If you don't need a remote and don't mind an older preamp in the $600 or under price range my favorites are the McCormack TLC-1 Passive Preamp and an Accuphase C200.
If you need a remote a favorite of mine is the Kavent S-33 preamp. It also goes by the Vincent Audio SA-93.
Tube wise I've read good things about the Dared SL2000A.
To get better help let members here know what other components you have in your system or other gear you have enjoyed in the past. Also letting members know what you feel is lacking with your current system will help with recommendations as well.
Audio Research LS1
Forte Model Two
Audible Illusions 2D
conrad johnson PV7 or PV6
Classe DR4 (Four)
I'm not sure how it matches up against the above suggestions but I had a Marsh preamp about 10 years ago that performed very well for the money. It did come with a remote which you need to keep in mind when considering older models.
Marsh had a good phono section too, as I recall.
preamps require care in system matching, so one that sounds outstanding with a specific amp and speaker may sound dreadful in your room. i've been through a few - counterpoint, aesthetix, etc - and am currently using a placette passive. given the appropriate gear around it, it's an absolutely stellar unit. depending on the number of sources you've got, the placette RVC may work and can be found used for a little over your stated budget.
My 2 favorite in that ballpark range are:
Musical Fidelity A3cr
Audio Mirror T61
At that price, I would use a passive unit or a source that has a volume control.
There is a nice Classe thirty for sale on this site for $580.00. I owned Classe gear years ago and it was top shelf.
Second Musical Fidelity A3CR,
Sumo Athena, might find a standard
MUSE 3 (non signature).
Thank you everyone for your thoughtful comments. Yes, I should have mentioned that I am new to the forum. I am just starting a poor man's sound system. I have a Conrad Johnson SA-250 ss power amp arriving any day now. I am looking for some Maggies. Will run an Marantz CD5004. Vinyl will be played on a B&O (I don't recall the model) using a NAD PP2. Sounds like a power condition is important, too.
Again, thank you!
PS: Anyone out there running a Dynaco PAS 3 into a SS amp?
I have 3 modded PAS 3 which I use with SS amps, as good as most 1500-2k units.
IMO best is Bottlehead Foreplay which sounds about as good as anything except in last octave of bass, which is still OK.
However, neither seem to show up here much lately .
I would recommend a used Conrad Johnson also per Mofimadness. You know it will match your amp, and they sound spectacular!
Instead of buying an old preamp, or someone else's problems, why not get really involved and purchase a simple kit?
Bottlehead's new directly heated triode kit the Smash, or if you prefer a conventional looking preamp the Transcendent Sound Grounded Grid should be equally engaging.
Thank you Viridian. Interesting idea. How many hours of assembly does the Smash (or the TSGG) take, and does one have to be a very skilled with the solder gun?
The TSGG is built with circuit boards and so is somewhat easier to assemble, IMHO. It also uses the more common tube, the 12AU7, which ofers more opportunities for tube rolling. For a newbie, working slowly and deliberately, I would think four to six hours for either kit would be about right. But that is just a guess.
There are several excellent online tutorials for how to solder. Lots of us do it. It does involve a degree of manual dexterity, but most problems that you might create are pretty fixable, and you will have the pride in ownership of having made something.
Both manufacturers have excellent forums to help if you get off of the track and you can always register and ask the questions directly of the manufacturers and end users there.
Get an Acurus L10 or R11. These are known as good quality pres that have good mil spec components and can be upgraded easily and with great return on investment. Mine cost me $250 used. Do a Google search and you will find reviews on them and that they are popular among budget audio lovers.
I am torn between your recommendation of the Acurus R11, and Apt Holman, Jolida JD3000 and a restored Dynaco PAS 3x.
Conrad Johnson SA250, Mangnapan MGIIb, Luxman CD
I've owned 3 of the four and seen inside the Jolida,PAS 3 and Bottlehead are easy to fix, odds are great you will end up throwing the others away because they will surely need re-capping etc and you won't like the price , assuming you even find some one to do it.
+1 Lightspeed. Highly recommended if you have a single source. Add a Teradak power supply from A-B Systems and you'll still have money left over.