All the leads on this I recorded plugging a POD X3 into a Focusrite Scarlett. I’m biased since it’s me, but I don’t think it sounds horrible. There are places where I’m a little out of time and some bends that are pitchy, but I think the tones good.
All the early Periphery demos sounded really pro and Misha Mansoor used a POD (possibly XT as it may have been prior to the X3). Shortly thereafter he switched to Fractal, which of course sound better than. Still, he got great tones out of that POD.
It’s all about the settings I think though. When I quit my band ~2010 I hired Misha to give me a crash-course in home recordings and he made me some POD presets.
FWIW I’ve never made any patches on the POD that sounded anywhere near as good as what Misha made me. None of them sounded horrible though. I’d double check your input settings. If you clip on the interface itself, it’s gonna sound bad. You don’t want the output of the POD too hot either. Also, there are headphone jacks in the POD as well as the focusrite. Which were your headphones plugged into? There can be lots of little gotchas.
I still like S-Gear better than the POD, and it’s cheaper too