Need a good used tube pre $1500 or less

The only experience I have had was with an AR LS5mkIII. It is long gone. I no longer need balanced. For the most part I will use it for nothing more than to control volume. Any recommendations including you opinion of the sound characteristics would be welcomed.
I would recommend checking out the old Counterpoint SA-5000 or SA-3000 pre's if you can find some in good shape. They are hybrid designs. The 3000 has one line stage tube, two phono tubes, a tube rectifier, and an outboard SS power supply. The 5000 has two line stage, two phono, and four more tubes for the outboard tubed power supply. I think both are very balanced, and full, but not overly "warm" (they have excellent, crisp highs too). I find them to be very natural and musical sounding. You can also change the sound to some extent with NOS tubes. Both have very nice mm/mc phono stages built in (the 5000 offers switchable loading options), and both have outboard power supplies. Some of the 5000's also have balanced outputs. Neither of them came with remote control. There is more info on them at (a site run by the ex-Counterpoint designer, Mike Elliott).

I have never heard one, but the Audible Illusions tube pre is considered to be a classic and also available used in that price range. They are probably worth investigating too. Good luck.
A used Blue Circle BC3 Despina would sell for around $1500.
Try a Cary SLP-50B. With $1500 to spend, you can buy the preamp, upgrade the tubes, and upgrade the power cable. They are excellent little preamps and you can generally find one used for about half of the $1500 you have allowed yourself. You might even have enough left over for a couple of other little goodies.
A Audible Illusions Modulus 3a sounds great and has a phono stage if you need one. If you don't need phono, mebbe a conrad johnson Prenier 14 would do it for you.
C/J pv14 is excellant and has remote.
i had the Audible Illusions Modulus 3a. My first venture into higher end pre-amps. i liked it alot. i have since moved up to a Conrad Johnson PV12 (i wanted the phono stage) and thought it was a big step up from the Modulus 3a. i'm now ready to move up to a better Conrad Johnson pre-amp. For my ears they are sweet and musical (whatever that means) and my experience with their service department also helped sell me on the company. when i first got my PV12 (through audiogon) there was a problem. The guy at CJ spent a lot of time with me on the phone trying to solve the problem without my having to send the unit into them even though i had bought a used piece and not through a CJ dealer. Don't think you can go wrong with the CJ stuff. If you don't need the phono, as others have said, i'd probably go for the better Premier 14.
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There is a Blue Circle BC21.1 pre on Audiogon. Excellent value for the money, and a considerable upgrade from the BC21 - which is a pretty good preamp in it's own right. Mind you, a BC3 Despina at $1500 is an even better deal if you can find one - and there have been a couple...
Buy a new Van Alstine FET-Valve new for less than that.
There is a BAT VK3i with phono and remote , NIB for $1500, I think, right now on Agon.