One of the things that I discovered is that you can sometimes get the best tone just by going back to basics with a good sounding guitar plugged directly into a good sounding amp with no pedals in between. With the amp cranked to a level where it breaks into a nice creamy distortion, if you turn the volume on the guitar down, you get a great clean sound. Want more distortion or any amount in between, turn up the guitar volume. No pedals required.
In this short video, Queen's Brian May shows you that's the way he does it as well, using his trusty Vox AC-30 amps. You can't argue with the great sound.
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