Joule Electra VZN100 Thoughts

Thought I'd post some observations since trading for these amps I really wasn't looking for. That was about 9 months ago. I still have misgivings about them. I have a 2.5 year old who loves music and dancing and don't want to go through the trouble of making them safe. Those 12 6C33 tubes are intimidating - cool but worrisome. They take up a lot of room and they can really heat a room in the summer months. Great now that it's cold, we get a heated room. Customer service was not to be. They hum a bit too.

Here's lies the problem. In all the amps I've ever owned, auditioned, listened too, at the many audio shows I've attended, getogethers too, nothing I've heard so far has sounded better, that possessed the magic, that got me closer to real music than these tubed monoblock OTL's. I know it is system dependent, but the shear beauty and openness of these amps is nothing short of amazing. I've owned Pass, Halcro, Classe, and so many others. I had the Decware Torii when these amps found my living room. Great sounding amps the Torii's, nothing really to complain about, except when I reluctantly (was talked into it really) plugged these amps into my system it was one of those OMG moments.

I tweaked them a bit over the months, better power cords and connectors, and nearly made one unusable because I miss-wired a connector. That's when I discovered there was no support and no available documentation. I was on my own. It ended well, just a bad connection.

I noted during my cable upgrade that there were some bulging capacitors. These amps I guess are around 10 years old. Maybe it's time to replace the caps? That would be quite a rebuild.

These amps are controlled by a Allnic L3000 preamp, fed from a NAD M51 DAC which gets music from a very well filtered server. Super V speakers make it all happen.

So goes my story of these OTL's. Thought I'd share and wonder if anyone who has spent time with these amps, had found something even better?
I'm sure they sound glorious! I have one of their preamps and love it! Have you talked to Steve Leckrone of the Service Department who handles service for Joule?

I assume you have.

Joule Electra website link below (bottom of page):

Joule Electra Service
I can't help you in that I haven't ever owned them but I did have the opportunity to have a VZN 80 in my system for an extended period about 9-10 years ago, glorius indeed!

Your concerns are the same as mine and a reason I ultimately decided against them, I was considering the VZN 100's, too big, too much heat from the VZN 80 as it was and I was concerned that the amount of heat generated would most probably shorten the life of the parts and there would be frequent service issues. I can't comment further on this since I've never owned them. I have read on these forums by an OTL manufacturer that a reason his company ruled against using the 6C33 tube was the amount of heat generated at the plate and the resultant fatigue that would result to the sockets. In other words, sockets should be replaced with the tube. Don't know about that for sure but it would certainly be a concern, especially coming from someone familiar.

The bottom line is that there are tradeoffs for such a degree of magic the Joule provides and one has to ultimately decide whether it is worth it or not. I am sure if I had a dedicated listening space I would have seriously considered their purchase. It seems you have arrived at that point, especially with a toddler that has access which would be MY biggest concern. I hope it works out for you. There are other amps to consider, I have a Berning zh270 which I've owned for 10 years with not ONE issue including tube replacement and it is in regular use daily. It is no longer in production and I will say it doesn't have that harmonic envelope or the huge sound of the Joule. The two are quite different but IMHO the Berning is more natural to the source, OTL transparency, clarity, scale, speed and wonderful tonality. These amps have that uncanny ability to really separate instruments and voice in acoustic space which renders a realism to recorded music, as do all the OTLs I've listened to. The big deal with the ZOTL amps by Berning is that there is less heat and they are easier to place but they may not be your cup of tea. With a good source and well sorted out system they have a natural sound and presentation that I haven't heard bettered. Again taste would come into play and it might be too hard to walk away from the addictive sound of the Joule! You should at least listen to the newer zotl models if you haven't already. Different for sure but better, only you can decide.
Thanks Tubegroover, for the response.

The Joules have been solid except for just recently, a glowing red tube. I purchased 4 of the 6C33 NOS for under a $100 dollars including shipping from Russia so no complaints there. Waiting for arrival. I happen to have on loan an Almarro amp which incredibly and I mean incredibly, uses 2 6C33 tubes! So I borrowed one.

