Joule Electra LA150 MkII or Lamm LL2 Deluxe?

Hi all, I am looking at a new tube preamp in the $2,500 to $4,000 used range, and I could use your help. I have tried many over the past couple of years, and my current short list includes the Joule and the Lamm. I have a wanted ad posted for the Lamm but no response yet. I have read all the stuff on both, and I am not asking for anyone to tell me what to buy, but I am interested in hearing from users about the characteristics of these two preamps, and certainly from any who have compared them directly or owned both. What to you stands out either in a positive or negative way about either of these units and, if you owned one previously, what made you switch to something else. Important to me are quietness, clarity, dynamics, midrange warmth (at least some), and bass depth, texture, and accuracy. Also, regarding the Joule, are the tubes used in that unit available anywhere else other than from Joule, and are they known for being rugged and quiet? My virtual system is accurately posted, except I am using a Zoe preamp and Cary 500MB monos, instead of the Vibe&Pulse and DNA500 shown. Thanks - Tim
I have owned both I have chosen the Joule 150 MKII. They are both excellent but I prefer the Joule because it has remote control, one volume control, and I feel produces a bigger soundstage. I have no idea if the tubes are available elsewhere but I don't think there is any tube rolling to do and the should last 10,000 hours. I also preferred the Joule to the CAT SL1 and Placette Active. Truth is I don't think you go wrong with any of these - to some extent it might depend on the amps you want to end up using. If I had a warmish tube amp, I would proabably go with the Placette Active.
Thanks Pubul57. I appreciate the comments. I plan to stay with the Cary monos so I will be running SS amps with whatever preamp I end up with. After owning two preamps without remotes, the Atma-Sphere MP3 then the Tom Evans Vibe/Pulse, I have found I am generally satisfied to set a volume level for whatever CD I am listening to, so remote is not really necessary. I am curious how Joule implements the remote? Do they simply use something like the Alps motorized potentiometer? If so, do you know whether Joule offers an alternative such as a stepped attenuator? Maybe I should call Joule directly for an answer to that one.
I currently have the Joule LAP 150 II and I cannot recommend it highly enough. I have never listened to the Lamm and so cannot make a direct comparison. The Joule is very quiet, but also very dynamic. Everything just sounds so right - highly musical, analogue sounding. Midrange has a you-are-there quality, treble is extended without being harsh sounding and bass is full. I do like the remote - I have a First sound Presence Deluxe Mk II which is another terrific pre but it lacks a remote and I found that I missed the convenience. Good luck - it sounds like you are choosing between two very excellent pre's and probably cannot go wrong.
I liked the dual volume controls on my Lamm LL2 Deluxe because they effectively became a balance control. Wish I hadn't sold mine, but my system configuration changed, and the sale became necessary.

I'd sure like to hear the Joule. Everyone seems to love it.
Mitch2, it is really going to be difficult to get a defintive answer as they truly are both excellent preamps. In my case, I chose the Joule because I thought it provided a bit more body (coloration?) with my CAT amp and Merlin speakers which are uber neutral - so the Joule simply gave a bit more tonal richness. Unfortunately, I think the choice is based on ergonomics, price, and the matching amplifier. As Kjo says, in you in good company with either IMHO. I agree with Tvad on the balance control aspect of the Lamm, but of course, the Joule does have a balance control.
I have heard an LL2 in a system I know a bit about and had a Joule 100 mk2 in my system. IMO, the Joule is superior. I can't give you a critical description but I know that it did not come off well vs the lower priced Aesthetix line stage, or 2 other higher priced units (Doshi and VAC Ren M2). Since I had the Joule and the Ren in my system at various times, I know which one I would pick. Maybe its very system dependent, because people whose opinion I respect seem to like it.
Mitch2,the recommendations listed above are certainly valid.
The posters have excellent systems and I am sure able to hear differences between the line stages.
I sold my Joule 100 MK3 when I heard a Shindo L.
I eventually sold the Shindo and have been searching for a line stage.The other day I made my choice.The Lamm LL2.
In almost every way it is the best i have heard in my system.
It does lack a bit of the Shindo's magical mid's,but surpass'it in tonal accuracy,bass definition,soundstage depth and width etc.
This is in my room with my components and bias'
Try to listen to a Joule or Lamm.You may be surprised
Good luck in your quest

