The Best Guitar Tuners: Clip On, Pedal, Rackmount & Handheld

The Highest Rated Guitar Tuners

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No matter your skill level or experience, there's no getting around the importance of having a properly tuned instrument. Thankfully, tuning is made accurate and convenient by electronic tuners, and here we look at the best of them.

For this November 2020 update we expanded our short-list to 48 tuners, which entailed the gathering and analysis of over 70,700 owner and user opinions to bring you recommendations that represent current market sentiment.

Whether you play Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Acoustic-Electric Guitar, Bass or Ukulele we've got you covered for your tuning needs.

The Best Guitar Tuners

Author & Contributors

Alexander BrionesAlexander Briones

He's written about and researched music gear for many years, while also serving as a music director at his local church, in addition to teaching guitar, bass and mentoring young musicians.

The Best Clip On Tuners

These have become the most popular form factor for guitarists as they're small and easy to carry around with you. They also tend to be quite inexpensive compared to other types which means many guitarists often buy a couple of them at a time. This year Snark dominates the ratings, but if you don't want this brand then the KLIQ UberTuner is a worthy alternative.

Snark SN-1X

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 1500+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$12
Snark SN-1X Clip-On Tuner

At publication time this was the Equal Highest Rated Clip-On Tuner along with the Snark ST-2.

The Snark SN-1X is a stripped down version of the Snark ST-2, without the built-in mic - designed specifically for guitars. As such, it is slightly more affordable, while offering the same functionalities that you need to get your guitar in tune.

This version of the Snark also works as a chromatic tuner and allows flat tuning and works with a capo.

It also includes a tap tempo metronome that gives you visual cues of the beat.

It doesn't have special modes for alternate tunings such as DADGAD but you can tune to those in chromatic mode.

Specifications:

  • Tuning Accuracy: Not Provided
  • Tuning Range: Not Provided
  • Reference Pitch: 415Hz-466Hz calibration
  • Tuning Modes: Guitar, Chromatic, Flat tuning and Transpose modes
  • Display: Full color, 360° rotation
  • Power Supply: CR2032 Lithium battery
  • Battery Life: Not Provided
  • Dimensions: 1.8" x 1.8" x 3.5"
  • Weight : 1.6 ounces

Pros
The bright multi-color display is well received in guitarist reviews. Quite a few bass players also give it the thumbs up. Many beginning guitarists say that it is very easy to use. Good value for money or words to that effect come up frequently in customer reviews. Some people report noticing faster reaction time than earlier Snark tuners.

Cons
There were no consistently reported negatives in customer reviews. One person claimed it used up the battery too quickly and another complained that the instructions they received weren't specific to this model. One person complained that it wasn't as accurate as a pedal tuner, but generally speaking, that is to be expected of clip-on tuners.

Overall
If value for money is your primary concern then it's hard to find anything that beats the Snark in this regard.

Snark SN-5X

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 17250+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$12
Snark SN5X Clip-On Tuner

The SN-5X takes the versatility of Snark's SN series up a notch by adding compatibility to violins. This means that multi-instrumentalists will only need one tuner for guitars, bass guitars, and violin.

It carries features that are similar to the SN1X, allowing it to work as a chromatic tuner for stringed instruments.

It also comes with a tap tempo metronome that utilizes visual cues instead of ticking sounds.

Specifications:

  • Tuning Accuracy: Not Provided
  • Tuning Range: Not Provided
  • Reference Pitch: 415Hz-466Hz calibration
  • Tuning Modes: Guitar, Chromatic, Flat tuning and Transpose modes
  • Display: Full color, 360° rotation
  • Power Supply: CR2032 Lithium battery
  • Battery Life: Not Provided
  • Dimensions: 1.8" x 1.8" x 3.5"
  • Weight : 1.6 ounces

Pros
Overall sentiment on the SN-5X is that it is money well spent. For the price, users appreciate its bright display and quick tuning response. And being a chromatic tuner also makes it easy to use on a wide variety of instruments, in addition to guitars, bass and violin.

Cons
For a few users, lack of information on battery life is a bit worrisome. There are also a few who caution that the clip mechanism requires handling care.

Overall
The Snark SN5X is your clip-on tuner of choice to use with both guitars and violin.

Snark ST-2

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 3250+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$13
Snark ST-2 Clip-on Super Tight Chromatic All Instrument Tuner

At publication time this was the Equal Highest Rated Clip-On Tuner along with the Snark SN-1X.

