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IV. Pod Setup

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This page covers how to physically connect the Pod to your gear and how to setup common settings as well as understand how they work. There's basically two operating modes for the Pod: "direct" or "live". "Direct" means you're connecting to a DAW, PA/mixing board, home stereo, or headphones, and you want the Pod to simulate a mic'ed guitar cabinet. "Live" means you intend to use an actual guitar cabinet/speaker. Note, if you are connecting to a DAW and using an external IR to simulate a mic'ed guitar cabinet, I treat that as a "live" setup, although all the physical connections are the same as a "direct" setup.

Unlike full-range speakers, guitar speakers are designed to generally have a unique (not flat) response that rolls off the low-end and high-end frequencies, typically around 120 HZ and 5 kHZ (see this graph). Additionally, they have certain features such as phase inaccuracy that contribute to a unique tone. They are often driven to distortion as well. Guitar cabinets are often driven to the point where the reverberations inside the cabinet and degree of air compression change the way the speaker(s) behave(s).

In contrast, most PA systems, headphones, monitors, home stereo speakers, etc. are designed to produce a relatively flat response with little distortion. Sending a guitar amp (or model) signal directly into such speakers is going to sound very harsh and buzzy. Even if you apply extreme EQ to roll-off the highs and lows, as well as accent the presence like a guitar speaker, you don't get a guitar speaker or cabinet's unique nuances.

Unfortunately, this breakdown isn't so simple. There are a wide range of products out there, from speakers to amps that enter a middle-ground - many look like traditional amps but are designed for use with modelers. This can introduce further confusion as to how to hook up your Pod. Depending on the product, you should follow its instructions as to how it should be treated. If it doesn't specify, you likely want to set it up as "direct", same as running to a PA or monitors; but I'd try it both ways and see which way you prefer. The Pod HD can also get kind of confusing as far as ouput modes, which I touch upon below.

A. Understanding Output Modes

i. Simple Guide for Settings

Line 6 isn't filled with evil jokesters who are trying to confuse you. How you physically connect your rig 95% of the time describes which output mode you should use. If you're going direct to the PA or your computer, use Studio/Direct mode. If you are running into the effects loop return of an amp or into a standalone power amp, use stack/combo power amp. If you are running into the front of an amp, use stack/combo front. Choose stack if you have a half or full stack, combo if you don't. Unconventional settings are described in the next section.

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ii. Where Confusion Sets In

The confusing part is that most people don't immediately understand that these choices are available. They figure if they select a cab and mic in the signal path, they are getting cab/mic simulation. However, what the cab/mic portions of the amp block do depends on the output mode selected. In Studio/Direct mode, it is indeed true cab/mic simulation by means of IR's. In the other modes, the microphone selection has no impact on the tone, and the cab selection applies a "live-voiced cab" which is a mild EQ effect, not true speaker simulation. On top of this, the Combo/Stack Front modes apply an EQ to the Pod's output, and the default selections can sound a little extreme, especially if it isn't connected to the real amp's guitar input. My wishlist solution is to ditch output modes altogether and have these distinct alterations to the tone show up in the signal path.

So what is actually going on? The Pod has basically four distinct components that are enabled/disabled depending on your output mode selection, which I cover below:

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iii. Global EQ

The combo and stack front modes use a global EQ at the end of your signal chain to EQ the sound going into your real amp. This was designed to neutralize the coloration that a real amp's pre-amp will have on the tone coming from the Pod; however it can also be used a general Global EQ if you like.

Note two things here. First, the EQ options here are helpful, yet insufficient to completely neutralize the EQ shift. Second, a pre-amp will do more than simply shift the EQ, compressing the tone (not equally at all frequencies) and maybe even distorting it. Bottom line - bypassing a real amp's pre-amp completely is the only method to guarantee it is not coloring your tone.

That said, you may have success using these controls regardless of how you actually connect the Pod to your amp (or if you are using external speaker simulation/IR's). There has been an expressed desire for a global EQ, so that the Pod's tone can be adjusted to a room once, and all the patches are dialed in. I believe these controls are too limited to perform the fine-tuning necessary for that application, but you may find that it works. Unfortunately, they are not available if you plan to use the Pod's onboard cab/mic simulation in Studio/Direct mode.

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iv. Live-Voiced Cabs

The cab selections in non-Studio/Direct modes use "live-voiced" cabs which are a mild EQ effect designed to make whatever real cabinet you are using sound more like the cab model selected in the cab. Note: although you can change the selected microphone and there is a gap in audio as you change selections, it has no effect on the tone. These are disabled by selecting "no cab".

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These have also been called cab simulation without mic simulation. "Cab simulation" is the wrong name. By itself, it does not come close to the frequency response changes made by real guitar speakers - it is designed to supplement, not replace, a real guitar cabinet (or speaker simulator/IR). Without such, "cab simulation" will sound nothing like a real guitar cabinet, mic'ed or not. It will be very harsh.

Note: simply because some speakers/cabs are marketed towards guitarists or look like a traditional guitar speaker cabinet does not mean their speakers have the frequency response of traditional guitar speakers. They may use full-range speakers, and the tone you get from your Pod through them will likely be harsh if you use a non-"Studio/Direct" output mode, unless you use some strong EQ'ing to roll off the high end frequencies.

