In musical circles, there are certain unspoken rules, one of which being that trying to play without a being in tune is like trying pull the sun from the sky and put it in your pocket –insanely IMPOSSIBLE! This is when you need the best guitar tuner.
Quick Links To Our Top Guitar Tuner Recommendations
- TC Electronic PolyTune 3 – OUR TOP CHOICE! This one will help get your strings in tune quickly and easily with accuracy!
- KLIQ UberTuner – the runner up and our favorite clip-on option. Clip it on your headstock and it will always be where you need it.
- BOSS TU-3 Chromatic Tuner – a great addition to any pedalboard.
- Korg PC1 PITCHCLIP – acoustic guitarists need an accurate tuner with a mic to pick up the tone. This is the one!
- JOWOOM T2 Smart Automatic Guitar – automatically tune your strings!
- GTune VST Plugin – a great tuning plugin.
- Snark SN5X – excellent for guitar players on a budget.
- Peterson StroboClip HD Clip-On Tuner – great choice for 12 string guitarists.
- Korg AW-LT100B Clip-On Bass Tuner – need something to clip on your bass guitar? This is an excellent option.
- GuitarTuna tuner app – tune with a smartphone app.
How Does A Guitar Tuner Actually Work
With that said, a tuner is a device which accurately identifies the pitch or frequency of a musical note. Pitch is either the lowness or highness of a note and is closely related to frequency, as the higher the pitch, the higher the frequency. Frequency corresponds to the number of digital wave peaks passing through a fixed point –ordinarily a line- over time.
- Quick Links To Our Top Guitar Tuner Recommendations
- How Does A Guitar Tuner Actually Work
- Our Recommended Best Guitar Tuner Options
- Best All Around Guitar Tuner – TC Electronic PolyTune 3
- Best Clip On Headstock Guitar Tuner – KLIQ UberTuner
- Best Tuner Pedal – BOSS TU-3 Chromatic Tuner
- Best For Acoustic Guitars – Korg PC1 PITCHCLIP
- Best Automatic Guitar Tuner – JOWOOM T2 Smart Automatic Guitar
- Best VST Guitar Tuner – GTune VST Plugin
- Best Budget Guitar Tuner – Snark SN5X
- Best Tuner For 12 String Guitar – Peterson StroboClip HD Clip-On Tuner
- Best Bass Guitar Tuner – Korg AW-LT100B Clip-On Bass Tuner
- Best Tuner App – GuitarTuna tuner app
- What To Consider When Buying A Guitar Tuner
- Top Guitar Tuners Conclusion
As you may know already, every string on a guitar plays a particular note different from the next, and each note is represented by a letter of the alphabet. According to the conventional musical alphabet, you have 7 notes: A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. Now, this is where accurate tuning come in, and things get suddenly interesting.
Every note is fixed at a particular frequency, and it is at this standard frequency that it sounds EXACTLY how it’s supposed to sound. For example, an above middle C is always set at a frequency of 440 hertz (or hz, being the shortcut for frequency).
So basically, when it has identified the frequency of note that has been played, it then automatically records it in correspondence to the standard set frequency for that particular note. When the sound or signal is an exact match to the standard –or your desired pitch- your tuner will show you that the particular note is in tune, and the opposite is true. Hence, a tuner is a must have device for a professional guitarist.
Our Recommended Best Guitar Tuner Options
Before getting our hands dirty and delving deep into the recommended guitar tuners on the market today, it is important to note that you have conventional tuners of years gone by, and the more recent electronic tuners. An electronic tuner is fixed to the headstock of a guitar, whilst a regular tuner guitar is one you plug your guitar into. In this article, we will focus more on the electronic guitar tuner options.
Best All Around Guitar Tuner – TC Electronic PolyTune 3
Rated as the best plug-in PolyTune tuner yet, the TC Electronic PolyTune 3 offers advanced polyphonic tuning technology that will surely push the boundaries of your sound quality. It is also our top pick for all around option. The remarkable standout feature of this tuner is how it allows you to tune all of your strings with one uniform stroke. By simply strumming all your strings at once, these tuners immediately shows you which strings are in tune and which ones aren’t. This dispenses with the need to go through the practiced custom of striking each key before your show, thereby saving much time in preparing for your set.
The PolyTune 3 also helps performing artists to overcome the typical challenges of performing in different lighting conditions with its auto sensing LED display. With 100 in-built LED’s, its display is visible in broad daylight, and at night, the ambient light sensor allows the display to dim. Then of course you have the BonaFide Buffer incorporated into its housing. With this, you rest assured that your tone will not dip during lengthy cable runs, but will actually get better.