I just want to add that from all reports, the Joule 150 MKII (and MKII is important) is a step from the Joule 100s. The MKI is viewed as very neutral, a bit too much in the sense of being a bit lean (which can be a good thing depending on you amp and speakers); the MKIIs - well, just read HPs review in TAS, I think he gets it right.
I agree with all the above responses. Haven't heard the Lamm but I have had the Joule LAP-100, then upgraded to the 150, then sold that and bought a Joule LAP-150 MKII. The P means it has a phono stage. It is an amazing preamp and I am very happy with it. I have also had in my system a few years ago a Convergent which I had upgraded a few times. Right now I am not looking for another preamp. Maybe a new turntable and arm but then aren't we always looking for something new?
Donaudio, how is the phono stage in the Joule?
Thanks again everyone, it seems I have zeroed in on two excellent preamps in the middle-upper price range, each with loyal followers. After owning a fully decked out Atma-Sphere MP3 and the Vibe/Pulse, I must say I am partial to stepped attenuators instead of potentiometers like the Alps used in the Joule. In fact that is my main sticking point about trying the Joule - that the Alps blue will limit performance to nothing better than the Zoe I am using now. I plan to contact Jud Barber today to see if he uses another type of volume control, or if he would retrofit a stepped attenuator into a LA150-2. I do see a LA100 MkII for sale here that appears to have some type of stepped attenuator and was apparantly modified by a former Joule technician, and I also seem to remember something about them having a different volume control option if remote is not needed, so maybe there is a chance.

The LL2 uses two Alps "Black Beauty" potentiometers, but I cannot find anything out there about that particular model, except maybe it is discontinued. I read in one review article that it is a stepped attenuator, but have not seen that anywhere else and my recollection is that it is simply their top-of-the-line potentiometer. My concern is that in the case of the Lamm, steps were somehow added, but it is still simply a potentiometer.

The only other preamp on my radar at this time is the Herron. I like what I hear about the new VTSP-3, being a more fleshed-out version of the VTSP-2, and I would be willing to try out the VTSP-2 since Herron offers an upgrade to the VTSP-3 for only the difference in price between the two - very cool for a company to do.

Again, thanks guys. I don't know why the preamp position has been so hard for me to fill in my system. I plan to try one of the ones listed above, although if I cannot find anything much better, I will simply stay with the Zoe, which is making a remarkably good show of itself.
I think it is the hardest piece in the system to get right for all of us. P.S. CAT SL1s have stepped attentuators.
I am now on my thirteenth preamp.I have changed more preamps then any other component in my system.I do think the Lamm LL2 Deluxe is something special though.But everyones tastes are slightly different.I guess thats why Howard Johnson made so many different flavors
Mitch, I don't know if I'd get too concerned about the Alps pot in the Joule. From what I remember, the pot varies the resistance to ground, so it doesn't directly see the signal. I'd have to look at my La100 manual, but I seem to remember that Jud too great pains to keep the signal path pure.
You might want to try a Pot-in-a-Box by Music Reference/RAM Labs. It is a $135 passive using a high quality Noble pot (the same one used in by Audio Research in the old days)and it will suprise you how darn good it is compared with some of the active pres out there; I say that having owned some of the finest. You should try it and compare it with your active preamp experiments. Assuming the right sesitivity and input impedance on your amp...well, let's just say you'll think it is a really, really good deal.
Thanks Rsrex, if I remember from building some voltage dividers a year or so ago, the shunt implementation sends the signal through a single resistor with variable resistance to ground resulting in variable attenuation. Sure enough, I looked it up and found,

Def. Shunt Attenuator - "A device made up of one fixed resistor and many shunting resistors soldered to ground and the means of selecting one shunting resistor at a time."

However, in the case of the Joule, which creates the variable shunt to ground through a pot instead of "many shunting resistors," I am not clear on whether sending the positive signal through that one resistor, and the pot side to ground, actually takes the pot out of play sonically.

