The purpose of this guide is to provide the details Line 6 didn't provide, mostly geared towards getting high gain tones with the Pod HD 500, which can take a ton of effort to properly dial in. It also applies to the Pod HD 300, 400, Desktop, and Pro; however, there may be a few things here and there impossible to do on the 300/400 (like using multiple effects), or that don't make sense on the Desktop.
It may seem like I'm treading a lot of ground that the manuals covered, but while I'm covering the same topics, I'm providing details on these topics that were not clearly spelled out, which I've learned through personal experience or from other members on this forum.
The Pod HD seems geared towards a wide variety of users. The high gain folks got some attention, but I don't think they got enough. I have absolutely ZERO patches that I find sound like a real mic'ed amp and cab that don't use numerous EQ effects and involve using different cab and mic models than the default for that amp model. People using the unit for different genres seem to have had a much different experience. Many reviews have mirrored this sentiment.
Simply put, the default high gain settings sound more like a cheap modeler than a real amp. The tone is unbalanced, sounding muffled, harsh, fizzy, or simply lacking that rich quality that inspires awe. Often, an amp's distortion is too muddy or dirty, or simply not djenty enough. After a few hours, many users have posted on the forums saying that the unit is no good for metal, declaring their regret in selling off their XT or X3.
Dialed in correctly, the HD blows away the XT/X3. It requires a fine attention to detail that this guide provides. This involves hooking and setting up the Pod properly. It involves knowing the common pitfalls, which can make the Pod start clipping unexpectedly. You will likely have to EQ your tone before your distortion phase to "sculpt" your distortion tone. You'll have to get a firm grip on the nuances of the cabs and mics, initially ignoring their diverse and varied general frequency responses. You'll have to learn how to use the EQ effects to compensate for the cab/mic frequency responses as well as dial in a balanced tone.
I primarily focus on high gain tones, but I also like some nice clean, classic rock, and blues tones. Some of the artists I've sought to emulate include SRV, EVH, Satch, Vai, Petrucci, KSE, Periphery, Meshuggah, Metallica, Randy Rhodes, AC/DC, and Opeth. If you can dial in all those sounds, you should have no problem dialing in almost any rock tone you want. I cover all 5 of the high gain amps, plus the Park 75 and Plexi. While this guide is primarily geared towards high gain, the methods described here will work for other tones. I consider my guide on clipping essential reading for all Pod HD users.
You can jump around in this guide. I don't expect many people to read it front to back; it's a lot of material. If you have a particular issue or are curious about an aspect or two of the unit, use the table of contents to find its location and jump straight to it. If you're just looking for a quick piece of advice, try the quick guide.