Get the Manley instead.
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Gladstone, thanks for the pointer, however, the Manley is not of interest as follows. Since I already have a BAT-VKP10 (bought used 1 year ago), the choice I'm contemplating is to upgrade the BAT to SE status or sell it and get a comparably low mileage ARC Ref Phono. The incremental dollars would be about $2K to do either. As may be relevant, I have an ARC RefII, MkII preamp (love its richness and body) into Pass X600's (love their transparency).
Gladstone, but I'm NOT only listening to vinyl... have a full dcs setup for digital and have no interest in giving up the ARC preamp. Obviously, you love the Manley, and that's great, but it's not under my consideration...only the two components (three if you consider the BAT "SE" upgrade)I've asked about. If you don't like either, that's OK, too, and is noted.
Rvlardon, i was staying away from this thread because it appeared you were limiting your choices to the ARC Ref Phono and the BAT VK10SE.
i had the BAT VK10SE in my room for about a week, 2 months ago. it was fully broken in and even had some NOS tubes that were said to be a significant improvement over stock. the BAT did nothing wrong but was not close to the refinement, detail and purity of my Lamm LP2 Delux. the BAT seemed kinda rough and vieled next to the Lamm. the BAT had slightly more bass slam than the Lamm but the Lamm was better at bass extention and micro-dynamics.....the Lamm sounded more real. this was with 3 different cartridges.
i have heard both the Manley and the ARC Ref; although not in my room. the Manley is far superior to the ARC Ref. in similar ways that the Lamm is better than the BAT. i have not compared the Manley and the Lamm but plan to shortly......they are easily the class of this price range (i owned the Aesthetix Io for 2 years).
i use the Lamm thru a Placette passive RVC and feel that or the Manley used direct is the way to go.
i completely agree with Gladstone that you should seriously consider the Manley (or the Lamm) and forget about the ARC and BAT (and lose the ARC Ref II pre which is only getting in the way).
Gladstone and i are not trying to frustrate you but are trying to save you some learning curve time we have already spent.
in any case, good luck.
The Groove is very good. Not as good the Manley. The Manley is extremely flexible which allows for optimal loading, accomplished easily, and is very, very fast, neutral--and musical. Like all tubed equipment, it's performance can be enhanced by replacing, in its case, the 6922s, which are most deficient. But even stock, it should outperform the other units you mention.
Since you already had the ARC Ref Preamp MkII, it is definitely a right decision to go along with the Ref.Phono. I tried this combination, it is really life like with the best mid you would never expect from either of them when they are used in a stand alone situation and being part of other combinations. It is really strange to discover their best performance only when they are paired together. I own many other phonostage and this one can never disappoint you.