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. 





That difference in impedance is really interesting and could have accounted for what heard. Thanks for the information.

Hi @sns  and ​​​​@roxy54 ,

I have a similar experience to you with SS tube Push Pulls and SETs.

SET sounds most natural, real, transparent and it also gives a good bass when it is well designed and used with height sensitivity speakers.

Once I heard Montana EPS speakers with Plinius class A monoblocks in one dealer room. It was a Diana Krall track with a few instruments but each instrument sounded rhythmically disconnected like musicians don’t hear each other.





2 weeks? 

should have let hew play, and warm up at least 6 months.



Reading "lifeless" or "disconnected" sound type of comments and references come up once in a while in different amp threads, makes one wonder why. Solid state or tube. I was always curious wondering how this occurred for some, and not for others. Also, I remember trying an older simpleton preamp from the 70s that made the amps I used sound sort lifeless and un-engaging. Never quite figured out why until years after, while coming across threads similar to this one here.

In most cases, eventual information surfacing about how there was a preamp < > amplifier impedance or input/output voltage mismatch, and/sometimes compounded further when a little bit lower efficiency speakers are involved too. When both scenarios are true at the same type, usually ties back to an unhappy listener selling off some gear, trying again.

One sure can appreciate a good preamp and amp specifically designed and tested to go well together, followed by speakers that are well matched to a particular amplifier. Something I learned to appreciate more after lots of trial and error over the years, only to start looking closer at basic in/out specs and paying closer attention to how things actually sound and components interact with each other.