II. Quick Guide
This guide is too long. Here's some quick tips to get you dialed in without having to bust out your reading glasses. Note that all of these topics are covered more in-depth throughout the guide if you want more info.
There are a few quirks with this unit you should always keep in mind to get the most of out if. If you miss these, you might become unnecessarily frustrated with the unit.
Single Lines = Stereo Signals
All the lines you see in the Pod editor's signal path and in the HD Edit software are stereo signals, including each for Channels A and B. You do not need to use both Channel A and B to get stereo functionality.
Mixer Pan Controls
The Mixer blocks "pan" controls do not push the complete left/right stereo signal into the left or right field when panning full left or right. It simply drops the opposite field. In other words, panning full right on Channel A means you are simply muting the left field of Channel A.
Mono-Summing vs Stereo Effects
Many of the effects will sum to mono before processing. In other words the stereo input signal is mixed down to a mono signal, processed, then split back into a stereo signal with equal left/right fields. This means anytime you use a mono-summing effect, you will get identical left/right output. If you use a stereo effect before a mono-summing effect, the stereo aspect of it will be eliminated. Thus, you should use stereo effects last in the chain. The most common mono-summing effects are the dynamic and distortion effects, as well as the amp blocks. EQ, delay, and reverb effects are stereo. See here for a full list.
Use Channel A Only for Single-Amp Patches
The easiest way to design your patches if you are not using dual amps is to place everything in Channel A (the top line after the signal path split).
This means Input 1 is routed to Channel A and Input 2 is routed to Channel B where it is muted. Thus, you don't have to worry about the Input 2 issue. Also, it means the Mixer is the last piece of your chain and can be used to set the final output volume of the patch, allowing you to keep earlier volume settings conservative, so you don't max out the internal signal resolution or get other unwanted clipping.
As mentioned above, Channel A is a stereo signal, so you still retain all stereo effects.
Input 1 is sent to the left field of the initial stereo signal, and Input 2 to the right field. When the signal hits the channel split, the left field goes to Channel A and the right to Channel B. So you can use two different instruments in the Pod as long as you do not place any mono-summing effects in front of the channel split, and select different input sources for Input 1 and 2.
The 1/4" unbalanced outputs sum to mono if only one of the outputs has a cable inserted. If you want to use the left 1/4" output and right XLR output, you have to put a dummy cable (attached to nothing else) in the right 1/4" output. The XLR outputs never sum to mono.
This knob only affects analog output volume (1/4", XLR, and headphones). The manual recommends setting it to max for the best signal-to-noise ratio. I agree, but sometimes this means you are clipping whatever you are running the Pod into. Then you have to back off a bit. Also, when running the four cable method with some amps like the Peavey ValveKing and 6505 that do not have a true Master Volume knob, you have to use the Pod's MASTER knob to control your volume and may end up setting it far lower than max.
Input Settings Global/Patch Option
Even though the Input Settings are located in the System Menu, they are not necessarily global. There is a setting on that page that determines whether they apply globally or per patch. I like to use per patch. Even though I almost always use the same Input 1/2 settings, I occasionally change Input Impedance.
VOLUME Knob/Ch. Vol. Functionality
The VOLUME knob (Ch. Vol on the amp block in HD Edit) is a tone-independent volume control that affects the output level of the amp block. The Master DEP is what should be used to get a "pushed" power section, not this control. I recommend keeping this knob at conservative levels (~50% or less), otherwise you can get unwanted clipping - either of sensitive downstream effects like many of the EQ's or of the Pod's internal digital resolution.
I like to set Input 2 to Variax. This isn't an issue if you put everything in Channel A for a single amp patch as mentioned above; however, I often run dual amp patches. Input 2: Guitar/Same seems to create a slight phasing effect, which becomes very apparent when running a mono-summing effect such as a Distortion effect before the path split. It also seems to create a louder than expected signal that pushes effects and amps harder than they seem to be designed. For exmample, with Input 1 and 2 set to Guitar, a Screamer effect in front the path split distorts, even at 0% Drive. Or for a Blackface Dbl amp model in front the path split, you will get crossover distortion even at very low Drive settings, sometimes even 0%.
If you have already created single amp patches where you did not put everything in Channel A, try changing Input 2 to Variax (or Mic or some other unused input) and make this a global setting and demo all your patches. You may need to add gain/compression to your earliest effect(s) to get them back to the distortion or compression or volume level you want, but they will likely sound a bit more crisp and responsive.
