I just recently traded my ARC LS5 III for a VK30SE. And I compared both of these to the 31SE and an Atmasphere MP3 (what a huge disappointment!) at the local dealer here in Minneapolis. I will not go into the details how the ARC or MP3 compares to these two BAT units. If anyone is interested, they can email me and I will give them some insight.
I found the 30SE to just not be involving enough in the top most frequencies. There was so much detail I had been used to hearing that was not there. There was something so natural about the vocals but the lack of top-end energy just made for too laid back of a presentation and thus kept me from getting involved in the music. A switch to the 31SE and wow, so much treble extension, air and ambient information came along. What a huge transformation in just getting involved with the music. All of you Linn/Naim toe tappers, you ain't heard nothin' yet! The same was also true in the string bass. The 31SE, most likely due to its beefier power supply, just brought on the bass so much more extended and this was very noticeable at low volume. The mids were virtually the same as was the placement of instruments. In either BAT unit, imaging was exceptional. Both units have a very similar tonal character except at the frequency extremes.
I upgraded my 30SE and got it back as a 31SE last night. The one advantage I had was that the tubes had already had some action. Within a couple hours I realized I have never enjoyed music in my home like this before. There are so many musical cues I had not heard before....but more importantly the sound was much more like a real performance than any given attribute typically described by a reviewer. It was like being at a jazz night club without the cigarette smoke!
After owning an ARC LS5 II and then III, for almost 8 years, finally I have found something that gives me as big of an improvement as the LS5 II did over the SP10 I owned previously for 8 years.
I simply can not imagine getting any kind of refinement to this magnitude at such an incredible price. All you have to do is look inside a BAT vs ARC and it is very apparent you get far more for your $ with the BAT.....if nothing else, the power supply. And the 31SE upgrade brought home to me once again how significant the power supply is here.
My musical tastes have evidently changed to a presentation at the speakers and behind vs the ARC "let's get the music out into the room". I did hear the LS25II for over an hour and it was quite nice but it did not affect me the way the 31SE did....the BAT simply had an addictive magic. And this is coming from a die-hard ARC fan since 1983!
Oh well, as HP said years ago when he replaced the Goldmund Ref with the Versa Dynamics....hardly a unique statement but rather fitting here too..."The King is Dead, long live the King". Thank you BAT! And all for $1000 over the 30SE.