Hi - there are a lot of systems out there. Among clamping/rod guided systems I think that Wicked Edge is the best - but depending upon needs it isn't for everyone. It sounds like speed of the work is among your concerns, and the Wicked Edge is definitely among the fastest. If you decide to get one, I'm confident you will be happy with the edges you'll be able to produce. Were you using the diamond rods on your sharpmaker? How much repair work were you trying to do?
I'm not sure how to address your concern about the ball joint arms being an accessory vs an upgrade. Wicked Edge calls the arms an "upgrade" to the basic sharpener system - WE100 - and sells them under the category of accessory as do we. You can buy them for the WE100 bought by itself or as part of the Pro Pack I (they don't fit the Field and Sport model) or as part of the Pro Pack II. The Pro Pack I and Pro Pack II both include the basic sharpener set up - WE100 - packaged with different stone combinations and bases. The Pro Pack II also includes the Ball Joint Arms kit which you install onto the sharpener. (more on this below if you want more info)
Whether you are missing out not buying the ball joint arms is a matter of opinion. For me the answer depends on what stones you are using, what blades you are sharpening and how precise an angle you are going to want to be able to set and hold. There are a lot of folks out there using the basic kit and have been for years now. Most of those people don't have any complaints about the arms and the results they produce. I am among those users. The basic arms provide more angle consistency and adjustment than is available on any device other than Edge Pro (KME being the next closest). I own both sets of arms and use them both, but I use my original arms much more, get amazing results with no visible faceting or angle variance. For most purposes I like my original arms best, as I don't like the limitation on the motion away from the blade - it interferes with my rhythm. Others have a problem with angle variance with the original arms - either visible or they see a wobble in the joint and are concerned by it. The ball joint arms are definitely smoother than the original arms, particularly if you put a lot of pressure on the stones against the blade, or don't use the sharpener enough to have established a set motion (kind of like weekend golfers).
I think the new arms are a must if you are sharpening straight razors and if you are working with natural or manufactured stones that wear with use. The micro adjustments make sharpening razors much easier and way more precise, and they also allow you to deal with the changing and varying thickness of stones. Also a must for piece of mind if you know you are going to want the most consistent angle you can possibly produce no matter the thickness of the stone or strop you are using. If you are in that group, then buying them right off the bat is probably a good investment, otherwise, try it out the sharpener and see what you think. You can always pick them up later.
here is a bit more information on the ball joint arms and how they are sold...
Ball joint arms kit without Angle Cube
The ball joint arms kit includes the new arms, a vise riser and a new base rod (the part of the sharpener that the angles are marked out on).
The arms kit is designed to work with the basic sharpener WE100 - either Gen I or Gen II. The arms fit onto the original base rod and the vise riser inserts between the blue base and vise to adjust for the increased height of the joint location. The vise riser can be used alone with the basic kit arms to allow you to get lower angles. The new base rod is longer than the old one by about 4 inches and is marked out from 13 to 35 degrees (as opposed to 15 to 30 on the original). Like the original it is possible to go a bit wider and a bit narrower.
You can buy the arms with or without an angle cube - they come bundled with the angle cube if you buy the Pro Pack II. If you don't already have a small angle measuring device, like the angle cube, you are going to want one to take advantage of the capabilities of these arms. You can download an app to do this on your smartphone but the accuracy is not the same.
I should also mention here that currently the arms are on back-order due to an unauthorized change WE's factory made to the design. Wicked Edge has issued a recall on the arms and is waiting on new parts (the recall only affects some of the arms - namely those that are fitted with 8-32 set screws instead of the 10-32 originals). The recall also affects all the arms we have in stock too. We prefer not to ship them until they are fixed, but the arms are usable as is and we will ship with the understanding of the recall - and we'll add the address to the list so Wicked Edge sends out the new parts to you when they are available. They are estimating to have the parts in to ship in 2 to 3 weeks currently.
Hope that helps