VIII. Tips and Pitfalls
A. Tone Matching
If you are building a patch, the ABSOLUTE BEST thing you can do is find an artist whose tone is the closest to what you want to achieve, and finding a section in their music where the guitars are playing without any other instruments. If you can find one where it's only one guitar, not a double-track or quad-tracking, even better. Even if this clip is only 2 seconds long, it's an incredible reference point - you're likely to really hear the distortion tone, EQ'ing, and effects.
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B. Branching/Evolving Patches
The best process for making a patch is to use the Edit computer editor. Start by dialing in a tone you like. You'll hit a point where some changes you might think you like, but you aren't 100% sure. At this point it's time to start branching the patches, A/B'ing them, then keeping the better one.
Rather than editing the current patch, hold CTRL and mouse drag the patch to the next patch slot to copy it. Make your changes to the copy. Now you can A/B your edits to your initial patch - quickly and easily going back and forth. If the new version is an improvement, hold CTRL and mouse drag it on top the original. Then save the patch to the Pod.
I'll repeat this process anywhere from 4 - 20 times before I finalize my patch (no stoner reference intended). You can compare a number of cab/mic options, as well as EQ'ing tweaks, or compare effects models.
So for instance, if I think a cab/mic change might improve the tone, I'll copy the patch, change the cab/mic on the clone, then tweak the clone to have roughly the same EQ as the original. Now I can A/B accurately, rather than trying to flip settings back and forth for every comparison.
Sometimes you'll make a tweak and like both your original tone and the new version. You don't have to choose between them. You can keep them both and branch out from there. I'll often do this for a tone when I want a different set of effects on the patch, but the same general EQ'ing and distortion tone.
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C. Setlist Tips
When I build my setlist, I like to set each bank to have a similar set of 4 patches in this order – clean, crunch, rhythm distortion, lead. That way if you accidentally end up on the wrong bank, you're not way off tone-wise. You won't get a clean tone when you wanted a lead tone or vice versa. You can quickly correct yourself before anyone even notices.
If you have a patch with a common effect that you toggle on and off, set the footswitch that toggles the effect as the one above the patch's switch. For example, if you are using a patch located at "A", set the effect's toggle switch to FS1, which is right above "A" or FS5. If the patch is "B", use FS2, etc. This way, if you accidentally hit the footswitch on the lower row when you go to toggle the effect on/off, you won't switch patches. Also, if you want the effect on as soon as you enter the patch, you can press the patch switch with your heel, then quickly hit the effect toggle switch with your toe.
If you have patches with lots of effects that you will be toggling on/off, order your switches in the order that the effects appear in the chain. This is easier to remember, and if you have to guess, at least it's an educated guess.
Also, it's a good idea to make copies of your main setlist, and do a quick tweak to make the tone lighter or darker. Then when you get to a gig, if the sound is a little too bright or dark, you can just switch your setlist, instead of trying to tweak all your patches then, or rely on the sound guy dial you in.
The same thing goes if you're building your patches at a different volume level than you'll actually be practicing or gigging at. Make a setlist copy, but change all the "full" amps to "pre" (make sure you change all the amp, cab, and mic settings to how you had them before – changing amps will automatically load that amp's default settings). Then if your amp/power amp is getting cranked and changing the way your patches sound, you can switch setlists. I can't guarantee it'll necessarily sound better with the "pre" variants, but it COULD be a lifesaver. Of course, I recommend that you build your patches at the volume level you'll be using for practice and gigs; but if this is impossible, make an alternative setlist just in case.
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D. Effect Switching/Tips
You can assign one footswitch to control multiple effects. This is very helpful to switch from a rhythm to a lead setting, or if you always want to turn on/off 2 effects or more at a time.
You can control the amp volume parameter via the on-board pedal by setting it to be controlled by such. This keeps you from using an additional effects block on a volume pedal effect. Just be sure to set the max value to whatever the current level is, instead of 100%. At 100%, you might distort post-amp effects (see "effect clipping").
