Anyone running a Firstwatt amp with their BHK pre?

I have my eye on a demo j2. Everyone tells me the Firstwatt J2 will be perfect for my highly efficient ZU Omen Defs. On paper, looks to be a great combo with my BHK Pre using balanced out. Just curious any one here running Firstwatts and their opinions?

J2 balanced & unbalanced input impedance is 100K, which is the same as the BHK300 monoblocks. Should be a great match.

I had a J2 for a couple years and I used a BHK preamp. It’s a perfect combination and I regret selling the J2. btw, I was also using Omen Dirty Weekends.

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Great to hear. What did you replace the J2 with and the sound difference and what you miss with the J2?

I’m currently running a Pass X250.8/BHK preamp/PSA DSD SR/DMP/P20/ZU Soul Supremes.
With exactly this setup, I felt the J2 was slightly more liquid, more “tube-like”, more polite. The J2 had no shortcomings and I could have been eternally happy with it, if I wasn’t a restlessly curious gear-head.
But the 250.8 does everything else better. More weight, definition, clarity. It’s much, much bigger and heavier and it sounds it.

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Was the J2 enough to drive the ZU’s pretty loud or did it seem to Peter out at higher volumes?

Just a comment in general terms, not necessarily only related to the topic put forward by the OP:
The gain in the J2 is only 20dB. The gain from the BHK is officially 3dB when using the unbalanced outputs. In situations where you have inefficient speakers, you might not be able to drive them sufficiently but the ZU’s are quite efficient. I have a Pass Labs XA25 that only has 20dB of gain and using it with the BHK preamp I really need to use a 6922/6DJ8/7DJ8 tube as this offers more gain that the 12AU7 variants. But then again my speakers are only 87.5dB /w/m.

@JMK - yeah, the opposite look at that is having BHK pre and amp and 101dB speakers and how do you attenuate. Understanding your system is vital… love first pass amps… I have SF Guareni EVOs (86dB) and that would concern me going that amp route. My selection of amplification was driven by my love of my EVOs…

Well, that depends on;
How do you define higher volumes? For me 80 db is pretty loud. I don’t listen at high volume.
How big is your room?
How close do you sit to your speakers?
By “peter out”, do you mean distort?
The J2/Zu combination should be able to reach uncomfortable levels without audible distortion.
My 250 watt amp is biased to run in class A up to somewhere around 20 watts. It has never gotten there. A couple times I tried to move the current needle but couldn’t. I’d bet I never use more than a few watts.
At the price that Reno is asking for the J2, I’d say you won’t find a better value. But you have to be into the artistry of First Watt. (And also of Zu). Sean Casey, Nelson Pass, Bascom King, Paul Whatsizname, Ted Smith, good company on your audio rack. Don’t overthink it.

I’ve spent a good amount of time with the XA25 and that’s another one of his magical creations, isn’t it?

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I’m running BHK Pre with First watt SIT3, very musical, my main setup right now, coming from BHK250

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It’s a beauty.

I was looking at the 250 myself. However, it may be overkill for what I really need plus the recent dealer drama. How do you compare the 250 vs the firstwatt chacteristic sound wise? My speakers are 101 db (measured at 96-97 db). My current amp is 85 wpc and I barely have to turn up any volume to get it loud. I plan on using the FW with balanced outputs which is 13 db gain from what I was told (vs 3db rca).

I hope to order this week

The volume is dependent on the gain of the amp, the BHK250 has pretty high gain, so my volume stays below 50 when using it. The SIT-3 has very low gain, my volume is between 60-80 depending on tracks. Not an issue for me, I see it that with SIT-3 I can stay in the best volume region of the BHK Pre.

Sonically, I found SIT-3 to have better bass compared to the BHK250, this makes it more musical for me. BHK250 has wider sound stage, with faster rhythm, crispier overall sound signature. Imaging is better with the SIT-3, may be due to the added lower freq emphasis. I enjoyed both. BHK250 with its high gain may have some noise from high sensitivity speakers though, so be aware with that, it never bothers me as I don’t hear it starting at half way through listening position. I’m running Klipsch Cornwall III.

I used to own J2, but sold it in place for BHK250. At that time I didn’t have the BHK Pre yet, so I can’t comment on the pairing, but the J2 sounded a bit thin to me compared to BHK250. Also at that time I was using a lower efficiency speakers, Tannoy XT-8F. I’m curious how J2 sounds with the Klipsch, but not enough fund now for two First watts.

IMHO, I think if you are to stick with high efficiency speakers, like your Zu Omen Def now, go with the SIT-3.

Here’s a good review comparing SIT-3 to J2, the comparison is pretty much inline with my thinking, it’s just I can’t put in words as succinctly:


The description of J2 of this nice SIT-3 review matches with our experience; We have J2 since Dec. 2017; It works really well with DeVore 3XL (90db, 8 Ohms), and have no problem to drive two REL S3 subs; We used HPA-1 as pre-amp. J2 does have the openness, clarity, resolution, speed and transient that matches with 3XL’s; Room size is a little shy of 400 Square Ft and J2 has no problem to fill the room with music; I don’t have the luxury to compare 3XL with SIT-3 or larger pass amps but would assume larger Pass siblings will bring out thicker mid range and everything else will be bit better;

It is indeed a very musical amp, has that sweetness that reminds me of the old tube amp that I used to have, on the other hand very agile and potent; As a side note, we never experienced any issue with pass products (J2, HPA-1, XP-17), their quality is top notch; I think SIT-3, J2 or F7 are somewhat unique products and really need to carefully pair with speakers with matching or complimenting characteristics to bring out the best sonic quality of both;

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Great info. I think I’m pulling the trigger. I’ll report back

I just pulled the trigger on a J2…I’m very excited to see how the amp works with the BHK Pre. I should receive next week. Others (on other forums) are telling me the Pass Labs XP-10 Preamp is killer with the Firstwatts and the Pass XA25. I chose the J2 due to both balanced and SE inputs. The Voltage gain of the J2 is around 20DB. So using the balanced outputs of the BHK, my total gain will be around 33db which is 5db less than my current STA200/BHK (rca) combo, thus eliminating the need for an attenuator in the chain. The passive pre between BHK and amp is set around 3db lower to lessen the super loud tube hiss.

I’ll report back with my findings.


I’ve had the J2 running over the past 24 hours. Simply the best amp I have ever heard in my system Smooth, loud, 3d imaging and zero noise. Plus…deeeep low end. I’m so glad I made the decision to go Pass/Firstwatt. The amp is built like a tank. Maybe after the new year, I may ask for a loaner PASS pre amp to try and compare to the BHK.


I had a J2 and loved it. I used it with a BHK pre and also a Pass XP-20. Both were excellent. With the Pass pre, they were absolutely silent.
The J2 also sounded great with no preamp, just the DSD SR.

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I have DSj and contemplating getting a J2. Connecting them using balanced
cables, no pre-amp for headphone Audeze LCD-3 only. Currently using Bryston
HP amp and quite satisfied, but the First Watt reputation makes me itch.
Any thoughts?

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