An upright standing, powerful desktop headphone amplifier from Wells Audio. Handmade by Jeff Wells in California, a unique piece giving you almost equivalent quality to the much pricier Enigma.

Wells Audio Milo

Average User Rating:
5/5,
  • Technical Specs
    • 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-15" x 12" x 12"
    • Shipping Weight-10 lbs.
    • Dimensions-8"w x 7.5"d x 9.75"h
    The Milo is now available with an attenuation feature of 12db upon request for an additional $100.00. The Milo can also be ordered with a premium Khozmo stepped attenuator for an additional $400.00. For an additional $150.00 a pair of Vishay "Naked Z Foil" series resistors can be added to the Khozmo. After communicating with Khozmo we are able to order the Khozmo stepped attenuators with a new more aggressive logrithmic taper that allows for less gain at the beginning. This has allowed us to offer the Milo without the restraint of an added attenuation circuit when purchasing the Milo with a Khozmo attenuator.





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Recent User Reviews

  1. Dillan
    5.0/5,
    "Bulldozer power packed inside a motorcycle body?"
    Pros - Powerful, clean sound, compact chassis
    Cons - Love it or hate it design, limited features/accessories
    Bulldozer power packed inside a motorcycle body?



    upload_2017-5-10_1-28-9.jpeg
    Picture credit: Hansotek


    Introduction

    So I tried to think of an upright standing vehicle for my analogical title, but the only thing I could think of is one of those Segways, but those seem more appropriately comparable to a hand-held amplifier. Motorcycle kinda works at least right? I think you guys probably get my aimed first impression of “Yes, this thing is small, light and takes up little space (especially with its standing design), but boy-oh-boy can it pack a punch. Tons of juicy headphone power.”

    Jeff Wells knows a thing or two about building amplifiers. He has been doing it for many years now and his unique approach (both internally and externally) have never seemed to care about the status quo. In fact, talking to him over the phone a few times now has given me the impression that he really doesn’t seem to care, personally or professionally, about what other guys are doing.. he builds things his way and presents it to us consumers to drool over. The no-copycat mentality is exactly what you want in a product maker, especially if your goal is to own something truly unique and you are looking for the best of the best. You have to dig pretty deep these days and search both far and wide to find a headphone amplifier that is hand built with point-to-point internal cabling. The unfortunate truth is the big corporations are putting tons of printed circuit boards inside of a chassis and using cheap Chinese copper ribbons to connect it all together and then calling it a day. Oh and don’t forget the huge price tags. If you’ll notice – even the boutique audio company’s are building with the same approach and design techniques.. either because they lack the skills to do otherwise or they want to save a pretty penny. I don’t know about you guys, but if I am spending hundreds if not thousands for my audio cabling.. then it would be nice not to have it all become degraded and meaningless once taken inside several feet of paper thin copper wiring that isn’t even properly shielded. This is one thing I appreciate about Jeff, in that he tries to avoid printed circuit boards as much as possible and not only that, but he hand selects all the components in all of his amplifiers and builds them himself.


    upload_2017-5-10_1-28-9.jpeg
    Picture credit: Hifi59


    So before I get too far ahead of myself, lets look at the specs of the Milo provided by Jeff on his website:


    Technical Specs
    • 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-15" x 12" x 12"

    • Shipping Weight-10 lbs.

    • Dimensions-8"w x 7.5"d x 9.75"h

    So the first specification listed is probably the most impressive of the whole list in my opinion. Not sure if they did that on purpose or not – we’re on to you Wells Audio – but to me it is what made me fall in love with this amplifier in the first place. It didn’t take long for me to plug my LCD-4’s into the Milo and have a listen. Usually my LCD-4 screams at me to terminate a headphone cable into speaker taps and plug them straight into some sort of high powered beast.. at least that’s what it seems like to me. Spoiler alert – The Milo provided more than enough power to satisfy my Audeze flagship. Let me first say that in the category of desktop amplifiers that can comfortably be used at your computer desk or maybe even at the office perhaps- you are usually sacrificing output power and even audio quality for a slimmer chassis. Usually if your headphone amplifier doesn’t take up much room on your desk, then you probably aren’t plugging in demanding full sized planar headphones. In this case however, that is exactly what you are doing (or shall I say could do). A whole 12 watts RMS into 32 ohms? My Grados are actually kind of scared. Also, to be expected, this is all with very low distortion (read inaudible). If you haven’t gotten the hint yet – yes, this amp can power just about anything you throw at it. Not just simply providing a lot of power either.. this is clean, great sounding wattage we are talking about here.