You can also use the expression pedal to control drive, or compression threshold. This allows you to move from sweet to searing leads, without doing the pedal-board dance, or adjusting your guitar's volume knob; so you can seamlessly build up gain throughout a solo.
When building a patch, I try to keep the effects order in the Edit software the same as the order they occur in the chain just to keep things simple. If I later want to move things around, I'll take a screen shot or write down my settings and re-do the patch.
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E. Recording Tips
The best way to get a heavy metal rhythm sound is to double track the guitars. It's quite noticeable if the two tracks are not in perfect rhythm. Tighten those chops up and always use a drum/click track or metronome to keep time.
I go back and forth on how to pan the two tracks - sometimes I like full left/right separation but sometimes I blend them a little. When they're run through the same speaker, you get some phasing. It's not a perfect phasing like a comb filter, but you can hear it anyhow. If you're listening through headphones, full left/right panning can sound harsh when only one side is playing; but it sound much more natural through speakers. Right now I'm leaning towards full left/right.
Also, make sure your monitoring volume doesn't exceed the volume of the tracks you've already laid down or your click-track/metronome. You might end up laying down a whole track only to realize later you inserted an extra beat in the beginning or something like that and never noticed. Similarly, don't overpower your current playing volume with already recorded tracks. Then you're basically playing air guitar and fooling yourself into thinking you're playing perfectly with the existing track(s) when you might not be.
Quad-tracking doesn't seem to offer much benefit to me, unless you're trying to mix in some other tones. If you use the same tones at the same volume, I find it ends up sounding like the tracks are "fighting" each other, just like if you pan two tracks to dead center. You have to basically turn down one left and one right track to subtly reinforce the other tracks. Plus, it's more work to get all 4 tracks in perfect time. If you listen to Meshuggah's Chaosphere or Metallica's And Justice For All, you notice a kind of phasing sound to the guitars in the few places you hear one guitar on the left or right side. I don't know if this is the way they recorded or if it's double-tracked with the same pan, but I'm not a fan of the sound.
The more tracks you lay down the thicker it will sound. But that also means that it can become too thick and sound like mush. If you end up with such a mix, try doing starting off with less distortion on your tones.
I try to start with my instruments pre-mixed more-or-less. I want each instrument to have a unique frequency range emphasized, so that they all stand out and do not clash with each other. For guitars, that's generally around 250-1,500 HZ.
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With the Pod, you have a number of different ways to actually hear your patch. Besides going "live" to a real amp, you can use headphones, studio monitors, stage wedges, PA equipment, etc. And each of these categories has a large variety of gear, all of which has a different sound to it. Just because your tones sound good on some set of monitoring equipment doesn't mean they sound good on another.
That doesn't mean you should make different patches for each set of monitors you may use. The best method is to make sure your patches sound good on as many kinds of monitors as possible. Then, if you are using the Pod to record, your guitar tone will sound good to most people on their own equipment, which you have no control over. Also, it's nice to be able to bring your Pod to a friend's, to jam through his equipment. Or to a gig, where you don't know what the PA will sound exactly like. Almost everyone should have some headphones lying around, hopefully a few different pairs.
I like to test my patches through 2 different pairs of headphones (commonplace consumer headphones and "pro-level" studio headphones), and through my studio monitors (which aren't that great but still sound good). If my patch sounds good across the board, it gets my approval. Sometimes it'll sound good on one piece of hardware, but have way too much or too little bass or some other frequency range on a different one. I have to adjust so it sounds balanced on EVERYTHING. For my "live" patches, I want them to sound good through my amp first. Once I think they're good, I set the cab to Treadplate 4x12 and the mic to the SM 57 off axis mic, and I test it through my headphones and monitors. I find this cab/mic simulation combo sounds most like a real amp, so it serves as a solid second reference.
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G. DSP Allocation/Advice
Here are a couple tips to avoiding "DSP limit reached" message. Dual amps are very expensive. If you want to use numerous effects, you probably can't get away with using them. If you need to use them, keep in mind the "pre" versions use a little less DSP than the "full" ones, possibly allowing you to squeeze in that least effect, but your tone will be altered.
