Integrated Amp Choice: budget tubes or ss?


I just recently started to get into hi-fi but have been an avid music lover/listener/maker for many years. Right now my setup consists of a Rega P2 with Clearaudio cartridge, a cheap mediocre cd player, a Marantz 2100 vintage tuner, and a Marantz 1152DC vintage integrated. My speakers are StudioLab 402's (StudioLap made in France by Mosquito, not the Canadian StudioLAB).

My listening habbits are about 70% vinyl, 30% CD and styles ranging from Wire to Taj Mahal to Steve Reich.

Right now I have the option of keeping my 1152DC, but there are a couple good deals and I'm interested in upgrading/changing/experimenting. I could get a Cambridge Audio Azure 340A, or a Ming-Da MC-34A .. I know that the tube/SS divide is pretty big, but I can't decide which one would give me more bang for the buck in that price range. Both are about the same price.. the Cambridge would be new and the Ming-Da used.

Given my brief explanation of my musical taste and formats does anybody have a recommendation of one or the other?

I'm not familiar w/ the Marantz int. amp., but my feeling is to keep the tuner and get something other than the two int. amps you mentioned. Creek 4330 SE/R should be a consideration as well a used Classe/Arcam Alpha 8. I've been very impressed by the 80's Sony "Legato" equipment. I've found that newer isn't always better. I bet your older Marantz Int. amp has a better phono stage than you might realize. Bill
I agree with Kotta, I haven't heard the Ming-Da, but the cambridge is underwhelming in my opinion. For 250 you can't expect much, and this is better than the 250 bucks, but if you can you're much better spending a little more on a used piece of gear which you'll be happier with for a while. In terms of tube/ss there are about a thousand posts that mention this, and it's really about personal preference (the typically warm/sweet/musical sound of tube vs. the detailed/analytical/fast sound of ss--however you can find tube that does analytical and ss that does warm so these are usually just stereotypes...err..bad pun). I'd say for the price range you're looking there are probably more ss options that will have perks like remotes and phono stages, but I could be wrong.

Just a random sampling of things on agon that might fit the bil:

Audio Refinement Complete (no phono, but this is a great unit):

Arcam A65+ (has phono...this would be my pick!)
There's a mission Cyrus 1 on audiogon at the moment. I think the price is a little high, but if you can negotiate down a bit it's a very nice integrated amp with an excellent phono section.

I'd also have a look at a used Audiolab 8000A if you can find one.

The creek has an excellent reputation but I have never heard it personally.
Thanks for all the suggestions, they're all great.
One of the reasons I was considering the Cambridge stuff is because my local dealer sells them and I can bring one home to audition...I don't know how I feel about buying "deaf," if you know what I mean.

So far all the suggestions are in a good price range too, thanks guys, keep 'em coming :)
Have you auditioned the cambridge already? You can get the 540 for like 270 used, which packs a little more punch, but I have to say that the audio refinement and arcam are much better IMO than the cambridge. If you can find a Prima Luna Prologue one used then that's a great little amp (you can install a mm/mc phono card for like 160...more info at upscale audio or prima luna web site).

If you can scrape together 800, then you should seriously purchase this classe cap-150:

This is a seriously great integrated for the price, and considering it has a remote, an mm/mc phono stage, and puts out 100 pwc, you really can't beat it. Seriously, it's worth the extra money (I was thinking of getting it myself for a bedroom system, but I'm saving my moolah for a beefier integrated for the main system).

Otherwise, I prefer this Onix to the cambridge:

It's not that the cambridge is bad, seriously, and for the money it's a bargain, but more money on the used market gets you a big step up, which would probably happen anyway because I don't see the cambridge as an amp I could live with for a long time (IMHO).

get the classe, it's worth whatever sacrifice you have to make (who needs food anyway...)
Check out used Antique Sound Lab or Jolida tube gear, if you have the patience to deal with tube gear. I think you'll get a more lifelike sound from a tube integrated.
Give Bill Baker of:

a call. He has a number of nice used Ming Da and possibly Jolida integrateds on his "Specials" link. He is a dealer/modder for both brands and knows them about as well as anyone. I'm partial to the Ming Da brand as I own both preamp and amps, finding them to be a screaming bargain for their prices.

Best wishes on your purchase, whatever it turns out to be.

keep the marantz int.....get a new front end.
check out Antique Sound Lab - they have good integrated amps at budget prices. said:
"keep the marantz int.....get a new front end."

front end? like speakers? i'm quite happy with my current speakers..
i've actually been auditioning the ming-da amp.. it sound good, but if all tubes amps are this warm/soft sounding it's probably not for me.. the sound is great for mellow music, but it lacks the puch and assertiveness i want for louder/harsher music. so i'll probably stick with solid state.. i'm going to see if i can audition any of the amps recommended so far and see if there's a big difference from my current amp.