Dual Path Phase Issues
One thing that particularly confused me at first was that certain effects apply a very slight latency to the tone, particularly EQ's and compressors. Putting these in one of the Channels before the mixer but not the other can cause a comb filter effect, cancelling out some high end frequencies or maybe even more. So if you want to put an EQ in Channel A, you may want to put the same EQ in Channel B with neutral settings to avoid the comb filter effect.
I tend to like to use what I can dual cabs - dual amps with the same amp model but different cab/mic settings. The issue is that certain combinations run into the phasing issue. I take advantage of the EQ/compressor latency to resolve this as much as possible. With the right settings, the tone has less of a looseness and phasing to it, and regains crisp high-end. See here for more info.
Sensitive EQ Effects
Many EQ effects will clip on even a barely hot signal going into them. As mentioned above, I like to keep the VOLUME knob (Ch. Vol.) low to prevent this after my amp block. But it can even occur if they are the first effect in your chain. The Mid-Focus EQ is the worst offender, followed by the Parametric EQ. The Studio EQ is the best.
To prevent clipping, I'll often put a Volume effect in front of such EQ's, attenuating the signal strength. The Volume effect uses barely any DSP. Just be sure to disable the default expression pedal control and manually set it to the exact setting to preven the EQ from clipping. If you're using the Mid-Focus EQ, you can boost the signal strength back up using its Gain parameter. Or if you have a Compressor, boost the signal level with that. Otherwise, just use more Drive from either a downstream distortion effect or amp block.
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B. Patch-building Tips
I divide my tone hunt into several groups: amp selection, cab/mic selection, pre-EQ'ing, gain staging, amp EQ'ing, post-EQ'ing, amp DEP's, cab DEP's, and effects. I usually approach any patch in that order, but as the patch comes together I start jumping around and making various improvements.
I start by choosing what I think is the ideal amp model - that also clues me in to whether I want to pre-EQ the amp, and how I want to do so. For instance, I know if I want a really warm tone, I'll use a Tube Drive, and if I want it to have a nice crunch I'll use a Marshall amp. Try to familiarize yourself with how each amp is affected by pre-EQ'ing using EQ's, the Tube Drive, and the Screamer effects - those are the main filter/boosts you're likely going to use, and they have more impact on tone than the Amp or Cab DEP's, post-EQ'ing, or other effects. If I'm going for an artist's tone, I try to match his rig as a starting point.
For a direct tone, if you need a lot of effects (or expensive effects like pitch shifting or spring reverb), you probably won't have enough DSP to do a dual amp setup, so you can use dual cabs. Otherwise, I recommend you try a dual cab configuration. It takes a bit more time to dial in, but the tone is worth the payoff. See here for instructions to set that up. If you are running to a real amp or using external IR's, don't worry about dual cabs, or dual amps in general.
I add effects to my patch in the order of importance. That way if I run into DSP limit errors, I don't need to rebuild my patch. Be aware of how expensive each effect/amp is DSP-wise. You can find that info here. Be aware of common substitutions or other ways to save DSP.
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C. High-Gain Amp Roundup
For more detail on amp models, see the Distortion/Amp Tone page
Think early Van Halen - classic Marshall tone. Great amp model with few pitfalls. Sounds even better with a Tube Drive in front. All the distortion is coming from the power section, so the way you EQ it will affect the distortion tone.
Similar to the Plexi, but with a bit more of a vintage vibe - it's hard to a djent palm mute out of it. Makes for a good AC/DC tone. Again, all the distortion is in the power amp, so watch your EQ, especially the presence. Too much presence sounds like the amp is damaged.
Classic high-gain Marshall hair metal tone. This isn't the best model, IMO. It has more gain than the Park and Plexi, but also less dynamic response and sounds a little less quality. I like to boost the Master DEP to about 65% to get more power amp distortion, which gives it more bite. Again, EQ'ing matters, but presence is more forgiving. Sounds good with a Tube Drive or Screamer in front. I use it for Megadeth tones.
By default this model is too muddy for my tastes. I always pre-EQ it, filtering out some low end. I find boosting the Hum DEP a touch gets it in a Mesa/Boogie Mark II/IV ballpark. Boosting it a bit more gets it closer to a 5150. After making these tweaks, it's one of my favorite amp models, considering I love the Mesa and Peavey amps I just mentioned.
