A. Too much noise
This section addresses a constantly-noisy signal, not noisy tone. For a noisy tone, see the next section.
First turn off all the amp models and effects in your signal chain, to see if your bypass signal sounds ok. This will tell you if you have possibly hooked the Pod up incorrectly. If so, see the setup page.
If the bypass is ok, toggle each effect in the chain on then back off, seeing if one makes it sound noisy. Once you've tested them individually, turn them on one at a time and try to determine which one pushes the sound over the edge. Usually this will be the amp model using a lot of distortion or a compressor or distortion effect. You may have an effect before this one that amplifies the signal strongly, causing it to distort/compress much more than you want. Also, sometimes you feed such a unit an unconventional signal (extremely bright or full of deep bass) and it reacts unexpectedly. See if the distortion/compression stages clean up if you turn off an effect or two before that one. Or dial back the distortion/compression. Compressors use "threshold" instead of "drive". Unlike "drive", "threshold" compresses less at higher settings.
You can mildly reduce noise by changing the input settings from their defaults, which pull in numerous inputs, some of which are likely unused. (see "input settings" section) Note: this setting is NOT necessarily global. Just because you changed it once doesn't mean that all your patches have unused inputs disabled.
I have heard reports that the effect loop on the Pod can cause tone suck or additional noise. I haven't experienced that, and I wouldn't know how to get around it other than to make sure you are gain staging everything correctly or simply put your effects in front/behind the pod rather than in its loop.
Finally, you might just have noisy pickups or a noisy cable, or be picking up some kind of ground hum. While this is less noticeable on a clean signal, when you compress/distort it, all that noise will be amplified. Try using a different guitar and cables to determine if they are the problem. You may want to get a hum eliminator.
You can also use the noise gate effects in the Pod. I recommend setting this as the first effect in your chain, and adjusting it so that it is just sensitive enough to get rid of the noise when your guitar is muted. Setting it too sensitive will cause it to kill sustaining notes unnaturally. Setting it even higher will make your tone sound thin (for the "Noise Gate", not "Hard Gate"). See the link for my favored method of dialing it in.Top of Page
B. Tone is fizzy/noisy
By "fizzy" I mean the tone has a "shhhh"/"sssss" type sound in the 3-5kHZ range. It isn't exactly musical. It's basically high-pitched noise that seems stuck in the tone. Unfortunately, the Pod HD has a few spots like this that stand out on the high gain amp models. They stand out much more when you are using the Pod's cab and mic modeling, running "direct", rather than to a real amp.
For "fizz" that seems more like excessive high-end, see the next section.
My first suspect would be the cab/mic choice. Mics other than the SM 57's tend to have more noise in the tone, particularly the ribbon and condensers. This can sound fizzy. Try switching mics, then cabs.
The Cab DEP's may also help. I find turning down Res. Level a little can often add more crispness and clarity to the tone.
One option is to use a parametric EQ effect with max Q to dial out the fizzy spot. See the "fizzy spots" section. Of course, don't confuse what I refer to as "fizzy spots" with the entire 3-5kHZ range, which I classify as "fizz" (see "EQ" section). By fizzy spots, I'm talking about very, very narrow frequency ranges that sound like noise whether you're playing power chords or single notes anywhere on the fretboard. Fizz, on the other hand, is a crucial part of a good guitar tone.
For running direct, while I prefer the SM 57 off axis mic, I can understand why some people would consider it too fizzy. The best advice I can give you is to use the SM 57 on axis instead - it has a very clean high end. If this has too much treble for your taste, dial it back with the amp's treble control or an EQ effect. Also, try to dial in bass and mids - this generally works better and results in a cleaner sound than trying to dial in treble with other mics. When you do that you are amplifying noise and will get a noisy, fizzy sound in the high end. I like the SM 57 on axis mic because it sounds the "cleanest" in the high end, in my opinion. However, I find the SM 57 off axis sounds more "natural", even if the highs are a bit noisy/fizzy. See mic selection.
Also, you may be using a ton of gain. This can make the tone sound fizzy. Try dialing it back a bit. You don't need a ton of gain to sound heavy. See the guitars in vs. outside a mix.Top of Page
C. Tone is harsh
"Harsh" is a bit generic. Here I'm talking about a tone that's extremely bright/trebly or has some midrange to treble frequency range that's so loud it gets to the point of hurting your ears when turned up loud. If instead you are getting a really nasty distortion tone, see the "gritty/dirty distortion tone" section below. Or even try the "digital clipping" section.