    In regards to frequency response- I personally feel this spec is only listed on amplifiers for the simple piece of mind people can have that their precious ultra low or high frequencies aren’t being sliced off. Also basically for those that aren’t aware, you can find out the full spectrum that your individual system is capable of, frequency-wise, by finding out whichever device has the shortest range. Kind of like the quote “You are only as strong as your weakest link”. Though that sounds a little exaggerated, because frequency response ranges are for the most part useless information.

    Skipping down to output impedance you’ll see something that you IEM lovers might smile about. Having .1 ohms coming from the headphone output is pretty great news considering some people might consider using the Milo for their IEM’s. Typically with balanced armature drivers you’ll want an output of less than 1 ohm for the best synergy and output quality and to avoid the dreaded hiss and noisy floor. I did plug my Kaiser K10 into the Milo, but only for about 15 minutes of listening. I can’t personally recommend this to someone who only want to use their IEM’s or ear-buds with the Milo, as it would make more sense to buy something much more portable and small. But I can say with confidence that if you do want to change up your listening and plug in something sensitive like one of your favorite IEM’s then you’ll definitely get a great deal of enjoyment from those as well. I noticed almost a dead silent background with just a tiny whisper of hiss during silent moments of semi-loud listening.

    It comes with RCA inputs (1 pair) and for an additional $200 you can add an XLR option as well. For the headphone outputs you have a 1/4” (6.3mm) standard headphone jack and also a 4 pin XLR port as well. My unit had XLR inputs on the back, but I have seen another Milo with only RCA inputs and you could see the area where the XLR would normally go, but it was capped off with a black plastic.

    Shipping weight is around 10 lbs, but the amplifier itself felt much lighter than that. I didn’t weigh it, but grabbing it the first time was one of those moments where you put too much effort into lifting something up expecting it to weigh more than it does and you get a surprising/startling relief when you pretty much launch it into the air due to the deceiving light weight.


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    Picture credit: Hansotek

    Packaging & Unboxing

    I would normally go into details about packaging and give you a play-by-play of the general unboxing experience, but I believe my unit was a little unorthodox and meant for testing and reviewing purposes. As I am under the impression that your experience will differ from mine, I think it is best to skip this part and dive right into the design of the Milo.

    Design

    The Milo amplifier is unlike anything I have ever seen and likely will ever see. If I was a betting man, I would probably wager none of you readers have seen anything quite like it either. The only thing that really comes close is the Athena A1 tube based headphone amplifier. Even with that product (designed and sold by ENIGMAcoustics), there isn’t many more similarities outside of them both being upright, standing amps. Comparing the two, I will also say that I appreciate the added stability of the Milo with their addition of acrylic feet to secure the unit in place. I always felt like I could topple over the Athena quite easily, but after handling the Milo for a couple weeks I can say that the feet do a good job of keeping it in place.

    As mentioned previously in the specifications section, I do think the Milo is surprisingly lightweight. Not in a cheap feeling kind of way either, it is just one more bonus for its intended use of being able to be set in a variety of environments. The name of the game is convenience and the Milo gets the high score (as far as high powered desktop amps go). Thank the light weight and standing frame for that.

    The pre-production units were probably quite heavier and didn’t look remotely as gorgeous as the final product. I never saw them in person, but they still have a picture of one on the site and it is pretty much all metal with a boring grey color scheme. I imagine it would get pretty hot as well, because they opted to put quite a few more ventilation slots in the finished chassis.

    Running my fingers along the front panel gives the impression of a glass type of feel. This material seems to be some sort of acrylic type of paneling. It feels and looks very premium and sitting at the top of the front face is the silver cursive writing “Wells Audio”. Beneath that is quite a large silver looking volume knob that felt extremely sturdy and durable to the touch. Adjusting the volume felt very smooth and gave me the feeling of just how well made this thing really is. Beneath that were your headphone outputs and finally you had the words MILO in bold silver letters just above the plastic green power button.

    To my knowledge there is only one color option for the Milo and that is a sort of smoky/transparent black. You can actually look through the front faceplate and see some of the internal wiring and components. Probably another testament to how much pride Wells Audio puts in their builds. If I had the skill-set to create such beautifully engineered amplifiers then I would want to show off the insides as much as possible too! As mentioned in my introduction – Jeff likes to use point-to-point wiring and as few printed circuit boards as possible. You won’t see any tubes inside the Milo obviously, but when it’s powered on, you still get a warm glow coming from a light at the top.