I don't like using "live-voiced cabs" even with a real amp and guitar speaker. It seems to drop out some of the high end, leaving the Pod sounding a bit muffled. If I want to do this at all, I'd prefer to do it in an EQ effect where I have more control. Still, you might as well give it a shot to see if you prefer the tone. And don't just try the few cabs you want to sound like. The 1x12 and 2x12 models might give you a thicker tone than the 4x12's - they're not going to magically make your half stack sound like an open back 1x12.

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v. Cab/Mic Simulation

In Studio/Direct output mode only, the cab block is essentially running the signal through an impulse response for that cab/mic combination. This is designed to simulate as if the signal was run through real speakers and mic'ed up with the selected mic model. This is disabled by selecting "no cab".

This is the only true speaker simulation. Use this mode for all "direct" setups as described here to usually get the most natural/standard guitar sound. Everything else may sound incredibly harsh, unless you use an external speaker simulator/IR, because it is not applying true guitar speaker simulation.

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vi. Bass Boost

The combo output modes apply a bass boost to the live-voiced cabs, designed to compensate for the lower bass response combo amps usually have. So if you dial in a tone for your combo amp but switch to a half/full stack (or vice versa), you can change the output mode and theoretically don't have to re-EQ the low-end response for your patch.

Some people like the combo modes even through a half/full stack, because they have more bass. This kind of defeats the reason there are different combo/stack modes. I'd rather use them like designed, so I can switch rigs without having my bass response thrown too far out of whack and having to dial in my patches again. If I need more bass on a half stack rig, I dial it in on the amp controls or an EQ effect. Or I check that I'm using the "full" amp models. See full vs. pre.

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vii. Output Mode Feature Chart

Output ModeGlobal EQLive-Voiced CabsCab/Mic SimulationBass Boost
Studio/Direct *
Stack Power Amp *
Combo Power Amp * *
Stack Front X*
Combo Front X* *

* Only engaged when a cab is selected.

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B. Internal Signal Routing

All the lines you see in Edit and the signal path window on the device are stereo signals.

Input 1 is routed into the left side of the first line in the signal. Input 2 is routed into the right side. This is important to know if you plan on using multiple instruments simultaneously.

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When the signal hits a stereo effect, each half of the signal is processed separately and output to the same side of the stereo field that it entered.

When a signal hits a mono effect (including amp models), the stereo signal is mixed down into a mono signal, processed by the effect, then split back into a stereo signal with equal left and right signals.

This article tells you which effect is stereo or mono.

When the signal hits the channel splitter, the left half of the signal is fed to Channel A and split into a stereo signal with equal left and right signals. The same thing happens with the right half of the signal and Channel B.

The mixer works a little bit deceptively. Think of it like this - first the mixer levels are applied to each Channel's stereo signal, adjusting the left and right signals equally. Then each channel has its pan setting applied to it. Think of pan as two separate volume controls for each channel - left volume and right volume. From 100% left to 0% (center), the left volume is 100%. As the pan moves from 0% to 100% right, the left volume goes from 100% to 0%. Vice versa regarding pan settings and right volume. So at 100% left the right half of the signal is completely muted and 100% right the left side is muted. At 0% both sides keep their original volume.

Once each channel has the level and pan settings applied to it, the left side of Channel A and left side of Channel B are mixed down and output to the left side of stereo signal leaving the Mixer. Same for the right settings.

Here's a few diagrams that I hope help:

                           ___________     _ Path A Left
                          |  Mono FX  |  _/
Input 1 (pre-split Left)__|           |_/ \_ Path A Right
                          |\__proc___/|
Input 2 (pre-split Right)_|/         \|_   _ Path B Left
                          |___________| \_/
                                          \_ Path B Right


                           ___________     _ Path A Left
                          | Stereo FX |  _/
Input 1 (pre-split Left)__|___proc____|_/ \_ Path A Right
                          |           |
Input 2 (pre-split Right)_|___proc____|_   _ Path B Left
                          |___________| \_/
                                          \_ Path B Right


                           ___________     _ Path A Left
                          | Hybrid FX |  _/
Input 1 (pre-split Left)__|    __proc_|_/ \_ Path A Right
                          |\__/       |
Input 2 (pre-split Right)_|/  \__proc_|_   _ Path B Left
                          |___________| \_/
                                          \_ Path B Right
                                          

          ___________    ___________    _ Path A Left
         |  Mono FX  |  | Stereo FX | _/
Input 1 _|           |__|___proc____|/ \_ Path A Right
         |\__proc___/|  |           |
Input 2 _|/         \|__|___proc____|   _ Path B Left
         |___________|  |___________|\_/
                                       \_ Path B Right


          ___________   ___________     _ Path A Left
         | Stereo FX | |  Mono FX  |  _/
Input 1 _|___proc____|_|           |_/ \_ Path A Right
         |           | |\__proc___/|
Input 2 _|___proc____|_|/         \|_   _ Path B Left
         |___________| |___________| \_/
                                       \_ Path B Right


                 _________________
                |     Mixer       |
Path A Left  ___|_level_panL___   |
                |              \__|_Left
Path A Right ___|_level_panR_  /  |
                |            \/   |
Path B Left  ___|_level_panL_/\   |
                |              \__|_Right
Path B Right ___|_level_panR___/  |
                |_________________|
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C. Running Direct (PA/board/computer or DAW/monitors/headphones)

Use this method if you want to run the Pod straight into a PA system, mixing board or mixing board for live purposes or a computer/DAW, home stereo, or headphones for recording or practicing. The Pod will completely simulate a guitar rig - amp (including pre-amp and power amp) and speakers (including cabinet). If you want, you can disable some of these features and use other gear to get that tone - like a speaker simulator device or a convolution reverb device/software that is using an impulse response (IR) designed to mimic a guitar cabinet.

