Wells Audio Milo

General Information

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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Pros: + Excellent build quality
+ Doesn't get very hot, good heat dissipation system
+ Musicality, Fluidity of the sound is second to none
+ Combines best of both Solid State and Tube Amplifiers
Cons: - Design will be a matter of taste
- Doesn't come with any accessories in the package
- Pricey
Music At Its Finest - Wells Milo Headphone Amplifier Review



Wells Milo is a high-end Headphone Amplifier, meant to fight with the best, and it will be compared against the Mytek Brooklyn DAC+, paired with the Young MK III from M2Tech, and also compared with iBasso DX220 + AMP7, and the Luxman P-750U Headphone Amplifier.




Introduction


Wells Adio is a company dealing with high-end audio components, and they live on the bleeding edge of precision and elegance, when it comes to designing an Amplifier, with utmost care to details, designing their own unique circuits and using the highest grade components available, to ensure the best sound for their customers. They will spend a good amount of time helping you choose the best product for you, and they will also provide very strong after sales service, including a long warranty, and will fix their own products a long time after they went out of warranty as well.

Overall, it feels like Wells Audio is a really good company to trust and work with, especially if you're looking to delight yourself with a high-end amplifier for your headphones.

It should be noted that I have absolutely no affiliation with Wells Audio. I'd like to thank Wells Audio for providing the sample for this review. This review reflects my personal experience with Wells Milo. Every opinion expressed is mine and I stand by it, the purpose of this review is to help those interested in Wells Milo find their next music companion.



About me


https://www.audiophile-heaven.com/p/about.html



Packaging


I didn't manage to get any photos of the package, but Wells Milo comes packaged really well in a cardboard box, with thick pieces of foam keeping it in place. There are no accessories to speak about, but it is a handmade headphone amplifier, so it doesn't really need much to work, except for cables, which you probably would want to have aftermarket solutions for anyways.



What to look in when purchasing a high-end Amplifier


https://www.audiophile-heaven.com/p/what-to-lookl.html



Technical Specifications

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/Aesthetics/Functionality


Starting with the build quality, Milo is actually quite unique. This is the first Amplifier that I review in this shape, like a tall tower, with a smaller footprint on your desk, pretty different from most Amplifiers that are rectangular boxes that sit on your table. The feet are made of silicone, and Milo will not slide on your desk, especially since it is actually a bit heavy. The face of the unit is made of glass, and you can see parts of the electronics inside, and I actually had to take apart mine, so I will also add a few photos of the inner circuits.



The volume potentiometer on the front has a high number of adjustments, so you don't need to worry, you can always find you sweet spot, even if using IEMs. This being said, the Amplifier itself has, at maximum levels, just an insane amount of power. It is so crazy strong, that it feels like it was made for people who really want to either blow up their eardrums, or have a headphone that is really hard to drive, like the HIFIMAN He6SE.

The aesthetics of Milo are interesting, it has those wings like elements on the upper area of the unit. Those are heat dispersers and they do an amazing job, the unit never gets too hot, and since we're talking about one of the Amplifiers with the most driving power in the world, tested in mid Summer in Romania, this is a strong compliment.

You get your choice of XLR and RCA inputs, and since I had some time to play around, I tried using Milo with high-end cables, both for power and for its RCA connection. I have been using both Young MK III DAC from M2Tech, as well as other DACs to drive Milo, and I can only say I am impressed by how clean the overall power delivery is. This stays true for the Amplifier itself, it has a set of relays to protect your IEMs or Headphones, and it has a very low noise floor, and next to no hissing, having a pretty low output impedance.









The functionality is simple, since there are no drivers implied, there's nothing else but the Amplifier itself, and the cables connecting it to the DAC and the headphones. I tried using Milo, using both its XLR and 6.3mm outputs, as I was curious about those, and both are really well designed. I can't say whether I like the sound of either more, they sound more or less the same to my ears, so you don't have to worry if you don't have the right cables for your headphones, both will work just fine.


While testing Milo together with a friend, I had the pleasure to hear more high-end Speakers and equipment, along with a large collection of Vinyl, making the whole experience quite unique for that day.