Very aggressive tone. The "full" model has much more bite than the "pre" model. If you prefer the "pre", try backing off the Master DEP when using the "full" model to find the sweet spot. It's difficult to really change the tone by simple pre-EQ'ing, but a Screamer can tighten it up nicely. I find boosting some warm (lower) mids before the amp can make it a bit less agro and have a sweeter tone. The bass it puts out is obnoxious. I find I need to use a Parametric EQ with Freq at 15% and Gain around 35% to get it in the same ballparks as other amp models. In general this amp model is too aggressive for my tastes, but it is great when tamed.
Great amp model - captures the distinct ENGL tone. Good on its own but can be made more aggressive and djenty with a presence-emphasis by pre-EQ'ing out some bass. Goes well with a Screamer in front. I make this amp my go-to for a nice modern metal tone.
Not a fan. Seems like a watered-down version of the Uber. The initial draw is that it doesn't have the muddiness issue the Uber does, but once you tweak the Uber to get rid of that, the Uber sounds better than this model. Also, the default setting for the Master DEP is 100%, which I think sounds awful - if you're gonna use it, make that's the first thing you adjust.
I think of this as the Plexi on roids. It's a bit looser than some of the other amps, so I find I don't use it much for a metal tone; but it has a great hard rock tone. This model responds oddly to boosts, and its EQ controls don't impact the tone as much as you'd expect.
Think sludgy Marshall. This is generally not my thing, so I don't use this model much. It takes boosts well, and you can get a very wide range of tones from it.
Very bizarre model here. I find the preamp distortion harsh and broken up or splatty. I keep Drive low, but the poweramp distortion is quite smooth, focused, and tight. So that's what I like to use to get a good tone from this amp, which makes dialing it in more difficult. The tone is very clear and dry - it's great for getting a heavy distortion tone that can chug but you also want to clearly hear every note, even inside big chords.
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D. Cabs/Mics Roundup
For more detail on cabs/mics, see the Cab/Mic Selection Page
This is my go-to cab. Of all the 4x12's, it seems to be the only one that sounds like real guitar speakers. It's got a well-defined midrange and high-end - nothing sounds washed out. I like to use it with the SM 57's, preferably on axis. It can be a little harsh on the high end, but that's easily filtered out by the Mid-Focus EQ. When I use dual cabs, I always make this one of the cabs. I like to reduce the Res. Level DEP a bit to make it even crispier.
XXL V30 4x12
Something sounds a bit off on this cab by itself, like the mids and highs are a little washed out. Boosting Res Level DEP up a bit helps bring out some mids. Still, the main draw of this cab is its huge low-end response. It's very punchy, making it great for a metalcore tone. But it can also be a little too boomy, requiring EQ to remove some low-end drone. By itself, the 409 Dyn mic tends to help bring out a decent high-end response from it. I like to use it in combination with the Hiway in a dual cab configuration using a SM 57 mic.
The Greenbacks and Treadplate cabs have a high quality to them, but they're not as good as the Hiway. The Greenbacks do have a more unique sound, which is worth experimenting with. The Treadplate is very bright and louder than the other cabs, which needs to be compensated for. The Blackbacks and T-75 cabs sound fake and not worth using to me, but they also have their own unique tones which are worth exploring. The T-75's might be good for a vintage tone. The Uber cab is good, but it's kind of in no-man's land. I'd use it for the same applications I'd use the Hiway or Treadplate for, but the Hiway is better. It does have a better low-end response than many of the cabs though, and is a good conservative choice.
I like to use the Fender 2x12 for my Fender cleans, and for vintage tones, sometimes the G-12H sounds nice, but otherwise, I don't mess with these. Most of them sound thin and harsh, excpet for the PhD, which sounds a bit lacking in the mids/presence department.
The SM57 on axis is my go-to mic. By itself it can be a little bright, but it works well in a dual cab config when using the XXL as one of the cabs. It can also be EQ'ed to add in the punch and warmth it initially appears to be missing. The reason I like this mic so much is because it seems to have the least amount of noise, so all you hear is rich guitar tone. It can be a little harsh on the high end, but that's easily filtered out by the Mid-Focus EQ. The off axis variant is a little more buzzy than crisp-sounding. On its own it sounds more like a real guitar tone than the on-axis, but with EQ'ing I find they can be quite similar. I prefer the on-axis because the off axis seems to be a touch noisier and less focused in the high end.
The dynamic mics sound a bit more scooped than the SM57's, and can sound a bit more aggressive in the high-end. They're also a little noisier. I prefer the 409, but I occasionally use the 421 but only in a dual cab config.
Other mics are too noisy for my tastes. The '67 Condensor isn't bad tonally, but is just too noisy compared to alternatives. I might try these out for a clean or vintage tone, but I ignore them for a modern distorted tone.
