I have been doing the same search, although my budget is slightly higher. So far, the Dehavilland Superverve w/NOS tubes I have tried sounds superb. I had issues with other tube preamps (due to high sensitivity of the McCormack) and sensitive speakers. You may not have that issue. The RLD-1 came up as a recommendation: they are available for under $1000 and upgrade-able! According to SMC, the upgraded RLD is close in performance to their newest preamp, the VRE.
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