Pitch shifters, especially the Smart Harmony and Pitch Glide, use a lot of DSP. If you know you want to use one in a patch, build the patch with that restriction in mind – don't build up an entire patch then try to put it in at the end, only to find the DSP error then have to backtrack to figure out how to get it in.
Spring reverbs are also quite expensive; I prefer to use chamber or hall reverbs instead unless I know DSP allocation isn't a problem. Reverbs are generally a little more expensive than other effects. You can use less DSP by using a delay with a very short setting (20-60ms). If you need even less DSP consumption, you can try to get away with using "E.R." instead. I believe "E.R." will be calculated as taking up DSP even when you set it at 0%, so it has zero cost to turn it up. Note that "E.R." only works in "Studio/Direct" output mode and a cab (not "no cab") is selected.
For a detailed analysis of DSP allocation, see this thread. Fester2000 did an excellent analysis of the amps and effects on the unit. Also note, there is a second guide posted by Fester later in the thread that provides analysis of each individual effect. The first guide (attached to the first post) is a general guide.
Try to use as few EQ effects as possible. If you can use one Studio EQ instead of two Parametric EQ's, that'll save you DSP. Or use one Graphic EQ or 4-Band Shift EQ instead of 2 Studio EQ's. If you can use the amp's EQ controls instead of EQ effects, that's better too.
Instead of using a volume pedal effect, use the tip about assigning the amp/channel volume to an expression pedal.
Each group of effects has certain items that use more DSP than others. For instance, the Ping Pong Delay takes up less DSP than the Digital Delay and the Noise Gate uses less DSP than the Hard Gate. If you have to have ___ effect but can't fit the one you most wanted, you might still be able to fit something else that is similar. For instance, the Dimension can provide a decent modulation effect, but it is lower DSP than the Analog Flanger or Analog Chorus.
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H. Mesa Boogie Mark II/IV tone
I find I can get a good Mesa Boogie Mark II/IV tone from the Uber amp. The key tweaks is to pre-EQ. I like a Line 6 Drive with Bass 25%, Mids 65%, Treble 75%. I set Drive to 0% and Output to 100% - the common filter/boost pedal settings. I find even this still might break up a little, so I put a Volume effect in front and reduce the level to about 50%. This makes sure the Line 6 Drive is only acting as a filter.
I also like to turn the Hum Amp DEP up to 55% - just this small tweak makes the distortion thicker and darker and more aggressive. I turn Bias X up to ~70% - this gives notes more "bloom" but doesn't lead to unnatural compression or wonk to the tone.
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I. Clean Boost
There are several ways to perform a clean (solo) boost to your tone. The easiest is to use the Studio EQ effect - it has a Gain parameter that has nothing to do with EQ - it just sets the output level. This lets you boost or cut the signal level anywhere in your chain. For a clean boost, you should place this behind your amp/distortion. Then you just toggle it on/off for your boost
If you already have a Mid-Focus EQ in your chain, the Gain parameter acts as an overall output level control, not to adjust the amount of EQ applied. This EQ is harder to make neutral than the Studio EQ, and usually won't be toggled on/off, but you can use it to boost the signal.
You can do the same thing using the FX Loop. You place a patch cable from the send and receive connections, set send to 0 db and boost the receive level to your desired amount. Make sure mix is at 100%.
I believe the FX Loop uses less DSP than the Studio EQ, but it also requires a patch cable and that you aren't already using the loop. Also, the loop can introduce additional noise into the tone.
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J. Leveling Patches
For a single amp patch, the best way to set it up is to place all your effects and amp block in Channel A after the path split and in front of the Mixer. In the mixer, pan Channel A to center and mute Channel B. This prevents you from having to worry about Input 2 issues, as only Input 1 will feed into Channel A. Each channel is stereo, so it has no impact on stereo effects. The upside is that the Mixer block is last in the chain and can be used to level your patch without worry of unwanted clipping, which can occur by trying to level patches using the amp's Ch. Vol. control (physical VOLUME knob on the unit).
