Are you planning on purchasing a preamplifier or just curious? I am just curious.
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I like my Joule LA 100 quite a bit.
It gets rotated with several other preamps, but usually goes on-line with Cary 300B monos and Merlin VSMs downstream and vinyl (Oracle/Graham via Aesthetix Rhea) upstream. At the other end of the spectrum, I recently converted my digital sources to a full-blown DSP environment (Onkyo pre-pro and SS amp). So, 2 very different kettles for my fish - and 2 satisfying solutions.
For the full-blown retro-analog application, it's been a great performer. And a real soldier for many years now.
If your system needs a bit more warmth and a more fleshed out lower octave, then the Joule will be the ticket. When I had Merlin speakers, I too mated them with a LP150, and the Merlins benefited from the added warmth and bass drive. Great combination. I change my speakers and subsequently needed to change the pre-amp as my new speakers benefited from a more neutral pre-amp. A carefully matched Joule to ones system can be very enjoyable.
I have owned the LAP 150 MkII for about 4+ years now. I like it very much. It is detailed and precise but not so detailed that the music is lost. There is an unforced, natural clarity to the music with it in the chain. I use it with Merlin VSM MX's. The bass is full without being tubby, the midrange is involving but neutral and the highs are extended. I listen mainly to jazz and some classical. I have experienced no mechanical issues with it whatsoever and it is apparently easy on the tubes. I also appreciate the covenience of the remote (I can lower the volume without moving when my wife complains!).
My experience and comments match exactly those of the previous two posts, when I used the LA-150 Special Edition - even better bass performance - one of the very worthy contenders for consideration in any SOTA system. No one can tell you if you will love them, but that won't be a matter of quality, but taste.
The difference between II and I is much greater than the difference between III & SE, I think II & SE are much more musical than I, there was some change in the tubes used and possibly the circuit in the move from I to II/SE, Is SE an improvement over II, sure, a bit, but after moving from II to SE, I found that it would have been perfectly easy to live with II and be perfectly content - both are very fine preamplifiers that suit my sonic preference very well.
Thanks to everyone. I think Joule has some more new factory upgrades on the way, and they sell with a 30-day-satisfaction option.
In looking through user comments on the web on many sites over a decade, Joule has voluminous amounts of high user praise and does not seem to be a flavor of the month thing.
My only personal experience with Joule was from the Merlin rooms at the NY Stereophile show several times for long sessions where the sound was very fine in every respect and compelling to the point where I did not want to leave (which was true of very few rooms, except maybe for some megabuck rooms like the VSR VR9, Joseph Audio Pearl, and Dynaudio Evidence rooms). Of course I can't isolate the Joule contribution, but it certainly did no harm.
I had an ARC Ref1 and ML #32 long ago and thought the ARC was too propulsive and the ML lacking some tube palpable-ness that I have come to crave.
I really want a remote so I turned away from Shindo, which I know has high praise. I tried some passives and also missed my tube magic and gave up on them.
Again, thanks for the responses.
I am not familar with LA-100 but I auditioned the rest of their preamp line. LA-150 Mk1 (original) is not terribly musical on my taste.
LA-150Mk2 is fantastic - seduce you into the listening and you can't stop. Excellent bass. For my taste a bit more midrange lush then I liek.
LA-150SE is just right, texture right, dynamic range, minute details etc
LA-300ME, I own is something exptraordinary and I thought for a few years that it is impossible to make a better one
LA-450ME - when I auditioned it I understoon that it is possible to make better preamp then LA-300, and it is "450". It sound indetical to LA-300 but....better.
I owned LA-300 and then I moved to 450. Both are excellent and have very similar sonic signature. The difference is that 450 is better and well worth the extra cost.
Rarely, if ever I auditioned, not to mentioned, owned so musically involving components. I close my eyes and not so much musicians in my room as I am "there" in acoustic hall, fully involved into music.
My two cents
I'm another owner of LA-450 ME. This is my first Joule product, but I've owned a number of different preamps before:
Supratek Chenin, Cortese, Chenin MkII, Doshi Alaap, Nagra PLP,
BAT Rex (on extended loan).
And I have to agree with Michael moskowch and Dob- it is extremely musical and involving. I don't hear any specific "character", or coloration- it is very extended, dynamic and "just right".
My current power amps are Lamm ML2.
