Bigkidz, For 12AU7 I am using RCA regular tops(not clear) that I bought from member Terribleted in Canada for around $10. apiece .Much better than JJ.He also has Sylvania.
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Hello, I much prefer the GE 5 stars over the JAN 5814A's which came with my amp. I've tried about a dozen 12au7(5814a)tubes and my favorites are the GE 5814A USAF (United States Air Force) tubes. Not sure how hard they are to come by, and they have 2 mica vs the 3 mica that regular 5 stars have. Good luck.
I've accumulated a small collection of both 12AU7's (cd player) and 6922's (preamp). In my Cary 308T cd player, I've tried Mullard's 12AU7 (nice sound, rich but a little rolled off at the top or dark sounding), RCA 5814 Black tops (Very nice tube, lack dynamics though), Telefunken 12AU7's (Great tube, all around good balance, maybe a tad bright) and finally my favorite Amperex 7316 which is a substitute for 12AU7. The Amperex has the richness of the Mullard, the clarity of the RCA, and the top to bottom dynamics of the Tele. My 2 cents....
Call Andy at Vintage Tube Services. Be patient he'll answer and he's a great guy. Very informative. If you know what you want try Brendan at Tubeworld also.
The best 12AU7 tube I've tried and that I'm currently using on my Phono preamp is an English made Raytheon 12AU7 with small and smooth plates.
These are great sounding tubes, very quiet, smooth sounding with silky mids and highs but not overly sweet and very dinamic. I just love them. I bought 8 of them to have some to spare.
You can get them here:http://https//www.langrex.co.uk/products/ecc82-12au7a-raytheon-nos-valvetube-lc9/
Another great sounding 12AU7 tube but very hard to find are Hit Ray (a joint venture on the 60's between Hitachi and Raytheon), they were damn cheap, I paid 16.69 € for two NOS in their original boxes units. They are made in Japan and sound great, not the warmest tubes I've heard but they're smooth, dinamic and dead quiet.