What is the "sound" dif. between a Joule -Elctra OTL and a SET amp??


Guys- I currently have the Wyetech Topaz 211 with KR 211 tubes and audio note transformers which I love - BUT have always been intrigued by the Joule Elctra OTL's at past shows- I have been offered by a dealer a pair of VZN-100's not sure if they are MK IV or V or what the difference between the 2 versions are but was wondering from a sound presentation between my 211 SET amps and the OTL- I am using the Classic Audio T1.4 horn speakers- Thanks so much for the opinions as always!!
fluffers

I am not familiar with your Wyetech amp, but I owned a Joule Electra OTL amp and SET monoblock amps at the same time. The Joule was a VZN-80 MKV, Musicwood edition. The SET amps are a pair of Coincident 300b Frankensteins.  I had both of these amps in my system for 7 months and spent a lot of time going back and forth between OTL and SET.

Enough has been said about the Frankensteins on this forum. I will just say they are surprisingly neutral, transparent, and live sounding, unlike the fat and fuzzy stereotype that some have of SET amps. They are also quite dynamic with the right speakers.  

As for my Joule Electra, it was a fantastic amp. I used it mainly with Merlin speakers. The amp can play with a wider variety of speakers than most SET amps. One should know however that power drops when going into 4 ohms; power does not increase into 4 ohms like some amps do. That said, I used mine with Quad ESL-57’s with good results. My daily speakers were Merlin VSM’s, a wonderful match with Joule amplifiers. With a little negative feedback, the amp was deliciously ripe sounding and full bodied (noticeably more so than my SET amp), at the expense of a little bit of transparency.  The amp produced really nice tone. The soundstage was huge in all dimensions (even larger than the Frankensteins). I sold it because of the heat generated by the output tubes. Also, I would make sure that the output tubes are readily available. I bought new tubes 2 years ago, but found that a lot of tube sellers were not carrying them anymore, or if they did, they were asking high prices. Even the usually reliable Russian dealers did not have them in stock. My Joule was a labour of love. Great care needs to be taken to keep it hum free. With all those tubes, it can be a pain to diagnose. I was able to get my Joule to run quietly, but others have complained about not being able to get rid of the humming noise, which can be heard through the speakers.  I would feel much more confident if buying the used pair that Signature Sound just listed. Is that the pair that you are looking at?


As for MKIV versus MKV, I believe it has to do with the use and implementation of circuit boards. I would call Rich at Signature Sound. He would know the answer.
thks- No that is not the pair- I think I will call Rich- Since my time to listen is limited not sure if I want to have to bias every tube all the time- It would take me longer to set up then it would to listen it seems-
Hi Thaluza,
You had the unique experience to compare two exceptional yet different amplifiers for 7 months.  Which amplifier provided more emotional involvement and communication with your musical soul? Does one offer more realism? 
Thanks,
Charles,  
The T-1s can use the additional power unless you are in a really small room. I use T-3s, which are the same efficiency and impedance and my preference is our M-60 amplifiers which can make about 80 watts on this speaker (the M-60 is also an OTL).

But I've used SETs many times and am able to run them out of gas. My room is about 17' x 21' and not particularly lively. I found the SETs to be harsh by comparison, but that is compared to our M-60s. With most SETs once you push them past about 20% of full power the higher ordered harmonics start to kick in and that is likely the source of harshness.

The T-1s like my T-3s go well into the bottom octave. SETs don't do so well with that- if you really want a relaxed presentation and the ability to play **anything** at life-like levels, you will want a bit of power and no mistake, SETs don't have it in that regard. The T-1 is a highly revealing, complete bandwidth speaker so you will want to give it your best shot!

Fluffers,
Is it possible to compare your Wyetech with the Joule at home? Nothing beats a direct comparison in your system. 
Charles, Sent 
Charles,

As for emotional involvement, they are just two different flavors. With either amp, I could listen for hours at a time and feel emotionally involved. If I can close my eyes and imagine being at the Blackhawk nightclub, or some other venue, then my system, including my amps, is doing its job for me.

