What MC step-up/phono preamp combination ?

I would like you to share opinions and experiences about this path I have chosen to take.

I have changed my active preamp with a DIY passive volume. Although I used low qualitity components (potentiometer, rca terminals, cable) the results are very, very promising. I use it between my CD player and amplifier and the difference in clarity, perceived low distortion and silent background is not subtle, at the same time dont think I have lost anything in dynamics, final volume or any other important issue.

My next steps will be to improve the quality of the components, buying a brand passive volume control and maybe experiment with TVC (transformer based volume control).
But my main question regards in what to do with the conection of my phono unit. I am thinking in following the same philosophy of simplicity, as few active stages as I can get away with. As I have a mc cartridge (Shelter 501) I am thinking in a step-up transformer and a phono active preamp (tubed ?) perhaps the good quality simplest I can get.

So: what are your similar experiences ? what step-up ? what phono preamp ?
Thank you all for your thoughts and patience.