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First Watt SIT-1 Mono Power Amplifiers Review

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My first impression of the SIT-1s was that this was one of the few amps of any type that had the same kind of magical immediacy, transparency, and alive sound as my Wavac EC-300B. I was really shocked that in these areas it sound more like the Wavac than many tube amps I have reviewed including other SET amps. In fact, this fact made it hard for me to listen critically to the amp. It was far easier to just sit back and spin tunes for the fun of it.

Another thing I begin to notice early on in listening to these amps is how controlled they sound. By this I don’t mean a lack of dynamics, though they aren’t quite as dynamic as the Wavac EC-300B, but the ability to get really big or really loud without losing control. For example on Ella and Louie, Louie’s trumpet swells, comes to life, and gets very loud without a hint of glare or edge. Another example is Nancy Bryan’s voice on “Neon Angel” which swells, comes to life, but also sounds really under control. It took me some time to decide if this was a plus or minus, but in the end it was a bit of a minus to me. To others it could easily be a plus, but to me I prefer the raw aliveness of the Wavac.

I think one of the things that leads to this controlled sound is the consequence of the almost unbelievable low noise floor of the SIT-1s, combined with the Soundsmith Strain-Gauge cartridge. This combo produces by far and away the quietest background I have heard from any audio system. It is also quiet in another way: Even if I put my ear where it is almost touching the speaker I cannot tell any difference when its on or off. That’s amazing considering my speakers are 103dB sensitive.

As I lived with the amps I begin to consistently notice another attribute that is probably also related to the control I just talked about. That attribute is how relaxed music sounded on my system using the SIT-1s. This sound reminds me of the first time I heard music played by the Shindo 301 turntable with its wonderful 12-inch tonearm.

Let’s go back and talk about those bias controls again. The SIT-1 manual bias control allows the user some measure to tune the amps. You can choose to favor 2nd order harmonics, roundness and warmth, or what most people think of as the sound of SETs. If you turn the knob the other way it sounds faster with better definition. With this control you can get closer to the tube-like note decay, though not quite to the same degree as the very elite SETs. It will surprise many that I preferred the faster, more defined setting. The reason that may be surprising is that many have never heard an SET with the speed, impact, and transparency of the Wavac EC-300B.

Overall, the SIT-1s are highly musical and emotionally involving. They render detail in an exquisite way that never left me feeling that I was missing anything, but there wasn’t as much space around those details. There was a beautiful simplicity and pureness to its tone. The SIT-1s excelled at harmonics and allowing the tonal colors of instruments and voices to come into my room. Female vocals were produced with all the beauty I am used to in my reference system, and male vocals had a warmer tonal color and as well as being more fleshed out. This was also true of strings; both violin and acoustic basses were full bodied with a sweet delicate sound to the violin and a strong leading edge to the bass. With both instruments there was plenty of air and decay.

The SIT-1 is a very seductive sounding amp, it possess the kind of depth that lets you hear deep into the emotion of the music. This is something that is so important in live music, but rarely heard in recorded music. This is another attribute it shares with 300B SET amps.

The top end of the SIT-1 was extended, open, airy and as I mentioned above it was well controlled. This top end is partially responsible for the fine detail and the tightly focused spatial presentation my system had with the SIT-1s in my system. I did not find the top end to be any more extended than the Wavac EC-300B, but maybe this is because I used them only with single driver speakers.

The bass lines of music were reproduced warmly, fully, and with good harmonics. The timbre of the bass seemed very good and the colors of the music came through in the bass notes. The bass is not the quickest or tightest I have heard, but in no way was it slow or the least bit fat. I found the bass to be very true to the music; it had a fundamental rightness. It allows music to have beautiful, full decay that lets you hear different layers of the timber of the instruments. The end result is an amp that lets you listen to music and often forget the equipment.

The SIT-1s allowed my system to convey a seamless, coherent soundstage. Those of you who read my reviews know I’d rather talk about scale, depth, and space than pinpoint imaging or how exciting it is to hear a voice or an instrument coming from a foot or two outside the speakers. The reason for this is that when I go to hear live music, which I do often, I seldom hear a soundstage or pinpoint imaging.

Like my Wavac, the First Watts give you all of this and more. They let you hear the size of an instrument. You can hear the swell as a horn gets both louder and larger because the musician keeps putting the horn closer and closer to the mic. These amps also give you all of any audiophile could want in image width and depth. The good thing is they do this in a way that did not distract me from the musical experience.

One Response to First Watt SIT-1 Mono Power Amplifiers Review

  1. Peter says:

    Hi Jack
    I really liked your review of the First Watt SIT-1 , I thought it was so good that I would like to purchase a pair of the First Watt SIT-1`s or even a First Watt SIT-2 for myself , do you know anyone who has a used pair for sale , Nelson Pass has discontinued production of them ( Ran out of the SIT parts from the large lot he purchased ) . Please get back to me and let me know .

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