That's an easy one; Cary Audio SLP98p, used.
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First off,there is no, per se,"best" of anything.That is way to broad of a term to be useful.Whats "best" for me may not be "best" for you.There are however,plenty of good preamps in your price range.You have to make sure whatever you buy matches up with you present equipment.That being said,give the Rogue Metis an audition if possible.Don't let the $995.00 price fool you.This is a nice unit.If you want/need a remote,I think it bumps the price up another $100.00.
I don't know if best or not, but I am very happy with the ARC sp-16 in my system. It is very good for sure.
The Juicy Music BLueberry Tvad mentioned is another I considered but I decided to go with the ARC in that my local dealer was able to demo and order for me new about a year ago when some of the last of these were being made new as I understand it.
I sold Mac for years and they are great products maybe not last word in resultion (both tube and SS) but musical.Newer CJ stuff is better than older but still very "tubey" (warm and plenty of "bloom").I am not sure about ET-2 but am sure it's better than PV series.with lot's of bloom though they have cut down noise.Check Modwright 9 SE or a used BAT.I mention the Bat because they allow for mono and polarity and there are a few used that would be available.A old standby is the Audible Illusions 3 is same design for years because it does offer value.The Cary is good.If you can go with minimalist design look up a used Dodd Battery powered pre.Maybe a tad more than your budget $3K new)but tubed and quiet as hell since it's off AC grid.
What amplifier is going to mated with this preamp? Impedance matching is key.
For example, the Juicy Music Blueberry has a 3.5 kOhm output impedance. It
must be mated with an amplifier having high input impedance.
Be certain to check the output impedances of all the preamps you consider, and
check that they will properly match with your amplifier. If you have a tube amp,
then your possibilities are pretty wide open. If your amp is SS, then you need to
be very careful with matching.
Thank you everyone for your comments. They have helped me immensely in identifying the various options I have at this price point.
Some of you asked about the AMP these will be connected to. It will be connected to two Monarchy SE100 MK2 Monoblocks.
The rest of the system is as follows:
Musichall MMF 5.1 turntable with the Goldring 2200 MM cartrige
Cabridge Audio DAC with Sony PS3 as transport
Pre Amp: Onkyo - but looking to upgrade
Interconnect: Kimber Hero
Amp: Monarchy SE100 Monoblocks
Speaker Cable: Supra PLY 3.4
Speakers: NHT VT 2.4
There is no info on the Monarchy website regarding input impedance of the
SA100 monoblocks. I strongly suggest contacting Monarchy and obtaining this
specification before purchasing a preamp. It's possible that some tube preamps
will not match optimally with the solid state Monarchy amps. You need to have
this information before writing the check.
I don't think the 50K ohm figure is correct. Perhaps they meant 5k ohms.
In any case, with a 40k ohm input impedance for the SE-100, most tube amps will work, IMO, including the Cary SL-98p that has an output impedance that rises to 6.8k ohms at one point (according to John Atkinson's Test Measurements section of the Stereophile review).