The phono stage in your SP-8 is as good or better than most sub-$1k outboard units. I'd recommend using a set of high-quality Jensen transformers.
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I have an SP-8 aLso,I purchased a Lyra Helikon cartridge with same output, and I am running this through an ARC PH-3 phono pre-amp and I love the sound, much much better than the SP-8 with either head amps or step-ups. The ARC PH3 costs between $900.00 and $1000.00 used, and is well worth the money. Good luck.