bat vk-51se vs. audio research ref2mkii

thinking about buying a bat vk51se or an audio research ref2mkii. looking for help in deciding between the two.

amyone with experience with these 2 great preamps would be greatly appreciated.

my system consists of:
wadia 861se
vpi hrx
manley steelhead ver.2
pass labs x1 preamp
pass labs x350 amp
wilson watt/puppy ver.7
all cabling(interconnects and speaker) nordost valhalla
all inerconnects balanced or using adapters

thanks, and i would appreciate any and all opinions in regards to the bat and a.r., when compared up against my system and knowing that the new prepamp will replace my x1.

dr. keith zeliger(klzdo)
one more thing to add, i have considered a ref3, however i can not afford the price tag at present or in the forseeable future.

thus i am looking at a preowned vk51se or ref2mkii

i would really appreciate any one who has used or listened to these peices to gover me their input as to pros and cons of each.

I would keep the X-1 and upgrade the X-350 to the .5 version. In my opinion the X-1 is superior to your choices.
i agree with robbyg....the pass labs amp to the others is kind of going backwards. the x350 is a benchmark amp design.
I would also like to reinforce the previous opinions. However great the X350 is, the X350.5 is a quantum leap forward in nuance, detail and musicality. That change will give you a sure improvement in sound. The preamp change will be sidewaby at best. The WP7's will really let yoiu appreciate the ap change.

thanks for the opinions, but i am not going to upgrade the 350 to a 350.5. i am very happy with the 350 and wp7's.

however i am going to change the preamp to a tube hybrid and am looking for opinions on the vk51se vs the ref2mkii.

still going backwards.
I would not call the BAT VK-51SE a "tube hybrid". I own the 50SE.

One thing I will say about the BAT, it has a really superb user interface on both the unit and the remote that is very well thought out and hard to fault. Whether you prefer another preamp on sound quality is up to your tastes - but one can't complain about the ergonomics and the fit and finish on the BAT.

still going backwards.

You forgot the all important IMHO Jaybo.

IMHO, either would be a step forward, yes, I've heard the X-1, very nice.....for a solid state preamp.

I ultimately prefferred the VK-51SE over the AR Ref 2, better dynamics and larger soundstage, both were very good performers though. As always, YMMV.

Your Pass X350 Input has an input Impedance of 22 kohm balanced, 11 kohm unbalanced which may not be optimal for all tube preamps. ARC recommends 20K ohms minimum load for the REF II. ARC power amps usually have an input impedance of 100k or more. BAT claims "The unusual design of Balanced Audio Technology's preamplifiers allows their gain stages to drive loads with resistance much below what their specified output resistance ratings would imply." Just based on manufacturers claims, it would seem to favor BAT. But, the only true test is an audition with your own amplifier. Personally, I don't see why you wouldn't stay with a Pass Labs preamp. Same brand preamps and power amps are frequently synergistic matchups.

thanks for your most informative reply. i have decided not to go with the ar ref2mkii. i heard one today, and it is very noisy and not as good as i thought it would be. my x1 definately was better.

i am trying to set up an audition for a vk51se in philly next week at david lewis audio as he sells bat and pass labs both.

thanks again,
I find that it is almost impossible to predict how two pieces of gear will interact and sound together. You must ultimately make a choice based on actual trial -- anything else is a crapshoot. Recently, I heard a trial of a 5 watt pushpull 45 amp and a very good tube linestage driving a pair of Sonus Faber Anniversarios in a small room. The system sounded bad -- flabby bass, lacking in dynamics. I thought that it was obviously the way too low-powered amp. It turned out to be the linestage working with the particular amp, i.e., just the opposite of my expectations.

I would not change out the Pass Labs linestage for anything else unless I actually heard the combination. Generally, maintaining the same brand of equipment work well together; mixing may work, but that must be carefully evaluated.

That said, I do have some very general impressions about candidate linestages. Other than with the Ref. 3, I have not heard any system that had an AR linestage of recent vintage that I liked. In several systems where the Ref. No.2 was being tried out in, the system sounded a bit too lean and harmonically bleached for my personal taste. The BAT is perhaps a touch lean too, but not anything like the AR gear and it has a terrific remote control and a lot of flexibility. I would also suggest that you look into the VTL 7.5. I heard several nice systems that were controlled by this linestage. It to has a very good remote control.
I have an X350.5 which replaced an X-350. I have a Ref2 MK1 and a Pass X.02 which I switch between. Both are fine preamps and both have their strong suits. The Ref2 is NOT noisy at all. it is dead quiet. The Pass is wonderful in providing every nuance of detail and has a deep and well defined bass. It is very tube like in many of its characteristics from a standpoint of sweetness, but the decay that the Ref2 demonstrates on violins and other string instruments makes it more musical if not more accurate for violin concertos or choral pieces. For rock and roll the Pass is my choice. Your decesion really rests on what your listening tastes are and not what an oscope would reveal.
Good luck,
jwin and larryi,
thanks for the help. i will keep my x1 for now, but will wait to audition the batvk51se .

the ref2mkii could be heard making a hum from 5-6 ft. away and i found it annoying.

the pass x0.2 i have also heard, but it is ever so slightly better than the x1, i would not upgrade the x1 to it.

thanks again,
You are correct. The differences betqween the X-! and the X-02 are subtle. The difference between the X-350 and X-350.5 are substantial. I would try to find a way to get to audition one. I used to have Bat VK-60 monos along with the X-350 and I traded that BAT monos and don't miss them.
Hello Keith.

I'm just curious what did you end up with? It's been a long time since this post.

BTW, I'm currently running a combination of BAT VK-51SE with X250.5 and find it outstanding.