I have been extremely pleased with my Denon DL-160 (hi output MC) in an SME 3009II arm, Thorens TD-125, Tube Audio Design TAD-150 preamp setup. You can get them for less than $200.
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I have the following Thorens combinations and can highly recommend the following carts:
TD 125 Mk. 1 with SME 3009 Series II (early) - Ortofon 2M Blue
TD 125 Mk.1 with SME 3009 Series II Improved - Audio Technica AT150Ti
TD 160 with TP16 arm and TP60 headshell - Benz Micro MC20E2
All of the above carts are in the $150 to $250 range new/used.
The Cambridge 640P is a fine budget phonostage to start with, the Rogue Audio Stealth a nice $700-$800 choice and the Graham Slee Era Gold Mk.V is really nice around $1000.
I've had all of the above and can recommend each. You might consider picking up a nice vintage receiver by Kenwood, Luxman, Tandberg and/or McIntosh. Some of the top of the line models by these mfrs. have really fine phonostages and you can get a killer tuner as well.
A lot of folks don't think its very "audiophile", but try to the Shure M97xe. They can be had for less than $100 and they're a great value. I had this cart on a TD-160 super and was really impressed with it for the $$. Even more so when I ran it through a Pro-ject Tube Box. It won't be the last word in super high-end detail, but the timbres are really great and the IMHO the over all sound was very satisfying.