Pre amp for VTL450's and Wadia 9

I have VTL MB450 sig monoblocks fed directly by a wadia 7 & 9 combination and Wilson Benesch ACT1 speakers. I have heard several opinions that beter perforamnce can be achieved by using a preamp rather than relying on the Wadia's digital preamp. While my VTL's are at the menders I am using a cheapo soild state amp I had in the shed and
have had the loan of an AR preamp(LS2B) the introduction of the pre amp definatly improved things but this could be to do with the shortcomings of the amp I'm using. Unfortunatly the AR will have to go back before the VTL's come back, Dam ! Also unfortunatly for me my budjet is limited at the moment ($1800) due to a new house. My conundrum is, is there a preamp that will make an improvement at this budjet and if so what ? One thing that has come out of the trial of the AR is that I'm operating right on the bottom zone of the volume control (Wadia needs to be on max for best results (I'm told) some preamps I've seen have a gain control on the input which I think would be of benifit. I confess I am one of those people who must have a remote control. My system has a very natural and intimate presentation and vivid sound staging which must be maintained. Am I seeking the impossible ? Or had I beter wait till more funds are avalable ? All (polite) suggestions welcome !
The VTL 5.5 is a perfect match for the MB-450 sigs. Average used price on audiogon, according to audiogon bluebook, is $1810. Be patient, it will be worth it.
I think passive would be the best interface between Wadia and VTL.
You could try a Herron VTSP-1a in that price range. I have one and love it! Good luck!
I'm running the 7/9 combo into a Krell KRC-HR, which in turn drives a pair of Pass Aleph 1.2 monoblocks. It's a nice combination. I've run the 9 both single ended and balanced, and it definitely sounds better balanced. I agree with you that it sounds better through a preamp.

Though the KRC-HR is probably above your price range, you might want to consider a balanced preamp. Were you running balanced straight into your VTL monos?
send the wadia 9 to Steve Huntley of great northern sound company for modification instead of the preamp upgrade I'm sure the difference would be better than the preamp would provide
Thanks for the comments. Ghostrider good point ! I have been running the Wadia balanced into the VTL's and there was a big difference, the soundstaging virtually collapsed running single ended. I've read a good thread on active vs passive preamps. In my new set up I will be looking at a long lead between the pre and powers so that pushes me towards active. The VTL 5.5 does not run balanced which is a shame.