Best Preamp Audio Research LS5 versus BAT VK-5i/SE

I am interested in adding a tube preamp to my system. Since I'm running the system balanced, after some research I've narrowed down the options to the Audio Research LS5 (Mk II or III) and the Balanced Audio Technology VK-5i or VK-5SE.
I prize tonal accuracy, slam (within limits of a tube preamp), transparency, depth, and the ability to flesh out the performers. Excellent soundstaging a plus.
Any thoughts anyone?
I really don't think you would be disappointed with any of
the preamps you mention. That being said, I've been incredibly
happy with my ls5mkii for about 8 years now. All of your
criteria are certainly met with this classic. My ls5mkii
drives a pair of vertically-biamped arc d400mkii ss amps.
I have a LS5-II now and own one VK30SE before. They are all excellent preamps. BAT is more accurate and ARC is more lush with tube glare. So it depends on your taste. Md. Butterfly vs. Carmen.
BAT has a ss type of control on bass and like a well-behaved human, it can be too revealing for some bad recorded CD's. ARC is smooth, bold, and more forgiving, it can be warm for some people. I keep LS5-II becasue it has 12/30 db gain, that helps when using with phono stage for low gain cartridge. I prefer neutral toward slightly warm type of sound. But some people may like the other way. Also Sonic Frontier 2SE/3SE is pretty good, sound wise falls between BAT and ARC.
I'm in the same situation, I'm checking out the AR LS-5, BAT VK-5i and a Sonic Frontiers Line 2. I've been leaning towards the BAT, because I enjoy the family signature. I actually feel the BAT is warmer then the LS5. Although I thought the LS 5 warmer than the LS 25. I think the SF is the most SS sounding of them all, no offense if you're looking for bass slam.


The BAT VK-30 and BAT VK-5's are a completely different sounding preamps. VK-30 is far more neutral and slightly better extended in treble and bass than VK-5. VK-5, when I auditioned it, side by side with the VK-30, sounded like a classic tube preamp with the warm, lush midrange and softened top and bottom end.

I ultimately chose the VK-30 because I'm a sucker for PRAT and it does everything the original poster wanted in a tube preamp very well. I also find it more forgiving than any SS preamps I tried and some hybrids like SF Sig-1.

I also auditioned the SF Line 1 and 2 from the same dealer and the BATs were far more musical sounding preamps. SF rendered the music a bit bland and lifeless compared to the BAT preamps. YMMV of course.

Oh, if it matters, the amp used during the audition in all cases was SF Power 1. I still regret not buying that amp...