McCormack Micro Line Drive speaks for itself in your situation.
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I use a Counterpoint 7.1 tube pre with an ST 140 and have always found a nice synergy between the two. Have driven both MMG's and Sound Dynamics RTS 3's with the setup. The Counterpoint has a very nice phono section as well. I have seen them posted here for 250.00 - 275.00. They use 2 12AX7's and 2 6DJ8's per side.
There is a Cambridge Audio C500 that someone is selling here for $155 including the optional remote control which cost $50 by itself. The C500 is one of the nicest sounding super low cost preamps I've heard, that is modern in features like a remote control, etc.
If you can find an old Superfon preamp, it would do nicely also.
Try an FT Audio or Another Passive Pre .The only way you'll do better is if you get into the $1500+ range.
Creek,Channel Island and a few others also make Passives ,but you'll have to match them for gain with your system.
I have a B&K ST-202 and was using a pair of Maggie 1.4 before moving on so I have some idea of what will work.
great ideas...i'll look into all of the suggestions.
so far, ive been looking at:
- b&k avp1000
- antique sound labs waveline L1
- audio experience music mk3 (whats up w/these??)
i'm looking to get something sooner than later. any comments on these above?