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You can additionally use effects from the Pod or use external effects, placing them before the Pod or in its effects loop (or even after if you use 1/4" or XLR output).

Running this way generally means you must choose "Studio/Direct" as your output mode, to enable cab/mic simulation (see output modes section), unless you are running external speaker simulation (such as an IR). Otherwise, your tone will be very harsh. Even in this case, I still recommend using "Studio/Direct" output mode and using the "no cab" option for your cabinet selection, simply to reduce complication.

However I should point out that you can use the cab models with a non-"Studio/Direct" output mode as a mild EQ effect, and it will sound relatively natural with an external speaker simulator/IR. I donít recommend this, as it seems to dial out some of the high end, which is the area most difficult to dial in with the Pod; but it may be fruitful to experiment with if you don't mind losing some highs.

Here's a few guidelines to keep in mind for this connection type:

  • If connected via USB, the Pod ASIO driver control panel has a default option of adding +18 db to the signal. This will often push it into clipping. If you have clipping, try turning this off.
  • The Pod's ASIO driver is pretty low latency, if your computer is powerful enough to handle it. I've never had good experiences with high-quality audio over USB, so I connect via SPDIF to a firewire interface. My latency is extremely low (3 ms). I get no pops or clicks with 128 buffer size.
  • Connecting digitally to a DAW (or an advanced mixing board) via USB, SPDIF, or AES avoids converting the sound to analog then back to digital, which will add a bit of noise and distortion into the tone.
  • If you're using the 1/4" output(s) from the Pod and also using external effects, it's likely better to place them after the Pod's output rather than in its effects loop, to save on a possibly unnecessary D/A/D conversion. For other output connections or if your effects are level-sensitive, this might not be possible.
  • The 1/4" outputs will sum to mono if only one of the two outputs is being used. In contrast, the XLR outputs will never sum to mono.
  • The effects loop send connection is actually a 3-ring stereo connection. If you know what you're doing, you can use this as an additional unbalanced output.
  • 1/4" unbalanced cable is subject to interference, often produced by florescent lighting. Use XLR where possible for better tone, especially where long runs of wire are necessary.

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i. Simple method (no real amp)

This is the simplest connection method if you are not using a real amp as a possible pre-amp. Then you just hook an unbalanced 1/4" cable from your guitar to guitar in on the Pod.

If possible, use SPDIF or USB for a digital connection, which will produce the highest quality signal. But if this route produces sync or latency issues, use XLR outputs if your external device supports XLR. Otherwise use unbalanced 1/4" cable(s).

You can run all your external effects before the Pod or in its effects loop, depending on which effects you are using (see the effects order section). You can also run them from the unbalanced (or XLR if available on the effect) output(s). See the effects loop section for advantages/disadvantages to using the loop.

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ii. Using a real amp as a pre-amp

You CAN run a real amp as a pre-amp and still output "direct"; but I do not recommend it, unless you are running an external IR. The problem is that in order to enable cab and mic simulation, you have to select and turn on an amp model. All the amp models in the Pod HD will color the tone. So you are essentially running two pre-amps.

That being said, if you really want to do so, run a cable from your guitar to Guitar In on the Pod, then the Pod Effects Loop Send to amp's Guitar In, then amp's Effects Loop Send to Pod's Effects Loop Return. You will have to put the FX Loop effect before your amp model on the Pod's signal chain.

Choose the cleanest amp model possible on the Pod (I would use the Blackface pre with drive set to 5% or less). You could use a "full" model to attempt to model a power amp, but you can't select JUST the power amp you want. You're going to get the pre-amp model too, and for most of the amp's, they will add distortion or dynamic coloration. This is especially true for the high gain amp models' pre-amps, although they generally have cleaner power amps. If you are using an external IR, I would set the amp to "no amp" (or turn the amp model off).

Any effects you want run before the pre-amp will have to be placed before the Pod or between the Pod's Effect Loop Send and the amp's Guitar In. Any effects after the pre-amp will have to be placed between the amp's Effect Loop Send and the Pod's Effects Loop Return.

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D. Running to an amp ("live")

This is for when you are running specifically into a amp and speakers designed for use with guitar. Really, guitar speakers are what really roll off the high frequencies produced by guitar amplifiers or amp models. Guitar power amps also color the tone and may make it warmer, but their coloration is generally much less noticeable than guitar speakers.

(If you are instead using a full-range amplifier and full-range speakers, even if they are placed in an enclosure designed to look like a guitar amp, or marketed specifically for guitar, I recommend you use the settings above; otherwise, the tone will likely be very harsh and trebly.)

I recommend setting your output mode to the appropriate non-"Studio/Direct" mode. If you want to use your Pod for both "direct" and "live" purposes, I recommend leaving the output mode as "Studio/Direct" and setting your "live" patches up with "no cab" as your cabinet selection. When you use "no cab", you get the same output in every output mode (more-or-less) - all cab/mic simulation is simply disabled.

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Thus, whether your tone is "live" vs. "direct" is patch dependent, and you can switch between the two without having to dig into the system menu to change output modes. The downside to this is that you have to make two versions of all your patches; however, I rarely find that simply switching the output mode produces the same tone live vs. direct. This is especially true if you have a power amp or speakers that add a lot of color to your "live" tone. So I have two versions of all my patches anyway.

