I made a tangential post at the end of this thread that is just buried, so I wanted to start fresh with this different question. http://sevenstring.org/threads/tube-amp-vs-pedals-vs-non-master-volume.330091/page-2 Basically my goal is to have an option for cleaner high-gain lead sound. What i mean is a lead sound like cliffs eric johnson, or maze-era Vinnie Moore, where the leads are gained and have strong sustain and liquid motion and a signing high tone, but they aren't so distorted and fizzy as a typical high-gain amp channel. I'm under the impression that I need some kind of overdrive/boost pedal in front of my tube amp to get this type of sound. My core question is whether I should pick an overdrive/soft clipping pedal or a hard clipping/assymetric gain pedal, etc, and whether it's best to plug into the clean or lead channel of the amp. And of course pedal choices itself. I already have compression and strong pickups at the front end to increase sustain and EQ rolling off about 8k at the back end, and experiment with the tone knob on the guitar. But these are not enough to shape the sound the way I want. I'm using an engl e530, which has 4 channels, clean+lo, clean+hi, lead+lo, lead+hi (and 2 more if include the contour lo/hi mid boost switch). In order to get the strong sustain/liquid solos/screaming leads it has to be in the lead+hi state. But there's a lot of distortion up there. Perfectly fine for regular metal, but not so much for a smoother lead. Lead+lo is just like turning the volume knob down on the guitar, and ends up with all the fuzz but none of the meat. clean+hi doesn't quite have much saturation, but it's a good bluesy tone. The engl already has fairly tight bass and strong mids, so a Tubescreamer-type pedal typically sounds too honky and empty. So I'm looking for something that's not a direct TS-clone, or at least not with a fixed mid boost. Something like the SD 805 with separate mid control may be what I'm after. I used my old GNX4 as an input to the engl just to test the pre-EQ bosting and the pedal simulators (TS-9, proco rat, boss ds-1, dod 250, Big Muff Pi, Guyatone OD-2, Sparkledrive). Nothing really made any difference into the lead+hi channel of the amp. The plain EQ shaping made the clean+lo sound good. The DS-1 seemed to like being plugged into the clean+hi channel, sort of a hard clipping distortion into a soft-clipping clean tube gain. And the Guyatone OD-2 seemed to like being plugged into the lead+lo channel, a soft clipping into a hard clipping tube gain. I felt like I was definitely getting somewhere with those ODs into the lower gain channels. I felt the combination of some time of OD or dist with the gain turned down into the mid-gain channels on the amp seemed to be getting me where I wanted. But I was hoping for some more experienced suggestions here. None of them were able to drive a channel into the crushing palm muted heavy rhythm of the raw engl lead+hi gain channel though. But I'm not really looking to improve that, rather just looking for an alternative lower-gain lead sound that still has that singing saturation. Besides the SD 805, I've also been looking at the Xotic BB, since that's what Vinnie Moore uses, and the Fulltone OCD, but I'm a bit weary as it seems there's 8 versions of the OCD, and they vary dramatically in terms of mid boost and low cut. The fulldrive 3 might be a better option. But there might be some better boutique options. And still not sure whether I should go for more of an OD or a low-gain distortion, whether I want soft clipping or hard clipping or asymmetric gain, etc.