What's the best guitar tuner?
The humble tuner remains an essential tool for guitarists - not only does it help you tune up your own instrument, it ensures you're in tune with the rest of the band, too.
Nowadays, there's a huge range available, from pedals to clip-on headstock units, handhelds and, increasingly, free apps for your phone or tablet. Here's a brief overview of some of our favourites, spanning electric, acoustic and bass guitars…
TC Electronic PolyTune 2
TC’s flagship stompbox tuner is polyphonic, which means you simply strum all your strings at once and the pedal tells you which need tuning. The PolyTune 2 also adds a strobe display for 0.1-cent accuracy, ideal for setting intonation, while it features the true bypass operation, ultra-fast tuning and alternate tuning modes that made its predecessor such a success.
FULL REVIEW: TC Electronic PolyTune 2 review
The Boss TU-2 has been an industry standard in stompbox tuning for decades, and its successor packs +/- one cent accuracy over a 23-segment LED display, plus drop tuning modes up to six semitones.
Combine that with Boss’ silent buffered switching and legendary build quality, and you have a tuner that will withstand plenty of abuse on the road.
FULL REVIEW: Boss TU-3 Pedal Tuner review
Korg Pitchblack Poly
The latest tuner pedal from tuning specialist Korg packs polyphonic tuning capability into a rugged, true bypass stompbox.
It offers four display modes, all delivered via a brilliant Knight Rider-esque double-meter design, as well as flat, capo and drop D tuning settings.
FULL REVIEW: Korg Pitchblack Poly
Available for both iOS and Android, Fender's first ever app promises an intuitive, easy-to-use interface that makes it easy for newcomers to get their instrument in tune, while also covering basic tone tips, including strumming and setting up amps.
The app detects notes from acoustic guitars and amplified electrics, and offers auto tune, chromatic and manual tune modes, including alternate tuning options and the ability to create custom tunings.
Planet Waves NS Micro Tuner
Headstock tuners don’t get much smaller than this, but the NS Micro Tuner doesn’t sacrifice functionality thanks to an easily adjustable screen, multiple calibration modes, and even a visual metronome.
It’s easy to attach to the front or back of your guitar’s headstock, too, and will be invisible to all but the most eagle-eyed of audience members.
Sonic Research Turbo Tuner ST-300 Mini
The ST-300 Mini tuner puts Sonic Research's stroboscope technology, with a stated accuracy of 0.02 cents, in a pedal the size of TC's popular PolyTune 2 Mini.
Of the six modes, chromatic mode displays the pitch of the plucked string, but there are also guitar and bass modes with a string number instead. Both of these and the remaining three are custom modes, so you can program and store altered tunings.
For drop tunings, a facility lets you lower the pitch of all notes below the regular tuning from one to six semitones, but there's no pitched-up capo tuning facility.
FULL REVIEW: Sonic Research Turbo Tuner ST-300 Mini review
TC Electronic PolyTune 2 Mini
A downsized version of TC Electronic's industry-standard polyphonic tuner, the PolyTune 2 Mini allows players to tune all strings simultaneously, while a chromatic strobe option offers 0.1-cent tuning accuracy.
True bypass switching, an ultra-bright LED display and option of up to five semitones flat tunings only sweeten the deal.
MORE INFO: TC Electronic PolyTune 2 Mini
Korg Pitchblack mini
Taking Korg's popular Pitchblack format and cramming it into a mini chassis, the Pitchblack mini is notable for its ability to take a nine-volt battery inside its tiny chassis, as well as operate from standard nine-volt power supplies.
Elsewhere, the pedal retains similar functions to its larger siblings, with a large LED display, three meter display modes (regular, strobe, half-strobe), +/-0.1-cent tuning accuracy, adjustable calibration and true bypass switching.
As you may have noticed, Boss's free app takes visual cues from its ever-popular TU-3 pedal tuner.
It features a 21-segment meter and note display that are designed to provide visual feedback, while two arrow indicators show you when a note is in tune. If you'd rather tune by ear, you can do so via the audible reference pitches.
Snark SN-10 Pedal Tuner
With its weighty, sleek metal enclosure and super bright display, Snark’s SN-10 has a space age vibe that carries through to its speedy tuning response.
The clear, uncomplicated screen makes it easy to recognise pitch, while the pedal also features true bypass and calibration within a 415 to 466Hz range.
FULL REVIEW: Snark SN-10 Pedal Tuner review
D'Addario NS Micro Soundhole Tuner
For acoustic players seeking the utmost in discreet tuning, D'Addario's nifty creation mounts right on the soundhole, so your audience will never see you tuning.
A highly sensitive piezo transducer detects vibrations from the soundboard, promising fast and accurate tuning response, while the bright display makes for easy viewing.
The variety of clip-on headstock tuners available is staggering, but Korg’s PitchHawk-G is the culmination of years of refinement.
It has a bright, easily adjustable display, while a robust rubber-cushioned grip ensures that the tuner won’t fall off your guitar. Lightning-fast tracking on electrics and acoustics is the icing on this clip-on cake.
FULL REVIEW: Korg Pitchhawk-G review
HardWire HT6 FastTune
Also available in pedal form the HT6 is HardWire’s take on polyphonic tuning, and its app version is affordable and effective.
It uses an iOS or Android device’s built-in mic or headphone input, and supports guitar, bass and a number of drop tunings. Best of all, it’s free!
FULL REVIEW: HardWire HT6 FastTune Tuner review
Peterson iStrobosoft HD
Peterson is the name behind some of the industry’s most precise strobe tuners, and its iStrobosoft HD app delivers the same tuning capabilities for minimal outlay.
The app is accurate to 1/10 of a cent, making it perfect for adjusting your guitar’s intonation, and uses the iPad’s build-in mic or a separate interface.
FULL REVIEW: Peterson iStrobesoft HD
There are countless headstock tuners out there, but few are as eco-friendly or useful as Seiko’s STX7. Rechargeable via USB, the STX7 does away with batteries.
This smart guitar essential even features a built-in torch, making it handy for those gig-based emergencies. Its bright bar-tuning display is also easy to use and works via mic or clip (vibration) modes.
FULL REVIEW: Seiko STX7 review
Fender GT-1000 Green Chromatic Tuner
The handheld tuner has suffered under the smartphone revolution, but Fender’s battery free Green Chromatic Tuner is still a winner for us.
Its power is generated from a crank handle that’s rotated to build up charge - 10 cranks should last 24 hours - providing enough juice to fuel the quick-tracking chromatic display and internal microphone. Genius!