On YouTube I have noticed that people tend to run their distortion and overdrive pedals etc. Into the clean channel of their amp. Surely a better idea would be to run the pedal into some sort of crunch setting on the amp and not drive the pedal as hard? So my question is why do people do it that way and which way is better? Also is that choice the same for tube and solid state amps? Bear in mind this question comes from an amateur player whose only pedal is a crybaby wah so...yeah.
No way is better. Whatever sounds good to you, works.

People that run into the clean channel like how it sounds like that. Running the pedal into a crunch setting on your amp would yield different results.

Choice doesn't depend on if it has tubes or not. It depends on if it sounds good for what you need it for.
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I run my pedals into a clean channel because not everything I play is distorted and I can always go back to square one with a clean sound. I also find that running into a dirty channel can be a crap shoot; the mix of the two distortions may sound good or they may clash. I use two distortion pedals. One set for crunch and rhythm and one more distorted with a higher output for leads. This way I know exactly what I'm getting when I step on the pedal and if I need to turn up or down on my amp I can adjust the volume without adjusting my distortion or tone levels.

That's just me. Whatever works for anyone else is great for them.
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Last edited by Rickholly74 at Mar 2, 2016,
There is not such thing as "driving a pedal too hard" unless you are putting a powered signal to the input. Some of us may argue that active pickups drive a pedal too hard but that is a discussion for another day. Unless the pedal is physically being harmed, you are not driving it too hard. Also some pedals may sound better in lighter distortion ranges than others, but again another discussion for another day.

The main reason why a lot of us use clean channels for pedal platforms is that it allows us to have a multi-channel amp without having a multi-channel amp. For instance, using an overdrive in front of an AC30 (two channels but not footswitchable) can give you sounds like the amp is on a clean channel with the pedal off, and a dirty channel with the pedal on. If you stack more and more pedals on top of that you get more and more channels.

If we ran our amps on a crunch setting and boosted them with an overdrive, when we take the overdrive off we may not have as clean as a tone as we would like. So we use the clean channel as the basis, then boost it to distortion with pedals.

Generally, the rule of thumb (for clean/dirty) is to have the amp set clean but to break up just a little when you dig into the strings/have the guitar volume maxed. Then you use overdrives or distortions to "boost" the amp, making the pedal more of an extension of the amp rather than an entirely different piece of kit. Some pedals, like Amptweaker's units, can make an amp sound entirely different and boast that they sound great on ultra-clean amp settings.

Now often this depends on the genre as well. You do not want to have a 6505 amp set clean and have a Tubescreamer boost it to saturation for metal tones. No, you set it up somewhat reverse for the clean/dirty sounds, except the clean is much more distorted as the basis. So the 6505 is set mostly at the desired saturation, and the Tubescreamer boosts it more from there for the extra saturation, sustain, mid-hump, etc.

But often drive pedals only work well with tube amps. Solid State amps just do not react the same way as tube amps do. Something something grid voltage something bias something plates something unicorn diodes something something clipping.
Last edited by Will Lane at Mar 2, 2016,
I'm not sure what YouTube videos you're watching. A lot of the time, if they are doing a gear review, they will run it on clean so that you can get a good idea of how the pedal sounds on its own. Naturally, if I did a gear review, I would show the pedal on the clean channel, and then show it on the dirty channel as a clean boost (level 100%, drive 0%), and then use it as a supplemental gain device by having the gain channel slightly saturated, and using the overdrive to supplement the rest of the desired gain. This shows full range of the pedal's capabilities.

There really isn't a wrong answer. It all depends on personal preference. Many metal guitarists have had a lot of success using Marshalls on the gain channel with an overdrive boost. However, Mesa Rectifiers and Peavey 5150/6505 amps have plenty of gain on tap without the need for an overdrive to boost the rhythm tone. Yet, some people run Marshalls without a boost, and some people run 5150s with a boost. It's all personal preference, and if the tone is good, who is anyone to say that they are doing it wrong?

As far as overdrive pedals on a solid state, Will is absolutely right. They react very differently. On my Ampeg VH140C, I use my overdrive as a high end and gain boost on an already saturated channel. There are no tubes to push, so when there is a section where we use a lot of pinch harmonics, I'll turn on my overdrive to boost the high end and gain, which helps them sing a little more, and then turn it off when we come out of that section. I also use my overdrive to simulate tube breakup on my clean channel, since there aren't tubes, on a particular song we have, but it has been a while since I've used my Ampeg with my band. It's mainly a backup now that I have been running a tube amp.
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you can do it either way, it just depends on which you prefer.
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