I could say that Milo is designed well, has a tank level of build quality, it is well thought for the enthusiast, and has a very simple, yet effective functionality, overall it is a top notch Headphone Amplifier.



Sound Quality


Here things start to get interesting, because Milo surely has a sound of its own.



The thing Milo does best, in my view, is that it combines the best of both worlds, tube and solid state amplifiers. It has that nice dampening factor that really gives headphones a beautiful sound, but it also has the speed and control of a proper solid state amplifier, basically, it combines the best of both worlds, in the end, managing to both make music beautiful, but also clear, detailed and precise.

The sound can be described as Fluid, Clean, Crisp, there is no trace of the typical grain you hear with most solid state amps, and even with some tube amps, the soundstage and layering are both top notch, and there is just a rich, organic kind of presentation, where you wonder how something can sound so natural. Milo is clearly not an analytical Amplifier, instead being musical and artistic about its job. The overall tonality is slightly thick, warm, with a smooth and lean top end, but with an organic and rich midrange that stands out as being musical.

The bass is what I'd call slightly elevated, the mid bass presence being slightly higher than what I'd call truly neutral. The fun part here is that the bass compliments every headphone I tried Milo with, and even headphones that would normally be pretty bassy, like the Verum One, or the Kennerton Thror, were complemented by how Milo handles bass. The attack speed is very good, and you can feel the bass rattle you, especially on the right music and at louder volumes, but more than anything Milo is a touch gentle, it won't deliver blows like your run of the mill solid state amplifier, it will instead be delicate.

The midrange is clearly where Milo truly shines, as it is so musical, clean, and rich, you just can't stop listening to it. If you've ever been to one of those concerts where they use top-of-the-shelf guitar amplifiers, and cabinets, you know what a truly beautiful guitar sound is like. Milo is even better, Milo is what I would call an overachiever in terms of midrange beauty. When it comes to its detail, Milo doesn't try to be analytical, it doesn't push the details in your face, but with a very detailed headphone like He6SE, you get everything you want, just, Milo in particular changes the way that monster sounds, from the good old HE6SE, which is known for its revealing abilities and crisp nature, Milo tones it down a bit, makes He6SE more smooth, more warm, and a touch more organic. There certainly is beauty to be heard with this combo, and what's more, with a headphone like the RAD-0, you can delve into an area previously not known to mankind, RAD-0 doesn't eat a ton of power, but they are simply musical, and when paired with Milo, they get to a whole new level of richness and fluidity. The fun part here is that the midrange doesn't feel viled or colored, it simply feels musical.

The treble is what I'd normally call a weak spot. If I had to find a weak spot in Milo, it would probably be the treble, but at the same time, I have a feeling you won't agree with me, and I have a feeling you may actually be interested in Milo exactly because of its treble, which is smooth, clean, but without grain and without fatigue. Of course, with a headphone like HE6SE, Milo manages to tone it down, and since I was using that one mostly for rock and metal, Milo making it easier doesn't necessarily suit my tastes, but for someone who wants a top end that is smooth and clean, to compliment that sub-bass extension and the rich midrange, Milo's like a true wonder. I know most people aren't considering getting a Milo to enjoy Metal, Death Metal or Anime-related music, and that's the thing, if you're purchasing Milo for Jazz, Classical or softer music, there's hardly anything that manages to be quite as well-rounded.



The soundstage is huge, just huge, even compared to Mytek Brooklyn DAC+, Milo manages to sound large and well-layered. I can hear the two competing for which is the widest, but they present the soundstage slightly different. Brooklyn DAC+ is much more into being holographic, but its slightly brighter tonal balance makes the soundstage and especially the air in the soundstage stand out more, while with Milo, you can hear an effortless huge stage, a large number of layers shining through your music. The dynamics are quite excellent, but like the entire nature of Milo, they aren't hard, like what you'd expect from something that would be super dynamic, or spastic, as I'd call it. I tend to enjoy really strong dynamics personally, but Milo managed to charm me with its more gentle and softer nature, where it has those dynamics, but it doesn't force them onto you, it simply plays the music as it should be played, without insisting that you hear it, but making sure that you enjoy it.



