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Published Sep. 17, 2021

Of all the potential tools at a guitarist’s disposal, the guitar tuner is perhaps the most irreplaceable. No instrument stays in tune naturally; everything from changes in weather and humidity to the simple rigors of everyday use can alter a guitar’s tuning and prevent it from producing a musician’s intended harmony. The best guitar tuners are incredibly precise devices that “hear” or receive sound from an instrument via a pickup or microphone, compare it to the intended note, and guide users to make tuning adjustments via a display. Many feature jacks and switches for compatibility with electric instruments, while others utilize clip-on designs to pick up vibrations from acoustic instruments. Some unique designs of guitar tuners even use motors and sensors to automate the process entirely. We’ll break down some of the best guitar tuners on the market and go over what to consider when making a purchase.

How We Picked the Products

Methodology

Guitar tuners come in many different forms, and each has its own set of strengths and weaknesses. As an audio engineer, record producer, and multi-instrumentalist, I have decades of experience with guitars. When compiling this list, I aimed to choose the most versatile and user-friendly guitar tuners for every common musical situation.

Accuracy: Accurate pitch detection is the most important feature of any good guitar tuner, and almost all of the tuners on this list operate with a 1 percent maximum margin of error. In other words, expect these tuners to provide pitch accuracy down to one-tenth of a cent, or one-thousandth of the space between two notes. The only exception is my value pick, the Snark ST-8, which is a fantastic tuner but does not have published accuracy readings.

Value: While tuners aren’t the most expensive musical tools out there, they’re still an essential piece of equipment for any guitarist. Thus, it’s better to avoid skimping on a tuner if you want a quick and accurate reading that won’t let you down in professional settings. This list comprises some of the most reliable, robust, and flexible options on the market that are priced within reach of the average user.

Form Factor: Guitar tuners come primarily in clip-on and pedal form, both of which are represented in this list and are suited for different types of use. Clip-on tuners are more portable and are the ideal choice for acoustic instruments, while pedal tuners are slightly more reliable due to their electronic connection to an instrument. Finally, the Roadie 3, my smart tuner pick, tunes guitars automatically and is therefore in a league of its own.

The Best Guitar Tuners: Reviews and Recommendations

Best Overall Guitar Tuner: Peterson StroboStomp HD

Customize Your Color

An ultra-responsive strobe display keeps this tuner fast and accurate. Peterson

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Why It Made The Cut: This guitar tuner pedal features a huge, easy-to-read display and fine accuracy down to one-tenth of a cent in pitch.

Specs:  

  • Accuracy: ±0.1 cent
  • Weight: 13.9 ounces
  • Power Type: 9-volt DC power supply (sold separately), 9-volt battery (included)
ProsCons
  • Bright and precise strobe display for high-accuracy tuning
  • LCD visibility limited to direct angles
  • 135 “sweetened” presets compensate for instruments’ natural inconsistencies
  • Requires a connection to the instrument
  • Accommodates orchestral instruments and other stringed instruments
  • The StroboStomp HD from Peterson is a classic strobe tuner stompbox with pro-level features like switchable tuning modes and an incredibly bright LCD display that’s visible in direct sunlight. Its pitch detection is accurate to one-tenth of a cent, or roughly 1/1000 of the space between two neighboring notes, allowing users to achieve one of the most accurate tuning experiences possible. Unlike tuners that utilize a moving needle or other linear display system to guide users’ pitch, this tuner uses a strobe display that rotates like a carousel, alternating its speed and direction until the perfect pitch is reached. Because strobe designs allow granular pitch control and high-resolution tracking, this design is more favorable for achieving precise tuning than traditional interfaces.

    Besides accommodating traditional acoustic-electric and electric guitars, the StroboStomp HD features modes for a host of other instruments including banjo, bass, 7-string guitar, harp, and orchestral instruments. An onboard preset system allows users to save and switch between custom configurations for everything from alternate tunings to playing with a capo, each made distinct by selectable LED colors. Unique to the StroboStomp HD is a switchable “sweetened” tuning mode that compensates for instruments’ natural intonation irregularities, which is aimed at eliminating the common experience of tuning an instrument only to have each string be out of tune with the others. 

