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First Watt F5 Clone arrived yesterday...


whell
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My listening habits - I don't often get a chance to set aside time for the sole purpose of listening to and enjoying music.  However, when I do get the chance, I want to be able to jump in, enjoy, not wait for equipment that might have "warm up time" etc.  

 

Gear - Antelope Zodiac DAC that's fed by PC running Daphile OS, which is a dedicated Linux based OS / music server.  The DAC feeds into a Rotel RC 1090 preamp, and out to the amplifier. Speakers are the RF-5's. 

 

One of my favorite amps so far have been a home-brew EL-84 amp.  Great for listening at low to normal volumes, but tends to be less effective when the kids come down to watch movies with me.   I also have an Audio by Van Alstine Dynaco - updated amp.  Sounds great but not as transparent in the upper registers as the EL-84.

 

Been reading up on Class - A amps.  But finding one that met my other requirements that included fast warm up was not easy, not to mention that the good ones are pricey.   On another site, an individual was selling his own build of this http://www.firstwatt.com/f5.html   This amp is very simple in design and doesn't run real hot like other Class A's might.  Nor does it require much warm up time, and actually sounds quite good within a minute or so of power-on.  

 

The sound so far has caused a bit of a "wow" factor.  Whenever new gear has been plugged into my system over the years, I expected that I might hear something "different".  "Different" doesn't always equate to "better", though sometimes it does.  This is one of those cases where "different" is definitely "better" to my ears.  

 

I've only had this amp for a couple of days.  The focus has been to listen recordings that I'm very familiar with to see what those recordings sound like with the new amp.  What seems to be the primary differences (from either of my other amps) are the following:

 

- Localization of instruments and vocals seems far more precise.  

- Detail retrieval - not just in the treble but across the spectrum - has increased.

- The EL-84's bass has always been a bit pronounced, sometimes in an enjoyable way and sometimes it just seems boomy.  Might be my listening area that contributes to this.  However compared to the EL-84, the First Watt's bass is not as pronounced but is by comparison very accurate.  Bass has detail compared the EL-84.  Compared to the ACA amp, bass has less volume and detail is about equal, with the First Watt has some detail advantage. 

- Compared to the AVA amp, the vocalist steps forward into the room.  Placement of instruments / vocalists seems far more accurate.  It seems far easier to discern details in the recording: the vocalist "p"s popping, sticks tapping the rim of the snare drum or hearing the stick striking the cymbal.  

- Not sure if the F5 clone comes off as "brighter" or if its a characteristic of the amp to be more revealing at all frequencies.  

 

So far, so fun.  :)

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 4/22/2020 at 4:25 PM, whell said:

My listening habits - I don't often get a chance to set aside time for the sole purpose of listening to and enjoying music.  However, when I do get the chance, I want to be able to jump in, enjoy, not wait for equipment that might have "warm up time" etc.  

 

Gear - Antelope Zodiac DAC that's fed by PC running Daphile OS, which is a dedicated Linux based OS / music server.  The DAC feeds into a Rotel RC 1090 preamp, and out to the amplifier. Speakers are the RF-5's. 

 

One of my favorite amps so far have been a home-brew EL-84 amp.  Great for listening at low to normal volumes, but tends to be less effective when the kids come down to watch movies with me.   I also have an Audio by Van Alstine Dynaco - updated amp.  Sounds great but not as transparent in the upper registers as the EL-84.

 

Been reading up on Class - A amps.  But finding one that met my other requirements that included fast warm up was not easy, not to mention that the good ones are pricey.   On another site, an individual was selling his own build of this http://www.firstwatt.com/f5.html   This amp is very simple in design and doesn't run real hot like other Class A's might.  Nor does it require much warm up time, and actually sounds quite good within a minute or so of power-on.  

 

The sound so far has caused a bit of a "wow" factor.  Whenever new gear has been plugged into my system over the years, I expected that I might hear something "different".  "Different" doesn't always equate to "better", though sometimes it does.  This is one of those cases where "different" is definitely "better" to my ears.  

 

I've only had this amp for a couple of days.  The focus has been to listen recordings that I'm very familiar with to see what those recordings sound like with the new amp.  What seems to be the primary differences (from either of my other amps) are the following:

 

- Localization of instruments and vocals seems far more precise.  

- Detail retrieval - not just in the treble but across the spectrum - has increased.

- The EL-84's bass has always been a bit pronounced, sometimes in an enjoyable way and sometimes it just seems boomy.  Might be my listening area that contributes to this.  However compared to the EL-84, the First Watt's bass is not as pronounced but is by comparison very accurate.  Bass has detail compared the EL-84.  Compared to the ACA amp, bass has less volume and detail is about equal, with the First Watt has some detail advantage. 

- Compared to the AVA amp, the vocalist steps forward into the room.  Placement of instruments / vocalists seems far more accurate.  It seems far easier to discern details in the recording: the vocalist "p"s popping, sticks tapping the rim of the snare drum or hearing the stick striking the cymbal.  

- Not sure if the F5 clone comes off as "brighter" or if its a characteristic of the amp to be more revealing at all frequencies.  

 

So far, so fun.  :)

Any new thoughts on this amp? Still liking it?

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On 5/6/2020 at 2:03 AM, Ceptorman said:

Any new thoughts on this amp? Still liking it?

 

The F5 is still killin' it here.  Now I know what the "class A fanboys" have been talking about all this time.  

 

The guy who built this really did a nice job.  The case, and thus the heat sinks, are fairly oversized.  As a result, this particular Class A amp gets warm, but not hot, to the touch.  Unlike my tube amps, I have no concerns about leaving the amp within range of kids who might touch it. 

 

I use it for music only, with an occasional movie.  If the kids want to watch a Star Wars or Marvel Comics movie, I connect one of my other amps so there's no break up or distortion when the movie soundtrack is cranked up and a deep base note accompanies something getting blown up in the movie.  No sub here - the RF-5's don't really need it (though for this reason I often wonder if the RF-5's rating of 99 db efficiency is over-rated. 

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