The Joule is ever so slightly tubey. The Modwright is definitely not tubey, more neutral sounding. Both are very good in their price range. Choice of tubes will dramatically affect how quiet either one is.
Building a system by counterbalancing flaws is a waste of money in the long run. Buy the most neutral gear you can find, and then match it with neutral gear. Cheers,
joulet electra 100MK111, is a contender, great raw mid range,and sweet highs, but on the romantic side,and extremely involving sound, cant' go wrong with joulet
own the 150MK11 and absolutely love it, my system has evolved arround this preamp.
the only weakness is the bass is a little boomy, Tried many power cables trying to tighten bass, the only cable that worked for me, was the XLO sig3 P/C, now has great bass and focus,also use cardas GR,interconnects on top and XLO sig3, from preamp/amp I have auditioned many preamps,and my joulet always comes out on top, just for sheer musicality: ,
I just bought a Joule Electra LA 100 Mk III used here on Audiogon, and I have to say, it's really great. Not as quiet as my Morrison ELAD, but the separation of instruments, dynamic grading and bass are all better. A natural organic sound, but not overly tubey.
I have owned both the Joule and the Modwright, altho several years apart. I would say the description of their sounds ( I am more a gestalt guy than a dissector of individual aspects of a piece) as Joule- natural, organic, good at conveying emotion, slightly tubey and Modwright- very neutral, not at all tubey is right on target. I think the Modwright is a better "value" based on current used prices for pretty new units. Both builders are top notch people who serve their customers well. You really can not go wrong w either- its a matter of taste. But I also agree w Spencer, you do not want to build a system by compensating for weaknesses; rather look for complementary strengths.
Numbdiver, you do know that Mesa always recommended a passive pre for the Baron? A few Goners have raved about that combo (not enough gain from my phone pre for me to use one, unfortunately.) I agree with Spencer, and would not seek tubey coloration in a preamp. I have used an AR LS-15 with my Baron for a decade, somewhat in the same vein as the Modright, with good results. It is interesting that you are not satisfied with using the Baron full range, its bass is admired by many. What tubes are you using in it? If your Baron has the tri-tube mod, EL34 tubes are the way to go, and would probably give you all the "tubiness" you want, without seeking coloration in your pre, phono pre or digital player. Also, the tubes you use may be contributing to the issues you seek to solve; the original 5881's are suboptimal for music (they were chosen only for their reliability), and there are significant variations in the sound of EL34's (I prefer the Siemens available from Mesa in matched sets.)
Thanks for the feedback. The amp is new to me, and I'm basing my preamp purchase on written info only. I sold my current preamp, and am starting form scratch with a tube pre. I'm sure I'll go through a few iterations before landing on great system synergy.
I've read that many Baron owner have found what they are looking for in a passive pre. I'm a bit afraid of losing dynamics. I've decided to start with an active preamp with relatively low gain (the ones I mentioned). A friend has a Promethius I can A/B with, once I get an active pre for comparison.
The 'tubey' sound I sited in the original question was just some thoughts, as many tube preamps reviews speak about the 'tubey' sound. Which I take as maybe a bit thick in the mids? I certainly don't want the highs to roll off early, if that is 'tubey' as well.
Yes, my Baron has all the upgrades including the TriTube upgrade. You mention EL34. Do you mean the E34L that came stock with some of the TriTube amps, or an EL34? I've read the transformers couldn't keep up with the current draw from the E34L, and Mesa stopped recommending them. But I need to call them and verify. I have a set of 5881s with under 100 hours on them, and a set of E34L as well. I've got 3 bad E34L, so before I purchase more, I need to talk to Mesa and see what they say about running them vs. EL34 vs. other tubes.
The IRS Gammas do have an option to run full range. Even if the amp can keep up with the funky impedance drops (below 2 ohm for the lows), there are other reasons to biamp the IRS. They were specifically designed by Arnie Nudel to run through the factory stand-alone crossover/Servo. When running servo'd/biamp, the LF response drops considerably, and remains flat to around 15hz. Without the servo system, I believe they are good for around 30hz. I also like the idea of taking that work away from the main amplifier, as well as being able to tune the low freq response with the electronic xover in the servo.
I think I'm going to try the Modwright, as I've read elsewhere it is very nuetral sounding. Sounds like a great place to start, to learn the different voicing of the Baron. The Modwright is new enough that I don't have to worry about capacitor shift like some of the older preamps I'm looking at.
