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Were the J2 a tube amp, we'd see its output device on deck. There'd be fluster around the globe, for spotting a tube nobody had ever seen before in audio. For argument's sake, call it a 400C to 'decimal shift' the famous 300B. With the J2—and all transistor amps for that matter—there's rarely any excitement over the output device.

To most audiophiles, transistor is a generic term. It's never questioned for more detail. But clapping ears on a J2 is an occasion. It's akin to a wine connoisseur uncorking the first bottle of a promising new harvest. Or a car stud getting behind the wheel of an exotic beast for the first time. Where do you go to pop your cherry? What cut of music do you pick?

First, a quick peek under the bonnet. To the naked eye, the novel SemiSouth device looks no different than other transistors. The amp meanwhile seems simplicity itself. It begs a serious question. If this is all it takes to make first-class sound, why do other amps drive up their parts count something fierce? Clearly simplicity that works like a charm is a lot harder to achieve than complexity which is operational.

Those wanting to roll their own J2, exactly, have to suffer the consequences of prior abusers.

"The schematics of the J2 will be released when production ceases. I'm tired of the commercial clones using my trademarks claiming to be accurate reproductions." Being generous can invite abuse and exploitation. That's likely why the J2's front panel now has the added 'by Nelson Pass' line. Everyone knew all along that FirstWatt was synonymous with the man. But spelling it out should make it all the more embarrassing for cloners to hawk 'based on' amplifiers as the real thing.

Even though this would be my first time hearing this particular Power JFET, I wasn't the first to hear it. Others equally curious had asked questions of those who had already heard it. This naturally meant the original group of DIYers invited to Nelson's. Being laconic and to the point as ever, the maestro put it "between the F5 and F3, more relaxed than the former, with more control and dynamics than the latter". Vladimir was more loquacious. "It is a very good question since I was just getting ready to start work on the F3 before I visited Mr. Pass. My particular intended application was to replace my Aleph 30 that is driving Raal ribbons. Not that I have to since that amp performs so well in that place but I needed to find some reason to get my iron burning. Based on other people's opinions, I was thinking that the F3 would be the right choice. Obviously, my interest in this case was solely about the top end.

"During the listening session, the F3 sounded just like a tube amp. I think I never heard an amp so tube-like. Great liquid mids yet very nicely defined sound, not too loose or wooly. The top end sounded nice but was not too pronounced. Then we played the J2 and I was blown away by the beauty of its sound. Awesome mids and the top end was just like a dream, the closest possible treble to the Aleph there is.

"It is hard to find anything even remotely close to the Aleph's top end but the J2 is similar. There is that great tone to it, some kind of openness that's not metallic and not forced but clean and natural. My feeling is that it has a better sound than the Aleph, more rounded and with better mids as well..."

Having never lived with an Aleph, I cannot comment. That makes Vladimir's specific feedback all the more useful. Owing to two F4s and one F5 in my possession however, I most certainly can tell you how they compare to the J2.

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