Desktop Usage

With Milo I have pretty few notes on its desktop usage. It has a very simple usage scenario, and well, that makes it very good for a desktop Amplifier. It doesn't really care for where you place it, as long as it is a practical location and as long as you still have access to the cables, and as long as you can plug your headphones in and change the volume, so you don't have to worry about placing it anywhere in particular.
















Although Milo has those wings on the corners, it doesn't really get hot, and quite frankly, it is a very well designed Amplifier. The combination of glass and metal may not suit everybody, and Milo surely makes a point about being a high-end amplifier with the overall design, but let's be honest about it, if you enjoy music in the way Milo presents it, you're most probably going to be alright with the aesthetics as well.

When it comes to the cables you're supposed to use with Milo, this is a conversation I won't take part in, I tested Milo with both cheap interconnects, and with high-end cables from a friend, and I could say that there are some differences, but since the two tests were done almost a day apart, I really really can't provide a reliable insight into this matter.

Milo will sit nicely on your table, it is heavy enough not to slide around, and the rubber feet provide an excellent grip, while the overall unit will probably pair nicely with any style. If anything, I think it is a happy fact that Milo has about the same footprint as most DACs out there, so you can easily stack it on top of a Young MK III DAC from M2 Tech, without having to worry about either breaking or heating up. I may be comparing Brooklyn DAC+ to Milo quite a lot, but if we're being honest about it, I have used the DAC+ more as a DAC to feed Milo than I can really count.


Overall, Milo is an excellent desktop Amplifier and you shouldn't have any issues using and enjoying it.



Comparisons


For the comparisons part of this review, I have chosen and will be comparing Milo to Mytek Brooklyn DAC+, Luxman P-750u, and iBasso DX220 + AMP7. I know the prices and the design of those devices isn't exactly the same, but I got a lot of requests to do those comparisons, especially because people are considering options that sometimes are different in design entirely, for example many folks using DX220 as the main DAC in their high-end system.



Wells Milo vs Luxman P750U - Why not start with an interesting comparison, I said to myself. It should be noted that I do not own the Luxman, and a friend let me use it for this review, so I won't be able to do a full in-depth review about it for the moment, but in the near future I may be planning to do an article on it, along with iFi's iPro series. Either way, when it comes to the sound, the P750u is more solid, has a tendency to also be organic and rich, but it is also brighter, with a stronger sparkle in the top end, without being harsh. The Luxman is better suited for metal music, and for those looking for a more impactful presentation, where Milo is more musical, softer, and more liquid. If anything, the Luxman is more detailed, but Milo surely sounds more lean and musical, easier to enjoy for the sake of listening to music, where the Luxman, technically superior, isn't quite as fluid as Milo, and it feels like I'm comparing the character of RAD-0 from Rosson, which would be the Milo, and the more analytic He6SE from HIFIMAN. I love both, but for very different reasons, and each works best for a certain scenario.

Wells Milo vs DX220 + AMP7 - So, why not compare Milo with a portable solution? I actually got a ton of requests for this comparison, probably because everyone noticed how much I like DX220 with AMP7, so it is time to see how the two compare. From the start, you're hit with a different tonal balance, AMP7 is actually rather analytic, bright-ish and kinda open in the upper midrange and the treble. AMP7 is not thick, and not very fluid either, and not very rich. The more I compare them, the more it feels like DX220 would be better used with its AMP9, which sounds tube-like, well, because it has real tubes inside. Either way, Milo feels thicker, more fluid, warmer, more organic, more rich and more musical in comparison. In terms of details, and I won't lie, I can't say which has better details, but I am not really searching for the utmost detail here, but for the most enjoyable of the two, and if you're listening to softer music, then Milo is surely going to hit a sweet spot for you.