    The last thing to note are the side paneling. One of the significant reasons the Milo stands out in its design is the unique fins sticking out from each side. I haven’t confirmed this, but to me they are obviously some sort of heat-sink to draw heat from the inside of the amplifier outward. They sort of give the Milo a little personality of its own as they kind of resemble ears in my opinion. I think with such a small case and so much power, these heat-sinks were probably well needed and probably do a great job at that. Another way he seems to be keeping this device a little cooler is also the slotted ports all over the chassis. This allows air to escape inside of resonating inside.

    It seems to me that a lot of effort was put into the design of the Milo and it is not only beautiful to look at with it’s unique appearance, but it also seems to be very functional – with every piece being useful in someway. There may be some funky looking things going on with this amplifier, but nothing was added without careful consideration and I respect that minimalistic and efficient approach.

    Sound

    So to break apart and really dissect the acoustics of the Milo I will divide into categories of bass, midrange and treble. I do believe that amplifiers have a very small influence on the sound and this is even more true for solid state amplifiers such as the Milo. I believe tubes definitely can create more of an audible difference as they purposely distort the sound in a sometimes pleasing presentation. You could even make the argument that solid state amplifiers all sound the same (and should), because their only role is taking the sound and amplifying the signal to our preferred listening levels. I do find there to be some truth to this, but I find many amp manufacturers are purposely putting their own spin on the sound and adding a little coloration, on purpose or not. I do think differences in sound signatures amongst amps are overly exaggerated in some cases, but not all. Although I have only A/B tested tube amps, I would still feel pretty confident that there are some noticeable differences in solid state amps and it is especially apparent when you are comparing lower-end models to some of the heavy hitters like this Milo. I should also mention that the Milo was created with the intention of sounding equal to or even better than their Enigma (which cost a total of $4000 USD by the way). I haven’t personally heard the Enigma, but out of all of the high-end amps I have heard – I think Milo absolutely is either on par with them or slightly ahead.

    I mentioned coloration being added to solid state amps, but this isn’t the case with the Milo whatsoever. With all of the enjoyable listening I did, I found the sound to be quite clean and transparent with an added punch of authority. I got the sense of a little bit of added attack and dynamism along with the feeling that the Milo really unleashed the full potential of whatever was plugged into it. You never had to worry about not having enough power, and you never had to worry about getting listening fatigue (or on the other side of the coin being bored) either. This is the sort of amplifier you pair with your gear to really benchmark them and find out their true capabilities. The transparency and overall cleanliness gave you the relief that you aren’t muddying up the audio chain one bit. You get crystal clear, authoritative sound in a small, good-looking package. What more could you want? Simple and effective.

    Bass: The bass response is one of the key ingredients to the great sound that the Milo pumps out. I believe the unlimited amount of power it provides is what helps the bass have that extra oomph. In my experience, one of the first things to suffer in regards to sound, when you are under-powering your speakers or headphones is the lack of bass. Bass requires a lot of juice to be controlled and adequately presented and that’s sort of Milos specialty. So on the other side of the coin if you have tons of good clean sounding power, then one of the first things to benefit from that is the lower frequencies and I felt that was even more true in my listening. My LCD-4 (what I did most of my listening with), felt like it was especially satisfied with the Milos bass tuning. Master Blaster by Stevie Wonder gave me crystal clear bass slap and super quick attack and decay. The Milo sort of gives you this feeling that it is here to do its job and nothing else, then its gone. The bass was snappy, authoritative in a sense and only present when needed. Not a millisecond of deterioration whatsoever. I very much loved the low frequencies coming from the Milo.. Not over emphasized, but definitely leaning more towards aggressive than neutral.

    Midrange: The midrange, again, clean and clear. The more I listened with my LCD-4, the more I felt snappy dynamics and attack. I found myself listening to more upbeat genres of music such as electronic or rock. Led Zeppelins “Immigrant Song” sounded noticeably different to my ears. It was slightly more exciting sounding with the guitar and vocals being right where they should. I do kind of feel that with a lush tube amplifier you would get more satisfying warmth and enjoyment from the midrange, but saying that, there still were no problems in this area. Excellent non forward (nor veiled) vocals that were completely transparent.. for better or for worse.