If you are using a dual amp patch, I like to use a Mid-Focus EQ or Studio EQ as the last (or close to the last) effect in my chain, behind the mixer. The Gain parameter on these EQ's does not affect frequency response, only output level. So you can use these to set a final patch level, keeping the amp blocks' Ch. Vol. control conservative, preventing unwanted clipping. The Mid-Focus EQ is not neutral by default and is sensitive to a hot input signal. I prefer the Studio EQ if I'm just using this effect for patch leveling. However, I'm usually using a Mid-Focus to roll off a bit of high and low end anyway, so it doubles as my final output control.
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K. Clarifying Confusing Volume Controls
For this guide I often use the terms MASTER Knob, VOLUME Knob (Ch Vol in Edit), Mixer Levels, and Master Volume (Master DEP). Below presents what exactly each one does and how I find they are best used.
i. The Pad Switch
Pods come with an input padding feature that reduces the level of your guitar signal. I have started using this to prevent some input clipping on guitars with high-output humbucker pickups. It also makes your signal a bit more manageable inside the Pod. I have tested the tone after compensating levels, and there seems to be insignificant tonal differences. Most of the issues with the Pod are that your signal is too hot rather than too weak. So this switch is a no-brainer for me. I had previously thought it had a unwanted tonal impact, but I was using a flawed test.
It's just a switch and easy to do a quick experiment with. Try it out before you spend money on buffer pedals or engage in laborious adjustments to your guitar.
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ii. The MASTER Knob
The MASTER Knob is the physical knob labeled "MASTER". When I refer to it in this guide I always use the word knob to avoid confusion with the Master DEP control. This knob controls an analog attenuator that affects the output volume of the analog outputs. It is part of an analog gain stage, so its setting has some impact on the signal-to-noise ratio; however, it has no effect on the modeling algorithms. It has no impact whatsoever when outputting digitally (USB, SPDIF, or AES). This is a global setting that affects all patches equally. It has no digital representation and cannot be saved per patch - the knob's current setting is what the Pod will use. The Pod HD Getting Started Guide recommends turning this all the way up to get the best signal-to-noise ratio; however, some users have reported their tone suffers when doing so. In particular, high settings might clip whatever you're outputting the Pod into. For gig/practice applications, I set it to 65%, just shy of clipping the amp I run the Pod into. I advise you to turn it as high as possible unless you are clipping something downstream, using your amp's master volume control to dial in your desired final volume level. If your amp doesn't have a master volume controls, such as the Peavey ValveKing or 6505, you can use this in its place.
Also, keep in mind that the Pod is designed for high resistance headphones. The headphones I have are 64 ohm, far below what Line 6 suggests using. Most consumer headphones fall into this category. If I were to turn up the Master Knob when using headphones, I'd deafen myself. I make sure to turn down the Master Knob to 20-60% when using headphones, unless they are high-ohm studio headphones.
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iii. Amp/Channel Volume aka VOLUME Knob
The Volume Knob is also a physical knob, but it controls a digital setting which can be set and saved to different settings for each patch. When a patch is pulled up, it is set to the saved value, not the value the physical knob is currently set to. The digital setting will only change to the knob's value when you start turning it, like the EQ knobs. It controls the Vol/Ch Vol parameter located on each amp block, again similar to the EQ knobs. This is a tone-transparent control, not designed to change how the amp model behaves - to get the "cranked" amp tone, you use the Master DEP, discussed below.
The particular quirk to note about this control is that it boosts/cuts at the location of the amp model in the signal chain. Thus, any effects downstream of the amp will respond differently if they are level dependent. If set too high, you can get effects or signal clipping.
I sometimes call this control Amp Volume Knob or Channel Volume Knob. I try to make sure I say "Knob", so you don't confuse this with the Master Volume DEP (explained below). Also, I sometimes capitalize "VOLUME" like how it's labeled on the Pod itself.