The other alternative is to make one version of all your patches and switch output modes for whatever method you are using at the moment. The downside is that for "direct", you have to specify a cab and mic. When you switch the output mode for "live" use, the cab simulation will still be selected and run (see output modes section). Thus, it will be difficult to impossible to dial in a consistent sound between "direct" and "live", and you'll have to make purpose-specific patches anyway. I donít like using the cab simulation for "live" purposes. It seems to muffle the high end of the tone, which is important for a high gain sound.

As for the actual cable hook-ups, there are a number of ways to do this. I will go from the least optimal/versatile yet simplest to best yet most complex.

Here's a few guidelines to keep in mind for this connection type:

  • The only thing you should ever run your amp's power section output (sometimes labeled "speaker" or "16/8/4 ohm") to is a speaker cabinet or dummy load. Running it to the Pod will fry your amp and your Pod. Running it into nothing will fry your amp.
  • You can bypass your amp's pre-amp circuit completely by running a signal into its effects loop return, sometimes labeled "power amp in". This is useful when you never want to use your amp's pre-amp, instead using the Pod's amp simulations.
  • By using both your amp's and your Pod's effects loops, you can set up your rig for some patches to use your amp's pre-amp and others to use the Pod's modeling, switching between the two without having to switch any cables. This also lets you place effects in the Pod before and/or after your amp's pre-amp. This is known as the 4 cable method.
  • Some amps have only channel volume knobs, not a final master knob (Peavey ValveKing and 6505 for instance). When running the Pod's output into the effects loop return in these cases, your Pod's MASTER knob will act like a traditional master volume knob on an amp. When using the 4 cable method, for patches that use the amp pre-amp, you should use the channel volume knobs to level the volume equal to your patches where you bypass the amp's pre-amp completely, using the Pod's amp simulations instead.
  • Even if you always use your amp's pre-amp for your amp tone, never using the Pod's amp models, you may still prefer to hook up the Pod via the 4 cable method, so that you can position effects before and after the pre-amp, rather than just after.
  • The more pieces of gear you have in your signal chain, the more you have to be aware of gain staging. I find it's best to start with everything putting out a low output, and start turning up the outputs on each piece of gear until you are clipping the next one then back off a bit. Your tone will likely start out noisier this way, but I find it's easier to systematically dial in each piece of gear like this than to just turn everything on, find some fuzz or clipping or nastiness in the tone, then start guessing as to where it's coming from.

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i. Amp without effects loop

If your amp doesn't have an effects loop, you only have one option, as demonstrated below. You should set your output mode to "Combo Front" or "Stack Front" (see output modes section). These modes allow you to tweak the tone before it hits your amp to compensate for how your amp's pre-amp will color the tone. Set the amp/line switch to amp. Note that the "[]" section represents an optional section.

This setup is undesirable because you cannot bypass your amp's pre-amp. Whatever coloration it has on the tone cannot be avoided, only compensated for using the Pod's limited controls as mentioned above. Also, you have to run all your effects before said pre-amp, which may prevent you from achieving the dynamics you desired.

The only benefit is that if you like your amp's pre-amp, you can use it instead of the amp modeling on the Pod, using the Pod only for before pre-amp effects. But then why do you have a Pod anyway? I always try to get the most out of whatever gear I already have before even contemplating a new purchase; but honestly, unless you have a REALLY, REAAAAALLY transparent amp, I think you should start looking for a new amp, even if itís a $300 to $400 1x12 combo.

The Pod works best when run into the effect's loop return of an amp. This bypasses the pre-amp and sends the tone directly into the power amp section of the amp. I use a used 1x12 Spider Valve Mk I combo, which I bought for less than the price of a Pod HD 500. For my purposes it works great. If I need more volume from it, Iíll get a 1x12 or 2x12 extension cab.

Guitar > [external effects >] Pod guitar in
[Pod effects loop out > external effects > Pod effects loop return]
Pod unbalanced out > [external effects >] Amp guitar in
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ii. Pod as Effects Only after pre-amp

Here you will have the amp/cab model block in the Pod disabled (turned off or set to "no amp"). It doesn't matter what output mode you use, but to be safe (in case you one day decide to use the amp models and forget about this setup) choose one consistent with how you're hooking it up - Stack or Combo Power Amp.

Note: if your amp's level on the effects loop send is too hot for the Pod, and you cannot turn the send level down on the amp, you may have to run the amp's effects send to the Pod's effects loop return, then turn down the level on the effects loop return on the Pod.

Guitar > Amp guitar in
Amp effects loop out > Pod guitar in OR Pod effects loop return
Pod unbalanced out > Amp effects loop return (power amp in)
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iii. Simple setup for amp with effects loop

This hookup is nearly the same as above, but you run into the effects loop return (power amp in) on the amp. Use "Combo Power Amp" or "Stack Power Amp" output mode (or "Studio/Direct" and make sure you choose "no cab"), and set the line/amp switch to line.

Here you bypass your amp's pre-amp completely, and you use the Pod's amp modeling instead. This gives you a very clean tone - power amps usually don't color the tone very much, at least not until you start really pushing the amp. In that case, you should see the "pre" vs. "full" section for help in choosing the right amp models for your power amp.

The downside is that you do not have the option to use your amp's pre-amp. If you want that option, you have to use the 4 cable method, described below.

Guitar > [external effects >] Pod guitar in
[Pod effects loop out > external effects > Pod effects loop return]
Pod unbalanced out > [external effects >] Amp effects loop return (power amp in)

This is how I run the Pod to my Spider Valve combo.