The Snark ST-2 is a clip-on chromatic tuner that's designed for acoustic instruments, primary of which is the acoustic guitar.

It features a compact profile that has endeared the Snark brand to many players, while housing a faster chip that improves the speed and accuracy of its tuning.

In addition to its vibration sensor, it also comes with a built-in microphone, which allows it to tune other instruments that it can't clip on to.

Other features include a 360 degree swivel, power save, tap tempo silent metronome, and transpose tuning.

Snark advises against using the ST-2 on instruments with sensitive finishes, like nitrocellulose lacquer, oil finish, polyurethane and French polish.

Specifications:

  • Tuning Accuracy: Not Provided
  • Tuning Range: Not Provided
  • Reference Pitch: 415Hz-466Hz calibration
  • Tuning Modes: Guitar, Chromatic, Flat tuning and Transpose modes, Built-in Mic
  • Display: Full color, 360° rotation
  • Power Supply: CR2032 Lithium battery
  • Battery Life: Not Provided
  • Dimensions: 1.8" x 1.8" x 3.5"
  • Weight : 1.27 ounces

Pros
Most reviewers point to the Snark ST-2's value for money and bright display as its best traits. Many are satisfied with its versatility and practicality, with its built-in mic and pivoted display. Even non-guitar players find themselves impressed with its overall accuracy and performance.

Cons
There are a few users who have qualms with its accuracy, stating that while its good enough for day to day use, it does not have the accuracy of a true chromatic tuner. There are also some who caution that the clips can break if not handled or used properly.

Overall
With its good overall market performance, the Snark ST-2 is a great tool for guitarists and multi-instrumentalists.

Snark ST-8

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 2900+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$14
Snark ST-8 Clip-on Super Tight Chromatic Tuner

The Snark ST-8 is versatile clip on tuner that works for various acoustic instruments.

It is attached to the headstock and captures pitch via the vibration of your instrument, and lets you tune to standard or flat tuning. It can also be transposed in case you need to calibrate your guitar to another instrument.

Another nifty feature is its built-in metronome, which makes this good for practice as well.

Finally, the Snark ST-8 has a rotating display so you can get a good view of the tuner regardless of your height or playing position.

Specifications:

  • Tuning Accuracy: Not Provided
  • Tuning Range: Not Provided
  • Reference Pitch: 415Hz - 466Hz
  • Tuning Modes: Guitar, Chromatic, Flat tuning and Transpose modes
  • Display: Full color, 360° rotation
  • Power Supply: 1 x CR2032 Lithium battery
  • Battery Life: Not Provided
  • Dimensions: Not Provided
  • Weight : 2.4 ounces

Pros
"It works" is a statement that nicely summarizes how most people feel about this tuner. It gets the job done, and does so without being a distraction, thanks to its small profile which many appreciate. Many use this tuner on their acoustic guitars with good results, while others report that it works just as well with electric guitars, bass, fiddle and ukuleles. Ease of use and easy storage are some more of it many positive traits.

Cons
There are some who feel that battery life should be longer. And there are a few who report having issues with its swivel and clip mechanism after some use.

Overall
With its price tag and flexibility, the Snark ST-8 is a good tuner for multi-instrumentalists who want an affordable and discrete clip-on tuner.

The Best Pedal Tuners

Although clip-on tuners are all the rage these days, there are still many guitarists who prefer to have their tuner on their pedalboard. The advantages are that they mute the signal when tuning, are less susceptible to interference from any noise on stage than clip-ons, and some guitarists don't like the look of having something on their headstock while playing in front of an audience.

TC Electronic Polytune 3

97
GEARANK

97 out of 100. Incorporating 1350+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$99
TC Electronic Polytune 3 Guitar Tuner Pedal

At publication time this was the Equal Highest Rated Pedal Tuner along with the Peterson StroboStomp HD.

The original Polytune went beyond what's expected from tuners, with its polyphonic tuning function, where in the pedal can detect multiple pitches so you can tune all your strings simultaneously.

The same technology is carried over with the TC Electronic PolyTune 3, with some added features that include switchable true bypass and buffered bypass via internal DIP switches.

Other features include alternate tuning modes, selectable reference pitch and a more precise strobe tuner mode.

Finally, it comes equipped with a smart LED display that automatically adjusts brightness depending on how dark or bright the environment is.