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E. Pre-EQ'ing a Distortion tone
More on this here.
The key to getting the best-sounding distortion is pre-EQ'ing the signal before your main distortion stage, which could be a distortion effect, the amp model's pre-amp section, or the amp's power section. In the case of the amp's power section, that means the amp's EQ controls will affect the distortion tone. In the other cases, you'll likely have to add additional effects to the chain.
You can pre-EQ in several ways. The most common are to use Distortion effect as a filter or an EQ effect. To use a Distortion effect in this manner, you simply use low Drive settings. I like using one or more of the Q Filter, Line 6 Drive, Mid-Focus EQ, Parametric EQ, Tube Drive, Screamer, or even Wah Wah effects for this purpose. Other, cruder options are changing the Pod's input impedance settings or adjusting the Guitar's tone knob or changing your pickups.
The distortion tone will be defined mostly by the peak frequency range that hits the distortion stage. The way I like to think about this is going from low frequencies to higher ones, you get flubby, fuzzy, crunchy, djenty, tinny, then splatty distortion. You want to de-emphasize any aspects you don't want and emphasize the ones you do. For metal, that usually means having a nice mid-boost so you don't have any fuzz/flub or tin/grit but do have a solid crunch and djent. Of course, extreme pre-EQ'ing can hurt the tone, shrinking its frequency response causing it to be buried in a mix.
Keep in mind various amps or distortion units will respond differently to pre-EQ'ing than others.
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F. Distortion Effects Roundup
For more detail on distortion effects, see the Distortion/Amp Tone Page
Line 6 Drive
Probably the best all-around Distortion effect. The distortion tone is great - not too much bite or anything off-putting about it. And for using it to EQ the tone, the Mids parameter acts as a center frequency, not a boost/cut. This lets you dial in the specific center frequency you want to boost an amp with.
This is probably the most natural-sounding distortion effect. It basically adds an extra gain-stage to whatever amp you're using, although it can produce a nice distortion all on its own. I use it in front of a Plexi, and with various settings, this produces good Rhoads, Slash, and EVH tones. It has decent headroom, so you can use it as a basic compressor. It has bass/mids/treble controls that make it a good filter for pre-EQ'ing.
Similar to the Tube Drive, it makes a good pre-EQ choice. I don't use it as a standalone distortion. It has a unique frequency response and compression that makes it ideal for modern metal - you get a djenty presence from it. It won't get 100% clean even at 0% drive, but it's dirt tends to get incorporated into the distortion tone of whatever amp you feed it into. It's also a bit scratchier and colder than the Tube Drive.
This can sometimes makes a good pre-EQ filter, but is difficult to control on the bass side, often coming out too scoooped. The Filter control requires experimentation to understand. The Treble control seems to effect very high frequencies and things can get harsh when boosted. I try to keep it at 50%. It will get clean at 0% Drive, and makes a decent compressor. I prefer to use the Tube Drive as a standalone distortion. I would try this out where the Tube Drive and Screamer just aren't working for some reason.
Line 6 Distortion
I use this as a standalone distortion, when I want a very tight, very distorted tone, similar to a Boss Metal Zone. I'll actually pre-EQ this effect, to dial in exactly the distortion I want. In this sense, it's like having an additional high-gain amp, but you have to pair it with the right amp to get a good tone out of it. I like the Park 75, as it seems to deliver a more natural frequency response than some other amps. Also the Divided by 13 works well.
I actually like to use this for a standalone distortion. Pre-EQ'ing a little bass in front gives it a nice warm fuzz tone, and it's not wonky like a lot of the other fuzzes.
I use this as a part boost/part standalone distortion into a Plexi for a Hendrix tone. It's got that strange dynamic response you need for that kind of tone. By itself it's a bit much for my tastes. As a filter with mild gain, it's not really doing that much. I use medium gain and output, and let the Plexi add its distortion flavor on top the response.
The others sound too wonky to me. The Muff in particular sounds like you're playing through damaged electronics, but maybe I'm just not using it right.
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G. Gain Staging
For more on this, see here.
Many patches will have two or more gain/distortion stages. For instance, you may use a distortion effect, pre-amp distortion, and power amp distortion. This means you have to consider the signal level you feed each stage, how distorted the signal is when it reaches each stage, and how much gain to use on that stage.
I find I usually want a distortion effect to add a little compression and maybe a tiny bit of dirt to the signal, I want the pre-amp to provide the brunt of my distortion, and the power amp to maybe add a tiny bit of compression and/or distortion on top. Sometimes I take a different route, though, getting the brunt of my gain from a distortion effect or from the amp model's power section.
