Sleeper preamps: $500 new/used

Looking for tube or solid state pre with very good phono stage...willing to go used and go with an older model if sound quality is superior...any models come to mind?
Sometimes you can find a used MFA Magus for around $500-$600.

Phono stage is excellent, with 46db gain, plug-in resistor loadable.
Linestage is very good, with 20db gain.

Phono stage has 1 12AX7 per channel.
Line input has 1 12AT7.
Main output is 1 6922.

Features separate power supply on captured umbilical.
Has CD input and full tape loop.
Easily modded, and responds well to mods, such as re-capping, re-wiring, and re-jacking. Uses Alps pots, which are upgradable to Goldpoint stepped attenuators if desired.

One of the best values for the money, and has good reliablity.

There are 3 versions Magus A,B, and C. I like the C, but I've heard of several people who prefer the older A or B.

I bought mine used with many mods and upgrades for $900.

It's a Bruce Moore design, with factory support from Bob Bergner at RB Audio(current Bruce Moore distributor).

Other possibilities are Counterpoint SA-3 or SA-5, and possibly an ARC SP-6(likely more than your budget), or an older Audible Illusions Modulus preamp.
I have 2 favorites: Classe 30 for around $400 or a Sumo Athena for about $250. They both sound awesome with nice phono. I really like the MFA better than both of these plus it promotes tube rolling. The problem with the MFA is dual volume controls can be annoying. The Classe has remote, sumo does not.
ARC SP 9 MK2- Use NOS tubes. I had some Amperex 7308 USN-CEP. Keep in mind that this unit is a Hybrid. Uses tubes for output. Great phono with a lot of gain. Can be had around 600.

Conrad Johnson PV-5. A Classic. The only reason that you can find one for $500 is because it was very popular during it's production run. At least 3 TAS and one Sterophile reviewer used them as reference preamps during the eighties.
I don't care much for the PV10 although I like a lot of other CJ equipment. I think the McIntosh C712 is a much more enjoyable preamp. For about $600, the C712 is flat-out excellent. I did head-to-head comparisons with PV10, ARC LS3b, and Classe CP50. The Classe was definately the best but it is around $1000, the C712 was second, then PV10, then LS3b. IMO and in my system. Arthur
NAC 42, due to the DIN connectors, and required external power supply(SNAPS or Hi-Cap), the old Naim preamps are probably more difficult to use with other brands of amps. They don't have their own internal power supply, so you must have the outboard supply(or use a Naim amp).

Also the phono boards are known as "N"(MM) or "S"(MC) and are little cards you can swap out. If the preamp is listed as a NAC42S, then it has the "S" cards.

They would be the obvious choice if you plan to use an older Naim amp, like a NAP 250,160, or 110.

Phono section "S" has high overload margins, and handles low output MC cartridges.

I had a Naim NAC 42S with Hi-Cap supply for about 11 years, along with a Naim amp.
Not bad for SS, but my modded MFA Magus C murders it, IMO.
You know, the whole tubes vs SS thing.
Forte model 2. This pre gave me a shock when it left a Bryston BP25 way behind in almost every respect.

It has an excellent phono section. Used price for a nice unit is approx $300-450.

Excellent buy.
Mission 776

Listened to a lot of pre's, tube and SS, that cost as much as $6000 new and haven't found a better one yet.
Listen to Genesis168. He knows a great pre when he hears one. I've owned a Model 2 for ten years, teamed with Forte Model 4 amps for mids/highs and Adcom GFA555's on the subs. I searched for many, many years to find components that excelled and are available at reasonable prices. I have no reason what so ever to look any further. My quest was over ten years gone. I still visit the high-end shops just to hear what I'm NOT missing though.

Like any high-end components... the Forte line simply allows music to pass through unchanged. They are just about the most "musical" amps and preamps you can buy at any price and regardless of build date. They effortlessly reveal all the gorgeous detail without a trace of edginess. They possess that illusive sweetness without introducing a hint of mushiness. At $500 or LESS, they're one of the biggest bargains in the audio market today.

Nelson Pass' genius is timeless!!
This is the Adcom GFP-565 in spades. Closer to $325 used. Very highly regarded phono stage. Mine's gone to a new home!
I purchased a used MFA Magus A in 1995 - never gotten rid of it. I use it exclusively as a phono stage now as the Conrad Johnson's of the world have overtaken it's line stage. In 2003, I had Scott Frankland redo it - new capacitors, new pots, new jacks, modifications to the power supply etc.

It responds well to tube choice. For the 12AT7, use a Amperex or Mullard. ECC801S or 6201 can be used as well. The 12AX7's should be Electroharmonix or Mullard. ECC 83 can be used, particularly the Telefunken. Also good are 5751's from Jan Phillips or Raytheon. Military spec 5751's are much cheaper and more plentiful - Sylvania, Raytheon, or RCA.

It's great with a CJ Premier 16, ET3 or 5. It can grow with you. Someday I'll get a Wavestream Kinetics or TEA 1 but until then, the Magus is great.

The APT 1 designed by Thom Holman (also known for a little project he did for George Lucas called 'THX'). He pretty much nailed phono stage design around 1980. Not to mention the most useful preamp controls ever, including a proper subsonic filter (an absolute necessity with modern ported speakers), adjustable phono loading, a channel blend that fixes a lot of imaging issues and actual usable tone controls.