This is our top choice for the money and ease of use these days.
- Easy to use
- loud and clear display/audible tone for tuning
- Expensive but worth it if you’re going to do a lot of playing or are a professional guitarist.
Best Clip On Headstock Guitar Tuner – KLIQ UberTuner
Looking for our choice of best clip on headstock tuner? While we all have different tastes, priorities and preferences, there’s always that ‘one size fits all’ gadget that bridges the gaps and finds itself loved by everyone who lays their hands on it. The KLIQ UberTuner is one fitting example and a great little micro headstock tuner.
For musicians who attract huge, noisy crowds, it is worth noting that it focuses primarily on the vibrations of your instrument when exposed to loud crowds, making its in-built tuning mechanism immune to the distortion typical of other low quality clip-on tuners. It if fixed on the headstock of the instrument, making it visible, unlike the plug-in tuner that can disrupt you as you try to shift your attention to where it is placed, which is usually on the floor.
The design is impressively minimalistic, it is easily and firmly attachable, plus, the tuning capability is fast and precise. This is a really cool clip-on tuner that has received raving reviews all over the internet and you should give it a try, particularly if you play the guitar, violin, the electric ukulele or use the Boss or KORG clip-on tuners.
- Fits on the headstock.
- Can tune in any tuning, including open tunings and alternate tunings.
- Takes some time to adjust the sensor so it can pick up each string (especially useful if you’re tuning an acoustic guitar).
- Calibration isn’t as accurate as a dedicated strobe tuner.
If you are looking for more options – take a look at these best clip on guitar tuner recommendations too.
Best Tuner Pedal – BOSS TU-3 Chromatic Tuner
Looking for the best tuner pedal? When most mainstream musicians and guitar players find their popularity falling sharply, they’re quick to blame it on a lack of creativity, and sadly, most turn to drugs. However, few turn to their instruments in fear of being labelled the bad workmen who blame their tools. Needless to say, that common saying couldn’t be farther from the truth, as more often than not –especially when it comes to music- ones instruments are generally a root cause of poor musical production. My advice to those facing this predicament is, give the BOSS TU-3 Chromatic guitar pedal tuner a chance.
The Boss is worlds apart from other options on the market today when it comes to tuning accuracy, matched only by the much vaunted TU-2. Ideal for studio recording, it is accurate to +/- 3 cents, not too far off from the perfect tuning achieved by the TU-3, which is at a mouth-watering +/-1cents. With a solid feel that comes naturally to Boss pedals, you’re guaranteed of countless years of use. And whether you like it or not, you’ll be forced to take notice of the fact that it doubles as a reliable power supply, capable of powering your entire pedal board which also makes it easy to use.
- Features a bright, easy to read display that you can easily see and set your tuning on.
- A very good pedal tuner pick for players who want the convenience of tuning up without having to unplug their instrument or turn off their amp
- Some guitarists said the meter could be difficult to see and that it had poor visibility in low light conditions.
We also have a whole post about the best tuner pedals for guitar too!
Best For Acoustic Guitars – Korg PC1 PITCHCLIP
Few electronic tuners even come inches close to the balanced creativity that the Korg PC1 PITCHCLIP, our choice for acoustic option, brings to musical production and live performance with acoustic guitars. It’s one of the best for acoustic guitar players. A brilliant tuner with adorably innovative features, it is the ultimate blend between the Boss and the TC. Simply clip to your headstock, turn it on and you’re good to go. Its handy display is quickly reversible and switches easily from top to bottom, making it a favourite amongst left handed players. Also on the same point, the switch mode prevents you from viewing information regardless of whether it is clipped to either the front or rear of the headstock.
It is also conveniently unique as it is adjustable to fit on any kind of headstock. Other impressive features include it’s bright, clear and easy to read LED display, quick responsiveness and high tuning accuracy. However so, much has been said on online reviews about its true value as a tuning device. And in as much as manufacturers may urge you not to take notice of the critics, it’s pretty hard not to. And if you’re not careful, you’ll start to believe them. Doubts will start to slowly creep in, and eventually, you may never get the chance to take advantage of the lovely perks these tuners have to offer. Over and above, it’s a good clip-on tuner that adds the best value for acoustic guitars.
- Easy to use.
- Large buttons.
- Built in mic and audio jack for tuning acoustic guitars.
- Screen has a backlight so you can tune in low light or after dark.
