Of all the gadgets that we tend to put between our guitars and amps, the electronic tuner is one of the most essential. Whether you just need to keep guitars in tune around the house or you perform in situations where playing in tune is critical there’s really no substitute to having some visual backup to what your ears are telling you about your instrument’s tuning. Most tuners these days are reliably accurate, but differences do exist in how precisely a tuner interprets string pitch. If you are especially picky and/ or planning to use your tuner to make intonation adjustments on your guitar’s bridge, check the manufacturer’s accuracy specs. Chromatic tuners–ones that can display all 12 notes of the scale–are pretty much the norm now, and many offer things like adjustable reference pitch (typically several settings above and below 440 Hz), as well as presets that allow you to drop tune or change to open tunings without having to even think about the notes involved.
Some tuners have what are called “sweetened” tunings that aim to provide more consistent intonation in all reaches of the fretboard, and a number of them also support the Buzz Feiten Tuning System, which offsets string pitches in a prescribed manner to accomplish the same goal of making a guitar sound more “musically” in tune. You can also program some models with your own custom tunings. Tuners might also incorporate built-in metronomes, and some-mostly app types–can offer chord charts and other learning functions. And beck, who doesn’t want to be able to check their email and texts after tuning up?
As to the type of tuner that best suits your needs, “clip-on”-style models that attach to the guitar’s headstock score highly for convenience. Some have both mic and piezo sensors, and the ones with rotatable LCD screens (or automatic screen orientation) make it possible to place them wherever space allows and still be able to easily see the readout.
If a pedal-style or rack-style tuner is in the offing, you may want to consider a true-bypass type that keeps the tuner’s electronics from messing with your guitar signal Most pedals automatically mute the output when switched on, and some also have a secondary “thru” or “bypass” out that passes signal whether the tuner is on or off. Some rack tuners have dual inputs and outputs, which further enhances their flexibility, and there are also wireless systems that feature pedalboard receivers with built-in tuners. If you go wireless, these types can simplify your setup and free up space that would otherwise be dedicated to a separate tuner pedal.
The type of display is an important consideration, too. Some people read a moving “needle” or an LED segment more easily than a strobe readout (which is typically more precise), and advanced tuners may have several display options that you can choose from, depending on your preference. The ability to adjust the brightness of the display to suit ambient lighting conditions Is another hip feature offered in some tuners (some of which even do this automatically). LEDs can be intensely bright, and while that may be a boon when playing in full sun, being able to tame those things in a dark environment can prevent unwelcome retina freakouts.
The 29 of best tuner pedals we’ve called out in this report represent a goodly chunk of what is out there in the market, and with many more to choose from at all price points, it’s a sure thing there’s one out there that will fit your needs and budget. And remember, simplicity is often a benefit when it come to tuners, so don’t feel bad if just a basic box with a trio of LEDs does the job for you.
- Model: Freedom One WT1. Manufacturer: Intellitouch. Special Features: Wireless system with integrated receiver/tuner. 30-foot range.
- Model: GLX-D system with GLXD6 Wirelass Guitar Pedal. Manufacturer: Shure. Special Features: GLXD6 receiver/tuner mounts On pedalboard.
- Model: Pitchblack Chromatic Pedal Tuner Manufacturer: Korg. Special Features: True bypass. Strobe, half strobe, meter, and mirror display modes.
- Model: SN-10. Manufacturer: Snark. Special Features: True bypass, Pitch calibration, Metal housing.
- Model: PW-MT-02. Manufacturer: Planet Waves. Special Features: Chromatic tuner and full-featured metronome, Pitch pipe function, Built-in mic.
- Model: Model Polytune 2. Manufacturer: TC Electronic. Special Features: Simply strum strings to tune. Chromatic or strobe single-string tuning modes, Automatically adjusts display for ambient lighting conditions..
- Model: TU-3. Manufacturer: Boss. Special Features: LED meter with brightness control, Flat mode for dropped tunings, Out and Bypass jacks..
- Model: VSS-C. Manufacturer: Peterson. Special Features: Large, high-contrast display, Active DI out, USB jack for programming via PC or Mac..
- Model: Boutique Series Unity. Manufacturer: Rocktron. Special Features: Display adjusts automatically for ambient lighting condition. Selectable strobe mode. Can be calibrated to match pitch of any instrument or audio source.
- Model: Pitchblack Pro. Manufacturer: Korg. Special Features: Strobe, half-strobe, and meter display modes. Built-in cable tester.
- Model: VSR-StroboRack. Manufacturer: Peterson. Special Features: Accurate to 0.1 cent. Built-in mic. 24 “sweetened” tunings. 25 user presets.
- Model: VersaTune. Manufacturer: Rocktron. Special Features: Standard, Precision, and Strobe modes. True bypass. Dual inputs and outputs. Built-in library with hundreds of tunings.
- Model: FT-1. Manufacturer: Fishman. Special Features: Mic and vibration sensor. Entire display turns green to easily see when you’re tuned.
- Model: PU30 Manufacturer: Ibanez. Special Features: Chromatic and standard tuning modes. Accurately tunes 7- and 8-string guitars. Self-orienting display.
- Model: Ukulele Electronic Tuner. Manufacturer: Lanikai. Special Features: Supports all ukulele tunings and works with other stringed instruments.
- Model: CT-20 Manufacturer: Samson. Special Features: Display rotates 360 degrees, Built-in mic and piezo sensor.
- Model: TU-10. Manufacturer: Boss. Special Features: True Color LCD. Accu Pitch function. Flat tuning up to five semitones.
- Model: FCT-012 Manufacturer: Fender. Special Features: Chromatic type with modes for guitar, bass, ukulele, and violin.
- Model: CT1 Capo Tuner Manufacturer: Intellitouch. Special Features: Chromatic tuner and capo. Arrow display with multicolor backlight.
- Model: NS Micro Headstock Tuner Manufacturer: Planet Waves. Special Features: Ultra-compact, Multi-color display, Visual metronome.
- Model: SN-8 Manufacturer: Snark. Special Features: Display rotates 360 degrees. Tap-tempo metronome.
- Model: Chromatic Tuner Manufacturer: Bitcount. Special Features: Tuner and pitch pipe. Unique “note wheel” interface. Uses iPhone’s built-in mic or an external mic with iPad.
- Model: Tuna Pitch Manufacturer: Felt Tip. Special Features: Tuner and pitch pipe. Utilizes iPhone’s onboard mic. Select from five different notation systems.
- Model: UltraTuner Manufacturer: IK Multimedia. Special Features: Accurate to below one-hundredth of a cent. Stage and Studio modes; the latter lets you monitor pitch over time.
- Model: iStroboSoft HD Manufacturer: Peterson. Special Features: For iPad only. Large note display. Manual note select. VGA output for projecting display in teaching environments.
- Model: Gibson App Manufacturer: Gibson. Special Features: Tuner and metronome. 30 chord charts. Lessons and more.
- Model: Fender Guitar Tuner Manufacturer: Fender. Special Features: Online tuner with real-time pitch reference for standard and alternate tunings. Loop mode.Price Free.
- Model: Perfect Tune Manufacturer: Mosquito Digital. Special Features: Retro-style display..
- Model: TuneUp Manufacturer: Planet Waves. Special Features: Chromatic, standard, and common alternate tunings. Four display options. Dedicated modes for guitar, bass, and many other stringed instruments.