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I have a blackstar ht-5r combo amp..... Would I get a clearer sound using the effects loop with my distortion effects pedal compared to plugging pedal into front amp input then using clean channel? Would it still be a heavy big tone through effects loop?

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Short answer: Certain effects like overdrives and distortions typically go in front of the amp. Other effects like reverbs and delay typically go in the effects loop (when possible).

Long answer: The effects loop on an amp usually sits between the pre-amp and power amp sections. Most of the "tone" of your amp comes from the pre-amp. Pre-amps tend to enhance the effect of (and will be enhanced by) overdrives and distortions. However they also tend to diminish the effect of delay and modulation style effects.

The power amp section pretty much makes the signal louder, so delays and mod effects remain clear when put right before the power amp, but overdrives or distortions would likely sound harsh and unappealing without being smoothed out by the pre-amp.

It's a bit of a generalization, but it works most of the time.

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I tried it with the effects loop and this is real strange, going from pedal to the send on loop made it so volume wouldn't go very loud and nothing on amp controls worked but was pretty smooth, when I put my mxr noise gate in front of pedal and too effects loop send, then is loud and only needed pedal volume at 3. Still was a clear distortion but, it seems like its not quite as heavy and fat sounding that way so that's not as good then. Thx for your comment and info –  Jeff Brady Apr 9 '13 at 21:21
    
You're welcome. Did you go from your guitar to the pedal to the effects loop? If so you were bypassing your pre-amp (btw, this is one way to use a multi-fx pedal with amp emulation). Otherwise I don't know why the amp controls wouldn't work. –  cadmium Apr 10 '13 at 14:04
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The conventional usage is to put distortion effect in front of the pre-amp; then, when you engage it, it drives the pre-amp harder, so that you get both the pedal's intrinsic distortion as well as pre-amp distortion.

That being said, you should try both positions, and see what you like; there are no hard and fast rules.

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