If you are running the Pod "direct" to full-range speakers, headphones, powered monitors, a mixer board, a PA, etc. (anything besides a dedicated guitar amp with guitar loudspeakers), your output mode should be "Studio/Direct" to engage cab+mic simulation (the only true speaker simulation), which severely rolls off the high end of the frequency spectrum. Without this the tone will be incredibly harsh in the very high-end frequencies. See "output modes" section.
I like the SM 57 on axis mic, but it can be a little harsh for certain cabs. The best way to dial it in is to use a Mid-Focus EQ. You can also use the "highs" parameter on a parametric EQ effect, or by setting the appropriate "high freq" and "high gain" on a studio EQ effect. Note that 100% "freq" on a parametric EQ is only like 4.5-5kHZ and "highs" affects all frequencies at about 1.5kHZ and above, whereas the Studio EQ will let you select all the way up to 3, 5, or 8 kHZ to start your cut. For more details on how the EQ effects work, see here.Or use the SM 57 off axis (or another mic) instead.
While harshness is usually associated with too much high end, sometimes the tone can be described as harsh if it has too much upper mids, or some part of the frequency spectrum is out of balance with the rest of it. Try the technique described in the "fizzy spots" section of using a parametric EQ to cycle through the frequency range, trying to notice if any particular spot makes the tone much worse. Once you find it, you can dial it back and get a well-rounded tone.
Also, the Treadplate V-30 4x12 cab is by nature very bright and much louder than the other cab models. Keep that in mind when setting up your patches. See cab selection.
If you are running to an amp, make sure your amp/speaker isn't what is causing the signal to become too bright and harsh. For instance, I know the Peavey 5150 combo comes stock with a Sheffield speaker, which is much harsher than a Celestion Vintage 30 or similar speaker, which are often used for high gain tones. Many people even feel the Vintage 30 is a harsh speaker. So one option is to replace your speaker or cabinet. Trying to EQ around a harsh speaker can be very difficult or even futile. If you can close the back to your cab, that will get you a darker tone, but it will give you less volume. Sometimes even if you do all this, when you crank up the volume, the speaker distorts into mush, because it simply isn't designed to produce that kind of tone. Also, many amps, particularly 1x12's, are really bright directly in front the amp. You could try to use something like a Beam Blocker or Mitchell Donut (I recommend the Mitchell Donut, not the Beam Blocker) to even out the sound, or just stand slightly off center.
If you are plugging into your amp's guitar in jack, the amp's pre-amp may be amplifying some high frequencies more than the rest of the spectrum.
If you are driving your amp hard, it's power section might be clipping a bit, adding high-end distortion on top the tone. Also, your amp could have worn-out tubes.
Note: the full amps tend to have more bite than the pre-amp only models. If you are using full amp models, try using the pre-amp only ones (see full vs pre).
Similarly, the full amp models DEP's can have pretty strong effects on the tone. Try messing with the Master Volume and Bias parameters to see if they help dial out harshness.
Finally, see I tried all this and it doesn't sound good. You may have an unconventional rig or just different tastes, and you might want to try Studio/Direct output mode and cab+mic simulation.Top of Page
D. Tone has digital clipping
Below are step-by-step instructions to determine the exact source of the clipping and eliminate it. For more info on the types of clipping that can occur in the Pod, see the "clipping" section. This covers every area where the tone may be clipping, including input clipping, digital signal clipping, effect clipping, "digital clipping" on "full" amp models, and clipping external devices. Additionally, you may want to read the gain staging or the elusive clean tone sections. Note, it might not sound like digital clipping if you are using a guitar amp and speaker cab, rather than running "direct". If something isn't right with your tone, you may want to give this section a read just to make sure this isn't your issue.
