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Best Guitar Tuners – The Only 3 Tuners You’ll Ever Need (2024)
📅 Published : - Author : Dan Kopilovic
📌 Posted under: Gear Guide
Guitar tuners are absolutely essential tools for guitarists, and buying a proper tuner is probably the first thing a guitar player should do after returning from the store with their first guitar.
Sure, we live in a time when apps can transform smartphones into tuners, but phones have limits, and in real-world scenarios, nothing beats an actual tuner. I’ve even done a comparison between all the tuners that I had on hand for this review and found out that even the most accurate apps, like the for PC, paired with a quality microphone, cannot compete with a proper tuner like a Peterson StroboClip HD.
Also, tuners are really not that expensive, and pretty much everyone can afford the cheapest tuner that I recommend, which is featured on this list. But since you’re already here, I’m guessing you don’t need any convincing that you need a tuner, so let’s get on with this list.
As a little note – because these types of lists usually suck, and are nowadays just random bunch of words generated by AI with no human input – I bought most of the tuners mentioned here with my own money and tested them out personally. I had one more tuner, which upon arriving, ended up being a disappointment, even though reviews online say it’s good.
Short Lesson on Guitar Tuners
I know you want to skip straight to the list, but there are some things that you gotta know about guitar tuners. First and foremost, you need to know what types of guitar tuners exist, both by function and by the way they operate
Types of Guitar Tuners by Function
Clip-on Tuners: These tuners clip onto a guitar’s headstock, and they measure the accuracy of the note with a built-in sensor called the “Piezo” sensor. They are great for tuning acoustic/classical guitars, particularly in loud environments.
Standalone Tuners: These tuners are basically small standalone devices that usually have a built-in microphone and in some cases a jack input. In my opinion, the affordable ones are usually not that great and should be avoided. They are on par with a phone app.
Pedal Tuners: Pedal tuners are the types of tuners that stand on the ground, and you plug your guitar directly into them. They are what most professional guitar players use during live gigs.
Types of Guitar Tuners by the Way They Tune
Chromatic Tuners: A chromatic tuner tunes to any note from the chromatic scale, one string at a time. (E, B, D, G, A, and E are all notes from the chromatic scale, of course).
Polyphonic Tuners: These tuners allow you to tune all strings at once. Cool as an idea, but most people tend to prefer tuning string by string.
Strobe Tuners: These tuners are basically like chromatic tuners, but more precise. They use a rotating disc and stroboscopic display to show the tuning with a high degree of accuracy, with the motion on the display indicating whether the note is sharp or flat.
Key Things to Look in a Guitar Tuner
In my experience, there are three things to consider when searching for a guitar tuner. Those are precision, display quality, and build quality.
If the point of the tuner is to tune the guitar, then a tuner should obviously be accurate. Otherwise, we’d all be playing the wrong notes, and we’d all sound different.
On paper, most tuners offer accuracy up to +/- 1 cent, which is basically like splitting the space between the frets on your guitar neck into 100 partitions. A visual representation of 1 cent is one of those partitions.
So 1 cent is more than enough. We all probably “de-tune” strings by more than 1 cent just by pressing them down with our fingers.
However, even with such accuracy some tuners are inconsistent. So when I say precision, I mean accuracy paired with consistent results. That’s what you should look for.
A quality display is vital for usability in different lighting conditions. In the photo below, I compared the Snark SN-8 with a Peterson StroboClip HD under direct sunlight.
The Snark was almost completely unusable, while on the Peterson you could actually see whether you’re in tune or not.
So, when I look out for a good tuner, I look for a great display. What’s the point of a tuner if it cannot convey information to you at all times?
Obviously, when you buy something, you want it to last, so you don’t have to buy it again. All of the tuners presented here were, in my opinion, built to last – even the cheapest Snark.
The Best Guitar Tuners Currently on the Market in 2024
1. Peterson StroboClip HD
Peterson StroboClip HD, is, in my opinion, the only guitar tuner you’ll really ever need in your life. It works on every type of guitar, it’s easy to, use, and it’s very precise and consistent.
However, no guitar tuner is perfect, so let me explain to you what are some of the bad things about it, and why overall, the good things still prevail.
Peterson StroboClipHD is made from really good materials. We’ve all been spoiled with the quality of our iPhones and Samsungs, but the world of guitar tuners is not as refined as the world of smartphones. You don’t get aluminum and titanium, you get bad plastic, good plastic, and occasionally – some sort of metal alloy.
StroboClipHD was made from that good plastic, and you can tell just by holding it that this is a premium quality product. There are some jagged edges and some
However, I must mention that the protection on the display is pretty much the same hardness as my old Tamagotchi. Not good at all!
Decent Battery Life
It came as a surprise to me that the battery in Peterson StroboClipHD lasts a pretty long time. For some reason, the first bar goes on pretty quickly, and the second one follows also fairly quickly, but I’ve been on the last bar for months now.
The main reason for this is that the tuner turns off automatically when you stop tuning, which saves a lot of battery life.
