The Essential Guide to Finding the Best Guitar Tuner + Review
If you like browsing long lists in search of the best guitar tuner, then this is the article for you! If you don’t, we’ll tell you straight away that we found the Snark SN-5 to be one of the best picks out of all the many many products we’ve researched. The guitar tuner reviews we’ve looked through have mainly praised it as convenient and easy to use. It’s just a little bit bigger than a pocket watch, and it clips to the headstock of your guitar, so there’s not much effort to put in there. The display is easy enough to see in a dark room since it will be close to your face, and it uses both lines and colors to let you know the tone of most any vibrating musical instrument. As it relies on a piezo sensor, it won’t be affected by background noise. If you want something more rugged that won’t make the whole audience partake in the guitar tuning process, then the KLIQ TinyTune would definitely do the job.
Highly Recommended Choices – Reviews & Comparison
We’ve looked through a lot of reviews of guitar tuners and made a wide selection from what’s available for sale. You’ll find good guitar tuners, cheap guitar tuners, popular and obscure models and anything in between below. Like the alma mater abstract entity of the free market to a libertarian, our list will provide.
Snark SN-5 (B004XNK7AI)
This one gets top grades for popularity, as it is one of the best selling models out there. It is inexpensive, reliably accurate within 5 units and very easy to use. As a clip-on model, you’ll only have to attach it to the stock of the guitar to get a reading.
Its round, multicolor display is highly appreciated as it’s easy to read and intuitive. With some very sharp contrast, it won’t be hard to make out even in the dark or through any smoke. It shows all 12 chromatic tones and it has quite a deal of range (“if it vibrates, you can tune it”, as one user put it).
It lacks a metronome button, however, but this won’t be an issue unless you’re a beginner student.
Its sensor is sensitive enough to work through padding, which the Snark SN-5 has plenty, so the guitar won’t get scratched by the hard plastic. Its casing looks very likable, with a great deal of personality but with a worryingly thin neck
Kliq TinyTune (B0143H0W3U)
This is a pedal tuner that comes in a surprisingly small hard casing and weighs only 4.3 ounces. That is not its most well-liked feature, however, since it offers a great deal of accuracy and range.
According to the manufacturer specifications, it has a +/-0.5 “cent” accuracy and can provide drop/flat tuning up to 4 semitones below standard pitch. The reference pitch calibration is between 430 and 450 Hertz.
The relatively large display is easy to read out in full color so you won’t be squinting your eyes even if a bit nearsighted. It’s got 3 buttons, two for navigating between functions and a big one that mutes the signal when the tuner is engaged. What this means is that you won’t be treating the audience to a cacophony while tuning your instrument.
Judging by what various consumers have commented in regards to this model, it can be used on a lot of types of guitar or bass, all of them electric or acoustic-electric, of course.
Boss TU-10 (B0078OQT7O)
This is another small and easy to use clip-on model, this time from the famous manufacturer Boss. It can take readings out of pretty much any type of guitar or bass, as long as the stock is thin enough to fit between the clamps.
For such a small and compact model, it does quite a lot. It can flat tune up to 5 semitones with the ace pitch function and it also has a stream mode for some added versatility.
It is also surprisingly robust, and users have compared it favorably in this respect to the far less expensive Snark, so you really won’t need to worry about dropping it.
Another interesting feature is the true-color display that offers a significantly wider color palette than most models out there. This unit comes with a reflection display function that makes it easier to see in low light conditions.
Korg GA1 (B002HPMTZU)
Another one from a big name brand, this Korg is an versatile tuner that can be used with either a bass or a guitar. It is also surprisingly inexpensive, so it might make a good choice for start-up bands that don’t have much of a fund for purchasing equipment.
It has a wide array of functions, including a Quinta Flat Tuning mode, which lets you tune between 1 and 5 semitones flat. It can also produce a reference tone with an internal speaker.