Start by verifying all your cables and guitar electronics are not an issue. Plug them into something else and verify you get a solid, clean tone from them - no pops, cracks, grit, or filtering in the tone. once this is verified, only plug in one cable from guitar to pod guitar input. Use headphones to monitor the output. Keep the big knob labeled "Master" on the Pod at around 20-40% - most headphones will be plenty loud at this volume. If you have high ohm headphones, you may want to turn them up a bit more. Just don't push them to the point where they might be distorting as well. Finally, verify you are using the correct power supply - using the wrong one might get you a signal, but it can be all messed up tone-wise. This eliminates false positives for the tests below.
Verify you do not have input clipping. Set the pod's signal chain to have all null effect blocks and "no amp" selected. Verify the mixer levels are 0 db and panned hard left/right for each channel. Set your pickup selector to your bridge pickup (unless you have a louder one) and strum the guitar about as loud as you'd want to play it. Lower the guitar's volume knob and try again. Repeat. See if reducing the guitar output level cleans up the signal.
If the clipping doesn't clean up and you are 100% sure the issue isn't your guitar's electronics or your cables and you're not driving the headphones too hard, something is wrong with the Pod. Try a factory reset, then re-update the firmware and try again. If the issue persists, there may be a physical issue with the Pod or with the power supply. Test with another power supply if possible. If that's the issue, replace the power supply. Otherwise, you probably have to have your Pod serviced.
If the clipping cleaned up as you lowered the guitar volume knob, you were overloading the pod's A/D converter. The best way to clean this up is to lower your pickups. You can also try using the pad switch, but i find it doesn't do very much and changes the tone in a bad way IMO. You can also change the input impedance settings to lower values, but this will likely change the tone, perhaps in a way you do not like. The final option is to get some kind of pedal that will allow you to lower the signal level before reaching the Pod. Any other tweaks in the Pod will do absolutely nothing to dial out input clipping. Tweaks such as changing Input 2 to Variax happen after the A/D converter, after the tone has reached clipping.
If you are using external effects in the Pod's effects loop, you should test whether you are overloading the effects loop return A/D converter the same way. While the Pod's software does provide receive level controls, I do not know if this control an analog attenuator that buffers the signal before reaching the A/D converter or if it is a digital algorithm implemented afterwards. If the latter, the clipping will be in the signal before reaching it, and the clipping cannot be dialed out at that point. The best way to eliminate this is to lower the final output of the last effect in the external chain.
Verify you are not clipping external gear. If you have effects in your effects loop, try to send a rather weak signal back to the Pod by lowering the output of your last external effect to verify that you're not clipping the effects loop return input on the Pod. Then lower the effects loop send level on the Pod and see if any clipping present cleans up - this would indicate you were previously clipping external effects. Also try testing each external effect one at a time. This issue might be one of the external effects clipping another one, which has nothing to do with the Pod.
If you are connecting the Pod to a real amp using a 1/4" unbalanced cable and are running to the front input of the amp, you will likely get clipping unless you set the line/amp switch to amp and are conservative with the "Master" knob. If you are running into the amp's effects loop return/power amp in, you can give it more juice, but you can still clip a buffer for such inputs. If the tone becomes nasty when you move from the headphones to the real amp, try dialing back the Master knob to see if the tone improves. Same goes for running to a PA/mixer using XLR outputs.
If you are connecting to a DAW digitally (SPDIF, AES, USB), verify in your audio interface that the levels are not clipping the DAW. SPDIF has send level controls in the system menu. For USB, there is a control panel for the Pod HD driver you can pull up in your computer to adjust the USB volume. I think the default is +18 db which seems ridiculous - turn the boost off. Generally if your Pod isn't clipping, your DAW shouldn't either - they should have a matching digital signal resolution. Don't worry about sending the DAW a super strong signal - even if it's quite weak you're not losing any precision since it's a digital floating-point, signal. Boosting inside the DAW is the same thing as boosting inside the Pod.
Start adding stuff to your signal chain while verifying you are not exceeding the Pod's internal digital resolution. Anything in the signal chain that affects volume has the potential to push the signal's amplitude beyond the precision of the Pod's digital circuitry. I believe this is 24 bits, which is quite large. The two obvious ones are the Amp/Channel Volume (Volume Knob) and the Mixer levels. But many other things will boost the signal as well. Delays and Reverbs can add a little volume. The Mid-Focus EQ's default settings heavily boost the signal, and any of the EQ's can boost the signal with certain settings.
