You know you're onto something hot when everyone's talking about the same piece of gear. This year, when we asked our editors, authors, and friends about their favorite instrument preamp/processor, the overwhelming choice was the Avalon VT-737.

Listen to this unit and check out its features, and you'll know immediately why we chose it. Let's start with the features. The VT-737 is a single-channel, vacuum tube, class-A processor that combines a tube mic preamp, instrument DI, compressor, and 4-band parametric EQ. That's a lot of gear in a single 2U rack-mount box, not to mention that is contains the detailed design and superb circuitry for which Avalon is well known.

Audition the tube mic preamp. It's both clean and transparent, and it gives you headroom to spare. Add to that a 1/4-inch input on the front panel so your guitars and basses can take advantage of the VT-737's clarity.

Fancy some flavoring? The 4-band parametric EQ, with its eight knobs and four switches, lets you tweak frequencies ranging from the sub-audible to the "air" bands: 15 Hz to 32 kHz. The bass and treble bands are passive, which gives them a smooth, natural sound. The low-mid and high-mid bands also are nice but have a different quality. Avalon squeezes even more out of the unit by adding a full-featured compressor that you can insert before or after the EQ with the push of a button.

But ultimately, the sound of this box is what won us over. When you're ready to take your sound quality to the next level, you won't go wrong with the Avalon VT-737.

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