Having great fun going between 2 sources, a Mac Mini using a Kora power supply running Audiovana and a CAPs server using a SoTM card running JRiver 18 both feeding my NAD M51 is it truly eye opening, stunning, whatever I can call it.

What are the limits in this hobby? I may have to start burning incense.

I will keep my eye out for the Berning. I may document the the Joules for a replacement of caps and new chassis. I do not own the "Musicwood" version. I'm pretty sure though, that with considerable effort, I can produce a very upscale chassis for these amps. The problem lies with the complete lack of support. With my former wiring gaf, all Jud wanted to do is sell me another set. And I did contact Steve but since I performed the replacement of the lamp cords that came originally with these amps, no one wants to touch them. Can't blame them really. It ended well, the cords are replaced, the sound even more open, crazy dynamics, and the hum diminished but certainly not gone.
I like the Joule sound but hate the build quality.
I owned the larger VZN 160's for a number of years. I put lots of hours on them and there were no service issues. They were built like a battleship, solid and always reliable. Their build quality/reliability certainly put another OTL vendor who's amps I was familiar with to shame.

My VZN amps were very quiet. Wondering if the hum you mention is from a ground loop? Monoblocks are prone to amplifying hum caused by a ground loop. Have you explored this possibility? Also the support I received from Joule, whenever I had questions, was excellent.

Per someone's mention that (and I summarize) "another .... OTL vendor due to the heat generated..... the sockets should be replaced with the tube." Do note that is not applicable to the Joule-Electra amps nor I suspect to Lamm or BAT amps. There was another OTL vendor who marketed 6c33c based OTL amps some years ago which, to be subtle, were a mess. Their problems, such as the socket issue you refer & which those other amps suffered from, were not inherent in the use of the 6c33c tube; they were due to incompetently designed/poorly built amps.
"I like the sound of the Joule OTLs. Still, I did hear one at a dealership that had a BIG quality control problem. Once in a while the amp would put out a loud pop. This occurred randomly and in both channels. It turned out that the tube sockets had gone bad, perhaps from the heat, and all of them had to be replaced. That is a very major repair on something like an OTL amp."

The above is a direct quote from the archives on this forum and is unrelated to my comment referenced by Tubes108 concerning a well known and respected OTL manufacturer who DID NOT mention any manufacturer specifically but only noted why he didn't use this tube. I have had several conversations with both Jud and Marianne in the past, wonderful and committed folks. What I have seen recently is comments of less than stellar customer support from Joule as it seems is the case here. So far as quality control and build quality the results seem mixed, some say inpeccable with no problems other disagree. The OTL amp mentioned by Tubes108 that uses the 6c33c tube is well documented on having reliability issues due I would agree to poor design it would seem having been deemed by some as "the best sounding amp on the planet" to an audio pariah for breaking down.
Other than a bad tube the Joules have had no reliability issues although having seen the bulging caps things could go haywire. I wish to be proactive and replace before that happens.

No other amp that has been through my current system has made any noise, only the Joules. They hum and I hear them in my sitting position. I think with any other amp this would be unacceptable for me. But when the music starts playing I simply don't hear the hum. It might be tough to isolate the problem given the variac, the 4 now quality cables that run to the amps to now quality IEC's. When first turned on the hummed very loudly. Flipping a ground switch on the back of the Allnic mostly alleviated the hum.

When I acquired them I knew little about them. I didn't even want to bother hooking them up! Now I'm ruined.
Desalvo, I too noted a hum when I had the Joule in my system, most likely a ground issue or maybe the 60 hz buzz from the power transformer, who knows? It never went away but on the other hand it was never an issue when listening, just a bit annoying. I hope you find a way to keep the amp and make it work. I'm not too sure you will find anything that is going to be a satisfactory replacement, just a hunch:)

Probably right Tubegroover. My audio buddies think they're miraculous. I call them Frankenstein mono blocks. Especially considering the variac ;)