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

Guitar Tuners

Originally published on Mar. 29, 2017 and last updated on Apr 4, 2018 by Alexander Briones & Jason Horton.

Whether you play Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Acoustic-Electric Guitar or Bass, we've got you covered with what we believe is the most comprehensive guitar tuner guide currently available, updated for 2018. For this update, we short-listed almost 60 tuners and analyzed over 32,000 sources to bring you recommendations that better represents current market sentiment.

Contents

The Best Guitar Tuners

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.

KLIQ UberTuner

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 2400+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$25
KLIQ UberTuner - Clip-On

The KLIQ UberTuner continues to be the highest rated clip-on tuner for guitar available.

KLIQ Music Gear is a business started by a group of working NYC musicians who wanted a better clip-on tuner than what was available at the time.

The speed and accuracy of their UberTuner have impressed musicians from hobbyists to professional touring artists.

Specifications:

  • Tuning Accuracy: ±1 cent
  • Tuning Range: A0 (27.50 Hz) - C8 (4,186 Hz)
  • Reference Pitch: 430-450 Hz (in 1 Hz steps)
  • Tuning Modes: Guitar, bass, violin, ukulele and chromatic
  • Transpose Range: C, F, B-flat, E-flat
  • Display: Full color LED backlit LCD display
  • Power Supply: CR2032 lithium battery (included)
  • Battery Life: Approximately 16 hours (tuner continuously operating, A4 input)
  • Dimensions: 1.6" (40.6 mm) x 0.5" (12.7 mm) x 1.6" (40.6 mm)
  • Weight: 0.3 ounces (8.5 g) including battery

The speed with which the UberTuner detects frequency continues to impress many users, to the extent that it is its most liked feature. A charter member of acoustic guitar forum said, "The UberTuner goes right to it where the Snark has a second or two hesitation."

The brightness and visibility of the screen are the second most liked features. Rich Osweiler writes in Premier Guitar, "Turn it on, however, and the large, color display become (sic) as bright as your prized lava lamp. The flat/sharp and note indicators are, yes, uber-easy to read."

There are a few people that said it isn't sensitive enough to detect notes accurately on their guitars - this came from some playing nylon string guitars and some with smaller parlor sized guitars. Still, the negative reviews amount to less than 6% of all reviews, many of which are from people using the UberTuner with instruments other than guitar.

Overall, you can't go far wrong buying the highest rated clip-on tuner currently available.

Snark ST-2

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 425+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$17
Snark ST-2 Clip-on Super Tight Chromatic All Instrument Tuner

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

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.

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.

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

Snark SN-1X

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 300+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$14
Snark SN-1X Clip-On Tuner

The Snark SN-1X is the newer version of the old Snark SN-1.

It 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

The bright multi-color display is well received in customer reviews. Quite a few bass players 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.

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.

Snark did not respond to our email request for information - something to consider if customer support is important to you.

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

Additional Clip On Tuner

This is where we sometimes present additional options which you may also find interesting and useful. In this case, it's a clip-on tuner which you can use to tune all strings simultaneously.

TC Electronic PolyTune Clip

91
GEARANK

91 out of 100. Incorporating 1600+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$50
TC Electronic PolyTune Polyphonic Clip On Guitar Tuner

The major point of difference with this tuner is that it allows you to strum your guitar and see the tunings for all the strings simultaneously - this makes it easy to see which string is out of tune. Note that this feature only works for standard tuning on the clip-on version.

It also works as a regular chromatic tuner showing one note at a time, and when used in strobe mode it has an exceptionally high accuracy of ±0.02 cents. Based on our own data collected through other websites, this is one of the top selling clip-on tuners for guitarists.

Specifications:

  • Tuning Accuracy: Strobe Mode: ±0.02 cent' Chromatic Mode: ±0.5 cent
  • Tuning Range: A0 (27.5 hZ) to C8 (4186 Hz)
  • Reference Pitch: A4 = 435 to 445
  • Tuning Modes: 1. Polyphonic, 2. Chromatic, 3. Strobe
  • Display: Ultra-bright color
  • Power Supply: CR2032 lithium battery
  • Battery Life: Up to 18 hours
  • Dimensions: 0.98" (25 mm) x 2.36" (60 mm) x 1.1" (28 mm)
  • Weight: 1.13 oz (32 g)

As you'll see if you read the report on the TC Electronic Polytune 2 pedal tuner below, their customer support is responsive and quite helpful - that's often a big plus for many. Guitarists who speak positively about this tuner don't just like it - many of them claim it's the best tuner hands down or words to that effect. Both electric and acoustic guitarists liked it. Its level of accuracy came in for praise in many customer reviews. There were even a number of bass players who said it worked very well for them.

The most common negative was that some guitarists said that it was over-priced or that the relatively high cost wasn't justified by the polytune feature - some regarded it as a bit of a gimmick. A small number of people complained that it wasn't as accurate as they would have liked when used in polytune mode.

