There's a used Rogue 66 on sale right now on AGon for $795. A great tube preamp. And, no, I'm not the seller.
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Most significant improvement I have made in my system was to go with a tube linestage and a SS power amp ... your half way there.
AES, TAD, Rogue and I really like the Cary stuff ... any one of them will no doubt make a huge improvement. Does Audio Research make anything with a remote? I have seen many deals in your price range.
I'm running a Modwright SWL 9.0 SE and life has never been better; even food tastes better! Boss asks if I've lost weight ... (grin)
Get out your CD collection because it was like getting everything in my collection remastered.
I had both a MF A3cr and 3.2cr. They are great values and I think they are very tough to beat. They have a built in phono that is close to your MF XLPS, so you could sell that and save some money. If you want to go tube, Conrad-Johnson pre's are very good. The entry level PV-10b does not include remote however.
I'm sold on the tube preamp with ss amp concept, too. Music just sounds sweeter and more enjoyable through a tubed preamp without any loss of details. Not to say that you can't get this sound from a very good ss preamp but, in my experience, they're hard to find and very expensive.
There's a general rule that states the input impedance of the amp should be roughly 10 times the output impedance of the preamp to be a good match. For example, my preamp's output impedance is 200 ohms and my amp's input impedance is 22,000 ohms and they work well together (200x10=20,000, which is close to 22,000).
There are plenty of good tubed preamp products out there: CJ, Rogue, Cary, VTL, Modwright, BAT, ARC TAD, etc are some more affordable ones....checkout the tubed preamps here for sale. Good luck.