The BAT line of preamps are excellent. Without knowing your budget, I would urge you to listen to the VK-50SE. There are some preamps that do a few things better than the BAT, however, the BAT's do everything well.
The BAT stuff is very good indeed, but listen to the CAT ULTIMATE! They will manufacture with balanced outputs at the customers request, as a matter of fact I just saw one listed here last week or so with the balanced option. The Mark Levinson gear as well as the Theta is upgradable and very good. By the way, what HT piece did you listen to that put such a bad taste in your mouth? .......Good luck..Vader