Specifications:

  • Tuning Accuracy: ±0.5 cent (Chromatic), ±0.02 cent (Strobe)
  • Tuning Range: E0 (20.6Hz)–C8 (4186Hz)
  • Reference Pitch: Switchable
  • Tuning Modes: Capo, Drop Tuning, PolyTune
  • Display: LED
  • Bypass: Switchable True Bypass or Buffered
  • Power Supply: 9V Battery, Optional 9V DC Power Supply
  • Battery Life: Not Specified
  • Dimensions: 2.8" ( 72 mm) x 4.8" (122 mm) x 2.0" (50 mm)
  • Weight: 9.6 oz (272 g)

Pros
The TC Electronic PolyTune 3 continues to receive many favorable responses, and they come from musicians who play various instruments, from acoustic-electric guitars, to 5-string bass, to 7-string electric guitars and more. It is well received for being easy to use, and for its quick response, which makes tuning a painless process. Build quality is often lauded, while others are pleased with its auto-dim feature, which adjusts the brightness of the screen automatically.

Cons
There are a few who are not too happy with the polytune feature, stating that they still have to use chromatic tuning after just to keep the tuning accurate. There are also some feel that it is a tad bit over-priced.

Overall
The TC Electronic PolyTune 3 is currently the top rated tuner, hence it should be the first pedal to consider, especially if you want fast and accurate polyphonic tuning.

Boss TU-3

96
GEARANK

96 out of 100. Incorporating 3500+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$103
Boss TU-3 Chromatic Tuner Pedal

Boss are well known for building robust effects pedals, and that applies to the Boss TU-3, which is a favorite of many guitarists and bassists.

Not only does the TU-3 have guitar, bass and chromatic tuning modes, it can also display notes for 7 string guitars and 6 string basses.

Guitar mode also supports alternative drop tunings.

The optional PCS-20A Parallel Daisy Chain DC Cord (Link to Amazon) allows you to power up to 7 other pedals when using the tuner with the PSA-120S power adapter (Link to Amazon).

Specifications:

  • Tuning Accuracy: ±1 cent
  • Tuning Range: C0 (16.35Hz)–C8 (4186Hz)
  • Reference Pitch: A4=436 ti 445 Hz (1 Hz step)
  • Tuning Modes: Chromatic and Guitar/Bass mode (tune by string number, with support for 7-string guitars and 6-string basses)
  • Display: 21-segment LED meter with brightness control
  • Bypass: Buffered
  • Power Supply: DC 9 V: Dry battery 6F22 (9 V) type (carbon), Dry battery 6LR61 (9 V) type (alkaline), AC Adaptor (PSA series: optional) - can supply power for up to 7 Boss pedals
  • Battery Life: Not specified
  • Dimensions: 2-7/8" (73 mm) x 5-1/8" (129 mm) x 2-3/8" (59 mm)
  • Weight: 14 oz (390 g)

Pros
Although I didn't do a comprehensive count, I did notice the word "love" in more than a dozen positive customer reviews. Those who had upgraded from the earlier TU-2 were impressed by the increased level of accuracy of the TU-3. Many guitarists who had used it at outdoor venues praised the brightness of the display. Positive sentiment was evident from both electric and acoustic-electric players. The quality of the build also came in for much praise from those who had been using it for a long time.

Cons
There were few consistently reported negatives. A couple of people complained about the price and one person even suggested the power adapter should be included in the price - but this is rarely the case with guitar pedals in general.

Overall
Boss says the TU-2 was the highest selling pedal tuner in its day and the upgraded TU-3 appears to be the top selling one now.

Peterson StroboStomp HD

97
GEARANK

97 out of 100. Incorporating 450+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$139
Peterson StroboStomp HD Pedal Tuner

At publication time this was the Equal Highest Rated Pedal Tuner along with the TC Electronic Polytune 3.

Peterson is known for their high accuracy strobe tuners and this particular pedal stays true to their reputation.

But what sets this one apart is its emphasis on visuals, with a big display area that you can customize to your preference, like setting different tunings to specific colors.

This pedal is packed with functionality, with various open and alternate tuning presets and support for guitars with extended range (i.e. - 7-,8-,9-string guitars).

It also works with the various configurations of bass guitars and lap steel guitars.

Finally, it lets you choose between true bypass, buffered out and buffered monitor modes.