As for realism, like I said, my OTL amp was noticeably more full bodied and rich in sound, which I really enjoyed, but the OTL was also somewhat diffuse and obfuscated when compared to the Franks. For example, with the Joule bass notes were fatter, drums had more weight, and cymbals could waft in the air forever, it seemed, but I was not hearing things I can hear with the Franks. However, I was using negative feedback a bit with the Joule. I liked the sound, but was it realistic? I thought so when I owned the amp (I Iisten to a lot of rock and a fair amount of jazz), but the Franks brought a different point of view.

I do feel that with the Franks, I am getting more of the inner detail of the music. I will say the Franks are noticeably more realistic with piano notes. My kids played piano, and what I hear through the Franks is closer to what I heard them playing. This is probably more than you wanted to hear. I could go on and on comparing these two fine amplifiers, both of which are immensely enjoyable in their own way.

When it was the time to choose an amp, I went with the Franks, first because they throw off very little heat, and second and more importantly, I am very happy with their sound. I went through several amps during the course of a year in search of a replacement for the Joule amp, and it took the Frankensteins to finally find something that I was happy with. I also found full range speakers that work exceptionally well with the Franks, so I get to experience something like the full bodied sound of the Joule, combined with the traits of the Franks that I like. All that said, I would like to own another OTL amp in the future. It would be great to have the option to again experience two very different yet enjoyable sounds.

Tom
Fluffers,

I happened to like playing with the feedback feature of my amp to tailor the sound. Jud Barber recommended something around the 6-8 o'clock position for my particular amp. He has very good ears. You can dial it down if you want more transparency, or increase it to create a riper sound. That is a nice thing about the Joules. Whatever setting is decided on, the Joules can be very pleasing to the ears. I too would be interested in reading your opinion on the differences between your Wyetech and the Joule, so please keep us posted if you decide to buy the VZN-100.

Tom
Fluffers, Just so we are clear here, unless you are in a smaller room, which is hard to imagine with T-1s, the Frankensteins will likely not have enough power. To really hear what an amplifier like that is all about, you would need a good 6-10 db more efficiency.

I'm very familiar with John's speakers as we've shown with him at shows for the last 20 years or so.

Classic Audio Loudspeakers does offer the Hartsfield Reproductions which are more suitable for the Frankensteins, but IMO the T-1 is a better speaker overall. I'm sure you already know what that is about as you have the T-1.4.
I have heard the older Wyetech 211 amps with the Audio Note transformers and that is a very nice sounding amp.  It was being used with ultra high efficiency speakers (107 db/w) so I do not know how they perform with speakers that are not that efficient.  

I have also heard several Joule OTL amps and they were quite nice sounding too.  For OTLs, they are on the fuller, warmer side of the tonal spectrum. One of the Joules I heard had some noise issues, and this was the case even when running speakers that were not extremely efficient.  I happen to like the lively, dynamic sound of OTL amps.  The Classic Audio speakers I heard, particularly the field coil models, are themselves very dynamic and lively sounding, but, I never thought that combining an OTL with such speakers resulted in too much of a good thing (they sounded quite good with the Atmasphere OTLs that they are often paired with at audio shows).

You can never know how something will work out unless you actually try the particular combination; see if you can arrange an in-home audition with the Joules.
Ralph, 
Fluffers isn't interested in Frankenstein,  he's has the Wyetech 211 amplifiers and is considering the Joule OTL. Thaluza owns the Frankenstein and previously owned the Jolues.
Charles, 
Thaluza, 
I appreciate your detailed and very insightful comments. If interesting that you mention piano, we have one in our home as well. Surprisingly the 8 watt Frankenstein reproduced the most realistic piano sound I've ever heard in my system. Actually every instrument is reproduced more realistically than with previous owned amplifiers.  Based on your description I believe that I'd really enjoy the Joule OTL as much as you did. Two different amplifiers but both with many desirable attributes. 
Charles, 
Hi Larryi,
The warmer and fuller sound of the Joule OTL you describe relative to other OTLs makes sense to me. I've only heard the Berning and the Atma-Sphere OTLs  and they were a lean and clean type presentation. So the Joule OTL goes in a different direction. 
Charles, 
Is Joule-Electra still in business?
Hi Charles 1 dad,

I too find both the Atmasphere and Berning to be somewhat on the lean side, but, I like the liveliness of the sound they deliver.  While I did not make any sort of direct comparison of the Joules with either OTL, I did hear the Joules against another OTL (custom-made, non-commercial amps) and the Joules were slightly warmer sounding, but, also not quite as dynamic and lively; so, at least in this case, there was some tradeoff involved.  I think one can get quite lively sound from other tube topologies, like SET amps, but, the big limitation there is that the best sounding SET amps have a very limited output and only work well with a few speakers; OTLs can be made to work with a wider range of speakers.  