Although there is some contention over the polytune concept, we know that it is a top seller on some websites, and that those who do like it tend to have stronger positive things to say about it than for most other clip-on tuners available.

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 2 Mini Pedal Tuner for Guitar & Bass

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 425+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$90
TC Electronic Polytune 2 Mini Pedal Tuner

Pedalboard space is an ever dwindling resource for many guitarists, prompting many manufacturers to produce compact versions of their popular pedals. The TC Electronic Polytune 2 Mini is one such pedal, a compact version of the Polytune 2, with no battery power option.

Like its bigger sibling, this pedal allows for polyphonic (multi-note) tuning, in addition to conventional chromatic tuning. It also features a Stroboscopic mode that allows for even more tuning accuracy, down to ±0.1 cent.

Finally, this compact pedal comes with a smart LED display with ambient light sensor that automatically adjusts brightness.

Specifications:

  • Tuning Accuracy: Strobe Mode 0.1± cent, Chromatic Mode 0.5± cent
  • Tuning Range: A0-C8 (27.5-4186Hz) (Guitars and Bass)
  • Reference Pitch: A4 = 435Hz to 445Hz
  • Tuning Modes: Strobe and Chromatic (used for Polyphonic tuning), Capo, Drop D, Flat
  • Display: LED display with ambient light sensor
  • Bypass: True Bypass
  • Power Supply: Optional power adapter
  • Battery Life: No Battery Compartment
  • Dimensions: 1.77" x 3.66" x 2.01"
  • Weight: 5.76 ounces (163 g)

The TC Electronic Polytune 2 Mini gets a lot of high ratings from guitarists who are happy with its great balance of size, quality and prize. As expected, most users get this pedal for its compact size, but they end up being just as impressed with its accuracy and bright display. Even bassists have mostly good things to say about this tuner pedal, stating that it does the job really well considering its size. Premiere Guitar's Jordan Wagner goes straight to the point in his review of the pedal, he said: "To put it simply, the PolyTune Mini is one of the best tuners on the market, period."

There are a few who wish that the price point was lower, while others were not too happy with the always on MonoPoly mode, which often times triggers the polyphonic mode when trying to tune on stage with other musicians.

If you're looking for a space-saving yet high quality tuner pedal, then go with what the market considers as the best - the TC Electronic Polytune 2 Mini.

Boss TU-3

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 2050+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$100
Boss TU-3 Chromatic Tuner Pedal

Boss are well known for building robust effects pedals, and that applies to the Boss TU-3, which continues the be the favorite tuner 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 allows you to power up to 7 other pedals when using the tuner with the PSA-120S power adapter.

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)

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.

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.

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.

TC Electronic Polytune 2

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 1300+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$70
TC Electronic Polytune 2 Pedal Tuner

Just like the Mini version above, the stand out feature of this pedal is the ability to see the tuning of all 6 strings at the same time - this makes it easy to quickly see which strings are out of tune.

Some of the improvements over the first version include the addition of a strobe tuning mode and extra brightness for the display. It also supports drop tuning.

The highly rated Mini Pedal version of this pedal also made it into this list, carrying over most of the features but with a slightly lower price.

Specifications:

  • Tuning Accuracy: Strobe Mode 0.1± cent, Chromatic Mode 0.5± cent
  • Tuning Range: For guitar and bass
  • Reference Pitch: A4 = 435Hz to 445Hz
  • Tuning Modes: Strobe and Chromatic (used for Polyphonic tuning)
  • Display: LED display with ambient light sensor
  • Bypass: True Bypass
  • Power Supply: 9V battery or optional power adapter - it can power other pedals as well
  • Battery Life: 10 hours of continuous use*
  • Dimensions: 1.97" (50 mm) x 4.8" (122 mm) x 2.83" (72 mm)
  • Weight: 10.6 ounces (300 g)

* I contacted Shawn Davison from Music Group, the company that owns TC Electronic, because the battery life is not mentioned in the official specifications. Shawn ran an experiment on our behalf and here are his findings:

"I was able to get almost 11 hours of continual use before the PolyTune 2 gave me a low battery indication. My tests were done using a Duracell Duralock battery which measured 9.6V when fresh and measured just below 6V under load when the low battery indicator occurred."

Its fast response time has been praised by many guitarists. The high level of accuracy when in strobe mode was commended frequently in customer reviews. A number of guitarists found it accurate enough to use for adjusting intonation when doing setups.

In a review for Premier Guitar Teja Gerken said, "Without a doubt, the TC Electronics PolyTune 2 is one of ... today’s best tuner pedals." Our research supports that conclusion.

There were a small number of guitarists that experienced build related quality control problems but they were very much in the minority.