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iv. 4 Cable Method

This is the most versatile setup for the Pod. You can run effects before or after your pre-amp, and you use either your amp's pre-amp or one of the Pod's amp models. Which pre-amp you are running is completely patch-dependent. You can even toggle it inside a single patch using a single footswitch on the Pod.

You send your signal to the actual amp via the FX Loop effect on the Pod. You set up your patches with the Pod's FX Loop on and amp model off to use your real amp's pre-amp, or vice versa to the use the Pod's amp modeling. Place the FX Loop right in front or behind the amp/cab model in the Pod's signal chain to keep things simple, and only turn on one or the other. Effects before the FX Loop/amp model on the Pod will run before your pre-amp. Effects after are post-pre-amp.

For a more detailed guide, see this and this by Jim Reynolds, an especially helpful Pod HD community member.

Guitar > [external effects >] Pod guitar in
Pod effects loop out > Amp guitar in
Amp effects loop out > Pod effects loop return
Pod unbalanced out > [external effects >] Amp effects loop return (power amp in)
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E. I Tried This and It Doesn't Sound Good

The above settings should work well for most gear. But perhaps your gear is different, or perhaps you simply have different tastes about what is harsh or sounds good. As long as you're not running the output of a real power amp into the Pod or other effect (high watt power amp output should only be run into speakers or a dummy load) or sending a line level (mostly anything not coming from an actual instrument) signal into the Pod's instrument level Guitar In input, you probably won't break anything by experimenting.

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My friend used to run his Boss multi-FX processor into his Fender amp, and he got the best tone by using the speaker simulation in the Boss unit, even though he was running into real guitar speakers. When he told me his settings, I thought, "That's not right" and tried to tweak his gear how I thought it should be set up. I could never get a better tone than what he already dialed in using the "wrong" settings. Whatever gets you the best tone and doesn't break your gear is how you should run it, no matter how many people say that your settings are "wrong".

If the tone is too harsh and you're using "no cab", you want to switch output modes to non-"Studio/Direct" and try some of the cab models. They can help reduce highs.

If that still doesn't sound good to you, try switching to "Studio/Direct" and messing with different cabs and mics. There may be a particular combination that sounds great with your gear. See the cab and mic selection section for general pointers about what to expect for frequency response.

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F. Dual Output

Many have asked if they could run a "dual output mode" - IE, have one set of outputs send a signal without cab/mic simulation to a guitar amp and cab and send another signal with cab/mic simulation to the PA. There's no built-in feature to do this, but you can do it with some trickery.

Since the cab/mic simulation is contained within the amp block, you have to use dual amps, which eats up lots of DSP unfortunately. Anyway, make sure you are in Studio/Direct output mode. Set one amp up with the cab/mic sim you want. Set the other one up with "no cab".

There are two ways to route the output. Both involve some trade-offs.

The simplest is to use the FX Loop effect block. Place the FX Loop at the end of either one of the channel paths, right before the mixer. At the mixer, mute the channel with the FX Loop to guarantee no signal is passing through. For the other channel, set the pan to full center - this allows both sides of the stereo spectrum for that channel to pass through to the analog outputs on the unit.

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The upside for this method is that you get two stereo outputs (FX loop send is a stereo output). Also, if you don't want to use multiple/special cables to extract the stereo output, you can just use a single 1/4" unbalanced cable for each signal to get mono output. The downside is that you need to place the FX Loop before the mixer, so you have to apply any post-amp effects twice - once in each channel, which can run into DSP limit errors.

The other method is to use the mixer to pan each signal full left and right and not bother using the FX Loop. Then the two sides have different processing.

The upside is you can use (some) effects after the mixer, avoiding DSP limit errors. The downside is that they have to be true stereo effects, or the two signals will be mixed to mono. Also, you have to make sure you use 1/4" output cables in both the left and right outputs. If you just plug into 1/4" left or 1/4" right but don't insert a dummy cable into the other output, the unit will sum the stereo signal into a mono output. But you don't need to run the other cable to anything - just make sure it's plugged in. This isn't the case for the XLR outputs, though, which never sum to mono.

Another thing to keep in mind is that some stereo effects affect one side of the signal differently than the other. For example, the analog chorus and many of the delays. Thus, your PA tone would differ from your amp tone.

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G. Wet/Dry/Wet Output

Similar to above, you can place an FX Loop effect with Mix set to 0% to output a "dry" signal before the signal hits "wet" effects and sends the "wet" signal to the main outputs. By using Mix at 0%, the signal is basically split at the FX Loop, being sent out the FX Loop Send but also passing straight on down the chain, regardless of whatever (if any) signal is returning into the loop.

So for instance, you may want this "dry" signal:
Screamer > Amp
and this "wet" signal:
Screamer > Amp > Reverb > Delay
Your chain would be:
Screamer > Amp > FX Loop > Reverb > Delay

The output from your FX Loop Send is the "dry" signal (which you can send to your monitors), and the main outputs carry the "wet" signal, (which you send to your PA).

If you cannot use the FX Loop as such, you won't be able to get stereo output; but you can get a mono wet and mono dry output by placing all your wet effects in Channel A and not in Channel B, then panning each Channel hard left/right in the mixer. Then your Channel A (left) output is wet, and the Channel B (right) output is dry. Just remember that if you are using the 1/4" analog outputs and aren't using both of them, you need to put a dummy cable in one of them to prevent the unit from summing them to mono (which would give you a 50% wet mix).