I generally use a conservative volume on this control, keeping it around 40-50%. When I use dual cabs, I use this control to balance the levels between each channel. Then I'll use the mixer levels (or a Studio/Mid-Focus EQ's Gain level) to try to set my overall patch volume. The mixer levels have less resolution than this control, so I'll come back to this to fine-tune the final levels where necessary.
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iv. Mixer Levels
Mixer Levels refer to the digital Channel A and Channel B level controls in the Mixer block. They are digital settings, saved per patch, accessible by selecting the Mixer block in the Pod's edit window or the Mixer tab in Edit. Like the above control, boosting too high can cause digital clipping or affect the behavior of volume-sensitive downstream effects, but otherwise the mixer levels are tone-transparent.
I like to use these to adjust my patch final volumes, but if I need to fine-tune I go back to the amp/channel volume control, since it offers a bit more resolution.
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v. Master D.E.P.
Master DEP refers to the Master Volume deep-editing parameter (DEP). It is designed to model the amount of power amp distortion achieved in the amp modeling algorithms. It does have some affect on the patch's volume level, but you should not use it to adjust volume levels - use the amp/channel volume or mixer levels instead. It is a digital setting that can be saved per patch. It is accessible on the unit itself by double-clicking the "ENTER" button when selecting an amp block in the Pod's edit window to bring up the amp's settings, then clicking the right arrow. In Edit, the control is visible under the standard Drive and EQ controls on the AMPS tab.
For more on how to use this control, see the amp DEP's section. Usage will vary for each amp and desired tone.
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You will be VERY frustrated trying to dial in the Pod if there's clipping somewhere in your signal chain. I've experienced numerous types of clipping on the Pod HD 500, so hopefully I can steer you away from my mistakes. Below is a description of the different types of clipping you may encounter. For a more systematic process of diagnosing what is causing your clipping, see the clipping section on the troubleshooting page.
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i. Input Clipping
The Pod can get input clipping, which occurs on the Pod's Guitar input A/D converter. Be especially wary of this. Very few controls will actually affect the signal before this converter, and they are limited in how they can help here. If you have such clipping, you can't dial it out later in the chain; and you might tweak for hours in futility. It is best dialed out by lowering one's pickup height.
Many have complained about this as a weakness of the Pod; however, I think it's generally in spec with most other devices. I also have a computer audio interface I can plug my guitar directly into. Even with its gain at 0, I was still clipping that device as well. Both devices cleaned up at the same output level. Just lower your pickup height. I had input clipping on a guitar where I could not just adjust pickup height, so instead I raised the action. To be honest, my action was kind of experimentally low, and I would definitely regard it as "too low" in retrospect.
If you are still getting clipping, you may have a problem in your cable or your guitar's electronics. Or you might be unfortunate enough to have a defective Pod. Try other guitars and cables and see if the tone cleans up when you turn down the guitar's volume knob.
Many have claimed adjusting input impedance lower (either via the input settings or using a device like the Radial Dragster), cleans up clipping and/or improves tone on the Pod. I didn't need to use one to get rid of my input clipping. Also, I don't like the looser and darker tone associated with the low impedance. But if you can't dial out clipping any other way, it's a good option to research and pursue.
Turning down the guitar's volume knob is unacceptable in my mind. It is tough to keep it always in the same non-max position, so that you get the desired amount of distortion/compression in your patches. It is only useful to diagnose the problem.
In the same vein, the effects loop return on the Pod connects to an A/D converter, which can also be overdriven. I'm not sure if reducing the return level setting in the Pod will help reduce clipping or not. It is best to reduce the output level of the final effect in the loop until the clipping disappears.
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ii. Signal Clipping
Like any digital device, if you try to amplify the digital signal too much, you'll push the amplitude larger than the device can handle, and it will result in digital clipping. The basic point is that you can't turn your amp, mixer, and every effect in your chain to output as large a signal as possible and expect it to sound good.
