What Preamp to replace ARC sp-9 mkIII

I am thinking of replacing my sp-9 mkIII that has been in my system since 97. Sonically I love it. However I do ocasionally have issues with light distortion at the gain and balance controls. Unit has been to ARC twice for service over the years. I know other ARC gear owners that have similar complaints. Something I have lived with because it sounds so good. I listen to vinyl exclusively. Phono stage must be tops. I also like the hybrid sound of the sp-9 and am a bit concerned going to full tube pre given my speakers- Vandersteen 2ce sig. Amp is an Aragon 8008st. Cables Harmonic Tech. Was considering BAT gear or an upgrade to another ARC piece...up to $3000 budget. Suggestions? Thanks...
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Lots of really good line stages or phono stages at that price, but its's kind of in-between for a full function pre. Not sure that BAT is tops for phono stage and it is I believe not a hybrid design. Of course you need balanced gear to really make it shine. If you can run fully balanced the Atma-sphere MP-3 would be a good choice. OR Maybe a Joule 150 w built in phono stage or a CAT? I had an older CAT and I found the stepped attenuator, coupled w relatively high gain of the unit, to be too coarse to be able to adjust the volume satisfactorily.
Having owned one, I would say almost any modern preamp. Also, I would opt for a separate phono stage so that you can move up when you're ready. A used Asthethix Calypso would be a major upgrade for about $2500. If you insist on the phone stage being included, then consider the Janus. I own a Rhea which is very nice, but recently replaced it with an ARC REF-2SE phono stage, a little beyond your budget.
While I too kept my SP-9, mki, I later acquired an SP-10 mki that was a workhouse in my system and paired well with Vandy 3A's and both an ARC VT100 mkiii amp and a pair of ARC M100 monoblocks. Mostly analog playback. A year later, I added an SP-11 mki that was pleasing with digital sources but less so (IMO) than the SP-10 for analog. But I did go back later and replace the stock ARC (Russian?) tube in the SP-9 with Siemen CCa's which really kicked up the 9's performance. Perhaps a little tube rolling might improve your existing situation?
I had a SP-9MKI for a short time and then moved into the ARC SP-15. I have been very pleased with the SP-15; especially since I put NOS Tubes in the phono section. The NOS tubes not only sound better, much better, but they also last much longer. I espouse the integrated phono preamp/preamp. Less issues with coloration due to interconnec cables between boxes and less risk of noise. The SP-15 is fairly quiet because it has a seperate power supply box- as many good preamps do. It also has plenty of gain for low output MC phono cartridges with a handy cartridge loading dial on the front plate. I have heard the Ref 3,5, and 40th Anniversary preamps with the PH7 and Ref 2 Phono preamps in other systems and I don't feel like I'm missing much. It would be a differnt story, I'm sure; if I heard one of those more contemporary preamps in my own system which I know so intimately.

I sent my SP-15 preamp into ARC a few years ago for a tune up. A connector went bad in my umbilical cable between the two boxes, which was wierd since it just sits on a shelf. So they fixed that and per their recommendation, replaced all of the electrolytic capacitors in the power supply section for me since they were getting a bit aged. Other than the umbilical cable issue the SP-15 has been a great sounding, reliable workhorse for me these past 11 years.