It’s the guitarist’s equivalent of doing dishes; keeping your guitar in tune. It’s not fun, and most of the times you’d rather dive into playing straight away than waste precious minutes trying to achieve perfect tune. But then again, you want your guitar to sound like er, well, an actual guitar. You know, rather than a bunch of unrelated strings that have little else to do besides keep each other company.
- Do I Need a Tuner Pedal?
- What is a Polyphonic Tuner?
- Our Recommendations
- TC Electronic PolyTune 3 Polyphonic Tuner
- Boss TU-3 Chromatic Tuner
- Peterson StroboStomp HD Tuner Pedal
- D’Addario Accessories Chromatic Pedal Tuner
- Hotone Smart Tiny Tuner LED Guitar Pedal Tuner
- Snark SN-10S Pedal Tuner
- Korg FBA_PB-MINI Guitar Tuner
- NUX HD Pitch Mini Pedal Tuner
- GUITARX X9 – Guitar Tuner Pedal Mini
- KLIQ TinyTune Tuner Pedal for Guitar and Bass
And it’s here that a tuner pedal comes into the picture. Like a dishwasher takes the arduous out of cleaning cutlery, a tuner pedal helps you tune up quickly and efficiently. Let’s see why you’d want one before taking a look at the best tuners available on the market today.
Do I Need a Tuner Pedal?
Yes, a good tuner pedal can be worth its weight in gold as far as musical gear goes. It’s always important to keep your instrument in tune, more so when you’re preparing for a performance. A tuner pedal helps you do that quickly and accurately.
But what if you’re skilled enough to tune your guitar by ear? A tuner pedal can still prove useful nonetheless. When you’re under the glare of bright stage lights in a live performance, and with a lot of background noise, the pedal will help you stay in tune with less struggle. And speaking of noise, you’ll definitely appreciate being able to tune your instrument without alerting the audience — a good tuner pedal will have a footswitch for muting your signal.
What is a Polyphonic Tuner?
A polyphonic tuner allows you check your tuning on all strings at once. This is in contrast to a standard tuner, which lets you tune the instrument one string at a time. With a polyphonic tuner, you can identify where tuning anomalies lie without having to play every string individually; a single strum will be enough.
The device will have a display showing you the tuning status of all 6 strings. It might take a while to get used to this, but once you do, you’ll be able to hone in on which strings need adjusting with just a quick glance.
TC Electronic PolyTune 3 Polyphonic Tuner
If you’re inclined to the idea of being able to tune all your strings at once, look no further than the TC Electronic PolyTune 3. TC Electronic happens to be the very company that came up with the concept of polyphonic tuning — at least from the market’s perspective.
With the PolyTune 3, you’re getting a device that’s been refined over three generations, like the name indicates. It comes in the same lightweight, ultra-compact chassis as its predecessors to avoid taking up too much room on your board. TC Electronic have, however, brought a slew of improvements the most notable of which is a built-in BonaFide Buffer.
This allows you to choose between the all-analogue True Buffer and the signal-preserving True Bypass mode. With the former, the tuner provides a constant visual of your intonation as you play. The True Bypass mode will come in handy when you don’t want your signal interfered with. The PolyTune 3 offers chromatic and strobe tuning modes like its predecessors, but this time with the ability to store user preferences even when switched off.
Features and Specs:
- Supports drop and capo tunings
- Accuracy: 0.5 cents and 0.02 cents in chromatic and strobe modes respectively.
- Powered by 9V battery (no adapter included)
Boss TU-3 Chromatic Tuner
Like the PolyTune 3 above, the TU-3 is the third evolution on Boss’ flagship line. It aims to take off from where the TU-2 left off with a larger 21-segment LED display; this boasts of a high brightness mode to ensure visibility in all conditions. Be it midday, dusk or midnight, the TU-3 helps you see how close you are from perfect pitch with note name and LED indicators.
A simple set of controls lets you engage different modes with ease. The TU-3 has Chromatic/Chromatic Flat; Bass/Bass flat; and Guitar/Guitar flat modes. A ‘MODE’ button located beneath the display lets you switch between them. There’s also a ‘STREAM/CENT’ button to access variable functions when tuning.
As you get close to the correct pitch, the display guides you with red and green markers, in addition to yellow arrows. It’s here that you switch between CENT as you approach the center, and STREAM where the lights begin to flow slowly as you get closer to pitch. The TU-3 has an accuracy of +/-1 cent. It would’ve been nicer if the margin was a little narrower, but users have reported that the device is more precise than the designation indicates.
In typical Boss fashion, the TU-3 is designed to power up to 7 additional effects (all must be Boss products). You just hook up a daisy-chain cable to the 9V DC power supply and voila! No more tangled messes on your pedalboard.