The digital display shows a needle, which many users that are used to older tuners find very intuitive and helpful. However, this is only in black and white, but you really shouldn’t expect much more for the price. After all, the cost must be cut from somewhere.
The manufacturer specifies that its range for guitars goes from 7B to 1E and it can be used on 7 string models while the range for bass (that can be selected for by pushing a button) goes from Low-B to Hi-C.
Korg GA40 (B000EEEYCW)
Despite being similar to the GA-1 also covered in this selection, the GA40 has a significantly larger display and a stand on the back so it will stay at an angle when placed on a surface. This is done in order to increase its visibility when placed on the ground near the amp, since this model has a jack that allows it to be connected with the rest of the setup for use while you play.
It basically has the same range as the GA-1 and while no speaker is apparently present, the manufacturer mentions a reference tone. The Quinta flat tuning function is also there and allows for flat tuning between 1 to 5 semitones.
It can be switched between a guitar and a bass mode, and it can handle 7 and 6 string instruments respectively. If no tone is detected for 20 minutes it automatically shuts down to save on the zinc-carbon batteries which should offer 85 hours of continuous use.
The display has the same graphics as the GA-1, meaning it shows a rotating needle pointing at a scale. This system is generally considered to be the easiest one to read.
Boss TU-12EX (B001UK1PJ4)
This chromatic tuner from Boss is in a whole different price range to the ones we’ve looked at so far but delivers quite a bit of functionality for it.
It has a flat tuning feature that can work up to 6 half-steps, and an accu-pitch verification with an audible beep. According to the manufacturer, this item also has a headphone amp, with a speaker simulator that is useful when monitoring effects.
There’s a possibility to select either one of the 3 available tuning modes, meaning guitar, bass, and chromatic, so you will get quite a deal of use for your money. It also lets you set it to silent for when using it on stage.
It can essentially be used with any string instrument, whether acoustic or electric, including harps and pianos.
The reading is shown on a needle-style LCD display, which has gained great appreciation for how accurate and easy to see it is especially when compared to other models in the same line.
Korg Pitchblack Chromatic (B0015RIN6U)
This pedal tuner from Korg offers an impressive array of features that are sure to come in handy for a guitar or bass player. One of the most interesting of these is the true bypass it allows so that you won’t actually need to hear the sound while tuning the instrument.
Once the tuning is done, the Pitchblack doesn’t need to be disconnected from the other pedals because it allows the signal to pass through without getting altered by any additional circuitry.
It provides quite a generous array of tuning ranges, from E0 (which is 20.60 Hz) to C8 (4,186 Hz) and lets you adjust the calibration between 436 and 445 Hz. A handy indicator on the display tells you if the instrument is sharp or flat.
Another thing about the display is its remarkably large size, despite the overall compact frame of this pedal. This screen is easy to read from any angle, with its green lines on black and what with it being backlit in order to be operated in the dark.
Planet Waves Eclipse (B01IBI88R4)
This is a very easy to use clip-on unit as the head can swivel in any direction to allow the best viewing angle. In addition to this, it’s worth noting that the mode can also be mounted to both the front and the back of the headstock.
As all of the other items of this type, it can be employed on any string instrument as long as there is a spot for the clamps to adhere to.
It has been commented that the monitor is very easy to read out, even from sharp angles, and it is relatively large for the object’s tiny size, taking up most of its body. The lines used for marking are color-coded to indicate whether the instrument is sharp or flat.
A nice touch from Planet Waves was to include a battery with their item, namely a CR2 that this tuner uses to operate, meaning you can turn it on and use it straight out of the box.
D’Addario NS Micro (B005FKF1PY)
Another midget sized model, the digital display on this D’Addario option is relatively small, but easy to read since it uses green as well as red and yellow markings on a black background. Not all of it might fit, however, so there is an option of switching between display modes via a number of buttons conveniently placed on its head.
What else makes the display stand out from the crowd? The color coding signals whether the guitar is in or out of tune or is close to being in tune.
There’s also a button that lets you turn on the metronome, which should find a lot of use in the hands of a beginner.
