Purchased from: Guitar Center
Ease of Use — 10
There is no editing or firmware involved. But if you want to change the drive/tone this thing gives, just simply load a new tube of your liking in the sockets in the unit (which is easy to do) for your tastes. Back in 2003, the unit came with a three page booklet explaining the pluses of the thing and the many ways you can use the Valvulator. I recommend this unit if you having problems with signal loss due to impedance mismatching from effects pedal, long cable and to restore the dynamics in the signal from your playing, pick up types... you'll hear the difference.
Sound — 10
As stated in the other review, this device is not an effect, it restores dynamics in the signal when you use multi analog effects pedals, corrects the impedance mismatching cause by effects pedals. I use it at the front of my effects board with an old DigiTech RP-1 and RP-12 and another one before it goes in a rack with BBE Sonic Maximizers, Hush Noise Reduction units, two 31 Band EQ's and a Behringer Feedback Destroyer 1121 Pro (for parametric reasons) before going into my Carvin 1986 X-100 B or my DigiTech 2112 Guitar Processor. I thought the sonic maximizers were great for restoring frequency separation but when I added the Valvulator 1, the dynamics of my guitar playing really came back to life. My rig is so sensitive to how hard or soft I pick, volume/tone knob manipulations and it drives my signal with all the cables in my set up.
Reliability & Durability — 10
Reliability?... I bought both in 2003, when it was then called the VHT Valvulator 1. My Valvulators are in my effects pedal board case safe from my 5 year old Daughter, dust, two cats, roadies, going to rehearsals or gigs that I play. This device is pretty heavy and well built. One sound guy, with over 30 years of sound engineering experience, noticed the difference in my sound when I gigged at a local club, he asked me if I got another BBE Sonic Maximizer in my racks because he noticed more cleaner drive and clarity in my signal. When I first bought the units, I changed the tubes and put in some new 12AX7 tubes I ordered from Eurotubes because the Russian tubes in it were not pleasing to my ears.
Overall Impression — 10
I play classic rock, '80s hair metal, neo-classical metal, thrash, speed metal, blues, fusion. Playing guitar for 34 years, teaching for 27 and toured the U.S. and Canada. I own 14 guitars for the styles I mentioned loaded with Floyd Roses and Wilkinson Tremolos with DiMarzio, Bare Knuckle, Fralin, Tone Riders, Bill Lawrence, Seymour Duncan, GFS, DragonFire and Guitar Head pickups. One thing I wish this unit had, it's the fact it has only one input socket, they should have added an extra one for stereo signals. They are other units like it but they don't have tubes and don't really give the dynamics this unit gives to the signal... those tubes make a difference for me.