Your best value is still Sonic Frontiers
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If you can buy used (I almost always do), than these weill be in your price range:
Hovland HP-100 (Great phono stage, slightly weak LF response- no remote)
CAT Ultimate (Very good phono stage - no remote)
ARC LS-25, Mk II (No phono stage - with remote and balanced inputs and outputs)
There are other really good tube preamps out there, however, some of them are out of production, and you take a slight risk that parts and repair services will be impaired or more expensive. (i.e. Sonic Frontiers, ARC LS-5, etc..)
My two cents worth. Good Luck in your search.
I have got to suggest the Audible Illusions L-2. It is one great sounding preamp. The circuit is so simple. No excess baggage. It does have home theater pass thru and AI is working on a phono board for it as I write this. Should be available soon.
I have compared it to numerous preamps in my on system. It is very, very neutral for a tube based preamp. It also covers the frequency extremes well. Sounstaging, imaging, etc. are as good as I have heard. Dynamics are rendered realistically. It is also extremely quiet and well built.
If you get a chance to demo one do so and don't be afraid to compare it to any preamp at any price. At $2495, you might just save yourself a few bucks.
Have owned/sold many brands of high end tube pre's over the years, from brands such as Audio Research, Conrad J., Audible Illusions, Sonic Frontiers, Mcintosh, and BAT, etc. I've heard the joule stuff to good effect, but no real experience there first hand...same with CARY, CAT, and so on. From what Iv'e gathered, The CAT has to be my favorite hands down for the money! I'd spend $2500 used on a CAT before before plunking down $4k or better used on a CJ16 or AR REf 1 or 2! I think CAT has it down!
Although, some might be warned that some tube pre's are better mated to tube amp's...like the Audible Illusion's stuff. That said, you might have "fun" if you ever have service issues with the AI or Sonic F preamp's. Lord knows I've had mine! I'll just leave it at that...