However, this is deceptive. Even if you don't max out the signal, you can still get effect clipping, which is covered in the next section. The only volume knob/control I recommend setting anywhere close to maximum is the MASTER knob - I believe this is an analog signal amplification occurring after all digital processing, thus not subject to digital signal clipping. ALL others are digital and subject to clipping.
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iii. Effects Clipping
Some of the effects on the Pod seem to have modeled clipping into them. The most notorious from my experience is the Parametric EQ effect. I often run these after my amp/cab and mixer in the chain. If I had the amp volume or mixer settings turned up a bit, I'd find there was clipping in my signal. If I turned off the EQ effect, all the sudden the tone cleaned up, even with the same volume levels, far lower than clipping the device itself or even different effects. I now have a relatively surefire method to prevent effect clipping, while still getting strong output levels.
Keep all your volumes conservative until the end of your patch, where you do a clean boost to bring the volume up to the desired level. This means I keep the Ch. Vol/VOLUME knob around or lower than 50%, and I place EQ's that cut before the ones that boost. I try to keep other effects, like compressors, to have unity gain rather than boost the signal.
My preferred way to get the clean boost at the end is a Mid-Focus EQ. Its Gain parameter does not relate to how much EQ'ing you get, only the final output level. Same thing for the Studio EQ. I generally use a Mid-Focus EQ on nearly all of my patches, though, so it's commonly also used to set my final patch volume.
The other way doesn't require an EQ effect to give me a clean boost. I just put EVERYTHING in Channel A, so that the mixer is the last piece of my signal chain, and I use the mixer levels to boost the volume to where I want it. This is an effective method, but it is no good for dual amp patches. Since I routinely use dual cabs, I rarely use this method.
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iv. Clipping external devices
If you send too hot of a signal out the Effects Loop or analog outputs (XLR, 1/4"), you can clip external devices. If you find you are clipping an external device, try flipping the line/amp switch on the device to amp or reducing the Master knob. Generally, I use "line"; line-level effects should be able to handle such. Also, it is the preferred setting if you are running into a real amp's effects loop return (also known as power amp in). Also, you can configure the Pod's FX Loop send/receive levels if that's where you're sending too much juice.
With my patch volumes, I can't run the Master knob at full blast into my Spider Valve Mk I combo, or I get a nasty distorted sound. I find I have to turn it down to about 60-70% to dial that out. Switching to "amp" with Master knob at 100% produces less volume, so I prefer to still use "line" but turn down my Master knob.
If you are running into the front guitar input of an amp, you should set line/amp to amp and be very careful of how high you set the Master knob.
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v. "Digital Clipping" (Crossover Distortion) on "Full" Amp Models
Line 6 modeled the crossover distortion produced by the power section of some class AB tube amps when pushed. This is a particularly-nasty sound that resembles digital clipping. This was notorious with the Blackface Twin and Deluxe models, but it also applies to the Vox amps.
The simplest way to get rid of this is to reduce the Drive on the amp (or turning down the "gain" on a Studio EQ before the amp or change the input settings or pad switch - anything to attenuate the signal hitting the amp's power section). You can also clean them up by using the deep-editing parameters (DEP's). Set Bias/Bias X closer to 100%, and/or turn down Master DEP. Another idea is to find the frequencies that are really pushing the amp into that nasty distortion, and dial them back before the amp using EQ effects, or even using the EQ knobs on the amp itself. For instance, if tones with a lot of presence really bring out a lot of crossover distortion, dial the presence back on or before the amp. To make up for lost presence, use an EQ effect after the amp to dial it back in.
For more on this topic see the elusive clean tone section.
