In Europe BAT is a little bit more expensive than in the USA, but compared to other high end products from the USA sold in Europe it is fair priced.
I have always bought my amplifiers second hand and after long time search I managed to find a BAT VK30 secondhand.
I have never had a tube preamp in my system before which consist of a pair of Krell 350M, Teac P30 drive, Meridian 563 converter (upgraded to 24 bit), Meridian 518, Clearaudio basic 2, Mitchell Gyrodeck (modified), Audiolab RIAA, and a pair of homebuild speakers with Thiel treble and midrange and a TC Sound bas.
The thiel elements are very detailed and dynamic, but all the preamps I have previously tried sounded a bit hard, so decided to try a Tube preamp.
I have tried a ML26 and a Krell KRC2 but they sounded to hard on my speakers, and only very good recorded LP's or CD's which was leaning towards the warm, was sounding resonable.
After adding the VK30 to my system it suddenly sounded of music, and a lot of old recordings which sounded terrible with my other preamps was suddenly listenable.
The Bat VK30 might not be the most detailed or dynamic preamp, but my speakers has it all, so I think I have enough of everything. Also like mentioned on other reviews it is a little bit colourful in the lower midrange.
What is exceptionel with the BATVK30 is the wide and high soundstage, when you listen to it you listen to music, not Hi-Fi.
Another thing which I find excellent with the BAT is that it is upgradeable, and the upgrade price to a VK30SE is more or less the same as the price difference between the two.
For the money, this is an outstanding linestage, and in some ways, it is very good no matter the cost. The build quality and aesthetics are top-notch. User support thanks to Victor's presence on the web is among the best in the High End. The user friendliness and flexibility of this linestage is, IME and with the exception of the Levinsons, the best on the market. Single-ended and balanced inputs and outputs, complete programmability of each input for phase, gain, etc..., you can even name each input with up to 4 alphanumeric characters (don't snicker--if you do a lot of gear swapping, this can be a real convenience). Ditto for that gain option--you can match (with +/- 0.25dB accuracy) the gain for each input, for repeatable volume settings across sources, an absolute necessity when auditioning source components. With this feature, you can even seamlessly integrate a surround-sound processor into your 2-channel system, for the best of both worlds. And the remote control, though pricey, is terrific! Beefy aluminum, full-functioned, and easy to use; this is no volume-only remote like the Cary, or a flimsy plastic job like the ARC. Just super!
OK, there have to be some negatives, otherwise I wouldn't have sold it (after 6 months ownership) for something better; at twice the price I might add. The most serious flaw of this linestage is a distinct coloration, noted below by another reviewer, consisting of a chestiness in the lower midrange that does not go away no matter how you tweak the unit or which tubes you use. For some, this coloration might not be bothersome or even noticeable. But as my system is quite neutral in other regards, and my favorite type of music (female torch and ballad singers) are zeroed in right on this range of the frequency spectrum, the chestiness is just too much of a flaw to live with and I have moved on. I will note that tube choices in place of the stock Sovtek 6922s can ameliorate this chestiness to a certain degree (Siemens 7308s and Mullard CV2493s are particularly good). Also, like the Atma-Sphere preamp, there is a definite chassis ringing that contributes to the coloration I heard; try taking the chassis cover off, the VK-30 definitely sounds better "naked"! I could discern no improvements to the VK-30's performance with isolation footers, aftermarket power cords, or power line conditioners (PP300 was tried). Since all of BAT's products feature beefy power supplies and line filters, this insensitivity to power tweaks is perhaps unsurprising.
So, what's the big picture view? In its price range, this is a very good linestage, and with its many advantages, is a must-audition product. If one can live with, or better yet, not notice the chestiness I refer to, then I think the VK-30 may be just the ticket. I should note that I was able to compare the VK-30 to a VK-30SE, and frankly, I found the differences to be minor. YMMV.