You can place it both on the front or the back of the headstock thanks to an adjustable ratchet mechanism and the screen being reversible. It can’t be used with virtually any instrument that vibrates, as long as there is a convenient place for it to be attached to.
Boss TU3 Tuner Pedal (B004D8KX7K)
The TU3 has been around for a while and has gained an almost incredible amount of appreciation from its fans. This chromatic tuner pedal is said to work as well as advertised given that it is extremely reliable and tough, while also very accurate.
The display screen uses LEDs so it is significantly bright and easy to see even under direct sunlight. Furthermore, it will glow naturally in a purely lit environment.
The note is displayed on a smaller, separate screen. Like many models from the manufacturer, it has an Accu-Pitch function, which lets you know when the tuning is complete through a visual sign.
With a chromatic mode, it has quite a deal of range, and it works on a bass as well with guitars. There’s also the possibility of flat tuning by switching to the aptly named Guitar Flat mode, which will allow drop tunings of between 1 to 6 semitones under standard pitch.
Yamaha GCT1 (B008B83SY8)
This small and portable clip-on tuner can be used with any string instrument as long as (repeat after me now) there’s a narrow enough space for the clamp to latch to. This alternative also has some padding for a tighter fit and to keep any unsightly marks off the instrument.
It is a chromatic tuner but it also has presets for guitar, violin, bass, and two types of ukes. It offers quite a deal of functions and it’s even been compared to significantly more expensive tuners in this regard. However, the screen appears to be monochrome, so there’s no color coding.
Functionality is not the only area where it does well against pricey models; the same goes for accuracy, where it has been tested to give the same readings as tuners which are accurate within 0.1 cents. It also does a good job in recognizing low notes for bass, and it ranges between A0 and C8.
TC Electronic PolyTune (B00ZU4G0ZK)
TC Electronic have designed this little clip-on tuner to be a looker, with a sleek shape that’s reminiscent of Apple products. But that’s hardly all there is to it, as it uses an innovative Polytune technology which allows for all 6 strings to be tuned simultaneously.
This is obviously a very useful thing to have, especially during gigs, as it should significantly cut down on the time required for tuning. Furthermore, it boasts an incredibly accurate 0.02 cents in the “strobe” mode and a rather unimpressive 0.5 cents in chromatic.
It has an adaptive display that is extra bright it will be easy to read on sunny days, regardless of angle. The head can pivot to a large degree (apparently only on one axis) so it can be hidden behind the stock when playing in front of an audience.
All this innovation and quality comes at a significantly higher price tag compared to similar units, but it’s still cheaper than most pedals.
Roland TU01 (B01EVR10GA)
This little clip-on tuner from Roland uses some of the same electronics found in the Boss TU-3 pedal so it should be fairly accurate and reliable. Furthermore, it offers quite a deal of versatility and even has separate modes for guitar, bass, and ukulele as well as the traditional chromatic one. There’s also a reference pitch function set to 440 Hz for A.
Even by the standards of its class, the size of this item is remarkably tiny, so it can easily be carried even in a tight pocket. However, the screen is reported to be easily visible from any angle, which might not even be necessary since its head can turn and pivot to a significant degree.
Many users note that this unit provides great value for the price and it also comes with its own CR2032 battery, which is a common design that’s easy to find in nearly all retail stores. The auto off function is a nice extra, too, given that it can preserve battery life.
Korg SHPRO (B00SKJHD30)
Also known as the Sledgehammer Pro, this headstock tuner from Korg impresses at first sight with its unique design (the head is basically a small tube) and 3D display. This model can be set to 3 modes and it seems to be very bright and easily visible both in the dark and on a sunny day.
There’s a pair of shuttle switches on the sides of the tube that can be used to switch between modes. This makes operating the Sledgehammer with only one hand substantially easier, and means you can work on the tuner at the same time you’re hitting a chord.