Have not heard the 450, but owned the 150 SE - in my view the Joules, and I
have to assume they are voiced pretty similarly from 150-300-450 certainly
have character, it just happens to be a character I really like - all it takes is
listening to something like a Lightspeed/BENT/Placette passive to notice the
Joule has character and vivid tonal color - nothing wrong with that, I happen to
love it - but it does not sound like the color of water IMHO.
In fact, compared it to a CAT SL1 - loved both, but the Joule seemed warmer
compared with the CAT - again not a bad thing, a matter of taste - I lean
towards the Joule, but both are first rate and that could change with
amp/speakers used with one to the other.
Maril555, you have me curious. I have always been interested in trying a Joule pre-amp. How might you compare the Suprateks to the Joule 450 ME? I know the Joule is in another league price wise but I have always been interested in the sonic differences. I have a Syrah and it is just a steal in my experience with preamps for all it offers, I still love this pre-amp.
I too have heard the all Joule/Merlin set-up at an audio show in NYC many years back which I throughly enjoyed, you just didn't want to leave.
Like you've said- Joule is in a different league, not only price- wise, but also sonically. It is much more refined and musical. Better bass extension, significantly better treble extension and it is more dynamic, as well.
I have 108 dB system, and Joule is DEAD quiet. Unfortunately Supratek is not. With a less sensitive speakers, it might not be such an issue.
Thanks Maril555, I appreciate the info. I don't find noise too much an issue other than the phono stage then again I am using the Merlins which are less efficient than yours but it is still quite remarkable to me that your speakers are 108 dB and is dead quiet, especially using tubes, that is indeed amazing! The Berning amp I am using is DEAD quiet so any noise in my system would come from the pre-amp. The other things you note concerning the differences are most certainly of greater interest, thanks again for the insight.
BTW, what a nice system you have! I love the Lamms as well, you must be at or near the very pinnacle with that set-up.
" What amps and speakers are you using with the 450?"
I have a pair of Spectron monoblocks running Sasha by David Wilson. Extraordinary combination, the best system I ever owned. Many people complain that Wilsons do not have enough of dynamic range and deep bass or musically not involving - not with this pre and power amps !!!
I would think that the Joule is a particularly good match with SS, not only because you can adjust the output impedance, but I think Joule brings a tonal richness and dimensionality to the sound that brings just a touch of what tube lovers love about tubes to a tube/ss combo - worked great driving a Pass XA30.5. Also works very well with the Atma-sphere OTLs and an solid option if the VSN amps are out of your price range - though you would probably opt for their own preamp.
tube/ss combo sounds very attractive but I tried a number of combinations and results were not always desirable. One, obvious reason, that many ss amps have low input impedance whereas many tube preamps(even excellent like BAT) have high output impedance. Others reasons probably play some role as well but I never know in advance.
I agree with you in regard to Joule not only because its variable impedance and rich vivid sound but also because its very user-friendly even for solid state lover. Its on "standby" 24/7 and with one flick of the switch you are ready (30 seconds) to listen to music and do not have to wait warm up. Another, re-tubing which all of us hate need to eb done once per 5-10 years. You also don;t need to search for best NOS - Joule owns the best and sell them for song.
You can extend their tube life span even more but you would need to speak with them directly, I don;t want to go there.
I have an la 150 mark 1 and an La 300 ME. The 300 mated to rites of passage provides the most seductive, involving, and satisfying sound I have ever heard. The 150 resides in the second system where it is not as good as the LA 100 it replaced; i will be updating it to a mark 2 one of these days.
I love the joule stuff. It got me off the merry go round. As stated above, the fact that Jud does not do upgrades of the month but sticks with circuitry and approaches that fit within his philosophy is refreshing.
The mark 1 seems to lack the typical joule magic unfortunately. When I took the beautiful la 100 out of the upstairs system and replaced it with the la 150 mark 1, I thought what happened? I guess I need to take the cash I made selling the la 100 and put it into upgrading the la 150, which I just haven't yet done.
RGS92, I love the old Joni. Blue, Ladies of the Canyon, Clouds, the list goes on. I love Court and Spark too, I have a DCC, very nice and a true test for a system.
Back to Joule, they are very good deals used. The 300 is astonishing. I picked mine up used a year or so ago and it brought my system up a notch. I also was considering a 150 SE but the deal came together on the 300 first and Simon told me I should go for the 300 if possible.