One small minus is that the process of installing the battery could’ve been done better. As I explained in my full review of the Peterson, you have to unscrew the circular cover on the back of the tuner, which isn’t that easy to do if you don’t have tougher nails or a proper tool.
Peterson StroboClipHD has a great display. Again, we’ve been spoiled with the quality of the screens on our smartphones, but when it comes to guitar tuners – I haven’t seen a clip-on tuner with a better display than this.
Even in the photo above, which was taken on a summer day in direct sunlight, you can clearly see which note you’re tuning, and how far from being in tune you are.
Easy and Precise Tuning
The process of tuning you’re guitar on the Peterson just feels so much better and more precise than on a regular chromatic tuner. Strobe tuners are really something special, and if you have the means, go get yourself one.
As you can see in the video above, you have these strobe patterns shown on the display in two separate rows, and you don’t stop tuning your guitar until the strobe stops spinning.
Things I Didn’t Care about on the Peterson StroboClipHD
There are some things that I just didn’t care about on the Peterson StroboClipHD.
For instance, Peterson really pushes hard their “Sweetened” tunings feature. This is basically a bunch of presets that one would use in really specific scenarios. For example, you can tune your guitar specifically for using a capo, or you can tune your guitar to play better at higher frets, to be better intonated.
Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I really couldn’t care for this less. But if you yourself are into this sort of stuff, then that’s even better – one more reason to get the StroboClip!
Also, the way you adjust the “head” of the tuner is sort of fiddly, and sometimes you’ll not be sure whether there’s still place for adjustment, or whether you’re on the brink of breaking it.
As I’ve already said in the opening paragraph, I really think the Peterson StroboClip is the best guitar tuner on the market, and in my time owning it, I never wished to have another tuner.
It’s good for beginners, it’s better for professionals, and it’s amazing for anyone doing any sort of guitar fixing. I sometimes do guitar setups for my friends, and this tuner never lets me down when it comes to stuff like adjusting intonation.
Note: Since I wrote this, Peterson released a refreshed version of this tuner, called the StroboClipHDC. I recommend that you get that instead, as it has an even better display and a rechargeable battery. Everything else is pretty much the same as the old version.
If you’re not really into clip-on tuners, but you still want a good, reliable, and precise tuner, the Boss TU-3 is the tuner to buy.
This is pretty much what the pros use, and it’s the tuner that you want to have on your pedalboard if you’re performing live, or you often play standing up.
But let’s see why exactly the Boss TU-3 became such a popular choice among guitar players, why I think it’s the pedal tuner out there, and also what are some of the bad things about it.
If you ever owned any type of Boss pedal, you know that they are made to last. Their stomp pedal design has become such a classic in the world of guitar gear and for a good reason.
It just works, and its durability has been tested out through the decades, basically since the 70s.
Boss TU-3 is basically a tuner packed into that timeless design, that is proven to be durable and can withstand almost any amount of violence. And you really do need that in a pedal tuner, because you’re gonna end up stomping on that thing with your foot, and you don’t want something to break.
Battery Life Sucks
One thing that sucks about this tuner is that you just won’t have a good time if you plan to use it with a battery. For some reason, and I went over this in my full review of the TU-3, the battery drains even when the tuner is off and the cable is plugged in. I don’t know whether this is just a physics thing, but in any case, it’s a horrible flaw in my opinion.
So, if you’re getting a TU-3, or any pedal tuner for that matter, always use it with a power adapter. Or better yet, buy one of those pedalboard power supply banks, and power it through that.
The Display is Made to Be Visible in Any Scenario
One of the main reasons why I recommend this tuner is the display and the way it conveys information to the player.
Many guitar tuners nowadays have digital LCD displays, which sometimes are just not good enough – especially in direct sunlight.
Boss solved that problem by having a separate way for the guitarist to see how far off they are from being in tune. Above the normal LCD display, they added a bunch of LEDswhich all light up separately, and are very easy to see even in worst-case scenarios.
Also, the tuner has a high-contrast mode, which in my opinion, should always be on.
There’s really not too much to talk about when it comes to the Boss TU-3. This tuner is simple, reliable, classic, and will not let you down.
It’s been used by the pros for a reason, and if you see yourself as a type of guitar player who likes playing standing up, you often practice with the band and play live, I don’t see what else you would want from a guitar tuner.
Just because two of my top guitar tuners are both premium, relatively highly-priced tuners, I decided to search for a tuner that would be good for someone on a budget.
Nowadays, there are a lot of those on the market, and it’s hard to tell which are crap, and which are good. After using the Snark ST-8 for around 3 years now, I think I found the perfect one.
Perfect Balance Between Quality and Cost
Snark SN-8 is made of plastic, and while it doesn’t project the same type of build quality as the Peterson StroboClip HD, it’s actually not that bad. Especially at this price point.
The design is very simple and pleasing, and I was surprised to learn that the tuner is bigger in size than the Peterson.
The Display Is Good (But Far From Perfect)
The display on the Snark ST-8 looks amazing, as long as you’re not viewing it under direct sunlight.
