If you can stretch, there is a Fosgate Signature Phono preamp for sale right now for $1499 on Audiogon. It is an amazing phono preamp. Will wipe the floor with any phono preamp 2-3k and under. I speak from experience as I auditioned multiple units in the 1-3k range and bought the Fosgate. Sold it only because I decided a Herron VTPH-2 worked better in my system.
Also have heard the Jolida JD9 is supposed to be a giant killer (http://www.6moons.com/audioreviews/jolida3/phono.html) and Spearit Sound (reputable dealer I've purchased from) has one new for $499. Upgrade tubes etc and a shunyata venom power cord and for about $600 you would have a mighty fine unit that can scale.
Also Upscale Audio (and a private seller) have Herron VTPH-1 for sale in the 1400 dollar range on Audiogon. Another "keep it for life" phono preamp that will scale if you buy better table/cartridge/etc.
I continue to recommend the PS Audio GCPH as a most remarkable phono preamp under $1000, considerably under since I bought mine new for $499. It has easy loading options for any cartridge without opening the case, and uniquely, a remote control with gain so you can run a complete vinyl only system with no preamplifier. I wish this option was avaiable on more products.
Another option is the Musical Surroundings Phonomena Nova. The Nova sells for $1K new, had dip switches for resistance, capacitance, and gain. Also runs off batteries that recharge via the AC plug.
I like mine a lot, but just don't have a lot of experience listening to other units in my rig so I can't comment on comparisons to other units.
(Disclaimer...I have a current listing selling this exact unit)
Please consider the Acoustech PH-1P. It is a former Stereoplile class "A" unit that had been reviewed favorably by many sources. When last sold by Acoustic Sounds, it was priced at $1500.
There's quite a bit info online that can be found with a quick search.
I am very pleased with my Jolida JD9 phono stage. I got a mint used unit with level 1 mods that retailed for $1100 and cost me around $525. An excellent performer, especially for the money.
Would like an opinion on stock PS Audio GCPH vs. modified Jolida JD9.
I have a Music Hall 7.1 w/Goldring 2400 and a Rogue Cronus Magnum.
Yes, get that Acoustech right away. I use the original version and it is very good. This one should be even a little better. And throw out that garbage stock power cord.
For me, the great advantage to the PS GCPH is that it can be run straight into a power amp, bypassing the necessity of a preamp. Doing so seems to open up the sound nicely, even though the preamp I was using is a Classe Thirty, a very decent preamp on its own. that feature, combined with remote control, remote mono and remote phase switching are features I wish every phono preamp had. Its sort of the antithesis of the line only preamp.
From what I've read the Jolida JD9 might be better, and Spearit Sound has it for sale at a good price ($500?) new on Audiogon right now. I auditioned the PS GCPH against SimAudio phono and Herron VTPH-1, and the PS Audio came in 3rd place....a bit of a veil on the upper registers in my system.
I should clarify my inference -- The Herron placed first by a wide margin. Simaudio and PS Audio were fine units (I own a PS Audio Perfect Wave DAC/bridge and love it; they build great stuff). I read some articles where the reviewers thought the Jolida was at least the equal of the Herron phono (hard to imagine because I have had the VTPH-1 and now have the VTPH-2, and nothing I've auditioned bests the VTPH-2).
I have a Dodd battery powered phono preamp that I consider equal to anything out there and would be in your price bracket used. It will only handle high output cartridges and the battery power is a pain, but the sound and price is worth it.
You might have a hard time finding a used one for sale though.
I use a Grado phono pre which I like, but if upgrading would go to the Musical Surroundings Phonomena Nova.
The PS GCPH is one unit that responds greatly, to the installation of a HiFi Supreme Tuning fuse, and upgraded power cord(ZU Mother works great here). They already contain FREDs, in their power supplies, and I believe the stock fuse and cord prevent them from performing to their potential. The differences are not subtle, in the least, with these two simple tweaks.
I also have a Jolida with the level 1 mods. I further modded it with some mullards and pulled off those silly tube shields and added some herbie tube dampeners. I also added some isopods and upgraded the cord. Probably have about a grand into it. Sounds excellent. I run it with a full tube system, an Amadeus TT and Shelter 501 MC. I use full silver ICs to balance some of the warmth. The detail is excellent, with tremendous mid-range. Being all tube, the bass is not as distinguished as some that I've heard, but that's more of a reflection of the overall setup (probably). The Jolida has really nice topography and lends itself to upgrades.
Here is one for sale right now on audiogon for $650. Good deal:
Musical Surroundings Nova with battery pack.