The BIG Joule OTL I heard also had a problem which caused it to intermittently put out a HUGE, window rattling pop.  This turned out to be caused by bad tube sockets which had to be replaced.  That is a very BIG job on amps with that many tubes.  I know a few people who had, in my view, a bit more reliability issues with their OTLs than I would be comfortable with having in my own system.  I have had zero reliability issues with my Audio Note Kageki or my pushpull Western Electric 133 amp, but, I just might be lucky (so far).
Larryi,
I'd be happy if Fluffers can compare his Wyetech 211 SET  with the Joule  OTL. It would be very interesting to read his listening impressions. I have no doubt that these two amplifiers provide rather different sonic presentations. Wyetech has an excellent reputation for sound quality. 
Charles, 
Fluffers isn't interested in Frankenstein,  he's has the Wyetech 211 amplifiers and is considering the Joule OTL. Thaluza owns the Frankenstein and previously owned the Jolues.
Charles,
Thanks- as you surmised I was confused.

FWIW you might want to hear the M-60 on the CALs sometime and see if you still think it sounds lean. Because our amps really don't use feedback, the sound can be influenced by the loudspeaker's impedance curve and whether the designer was expecting the amplifier to employ feedback. 'Lean' is not how our customers tend to describe the product (although they don't tend to use 'lush' either...).

The T-1 was designed using a pair of our amplifiers. John bought his first set of amps from us about 1989.

Also, I would make sure that the output tubes are readily available. I bought new tubes 2 years ago, but found that a lot of tube sellers were not carrying them anymore, or if they did, they were asking high prices. Even the usually reliable Russian dealers did not have them in stock.

I forgot to address this issue- the 6C33 is still not that hard to find. We re-issued our Novacron amplifier which uses that tube and have not had any troubles finding the power tubes at all.

The main problem you are going to be dealing with when using *any* amplifier that uses that tube is socket reliability. The Russians were not concerned with socket reliability when they designed the tube- initially they expected that the tube would serve 750 hours and then be replaced along with its socket. It was for a military application after all. In practice, the tubes often outlive the sockets, which develop bad filament connections due to the excess current in the filament circuit. What this means is that the sockets should be replaced as a regular part of the maintenance of the amplifier. Obviously this should be done by a qualified technician! Anyone owning an amplifier using 6C33s knows this and it was hinted at in larryi's post above.


Ralph, 
I didn't use the term lean with negative connotations but simply as a relative comparison based on my listening experience  of it compared to my current amplifier.   I haven't heard the Joule OTL. A friend of mine is familiar with the Joule  and the Atma-Sphere OTLs. His impression of their tonality is  the same as Larryi. Not a case of  better /worse but different presentations were observed. No question that speaker or system compatibility would favor one over the other. 
Charles, 
Ralph,

 If the OP were to limit responses to only those with experience with Wyetech and JE, crickets would be chirping. The OP's post is titled "What is the "sound" dif. between a Joule -Elctra OTL and a SET amp??"  I responded in accordance to what was in the title.

Being a former longtime Joule owner, I was trying to give the OP information from someone with the actual experience of owning a Joule amp. That's all, I wasn't trying to make it into a Frankenstein thread. I mentioned the brand and make of my amp, and a brief description of what I am hearing from that amp, to give the OP perspective on where I am coming from. That's all.

I had a few sources for 6c33c tubes that I tried. Joule Electra was the main source, but they went out of business and stopped selling tubes. Upscale Audio was another source, and they did not have any in stock. Another source was a popular Russian tube seller whom I had purchased from in the past, and they surprisingly did not have any either. There were a couple of other well known US based tube sellers that did not have any either. This was two years ago, looks like things have changed.

Peace,
Tom