passive preamps do control the volume--typically they use a manual attenuator knob, tho i've seen some that also have remote volume control.
in general, a passive preamp more transparently passes through the sound from the source than an active preamp--i.e. it will impart less color and character than an active preamp. the passive usually will have less distortion and noise; disadvantages might be reduced high frequency level and less punch. all that said, if you use a passive pre, it will be your source and speakers that determine your "analtical taste"--in other words the passive pre will merely pass through whatever signal is presented to it.
as for brands, look at placette audio (which has unbalanced ins/outs and remote) and channel island (ditto)--either should work well for you.