Looking to upgrade my preamp - suggestions?

My system has been coming along pretty nicely since I started putting it together 2 years ago and I am now thinking about upgrading to a better preamp. I'm looking for opinions about which preamp would go well with my Manley 300b neoclassic amps. The Manleys only have RCA inputs (no balanced inputs).

Here are the amp specs:

I am currently using the Manley Shrimp, which I still think is a good unit for the $$$. I'd like to upgrade however because I think a better preamp would improve the bass, give me a bigger soundstange and also improve my ability to hear further into the music. My system now is a bit laid back - many recordings sound like they are coming from a few feet behind the speakers. I would like a bit more forward presentation. The sound is rather neutral which I like. Not looking for an artificially warm tube sound.

I would like to buy in the used market and I'm fairly flexible on price range - $2000-$3000 or so. I would love to own a Conrad Johnson CT5 (or Ref 3) but at $4500 or so (used) its a rather outsized investment relative to other components in my system. I really built my system around the 300b amps :) In my opinion, past $3k on a preamp I would be better served upgrading my speakers?
Yes the ARC LS-26 looks very nice and the review I read said something to the same effect (it being very close to a Ref 3 in performance). Another nice feature is that you can select gain in SE for 6,12 or 18db. Looks like low 3s is probably the going rate now on Agon for one.

I wonder if anyone has compared the ET2 against the LS-26? The ET2 can probably be had for $700-800 less on Agon.
Heard both but have owned cj 17ls and 16lsII; both cj pre's were excellent. Pick whatever one its your budget first ARC or cj ..........
Have you considered mods to your current pre-amp? I was at a similar point with my system last fall. I felt my Jadis DPL needed to be stepped up to a JPL. At the suggestion of my cable supplier I contacted Bob and Gary at RHB Sound Dezign. http://www.rhbsounddezign.com
They took my stock DPL to a level I thought I would never be able to reach. Due to these mods, everything that you described your looking for in your new pre-amp, mine now has and much more. Specifically, there new dynamic linearty tube supporting circut. This is unique only to RHB. Give them a call and they will explain it to you in greater detail. Cheers!
I have a Shrimp as a secondary (backup) preamp. In my system the Shrimp is punchy, exuberant, and certainly not laid back. Compared to the VAC Renaissance it does lack bass weight and impact. It also lacks some of the spacing, refinement and soundstage of the VAC. I a/b'd the Shrimp against the ARC SP16 which was thin/lean and had an annoying stepped volume control. The bass of the Shrimp killed the ARC. Looking at photos of your system, I would suspect some setup and room treatment might be money better spent. I would not lay all your problems on the Shrimp. Note: I purchased my Shrimp as a demo and they could not find the stock cord so I have always used it with a Nordost Brahma plugged into a Nordost Thor. So, you could try a different cord.
Yes, Im sure room treatment would help too, but I am pretty limited in what I can/will do there as I am in a NYC rental apartment. Certainly the room layout is far from ideal. The speakers in my system are designed for tight front wall setups and for listening I cover up the TV with a heavy wool blanket which helps some. Side walls are completely uneven (the side wall opposite the sofa is a built in kitchen) so no point trying to treat just 1 wall. On cords and other things I have experimented a bit. Replaced the 12AT7s with Telefunken ECC801s which made a big difference over the OEM tubes. Im sure the room is 50% of the problem though - no arguement there.