What I also don't understand is why the designers don't simply use a stepped attenuator on preamps in the price range of the Joule or Lamm, since the stepped attenuator is generally considered a higher sonic quality device, and especially since Goldpoint or DACT surface mount device (SMD) stepped attenuators are generally quite inexpensive. Oh well, probably a good thing I don't design preamps, I would probably go broke trying to build one I liked. BTW, I cannot believe 67 people have viewed my wanted posting for the LL2, with no offers to sell - what are these folks reading?
BTW, I cannot believe 67 people have viewed my wanted posting for the LL2, with no offers to sell - what are these folks reading?
Mitch2 (System | Threads | Answers)
It's the same thing as drivers slowing to look at the accident on the side of the road.
A little further poking around led me to the Welborne Labs site, who offer a remote controlled shunt volume control, and they say,
"Extensive listening tests here at the Labs has convinced us that the 'material composition' of the shunt resistance is not nearly as critical as that of the series resistor in the signal path...What IS important, is the shunt resistance must be low noise and linear over a very wide bandwidth to insure an accurate voltage division."
I guess that more or less answers my question.
Some people (myself included) cannot live with the "steps" in a stepped attenuator, esp. if the pre-amp itself is a high gain device. It was always too load or too soft.
Good one Grant.
To update this thread, I have purchased the Joule Electra LA150 MkII and I am currently giving that a run in my system. My unit is an upgraded MkI, and Jud Barber says there is no difference between that and an original MkII. My first impression is of exceptional clarity and dynamics. This preamp absolutely does not run out of steam at any level. It never breaks up, and never sounds shrill, grainy or lean. However, it does seem a bit more in the neutral camp than I expected. However, this is compared to my former TEAD Vibe/Pulse and my other current preamp the Lector Zoe, both of which are known for having a rich presentation, and perhaps being a bit "dark." The Joule is not dark. It plays what is there, but somehow without a "warts and all" presentation. You get detail and dynamics, without highlighting flaws on lesser recordings. It is very musical. Although I do not have much experience with this preamp yet, I believe its strength may be in the more than ample power reserves and the linearity of the tubes used. It does not candy-coat the music, but it does sound beautiful.

I understand one of the upgrades (or changes) from MkI to MkII involved changing out the internal Purist wire for Cardas wire. It seems the silver wire may have been too much of a good thing, and may have limited the full rich sound that many found desirable in the LA100 preamp. Following that trend, I removed some Purist interconnects that contained silver from the Joule to my amp, and replaced them with pure copper interconnects I had around here (Sonoran). To me, the pure copper wire sounds best with this preamp. I may consider going back to Cardas interconnects or another copper cable that would be a step up from the Sonoran. Any suggestions?

Finally, I still have my wanted ad posted for the Lamm LL2, and plan to purchase one if I find one generally within the A'gon blue book price range. I suspect, from what I have read, that the Lamm may deviate from tonal neutrality (especially compared to the Joule) by being more full and robust in the bass and mid-bass, but I am not a stickler for those things and generally go with what sounds best to me.
Curious Mitch, I was under the impression that the Joule was the reigning champ in the "rich presentation, bass detail & weight camp", that the MKII update was how it got there, and the reason I'm interested in it...please keep us posted.
I owned the LL2 and now own the La-150MKII, and matched with the CAT JL2s and Music Refence RM9 MKII amps it is very rich, with great bass weight and detail, yet also quite transparent - this pre is in no way slow and syrypy - it is comparable to my passive TVC (S&B 102 designed by Kevin Carter) in transparency and speed. I actually can't decide which I prefer between the two, which speaks volumes for the quality of the TVC given it is 1/5th the price. There was quite a gap in time between my Lamm and the Joule so I don't trust my audio memory on that.
Hi Jamnesta, I have had the LA150 MkII up and running for about 5 days now. The only thing I can think of is the preamp simply needed a bit of warm-up to sound its best. The bass is killer, just as described by HP in TAS. I am running from the plate direct output instead of from the Mu follower circuit (this is a simple jumper switch) as recommended by Jud Barber, and I am also running the higher 8dB of gain instead of the typical 4dB, also a jumper adjustment. The preamp is supported on its own feet then on a Zoethecus Z-slab sitting on 4 vibrapods then on an air bladder suspension system. I have a HiFi tuning fuse in it and I am using a 9awg PC with special resonance shielding. After more listening, I put the Zoe back in the system to better note the differences and the Joule definitely digs deeper in the bass. The Zoe has good bass and is dynamic, but in comparison the Joule has bass you feel in your chest. For fun, I put on Morph the Cat and was just about blown out of my chair! Midrange clarity is very good also and soundstaging is wide and deep. I am not sure why I thought the copper IC's were necessary to warm up the presentation, but I put my Purist (Gold,Copper,Silver) IC's back in and it sounds even better - with improved bass definition and sonic improvements across the board, although not too surprising since the Purist cables are much better than the Sonoran's. This is a very good preamp, and very nice looking also. I really like the Standby feature, which keeps things warm but saves tube life. Jud Barber says the tubes in this preamp will last 5 to 10 years with normal use. It is also quiet for a tube preamp. I will provide a further update after I play it some more (maybe I should write a review) and I will also report comparisons to the LL2, if one ever becomes available for sale.
Mitch2, you say " I am running from the plate direct output instead of from the Mu follower circuit (this is a simple jumper switch)" - What does that mean? Is it easy to do? What are the improvements? And, if it is better, why is it not the default setting? Thanks.
The LA150 MKII is up for sale...