Specifications:

  • Tuning Accuracy: ±0.1 cent
  • Tuning Range: C0 - A#8
  • Reference Pitch: Concert A = 390Hz to 490Hz
  • Tuning Modes: 25 Tuning Modes ( various configurations of guitars, bass, lap-steel, banjo, mandolin and more)
  • Display: LCD screen with LED backlight
  • Bypass: Switchable: True Bypass, Buffered Output, Buffered Monitor
  • Power Supply: 9V Battery Included, Optional 9V DC Power Supply
  • Battery Life: Up to 30 Hours (Alkaline)
  • Dimensions: 2.75" (70 mm) x " (152 mm) x 2.64" (83 mm)
  • Weight: 13.92 oz (395 g)

Pros
Reviewers are quite satisfied with the Petereson StroboStomp HD, many of them say that the overall experience is better than their previous tuner, while some even go so far as to hail it as the best they've ever tried. As expected, most of the commendations credit its quick and accurate tuning for its high ratings, while many are also pleased by its build quality. Multi-instrumentalists find this pedal to be a very good investment.

Cons
While many are satisfied with its overall quality and performance, there are a few who caution that the pedal takes up quite a lot of space for a tuner.

Overall
Multi-instrumentalists who want an eye pleasing tuner pedal, in addition to a high degree of accuracy, will appreciate the Peterson StroboStomp HD.

The Best Handheld Tuner

Some handheld tuners have built-in stands and can also be referred to as Desktop Tuners. These types of tuners can be used with just about any type of instrument if they have built-in microphone or by plugging in directly.

Korg CA-50 Chromatic Tuner

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 800+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$20
Korg CA-50 Chromatic Tuner

At publication time this was the Highest Rated Handheld Tuner.

The Korg CA-50 is a battery-powered handheld tuner with needle type LCD interface.

To be able to handle different instrument types, it has a wide tuning range, and it also comes with a reference tone for tuning by ear, or for ear training.

It has an adjustable calibration range (410Hz–480Hz) and a power-saving feature that automatically turns the unit off when there is no activity, allowing for up to 135 hours of use on just 2 x AAA batteries.

Unfortunately it does not have a built-in mic so it will only work with those that have pickups.

Specifications:

  • Tuning Accuracy: ±1 cent
  • Tuning Range: A0-C8 (27.5-4186Hz)
  • Reference Pitch: C4-C5 = 261.63-523.25Hz
  • Tuning Modes: Meter, Sound Out
  • Display: LCD
  • Bypass: Buffered Bypass
  • Power Supply: Not Applicable
  • Battery Life: 2 x AAA (Up to 135 hours)
  • Dimensions: 0.67" x 2.64" x 3.94"
  • Weight: 2.86oz

Pros
Being intuitive seem to be the most common reason why the Korg CA-50 is highly rated. Users find it's LCD display and interface to be very easy to use, allowing for quick tunings. Versatility is another key factor in the Korg CA-50's success, satisfying musicians from various backgrounds, including guitarists, bassists and even harpists. It is also often commended for its portability and reliability.

Cons
The main downside with this tuner is that it doesn't come with a built-in mic, which limits its use to only pickup equipped instruments unless you also get a clip-on mic like Korg's CM200BK Clip-On Contact Mic (Link to Amazon).

Overall
If you're looking for a battery-powered tuner that you can carry around with you then this is for you.

The Best Rackmount Tuner

Some guitarists and bass players prefer to use rackmount effects instead of pedalboards, particularly for live use due to their greater visibility. Some people also have them in their studios.

Korg PB05 Pitchblack Pro

87
GEARANK

87 out of 100. Incorporating 500+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$100
Korg PB05 Pitchblack Pro Rackmount Tuner

At publication time this was the Highest Rated Rackmount Tuner.

The Korg Pitchblack Pro is a rackmount tuner based on their popular tuner pedal.

It houses the same 3D LED display, only this one is longer as ti goes horizontally through the front panel of its rackmount profile.

Like the pedal version, you can choose between Strobe, Half Strobe and Meter display modes.

One nifty feature is its built-in cable checker, which identifies bad cables by simply plugging them in to the unit. This expands the use of the Pitchblack Pro from being a tuner to also being a good gear maintenance tool.

