We present the preliminary study of a low cost, high performance spectrograph for the VLT, for observations in the V, R and I bands. This spectrograph is meant for intermediate (R equals 16,000) resolution spectroscopy of faint (sky and/or detector limited) sources, with particular emphasis on the study of solar-type (F-G) stars belonging to the nearest galaxies and to distant (or highly reddened) galactic clusters. The spectrograph is designed to use the adaptive optics (AO) systems at the VLT Telescope. Even if these AO systems will not provide diffraction limited images in the V, R and I bands, the photon concentration will still be above approximately 60% of the flux in an 0.3 arcsecond aperture for typical Paranal conditions. This makes the construction of a compact, cheap and efficient echelle spectrograph possible. AVES will outperform comparable non adaptive optic instruments by more than one magnitude for sky- and/or detector-limited observations, and it will be very suitable for observations in crowded fields.