I'll leave it to others to recommend phono preamps for you -- most of the ones I have heard or know about are in the $1500 to $3000+ range. What I will comment on, however, is your remark about having to turn the volume knob up to or past the 12:00 position. Is this a concern for you? If so, you might think about how the volume knob works. Essentially, it is a potentiometer/attenuator. At the full "open" position (i.e., turned fully clockwise), there is essentially no attenuation of the output signal to the amp. Conversely, when the volume is turned all the way down (fully counter-clockwise), all of the stages in the potentiometer are "in line" to reduce the signal output. Understood from this perspective, having the volume control turned up to 1:00 or 2:00 is indicative of a better-designed volume control function (greater range of movement, which enables subtler adjustments to volume). Far too many preamps / receivers have their volume knobs set to play loudly in the 10:00 to 12:00 position, which means that you have a much reduced range of rotation for the volume knob. Unless you have concerns about the QUALITY of the sound from your pre-amp, you don't need to worry about setting the volume knob above 12:00.