I mean BAT vk-p3 phono module.
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I believe the BAT plug-in module is absolutely as good or better than most separate phono stages in the $1000-$1500 range because I auditioned several before choosing it for my VK-31SE. In fact, and I know this is weird, but I think it even sounded better than the separate VK-P5 I auditioned in my system. To beat it, I had to go above $3000, and eventually I ended up with the VK-P10SE with SuperPak which is stunning, in my opinion.
I had a VK30 with the BAT phono module and thought it was just OK, not bad but not great either. Moved on to a VK5i with VK-P5, much better but overall still kind of dull and dark. Since then have moved on to a Joule OPS1 and EAR 834P Deluxe with upgraded tubes and and both of these easily beats out the BAT gear. OK the Joule costs much more but the EAR is in the same price range and overall its hard to beat.
I briefly owned the BAT VK3I preamp that had the phono board. I thought the preamp in total was horrible in my system and I had it tricked out with some cool tubes from Kevin Deal. My brother drove up from Louisville to hear it and he wanted to take a sledge hammer to it. He also wanted to take a sledge hammer to the Mcintosh C2300 I had in my system 2 weeks ago. The Counterpoint SA-5.1 smokes both of them.
It's a shame that more people don't know how good the SA-5.1 is. The phono stage is killer and the line stage is too. In this day and age of preamps being billed as "all tube" or "pure tube" when in fact the entire power supply is SS I find troublesome. The 5.1 has a tube rectifier and tube voltage regulation (a total of 4 tubes devoted to the power supply). There is something magical about this. The SA-5000 is a step down in sound quality due to its power supply in comparison to the 5.1 (among other things as well) and the funny thing is it is more "desirable" (meaning it sells for more money)on the second hand market. Some people think newer must be better but even Mike Elliott who designed both the SA-5.1 and the SA-5000 will tell you the 5.1 is the better design.
The fact that you can buy an SA-5.1 for between $1200-$1500 makes it one of the best bargains in high-end audio (just try to find one though). Even Frank Gow (the son of Gordon Gow) who sold me the C2300 with a 11 day money back guarantee told me that he wasn't surprised that I sent the C2300 back. He said it was going to take a very expensive preamp to beat the SA-5.1 and I guess $6K doesn't qualify.
I have not heard BAT's better offerings such as the VK-31SE or their VK-P10SE so I can't comment on them. I would stay clear of the VK3I and its phono board. This was a dull, dark, and lifeless combo in my system.
I posted the question since I was very disappointed with the phono card in my vk-30 tested in my friend's house. After I've read some of the responses, I could not but conclude that the phono unit was at fault or there was something else seriously wrong.
However, my firend found out that the RCA connection was wrong. It was off-phase. Doh. What a stupid mistake!
After the correction, the phono sound just good as supposed to be. It needs more serious listening to be compared with more expensive units, but I am satisfied with its sound quality.
Thanks for all your response.