    While the StroboStomp HD is a fantastic choice for most users who want maximum tuning accuracy, the design has a few limitations to keep in mind. Its LCD screen is rather hard to view from shallow angles in spite of being very bright, which can affect the tuner’s usefulness on stage when users walk some distance from the pedal. Additionally, this tuner requires a hard connection to your instrument via a cable, so if you’re planning on using it with an acoustic instrument, make sure you have a pickup or small microphone with a 1/4-inch output at your disposal.

    Best Clip-on Guitar Tuner: KLIQ UberTuner

    Bright and Compact

    Three points of adjustment allow users to achieve the perfect viewing angle every time. KLIQ

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    Why It Made The Cut: This compact clip-on tuner has a firm grip and an easy-to-read display for making adjustments on the fly.

    Specs: 

    • Accuracy: ±1 cent
    • Weight: 1.41 ounces
    • Power Type: CR2032 3-volt lithium battery (included)
    ProsCons
  • Full-color display is easy to read in bright environments
  • Lacks a low-battery indicator
  • Chromatic mode, plus guitar, bass, ukulele, and violin
  • Transposition function is cumbersome
  • Power-save feature remembers your last settings
  • Responsive piezoelectric sensor enables quick tuning
  • If you’re looking for a durable and quick-acting clip-on tuner for your electric or acoustic stringed instrument, the KLIQ UberTuner is one of the most capable options on the market. Its design is very simple, featuring three control buttons on the side and a very bright display that occupies nearly the entire face of the tuner. The display features multi-point swiveling, allowing users to place the tuner at the most optimal position for their needs. Within the UberTuner’s clip is a sensitive piezoelectric pickup that offers responsive performance and accuracy down to 0.1 cent for precise tuning action. In addition to having dedicated modes for bass, guitar, violin, and ukulele, the UberTuner offers a chromatic tuning mode that offers compatibility with most other instruments. Woodwind, brass, and other transposing instruments are also directly compatible with the UberTuner, thanks to its built-in B-flat, E-flat, F, and D transposition modes.

    Because it’s built for speed and clarity, the UberTuner has a minimalist design that makes it easy to use. However, you’ll need to spend some time growing accustomed to the controls if you plan on accessing any of its other tuning modes or using transposition. Many functions require long-pressing of buttons, and transposition is particularly clunky to navigate, traveling in only one direction and requiring users to press the button numerous times. Luckily, the tuner does have a built-in memory, so once you have your settings dialed in, they’ll stay that way until the next time you change the battery.

    Best Guitar Tuner Pedal: TC Electronic Polytune 3 Mini

    Uniquely Powerful

    Save space on your pedalboard and tune all your strings at the same time. TC Electronic

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    Why It Made The Cut: The Polytune 3 Mini is incredibly compact and offers at-a-glance polyphonic tuning, eliminating the need to tune one string at a time.

    Specs: 

    • Accuracy: ±0.02 cent (strobe mode), ±0.1 cent (chromatic mode)
    • Weight: 5.6 ounces
    • Power Type: 9-volt DC power supply (sold separately)
    ProsCons
  • Super-small form factor saves space on pedalboards
  • No battery power
  • Simultaneously displays pitches of multiple strings at a glance
  • No power supply included
  • Built-in buffer circuit conditions signal for larger pedal setups
  • Requires direct connection to instrument
  • TC Electronic’s Polytune 3 Mini packs robust functionality and flexibility into a bite-sized form factor that’s perfect for any pedalboard. Its standout feature is by far its polyphonic tuning ability, allowing users to strum every string at once and see which are out of tune at a glance. In real-world settings like recording sessions and performances, this unique feature saves precious minutes and offers an easy way to get in tune with minimal interruptions. The Polytune 3 Mini also automatically detects single string plucks, moving between both tuning modes seamlessly without user intervention.

