Johnson, Line6, Fender...
Here's my story... in the 80's when I was a teen and didn't know any better I bought a CRATE amp (it was also all I could afford). *Of course, it sucked. *Many years later I wanted to make up for abusing myself like that so I bought a Digitech 2120. *The sounds were OK, but I found that WAY too much time was wasted on gee-whiz effects tweaking and wanted good TONE. *Hering everyone rave about the POD made me curious, so I got one and I will take it to the grave with me. *
Then I started playing live every single sunday. *Reading (at line6 and at podforum.com) that a lot of guys were playing their POD's live through a Fender Hot Rod Deluxe, I tried that for a while. *Then I realized something very important. *To me, the Hot Rod sounded much better LIVE than using the POD as a preamp. *I agree that the POD is good and lots of pros are using them, but mostly in the studio and not live. (remember, I said mostly).
Thanks to the POD, I now knew the diference between a MarkIIc+ and a VoxAC30 and a Bassman and my personal favorite, the Fender Blackface Deluxe. *I was happy playing through the Hot Rod live for a while, but then came to realize that for clean tones I liked the Deluxe better than the Hot Rod (which is based on the Bassman circuit). *So I traded in the Hot Rod for a Fender '65 Deluxe Reverb Reissue and I am in clean tone HEAVEN!!!
I read a lot of debates on multifx vs stomps and after having the 2120 and the POD, I realized that having all of an effects knobs in front of you and instantly tweakable was more valuable to me than having something that I had to program beforehand. *Also, I was only using like 2 or 3 of the POD amp models, so the POD was not really being used for all the 32 amps "all in one box, man!". *Personally, I believe that you don't need 32 different sounds live and should spend more time on technique than tone. *(90% of tone is in the fingers anyways).
I'ts hard to explain, but there is just a different feeling playing with a real tube amp live vs. a POD, you should definitely try both (my local music store rents tube amps for $35 a day).
To make a long story short, I believe the POD is GREAT for recording and for helping you decide if you want a british EL34 sound, a class A vs. Class AB amp, a fender 6L6 sound and generally what amp you want to buy. *I would never give up the POD, but live, it has to be a tube amp with stomps for me right now.