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H. Multiple Instruments/Independent Paths

The Pod provides two independent signal paths. This path independence can also be used to handle multiple instruments, for example setting Input 1 to guitar and Input 2 to mic. Input 1 will go to Channel A, the top side of the path, and Input 2 to Channel B, the bottom. Just make sure you don't have any mono FX before the path/channel split. See the input/output routing section to understand how the Pod routes audio, mixing down stereo signals when they hit a mono effect. Follow the instructions from the previous section to route the audio to different outputs.

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I. Input Settings

Global/Patch

First of all note that just because the input settings exists in the system menu, it is not necessarily a global setting. There's a specific setting on this menu page to change whether it applies globally or per patch.

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Multiple Sources = Noise

The default setting is input 1: guitar + aux + variax, input 2: same. This is not ideal - if any of the non-guitar inputs are generating any noise, it is being thrown into your signal. So change input 1 to guitar only, unless you need to use those additional inputs.

Input 2

Some people have noticed that changing input 2 to variax (a digital input, which ensures silence when not connected) (or an unconnected Mic or Aux) gives them a more desirable tone. Input 2: Same/Guitar does seem to be buggy. You don't just get equal Input 1/2 signals - one of them sounds partially delayed, causing some comb filtering (less bright highs) and making the tone sound looser and slightly out-of-phase. The difference can be very subtle - I had denied a tonal difference for over a year before only recently beginning to clearly see the difference.

For single-amp patches, Input 2: Variax is simple to use. If you were previously not using this setting, you just need to add more compression/gain.

For dual-amp patches, there is more work to do. You will NEED a mono-summing effect in front of the channel split, or no signal will be sent to Channel B. If you already have a Dynamic or Distortion effect, that will sum to mono. If I don't have one of those already in my patch, I like to use one of the following, listed in order of the DSP they consume: Hard Gate, Noise Gate, FX Loop. Luckily the FX Loop takes up very little DSP; however, it does add noise to the signal; so I save it as a last resort.

If you want to know exactly how the Pod is routing the inputs and audio streams, please check out the signal routing section.

You will find your patches initially have less gain when using this. I like to try to make up the difference on the earliest effect(s) in my signal chain. For instance, if my first effect is a Screamer, I increase the Drive a bit and also the Output. Or if I have a Mid-Focus EQ, I boost Gain. If I don't have any effects, I increase Drive on my amp blocks.

The lower gain can also be a positive if you are getting breakup on your clean tones, although I cover other ways to dial in pristine cleans here.

I have heard of splitting your guitar signal before the Pod and sending it to both the Guitar and Aux inputs, then setting Input 1: Guitar, Input 2: Aux (thanks to Line 6 forum member anglepod). This would eliminate the need for a mono-summing effect, and reduce problems trying to dial in heavy amounts of gain in some cases. It requires a little extra hardware but seems to be a better solution than using up effects blocks and DSP to try to force the signal into Channel B.

Impedance

With firmware v1.4 the PodHD got variable input impedance. Line6 says before this the impedance was always set to 1M, but I feel like something changed...for the better. The unit seems more responsive to me. Anyway, I like this setting at 1M or 3.5M. This allows the loudest, tightest, and brightest tone to pass from guitar to Pod, which helps dial in the high gain tones I like. If you prefer a muddier or fuzzier distortion or looser feel, you may want a lower value.

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For the F-Ball amp model, I find it can get kind of gritty and nasty for the distortion if your guitar signal is a bit bright. When I want a smooth tone from this model, normally I like to use a Mid-Focus EQ to roll-off enough high-end to smooth the tone out. However, if I don't have enough DSP or effects blocks to do so, I will turn down the impedance to attenuate some highs. I like it around 230K for this.

Also, the "auto" setting works well - it matches the impedance to the first effect in your chain, which helps make fuzz boxes sound fuzzier. If the first block is the amp, your impedance is likely 1M, which is the setting for most amps. The advanced manual shows you the input impedance values for each effect when you use "auto" on pages 2.5 - 2.7.

Remember, if you set the input settings to apply per patch, just because you changed the setting on one patch doesn't mean you are using the same settings for the patch you're currently tweaking. If the patch is noisy or you can't get the tone clean enough, be sure to double-check these settings.

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J. The Effects (FX) Loop

Keep in mind where you place your FX Loop in the Pod's signal chain, particularly in relation to the amp/cab modeling. Effects will sound very different depending on how they are ordered (see Effects Ordering section) and this is particularly the case for the amp modeling. Also note that you can change the send and receive levels for the loop.

Given the option, not using the loop (by placing the effects in front or behind the Pod) may be slightly advantageous because it does not require you to add an FX Loop effect to the signal chain (for HD 500/Desktop/Pro), freeing up one block for an additional effect. It also saves the tone from an additional set of D/A/D conversions and reduces complexity in gain staging.

The best part about using the loop is you can use just one footswitch to toggle on/off all the effects in the loop, rather than having to tap dance on all the individual effects.

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There have been complaints that the FX Loop is incredibly noisy. It definitely adds noise, but not to the point where it is unusable. I don't like to use it to do simple things like clean boosts or to force mono-summing, but since its DSP cost is so low, sometimes it's the only available effect to do so. I find boosting the signal inside the Pod via a Studio EQ before the FX Loop can reduce the noisiness a bit.

I've also read the loop causes your signal to lose a significant chunk of volume. I believe these claims, but I have not tried to determine how bad this actually is. Be aware that you may need to compensate for the loop. The best way is to boost via a Studio EQ before it, which additionally improves SNR. If you can't do that, you can increase the Return level on the loop itself.

