Hi vadie and welcome to CS!
Perhaps the most popular, and reliable machine under $1K is the Rancilio Silvia, though it too has its flaws.
Regardless of which machine you may choose, the quality of the espresso produced will be more reliant on the grinder that you use, rather than any espresso machine.
If you can, take the opportunity to compare machines side-by-side. If you happen to live in either Sydney or Melbourne, we and Talk Coffee (Chris) can arrange this for you. If you live elsewhere, feel free to give either myself or Chris a call, as we would be happy to provide you with information.