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M. Bad Monitoring
Below are some common issues people have with monitoring, preventing them from dialing in patches that sound best across a wide variety of locations and gear.
i. Acoustic Tone
Use headphones or re-amp to find your tone, especially if you are trying to dial in tone at lower volumes (which is generally a bad idea). The acoustic tone from your electric guitar will mislead you as to what your recorded/amplified tone actually sounds like. Using the HD's looper pre-position is a great way to dial in a tone. Or you can record a dry guitar, output it to a mp3 player, then play the clip on repeat from your mp3 player into your Pod. I use a 1/8" male to 1/8" male cable into a 1/8" female to 1/4" male converter into the guitar input of the Pod. You may need to adjust the gain, because your mp3 player's output level may vary from your guitar, but that's a simple adjustment. It's a good process that works.
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ii. Bad Monitors
Similarly, take note of the crappiness of whatever monitoring device you are using. If you are using headphones with low bass response, and you dial in your tones so they sound full-range on those headphones, your tones will probably sound dark as can be on other speakers. The best you can do is match how another artist sounds through those same headphones. Don't tweak from memory, especially when you have monitors that clearly do not have a flat response.
Ultimately, the best thing you can do is buy excellent monitors. But this doesn't mean you have to spend a fortune. I use M-Audio BX8a's, which can be found for dirt cheap on Ebay. They're not exactly professional monitors, but I make it work. Conversely, you can spend lots of money on monitors that sound great but aren't necessarily a flat response, which prevents patches you dial in on them sounding good on other systems. Read lots of reviews with emphasis on a flat response. Also, if they have voicing options, try to set them up as described in the manual to neutralize any room colorations.
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iii. Bad Room
Also watch out for bass traps and other madness in the location you are tweaking. I was going crazy thinking the Pod just had crazy issues with the 120 HZ frequency spot, as all my low B notes had a lot more bass than any other notes. I blamed the Pod and was setting up all my patches to suck out bass in that range, then my patches sounded like crap in other settings. I blamed my monitors. Only recently did I figure out it's my room. I've limited myself to mastering my patches using good headphones, or by walking around the room to listen at different places. The tone has drastically less bass across the room.
Ideally, the best way around this is to treat your room. Do some research on this. You don't want to cover every inch of your walls and ceiling with foam wedges - the room will sound "dead". Foam wedges probably aren't even cost effective, but they are easier to put up than buying rigid insulation and building frames and fabric covers.
Your main goals should be to eliminate bass nodes and ringing. Most foam bass traps aren't actual bass traps, but they are thick foam and will absorb more bass than other foam wedges. Just keep in mind they will also absorb other frequencies as well. Prevent ringing by arranging your dampeners off-center from each other to prevent sound from reflecting back and forth on parallel walls. If you have hard, flat, parallel ceilings and floors, at least put a rug down on the floor.
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iv. Low Volume
Every rookie guitarist makes the mistake of dialing in his patches at bedroom level, only to get to practice (or worse a gig) and discover that his tone makes his amp very unhappy or is way too harsh. This is in part due to the frequency response amps and speakers expect - very bass or treble-heavy tones may cause them to distort. But it also has to do with how the human ear perceives loudness differently over frequency and sound pressure levels. See this Wikipedia entry on the subject.
In those diagrams you'll notice two main things - the exponential curve on the left-hand side from 20 HZ - ~400 HZ and the smaller dip centered around 3-4 kHZ. The curve on the left means you'll have to dial in more and more bass at lower and lower volumes to have it sound the same as at higher volumes. So if you tweak at low volumes, getting a nice thick bass in the tone, at louder volumes the bass will overwhelm the tone, likely causing your amp or speakers to distort. The dip at 3-4 kHZ means at lower volumes, you'll dial in too little in that range compared to the 5-8 kHZ treble. When you turn the volume up, you have not enough mids and too much treble.
Thus, good tones at high volumes often sound wimpy at lower volumes - they don't seem to have enough bass and warmth, and can sound a little cold. Also, they tend to emphasize more mids, especially the upper mids/lower treble around 3 kHZ, which can make them sound tinny and thin.
