Today we are talking about the Wells Audio Milo. Jeff Wells, the proprietor of Wells Audio, has a long history in the Audio business, but Wells Audio is a relatively young company, opening in 2010. Wells Audio was originally a speaker amp manufacturer, located in Northern California. Wells Audio has slowly expanded their headphone amp range to include three models, the Milo, the Enigma, and the top of the line Headtrip. Being a small shop, Wells Audio is also able to offer modifications on their designs, and there is an upgraded version of the Headtrip called the Headtrip Level 2. The Headtrip Level 2 used to be called the Headtrip Reference, to avoid any confusion.
I suggest you pop over to http://www.wellsaudio.com to see what their current range includes, especially if you also enjoy listening to speakers.
The Milo, Wells Audio’s entry level headphone amplifier, comes in a unique form factor. Taller than it is wide, it makes for a perfect desktop companion. If you have a computer etc. that you need to also fit onto your desktop, the Milo doesn’t take up too much real estate. The full technical specs are below.
- Output Power-18 watts rms into 8 ohms at 1kHz with no more than .015% THD-12 watts rms into 32 ohms @ .006% THD-10 watts @46 ohms @.005% THD
- Frequency Response-+/- 0.25 db from 16Hz to 30kHz
- Signal To Noise Ratio- -94db at full power
- Input Sensitivity-0.72mV RMS
- Gain-30db (12db attenuator available, see below)
- Input Impedance-17k ohms
- Output Impedance-0.1 ohms
- Damping Factor-80, reference 8 ohms nominal
- Power Consumption-42 watts @ idle, 145 watts @ maximum power
- Inputs- 1 pair RCAs, 1 pair XLRs optional (add $200.00)
- Outputs- 1 x 4 pin stereo balanced connector, 1 1/4″stereo plug
- Operating Voltage-120 volt, 230 volt at 50 or 60 Hz
- Shipping Dimensions-16″ x 12″ x 12″
- Shipping Weight-10 lbs.
- Dimensions-8″w x 7.5″d x 9.75″h
Build quality is great on the Milo. It isn’t too heavy, and I suppose this is a result of smart design, but also Wells Audio’s philosophy of using less, higher quality parts, than just jamming the amp full of unnecessary lower quality parts. I really enjoy the fact that I can easily bring the Milo around the house to whichever room I would like to listen in, something I haven’t been to do with amps I have owned in the past.
As you can see in the specifications, the Milo is a powerful amplifier, not as powerful as the Enigma and Headtrip, but certainly more than powerful for the vast majority of headphones on the market. I happen to own two of the harder to drive headphones available today, the Hifiman Susvara, and Abyss Diana Phi. The Milo is like a match made in heaven for these two headphones. I wouldn’t suggest using IEMs with this amp, but apart from that, it is worth trying any headphone you might own with the Milo. The Milo can also be ordered with 12db gain attenuation, for use with more sensitive headphones.
The Milo that I have been loaned for review purposes has a couple of upgrades vs. The stock unit. It has a Khozmo stepped attenuator, and Vishay “Naked Z Foil” resistors. With that info out of the way, lets get to the most important part of the review, how the Milo sounds.
The Milo has a powerful sounding bass response. Perhaps this is one of the reasons it works so well with Abyss headphones. The bass is never flabby sounding, or boomy. It has a rounded sound to the leading edges of the notes, never being too sharp sounding.
This is one of the Milos stronger points. Its not a WARM amp, but it is on the warmer side of neutral in my opinion. The mids, similar to the RE2000, have an addictive quality about them. They just make you want to continue listening, far longer than you should. The Milo is not as neutral and transparent as the Headtrip, no. However, it is such an inviting listen, and the mids really do contribute to that. The mids are smooth and sonorous. A rich and full sound.
The Milos is not an amp for treble heads, I don’t think. This isn’t to say the treble is overly rolled off, but it isn’t bright and in your face, like some amps can be. For my ears, it is just right. I do find some amps a bit on the bright side of things, but I have also heard some amps that are way too rolled off, leading to a thicker gooey sound. There isn’t as much detail and transparency in the treble as there is with the Headtrip, but I suppose that is to be expected given the vast price difference. For the price, the Milo is right in the middle of the pack, of the amplifiers I have heard in terms of detail in the treble.
The Milo has an immense soundstage. Detail retrieval on a whole is decent, in the middle of the pack as I said before, in terms of the amplifiers I have heard. The Headtrip does bring a level of refinement to the sound that is not present with the Milo, but there is something about the way the Milo presents the music that is so damn addictive. Dynamics are great, conveying the small changed in volume in the music well.
Hifiman Susvara: This is an epic combination. The Milo has enough power and gain for the Susvara, there is no doubt in my mind. The Milo adds to the Susvaras already beautiful midrange response, bringing out its finest qualities. The bass is well done, and again, powerful. Most headphone amps run out of steam with the Susvara in terms of bass, leaving it flabby, underpowered, and weak sounding. Not so with the Milo. The treble has a sweetness to it, flowing forth out of the headphones like a beautiful forest stream, rather than a bright torrent of detail like a raging river.
Abyss Diana Phi: The Abyss Diana Phi is on the colder and more clinical side of things, and that is not a criticism. However, in combination with the Milos more romantic and warm sonic signature, it seems to strike the perfect balance. The immense detail and powerful bass from the Abyss, with the warmth and romantic, melodious sound of the Milo. There is something about the Abyss sound signature, in combination with the power and Wells Audio house sound that just works. I highly recommend this combo, and if you get the chance to hear it, don’t miss out!
iFi Pro iCAN: The iCAN is a real Swiss army knife of an amplifier, and I will go into that in detail in my upcoming review. Comparing the Milo to the iCAN (in SS mode) the iCAN is leaner sounding, with less meat on its bones. The iCAN has a bit more detail in the treble, but the Milo is just more to my preference in terms of sonic qualities and tonal balance. If you need the flexibility the iCAN provides I would certainly recommend it over the Milo, however, if you are shopping for a dedicated headphone amplifier the Milo gets my recommendation 10 out of 10 times.
The Milo is a fantastic amplifier. It has an addictive, melodious sonic signature. Music flows forth, not with gobs of in your face detail, but gobs of emotion. Big powerful bass, melodic and romantic (for lack of a better word) sounding mids, and just enough treble to convey the music with accuracy. The Milo is built well, is light, and non-imposing physically. I can bring it around my house to wherever I want to listen with ease. It doesn’t take up too much space on a desk, but it sounds much bigger than it looks. I suppose that is one way to describe the Wells Audio sound….BIG. However, there is a but.
Perhaps it is a case of…
BIG…but with nuance, and most importantly? Epic Musicality.
In my opinion, Wells Audio has hit a home run with the Milo. Highly recommended listen, and I can’t wait to hear some of Wells Audios higher end designs someday!