It has a regular tuning range between A0 (27.50 Hz) and C8 (4185 Hz) but accuracy is where it hits out of the ballpark, with an impressive 0.1 cents to set it apart from other items of its type.
The battery life is not all that dandy, however, with only 14 hours for a CR2032, so you might want to have an extra pair around, which might only set you down around 1 dollar.
Fender FCT-12 (B00724ZKUM)
It seems to be fashionable for manufacturers to provide instrument presets in their vibration operated tuners and Fender makes no exception. You can select between guitar, bass, ukulele, violin (!) and chromatic modes with the FCT-12, and between a range that goes from A0 to C8 and 430-450 Hz for the A4.
At a whopping 1.76 ounces, this item might as well be a pill and the audience is sure not to notice it on the stock since it’s also very small. The screen reads fairly well and it’s backlit to be functional on a dark stage. It is also multicolored, with green signifying low pitch, red high and if the reading is in the middle it means you’ve hit perfect pitch.
The screen also turns 360 degrees so you can see it from any position, which will make it especially useful for violin players. There’s also a handy metronome included to help practicing students.
Fender FT-004 (B005MR6IHK)
This Fender piece uses a very interesting way to let you know if the right tuning has been hit. The monochrome screen is usually blue, but when the perfect pitch has been achieved, it turns into a bright green.
Like most any other model of its type it has multiple mode settings, which automatically adjust it for guitar, violin, bass, and uke, as well as a chromatic function for everything else, including drop D basses.
Some people even use it for electric guitars without plugging them in. Speaking of electricity, this uses a regular 3V 2032 crt, which is included with the item upon purchase.
It’s reported to be significantly accurate and gives highly precise reading through a needle pointing at a scale on the display. It is also quite affordable, and seems to be popular as an inexpensive and easy to use alternative to the pedal tuners used mainly in large gigs.
Donner Dt-1 (B00MO6KKSK)
If you’re after a budget pedal, this chromatic model from Donner might just do. It doesn’t provide the same high degree of functionality as models in the $100 range but it can be used for tuning to anywhere between A0 (27.5 Hz) and C8 (4186 Hz). Besides, it also has a strobe mode for increased accuracy.
With only one visible button, it is remarkably easy to use and at 7.8 ounces in weight will not feel like a brick in your bag either. It only has one large button that is used to switch between tuning and bypass mode.
Despite the price, it does have true bypass, meaning that the signal won’t get altered while passing through it. When tuning, it stays silent, like any other pedal out there.
It has a relatively small but easy-to-read display that uses white on a bright blue background. The note can be easy to make out but the scale and needle are “squished” against one of the edges.
Yearly Guide & Report
At first glance, finding a good guitar tuner might appear to be a difficult task since there are a lot of specifications and features to look into. But this doesn’t necessarily have to be the case, since even if you’re an absolute beginner there are a couple of things to look at to ensure a good purchase. So, what’s there to know before finding the best beginners’ guitar tuner?
The clip-on tuner
There are 3 main types of tuners, each one offering a unique set of advantages and disadvantages. We’ll starts with the clip-on variety since this is the most widely used.
Clip-on tuners are very easy to employ by just attaching them to the stock of the guitar with the small spring clip. The reading is taken from the vibrations generated in the instrument once a string is hit using a piezoelectric sensor. Surprisingly enough, this wasn’t named after an Italian inventor (the effect it uses was discovered by the French Pierre Curie in the 1880s) but the prefix piezo comes from Greek, meaning to press and to squeeze.
Since there’s no microphone involved, background noise won’t affect the tuner’s accuracy, so other band members can tune their instruments at the same time. This means the whole process will go a lot smoother and will be a deal easier on the audience, since I’m sure many of you remember gigs when band members had to wait on one another for minutes on end while one of them was “delighting” you with apparently random noises.
This is a small device, and even the best clip-on guitar tuner won’t be that hard to break if treated improperly, so don’t go around dropping it. The display, which is mostly digital for this device, won’t be that big either, but this is less of a factor than with other varieties since it will stay fairly close to your eyes.