The Pod uses digital algorithms and a digital signal. Unlike analog circuits, where you want to gain stage each piece to near clipping to get the best signal-to-noise ratio, the Pod can convert from low to high and high to low signal levels without losing precision or adding noise. So it's best to keep the signal level conservative, far away from digital clipping.
Be aware that certain effects in the Pod will clip even if you aren't clipping the overall signal level. The Parametric EQ is particularly troublesome here. Try toggling effects on and off and see if the tone improves and if the problem is related to overall signal level or a particular effect.
Maximize the tone for analog outputs, if applicable.
You want the signal to be as loud as possible at the end of the signal chain (without clipping as mentioned above), before it is converted from digital to analog, in order to get the best signal-to-noise ratio. But if the patch has a Parametric EQ behind the amp, this means you have to keep the amp volume knob conservative to avoid clipping it. I do one of two things to work around this issue. For a mono single-amp tone, I put all my post-amp effects after the amp but before the Mixer. I use the Mixer to boost the signal level and pan to center for that channel, and I mute the other one. If I want a stereo tone or dual amp tone where that option isn't available, I try to put a Studio or Mid-Focus EQ as the last effect in my chain and boost with the Gain parameter (this has no effect on how much EQ'ing is happening). I get as close to clipping as possible, and I test it with a few different guitars and style of play to make sure no aggressive playing or certain notes don't push it into clipping.
You want the Master knob to be set as high as possible to achieve the best signal-to-noise ratio, but you have to balance this against clipping an external device. Follow the same guidelines as above - you definitely want to be below clipping but try to get it as high as possible.
Certain full amp models model crossover distortion in their power section such as the Blackface Dbl, AC15, and AC30 models - it sounds similar to digital clipping. I find the best way to dial this back without altering tone is to use the DEP (deep editing parameters). Turn Master down and Bias X up. Other methods to reduce the clipping is to reduce the amp Drive parameter, change Input 2 to Variax (or Mic or some other null input), or put a Studio EQ in front the amp model and turn down the Gain parameter. See here for more details.
E. Tone is muffled
For a "direct" setup, most cab and mic combinations sound muffled for high gain. Simply turning up the treble might not do it. Use all your EQ options at your disposal to dial in the high end. (See "EQ" section)
Note that trying to dial in the high end for an amp/cab/mic combination that happens to be very muffled-sounding will just give you a very noisy high-end that sounds artificial or processed, or fizzy. Dialing in frequencies that were never there to begin with means you are just amplifying noise. Thus, cab and mic selection is important.
I usually use the SM 57 off axis mic, as it sounds the most natural to me, with rich mids and highs. But you may want to try the SM 57 on axis mic; it has the cleanest and brightest high end.
My favorite cabs are the Hiway, Treadplate, Greenbacks, Uber, and XXL 4x12's. Of these, the Treadplate is very bright, the Uber, Hiway, and Greenbacks are relatively balanced, and the XXL is very boomy. I like to use parametric EQ's to neutralize the extreme parts of the cabs, and/or dial in the mids. See cab and mic selection.
For a "live" setup, I like to use "no cab" as my cab. Even if you do not use "Studio/Direct" output mode, selecting a cab will use "live-voiced cabs" (see "output modes" section). These tend to reduce the high end. Also, the "pre" versions of the amps tend to have more mids and less high end, although I wouldn't consider them "muffled" - you just have to EQ them a bit differently. Just because you are using a real guitar power amp doesn't mean you're guaranteed to prefer using the pre-amp only model more than the full model (see full vs. pre).Top of Page
F. Distortion is muddy/fuzzy/farty
I have to wonder if Line 6 modeled these amps using a guitar with really bright pickups (or vintage pickups with low bass response). When you use what I consider "normal" or "full-range" pickups, the distortion tends to be a little dirtier and fuzzier than tight and djenty, even on the high gain amps. If you fall into this category, you can use a distortion effect as an overdrive or an EQ effect before the amp distortion to pre-eq the tone you send the amp, changing the way it distorts. See this section for more.Top of Page
G. Distortion is dirty/gritty
You may want to sculpt the tone before your distortion stage. See this section for more. Sometimes you want to send the amp more of a mid-range than high end peak frequency range to get a smoother distortion. This is particularly the case for power amp distortion with the Park 75 and JCM-800 models. If you turn up the presence control too much, you may notice the distortion seems to go splat or get real nasty, even on a single note high up on the fretboard that should be smooth and sing. I usually turn presence to 0% on the Park 75, because this is so bad. See the this whole page for more.
