By Josh Emmons
Truth be told, I am not deep enough into this whole high-end audio game to reliably tease out attributes from the front-end of a system. Yet even I have two things I can say without hesitation about Wells Audio‘s headphone amps: they’re punchy as hell, and I can’t believe they’re not tubes.
The Headtrip is an absolute beast, effortlessly driving some HE-560s through all sorts of dynamic wonderlands with the quick tightness I expect of solid-state amps. But its the fullness of tone and especially rich bass that truly set it apart.
Which is not to give short shrift to the Enigma, because to my (admittedly imprecise) ears, it has pretty much all the character of its older brother. If I had to try to pin it down (and seeing as you’re reading this, I suppose I do), I’d say the Headtrip’s sound is a bit more refined than the Enigma. But given its $3,300 discount, the Enigma is one hell of a deal.
For me, though, the more interesting thing at play here with Wells Audio is the business model. Something that, frankly, isn’t always of primary concern to audiophiles or the companies that serve them.
Jeff Wells says the next flagship product he’d like to add to his lineup is a preamp. But instead, we see the Enigma, a repurposing of the Headtrip design with some economical tweaks. After a few more tweaks, Jeff hopes to release an integrated based on it. After that, maybe an entry-level headphone amp.
All of this building off of work originally done to make the Headtrip — which is, itself, a scaled down Innamorata. Wells Audio uses every piece of the buffalo, leaving nothing on the table, taking nothing for granted.
This thoughtful, considered economy is the mark of a great engineer. And great engineering is apparent in everything Wells Audio makes. Even to my novice ears.
- Wells Audio Headtrip: $7,000
- Wells Audio Enigma: $3,699