If you look at the image above, you’ll see that while on the Peterson you can see the note and the strobe pattern, on the Snark it becomes very hard to tell what’s going on.
It looks better on camera than it does in real life, because you always have to chase the perfect angle with your eyes to be able to see what’s going on on the display.
The Tuner is Highly Adjustable
One thing that Snark does right, and perhaps even better than Peterson, is how they designed the mechanism by which you adjust the “head” of the tuner.
As you can see in the photo above, both ends of the middle part have these balls which can rotate 360 degrees. This means that you adjust the tuner however you like It, practically with no limitations.
Using the Tuner is Simple and Convenient
Ever since I bought this tuner, which was around three years ago, it’s been sitting on the headstock of my classical Joan Cashimira guitar. I never take it off, and I replaced the battery only once.
What I want to say by that is that the Snark ST-8 is just so easy to use, and it doesn’t get in your way. You pick up your guitar, you notice a string or two are out of tune, you turn on the tuner, and within seconds you’re good to go.
It Has a Metronome (and it Sucks)
Snark ST-8 comes with a built-in metronome. As I explained in my full review of the Snark, this feature is in my opinion just a gimmick. This so-called metronome works by showing you a heart icon on the display, and the way you keep time is by looking at the heart, which is blinking at the set tempo.
I have not seen something so useless and so poorly executed in my life, it’s a complete disaster. But this is a tuner, not a metronome, so all is forgiven.
At this price point, every guitarist should just get a bunch of Snark tuners, so as to always have one on hand. They are just so convenient to have, and they don’t cost that much at all.
And while I still think that the Peterson StroboClip is the king of guitar tuners, I won’t recommend it to everyone. If I’m talking to a beginner, or someone who’s taking the guitar more casually, I’m more inclined to go with the Snark.
When tuning a string on your guitar, always sneak up to the note from behind. In other words, don’t chase the note by releasing the tension of the string, but by increasing it. Always tune up, not down!
You should do this because when you tune down, strings tend to skip because there’s friction involved.
2. Be Mindful of Tuner Placement
Whether you’re using a clip-on tuner or a standalone tuner, be mindful of where and how you place it.
A clip-on tuner should be attached firmly to the headstock of your guitar, with both the upper and the lower part of the “claw” completely touching the surface.
If you’re using a standalone tuner, or your phone with an app, be mindful of where the microphone is on the tuner. Try to place the microphone near the place where the strings resonate the most – around the middle of the guitar’s neck.
3. Evaluate the Quality of Your Tuning Pegs
One crucial thing about being able to tune your guitar precisely, and to keep it there, are the tuning pegs on your guitar.
Cheap guitars come with cheap tuning pegs, and you have to account for that. If you have to re-tune your guitar every time it’s been sitting for a few hours, replacing the tuning pegs is something to consider.
4. Lubricate at Friction Points
Aside from the tuning pegs, friction also plays a big part in how stable the guitar is, when it comes to keeping in tune.
Many guitar luthiers use graphite lubricants like this one from MusicNomad at the points on the guitar where strings cause friction. Most importantly – at the nut, the string trees, and on some models, the bridge saddles.
Advice on App-Based Tuners
As I already mentioned, I have nothing against app tuners. However, in most cases, an actual tuner will be better.
But, I see nothing wrong with using an app (I like GuitarTuna myself). If it helps you to learn, if it causes few people to quit playing the guitar because of frustration, I can’t see why would anyone hate this method of tuning, or be a snob about it.
Other Tuners I Tried and Wish To Try
In my search for the best guitar tuner, I tried a bunch of different tuners.
I tried the Korg GA-40, which I had on the first version of this page published years ago. However, things changed since then, and now I don’t see how it’s better than a phone with an app like GuitarTuna.
I also briefly tried the very popular TC Electronics Polytune, and I intend to buy one and do a full review, but they are hard to come by in this part of the world.
I tried the Korg Pichblack, both the old version and the new Pitchblack X. In my mind, Boss TU-3 is just a miles better pedal tuner.
I really wish to get my hands on a Korg OT120, which could be an actual good standalone tuner. I’m also interested in getting and writing a review on the Peterson StroboStomp, to see how it compares to Boss TU-3.
After testing all these tuners, I can say that I’m pretty happy with my list. I definitely plan on reviewing more tuners in the future, particularly those mentioned in the last section, but I think these three will do for now.
I can honestly say that I tried and tested all these tuners, and I hate seeing articles online that just post a bunch of random stuff on a page and call it a review. I also don’t see a point in recommending dozens of tuners like most of those websites do, because it’s really not that complicated.
A guitar tuner is made to do a simple thing – to help you with tuning your guitar. The only question that one should ask themselves when buying one is how would they want their tuner to work. Would they like a clip-on tuner, a tuner with a microphone, or a tuner that has a jack input?
I plan on updating this list, as I’ve done since I published the first version in 2013.
If you have any questions or you’d like to share your experience with a particular tuner, or perhaps recommend one I should review, please leave a comment below.
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