Also, note that the "pre" versions of the amps tend to be a little cleaner than the "full" version as far as their distortion character. While I prefer to use "full" amps and use EQ's and distortion sculpting to dial in my tone, it may yield better results for you to try out the "pre" amps. (see full vs. pre)
Or you can try turning down Master Volume or playing with the Bias DEP's on the full models. These can often reduce the dirtyness of an amp model's distortion and smooth it out.
You can also get some nasty distortion sounds if you try to chain multiple distortion phases. In the Pod, you can have a distortion effect distort, than the amp model's pre-amp, plus the amp model's power amp. If you're using a real amp and speakers, both of these can distort as well. Having serious distortion in more than one of these is likely going to create a nasty distortion tone. See layering distortions.
Similarly, if you are trying to use two distorted amps as a dual amp patch, and have them both panned to center (or both left or both right), they'll likely produce some kind of comb filter effect and sound pretty nasty. (see "dual amps" section).
Finally, you may be getting input clipping and your distortion is making it sound like a nasty amp distortion rather than digital clipping. See if your tone has clipping when you turn off the amp model and other effects. (see the "clipping" section)Top of Page
H. Tone is thin
I find the "pre" versions of the amps are a little "thinner" sounding than the "full" versions, and tend to use the "full" versions, even if I'm running my setup "live" (through an amp and guitar cab). They tend to have more bass and just sound a bit richer. (see "full vs. pre" section)
If that doesn't help, see I tried this and it doesn't sound good. You may have an unconventional setup, and you might want to try Studio/Direct output mode and cab+mic simulation, even through you're running through an amp and speakers.
For "direct" tones, I like to use the SM 57 on/off axis mic, but find this can leave the tone a little thin. I compensate mainly by boosting the bass and/or low mids with a parametric EQ effect (freq at 15-30%). If this creates too much "thump" or ultra-low bass, I will EQ that out with a Mid-Focus EQ effect. I find this works better than using a Dynamic mic, which already has lots of bass dialed in, but that's another option. See the mic selection.
I also developed a "dual cab" method to try get the best features of two cabs that excel at opposite sections of the frequency range. See Dual Cabs.Top of Page
I. Software Knobs move on their own
Wowsers! Did that knob just move itself?! Yes, this can happen. It is particularly troublesome when it happens with a volume knob. You can fix this by moving the knob back and forth many, many times, all the way from their min to max position and back. This seems to get the dust or whatever else that causes the knob to malfunction out of there.Top of Page
J. I'm Getting DSP Limit Reached Errors
To clear up a few misconceptions, the error isn't about how much DSP you are actually using but how much you could potentially be using, if you turned on every effect/amp in your chain and were using them in a manner that required the most processing power. Effects toggled off will count towards your DSP limit. A Pitch Glide effect currently set to no pitch change is calculated as taking up as much as one doing a 2 octave shift.
So each effect/amp is assigned a fixed DSP cost in the firmware. When you add anything into the signal chain, the Pod sums the DSP cost of everything in the chain, and if this will exceed the maximum DSP it believes it requires to maintain real-time processing it throws the error and removes the effect/amp from the chain.
The analogy would be if you were a factory worker assigned to place labels on bottles as they passed by you on a conveyer belt. The bottles are evenly spaced and the belt moves at a constant motion, but you have enough time to do your task for every bottle. If your boss tells you to start placing 3 independent labels on each bottle, now you can't keep up. You have to either knock some bottles of the belt or let them pass by without having labels applied. Same with the audio stream passing through the Pod. It would have to drop out audio or let some of pass through unprocessed to fulfill the processing demands placed upon it, so it doesn't let you tell it to do more than it can.
While overclocking the chips inside the Pod may make more DSP available, the software is not calculating available DSP versus what it assigned to do. It uses the DSP costs baked into the firmware. So unless you can write your own firmware, hacking your Pod won't do you any good here. Your only option is to make sacrifices.
See here for DSP allocation advice.Top of Page