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 run KT 66s currently in my Dennis Had Inspire Firebottle HO, and have successfully used 77s (a fave), 88s, 120s, 7581s, and even 150s...all work well, although they don’t make much sound while the amp sadly sits on a shelf...*sniff*...also, I use Heresy IIIs only as the IVs were sent away due to midrange insubordination. The Had amp is allegedly "High Output" (depending on tubes, but 12 to 17 watts maybe?) and drives the supposed 99db Heresy IIIs without breaking a sweat. Less efficient speakers allow it to hit its limits...I use 2 REL subs so that helps everything (still running the Had full range). I’ve not had the chance to hear any Quicksilver amp but they seem to have a great reputation, but the XA25 is so amazingly clear, sweet, coherent, revealing, and powerful that it amazes me every day. Sounds great right away but the one hour warm up works magic.


Yes, it could well be that it was just the wrong thing for my system.

Interested experience. What I could agreed on for sure is the fact that to much instruments separation could be annoying and could lead to dismembered sound picture of musical peace. 

@roxy54 I tried and resold a special edition amp a year ago that many raved about in their system yet it was nothing special in my setup. Was glad to pass it along for someone else to give it a go hoping for them they could find some kind of synergy.  

@roxy54 synergy with the rest of your components, your speakers and your room, plus your preference for sound is what’s important. If the amp didn’t gel there for you with it all, then move on. Sometimes when you change a component you may expose certain qualities of your other components somewhere else in the chain and it will require other changes to make it work. 
Out of curiosity, what are your source components?

I’ve owned several amplifiers designed by Pass and always liked what they brought to the table. I’m currently using Pass Labs XP-12 preamp and XA30.8 amplifier and like the transparency, vividness and smooth and natural presentation. I never heard the First Watt amps but I’m assuming that to meet the price point sacrifices had to be made. Thanks for posting your thoughts.