If you are looking for a preamp that is neutral or revealing, then check out Bryston.
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You should be able to buy a used BAT 3ki for about that price. I like mine. Reviewers have said it it neutral to a very slight shade dark (don't think tht is the same as cool, but definately not bright). Make sure it was built as a 3i, not an upgraded 3 cause if it isn't I don't think it will have any single-ended (RCA) inputs.
You should definitely include the Adcom GFP-750 to your list. It retails for $1250 and can usually be bought on this site for around $800. This preamp is very neutral, and is "Class A" rated by Sterepiles, and has received uniformly excellent reviews from a number of audio review mags. The reputation is well deserved.
Rogue 66. I have this tube preamp and it rips. Extremely detailed and fast, but smooth. Demos with warranty go for about $800. I auditioned it against the BAT 3VKi (which only offers balanced connections) and chose the Rogue. I recently demoed the 99 against the BAT and it blew the BAT out of the water. I now lust for a 99, but those run about $1900 for warranty. The 66 LSR comes with a great aluminum remote (no phono, if you choose the remote). BAT charges $500 for their remote. Rogue products offer tremendous bang for the buck, plus they respond well to tube rolls - I upgraded my tubes to some NOS Mullards and was rewarded with even better sound.