The key to finding the right tone is to experiment with the relative gain and output levels of all these stages. Sometimes you get a different tone using more ouptut level from a distortion effect and less Drive on the pre-amp, even though the overall amount of distortion is the same. I also find distortion stages can sound overly thin or outright buggy when their Drive levels are set very low - I always try to keep them off 0%, and in the case of Marshall amps, try to keep them over 20%.
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H. EQ Effects Roundup
For more detail on EQ effects, see the EQ'ing Page
Probably the best way to pre-eq an amp or distortion effect. Use as band-pass with low Q to boost the amp. Dial in the frequency you want with the mix level you want. Increase Q to make the tone sound more focused but it'll start sounding more like a wah pedal as you go higher. Gain compresses the frequencies - this can help draw out the focused frequencies at lower levels or add more saturation to a distorted tone but can kill too much dynamics if too high.
The Lows and Highs parameters control shelf filters with fixed Q and cutoff frequency. They can help even out a tone, but don't rely too much on them. Frequency goes from 60 HZ to ~ 5000 HZ, with ~900 HZ at 50%. Low Q = wide boost/cuts, high Q = narrow. This effect is very useful for narrow cuts, to remove a fizz or harsh spot. It also works well for pre-EQ'ing, as you can dial in a nice mid-range hump in the exact sweet spot to get the distortion tone you want. It's also useful if you need to adjust a nice chunk of frequencies that fit between any two of the amp EQ controls. I find I often boost the punch or warmth that lies between the bass and mids knobs.
This is useful to trim or roll-off the high and low ends of the tone. This is useful for both pre-EQ'ing and post-EQ'ing. I find it's necessary when using the SM57 on axis mic, especially with the Hiway 4x12, to get rid of the crackly high-end. The Gain parameter is a final output level, and has no control over how much filtering the EQ actually does. 50% Q is a quick drop off. Moving the Q higher will make the drop-off steeper, but also ends up boosting at the cut-off frequency (which may produce the opposite effect that you intended). 0% Q is a gradual roll-off. HP freq goes from 0-525 HZ; LP goes from 500-18,000 HZ - this is the only EQ that lets you really fine-tune the ultra high-end.
Basically two parametric EQ's, but you cannot control Q (which is set to be quite wide) and have a limited number of center frequencies to choose from. It is most useful as a post-EQ to balance the tone when you need to get in between the amp's bass/mids/presence/treble controls. The Gain parameter boosts/cuts independent of the filtering, so I actually like this effect for a clean boost or otherwise to adjust the signal level without regard to EQ'ing.
5-band graphic EQ. Notice the highest adjustable frequency is 2200 HZ. This EQ is not suitable for fine-tuning presence or treble after the amp. It works best for pre-EQ'ing. Also, notice that even with completely neutral settings, it tends to brighten the signal a tad. It is useful where you want a W or otherwise irregularly-shaped curve - if you just want a simple hump or valley, use the Parametric EQ.
4-band Shift EQ
I never use this. It's kind of awkward and covers a lot of the same ground as the amp's bass/mids/presence/treble controls. See the EQ Page for more details.
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I. Top Ten Tweaks
Whether you use a distortion or EQ effect, pre-EQ'ing is the secret to getting the amp tone you want from the stock amps. You can remove mud or grit, make the tone warmer or more djenty, or draw out other nuances from the amp models.
2. Mid-Focus EQ
Using this behind the amp/mixer is great to roll-off excessive high-end and to dial in the perfect low-end. This is very helpful when using the SM57 on axis mic, or other excessively bright tones. It also works great to pre-EQ an amp - you can dial in exactly how much low-end flub and high-end grit to remove. You can also use it to set the final patch volume.
3. Res. Level Cab DEP
This really lets you fine-tune the cab tone, reducing some resonance to get more clarity and crispness from the cab, or increasing it to change the frequency response and add smoothness.
4. Decay Cab DEP
At first I wasn't sure how to use this, but now I use it all the time to thicken up an otherwise-thin tone. Turn it up to add a bit more punch to your attack.
5. Bias X Amp DEP
I find this is the secret knob to make your amp sound more vowel-y, where the notes sound like they're blooming. Turn it up for killer leads.
6. Tube Drive
Whether used as the main distortion stage, or just to warm up the tone before the amp, this effect keeps the tone sounding like a natural guitar tone. I find it can really draw out the warm mids in front of a Marshall, without causing it to lose any bite.
