This photo shows a new old stock Mullard ECC83 tube manufactured at their Blackburn works in 1966. Note the fineness and precision of the electrodes inside the glass envelope—they really don’t make tubes like this any more. The high purity barium/strontium/calcium carbonate emissive cathode coating, high grade magnesium-nickel alloy (better than ‘Cathaloy A30’. See BS 3504:1962) cathode and precision electrode geometry are an engineer’s dream. This tube possesses exceptionally low noise and microphony making it an excellent choice for use in the first gain stages of a tube amp or the Effectrode ‘Blackbird’ tube preamp. It really is a thing of beauty and we’re fortunate that these tubes are still obtainable.
Prices are slowly spiralling upwards though—they’re a finite resource and people are becoming aware that we’ll certainly never see this level of craftsmanship in a tube ever again. There just isn’t the demand, the resources or expertise to make them nowadays. You can expect to pay around £45 for one of these tubes, which is about four times the price of a modern manufacture tube. But it’s worth it. The engineering that good. Not only is the microphony fantastically low and often inaudible compared to modern tubes, the Mullard ECC83 also has a long lifespan, which means the purchase cost is spread across many years, even decades—the initial purchase cost diminishes into insignificance. It’s not like you’re going to be changing them as frequently as, say a set of guitar strings. I highly recommend getting hold of one to try out in the Blackbird or Tube Drive pedals.