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. 







thanks for the smile!

I mentioned it,…I prematurely returned a CD player after only a week, I should have listened when Yoda spoke.

Owned many First Watt amplifiers but not f7. I had the best synergy using a tube preamplifier with them. But f7 isn't best used that way. Why it didn't appeal to me. Of all the first-watt amps I owned my F3 seemed to be the one that I enjoyed most.


@J_Andrews, if you decide to go with the F7, then I recommend sending your preamp back to AVA to change the output impedance to 47 ohms.

My Van Alstine FET Valve CF tube preamp has an output impedance of around 100 ohms per Frank Van Alstine.   I called him to discuss pairing this preamp with the F7's low input impedance and his response was no problem.   He  was right, the AVA preamp/F7 pair sound better than the same preamp with several tube amps that I've tried driving my Klipsch Cornwall IVs.


I own the Fritz Carbon 7SE MK2 and use it with the Pass Xa25. I would think they would be great with the F7 as well, even considering the differences between the two amps. 

I believe your issue is the impedance of the AVA preamp. As stated above have Frank reduce the output impedance on it. 

thanks @smatsui & @mesch

Definitely will consider.

As I understand it, apparently what he would do on this particular pre-amp is wire the output of the headphone output to one of the 2 pre-amp out jack pairs on the back of the unit.

This would yield a buffered 47Ohm output.

It would be coming directly off two T.I. LME49600 current buffers which are in turn coming directly off the output of the tube lineage.

Another option is just to find an appropriate pre-amp for the F7.

@mesch , how do you like your Carbon 7SE mk2 with the XA25? What pre are you using there?

I bought my pair directly from Fritz this past summer and think the speakers are pretty outstanding and it’s only very rarely when I’m playing pretty complex maximalist music, do I feel that things are getting a little out of control.  By and large they present as much larger and in-charge than their size would imply.  Also the stereo image and depth is spectacular.  I sometimes wish that the phantom image were a little taller.  Not sure if that's related to the speakers or the amp.  Currently they are on 24" stands.  They are great bandmates with the Alstine gear.