7. Cab/Mic Selection
While I tend to gravitate towards a few select cabs and mics, there are a lot of nuances in the cab/mic models that make them each unique. Sometimes a cab or mic change puts the patch over the top, especially once dialed in using the Cab DEP's.
8. Parametric EQ
Whether used as pre-EQ or post-EQ, this effect is perfect to dial in exactly the boost or dip you want. You can use it for small annoying frequencies, like fizz or low-end drone, or set it real wide to completely shift the frequency response.
9. Dual Cabs
The secret to how I get my tones to sound full-range yet crystal clear using the onboard cab/mic modeling is to use dual cabs. I'll use the XXL for its low-end punch and warmth and a brighter cab that has a clean midrange and high-end response. I can use the SM 57 on axis mic on both, and the tone comes out thick and full, rather than thin and fizzy.
10. Input Settings
I'm a Input 2: Variax fanboy now. For a while I just didn't hear the difference, but after some serious A/B'ing, I almost always use Input 2: Variax now. Input 2: Guitar/Same doesn't just deliver higher signal levels - it seems to have one of the signals slightly delayed, causing comb filtering and mushier tone. Using a null input like Variax gets me crisper tone. I use a mono-summing effect in front the path split to guarantee Channel B gets a signal when I have dual amps/cabs. Any Dynamic or Distortion effect should work.
As for impedance, I like to set this manually per patch. For some patches, turning it down to 230 K can dial out some grit to my tone, where I don't have the DSP necessary to pre-EQ some highs out. Also, rather than let the first effect set the impedance, sometimes I want to override it to a higher setting. For my darker guitar, I like to use 3.5 M to compensate, not 1 M which is the default for most effects when using Auto. Also, a real Tube Screamer is 500 K impedance, not 230 K which the Pod uses. So I prefer to use 1 M and trim its treble parameter rather than use 230 K.
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J. Killing Fizz
I go into this process in more detail on the EQ'ing Page.
Sometimes a distortion tone will have some fizz to it. If this is just a lot of crackly high-end that can be fixed by rolling off the highs, I use a Mid-Focus EQ to do that. Also, consider a lot of the cabs/mics are rather noisy by nature, and you can't dial this out without losing a lot of the guitar tone. I like the SM 57 mics and the Hiway 4x12 as they seem to have the least noise.
Sometimes you still get an annoying fizzy sound stands out in the tone. You can eliminate it by using a Parametric EQ with a high Q value. Set your Looper to Pre position and record some playing that emphasizes the fizzy spot. Then use a Parametric EQ behind your amp, set the Q high (95%) and gain relatively high. Now sweep through the frequencies until the fizzy spot is overbearing, completely wrecking your tone. Set the Gain back to 50% and slowly dial it downwards. Stop when the fizzy spot is no longer standing out. If you cut to 0%, the fizzy spot will be gone, but it will also sound like someone took a knife to your tone.
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K. Mids for Metal
For more on EQ'ing, see the EQ'ing Page.
The key aspects of a metal tone are punch (200-350 HZ range), warmth (350-550), and "cold djent"(850-1400). Without these, your tone will simply sound weak or harsh when cranked up; and it won't cut through a mix. Which of these is most emphasized will define your tone; but even with one emphasized, you still want the others to be there.
I like to cut around 650 HZ (what I call "honk") to make the tone sound more metal and scooped, but if you cut too much your tone disappears, especially in a mix. Try to make the cut somewhat narrow - not too narrow or it'll sound off, and only cut a bit - don't completely kill those frequencies. I'll often complement this with a wide boost of all the midrange, with a peak around 1 kHZ.
If you want a good metalcore tone, you need plenty of punch. Old Metallica tone emphasized the hot djent area around 2 kHZ, which gets a good palm mute bite but can be a bit harsh. Warmth is the key to a really creamy lead tone.
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L. Dual Cab
For more on using dual cabs, see here.
I find none of the stock cabs give me a rock solid frequency response from the Earth-shaking lows to shattered-glass highs. So I like to set up patches that use 2 cabs. I almost always use the Hiway and XXL 4x12's. The Hiway is nice and bright and has great mids, while the XXL provides the punch and extreme low-end that thickens up the tone.
To do this I have to use dual amps, but I use the same amp on both, and the same amp DEP and drive settings. I want the amp tone to be nearly identical, but since the different cabs have different frequency responses, I do vary EQ between them. Sometimes certain frequencies will sound better on one cab than the other, so I'll emphasize them on that one and turn them down on the other. Sometimes it sounds best when they both have the same settings - experiment with each control for both amps.
