Upgrade Pathway Recommendations?

Hello people, as the title suggests, I am curious about some headphone and IEM upgrades I should consider. To make the recommendations feel less cluttered, I will organize a pathway based on the headphone’s/IEM’s driver. If a tier starts with ???, then that is a free space for a recommendation. If you see a :stop_sign: emoji, that means I am satisfied with what I’ve bought, and have no plans to go beyond (I hope).

Insofar, my choice of gear lean on the warmer side because of my treble sensitivity. I am open to anything as long as it can be fixed with physical modifications. However, I don’t know, nor do I want to dabble with EQ’s to adjust my gear.

All IEMs I own are paired with Dekoni Tips, because of all things, my ears fidget and wiggle when my neurons are activated & stimulated (thank you, ADHD). Because of this wiggling, stock silicone ear tips will tickle my ears, and this causes me great discomfort. However, I’m open to trying out aftermarket silicon tips, so long as they offer any benefits.

My goal for this post is to get a rough idea on any solid upgrades, or a solid first step in uncharted territory. Also, this will help me because I get paralyzed with indecisiveness from too many options. For example, I don’t know if I should get the vanilla T50RPs and eventually shoot for the Argon conversion. Or I could just get the Dekoni Blues and be done with it. Or perhaps I should get the vanilla T50RPs, get Dekoni pads, and then get the Argon conversion… But what if there’s a headphone out there that can expedite all of that effort…? And the worst part is, I will spend a good 2-3 hours fidgeting on my phone, because I am adding and removing stuff in my Amazon Wish List.

My budget caps at $350, and my current setup is the JDS Labs EL II Amp + Schiit Modius.

Closed-Back DD: Yamaha HPH-MT5 + Dekoni Choice (Treble Reduction) :arrow_right: ???

Open-Back DD: Koss KPH30i :arrow_right: Sennheiser HD 6XX (Comfort Upgrade) :stop_sign:

Planar Open-Back: ???

Planar Closed-Back: ???

Single DD: BLON-BL03 = Tripowin TC01 (the Tripowins are more comfortable, but as a trade-off, women sound screechy outside of music) :arrow_right: ???

Hybrid: ???

Planar: Tin P1 :stop_sign:

Open Planar: An easy recommendation for the planar would be a Sundara as a starter or a Verum 1 mk2 [if you’re looking for something coloured/fun].

Closed planar… I don’t know any that would fit the budget. but if you’re looking for something good thats closed give a second hand Fostex X00 / EMU Teak a look. It has the “Slam” and dynamics

Side note:

With the 6XX is comfort upgrade linked to a new set of pads purchased for them?

Definitely could recommend a future set of tubes in future Little dot MK2 or DV.


Single DD
Moondrop Aria or Starfield would be a path to look at. Their tuning signature might be closer to what you are looking for or it might be not for you (moondrop DD neutral).

The other way to go would be to try Final Audio’s E series and see if you like them, might want to start with the E500/1000 since they are fairly neutral and you might also like their silicone tips and the E500/1000 cost almost the same as just the tips.

I would also usually recommend the Etymotic ER2XR, for treble sensitivity they are really clean… but Ety’s tuning is not for everyone and if you already find silicone tips itchy then deep insertion Etys might not be for you.

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The 6XX’s are stock, and I don’t plan on using Dekoni’s on them. Going from KPH30i with the G-Pads (that i forgot to mention) to the 6XX is like sleeping on a carpet floor to sleeping on a bed in terms of ear-comfort.

I’ve never heard of the Verum 1 Mk. 2 or Emu Teaks before, so I’ll keep those in mind.

As for tubing, I’ll give it a shot when I feel mighty curious about that kinda world. For now, I just want to cover my headphone bases so that I can empty my brain and listen anything without thinking about other headphones.

Actually, I’m already interested in getting the Moondrop Arias. Josh Valour did a review of them, and he recommends to pair Final Audio’s E-series tips to tame the treble.

Another reviewer called zpolt recommends the same ear tips in his video too. Unlike Josh, zpolt elaborates how and why he chose the Final Audio E-Series tips.

So perhaps I will enjoy the best of 2 out of 3 of your iem recommendations.

Here is zpolt’s review if you are interested:

If the only silicone tips you have used are the default ones you get from tin or blon or KZ or any company that does not just use Final Audio tips then they are definitely worth a try. I now use Final tips and Azla xelastec tips on most of my IEM collection. The Azla ones are a bit sticky and might not be for you though since I could see them being itchy to some people.

I am also a bit treble sensitive and the Aria’s didn’t really cause me any issues, but it will depend where you are sensitive.

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Okay, I’ll look into Final’s tips, and definitely the Arias since you’re also treble sensitive.

In the realm of hybrids I would probably avoid KZ, but again it really depends where you are sensitive. KZ almost had me avoid BA IEMs completely.

The Fiio FH3 is probably the most expensive IEM I have recommended, but even saying that it is also probably the IEM that is also the most underpriced compared to the sound. It could end as a 1 and done like the Tin P1.

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Planar Closed-Back: Fostex t60rp with ZMF Oval Suedes and an Argon comfort strap (unless you don’t mind the one inch piece of steel they call leather).

This would be right on the budget or slightly above depending on shipping costs for the pads / strap. A fantastic comfort upgrade and really improves the bass and tames the upfront treble a bit. It’s got dynamic slam for miles. It’s a poor man’s Argon, if you want to save a 100 bucks and 12+ weeks of your life. Perhaps not as good as the full mod, but they put a smile on my face and soft pillows around my ears.

Sidenote: Not the most closed for being a closed-back.

Single DD IEM: FiiO FD5 or perhaps the Sennheiser IE300.

Bass and soundstage with nice amount of detail. No personal experience with the IE300 but a lot of people compare them. I would reckon the IE300 is more comfortable due to its much smaller size. The size can be a detriment on the FD5 since it is quite the large IEM.

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