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Thank you for the details.

Very likely you have your Dry/Wet
balance somewhere in the middle values area. This is typical of
"series" connection like GtrAmps FX loops, unless yours is configurable
as parallel. If the unit is run in series a portion of dry sound is
always going thru the loop. Loading the THRU preset will add a slightly
delayed (normal A/D latency) copy of a dry sound (that's what this
preset does, after all…).

Having 2 instances of the same
signal, a phase cancellation is happening and identical frequencies are
affected. You don't need to use the THRU preset in such setup.

It's not clear where exactly you get distortion. As I said we need presets names or nothing else can be added.

Nick's suggestion on checking the cables wiring/soldering is a treasure. When running +4dB line levels signals off the XLRs to 1/4", it should be clear that unbalancing the signal is properly done. The user manual has information on this and so does our Tech Notes library on the website.

all the best