That was short lived.

What happened Mitch2?
You got tired of the Joule so fast?

I own the LAP-150 Mk II (recently bought and immediately upgraded from Mk I) and cannot praise it enough.
With my Sonus Faber GP Home and Bryston 4B Pro (yes you heard right) this is the best sound I have heard in my system and one of the best sounds I have heard anywhere even compared to very expensive systems (3-4 times the price of mine).
The Bryston further enhances the great bass and brings some PRAT (for the Bryston my speakers at 90dB are a walk in the park to drive so it is in its element) and together the beauty (Joule) and the beast (Bryston) just do magic.


To Pubul57, I believe that the plate direct output is the default setting, and according to Jud it is the most direct and best sounding. However, the output impedance from the plate direct is 1,200 ohms, which could be too high for amps with low input impedance like my former McCormack DNA 500 (10K ohms). Taken from the Mu follower circuit, the output impedance is only 100 ohms, so would match with just about any amp. Yes these are jumpers inside the preamp that can be owner-adjusted, and it is explained in the owner's manual. There are 4 jumpers in the LA150 MkII, two (one for each channel) to set the output (Mu follower or plate direct) and two to set gain (4dB or 8dB). If you are interested in discussing further, I can send some pictures and would be glad to go over it with you on the phone.

To Tvad and others, its just one of those things along my mythical search for "just the right" preamp. I have had some very good preamps through here, and the Joule is a very nice one and desirable to many, but ultimately not exactly what I am looking for. I will be trying something else in the near future and will post further thoughts. - Tim
Hi Mitch2, thanks for the explanation, I'm relieved to know that mine is set up with direct output as my amps have 100kohm input impedance - thanks for the explanation.
Anyone hear the ne LA 150MKII Signature Edition? Suppose to be a bit like the 300.
It looks like the LL2 has been recently been upgraded to the LL2.1. Anybody heard the new version? Looks like it may be mostly cosmetic/functional, but they website references new "parts", etc. Also, it looks like it now has a switchable gain feature.
The LA-150 MKII Signature Edition is the LA-150 MKII plus V-Cap OIMP output capacitors.  It also borrows some other internal components from the LA-300ME flagship preamplifier.  These new parts upgrade should give the LA-150 MKII Signature Edition very similar texture as Joule Electra's flagship LA-300ME preamp.  

The LA-150 MKII SE has nearly identical power supply as the LA-150ME (no longer in production as it was replaced by the LA-300ME), but the gain stage is not quite the same as the LA-150ME.  I think the idea was to create a more affordable "best sound for the buck" preamp.

I had the LA-150ME, which I then upgraded to the LA-300ME.  Since the LA-150 MKII SE should be close in performance to the LA-150ME I had, it is a fantastic preamp for the price and most likely the best deal in Joule-Electra's preamp line-up.

