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You might be able to find a used Allnic H1201 for around $2K. I have it and think it's phenomenal. I replaced a JLTI mkIV with the Allnic, and the JLTI is well within your price range. It's very detailed and quiet and dynamic, but doesn't have the full/rich sound of the Allnic in my opinion. But the JLTI was still quite a nice little phono stage. I almost pulled the trigger on a used Herron VTPH-1 phono stage before getting the Allnic. Used that's also in your price range and is supposed to be quite good.
I really liked the Avid Pulsus. Clear improvement over the SimAudio Moon 5.3LP with optional extenal power supply. Especially in treble and bass.
Have since moved on to a Musical Fidelity kW phono preamp, which is a beast. No longer made, and not sure what it goes for on the used market if you can track one down. kW gear shows the sonic benefit of having a nice burly power supply.
Vortex and Dazzlingmd, isn't the Allnic H1201 a tube phono stage? Zeal clearly stated in his original post that he was looking for a solid state phono preamp. I have not heard the Allnic, and I'm sure it is very good, but I did not recommend the Herron VTPH-1, which is also very good, because it also is a tube phono stage.
Sorry, I missed the detail in the post about ss amps. Yes, the Allnic and Herron are both tubes. The JLTI is SS and I liked it a lot, but there's not a universal view on those. I found it great with the rock, jazz and acoustic music I listen to, and it can be had for around $800 used (it's $1600 new).
Before I got the Allnic tube phono stage, I was also considering the JC-3 and Pass Labs, but I never actually heard either. Lots of good reviews, though.
Sutherland 20/20 is a great phono pre with a great deal of flexibility to accommodate a wide range of carts. I had little experience beyond the phono card in my integrated, but the Sutherland was a very large audible upgrade for me. Integrated was / is a Luxman 505u. It has been my favorite upgrade so far.
Jmowbray, I'm curious about why you prefer the Triton over the Ares for rock? I'm leaning towards getting an Ares over a Triton because I generally like the tube sound better, but I do listen to more rock, reggae, electronic and world music with the occasional jazz record thrown in. Also, what amp are you using with them (I'm using a Rogue Cronus Magnum w/ KT 120s)?