Although a small and simple device, a guitar tuner is one of the most essential pieces of equipment for every guitar player. As the fast and convenient tuning is something we all want. Therefore, the following paragraphs are all about finding the best tuner you can find on the market. Also, we will try to give answers to some of the frequently asked questions about these devices.
What is a guitar tuner?
Whether it’s for an acoustic guitar or electric guitar, the basic principle is the same. A guitar tuner is a device that measures frequencies that are produced by string vibrations of a guitar. As each note is at a certain frequency, your tuner will inform you once the frequency of your string vibration becomes aligned with the frequency of a certain note. Moreover, most of today’s tuners also feature indicators that inform you if you’re too low or too high, as well as how far you are from the desired pitch. The best guitar tuner will provide the most accurate tuning to give you the best sound.
Are guitar tuners accurate?
Of course, this is one of the things that bother guitar players, especially beginners. Therefore, one of the things you should check when looking for the best guitar tuner is a so-called margin of error. A great thing to know is that most tuners you can buy these days are pretty amazing in this aspect. In most cases, the margin is less than +/-0.5 cents, which seems enough accurate for most guitar players. Moreover, I doubt you can find anyone that can hear such small errors.
Do I need a tuner for my guitar?
I believe that everyone needs a guitar tuner. Whether you are a beginner or a professional, this is an essential piece of guitar equipment. Before you start a practice or playing session, you need to check if your guitar is tuned. Moreover, you need to keep it in that way during the session and a guitar tuner is the most convenient way to do such a thing. Even if you have a perfect pitch, there are some situations when you can’t hear your instrument well, like live performances, and that’s where tuners really shine and can save your day.
Different Types of Guitar Tuners
We can say that there are practically three different tuner types on the market today. Those would be Clip-On tuners, Pedal tuners and Tuner Apps.
Clip on Tuners
As the name says, a clip on tuner clips on to an instrument. In the case of guitars, it is usually placed on the headstock. The way it works is that there is usually a sensor that picks vibrations from a guitar and measures frequency, which is later translated to a note name. These tuners are highly convenient, as they can be used on both electric and acoustic guitars. Moreover, they can be used for any kind of string instrument. Also, such design, which doesn’t include a microphone, is great because it doesn’t collect the environment noise, so you can use it for live performances and rehearsals as well.
These tuners come in the form of a pedal, like many other guitar effects. Therefore, such tuner can be used only for electric and electroacoustic guitars, as it receives an audio signal through a guitar cable. Such a design means its place is on your pedalboard. Compared to clip-on units, these tuners are more accurate and can come with some additional features as well.
The newest kind of guitar tuner comes in the form of software. These days, there are numerous tuner apps that are actually pretty accurate and work with great convenience. Of course, these are usually microphone-based tuners, so they are perfect for bedroom sessions. On the other side, they probably won’t work very well if there is too much environmental noise.
Single-String and Polyphonic Tuners
Here is another criterium to classify guitar tuners. On one side, there are single-string tuners, which can recognize only one frequency at a certain moment. Therefore, you need to tune stromgs one by one. On the other side, polyphonic tuners can recognize numerous frequencies simultaneously. So, all you need to do with such tuners is to strum all strings at once and you will see which strings are out of tune and which are okay.
However, it turned out that, in practice, polyphonic tuners aren’t significantly more convenient, as most players end up tuning strings one by one. Therefore, I think it’s far more important to get a tuner that is accurate, fast and easy to use.
Here are some of the best guitar tuners you can get on the market these days:
TC Electronic PolyTune 3
This is arguably the best pedal tuner on the market today. The third version of the industry's first polyphonic tuner comes with loads of amazing features. It is a typical stompbox tuner, which comes in a simple and small housing, with a highly transparent LED screen. The unit works fast and it is extremely accurate. Moreover, you can even use a so-called Strobe mode, which offers impressive +/-0.01 accuracy.
The updated version comes with a couple of nice additional features, including a built-in BonaFide buffer, which offers you a choice between analog and buffered bypass, which is a convenient feature if there are some long cables in your chain.
Korg AW-OTG POLY
Where TC Electronic PolyTune 3 stops, this one continues. The Korg AW-OTG POLY is one of the most versatile tuners on the market. One one side, it is a polyphonic tuner and it comes with a couple of different modes, including both strum and needle modes. On the other side, it is a clip-on tuner, so it can be used for any guitar and bass type.
This tuner is particularly great for kids and beginners, as there are various kinds of animated modes, as well as a chord finder. The accuracy is also on a pretty high level, as you may count on +/- 0.1 cent margin.
Peterson StroboClip Clip-On Strobe Tuner
This is another excellent clip-on tuner. Although it’s not a polyphonic tuner, it offers a variety of amazing features. Besides, excellent accuracy, it also comes with a fantastic display, which is simple and easy to read, but also provides you with all the necessary information.
We also like the fact that there are some nice extra features, such as Sweetened Tunings and presets for tuning a wide variety of instruments. This is great for musicians who play multiple string instruments.
Boss TU-3 Chromatic Tuner
The TU-3 is one of the household names when it comes to guitar tuners. This chromatic tuner comes in the company’s recognizable housing, which is solid as a rock and will last for decades. Also, the pedal is fulfilled with a great-looking old-school 23-segment LED display.
Besides typical tuning features, the pedal is also great if you want to provide your pedalboard with additional power, which goes around 200 mA if you use original boss supply. On the other side, the thing that tone purists won’t like is that the buffered bypass is the only in the offer. Still, that works okay for most players.
Tuner apps are a relatively new thing in the business but there are some pretty amazing products you can get. The Peterson iStrobosoft is a perfect example, as we are talking about an app that works both on iOS and Android mobile devices. It offers excellent accuracy, especially if you use the mode where you directly plug your guitar into the device, as you can purchase Peterson's own adaptor cable or use mini capsule mic.
Excellent accuracy and affordable price make this tuner an excellent choice, as long as you are ready to carry your mobile device with you.
D'Addario NS Micro Tuner
The best thing about this tuner is its size, which is among the smallest on the market. This means you can mount it on your headstock from the backside and no one will even notice that you’re using one of these. Despite the size and typical clip-on mechanism, it fits pretty much every guitar, bass guitar, banjo, mandolin etc.
The tuner by itself is easy to use. Just a couple of buttons and a small screen is all you get. Also, the tuner’s position is adjustable, so you can easily find a position that ensures the best possible visibility. The accuracy of 0.3 cents might not sound spectacular to you, but it does the job just fine.
This tuner app is a perfect choice for beginners but would do the job well for experienced players as well. Simply, this app has everything a guitar player needs to perfectly tune his instrument. It can be used on both acoustic and electric guitars, as well as on basses. Besides excellent graphics, it also offers decent accuracy of the basic version, which is completely free. Still, in-app purchase is required for better accuracy.
The app works on iOS and Android devices. You may count on a chord finder, as well as on numerous alternate tunings. Moreover, you can make your own tuning as well. Scale diagrams, drum beats and metronome are also included in this app.
Korg Pitchblack Advance