My experience with the First Watt F7

I think that many of us have a mental list of components and speakers we would like to try if circumstances and finances allow, and I'm no different. My finances are more limited than many members, but within my means I have been able to try quite a few different things over the years.

About six weeks ago I saw an ad for an F7 in great condition and having efficient speakers, it had been on my wish list to try not only because it was made for speakers just like mine, but also because I had never read a negative review of it or any of the other First Watt amps.

I want to say here that I have a lot of respect for Nelson Pass as a innovative designer and a businessman, and I once had a very positive experience with Pass Labs on a service issue. The reason that I am writing this brief review is because one member who knew that I had bought it had requested my impressions, and I am also curious to know the impressions and experiences of others here who may have owned this amp.

When I first received it, I gave ir a couple of hours to warm up. I sat down to listen, and initial impressions were good, but not great. There was good clarity in the mids and treble region, and stage width was very good but not better than what I was accustomed to. I noticed two negatives on the second day. The first was that the perceived size of instrumental images, for instance Stan Getz's sax, were 15-20% smaller. That wasn't a deal breaker, just an observation. I also noted that the timbre/tone of the sax, as well as other wind instruments and strings was not as natural sounding as I am used to.

Three days in, I was listening from the next room while working, and by now I knew that there was something else about the presentation that was more serious that was bothering me. I stopped what I was doing and put on a couple of specific songs to test a hunch, and that is when I identified the problem. The amp had no "flow", and even though individual instruments were well separated and clear sounding, nothing hung together like a real group playing together. Each instrument sounded like a separate event that didn't relate to the others. I had never had this experience before, but once I identified it, I couldn't "unhear" it. I also noticed at that time that electric guitars sounded different and less authentic than they had on other tube and solid state amps I have owned.

Finally, and this was surprising, the bass was noticeably opaque and lacking detail. I sat there in front of it listening one day, and I thought that if I was young again, and new to audio, this would probably be an amp that would impress me. 

I sold it within two weeks, confident that it was not the amp for me, but grateful that I had the opportunity to try one for myself.

I would like to hear the experiences of others familiar with the F7. 




i realize that all of the First Watt amps have different topologies and semiconductors and from what I've read they all sound different. It was a little unsettling that th professional reviews that I read didn't seem to mention any negatives with the F7. I guess that different ears hear differently, but I owned another solid state class A integrated that didn't sound this way at all.

For sure, I'd never write off the FW amps in general, amp/speaker synergy so important.


I've been extremely interested in the AGD's as well, seen some nice reviews from folks I trust.

@roxy54 i completely get your disappointment with the F7 in your system and in no way wish to challenge your observations. Many reviews are suspect , especially those that involve a well known and well respected designer or brand. You heard what you heard…


my comment was not intended to be accusatory but, rather, preventative.

No problem whatsoever. Written text is harder to assess intent sometimes in comparison to the spoken word. 👍

There is no doubt that some have  moved from tube/SET to First Watt amplifiers just as the converse holds true.