because of the larger than usual peak at 8k. The Kato as well hurt my ears for some reason and sounded a bit thin in comparison to my starfields, I don’t like a thin sound. Of all my iems I’ve had only the starfields and er2xr don’t hurt my ears without eq.
  • FR curve wise in the upper range, I think I want something in between the starfield tuning and crin’s ief neutral target. I also really like boost and extension in the air region, like that boost at around 15k that the starfield has, but this isn’t a big deal for me.
  • Bass quantity wise I consider the starfield perfect, it had not too much, and not too little. I won’t be bothered if there’s a tiny bit more, but having significantly too little would be an issue. Tactility and physical impact is nice.
  • I find too much sub bass fatiguing but still like a nice impact, so I like having a little mid bass focus, which is why I really like the shape of the starfield’s bass shelf.
  • I’m open to hybrid and ba iems as long as they don’t have noticable ba timbre. I found it noticable on the dusk which ruined it for me. I also don’t like the metallic timbre of the fdx1.
  • My music library is (ordered from most to least) mostly pop, hiphop, rap, metal, indie rock, rnb, and some Lofi/trap/house/edm/dubstep. Most of my music has vocals, around two thirds of it male vocals.

I was considering the Hana 2021 but it not only looks a bit brighter in graphs, but was also said to be less warm in super review’s review so it sounds like it’s a step away from what I’m looking for, the oxygen being an even further step away since it supposedly sounds a bit thin (relative to the starfields). I also don’t like the flat bass shelf of either iem since I prefer a bit of a mid bass focus. I may end up trying one anyways if I can find one for cheap but I’m looking for other alternatives that will hopefully fit what I’m looking for better. I was interested in the mangird teas as well but that bass shelf again looks like the opposite of what I’m looking for. The timeless 7hz looks interesting but the fairly large 8k spike compared to the starfields on super review’s squig and crinacle’s squig remind me of the mele and how it ended up being too harsh for my ears. So hit me with your other recs, help me find a starfields successor so I can finally retire them. Let’s see if anyone can help me end my iem journey or if I’m just gonna keep going deeper down this rabbit hole then end up back with the starfields again…

Just a thought: I found Starfields to be quite bright, and the highs got a bit hot at times with certain songs. But I’d also add: The wider-ish soundstage really helps to dull the sharpness of the upper-mids and highs.

Many of the IEMs you’ve tried have kind of an intimate, maybe aggressive soundstage. And it seems like the IEMs you prefer have a wider, more diffused soundstage.

The issue is… I can’t think of many IEMs that deliver the Starfield’s similar span of soundstage under $300. Like, there’s Final Audio, and even their E1000 can seem bright on graphs, but I found them expansive and neutral-ish with good bass. The further down their E-line, the bassier they get . Maybe not the best value in IEMs (Japan vs China pricing), but maybe worth considering.

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I guess that’s what the point of diffuse field/harmon tuning is. If it really is this, that would put the Hana back on my list, maybe the oxygen and 7hz as well.

I wonder what it is, because the KATO should have had a wider sound stage but even with the brass nozzles, foam tips and trying to eq the treble + uppermids down a bit I found the treble a lot harsher than the starfields, and the sound overall a bit thinner.

Trying to search for iems with good soundstage is a little hard I think cause it’s not as easy as just searching up graphs.

One thing also to keep in mind is that foam tips sometimes don’t work with some IEMs–I find. They can alter soundstage and frequency response depending on the tips, the IEM, and your ears (even if you use the same tips). I think Starfields are fine with them, but on some IEMs they can change.

That’s why Zeos gets some flack in this sub. Most of his IEM impressions are with foam tips, and sometimes that can wildly change his thoughts on an IEM.

Soundstage with IEMs is rare for sure. It’s a hard tuning to accomplish–reason why I think Moondrop kept with the KXXS/Starfield/Aria iterations for so long.

If you really want smooth, soundstage-y portable stuff, I suggest looking into earbuds. RikudouGoku has a list of them (and I think his preferred sound sig is close to yours, not my taste), and Headfi has a long thread on them. Hell, grab Yincrow X6s on a 11.11 sale for cheap and see how you like them.

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I cant do earbuds for the life of me for some reason. They never stay in my ears, and hurt when I try to make them fit. So sadly that’s out of the question.