Peterson StroboStomp HD Tuner Pedal
“You cannot be really ‘in tune’ unless you’re tuned by Peterson.” Ever heard something to that effect? Peterson, while not having the mainstream fame of their counterparts Boss, have earned themselves a rock-solid reputation on the music landscape. Trusted by some of the biggest names in the studio and on stage, Peterson are widely seen as the standard in tuning precision. The StroboStomp HD packs their latest technologies into a compact stompbox.
So, what does it look like? The first thing you notice on this device is the large LED-backlit, LCD display, the largest Peterson have fitted on a tuner so far. With user-configurable backlight colors, the screen lets you tailor the device for viewing in different levels of lighting. You can also assign colors to stock or custom presets for convenience.
Convenience is indeed the StroboStomp’s biggest selling point. You get 135 ‘Sweetened’ tunings; these are reference pitch points optimized for various instrument types to correct tuning issues. To let you upload your own presets, the device comes with a micro-USB port onboard. This can also be used to update the firmware.
Other features and Specs:
- 100% pop-free True Bypass, Pure Buffered Output, and Buffered Monitor modes.
- Support for: 6, 7, 8 & 9-string guitars; 4, 5 & 6-string basses; 8, 10, and 12-string steel guitars.
- Auto Transposition: Drop Tuning and Capo settings
- True Strobe 0.1 Cent accuracy
- Concert A-reference: 390-490 Hz.
- Powered by 9V Battery or AC.
D’Addario Accessories Chromatic Pedal Tuner
Well, how about a tuner from a string manufacturer? With close to 5 decades of experience in the field, you can bet that D’Addario know a thing or two about keeping a guitar in tune. Their Chromatic Pedal Tuner is one of the best mid-rangers currently available.
Packed in an aluminum chassis measuring 1.75 by 4.75 inches, the D’Addario Chromatic Tuner will find room on your board without crowding out other effects. At 12 ounces, it’s heavy enough to stay put when freestanding without weighing down your gig bag. It has a large, full-color LED screen that looks gorgeous and works even better, as you’ll soon find out.
At its core is a 32-bit chip with 4 times the processing power of a standard headstock tuner. With such a potent nucleus, the D’Addario pedal analyzes your tuning quicker and more precisely. The processor also allows for a more intuitive readout. The display shows the string name in large white LED, with indicators that go from red to yellow to green as you get closer in tune.
- True bypass accessible via a footswitch
- Calibration range: A-415 to A-475
- Accuracy: +/-0.5 Cent
- 9V battery onboard (adapter not included)
Hotone Smart Tiny Tuner LED Guitar Pedal Tuner
It’s not as innovative as the PolyTune 3, or nerdy like the StroboStomp or D’Addario unit above. But the Hotone Smart Tiny Tuner still earns a place on the table for one reason; it brings the one thing you’ve been missing so far. A volume knob.
The Smart Tiny Tuner allows you to control the output volume as you tune. Turn the knob all the way up and you get 12dB of clean boost. This decreases as you lower the volume, going to mute when you want to tune silently.
Sounds great, but how well is it equipped for the tuning business? Let’s see:
- Detection range: E0 (20.6 Hz) – C8 (4186 Hz).
- Accuracy: +/- 0.5 cent
- Chromatic 12-note equal tuning
- True Bypass accessible via footswitch
- LED Display
Pretty decent, huh? You’ll be surprised to see that the unit doesn’t sacrifice size for functionality. At 1.57 x 0.94 x 0.79 inches, the Smart Tiny Tuner actually has the smallest footprint so far. And it’s built to take a beating, housed in a rugged casing reinforced with a metal bar. So there’s no excuse for not carrying it along to all your gigs.
Snark SN-10S Pedal Tuner
Recall how the Boss TU-3 allows you to daisy-chain other effects to its power supply? The Snark SN-10S offers the same flexibility for a fraction of the price. It comes with 9V DC in and out jacks to allow you hook up up to 5 more pedals. Pretty neat, isn’t it?
Now, you might recall that Snark were one of the first manufacturers to adopt the clip-on tuner concept. For the SN-10S, however, they chose to go with a more familiar stompbox design. It comes in a die-cast metal casing that feels a little stout compared to other pedals, but you can be sure that the tuner will stand up to the rigors of heavy gigging.
Features and Specs:
- Full-color LED Display
- True bypass
- Fully chromatic
- Pitch calibration of 415 to 466 Hz.
You’ll note that Snark haven’t specified the tuning range and accuracy of this tuner. Still, users have reported that the SN-10S has great pitch accuracy, especially when you take into account its price tag. The vivid display is also readable in varying light conditions, providing readouts promptly and precisely. Additionally, you will find this unit much more responsive than other clip-on tuners from Snark.
Korg FBA_PB-MINI Guitar Tuner
Like the original, the PB-Mini is housed in a matte black aluminum case that feels as indestructible as it looks. Measuring 1.77 by 3.66 by 1.73 inches, this occupies about half the footprint. Korg have downsized the features to some extent, but you don’t really lose much functionality.
