You might want to look for a used Audio Research 100.2.
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How about a Pass Aleph 30 for the amp & use your Arcam for the pre?
I would also suggest some aftermarket PC's & outlets. If you're happy with the Signal Cable, go that route, although I've not used them myself.
As for tweaks, check out the tweak/DIY section on AA. An audio bud here in town has gone on an "isolation device binge" and has a pretty decent report on affordable tweaks.
I'm guessing your room has you pretty limited with speaker placement but if you're able, you might want to play around with positioning, including toe-in. This can make a huge difference, per the following example. I just finished listening to the VR-1's, as I had new socks put on the top modules of my VR4's. I positioned them on top of the bottom modules & just by changing the toe-in one inch was able to get a substantially better soundstage. I spent 4 months on spkr. positioning, so thought just lining them up with the bottom modules would yield similar results-not quite.
You didn't mention if you had the VR's on stands or not, as with a new "crawler", that might not be practical, although that would give you the best chance for adjustment. You could just put the stands out of reach until you're ready for a serious listening session.
I was looking for exactly the same qualities in a kid-friendly integrated. A Plinius 9200 worked for me- warm full-bodied midrange, great phono stage, pre-outs and HT bypass, detailed but not thin or bright. The Plinius sounds great with the VR2, and should work well with the VR1s. If you can find a used or demo 9200 in your price range, it should be a step-up from the other amps you listed. The Plinius 8200 MK2 is also an excellent amp and often comes up used for less than $1500.
People may not agree, but I found the Conrad Johnson Solid State line of amplifiers to be very warm and actually quite "tubey" in sound.
Now, they are not the best amps out there - but they are very warm, musical, & have the signiture CJ sound. They can be found for under $2k. I Demo'd MAC's and lot's of others - IMO the CJ is one of the warmest amps I have heard. I ultimatley choose to go with VAC - but if you want the tube sound without the bottles - CJ is as close as I have heard.
Thank you so much all for your valuable input. Of course it made my head spin at a faster than already insane rate ;-) I followed through all the suggestions and finally decided to persue Plinius 8200 MK2 - which I was told early in my hi-fi persuit to be a very musical and warm amp - much more so than their new 9xxx series. But I missed the Plinius 8200 MK2 offered at $1250 - it was sold in less than 2 days.
I saw a reasonable offer at audiogon for Sophiaelectric tube used . I decided to keep my Arcam A65+ Integrated and had my wife agree to get an all tube amp as a second amp for me. With capacitor upgrade and shipping - it is ~ $950. Yeah, it doesn't have remote or phono or several input but I was not getting all the features at my pricepoint in any other unit - so I'll keep SS int as main and use tubes as and when desired. Tubes is what I have been really dreaming of - I went all for it - while keeping all the features I wanted with the solid-state and use tubes as secondary - well that's the plan I may end up listening mostly to tubes. It is crazy but exciting.
Discussed my needs with owner Richard and found him very helpful and persuasive.
Thanks a lot