    Other appealing features of this tuner include its switchable built-in buffer circuit that boosts signal strength, making it a good choice for placing at the beginning of long cable runs and complex pedalboards. While its default mode mutes the guitar while tuning, it’s also capable of remaining on without interrupting the signal, which is useful for tuning while playing. The tuner also includes switchable strobe mode that increases the accuracy to an impressive fiftieth of a cent.

    The Polytune 3 Mini is a fantastic value for what it accomplishes and its unique functionality, but it doesn’t include a power supply, nor does it run on batteries. It’s compatible with all standard center-negative 9-volt DC supplies, so it’s easy to add to any existing pedalboard setup, but this is something to keep in mind if you’re starting from scratch. Like all pedal tuners–and unlike clip-on tuners–it requires a direct connection to your instrument as well.

    Best Smart Guitar Tuner: Band Industries Roadie 3 Automatic Guitar Tuner

    Effortless Calibration

    The Roadie is the perfect tool for your string-changing routine. Roadie

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    Why It Made The Cut: The Roadie 3 tunes your guitar automatically using a combination of motors and sensors to save you time and effort, making it a novel alternative to traditional guitar tuners.

    Specs: 

    • Accuracy: ±2 cents
    • Weight: 4.7 ounces
    • Power Type: USB-rechargeable lithium polymer battery
    ProsCons
  • Charges via USB; no removable batteries required
  • Only compatible with machine-head tuners
  • Quick motorized tuning and automatic pitch detection
  • Firmware updates require a smartphone app
  • Stores multiple tuning presets
  • Device’s mechanical nature makes it cumbersome for performance use
  • Offering completely automated tuning in a portable handheld form, the Roadie 3 is an entirely unique option that’s ideal for traveling musicians and folks who change their strings regularly. This smart guitar tuner employs accurate pitch detection and a built-in motor to bring strings to their proper pitch with minimal user effort; all it takes is placement of the Roadie 3 onto a tuning peg and a quick pluck of the string. A built-in high-resolution display shows the current tuning settings and allows navigation between presets, all of which are configurable via the onboard interface and four program buttons. Users can choose from more than 100 built-in alternate tunings for different instruments and capo configurations or create their own and toggle between high-accuracy and quick-tune modes.

    The Roadie 3 is compatible with all stringed instruments that use machine head tuners except for basses, which are compatible with the manufacturer’s Roadie Bass model. This design limitation means that players of orchestral instruments in particular should look to an alternative manual tuner like the KLIQ UberTuner. In terms of support, Band Industries offers users the ability to update the tuner’s firmware when needed, but the process requires that users download and use an Android or iOS app, which can be cumbersome and time-consuming. Users should also bear in mind that, while the Roadie 3 is a great way to get your guitar in tune quickly, its mechanical nature makes it a less-than-subtle option that simply can’t beat a pedal or clip-on model for use during performances.

    Best Value Guitar Tuner: Snark ST-8 Clip-on Tuner

    Small yet Capable

    This simple clip-on chromatic tuner has a 360-degree swivel head and multiple instrument modes. Snark

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    Why It Made The Cut: The Snark ST-8 sports a compact design and a strong grip for secure and reliable tuning on the go.

    Specs:  

    • Accuracy: Not published
    • Weight: 1.58 ounces
    • Power Type: CR2032 3-volt lithium battery (included)
    ProsCons
  • Tight clip keeps the tuner secure on every instrument
  • Screen is hard to read in bright environments
  • 360-degree rotating display offers good visibility at any angle
  • High-tension spring requires care when handling
  • Chromatic tuner compatible with all instruments
  • Guitarists and other musicians operating on a budget or those looking for an extra tuner to keep on hand should consider the Snark ST-8 guitar tuner as a good option for the money. Like most other clip-on tuners, it uses a sensitive internal pickup to read pitch and displays the current note on a large LED display. The ST-8 in particular uses a tightly wound spring to keep a firm grasp on instruments, but this extra tension combined with the tuner’s light weight requires careful handling so as not to accidentally launch it across the room.

