Joule Electra VZN-100 Amplifiers

Joule Electra VZN-100 Amplifiers 


100W into 10 ohms


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[Aug 16, 2004]


Unequaled "you are there" realism with Merlin speakers - and probably a lot of other speakers as well. The amps permit many performance parameters to be fine-tuned for optimum sound with a specific set of speakers, including the output damping/feedback, voltage going to the amps, bias current for the output tubes, and DC off-set.


Each amp has 6 huge Russian triodes (also used by many other very top tube amps), and requires ramping up a variac to power up the amps - not something you want to entrust to amateurs. Occasional checking of tube bias (made easy with built in digital meters and tube check buttons for each tube) for optimum performance is required. One of the tube sockets became intermittent, and I had to send the amps back to Jud Barber of Joule for repair - no problem, he is more than willing to discuss any problems on the phone and is a terrific person to deal with!

I recently purchased Merlin VSM/M speakers (wonderful speakers by the way) which I was driving with Cary CAD 300SE LX20 tube monoblocks. At 20 watts/channel, the Cary's sounded wonderful with the Merlins, but didn't have quite enough oomph. So - I had read a number of reviews about how the Merlins always demo'd at the electronics shows with Joule Electra VSN 100 Marquis OTL monoblock amps, which have 100 watts per channel - and are a match made in heaven with. Since I can't afford the newest Joule VSN 100's, I bought a pair used on Audiogon - probably about 5 years old. Well - everything they say about the Joule OTL magic is true! They sound more "real" and "you are there in the room with the performers" than any other amp I have ever heard and I have heard many many great tube amps, including the big VTL 250 triodes (which I owned). To give more perspective, my "other" amps for these speakers are a new pair of Bryston 7B SST monoblocks - which are dead reliable and very, very, very pure and low distortion, as well as powerful as all get out. Well, the Joule OTL's sound more powerful and dynamic on the Merlin VSM's (I have the tube crossovers)and one whole level more "real" than the Brystons - this is with both sets of amps being driven by the wonderful Joule LAP 150 preamp/phono rig. The "you are there" quality of the OTL is hard to describe if you are not there - it is not the result of an ultra-detailed high end, which the Merlins have in spades, but seems to be centered in mid-range harmonic accuracy and dynamic power and "jump". See if you can take a listen to a Joule OTL amp some time - it is quite an experience!

Similar Products Used:

Cary CAD 300SE LX20 tube amps, VTL 250T tube amps, others.

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