- Very few, personal choice really. The only thing that might be an issue is the size of the tuner itself, it’s not exactly small. But it’s built to last and you’re getting what you pay for. It works great! Nice and accurate with a ton of features.
Looking for more options? We also have a full article on the best acoustic guitar tuner options too!
Best Automatic Guitar Tuner – JOWOOM T2 Smart Automatic Guitar
As far as tuners go, this is an ahead of the pack automatic option! Deemed a must have accessory for all ukulele and teachers, it has completely transformed the playing experience with its auto tuning function. Gone are the days when you have to focus your attention on which string you’re strumming as you tune your instrument. And that’s just a tip of the iceberg, it gets better.
It is a compact device which, when you hold it in your hands, speaks volumes about its durability, and it’s durable too! Features like the DW and UP buttons are a great deal of help and a huge money saver as these also doubles as a string winder. To be fair, you hear a lot of talk about the tuning accuracy of popular tuners, however, this device isn’t excellent, but decent.
Be that as it may, most of the extremely accurate tuners are not auto tuners, which is why the JOWOOM T2 Smart Automatic is best suited for teachers as you don’t want to go through the nightmarish task of tuning 30 ukeleles. Other features include: over current and overtone protection, USB powered 2.600mAh rechargeable battery life and a comfortable non-slip grip.
- Easy to use.
- No need for an extra device.
- Affordable price
- None so far!
Best VST Guitar Tuner – GTune VST Plugin
Unlike most of its counterparts on the market today, this is a digital tuner that you download rather than attach to your instrument. It also is our pick for VST option! With that said, it is safe to say that it is the most ideal plugin for studio recording. If you are looking to get started with VST plugins, Guitar Sumo has a great guide.
Simple and effective, and when tested on conventional hardware tuners, its accuracy is spot on. One theory is that this digital plugin can be used in isolation and work perfectly well. Another theory is that to get the best results, the safest approach is to use it together with a hardware tuner like the Korg. But over and above, it all boils down to what your intended purpose is.
If you’re a performing artist or guitar player, you’d rather opt for a hardware component and leave your producer to make use of it when creating your music. But if you’re both a producer and a performing artist like most musicians these days, you’re better served by having both.
Best Budget Guitar Tuner – Snark SN5X
Looking for a great budget pick? Most musicians and producers find themselves in a state of panic when they can’t lay their hands on the leading options on the market. Against popular belief, it’s not every trendy gadget that performs to everyone’s liking. But when it comes to enhanced diversity, the Snark SN5X is in a class of its own. Compatible with guitars, violins, tap tempo metronome and bass, this clip-on tuner is perfect for experimental artists.
In terms of appearance it’s not much to look at, but in terms of performance, its beauty is unmatched. It is simple to use and it almost always arrives at the perfect tune. It rotates 360 degrees, a feature which makes it convenient for multiple angles. Nonetheless, most reviews will mention how this tuner is fragile and that it breaks easily. Whilst that might be true, it’s all about handling.
Any gadget –especially clip-on devices- are to be handled delicately and with soft hands, because what else do you expect when you place an egg in a carrier bag full of bottles?
- Easy to use.
- Big display.
- Easy to look at in any light (although it has a backlight, so you may not need it).
- No options for reference pitches which means you can’t tune by ear and only by the tuning machines or a tuner app. If you want to tune by ear, this is best used as an absolute last resort.
Best Tuner For 12 String Guitar – Peterson StroboClip HD Clip-On Tuner
Few tuners on the market today can do the wondrous things that the Peterson StroboClip HD Clip-On can do because it is our choice for tuner for 12 string guitars. The best way to describe it is smooth. The LED screen was designed in such a way that it adjusts easily to different lighting conditions, that is, it is visible in the sun and bright during the night. This makes for flawless and undisrupted tuning, particularly handy to have when you’re performing at outdoor gigs where lighting can be a great impediment to tuning.
Coupled with this is a backlit display, a wide clamp to suit a wide array of headstocks, as well as capo settings and drop tuning. As with all Peterson Strobe tuners, tuning accuracy is within the tenth of a cent range, thereby making it a serious competitor to the most popular tuners on the market today.
Tuning accuracy is a significant factor to be considered when choosing the perfect tuner as it defeats the whole purpose of getting a tuner if it doesn’t work to standard. Save for the aforementioned it has a sleek, sturdy design.
- Clip-on design attaches easily.
- Picks up the note in a fast and accurate matter.