From the website,
The LL2.1 features the following upgrades and modifications as compared to the LL2:
-addition of a built-in remote on/off for LAMM amplifiers
-introduction of the attenuation for gain reduction by 15 dB
-some new parts
-new knobs
-slight changes in schematic diagram
I see only items 3 and 5 possibly changing things sonically, and I doubt the changes are dramatic, or they would have listed them in more detail. The caps appear the same. I would liked to have seen stepped attenuators. The more significant changes appear to be the remote on/off for Lamm amps, and the 15db attenuation switch. They were recently very helpful in helping me set up a remote on/off for my M1.1 amps. Lamm uses a high quality relay for that purpose and the remote does not even have to be hooked to a power supply, it must simply complete a circuit when the back power switch is in the "remote" position - it was very easy. They have reviews of the new LL2.1 coming up in Stereophile, The Absolute Sound and Soundstage, so we will be hearing a lot about it.
I have owned many expensive preamps including Joule LA 100 MKIII and LA 150. I currently own the Ming Da MC2A3 with NOS tubes. This is by FAR the best piece of equipment I have owned regardless of price. It is truly a sonic revelation. My audiophile friend who introduced me to the MC2A3 said he sold his VTL 7.5 after direct comparison. If your tired of A/Bing preamps and struggling to hear a difference you owe it to yourself to audition the MC2A3.
Is the LA150MKII or similar Joule Electra in a totally different league than (I believe) the similarly priced Musical Envoy Preamp from Jolida? Also, the Jolida can be modded by UnderwoodHiFi for not too much more money. I've heard really good things about the modded Jolida.
"Is the LA150MKII or similar Joule Electra in a totally different league than (I believe) the similarly priced Musical Envoy Preamp from Jolida?"


" Also, the Jolida can be modded by UnderwoodHiFi for not too much more money. I've heard really good things about the modded Jolida "

and so did I. So what does it mean? Take decently made stuff from China(?) and then send it to Canada where Mr. Johnston will modify it and then back or "state-of-the-art" equipment at three different price/performance lever: LA-150Mk2, LA-150 SE, LA-300 ME...

Some of us will buy Audi or BMW and drive away in it. Some of us will buy Kia, bring it to autio modifier for hot-rodding it(spensing slightly more then first guy) and will drive away in it.

Different people has different tastes - its only you can decide what do you want. I know when I auditioned LA-300 I placed order on the spot and I believe its the best audio component I ever owned...

All The Best
I think some folks might think one of the current Joule preamps might be among the best they heard, I would be very surprised to hear someone say that of the Jolida, so in that sense perhaps in a "different league". I don't know the Jolida, but I have heard the Joule against CAT, LAMM, Atma-Sphere, Placette, BENT, and ARC; I would say the Joule is certainly in the company of some of the finer tube linestages available.
Cool. They just have to get their web site back up! :)

I'd highly recommend you give the Cary SLP-05 a try, especially with your Cary amps.

Good luck with the search!

Upon gathering further data the Jolida Musical Envoy as moded by Underwood is half the price of the cheapest Joule Electra Pre - so it will depend on how sensitive people are to cost in the 2200 vs 5500 range. However, as a Supratek owner I do feel that the pre can be considered the heart of a system and do see the value in the getting the Joule... I have a few friends in need of a pre and will see if I can head them in this direction...
Hello Lightminer,

Your price comparison would be correct if people would pay MSRP in full. However, in today's economy nobody or rarely pays 100% of the price. Its relatively easy to get discount from dealers.

Assuming that percent of discount is the same for Jolida and Joule-Electra LA-150 Mk2 (where you increased price by avout $300) in ABSOLUE amount of dollars, Joule disount will be larger.

Nest point is that modifiers set up prices they feel they can get some (small?) profit and have no margin to five discount. I never ever heard modifiers giving discount.

Therefore the ACTUAL monetary difference between Joule and Modded Jolida is much narrower they you depicted in your post.

Finally, "you get that you pay for" - as discussed in lenght, there is not too small difference in performance between both units.

All The Best
Hi Jim, I really do have to update my system page. I sold the Cary Monos (good sounding amps but noisy). My amps are now Lamm M1.1 and the preamp I settled on is the Lamm LL2 Deluxe. That combination to me provides the richest presentation I have heard, with excellent tone, texture, and dimensionality, and very good dynamics. It just sounds more like music I would hear somewhere than the gear I have previously owned. For some reason, the Joule preamp just didn't integrate well with the system I had at the time, but the Lamm OTOH has sounded good with whatever I use it with.
Well that's what I get for not clicking on your system!! Congrats on the Lamm gear, excellent choice.
Therefore the ACTUAL monetary difference between Joule and Modded Jolida is much narrower they you depicted in your post.

Plus, the Joule will hold its value much better.