Best 12AU7 Type Tubes for a Preamp

I am hoping for some help finding good quality and good sounding 12AU7 variant tubes for a preamp – I need two tubes. A price of around $100 each or less would be great but I would pay a bit more (150 ea.) for something that is likely to sound better. The unit came with JAN PHILIPS ECC82 (12AU7/5963) and I also own a pair of reissue/new Mullard ECC92 tubes. Both sets are quiet but I am wondering if there is something even better sounding at a moderate price.

Readily available NOS options I have seen include:

  • NOS RCA Blackplate or Clear Top at about $100-150 EA.
  • Amprex 7316/ECC186 at around $150 each, and
  • Mullard CV4003/12AU7 $150ea.

New options I have found (in addition to Mullard) include (among others):

  • Genalex - Gold Lion B749 / ECC82/12AU7, $70 ea.
  • Psvane 12AU7-S Art Series ECC82, $55 ea.

Thanks for any help.


I believe the best and most reliable are Mil Soec Mullards,

Rare and expensive, You will need to find a hoarder.

Mine were in the box wrapped in paper. They are all tested in an active unit before being wrapped.

if the circuit can handle it 12BH7 is the preferred alternative to the 12AU7

5963 (industrial) and 5814A & 6189 (military) are drop-in replacements for 12AU7/ ECC82. 

I prefer Brimars. Gorgeous midrange and a little more sparkle up top than Mullards. 


You need to decide which direction you want to go with the sound. After using the stock tubes, what kind of change do you want, more clarity, airy highs, more bass? There have been good tube recommendations, but they cover the gamut of sonic signatures as well as price points.

Yes best to try yourself.I have lots of different 12au7s and they are all good in their own way.Rft is cheap and a interesting tube.Super clear midrange.I like the amperexes,mullard,Telefunken.And there is quite a few I haven't heard.