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Do you really need a distortion pedal if you have an amp?


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I'm just wondering, given all the amp models, is stacking a pedal's distortion plus amp distortion that much different than what you could get using just a different amp with more gain, some tweaking of the sag, EQ, master volume, bias, etc.?  Shouldn't you be able to just using snapshots or low/high settings, to basically get nearly the same result as distortion pedal plus amp?


Ex1; If you're using distortion pedal as a boost.  Well here, using snapshot or low/high settings, you could easily increase the input volume to act like a boost, even adjust tone if you want, similar to what you'd get in a screamer or whatever...


Ex2; using distortion pedal as to stack the pedal's distortion and the amp's.  Well here, couldn't you simply use a different amp with more gain or just an amp who's distortion characteristics would match the other pedal + amp stacked distortion characteristics? 


TLDR:  so basically, shouldn't you just be able to get a nearly identical distortion by just tweaking amp & other settings, or is there something inherently drastically different to stacking distortions?

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It depends. Both approaches are valid but certain distortion  and overdrive pedals add a different character. 


For example with real amps a JCM800 plus a Boss SD1 or even a tubescreamer gives It a character and feel that the JCM800 can't deliver on its own. In fact a lot of the classic JCM800 rock tones you hear are not just the JCM800 straight. SRV used 2 Tube screamers with Fender amps etc.  And other distortions such as ProCo Rat have a quality that when mixed with an amp distortion add something that the amp can't do on its own.  


But using different gain levels in the Pod Go and even using the EQ as a gain boost are both good lateral thinking ways to save your DSP and user blocks for other purposes.  

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Yeah that's why my question was rather multifold:


1) Are you really getting a 'special' tone that you cannot reproduce with one of the ~100 amps when you're using a distortion pedal plus amp?  I mean yeah I'm fairly aware that if you're using a JCM800 + distortion pedal, you likely won't be able to make it sound the same without the pedal.  But what about one of the other amp models?


2) Should we re-think how we 'see' distortion as pedal plus amp?  I mean in the old days, you had a limited number of amps, and you didn't have the direct control of it like you do with the Helix/Go.  So if you were SRV, you basically had a choice of maybe a few dozen amps (I'm guessing), and you basically also had no choice but to use a boost or distortion pedal to get a certain tone.  But this is 2020, and we all have 100+ amps available at the switch of a button, not to mention amps that weren't available to SRV at the time.  So can't you basically ditch the distortion pedal and get a nearly identical sound from just another amp model?


I mean at the root, distortion & overdrive are both clipping the signal.  And clipping a clipped signal is just another type of distortion.  But how many 'types' of distinctive distortion is there?  In Go, there's 100+ amps, so in theory, 100+ types of distortions.  Each can be tweaked...  Is there not one distortion pattern that will match JCM8000 + Boss SD1 or JCM8000 + TS?

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13 minutes ago, malhavok said:

Amp distortion and pedal distortion are totally different. I use whichever one is most appropriate for you and for any given situation.


How are they totally different?  I mean sure, I get that a valve amp's distortion characteristics will be different from a solid state pedal, as the valve will introduce more natural harmornics and it will react differently to dynamics.


Hmm... Damn...  But yeah thinking how different OD/distortion types will combine is pretty damn hard to visualize...   I guess when the amp saturates the sound with distortion, the pedal becomes less apparent, but the cleaner the tone, the more the pedal might sound through.  But again...  Can't you just basically get the same (or very similar) pedal+amp clean'ish tone via another amp who's distortion characteristic is similar to the result of the pedal+amp?

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Distortion pedals are often very idiosynchratic. Some work well with clean amps, but dont sound so good with amp distortion. With others it's the reverse.  Theres also a difference as to how a distortion pedal works with other fx and of course chain position is a big factor too. 


In answer to your question as to whether you can match an amp plus distortion pedal tone with just the distortion from another amp, I'd suggest 'possibly.  But it depends on your fussiness/sensitivity to distortion tones and playing dynamics feel. 


Consider too that the more distorted your tone, the more similar distortions can begin to sound. And particularly in a live band setting, a lot of the subtle nuances you might hear at home simply vanish. 


So I think you should just experiment and go with what your ears tell you. 

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On 6/28/2020 at 4:32 PM, voxman55 said:

Distortion pedals are often very idiosynchratic.  [...]   So I think you should just experiment and go with what your ears tell you. 


Yeah definitely!  There's just soo many options lol


My main issues is that for some reason (well obvious reasons), the settings which some love and sound great with others guitars, often just sounding bad for me...  And I mean I have a few, guitars Ibanez RG/RGA/ART (HH, HSH, actives), Yamaha Pac 112v (HSS), Parker (HH with piezo), Fender, etc., and honestly, already the way the Go's amps react to every guitar and how much really they make the different patches sound so different, is pretty crazy...


So when you add not only different amps, but also different distortion pedals, ouch...  Like I posted in another vid teh etypitch (sp?! can never remember his name) where the guy goes through almost all the presets, and they pretty much all sound great, I'm getting almost the opposite; where I don't "get" what the patch should do, and it sounds maybe not bad, but not inspiring and somewhat bland and not that usable for me...


The Go is really a great tool, but boy, it does require quite a bit of skill to be used proficiently.  Not that it's complicated to use, but it has so many options, overwhelming...  I think I would need to go back to the the amp thread, focus on only 2-3 amps, get to know them very well, then maybe add some distortions, really get a good feel to what they do, how they interact with the different amps.  Maybe download more patches and see how they work...

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Yes, 'option paralysis' is a theme here.  I'd honestly just try to keep things simple. Start with just a basic amp tone you like.  Then find a reverb &/or delay you like.  Then experiment with distortions. A good starting place is a tubescreamer as its a classic pedal that works really well with most amps. 

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