How about a Conrad Johnson PFR.
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I think the Musical Fidelity A3cr preamp is tough to beat.
Beautiful appearance, remote, dual mono power with choke regulation. Soundstage reviewers choice 2000, class B Stereophile, check soundstage.com review.
I own one and only change I would make is to add balance control, but all preamps I owned previously had no balance also. Sound wise I have no desire to try anything else,
smooth yet dynamic with clear clean treble.
Also check sam tellig review in 10/2000 Stereophile, Audio Advisor offers 30 day trail, has demos for $1295.
You have a number of choices in your price bracket, assuming you are looking for a preamp only (not a combo preamp and HT processor). One of the best values on the market is the Adcom GTP-750, which is listed as a "Class A"
component by Stereophile mag, yet has a MSRP of about $1250.
I also have experience with the Bryston BP-25, which has very clean, transparent sound that is grain-free (it also has a 20-year transferrable warranty). With due respect to Megasam, I'd be a little careful about the Marsh preamp. It got a fairly mediocre review in the latest issue of Hi-Fi Plus mag, although the companion Marsh A-400 power amp got very positive comments. Since you are willing to consider used gear, you might also want to search for a recent model Klyne preamp. Stan Klyne builds a superb preamp, and you may be able to find a used model within your budget.