The acoustic tuner
While a good clip-on can be used to tune most any bass and guitar, the acoustic version has a great deal more versatility. This uses a built-in microphone to listen to the tune of your guitar or whatever and help you make the necessary adjustments.
While generally more expensive than the piezoelectric variety, it can provide great value for its price since it can be used by all band members. This might often be the case, as an acoustic tuner is prone to reacting to outside noises, like those coming from the drum set, and give out a “false” reading.
Most of them use digital displays right now, but needle varieties are still around. A lot of models simply display a needle on a liquid crystal screen.
The pedal tuner
These are sturdy and reliable since the guitarist will literally be stepping on them when tuning. You might want to look into these if you know yourself prone to dropping things for whatever reason.
Of course, more bulk and weight will come with this extra toughness so these won’t make the best choice for those that like to travel light. Furthermore, the luminosity and clarity of the display will always be an issue with this type, for fairly obvious reasons.
The best guitar tuner pedal can be a deal more accurate than anything else you’ll find out there, and that’s why big name brands tend to go for this variety. However, if you’re after the best classical guitar tuner you might as well pass on this one, since it can only be used with pick-ups and acoustic-electrics.
Some basic things to consider
The display quality is an often overlooked, but important factor. Not all gigs will provide the same lighting you get in your rehearsal room, so look for one that is backlit especially if you’re going for a pedal type. Needles are considered more intuitive to read but displays can usually provide a clearer picture, especially if they’re in color.
Accuracy is just as important as you need it to be, since if you’re playing real punk (as opposed to the sunny… stuff bands like Blink 182 are putting out) you won’t really need for the tune to be that recognizable as if you were doing Codeine covers. The tuner will measure something called semitones and this will be displayed on a scale in cents or in units of frequency (Hz). Good tuners will generally have an accuracy of +/- 0.1 cents.
The tonal range it can measure is important especially if you plan on using the tuner with multiple instruments, so if you decide to invest in an acoustic one always look for this specification.
You can also use a smartphone to tune in your string instruments, and the best bass guitar tuner app can often provide readings that are as good as those coming from a regular tuner.
Best guitar tuner brands
The Danish company has been around for nearly half a century during which it expanded to produce a wide array of audio electronics, such as guitar effects, computer audio interfaces, and of course, guitar tuners.
Among these, the Poly Tune stands out as the world’s first polyphonic guitar tuner, which allows for all the cords to be tuned simultaneously. This is of great help in cutting short the time necessary for tuning, but it comes at a relatively high price. This is justified by quality, as TCE is recognized as a premium manufacturer.
The Long Island company is primarily known as one of the largest string manufacturers in the world, but their guitar tuners aren’s to scoff at either. They often sell their electronic tuners under the brand of Planet Waves, and these are often small and inexpensive items, designed to be easy to use and portable rather than extremely accurate.
They run both conservative and innovative lines with the Eclipse falling in the first category while the NS micro belonging to the other. This is an extremely compact model with a screen that’s small but easy to read.
The Japanese giant is one of the largest audio equipment manufacturers in the world and deals with making a wide array of products. They are mainly famous for their synthesizers, but they also offer a number of guitar tuners.
Probably the CA plug-in line of products is the most popular among these, and their defining feature is the use of a noise signal to simulate the desired pitch. Their tuners are generally inexpensive but offer an acceptable level of quality.
The AW line of clip-on tuners is known for the incredibly long battery life it can offer, nearing 100 hours of continuous use.
Kilq is a boutique manufacturer of musical instruments and accessories, and both the price and quality of their products are fairly high. They might not make the most inexpensive tuners, but few users find reasons to complain about anything else when it comes to a Kliq.
There are some accessible items among their products, however, like the Tiny Tune tuner pedal, which is also well appreciated for its compact size and high level of accuracy. The award-winning UberTuner clip-on might be on the opposite side of the spectrum in regards to price but usually gets top marks for reliability and accuracy.