Specifications:

  • Tuning Accuracy: ±0.1 cent
  • Tuning Range: E0-C8
  • Reference Pitch: A4 = 436Hz-445Hz
  • Tuning Modes: 92 (Guitar, Bass, Ukulele, Sitar, Harp, Orchestral etc.)
  • Display: LCD screen with LED backlight
  • Bypass: Buffered Bypass
  • Power Supply: 9V DC Power Supply
  • Battery Life: Not Applicable
  • Dimensions: 1.75" (45 mm) x 1.93" (49 mm) x 19" (483 mm)
  • Weight: 12 oz (340 g)

Pros
That the Korg PB05 Pitchblack Pro tuner "is a good buy", is a common sentiment in reviews. Owners describe it as easy to use and accurate, and it does the job well while being nice to look at. There also plenty of reports of its display being bright enough for use even in day time outdoor gigs.

Cons
While most are generally pleased with tis performance, there are some who are not too impressed with its polycarbonate chassis, which is not as sturdy as metal.

Overall
The Korg PB05 Pitchblack Pro is the highest rated rack tuner option currently available.

Things To Consider When Buying a Guitar Tuner

  • What Does 'Cent' Mean?

    A semitone is divided up into 100 cents on a logarithmic scale. A semitone is the difference in pitch between adjacent frets on a guitar. The accuracy of tuners are measured in cents.

  • Speed

    When performing live, you want a tuner that is fast - your audience didn't pay to watch or listen to you play the 'tuning song'.

  • Accuracy

    Most tuners are accurate enough for tuning in a live context, however when it comes to recording or working on your guitar's setup then you'll need to get a tuner that's as accurate as possible.

  • Acoustic Guitars Without Pickups

    Because you can't plug them into a tuner you need one that picks up vibrations directly such as clip-on or soundhole tuners, or one that has a built-in or attachable mic such as a handheld tuner.

  • Electric or Acoustic Guitars With Pickups

    You can use all types of tuners with these (other than soundhole tuners on electric guitars). Most guitarists in this situation prefer clip-on or pedal tuners.

  • Chromatic & Other Tuning Modes

    If you use non-standard tunings, such as DADGAD.for example, then you'll either need a tuner that has specific tuning modes that cater for the alternates you use or you will generally need one that supports chromatic tuning. Some more expensive tuners have many alternates pre-programmed and some will let you create user presets.

  • Silent Tuning

    With clip-on tuners, you can turn your guitar's volume down because they pick up the vibrations directly through your headstock. Pedal and Rackmount tuners have mute options.

  • Versatility

    Handheld tuners typically have both built-in mics and a 1/4" input that you can plug into so they work with just about every type of musical instrument. Clip-ons are also quite versatile working with most fretted instruments and some even work non-fretted stringed instruments and some also with brass instruments.

Best Guitar Tuner Selection Methodology

The first edition was published in 2017 and the latest edition was published on November 16, 2020.

We began by looking at the top selling and top customer rated tuner lists of the major American online music gear retailers. We then short-listed 48 tuners for further analysis. This process involved collecting information from over 70,700 different sources, including the most recent customer and expert reviews and forum discussions. All these data were then processed via the Gearank Algorithm to produce a Gearank Rating score out of 100 for each tuner. Finally, I selected the highest rated tuners in each category to recommend above. For more information about our methods please read How Gearank Works.

About the Author and Contributors

Here are the key people and sources involved in this guide's production - click on linked names for information about their music industry backgrounds.

Lead Author & Researcher

Alexander BrionesAlexander Briones

He's written about and researched music gear for many years, while also serving as a music director at his local church, in addition to teaching guitar, bass and mentoring young musicians.

Drawing from his experience in performing and recording, he teaches guitar and bass and mentors young artists to be better musicians. And when he is not busy playing or tinkering with musical gear, he puts on his entrepreneurial hat, which helps fund his passion for collecting guitars, mecha figures and Gunpla kits.

Contributors

Jason Horton: Supplemental writing, Editing and Illustrating.

Media

Main/Top Image: Produced by Gearank.com using photographs of the TC Electronic Polytune 3, Korg CA-50 and Snark SN-1X.

The individual product images were sourced from websites, promotional materials or supporting documentation provided by their respective manufacturers.

Comments

Would you rate the newer TC

Would you rate the newer TC Electronic PolyTune 3 higher than the the Boss TU-3?

We haven't rated the PolyTune

We haven't rated the PolyTune 3 yet so I can't say, I can say it's been getting good reviews so far.

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