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K. The Mixer Block

The mixer allows you to adjust the panning and volume of both channels. The default setting has each track panned hard left and right with levels set to 0 +/-db - an ideal setup for a stereo patch. I generally use mono patches. I find the best way to do this is to mute one channel, and pan the other one to center. You'll get more volume by panning both channels to center, but I find this isn't necessary since the mixer lets you boost channel volume. There's another reason I like to only use one channel, which I cover in the next section. Just like the amp volume knob, the mixer boosts the level at that place in the chain, which can cause effects behind it to distort.

Be sure to understand how the pan controls work. Every line in the Pod's signal chain is a stereo signal. If you have a stereo effect in a channel after the path split but before the mixer, so that a different left/right signal is hitting the mixer, the pan controls basically adjust the volume of each left/right signal. If you pan full left on that channel, only the left side is going to pass through the mixer, into the left half of the mixer output. The left and right signals from that channel are not both being pushed into the left output of the mixer. The right half is essentially muted. The mixer is only mixing the left signals of channels A and B into the left half of the mixer's output. Same for the right half of the signals. So 50% left for a channel means that the right half of the signal has its volume cut in half while the left half passes through at full volume.

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L. Effects Order/Position

Effects that affect dynamics or distortion are sensitive to what is being sent into them, compared to non-dynamic effects. Be aware of how ordering effects matters, and experiment with each effect before or after a compression or distortion element. For instance, the whole section on distortion character was mostly about how the way a signal is EQ'ed impacts how distortion will operate. EQ before distortion sounds completely different from EQ after distortion. This equally applies to Wah pedals, phasers, choruses, and other effects. On the other hand, certain effects will operate virtually the same and have negligible impact on other effects independent of where it occurs in the effects chain, such as a pitch shifter.

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The best advice is to experiment, but here are some general tips:

Noise Suppressors/Gates

The general consensus is to make this the first effect in your chain. There it will simply mask your pickup noise when you are not playing. It has the most impact on tone at the end of the chain but can lead to unnatural sounding cut-off on notes. An interesting place for it is after a compressor but before distortion. Sometimes you can use two on each side of a compressor/gain stage to tighten up how effectively it works. This is how Periphery gets their very punchy tone, going quickly from searing power chords to complete silence. For more on noise gates, see here.

Chorus/Phaser/Flanger

Generally, you get the expected swooshing sound behind your distortion phase, but placing it beforehand can give a very difficult to describe but interesting sound. I kind of like it in this position, because it has less of a swooshing sound to it, which I find detracts from the actual music. It also makes your distortion character change, which makes it a bit more interesting, especially if you're playing a very repetitive part, such as straight palm-muted single notes. I use mod effects in both positions.

EQ

As mentioned in the amp/tone page, EQ before distortion has a much larger effect on how the distortion operates than how the frequency response is changed. I generally use a single Studio EQ or Mid-Focus EQ to sculpt the distortion character, while I use multiple Parametric EQ's and/or a Mid-Focus EQ after distortion to dial in the desired frequency response in my final tone.

Delay/Reverb

I don't know how anyone gets away with putting delay before a distortion phase. The distortion will compress it and cause the delayed signal to be just as loud or nearly as loud as what you are currently playing, sounding like two guitars fighting for space, playing different things at the same time. People have said EVH put his delay in front his amp distortion, but I can't get it to sound right. I think they're wrong and his echoplex was being used for tonal changes, not actual delay.

I generally put my delay and reverb last (or close to last) in the chain. I don't think it matters which goes first. Occasionally I'll use two delays.

Pitch Shifters

(Octave, Whammy [Pitch Glide], Smart Harmony) - I like these in front my distortion phase usually. The whammy especially sounds more like a real whammy bar that way. Smart Harmony I like behind my distortion - then it sounds like you're playing with another guitarist or double-tracking it. When in front, it sounds more like you're playing double-stops. Experiment with the mix when pitch shifting, especially when you put it in front your distortion - low settings will subtly change your tone rather than sounding like you're adding another track at a lower volume.

Sorry if this section is a little light, but I'm not so much an effects guy. I focus on getting a good distortion sound, rather than layering up a bunch of effects.

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M. Gain Staging

i. Principles

You've probably heard the term before but don't know exactly what it means. A gain stage consists of an attenuator and an amplifier. The attenuator is usually attached to a knob or dial. This lets you attenuate the signal appropriately to get the desired tone from the amplifier. Depending on the type of gain stage, you may want to allow the amplifier to distort or to remain clean. Gain staging simply refers to how to set multiple sequential gain stages to achieve the desired tone while minimizing both noise and unwanted distortion.

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Analog signals have a certain noise floor that you cannot shrink by attenuating the signal. Thus, the lower volume your signal is, the lower the ratio of the signal to your noise floor. If a low SNR signal is amplified, all that noise is amplified as well. If one gain stage introduces noise early in the signal, you will not be able to remove it later on. To get the cleanest, least-noisy tone, you want to set all your gain stages as high as possible. You use the last gain stage to control final volume - it has the least potential to introduce noise into the tone.

On the other hand, when an amplifier tries to boost a signal beyond its physical capacity, the signal gets distorted. Some gain stages are designed to distort in a pleasing way while others are not. Assuming you want a perfectly clean signal, you must attenuate the signal enough at each gain stage enough to prevents its amplifier from distorting.

