The guitar tuner is perhaps the one piece of equipment we depend on the most, and think about the least. There are so many options available that it can get a bit overwhelming when its time to pick the best guitar tuner for your particular needs. With this post we hope to make that process a little easier by pointing out certain characteristics that every good guitar tuner should have.
What makes the best guitar tuner?
Guitar tuners come in a lot of different shapes and sizes. They range from clipping contraptions, to floor pedals, to embedded electronics. However, there are certain things that you should always look for in order to identify a quality tuner. The following key points should help narrow down the search.
There is nothing more frustrating than trying to tune your guitar in between songs using a bad tuner. Your singer will probably have to kill time for you by small talking the crowd, or much worse, by trying to give his standup comedy routine a test drive. I’ve been there, and it can be downright embarrassing. A precise guitar tuner can spare you a lot of time and grief. The quicker you can get an accurate reading, the quicker you can move on to the next song on your set list.
If you are looking for the ultimate in accuracy, the Peterson Strobo series is the best guitar tuner in that category – and they are priced accordingly. They are offered in a handheld and clip-on version. If you ever wonder what the guitar techs of the rich and famous use, this is it. For more details and pricing click the links below.
If the Cadillac of guitar tuners is not within your budget, keep reading, there are plenty of other options.
The Boss TU series
What good is a guitar tuner if it will leave you stranded in the middle of a gig? If you are looking for a tuner that is built like a tank, then Boss is your brand. I know there are others, and they build very sturdy units, but Boss is the king when it comes to building stomp boxes since the 70’s, and there is a reason why they still around today.
The image above is from my actual Boss TU-2. As you can see it has seen better days, but it still works like a champ and it has never let me down. Click the link below for current pricing and additional details.
There is also an updated version called the TU-3. It has an all digital display and the same all-metal housing.
For more details and pricing click here: Boss TU3 Chromatic Tuner Pedal
Oh, and Boss even makes a version with no mute pedal.
I know, this is kind of weird, but I guess it works for the guitarist that just wants the tuner on at all times – just make sure that you have some other means to mute your guitar.
The TC Electronic PolyTune 2
The PolyTune is another excellent choice if you prefer a stomp box type tuner. TC Electronics builds excellent quality products and this is no exception. It features a large – and very bright – display that displays a representation of each string. This feature makes adjusting your tuning a breeze.
Other Form Factors
This subject is really a matter of personal taste, and how much you value convenience. Manufacturers have come up with some pretty clever ways of making guitar tuners for just about every need.
The clip-on tuner
This is my personal favorite and the one that I’m currently using. A company named Stark build these units and they are fairly inexpensive. Some might think that it’s an eye-sore because of the placement, but to me the convenience of having my tuner handy regardless or where you are standing is more important. For these reasons, this is the best guitar tuner for me. Click on the image below for pricing and features.
The on-board tuner
This is a clever idea, but requires some electronics know-how, or a qualified guitar tech to get it installed. I am not entirely convinced on the placement since your hand might be in the way while you try to pluck your guitar strings blocking the tuner display.
The “I have no idea where to put it” tuner
Boss has been making the TU-12 for a very long time, and I’ve seen many creative attempts to adding them to guitar rigs; some with more success than others. Regardless, a lot of pros swear by them. If form factor is not really an issue, this tuner is a great choice. The latest version is the TU-12EX. More details on the links below.
So what is the best guitar tuner?
As you can tell, there are a lot of options for guitar tuners. I think the best approach to selecting one is to qualify your current needs. Do you play in large stages? Then an on board solution might be the way to go since running back and forth to your pedal board might be a hassle. Do you play with a keyboard player? Then a Peterson might be justifiable since you have to be dead on with your tuning; otherwise the keyboard player might throw something at you. Are you less than civilized with your pedal board? An all-metal stomp box might serve you better.
But who are we kidding? At the end of the day we might need multiple tuners to meet different situations. And to me, that’s just another excuse to get more gear!
Until next time,