Gibson's Min-ETune system is the latest take on mechanical self tuning for electric and acoustic guitars. The headstock-mounted gears are the next generation of the company's 'Robot' technology, and appear on the new Tribute Les Paul and SG models.
The whole Min-ETune system - tuners included - sits on a thin black rectanglular plate that covers most of the rear of the peghead. The 'brain' is the centre section and sits between the tuners. It adds a little extra weight but not enough to unbalance the instrument. In fact our reviewers agree that it's negligible; the tuners themselves are very light, and manufacturers Tronical state that the total weight impact is roughly equivalent to a set of Grovers.
A tiny rechargeable battery provides the power, giving 80 to 100 tunes before it needs to be charged using the included power supply. The tuning pegs are still operable by hand, should you forget to charge before a gig.
Operation is reassuringly simple: switch the unit on, strum all open strings and watch their respective LEDs. The strings that are in tune will turn green. Now, pick any individual strings that display red LEDs until the guitar is completely in tune, after which the unit turns itself off. One thing we found is that Min-ETune works reliably when playing open strings, whereas 12th-fret harmonics confuses the system and stops it from working.
Back to open strings, even with jarringly wayward tunings, the whole process takes around 15 seconds, and the unit is accurate up to two cents. That might not be as precise as the likes of the Peterson StroboStomp, but it's plenty close enough for live gigs.
The procedure outlined above is for standard tuning, which is barely scratching the surface of what the Min-ETune can do. 12 altered tunings - including DADGAD, open D and open G - are roughly 30 seconds away via the unit's four-way cursor, and you can even create your own recallable custom tunings.
Following our initial tests, the Min-ETune is proving to be a big step forward for automatic guitar tuning. Other than for relatively quick access to altered tunings, experienced players may wonder what all the fuss is about, yet the potential time- and frustration saving benefits are massive for beginners and less experienced guitarists.
Gibson's new Tribute models will be reviewed in full in issue 369 of Guitarist, on sale 31 May 2013. In the meantime, we'll be testing the Min-ETune system to see how it performs with constant use.