MM phono preamp upgrade for $1000?

I have a VPI Prime 3D with a Nagaoka mp 300 MM cartridge. I’m currently using a Lounge Audio LCR mk III preamp that doesn’t sound bad but I’m hoping to upgrade. My LCR is an early version so Lounge Audio tells me they can’t do the silver/gold upgrades on it. I have a budget of about $1000. What MM only preamps would you recommend I look into at that price point new or used.


I have been looking into Musical Surroundings and Sutherland already and both are possibilities. The Croft is new to me and I will check it out. 
My amp is a Icon Audio Stereo 40 mk4 tube integrated. Speakers are Sonus Faber Concerto with REL Britannia 2 subwoofer. I think I prefer a “slightly” more exciting sound than dead neutral. Despite the fact that I’m an old guy with some high frequency hearing loss I still don’t like a thin, bright or edgy sound. I listen to mostly the classic rock I grew up with but mix in some jazz, blues and a little classical.

Take a look at the Darlington Labs MP-7 and its no feedback, high voltage approach.  

I have the first version of the Nova Phonomena.  My listening tastes are probably similar to yours.  The Nova Phonomena does particularly well with percussion and bass rich music such as Talking Heads, Peter Gabriel, War, etc.  

That is a pretty good table. I owned a VPI Aries for twenty years. The table sounded very much better each phono stage upgrade through a Audio Research PH8 ($7K new at the time). The PS is really critical… my rule of thumb is spend as much on the PS as you do on the TT …I would save your money until you have $2,500 and see if you can get a used high end Phonostage… Audio Research, Conrad Johnson, Or VAC… Presto (although I have heard of reliability issues with these).

The PS is really critical… my rule of thumb is spend as much on the PS as you do on the TT

I agree with @ghdprentice. in the importance of a phono stage. AAMOF it is the same rule that Origin Live gives. Even so, I do believe  there are also giant killers as well. The problem is that they are very few and they have their limits also. IMO, they only kill giants as large as double the price. That would be $2k in your case which will put you at the starting point of what a good phono preamp will cost. I am not sure there are any $1k giant killers in the phono pre arena. But I haven't looked either.