I've never heard a loss of dynamics running a passive preamp in my system. If your source has low output impedance, at least 2V output, and you're running short interconnects you should be fine since your amp is passive friendly. Furthermore, you can avoid most impedance matching issues that cause loss of dynamics by using a transformer/autoformer based passive (like the Promitheus) versus one that uses resistors. However, I own one of each type and again have had no issues with loss of dynamics.
I had the Modwright and the Joule. Two different sounds. The Joule was more tubey and the Modwright was neutral. The Modwright was more refined and faster though. I ended up keeping the Modwright at the time. The Joule is much more plump in the midbass (too much for my liking). The Modwright has more gain than the Joule also. I now own a Supratek, which is comparable quality wise to the Modwright, bigger sound (6SN7s) not as dynamic as the Modwright just as detailed and warmer. The Modwright did soundstage better. I'd go with the Modwright given the rest of your equipment. Get one with a tubed rectifier, suppose to make it warmer, and possibly the new caps, more refined.
Re the Baron, a few observations I have from operating my earlier model which used 5881's exclusively. It benefitted from a cap mod done by Mesa, using Wima Caps, but that is as far as I went.
The gain issue, and the sound as well, seems infinitly variable, with selection of the 'imaging mode' and feedback. The all pentode mode is very high gain and will create some loss of flexibility using a volume control, unless you have very low efficiency speakers, with out regard to whether or not you are using a passive or active pre-amp.
FWIW, in my experience anyway, the using a passive pre-amp has more to do with reducing the 'dynamics' often introduced by an active pre-amp, not necessarily to help match gain. I have the same gain issues with a line stage with a 12db gain as I do with a pre-amp with a 26db line stage gain (An ARC SP10, a Primaluna 3, and an EAR).
Re tubes....I've only used 5881's in mine. I tried some 6l6GC's but it wouldn't bias properly and I didn't want to have Mesa reset the biasing parameters. But, I have used, in other amps, the Tesla (Gold Aero badged) E34L's, NOS Tesla EL34's, and found them both on the bright side of neutral. Great clarity however, a nice crystal clear sound. IME (as well as that of others I think) the Baron doesn't need any help in the high frequencies. To the contrary, a little damping might be advantageous.
Based on my experience using these tubes in other amps, and my experience using the Baron, if I had the multiple type selection that you have I'd be very interested in trying out SED EL34's my favorite new production EL34, both because of its neutral sonics and its ruggedness as well.
yeah, the tube rectifier in the Modwright is worthwhile!
I beg to defer re "Tubey" since for me it is always associated with rounding and smoothing the sound, usually at the expense of detail retrieval and speed.
I find the LA-100 Mk III rich sounding as opposed to plain "Tubey".
It is like adding a little bit of cream to a clear broth. Not too much to make it thick but enough to make it beefy and rich.
I would not call it romantic sounding:
It is more like comparing an anorexic girl to a voluptuous girl (as opposed to fat).
Here are some of my impressions:
The LA-100 Mk III attack is second to non and so is its mid range fullness and bass. Its clarity is excellent as long as good 5751 tube is being used. It is slightly mid-range forward compared to the LA-150 MK II and slightly less ambient and airy (it feels more like seating in the first or second row as opposed to the 15th row) but than a little more "beefy" than the LA-150 Mk II to my ears.
All these impressions are in my system and my room.
So to summarize: Rich - yes. Tubey - depending on your definition of tubey.
Have not heard the Modwright so cannot comment.
I had the Joule for several years and will agree 100% that it is a fine sounding pre....and also that it needs the right power cord to "wake" it up. I used a TGA Audio SLVR on it and the difference was not subtle.
The Joule with a good PC doesn't have a rolled off sound at all and is dynamic, with excellent detail, but it is definitely slightly romantic - I used to call it making the music more beautiful then real life. But the soundstaging - layers and layers, deep and wide - and the delicacy of the highs, the air around the instruments, the natural vocals and timbres et al...that sound can be very addictive. Joule will also work with you to fine tune/custom set it to match your system - they are great people.
I eventually replaced it with the Herron VTSP-1a which was a fabulous preamp (and slightly underrated IMO). That piece combined the things I loved about the Joule with a bit more neutrality and still stronger dynamics, plus it was a match made in heaven with my Herron M150 monos. I LOVE Keith Herron's gear - it just took my system to the next level. But I could've happily kept the Joule forever.
Have Baron with the Modwrightd. The combo is very good.
The Baron is really good with EL34s.