Wells Milo vs Mytek Brooklyn DAC+ - Mytek Brooklyn DAC+ is a worthy opponent for Milo, because not only it has a very good price, and also has one of the best DACs around inside, but also has an excellent headphone output, being one of my favorites. The tonal balance is slightly different, both are detailed and clear, but Milo is more fluid, where DAC+ is more crispy. DAC+ feels more holographic, has more emphasis on the treble, where Milo is softer, has less grain, and sounds thicker, and warmer, but also less expanded spatially, where DAC+ feels like its soundstage is wider. In terms of details, they are comparable, but I feel that Milo has a touch more detail and clarity when compared directly, but that's not an issue, considering that Milo is just the Amplifier, and for this test I used DAC+ as the DAC for this system.



Pairing

Wells Milo pairs beautifully with anything, but for this review in particular I have chosen Kennerton Thror, HIFIMAN HE6SE, and Verum One as the main headphones I'll be pairing Milo with.



Wells Milo + HIFIMAN He6SE - This is one of the most interesting, and polarizing pairings, because He6SE has a very specific character that some loved in its default shape, a bit bright, very detailed, clean, and with a musical midrange, while some tried to change, to a more smooth and thick sound. The thing is, Milo actually changes the sound of HE6SE, and where with something like the Mytek Brooklyn DAC+, I would most of times hear a brighter, more punchy, harder and colder sound, with Milo HE6Se is warmer, smoother, more musical and has a much easier character. This compliments Jazz, Classical and other musical styles quite well, but it doesn't compliment Metal or Rock music quite that much, so you should make sure you're getting Milo for the right reasons.

Wells Milo + Verum One - Verum One is a headphone that's been loved and admired by many, and while we talk about it, it is a headphone that's really affordable. You could simply decide to get one, and just get one, but the surprises only begin after you decide to get a Verum One, because it scales beautifully with better amplifiers and DACs, and with Milo you can totally see what you'd want to call a perfect match, as Verum One not only sounds rich, they sound impactful and well controlled, the treble is soft-ish and ear-friendly, and with this pairing shines with literally any musical style.

Wells Milo + Kennrton Thror - Thror is a beautiful headphone both on the inside, as in, sonically, but also on the outside, the guys at Kennerton and Fischer Audio having designed something of true beauty and pleasing aesthetics. In terms of sound, this pairing is very fluid, clean, but also impactful and deep. The treble is pretty soft and easy, and the bass extents nicely in the sub-lows, where you can not only hear, but also feel how good Milo is at powerting the Thror, but then again, Thror doesn't require quite that much power, so you shouldn't be amazed that Milo drives them very well, and with ease.




Value and Conclusion


When we consider the value of Wells Milo, we start to take into account the design of it, and its real price. I have been reviewing the upgraded version, which includes the Khozmo, and which is priced at about 2200 USD. Overall, if you're looking for a top-of-the-shelf Headphone Amplifier (you can also use Milo as a Desktop Amplifier for your speakers, if you have speakers that require little power, like high-end ones), then Milo makes an excellent choice, especially if you grew bored with having to pick from the more harsh and hard nature of most Solid State Amplifiers, or the beautiful, yet sometimes muddy nature of Tube Amplifiers. Well, Milo manages to combine the best of both worlds, and to give you one of the most interesting Amplifiers for its money.



Starting with the package, there is almost no package to talk about, and Milo comes pretty naked, but you're most probably going to want to use your own selection of cables, and other accessories, so Milo surely is enough, and the bright side, it is well seated in its package, it is protected nicely during shipping, and I couldn't complain at all about the way it is presented, so the guys at Wells audio surely impressed me.

The aesthetics and build quality are also top notch, and the unit itself is serviceable, especially if you want to take a look inside, as I did during this review, so don't worry, an easily serviceable unit, combined with the skillful work of the guys at Wells Audio resulted in a very strong and well built Amplifier. It doesn't get hot, it doesn't bother while it is on your desk, and if you enjoy the aesthetic of Milo looking a bit like a device from a parallel universe, with those coolers that look like gills, then you're going to have a truly awesome time using it.



The sound is a gentle, clean, rich, organic one, that is different from what most people expect from an Amplifier in this price range. In fact, everything about Milo is slightly different that my personal expectations, Milo doesn't sound dry nor too crispy, but it isn't boomy nor too thick, it is what I'd call truly rich, organic and musical, Milo doesn't beg you to hear its technical ability, and Milo doesn't lag behind the competition, it simply plays music skillfully and with a soft side for the artistic.