- Great for on stage tuning when you don’t want to take time away from playing.
- Clip can clip too tightly onto some guitars, not all. (This is solved by just turning it around).
Best Bass Guitar Tuner – Korg AW-LT100B Clip-On Bass Tuner
Owing to increased demand for Korg’s innovatively decisive tuning technology, they then took on the painstaking task of creating this redeeming piece of technology and created our choice for bass. A clip-on like no other, a single AAA battery can provide you with an outstanding 100 hours of battery life and uninterrupted tuning. But what is undoubtedly the most important feature is the clip-on.
Though a lot of users may refuse to admit it, accuracy and sensitivity is determined by the clip itself. This tuner has a much improved clip that enhances tuning hundredfold. By this it is meant that it takes these tuners a lot faster to tune your instrument, and better still, keeps it in tune for much longer than rival tuners on the market today.
Then of course, Korg defied all logic and created an inbuilt memory backup feature. The enhanced sensitivity of this tuner permits you to detect frequencies at a lower range than usual, making it ideal for those instruments with several strings. The only downside –which after careful consideration, isn’t exactly one- is that it takes a while to figure out how it works. But when you eventually do, it’s an impressive piece of gadgetry.
- Fast and accurate.
- Easy to use.
- Clip on grip is very sturdy and durable.
- Nice bright display in low light or dark settings.
- The display is a bit small for some people. Although from my experience, the size is more than adequate.
Best Tuner App – GuitarTuna tuner app
Considered by industry gurus as the trendiest tuning app in THE world, the Guitar Tuna tuner app has been downloaded over 100 million times on Android and Apple by experts and beginners, this according to Google Play. This app is easy and simple to use, it is highly recommended by teachers for beginners. This is a serious upside, because with some of the most effective but complicated tuners, you’ll be left mentally cooked before you even start, and that isn’t a productive approach to music production.
For advanced players of acoustic and electric guitars, auto tune is something of a novelty, but it’s overall pleasing to know that this app comes to their immediate rescue, providing for hands-free tuning, string for string. It comes with a chromatic tuner and is suitable for a myriad of instruments: guitar, violin, mandolin, bass, ukulele, banjo, fiddle, cello, balalaika and many more. And if you’re looking for a guitar tuning app that comes with noise cancellation, you need not look any further than the Guitar Tuna.
What To Consider When Buying A Guitar Tuner
When you are looking for a good option, there are a ton of options out there. You’ll need to take into consideration a number of things before you can make an educated decision on which one is right for you.
This is absolutely one of the most important things you need to know about. The way a guitar works, it needs to be in tune for you to even be able to play it. With different guitars, the frequencies will have different ranges. For instance, an acoustic will have a much lower range than an electric. If you’re playing in a band with other people that are using electric guitars, you need your tuner to keep up with them or else your sound will be off. Most tuners will display the frequency in Hz which ranges from about 10-20000.
Input Jack Or Mic
You want to make sure the one you’re getting has an input jack so that you can plug your guitar into it without having to use a mic. When mic’ing a guitar, you normally have to be pretty close and if you’re working on stage with others, this can be a problem. The jack will generally either be 1/4″.
You shouldn’t just buy the first one you see. Make sure to do some research and look at several different tuners to find the right one for your needs. Some tuners have preamplifiers which are great for boosting the sound or an output jack so that you can get a better signal to go along with your acoustic guitar.
The buttons on the tuner should be clear and consistent. There should not be any buttons that make noise, play music, or produce any other type of feedback with the guitar.
The price can vary greatly depending on the type of tuner you’re getting. Luckily, most tuners aren’t too expensive, but the more features and the better quality they are, the more expensive they can get.
No matter what you’re getting, make sure you take into consideration the frequency accuracy, input jack or mic jack, built in pre-amplifier or output jack, and the features that are needed for your specific needs.
Top Guitar Tuners Conclusion
There are moments when being a guitarist feels a lot like being a president. The two don’t have much in common, but it’s more a fact of the pressure and responsibility that comes with the job. Choices are constantly made, and often times, bad decisions are made.
The aforementioned tuning apps and devices are recommended, but the final choice is ultimately yours. However so, you should bear in mind that these are recommendations made by industry experts who have tried a multitude of tuners and apps and have come to the common conclusion that they are better than most. But like I said, these are simply recommendations.
Also, if you are looking for alternatives take a look at our guitar tuner app post.
Good luck in your tuning experience, you are bound to learn a thing or two, especially when it comes to diversity that is on the market today!