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I would considering bumping your budget up by $500 and get something that won't leave you second guessing and lusting after another upgrade before long. I was in your price range too, but after reading a lot of discussion board threads it sure seemed I could get something more accurate or better if you will by spending around $500 more. Not $3000 - $4000 more. There were about three or four phono amps in that price range, all valve based, passive EQ. Three were kits that can be purchased assembled. In the end I went with the one that probably has by far the best support and is based in North America instead of overseas. I can't say more than that because I haven't heard it yet. But you might want to think about your budget, if you can of course.
I own a Benz Ace low since 2004. I found the Wright WPP-100C (old model before the 200 series) mates very well with the cart using Mullard 6ER5 and Telefunken 12AU7 as tubes. George Wright passed away and close shop but sometimes I see this phono preamp offered here a little below your price point.
To me, the phono stage should not increase the bass dramatically (RIAA Pre-emphasis/De-emphasis curve). It should only amplify what the table/cart provides. Having said that, since I know the Benz have a lot of bass, I think the problem is the VPI. My brother had the full blown Scout and my friend the Scoutmaster Anniversary Edition. Both only took one listen to a well refurbished idler drive TT and confirmed what the bass should really sound like (PRAT includes the bass). Even my Teres 255 and my brothers Teres 245 delivers much better bass than the VPI's mentioned.
Rumour has it that the new VPI- HW-19? is a different animal. Maybe you can listen to that or even a Techinics 1200 before you jump in to the phono preamp merry-go-round. I been there, it is not fun.