You want to pan both channels to center in the mixer, and you may need to level them relative to each other. I'm going for a nice mono tone coming out the mixer, where the cabs are blended together. You can put stereo effects behind either amp or the mixer and still have stereo space to the tone.
The tricky part is depending on your cab/mic selections, you may get comb filtering, because one cab is slightly delayed compared to the other. I'd advise trying to stick to cab/mic combinations that seem to be in-phase. For instance, I like to use the Hiway with SM57 on axis and the XXL with SM57 on axis or 409 Dyn. These seem to work nicely together.
For other combinations, you may notice the tone is a bit wonky or the high-end is getting smothered. You have to try to phase correct the two cabs. You can do this by adding one or more EQ effects after one of the amps before the mixer. An EQ effect slightly delays the signal (even if it has no effect on the frequency response) and can achieve at least partial if not full phase correction. I'd advise you to follow the link above for a more detailed process on how to do this.
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M. Noise Gate Usage
For more details, see here.
Don't use a noise gate if you don't have to. If you do, use the Hard Gate rather than the Noise Gate effect - the Noise Gate isn't a true gate and can suck some tone out the signal. If I have to use the regular gate (for DSP limit purposes), I keep its settings low so that it's only sucking out some of the noise when I'm not playing, making sure it isn't sucking out tone when I am.
Don't set it so high that it unnaturally cuts off sustaining notes. Try to set it so the softest note you want to play opens it and a decent mute closes it. For the Hard Gate, I set the close threshold lower than the open threshold; this prevents it from jittering open and close real fast when the signal level is approximately equal to the threshold. If you don't need it to close very quickly, you can also increase the hold time off 0 ms to prevent jitter. A slight decay works well for leads or other ambient tones, but I set it to 0 ms for a tight punchy rhythm.
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N. Amp DEP's
For more detail on Amp DEP's, see the Distortion/Amp Tone Page
I tend to like this at the default 50%. Turning it up gets more compression and power amp distortion. I find I turn it up to around 65% for the J-800 model, where power amp distortion is a huge part of the tone. Most of the true high-gain amps have more headroom and turning it up just makes the tone more compressed.
Power amp distortion tends to be a little more raucous than pre-amp, so if you want the tone to be a bit edgier, you may want to try adjusting this. I've experimented a lot with this, however, and found I tend to stay close to 50%. Turning it down does get the tone closer to the pre-amp only models, which tend to be a bit smoother, but I find they're not edgy enough.
I usually leave this one alone. Turning it down can make the tone more percussive and have a stronger attack, but also makes the tone a little thinner. I generally stay within 40-60%. Outside the tone is either too thin or has poor attack (and sounds kind of unresponsive).
The main thing to take away here is that turning this up can result in ghost notes that kind of sound like an old radio. I rarely find moving this off 50% has any positive impact on tone. The one case I like to boost it is on the Uber model. Boosting a tad gets that slightly darker tone similar to a Mesa Boogie. Boosting a bit more sounds more like a 5150.
This can slightly alter the frequency response, as well as the nature of any power amp distortion you have. Boosting can get the tone to be more aggressive-sounding and more midsy. Cutting makes the tone cleaner but more scooped. This control is definitely worth experimenting with per patch.
Controls how much the Bias floats. I tend to leave this at 50%, but I find for some models, boosting it can make notes have more of a vowel-y sound, with the tone changing as the note decays, which is necessary for a Petrucci tone. You may conversely want to set it to 0%, so the Bias stays exactly where you set it - for instance if you want to use a really hot bias and make the amp sound like it's being pummeled.
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O. Cab DEP's
For more detail on Cab DEP's, see the Cabs/Mics Page
Just a high pass filter. I tend to leave this alone and use a Mid-Focus EQ instead, which gives you more control.
Basically how hard the cab is being pushed. I stay within 25-60% or things get weird. It can make a cab more crisp but thinner at lower settings. Some cabs vary their frequency response on adjustments. I like to boost it for the XXL to get more mids.
Controls low-end resonance. I find this control works well to control how boomy the cab is, and it offers an alternative to the amp's bass control. I often like to turn it up to dial in some punch and warmth, as it seems focused there unlike the amp's bass control which controls the entire low end.
This is very useful to thicken up a tone. I often increase it to around 60-70% if my tone is too thin or percussive. It tends to preserve the attack, working better for that purpose than a compressor or pre-EQ.