My brother, who introduced me to Joule and who has lived on Kauai for the last 5 years or so, was out to Oregon a few months back. He has an lap 150 and a vzn 80, quintessence stealths, and my old aries mark 1 with clearaudio harmony wood. He hadn't heard my system since he moved away. He was very impressed and went away scheming about upgrades.
Insidious hobby isn't it, especially given that the limiting factor typically is the quality of the source material.
I am considering the purchase of an LA-150SE, which is apparently in the same ballpark sonically with the 300ME. I owned the LA-150 MkII at one time. While I thought it was ok, the unit I owned seemed to sound a bit dry and even the bass was not as rich or full as the Tom Evans I owned at the same time, or nearly as dynamic as the CAT SL-1 Ultimate MkII that I also owned at that time. I noticed on the Joule website their goals for the SE included trying for "a more fleshed out and musical sonic signature of (the) LA-300ME." There are so many positive responses to this preamp I am considering giving the line another try. I would be comparing this directly to the Tom Evans because I like the idea of having tubes in the preamp and also of having an American made preamp. Have any of you (Pubul57?)compared the Joule directly with Tom Evans?
One sticking point for me is the Alps volume pot and the shunt to ground configuration. I hate Alps pots because they can be noisy, they track horribly at low volumes and they simply feel cheap and insubstantial to me. I understand the Alps has become the de facto standard for manufacturers who want to implement remote volume control economically, but the volume control is certainly key to the performance of any preamp and pot type controls IMO do not measure up to discrete resistor controls. Do any of you feel the Alps has a negative sonic impact on the Joule preamps? Is the Alps also used in the ME edition Joule preamps? Have any of you heard of someone replacing the Alps with a stepped attenuator in the Joule preamps? Is the pot really "out of the signal path" in the shunt to ground design? I have a hard time believing there is not a sonic contribution from using the Alps that couldn't be bettered by using a discrete resistor attenuator. Maybe I am being overly sensitive based on my experience with several "high-end" preamps that I thought were sonically handicapped by using the Alps pot. Any feedback, or is this a non-issue in the way the pots are implemented in the Joule preamps?
Never heard the Tom Evans, though I would like too. I do wonder if the MKII left you wanting, if the SE will make the difference for you. I think if you really loved the MKII, you would love the SE even more, but I'm not sure it will bridge the gap from dissatified to love - and nothing is more dynamince than the CAT!
I upgraded my MK11 to the SE and I can tell you that the sound is the same only much better and more refined. The bass is cleaner and tighter but just as deep, the midrange is more detailed and the highs sparkle a bit more. All and all a good improvement, but I don't think it's a big enough change if you were'nt happy with the MK11. I find the bass really good so I wonder if it was a componant matching issue or the Tom Evans is even better?
Gregfisk, I am glad to hear you are happy with the improvements from MkII to SE. I was very close to making a deal on a new SE earlier this year, especially because of some great specials available through Joule, but ultimately decided to stay away from tubes for reasons of simplicity and because I am stuck with a pair of great amps that only support balanced signals.
I continue to believe the Tom Evans (in the Lithos 7 iteration with the Pulse II power supply) is one of the best sounding preamps available in the $10K and under price range. The used prices are stupid low relative to the sound quality. I finally moved on from mine solely because of the balanced issue.
I am now happily using a very custom SMc Audio preamp that supports balanced inputs and outputs. And it is every bit as good as the Tom Evans, and better in some ways.
I would still jump at a chance to try a LA-450ME!
The descriptions given of the Joule preamps above are quite diverse. I used to own the LAP 150 MK 2. My take on it was that it had a very nice,full,warm sound, though I wanted a tad more extension on the top. I eventually wound up with the EAR 88PB phono preamp, which gave me that extra extension, but leaned more toward the "neutral" side. However, I still remember the Joule with fondness.
I have to say I have been listening to the Platinum upgrade to my Joule LAP-150SE for a couple of months now. It is money well spent. I am very happy with my sound. Of course I have made lots of changes moving into my dedicated room with acoustic panels on the walls and bass traps in the corners and using dedicated isolated power. I believe the sound is a definite step up.
Sorry, I could not reply to your e-mail earlier. I will ask Simon Thacher of Joule-Electra send you description. They do not advertise it on web site in mistaken belief that people cannot afford very high quality audio (which is expensive) and offer "Platinum" only to their friends, family , whatever - not to general public.
All The Best