Before reaching the final conclusion, Milo will enter Audiophile-Heaven's Hall Of Fame for providing music lovers from all over the world with a truly effortless device, one that plays music instead of analysing it, and a device that's made for your ears, and nothing else.



At the end of this review, if you are looking for an Amplifier that will manage to keep you entertained, an amplifier that has the power to drive any headphone under the sun, and which has both 6.3mm and XLR outputs, which has a very beautiful design, and which comes with a reliable warranty, you should totally consider Wells Milo as your next top-of-the-shelf Amplifier, as I'm quite sure it will bring a lot of fun to you!



Full Playlist used for this review

While we listened to considerably more songs than those named in this playlist, those are excellent for identifying certain aspects of the sound, like PRaT, Texturization, Detail, Resolution, Dynamics, Impact, and overall tonality. We recommend trying most of the songs from this playlist, especially if you're searching for new most, most of them being rather catchy.



Youtube Playlist


https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL_cjBXGmwSHSdGcwuc_bKbBDGHL4QvYBu



Tidal Playlist


https://listen.tidal.com/playlist/64555551-ec3c-4279-ae44-248fdfcf6c4b



Song List


Bats - Gamma Ray Burst: Second Date
Eskimo Callboy - Frances
Incubus - Summer Romance
Electric Six - Dager! High Voltage
Kishida Cult - High School Of The Dead
Dimmu Borgir - Dimmu Borgir
Breaking Benjamin - I Will Not Bow
Thousand Foot Krutch - The Flame In All Of Us
Gorillaz - Feel Good Inc.
Infected Mushroom - Song Pong
Attack Attack - Kissed A Girl
Doctor P - Bulletproof
Maximum The Hormone - Rock n Roll Chainsaw
Rob Zombie - Werewolf, Baby!
Escape The Fate - Gorgeous Nightmare
SOAD - Chop Suey
Ken Ashcorp - Absolute Territory
Machinae Supremacy - Need For Steve
Ozzy Osbourne - I Don't Wanna Stop
Crow'sclaw - Loudness War
Eminem - Rap God
Stromae - Humain À L'eau
Sonata Arctica - My Selene
Justin Timberlake - Sexy Back
Metallica - Fuel
Veil Of Maya - Unbreakable
Masa Works - Golden Japang
REOL - Luvoratorrrrry
Dope - Addiction
Korn - Word Up!
Papa Roach - ... To be Loved
Fever The Ghost - Source
Fall Out Boy - Immortals
Green Day - Know The Enemy
Mindless Self Indulgence - London Bridge
A static Lullaby - Toxic
Royal Republic - Addictive
Astronautalis - The River, The Woods
We Came As Romans - My Love
Skillet - What I Believe
Man With A Mission - Smells Like Teen Spirit
Yasuda Rei - Mirror
Mojo Juju - Must Be Desire
Falling Up - Falling In Love
Manafest - Retro Love
Rodrigo Y Grabriela - Paris
Zomboy - Lights Out
Muse - Resistance
T.A.T.U & Rammstein - Mosaku
Grey Daze - Anything, Anything
Katy Perry - Who Am I Living For
Maroon 5 - Lucky Strike
Machinae Supremacy - Killer Instinct
Pendulum - Propane Nightmares
Sirenia - Lithium And A Lover
Saving Abel - Addicted
Hollywood Undead - Levitate
The Offspring - Special Delivery
Escape The Fate - Smooth
Samsara Blues Experiment - One With The Universe
Dope - Rebel Yell
Crazy Town - Butterfly
Silverstein - My Heroine
Memphis May Fire - Not Over Yet


I hope my review is helpful to you!


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Hey All,

The review below can also be found on my blog, at www.headphonesnstuff.blog : )



Hi Guys,

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 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.



Bass

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.

Mids

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.

Treble

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.

Technicalities

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.



Combinations

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!

Comparisons



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.

Conclusion

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!
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Pros: Powerful, clean sound, compact chassis
Cons: Love it or hate it design, limited features/accessories
Bulldozer power packed inside a motorcycle body?



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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.


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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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