This is the fourth preamp that I've owned. Previous models include: Adcom GFP565, Anthem Pre1L, Sonic Frontiers Line1. The BAT VK-30 is likely my last for some time. It is by far the quietest of the 3 tubed pieces I've owned. I won't try to use terms unfamiliar to me to describe its performance (what exactly is pace anyway?) I can only say that I find myself listening more often and for longer periods than with previous preamps. The BAT's soundstage is wide and defined. Mids are very smooth. Highs are extended and sweet. The bass wasn't what I'd hoped for initially, but has improved tremendously with a switch to some tubes from Upscale Audio (Russian 6N23). I can not say enough about the build quality of this unit. I spent the first hour removing the cover and admiring the parts quality and layout.
Associated Equipment: Sony SCD 777ES Sonic Frontiers SFD2 (DAC) Aragon 8008BB Paradigm Reference 100 v.2
This preamp just keeps getting better and better in my system. There is absolutely no grain or glare that I used to hear with solid state preamps. I listen primarily to small ensemble acoustic jazz.
Balanced connections sound better to me, since my amp is also balanced (dual mono) design.
The characteristics of this preamp that I have heard in my system are as follows:
1. Completely black background, regardless of volume levels; when the music starts playing, it typically startles me 2. Beautiful midrange, voices and instruments sound real (I agree with the previous reviewer's coments on female vocals, they are truly stunning) 3. Extremely musical, absolutely no listening fatigue that I used to get with SS preamps 4. Great detail at all volume levels and in all parts of the sonic range 5. Bass is very articulate, tight, well balanced; not boomy and not too lean; acoustic bass such as that rendered by Christian McBride or Ron Carter is very realistic 6. Midrange has dimensionality, voices and instruments sound full, rounded, and in the room with you; the most realistic sax I've ever heard in my system 7. Treble is extended and airy, all electronic "tinge" and tizziness is gone from my system; handles sibilants and cymbols very well 8. Pace and rhythm are just right, this preamp lends a lot of "toe-tap" factor to everything I play
Obviously, I am thrilled by the performance of this preamp in my system. But perhaps the ultimate compliment came from my wife (who is not one to sit down and listen to music) when she said it sounded like Diana Krall was right in the room!
Audio Physic Libra Speakers Proceed HPA 2 Amp BAT VK 30 Rotel 971 CD (next to be upgraded!) Nordost Red Dawn balanced and RCA interconnects, speaker cables Audio Points and Vibrapods
Let me start by saying that crank commentators like the Miller guy below do all of us a disservice and demean this site...
With that out of the way, this is a great control "system". Clearly unmatched in terms of thoughtful design as a control interface. Built like a tank. Open the case and you'll be amazed at the parts quality and architecture. Thick and artful faceplate that exudes class.
The sound is truly special. I've lived with this preamp for 2 years and I love it even more than when I first got it. It's sonic signature is all the holography of tubes without any rolloff at either the top or bottom. Paired with the VK-200 amp, it's a perfect marriage. (See below, plus my BAT VK-200 posting under amps.)
Voice is absolutely wonderful. My wife and I have a wonderful musician friend named David Grover; he's a longtime performer with Arlo Guthrie and Pete Seeger. Now he does the most heartfelt children's music in the world - www.davidgrover.com (he even wrote a song for our daughter's baptism.) Well, we see David and his band perform live all the time as he lives near us in the Berkshires (MA). I know his voice (and his bandmates Terry and Kathy) in my head like none other.
When I play Grover CDs it's like they are THERE. (They don't know that they're replicated in our home whenever the kids want them.) Holography.
Female vocals are as easily "to die for". Holly Cole, Diana Krall, Carly Simon, Patricia Barber, (and Kathy Joe Barrett from the Grover ensemble) - THERE.
The match with the VK-200 is really special. As a system they reproduce instruments with incredible realism. The emotionality of the music is pure. Hard to tell which component is doing what tonally and dimensionally. The answer is both.
Now I feel better that I offset the crank below. And Victor Khomenko (and his partners) are a class act - all the more reason to encourage and support their company. Keep up the great work!