I owned a pair of MA-2's MKII. I found the amps, within this specific system, to be articulate, detailed with great bass. The Joules Rites, which I have now, and to iterate within this system, have a bit more body, density with nearly the equal in delineation.
These are two of my favorite amps, especially amongst tubes, with great imaging, staging, frequency extension; and no exaggeration in the midbass through the midrange.
I have had absolutely no mechanical problems with either set of amps.
Some opinions may side towards the Atma Sphere if balanced connections are used. With the A-S preamp, balanced out's offered a more musical, yet detailed presentation. With the preamp I now have, modified Jadis, the Joule in single-ended is just supurb. Some of the best music I have ever gotten out of an audio system.
As usual, individual tastes and component match-ups should be the determining factors.
Hi Siddh, which version of the MkII did you have?
I own a pair of Atma-Sphere MA-1s, and they are the best amps I have had in my system. Very clear and uncolored. They do not sound tubey in the sense of adding any euphonic colorations. I have heard the Joule amps only at CES, in a system with Vandersteen sepakers. I don't know the model, but they were on the myrtle wood bases, and they were big. The system sounded very good. It had what I consider to be a classic tube sound - very rich harmonics, perhaps a bit rolled off at the top. Very pleasant to listen to, but I believe the harmonic richness was a result of euphonic harmonic distortion from the tubes. Of course it's hard to say without putting the two in the same system,and it's hard to say what else was contributing to the sound, but I think that richness is distinctively tube. (I'm sure they were using a Joule preamp, since it was a JOule booth, but I don't remember the source).
Based on this experience, I would have to agree with Siddh, that the Joules would provide a richer sound. I don't mean this to put the Joules down; I remember the system as sounding very good, with the classic tube richness.
Based on my experience with products slightly lower down the food chain from these two manufacturers, i would agree with what's been said. My M-60s have better attack and are more dynamic than my VZN-80, but the Joule has better imaging, more harmonic richness and a bit more three dimensionality or "palbability" to use some a-phile jargon. With a bit quicker cabling now, I like the Joule but it will depend, I am quite sure, on personal preference. These are not chocolate vs vanilla differences, but more vanilla vs french vanilla. Subtle but easily discernible in a resolving system. You cannot go wrong with either, IMO.
The Atma-Spheres were MA2 MkII.2. I believe this thread, as many threads, requires a reminder of how critical component matching is. Everything from cabling, isolation, individual pieces of equipment, tubes within those pieces of equipment, and of course, room acoustics.
Every system I have put together has changed by some degree when introducing a new variable. Some for better, some not. This does not preclude the character of any individual piece of equipment. An example can be drawn from the recent upgrade of the tonearm on my table. It has taken the entire presentation in a different direction. One, thankfully, I am most impressed with.
In an attempt to avoid a too didactic stance, let me add that both of these amplifiers, as are others I have owned, great makers of music.
Could not agree more, Siddh. IMO, you cannot go wrong with either line.
Hi Siddh, Thanks for the nice comments! The MkII.2 dates from 1999 to about 2003; we've come a long way since then and are now building the MkIII amplifiers. It might be worth your while to audition again when you get the chance- the MkIIIs are smoother and more detailed, with the added benefit that the tubes hold up better too.
FWIW the older amps can be updated with full warranty reactivation.
The V-Cap Teflon capacitor has been a big boost - it is a better part than the Teflon cap we were using before and are arguably the best in the industry.
The Joule Electra OTl's are also available wired for balanced operation.
Jud Barber - Joule Electra
Optarchie, what speakers are you using?
Can't go wrong with either Atmasphere or Joule. I'd say
that the Joules are a slight bit more rich in the midrange, the Atmas are a little faster and have slightly more extension on top. That is not to say the Atmaspheres are lean. It is very apples to apples, imaging depth and spacial dileneation maybe go to the Joules, but other attributes will fall into the Atma camp. With both brands, the higher you go up in power, the more relaxed and accurate the presentation.
Basically they are both excellent amplifiers- you simply can't go wrong with either. I love OTL's, but your results
with both brands will vary depending on the speakers you're using.
I'm using the Joule LA150 MKII with my Atma-sphere M60s, till the MP3s arrive next week. All I can say is if the MP3 with balanced connection can improve with I'm hearing with the Joule feeding the Atma singled-ended I will be very impressed and it will be interesting to hear the "house sound difference" between the Joule and Atma preamps. As stated above, both excellent product lines. And coming to the Atma amps after years of owning the CAT JL2 was a real revelation, the OTLs and my Merlins seems like a great match, I actually prefer them over my CATs (sold them)when matched with these speakers, which I never expected that to happen.
although a different beast altogether, the joule stargate transformer coupled monos aint too shabby either