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N. Wrong Output Mode
As I mention in the output modes section, the output mode determines what the cab/mic block does. In Studio/Direct output mode, it uses true cab/mic simulation. This is ideal when using headphones, when hooked up to a PA system, a mixing board, a home stereo, or a DAW, as long as you are not using an external IR to simulate a guitar cabinet. Otherwise, you are probably running the signal into full-range speakers, which will not attenuate the ice pick highs like (a) guitar cab/speakers do(es). The tone will sound like a swarm of bees - buzzy, fizzy, thin, and plastic.
Conversely, if you do use Studio/Direct output mode into a real guitar amp and cab, you are effectively running a simulation of a cabinet through a real cabinet, getting 2x the attenuation of the highs, plus various phase inaccuracies. The low-end you get will sound "teh brootz" - plenty of chuggage; however, the tone itself will sound like it has some kind of comb filtering going on, and the highs will be washed out. Sometimes running this way is acceptable depending on the real amp and cab you're using, but the tone will generally have more clarity using the correct output mode. If you want the brutal bass, try dialing it in a different way. If you don't like the high-end "fizz", roll it off using a Mid-Focus EQ.
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O. Gain Staging
Be very aware of how much gain you feed each block in your signal chain, as well as real effects or amps outside of the Pod. This will often change the tone you get from them.
Slight volume increases across a number of effects can amount to one giant volume increase that results in clipping. Particularly watch out for clipping EQ effects behind the amp model or mixer. Or setting a Compressor output too high running into a Distortion effect may cause it to add more distortion into the tone than you want, especially if you're using it as a filter/boost/overdrive, where you're setting its Drive parameter very low. Similarly, the usual practice of using a filter/boost/overdrive is to set the output level to max. This may cause you to want to set the Drive of the amp lower to compensate if you don't want it to distort very much. But setting Drive down low on certain amps (particularly Marshalls) can hurt the tone.
Also, watch the amp/line switch and the MASTER knob settings. Setting line and full MASTER knob can often cause external gear to clip. Similarly, watch the send/receive levels on the FX Loop.
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P. Outside vs. Inside Mix
Don't expect to get a tone that sounds like you're in a full mix when you're not, especially for metal. A guitar tone sounds a lot beefier when a kick (bass) drum and bass guitar line is underneath it. And it sounds thicker and smoother in the top end when it is double-tracked. Next time you are listening to your favorite metal albums, see if you can find a spot where the guitar is playing by itself. It'll probably sound shockingly whimpy/muffled/etc.
Don't try to be something you can't be. Piling on the gain or cranking the bass won't make you sound like you're a full mix. Accept the somewhat gritty top-end and learn to love it. If you don't feel comfortable with your tone, record it double tracked with the parts panned hard left and right. If you can record bass and program drums, even better. Try to get as good of an idea as possible what it WILL sound like in a full mix.
There's a common trick on the Pod to set a delay effect with the delay time set as low as possible. I don't like this. It sounds like you're playing inside a McDonald's play place or in front of a giant wall or something. Yeah, it thickens the tone up a little. So does cranking the gain. I recommend doing neither. If you want to sound heavier, play in a full mix or just use your imagination. I know Petrucci sometimes uses the delay trick - well curse the gods - Petrucci is an idiot.
I break this rule myself way too often, and it always comes back to haunt me later on when I go to jam with someone or record a song. Funny thing is that once you are forced to make your tone slightly less heavy, I really like it. I guess it wears off over time.
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Q. Relying on Others' Patches
The Pod HD is only one part of a system that goes from your fingers to your ears. In between those parts of your body there is also a guitar, pickups, cables, speakers, and a listening environment (room). There may additionally be an actual amp and other effects processors. While the Pod HD is common to your gear and anyone else who makes a Pod HD patch, every other factor is probably different, including not only the ears of the person who built it but also his musical tastes.
This means it's highly unlikely for you to download someone else's patch and have it sound the same when you use it as it sounded to the creator. This doesn't mean the patch is unusable, only that it likely needs to be tweaked to fit your needs. I suggest reviewing the guitar setup and amp tone pages to understand where differences may have existed and how you can bridge any gaps.
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