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P. Output Modes
For more on output modes, see the setup page.
There's a lot of confusion over output modes, but they're really not that tricky. Most only affect what the cab block does. If you select "no cab", most of the output modes don't do anything. The basic rule of thumb is to select the output mode for how you have the Pod hooked up. Stack is for full or 1/2 stacks (or closed-back 2x12's). Combo is for open back combos. Power amp is for running the Pod into a guitar power amp or a guitar amp's an effects loop return. Front is for an amp's guitar input. Studio/Direct is for direct to PA/mixing board, headphones, or DAW (when you're not using IR's to simulate a cab).
Output modes were designed so that you could dial in a patch using one output mode and hooked up to the appropriate real gear, then switch output modes for other gear and get the same tone. In reality, your tone will never be the same between different gear, despite changing output modes. Don't expect them to work this way, but they do offer slight compensations that may help get closer to that ballpark sooner.
You should use Studio/Direct if you want to use the cab/mic simulation provided in the Pod. This would be useful if you are recording directly to a DAW (and not using IR's in that DAW), running direct to the PA/mixing board, or are using headphones.
Other output modes use "live-voiced cabs". The mic model selected has no impact on the tone. The selected cab simply EQ's your tone mildly to slightly mimic the response of the cab, when run through a real guitar cab (or IR). This is no substitute for a mic'ed cab or IR. Without one of those, the tone will be very harsh.
The difference between stack and combo modes is that combo has a bass boost. Since combo amps generally have less bass, the idea was that the bass response would be consistent between gear. Again, it won't be magically the same between gear, but it can get you close.
The front output modes additionally include a crude global EQ designed to help neutralize any pre-amp coloration that will occur when plugging into the front input of an amp. A pre-amp does more than change the frequency response, so don't expect this output mode to truly neutralize a pre-amp. It's almost always best to run the Pod output into the effects loop return of a real amp.
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Q. Input Settings
For more on this, see here.
I recommend turning the Pad switch on the unit to Pad rather than Normal if you use "high-gain" humbucker pickups. This will prevent you from getting input clipping and can make your signal a bit more manageable inside the Pod's signal chain.
The default input settings are Input 1: Guitar + Aux + Mic + Variax, Input 2: Same. This is not ideal for Input 1 - all the noise from unused inputs is getting into your signal. Change this to Guitar if you're only using a guitar into the Pod.
As for Input 2, the best "rule" to go by is to set Input 2 to Variax (or Mic or Aux - any unused input) by default. (I prefer Variax because it is a digital signal, so there's no input noise.) If you're using dual amps and aren't getting output from Channel B, you need a mono-summing effect in front the channel split. Any Dynamic (Gate, Compressor) or Distortion effect will work. If you can't fit one of those effects, try using the FX Loop and using a patch cable to force mono-summing. The FX Loop can be a little noisy; you may prefer to use Input 2: Same/Guitar.
The "problem" with Input 2: Guitar/Same is that when it is doubling Input 1, it introduces a slight delay to one of the signals. This leads to a phasing sound, comb filtering, and a looser feel. It is much more noticeable on distorted patches, and it's worst when using a mono-summing effect in front of the channel split. Once I became aware of the impact on tone, I can't tolerate hearing it anymore. I'd prefer to add noise to my patch via the FX Loop than use Input 2: Guitar/Same, but you may feel differently, especially for a patch with low distortion.
The immediate impact of changing Input 2 to null is a reduced signal level. This can lead to tonal changes, as the signal level impacts how much compression/distortion effects and amps will add to the signal. You should still be able to get plenty of distortion for high-gain patches, but you may be able to get your clean patches a bit cleaner.
As for impedance, I usually set it to Auto per Patch, which almost always means 1M. If you have a noise gate first in your chain, you're using 1M. If you go right into an amp, you're using 1M. Some of the wahs and distortions use lower values, particularly the fuzzes, but they are usually behind a gate or an EQ. In general higher settings mean brighter tone with tighter response and sharper attack. If you find your tone is too sharp/bright, you can try to lower this value, but I find you'll have more control pre-EQ'ing your tone. I use "per patch" just in case I would ever want to set this fixed to something lower for a particular patch.
For instance, if a Screamer is my first effect, I prefer 1 M over the Auto 230 K (real Tube Screamer is 500 K). Also, if my patch is DSP-demanding and I want only a minor pre-EQ to remove some grit from the tone but can't afford it, I may use 230 K instead of 1 M. For my darker guitar, I use 3.5 M to give it just a bit more brightness and a sharper attack.
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