Let’s see what the PB-Mini has to offer:
- 7 Segment color display
- Display modes: Regular, Strobe & Half-strobe
- True bypassTuning Accuracy: +/- 0.1 cents
- Detection range: E0 (20.60 Hz) to C8 (4186 Hz)
- Calibration range: 436 — 445 Hz; 1 Hz steps.
- 12-note equal temperament
- Power supply: 9V battery or DC9V adaptor
As with most Korg products, the Pitchblack Mini packs lots of utility to match its great looks. The unit is highly responsive and accurate in operation. The large LED combined with a moving meter indicator provide excellent visibility in all conditions. It’s also pleasing to see that Korg have fitted the PB-Mini with anti-tipping stabilizers, a feature that was missing on the original.
NUX HD Pitch Mini Pedal Tuner
With its minimalist beige case punctuated by a large silver button and black lettering, the NUX HD Pitch Mini Pedal Tuner won’t turn as many heads as the Korg unit above. But behind the unassuming facade is a highly evolved tuner that deserves to be first on your signal chain. Employing the manufacturer’s latest technologies, this pedal tuner offers unrivaled precision with an ultra-quick response time.
- True Bypass/Buffered Bypass modes
- Dual LED displays for tuning status and note information
- Tuning range: A0 (27.5Hz) – C8 (4186Hz)
- Reference pitch: A4 (436-445Hz)
- Tuning Accuracy: +/-0.1 Cent
Okay, perhaps you’re wondering why this tuner needs 2 displays when the rest of the pack is content with one. Here’s how they work: The upper screen will have colored diamond-shaped visuals indicating the current tuning status. The lower display shows you the nearest note to the pitch.
You can choose between 2 tuning modes; Arrow and Strobe. With the former, the top display will show arrows pointing left if the pitch is flat, and right when it’s sharp. The center lights up when you achieve the instrument is tuned correctly. With the Strobe mode, the LEDs will flash from left to right if the pitch is flat, and vice versa when its sharp. You will tune till the indicators stop running. Sounds interesting enough?
GUITARX X9 – Guitar Tuner Pedal Mini
Whoever said that good things come in small packages must’ve been talking about the X9 Mini from GUITARX. At 3.7 by 1.2 by 1.5 inches, and with a weight of 0.8 oz, the word ‘small’ doesn’t even begin to describe its footprint. It’s one of those things that ‘gets lost’ in your bag or pant pockets.
But pray that you never misplace it, for the X9 Mini is bursting at the seams with utility. Just take a look at its key specs/features:
- True bypass
- Drop/flat tunings up to 4 semitones below standard pitch
- LCD Display
- Detection range: 27.5Hz (A0)~4186Hz(C8)
- Calibration range: 430-450 Hz.
- Tuning accuracy +-0.5 Cent
Being a clip-on tuner, the X9 Mini is very easy to use; you just clip it onto the headstock and it’ll pickup vibrations when you pluck a string. One button controls everything; you use it to switch the unit on/off, activate true bypass to mute the signal, or choose between modes. That means you can easily work the pedal with one hand. The LCD display is bright and large enough to view from multiple angles in both light and dark conditions.
It’s a little disappointing to see that the manufacturer doesn’t provide the 9V power supply required to run this device. But don’t let that dissuade you.
KLIQ TinyTune Tuner Pedal for Guitar and Bass
Yet another great option for those with crowded pedalboards, the KLIQ TinyTune packs ample utility into a petite 3.7-by-1.2-by-1.5-inch frame. Made of aluminum, the frame gives the device a solid, rugged feel unusual for such a diminutive build weighing just 4 oz. The front face looks somewhat dwarfed by the LCD display taking up just under half of its area — in a good way, of course. Bright and colorful, the screen offers great visibility under any lighting, and an impressively-wide viewing angle.
A chromatic tuner, the TinyTune has a tuning range spanning from A0 (27.5 Hz) to C8 (4186 Hz). Accuracy stands at +/-0.5 cent. A reference pitch calibration range of 430-450 Hz going up in 1 Hz steps provides a good degree of adaptability. The tuner’s also equipped for drop/flat tunings up to four semitones below normal pitch.
For the sake of simplicity, the TinyTune doesn’t provide multiple tuning modes. It also lacks an onboard power supply, with the manufacturer stating that this was a necessary omission given the tuner’s minute footprint. Nonetheless, you still get a true bypass mode accessible via a heavy-duty footswitch.
Once again, a tuner isn’t the most exciting piece of kit you can buy — it won’t turn your world upside down. Not compared to the thrill of getting your hands on a new guitar or distortion pedal. But the humble tuner pedal still remains one of the most crucial tools for guitarists. It allows you to tune your guitar precisely even in the most chaotic of environments. Not to mention being able to match your instrument to the rest of the band. Now that you’ve gone through your options, let’s hope that you’re in the position to pick the best tuner pedal for your needs.