    The ST-8 is fully chromatic and thus capable of working with every instrument, but it doesn’t display the name of the target notes for specific instruments, which means that users are required to know their target notes ahead of time. The unit hosts a simple set of control buttons on the rear for transposition, and the entire head of the tuner rotates a full 360 degrees to allow for flexible placement and easy visibility. While the display is decently bright in indoor settings, it’s a bit dim for outdoor use and viewing under direct light.

    Things to Consider Before Buying a Guitar Tuner

    Other Instruments

    Most guitar tuners on the market today have a chromatic mode that allows them to tune any note and are therefore compatible with every instrument, but designs with dedicated modes for specific instruments are more user-friendly and better able to guide musicians during tuning. For a quick solution, go with the KLIQ UberTuner; it’s a chromatic clip-on design with guitar, bass, ukulele, and violin tuning modes. If you’re looking for something more flexible, the Peterson StroboStomp HD is a pedal tuner with downloadable and customizable tuning presets for mandolin, banjo, 7-string guitar, and dozens of other instruments.

    Acoustic or Electric

    If you’re playing a guitar, bass, or orchestral instrument that doesn’t have an electronic pickup, clip-on tuners are the only compatible option; pedal tuners require direct connections from the instrument via a cable. The KLIQ UberTuner is a suitable clip-on for most needs, though if you have an acoustic guitar with machine heads, you might consider the Roadie 3 smart tuner.

    Quick Tuning

    Guitar tuners come in a range of accuracies and response times. If you need a guitar tuner primarily for use at home or while practicing, a clip-on tuner will be more convenient than a pedal tuner thanks to its compact size and lack of setup requirements. However, because clip-on tuners respond to an instrument’s physical vibrations, they’re generally slower in response time than pedal tuners. If you need a tuner for quick at-a-glance tuning during performances or recording sessions, a pedal like the TC Electronic Polytune 3 Mini may be more your speed.

    FAQs

    Q: Can I use my phone as a guitar tuner?

    While there are plenty of free guitar tuner apps out there, using your phone as a guitar tuner requires use of the phone’s microphone. Unlike a tuner app, physical guitar tuners are much better at detecting pitch accurately, and they allow you to tune your instrument in loud environments.

    Q: Which tuner is best for guitar?

    The Peterson StroboStomp HD is one of the best tuners for guitar thanks to its super-accurate strobe reading and compatibility with dozens of tunings and playstyles. If your guitar is fully acoustic, check out the KLIQ UberTuner; it boasts super-fast detection and a bright display that’s easy to read anywhere.

    Q: Are clip-on tuners more accurate?

    Clip-on tuners use internal contact microphones or pickups to identify vibrations directly from an instrument’s physical body. This design is slightly slower—but not more or less accurate—than a pedal tuner that uses a direct connection to the instrument’s pickup or microphone. In other words, a clip-on tuner detects vibration itself using a pickup, while a plug-in tuner receives a signal from an instrument’s own electric pickup. This makes clip-ons the best and only choice for fully acoustic instruments, while pedal tuners are suited for any instrument with an electric output.

    Final Thoughts

    Users of electric guitars and other electronic instruments will get the most mileage and versatility from a customizable strobe tuner like the Peterson StroboStomp HD. If you’re playing a guitar that goes out of tune often or you need to tune without missing a beat, a polyphonic tuner like the TC Electronic Polytune 3 Mini may better suit your needs. Players of acoustic guitars and instruments without pickups should consider the clip-on KLIQ UberTuner, and if you prefer your guitar tuner to do the work for you, the Roadie 3 Smart Tuner is a truly one-of-a-kind solution.

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