I don't regret my BAT VK30 purchase. $2100 (included the BATPAK upgrade and remote), then picked up a Lehmann Black Cube phono section for $400. Killer preamp combo IMHO
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As far as phono stages go, the AI M3A wins hands down between the 2 in question. The AI's phono stage is tube(even for MC Gold board, its signal goes through the MC stage is SS, then tube MM stage, to tube line stage), where the BAT is SS through and through. The line stage is about the same, with the AI throwing a larger, deeper stage, but a little less neutral; the VK3i is "neutral", where the AI leans to the warmer side.Both are as quiet as a mouse - with black backgrounds. The AI M3A has no remote however. The AI is more dynamic, and explosive, and its soundstage, and its warmth for me, was a plus; and its phono stage is worth the price of admission alone. ITs also SET in design. For me, and I suppose yourself, it comes down to how "neutral" or as I see/hear it, "sterile" do you want it? Do you need a remote? Is phono not really a priority, but a nice benefit? If yes to all 3 then the BAT; if your vt100(or stereo as a whole) could use a little more meat on 'dem bones, then the AI. If phono is the only criteria, then AI. IMHO.
I am familiar with both the BAT VK5i and 3i from friends' systems and from direct comparisons with other pre's. I prefer the Mod 3A to the BAT. IMHO, the BAT can sound a bit too clinical in some systems. If you value a remote and balanced outputs, the BAT may appeal to you more. On sound alone, I love the Mod 3A. It has wonderful inner detail, and is very musically engaging.
I tried a modulus 3a & I didn't care for it. I only ran it with my mccormack amp/virgos/nordost. It was a mid year 2000 unit that had some telefunken NOS tube in it & the new stepped attenuators. I found it to be warmer but significantly noisier and less detailed than my adcom 750 preamp. Again this could be due to the tube that was in it & system synergy. What I really could not stand about the AI was it's ergonomics. This model had the hard stepped attenuators with very course volume gradations. In my system it was either too loud or too quiet. That was my biggest complaint about it. The sonics were pretty good actually (warm and alive) & with a tube amp I might have preferred it.