I know there are several users out there familair with the Joule equipment, so I'll try to get this question back up the list. I'm especially interested hearing from those that may have heard the new LA-150 MKII to know how it compares with the MKI and whether it captures some of the warmth and musicality that the LA-100 series was famous for. I'm using a CAT JL2 AMP and a Placette Active linestage (it replaced a CAT Sl1 Ulitmate). The Placette is suberb, but I am curious to see how a Joule might sound in my system - proably because I own Merlins, and as you know Joule equipment is frequently used with these speakers. Thanks in advance.
Sorry I did not see this earlier. According to my conversation with Jud at RMAF, the reason for putting the 6350 tubes back in the circuit for the LA-150 MkII is to regain some of the musicality that was lost in the LA-150 MkI. I compared the LA-150 MkI to an LA-100 MkIII and while there was better extension at the frequency extremes, bass was tighter most notably, the LA-150 MkI was more neutral and less musical than the LA-100 MkIII. The LA-150 Mk1 sounded a lot like the Herron preamp I compared to the LA-100 MkIII. More neutral and less musical, but a great preamp nonetheless.
To me the LA-100 MkIII was very musical and engaging. While warm, it was also a tad more neutral than most tube preamps I have heard. I really miss mine which I sold because of a mismatch with my amp (couldn't get far enough around on the volume control before reaching maximum volume for my rom size). Ironically I am using a passive right now, the K&K TVC that uses S&B TX-102 transformers. In comparison, the TVC is more transparent, neutral, revealing, but still slightly warm (I have the MkI versions of the S&Bs). It makes having lost the Joule less painful.
The Joule and your Merlins should go nice together. The Joule/Merlin combination I heard at RMAF was extremely musical.
Clio09, do you find your TVC to be warmer than the LA-150MKI? I'm currently using a Placette Active which replaced a CAT SL1 Ulitmate. I am very happy with the Placette, but am wondering if there is something out ther I might like better. I've been thinking about the Joule, because it is often used with the Merlin, but I do have a CAT JL2 Amplifier so I don't know how the two might work together - it works quite well with the Placette. A neutral and revealing preamplifier I already have, and I'm would love to know if the Joule would provide some "tube magic" without loosing the frequency balance and transparency of the Placette. I am afraid that ultimately I can only answer the question by trying it, but hearing from others does provide some guidance. Thanks.
Pubul57, I would not say that my TVC is warmer than the LA-150 MkI, just that it is a tad warmer than most passive preamps. If you like the Placette as much as you indicate, I don't think the LA-150 MkI is going to cut it for you. Yes it is neutral, it is revealing, but I think it will not match the transparency and frequency balance your Placette gives you. It will come close, but you may regret the buying decision and unlike other gear, for reasons unknown to me, the Joule units don't have very good resale value.
Sometimes the best solution is right under your nose.
In the same general family you might like the Atma-Sphere MP-1, which I use in combination with the VSM-MX/BBAM and a BAT VK75SE. The Atma is extended and resolving at the frequency extremes & well developed in the midrange without being lush.
Clio09, I have found what you say to be very true in this hobby, and I do suspect the best solution may be in my possession. My "quest" for a "warmer" tube pre is due to the very neutral nature of the CAT JL2, and for that matter than Merlin VSM. When I had the CAT Ultimate (a wonderful pre)I felt as if the two CATs were a bit to much of a good thing - very neutral - and hoped for some touch of warmth. Interestingly, I thought think the Placette is a bit warmer, while being exceptionally transparent. I have heard that the LA-150 MKII is a more fleshed out (warmer) version of MKI, while remaining neutral. Problem is, without a 30-day trial, in your own system and room, it is always a bit of a risk. Dgarretson, the Atmasphere is also on my short list. I have owned the CAT ULtimate and the Lamm LL2 - and of course these are both wonderful units. I suspect I'll experiment a bit more, but in the end, Clio9 may be right. The Placette Active is one great piece.
Pubul57, I totally understand what you are saying. I own Spendor 1/2e speakers and they are neutral, so going from a Joule LA-100 MkIII to a K&K TVC had me a bit worried that I would lose too much of the magic in my system. Well it turns out I was wrong. While I did lose a bit of the magic, I certainly made up for it in spades with transparency, detail and frequency balance.
I love the Joule LA-100 MkIII, I'm sorry I sold mine, I will own another one some day (or maybe an LA-150 MkII). However, if I do buy another Joule, the TVC isn't going anywhere. I learned my lesson the first time around.
Clio9, Interesting. I expect you have not heard the Placette Active, which is essentially passive with a robust buffering section (10 ohm output impedance!). I do wonder what you would think about that comapred with your TVC (I have been thinking about the Bent NOH as well). I might end up have the Joule and a Placette - seems terribly self indulgent, but getting rid of the Placette would be awfully hard. Thanks for your comments. Paul.
Paul, yes I also feel it's a bit self indulgent, but listening to a lot of different components makes the hobby fun. Right now I rotate a couple of preamps and a few digital sources in my system, not to mention cable swapping.
I did have a chance to hear the Placette active at RMAF. Obviously not the best environment to listen. I suppose if I saw one come up used I may be tempted to try it. Guy certainly has a great reputation so I don't think I'd have much to lose by trying it out.
I will be buying the Joule LA-150 MKII to use with my CAT JL2s. Thank you for your feedback.
Congratulations on your purchase. Please let us know how it works out for you.
Well, I love the Joule. I have sold the Placette; which in no way means the Joule is better than the Placette - it was and is a great preamp, but with my amp and speakers, and my ears, I like the more fleshed out sound provided by the tubes in the pre. Have no idea which is more accurate, doesn't really matter, it works for me and my taste. And, while the Joule was a nice change for me, what really made a great difference was changing the stock tubes in the CAT amp to NOS Amperex and RCAs - had no idea...