I tried a number of well-built tube pres in your price range (bought used) and settled on a Luminous Audio Axiom passive volume control, plus a Niles AXP-1 source selector switch (5 inputs, 1 output), connected by about 10 inches of cheapo silver-plated copper interconnects a friend built for me. Total cost is well under $200, new, and humbled everything else I used here. The purity of tone, the dimensionality, the openness, the speed of the Luminous unit is truly astounding, even filtered through the no-doubt contaminating Niles unit. I've never needed more gain with music (some movie soundtracks max out the volume knob, but it's pretty loud at that point).
Just my two cents, had to throw it out there, because the Luminous unit (bought used here, with upgraded resistors, for about $80!) has dramatically affected my enjoyment of two-channel listening -- for the better, and for a song (ha ha). Best of luck to you in your audio journey!