Recording distorted guitars – The digital POD vs the analog Tubeman

One of the  last articles was about how to record a clean guitar, and the POD and the Tubeman have already been mentioned there. This time it is about what these two devices were mainly built for: a distorted guitar sound. You will hear the same track first recorded with the POD (lead and rhythm guitars), then with the Tubeman, both devices were connected directly to the mixing desk.  Here is some background information on both devices.


The POD by Line 6 was one of the first commercial devices to emulate the sound of different tube amps. You can choose between different Fender, VOX, Marshall or boutique amps. In addition it features a variety of built-in digital effects. Like with most digital devices, the number of different sounds and options is astonishing. You can switch between a Fender Bassman and a Marshall JMT in a second, and you can save all sounds as presets. Due to the headphones output it is also very nice for practising.

The Tubeman

This is the original Tubeman by Hughes & Kettner. It is all analog and features a 12AX7 tube for distortion. It can be used a a floor effect before any guitar amp, or as a recording solution in the studio. Three tone controls plus a mid boost allow different sounds, while the amount of distortion is adjusted with the gain control and a  selector switch to choose one of four different gain patterns (rock, blues, funk, jazz).

There is no headphones out, but outs for the mixer (with speaker simulation) or to the guitar amp (without speaker simulation). As it is anaog, you cannot save sounds as preset of course, and there are no effects available. Although a tube requires  high voltage, it is powered with only 9 V which are internally transformed.

The Verdict

To me the winner is the Tubeman, its throaty sound has a certain warmth that I miss with the POD but maybe your taste is different. And of course a lot depends on the setting on both devices. And don’t forget that the POD is an early digital device, later ones might sound better. I might compare more recent devices against a vintage tube amp in a future article.

What are your thoughts? Use the comment function to let us know.

6 thoughts on “Recording distorted guitars – The digital POD vs the analog Tubeman

  1. The Tubeman sounds better indeed, especially for the solo.
    POD is little bit more muted, and brings to my mind some southern rock kind of a feel, if it’s played on humbuckers, i think You did record that on single coils(probably Start), didn’t You?
    Anyway, thanks for article, great site!

  2. Hello Ingo:

    is an very big honour talk with you, because I read you
    for many years ago.
    I´m spanish from Madrid.
    About the comp Pod vs Tube man, I don´t understand how is possible compare un pre-amp and a (more or less) sound interfase with amp emulator.
    In another thinks, ¿what is your opinion about Black boc from M audio?.
    Thank you very much for share your knowledge with another person, If you write your adress I send you in Christmas a box with cured ham

    All the best (and sorry for my english)

  3. Of course you are right, 12 V. ~ is a must because otherwise it cannot be transformed to a high voltage for the tube so easily.

  4. @mariano:
    Both the Tubeman and the Pod have the same purpose: shape the guitar sound for recording so it made sense to me to a/b compare them. You are right of course, the way both try to realize this is quite different.

    I haven’t really tried the black box. Generally it is astonishing what a digital simulation can do and how easily you can get a decent sound. I myself still prefer a tube amp with a mic but constantly ask myself why I punish myself with all the hassle. Maybe I am too nostalgic 😉

    all the best

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