a cj tube pre will go nicely with the mccormick amp...get ready to be active.
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If you've been happy with the passive preamp perhaps an active preamp that is transparent, but provides some warmth in the form of tubes would be nice to check out. The Modwright 9.0 SE comes to mind. These are showing up under $2k used here and may not be much more than $2k new. A very nice preamp.
If you want something a bit more musical and warm, a used Joule Electra LA-100 MkIII will do the trick, or perhaps a Cary/AES preamp. The AES preamps are a great value for the money and well under your budget.
I just made the switch recently from a McCormack Micro Line Drive (and Lehmann's Black Cube) to an Odyssey Stratos Extreme (built in upgraded phono section). I think that it made a huge difference. I really don't feel like I lost in anything in the process. The biggest difference was in the depth of the bass. It really sounded like I had either bought a new amp or new speakers. I would absolutely recommend at least trying an active pre-amp.
I have McCormack amplification through a Bent NOH passive. Previously I had used a Herron VTSP-1A/166 before going with the passive (and balanced inputs/outputs). If I was going back to active and RCA connections, I'd buy another Herron with the McCormacks. Just great synergy, IMHO. In you budget, too, for a used sample and you could always sell it if you decided to go back to passive or another linestage.