At those prices get a Placette Active new or used.
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A noteworthy reviewer who uses a VTL 7.5 as his reference had previously used a Thor TA 1000 MK II. thor is getting back up and running with more production models due out soon. Currently upgrades to the former models are avaiable. Were it me looking for a nice preamp, I'd find a later model one and have it upgraded. The overall cost would be less than half of that of a used 7.5, and likely out run it.
The aforementioned reviewer said of the 7.5 v. TA 1000 MK II, there was no apreciable betterment in the sound in the VTL... simply more flexibility... but noted they did sound different.
All of these preamps are in the same ball park sonically. Some of the best there are out there.
The Placette Active is a great preamp, but with the Merlins using the BAM, an active TUBE preamp works better; few better than the Joule preamps (I owned the 150MKII, and now own the 150MKII SE - which is said to be more like the 300ME). Like Blindjim said, you not going to go wrong with either - to the point that I would base it on ergonomics and aesthetics.