    Treble: Upper frequency response was a little interesting. Actually it is worth pointing out that with my RS2e’s I heard an even more prominent “Grado sparkle” than I normally would hear. This became obvious to me when listening to one of my favorites by Gregory Porter titled “Time is ticking”. I swapped to my LCD-4 and also to my EL-8 open back and I noticed the same thing in all of them as well– but especially so in the Grado. As a side note I prefer to do most of my treble testing with Grado cans, as they usually have accentuated treble.. admittedly they aren’t the most accurate, but they allow me to notice things I may not have heard on a more neutral headphone. I think the treble response, for the most part, had the same sort of clean and transparent flavor to it. The difference however is when you have that openness and uncoloredness to your music, the higher frequencies are sometimes the more distinguishable property versus the others. It followed the same pattern that I was used to with this amplifier, with its quickness and cleanliness. The treble did seem to linger slightly longer than midrange or bass so perhaps a very small difference would be the decay can be a little less aggressive. There wasn’t any harshness, but if you are sensitive to treble then I would encourage you to really choose the headphones you pair with Milo wisely. If the headphones you use are sibilant, then there will be no hiding the fact with this amplifier. Don’t translate this into the misunderstanding that the highs are amplified, because they truly just replay exactly what you feed them. The added sparkle I heard can be explained by the purity in the sound signature that this very truthful amplifier gives.

    With all of that said, I can safely say that I enjoyed the Milo with just about anything I tried with it. The only preference I would personally have is either a darker tuned solid state offering or a more lush tube amplifier paired with my Grados.. other than that I think the Milo is a very fine piece of equipment that can be enjoyed with pretty much anything you want to pair it with. I love the simplicity with the entire experience, including the sound. Just a crystal clear dynamic amplifier with good attack and amazing transparency. A slight authoritativeness on the bottom end and an overall great listening experience. If you prefer a more engaging or musical listening then maybe you could look elsewhere for something that has a little more added coloration. In my experience, the Milo is simply accurate and uncolored with incredible speed. I really loved the listening I had with Milo and have pretty much only positive things to say about the sound. With added coloration you always risk tuning the music in a way that isn’t pleasing to the listener. In this case you basically get exactly what the artist intended you to hear and nothing more. I think that is a very respectable approach and I think Wells Audio made something special here.


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    Picture credit: Hifi59

    Conclusion

    So the bottom line is the Milo is obviously a very unique amplifier, built with purpose and finesse. I think if you had this on your desk, most people would probably ask you what the heck it was. It definitely looks like something out of the ordinary and the overall experience seems to be balanced out by the fact that the sound itself is so natural and precise. If you have limited desk space and power hungry cans, this is basically the perfect amp for you. The design approach of building up instead of making it wide (for audio racks) is something I feel we should see more of. You have to respect the sheer power of this thing if nothing else and I have to admit – I didn’t check the specs before my first listen, so I was especially taken by surprise. I will warn you guys that if you do happen to utilize an audio rack – don’t plan on putting this thing anywhere but the very top surface as it more than likely will not fit. I actually tried sitting it in the middle of mine and although I have a pretty large rack (you can laugh), I would’ve had to lay it down sideways for it to fit in there. I think for asking price of $1699, you are getting what you paid for and maybe more. Remember- this isn’t a mass produced product from some big name brand who cut corners for profit. This is a hand made piece of art with carefully chosen components. Jeff, the owner of the company, is such an easy guy to talk to on top of that. Another one of the added bonuses of being a boutique company is talking to him yourself and having any concerns cleared up by the guy that’s actually putting these things together. Feel free to ask him about custom upgrades to the Milo too as pretty much all of his products have options to fit each persons needs specifically. I took the Milo to a meet in Nashville and I had a lot of guys being thoroughly impressed by it and I think there hasn’t been one person that asked about it that I didn’t give a solid recommendation to. Wells Audio, you did a great job and we love to see heavy hitters like this burst on the scene and being able to compete with products much more expensive than itself. I feel like every Milo owner has a sense of pride in owning such a great amplifier and I know I enjoyed every second I spent with it.

    Thanks to Hifi59 and Hansotek for the pictures
    Written and Review by Dillan

    Thanks for reading - As a side note: I do plan to make some edits and additions to this review. Including, but not limited to, impressions from local meets and going more into detail about my own gear alongside the Milo. I also wanted to talk a little more about pricing. If you liked what you've seen so far, stay tuned in the next few days for even more!

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