In general, the ability to tune multiple strings simultaneously will either appeal to you or it won't, but in any case this is a very competitive option in the pedal tuner space and I wouldn't be surprised if over time its sales volume rivals that of the Boss TU-3.

The Best Handheld Tuner

Many 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 by using their built-in microphone or by plugging in directly. These are also the preferred alternative to clip-on tuners for acoustic guitars without pickups.

Korg CA-40

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 1650+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$33
Korg CA-40 Chromatic Handheld Tuner

The Korg CA-40 has a handy battery saving feature where it turns itself off when left on unused for 20 minutes.

It's not specifically designed for guitar but has found a place with guitarists who also play other instruments from ukulele to brass and woodwind, or who share it with others at home who play those instruments.

Although it does have a bypass output jack which Korg say is good for live use, like all handheld tuners it's not particularly practical for guitarists to use during a live performance setting but is fine for tuning in between sets, home use and practice sessions.

Specifications:

  • Tuning Accuracy: ±1 cent
  • Tuning Range: A0 (27.50 Hz) to C8 (4186.01 Hz)
  • Reference Pitch: A4 = 410 Hz to 480 Hz (1 Hz steps)
  • Tuning Modes: Meter mode (AUTO), Sound Out mode (MANUAL)
  • Tone Generator Range: C4 (261.63 Hz) – C5 (523.25 Hz): 1 octave
  • Display: LCD needle-style
  • Connectors: INPUT jack (1/4” monaural phone jack), OUTPUT jack (1/4” monaural phone jack)
  • Power Supply: Two AAA batteries (3V)
  • Dimensions: 3.94” (100 mm) x 2.64” (67 mm) x 0.67” (17 mm)
  • Weight: 0.19 lbs (88 g) - includes batteries

Value for money is one of the main features that make this tuner appealing. It is reported to work well on all kinds of fretted instruments including bass guitar.

Some people have reported issues with the needle not stabilizing but others have suggested this may indicate a need to change the batteries.

If you don't need a tuner for live use and just want something that does the job and works with all kinds of instruments, then this is a good choice for you.

The Best Rackmount Tuner

Some guitarists and bass players prefer to use rackmount effects instead of pedalboards and it's mainly these people who prefer rackmount tuners for live use. Some people also have them in their studios.

Peterson VS-R StroboRack

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 50+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$399
Peterson VS-R StroboRack Virtual Strobe Tuner

Peterson are well known for making high-end tuners of all types. This tuner is used not only by guitarists but has also found a home with guitar technicians who use it for performing set ups and adjusting intonation.

It's also used on stage by guitarists who appreciate the wide range of guitar-specific tuning modes it offers.

One of its many stand-out features is that it also has a specific mode for tuning 12 string guitars. Another is the ability to set up to 8 user presets which Peterson calls 'Sweetened' tunings.

In short - this is almost certainly the most feature packed guitar tuner of any kind available today.

Specifications:

  • Tuning Accuracy: ±0.1 cent
  • Tuning Range: 16.35 Hz to 7302 Hz
  • Reference Pitch: A4 = 390Hz to 490Hz
  • Tuning Modes: Standard + 35 additional modes for specific tuning types. EG - DADGAD tuning with optimized fifths
  • Display: Backlit LCD
  • Connectors : Input - 1 x TS, Output - 1 x TS
  • Power Supply: Mains A/C - 90V to 250V ( Auto Switching Supply )
  • Dimensions: Standard 1U - 8" (203.2 mm) x 19" (482.6 mm) x 1.75" (44.5 mm)
  • Weight: 8.2 lbs (3.7 kg)

Many guitarists say this is the best tuner they've every used. Fast response and very accurate are phrases that come up frequently in user and customer reviews and forum posts. It is also cited as being very durable by guitarists who take it on the road. The display has received a lot of praise for being bright, clear and easy to see from across the stage.

Basically, just about every feature of the Peterson VS-R is praised by owners.

There are no consistently reported negatives about this tuner.

If you can afford the investment, then this is absolutely the best rackmount tuner to get.

If you're looking for a rackmount option that sells for under $100 then you might like to check out the Korg PB05 Pitchblack Pro's Gearank score or see it on Amazon - it doesn't have as many tuning modes but it has a very large and easy to read display - handy when you're on large stages or if your eyesight has seen better days.

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 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

We began by looking at the top selling and top customer rated tuner lists of the major American online music gear retailers and for the 2018 update, we ended up short-listing almost 60 tuners for further analysis. This process involved collecting information from customer and expert reviews and forum discussions about those tuners. We then processed over 32,000 sources using the Gearank Algorithm to produce a Gearank score out of 100 for each tuner. Finally, I selected the highest rated tuners in each category to recommend above. Note that we dropped the sound hole tuner category since there aren't that many options available. For more information about this process please read How Gearank Works.

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.

Post a Comment or Question

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Comments

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <b> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.