Thus, gain staging is often about finding the sweet spot for each gain stage to minimize both noise and distortion. Most of the time, your signal chain isn't very complex, and gain staging is simple. Other times, when you are running unconventional chains and lots of effects units, it is essential to tweak just about everything.

Making things more difficult, some pieces of gear do not feature a complete gain stage, offering no means to attenuate the signal as it inputs the unit. On a hot signal, it may clip in an undesirable way. Your only options are to attenuate the signal via an additional piece of hardware before that unit or to reduce the output of the closest prior gain stage.

If you want distortion, you're probably not going to get the distortion you want by diming every gain stage in your chain. I find it's best to start by setting everything low enough so that there is no distortion anywhere in the chain. As you start to turn up any particular gain stage, make sure that others aren't being pushed into distortion as well - as you turn up one, turn down the next one in the chain. You want to determine which stages produce musical distortion and which should be kept clean. Once you identify the musical ones, you want to find appropriate proportions of one to another.

For example, when running a distortion pedal in front of an amp, sometimes you want to use mostly the distortion pedal's distortion, letting the amp stay clean or relatively clean. Other times you want the distortion pedal to provide a touch of distortion but let the amp provide the bulk of the distortion. Sometimes you want an even mix - I find this is often true when mixing pre-amp and power amp distortions. The main thing to remember is to avoid clipping other pieces of the chain that do not distort nicely. A thick amp distortion may mask that such is even there, but it will make your tone rougher and less defined.

ii. Practice

Thinking in terms of analog gear, take the relatively simple example chain of:

Guitar > Tube Screamer > Amp > Chorus (in effects loop) > Amp
Even here, the Screamer has two gain stages - Drive and Output. The amp likely has 5 - Drive, Channel Volume, Loop Send, Loop Receive, and Master Volume. The chorus pedal likely has 1 - Output. You have 8 gain stages to tune, so that they all work in harmony. The Chorus does not have an attenuator on its input. You must set the effects loop send volume low enough to keep it from clipping. You probably want the Screamer to have low Drive (its "hot" gain stage), so that it only provides a touch of distortion, but you want to dime its Output (which stays clean). You want most of your distortion from your amp's preamp. So you crank Drive there. You don't want much power amp distortion, so you set Master Volume just below where the power section starts to break up. Channel Volume likely stays clean even at high settings, so you crank that up fairly high, but it's main purpose is to balance one channel's volume against another - you may have to keep it lower than 100% for that.

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How does this translate for such controls in the Pod? The Pod features almost everything mentioned above digitally. Most of the time its algorithms are emulating exactly how an analog signal would be processed. So you want to follow the same advice as with an all analog chain.

Particularly troublesome are the EQ effects. Some are worse than others. When I'm using an EQ as the first piece of my chain, I will get a nasty digital-sounding distortion when I pick hard. To compensate I add a Volume effect to attenuate the signal before the EQ. If I'm using EQ's behind my amp block, I need to keep the Ch. Vol./VOLUME knob relatively low (45%) to prevent from clipping EQ's. For single amp patches, I put everything in Channel A and use the Mixer Levels to set my final patch volume. For dual amp patches, I usually have a Mid-Focus EQ last, which provides a Gain parameter that I use to set my final patch volume.

Digital devices feature the additional danger of digital clipping, where the signal level exceeds the digital resolution and produces a harsh distortion. Yet, if you follow proper gain staging, the principles are exactly the same. You will only achieve digital clipping by setting a gain stage too high (provided you aren't clipping the unit at its input A>D converter).

Some of the controls in the Pod adjust the signal level digitally, rather than emulate an analog gain stage. For instance, the amp block's Ch. Vol. (VOLUME knob) is not simulating analog circuitry. I believe the mixer levels and volume effect operate the same way. This basically takes the consideration of a noise floor out of the equation, but replaces it with loss of precision. Setting one of these REALLY low will not add noise to the tone but will introduce slight manipulations to the signal's waveform and lose certain details. Similar to distortion concerns, it's best to treat everything like an analog gain stage, setting them high enough to preserve the signal integrity.

I believe the Pod has three actual analog gain stages - FX Loop Send/Receive and the Master Knob (the right-most physical knob on the unit). Same rules as usual apply.

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Note: the MASTER knob only affects the tone sent to the analog outputs. For the digital outputs (AES, SPDIF, USB), the signal is never converted back to an analog signal and never hits the analog Master Knob gain stage. The Pod's signal is mostly digital; it goes:

Input Source > A/D convertors > digital signal processing > D/A conversion > Master knob attenuation > analog outputs

Even when setting up a patch that is close to maxing out the Pod's maximum digital signal level, with the MASTER Knob at 100%, I do not hear any distortion occuring. So proper gain staging dictates setting this knob to 100%. Line 6 documentation echoes this opinion, saying this setting results in the highest signal-to-noise ratio from the unit. But be wary of what you're connecting the Pod into. I have clipped the effects loop return of my amp when setting this too high - my amp provides no control to attenuate the loop return signal.

The only time I recommend moving the MASTER Knob lower is when you are not using your main rig. By doing this, you are sacrificing tone for ease-of-use. You should gain stage and level your patches as above for your main rig. For other rigs that distort with the amount of volume you're sending them, the easiest way to attenuate the signal is using the Pod's MASTER Knob. Rather than digging into the mixer settings on all of your patches, you can just change one knob and be done for all patches. This may result in additional noise in the signal, but that's acceptable in this case. This applies equally to using headphones.


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