Get the perfect tuner on eBay, and make some music. Speed and accuracy, those are the most important qualities to look for when choosing a guitar tuner. Of course, ease of use, durability, reliability, and type are important as well. A few guitars and basses have tuners built-in to their preamps. You can also download apps for your phone that will let you use the internal mic as a tuner input, but these can have problems in noisy environments. For most musicians, a tuner is a vital piece of gear.
First, select the type of tuner that meets your requirements. Clip-on, Pedal, Handheld, Rackmount & Soundhole tuners are all excellent choices and available on eBay. Let’s look at a general comparison of the types.
Type / Common Use / Characteristics / Budget
- Clip-on / Stage, studio, home / Small, portable, quick / $
- Pedal / Stage / Rugged, visible, mute function / $$
- Handheld / Home / Easy operation, generates tones / $
- Rackmount / Stage, studio / Accurate, versatile and highly visible / $$$
- Soundhole / Stage, studio, home / Easily installed in guitar, convenient, uses batteries that will need to be replaced / $$
These tuners are small and easy to toss in a guitar case or gig bag. Many musicians have more than one, due to the low price and convenience for playing at home, while keeping the other packed for gigs. One thing to keep in mind is that external noise can have a negative effect on these, increasing the amount of time required to get in tune. Let’s look at a couple of popular models.
The Snark SN-1X is an excellent choice for those on a budget. Sometimes it seems like every guitarist you know has one of these stashed somewhere for emergencies, or it could even be their main tuner for living room jams, coffee shops, or parties. Clip onto the headstock of any guitar, whether acoustic or electric, and you’ll be in tune in minutes.
The Snark has several tuning modes, including Guitar, Chromatic, Flat Tuning and Transpose. It has a calibration range of 415Hz-466Hz and a long-lasting lithium battery.
Bass players have also responded well to this model, so there really is no reason not to pick one up, if only for emergencies.
The KLIQ UberTuner costs around $10 more than the Snark, but it is known for improved speed and accuracy. Tuning modes include Guitar, Bass, Violin, Ukulele and Chromatic. Tuning accuracy is plus or minus one cent. Other features include a lithium battery, reference pitch of 430-450 Hz in one Hz steps, and a tuning range from A0-C8. The vivid display is easy to see, making this an excellent choice for dark stages or bright sunlight.
The TC Electronic PolyTune Clip could be considered a premium model, with its ability to show you the tuning of all your strings in standard tuning when you strum them. It features a strobe mode with amazing plus or minus 0.02 cent accuracy. Reference pitch is available between 435-445 Hz. The tuning modes include Polyphonic, Chromatic and Strobe, and the range is from A0-C8. The lithium battery lasts up to 18 hours.
Expect to pay around $100 for the most popular models of pedal tuners. These tuners are the tried-and-true types for stage. One huge advantage is that you leave this pedal connected between your guitar and amp, so that stepping on the switch mutes the signal, allowing you to tune silently without blasting the audience. There are optional power adapters available for pedal tuners, so you don’t have to worry about the battery failing at the worst moment.
The Boss TU-3 is the updated version of the TU-2, which found its way to more stages than any other tuner. The new version retains the ruggedness of the previous TU and adds increased accuracy of plus or minus 1 cent, and a bright display is easily readable outdoors. Reference pitch is variable between 436-445 Hz in one-Hz steps. Modes include Chromatic and Guitar/Bass mode, which also works for six-string basses and seven-string guitars. Tuning range is from C0-C8.
The Korg Pitchblack is a little bit smaller and less expensive than the Boss TU-3. One feature to note is the 9V out jack which allows you to power another pedal. This unit is known for being tough and accurate. The only real drawback for some musicians is battery life, where you only get five hours, and leaving the guitar plugged in continues to drain the current. So definitely invest a little bit more for the power ter. This pedal features a bright display for indoor/outdoor use, with tuning accuracy of plus or minus one cent, tuning range of E0-C8 and reference pitch adjustable between 436-445 Hz. The tuning modes include Meter, Full Strobe, Half Strobe and Mirror.
The TC Electronic Polytune 2 offers the same amazing features as the clip-on version above. Six-string guitarists using standard tuning can strum the guitar and see the tuning errors in all strings at once. It also supports drop tuning for metal fans. This pedal is nice and bright, and has up to 10 hours of battery life, so you can play a few gigs before changing batteries. Tuning modes include Strobe and Chromatic. Accuracy is plus or minus 0.1 cent making this pedal the clear leader in accuracy for this type of tuner. The brightness of the display adjusts according to external light levels. Reference pitch is from 435-445 Hz.
Why choose a handheld tuner? They are easier to operate and adjust for living room gigs, practice, and acoustic jams. They also offer some unique features not found in the other types of tuners. You can plug in to tune or use the onboard mic.
The KLIQ MetroPitch is a good choice for all acoustic instruments. It also includes a metronome with a range of 30-250 BPM for rehearsing by yourself or setting the right tempo for the band. There is a tone generator with a range from A0 to C8, and the reference pitch can be adjusted from 410-480 Hz in one-Hz increments. One thing to keep in mind is that you will need two AAA batteries to power it.
The StroboPLUS HD is the pinnacle of handheld tuners. Accuracy is the best-in-class with plus or minus 0.1 cent. A 512-segment display makes it easy to get the perfect tone. With a software upgrade, you get the BodyBeat Sync Metronome to keep you and the band on the beat. You can edit onboard software to customize this tuner, and firmware updates are also easy to install.
Now we come to what may be the most outstanding feature. In 2005, James Taylor called and asked if there was a method to program his tuner so that when he attached a capo, it pulled the strings into tune instead of making them sharp. Sweetened tuning was born. The StroboPlus offers many more types of sweetened settings, including 12-string guitar, as well as for just about any brass, mallet, woodwind, harmonica, or even exotic historical instruments. It is rechargeable with USB. If you are a multi-instrumentalist, this tuner is your obvious choice.
Some guitarists/bassists like to have total control over their sound, with separate preamps, power amps, effects units, and tuners. All of these items are chosen in a standard size to fit in a rack. One big advantage of rackmount tuners is the size of the display. With much more front panel space than other types of tuners, you can tune up from across the stage. It’s perfect for musicians who sing.
The Korg PB05 Pitchblack Pro could be thought of as an entry-level tuner, with its low price, but it’s packed with features. Set the three-dimensional display for Regular, Strobe or Half-strobe mode. It features a buffered output to avoid degrading your tone, and has a mute function for silent tuning. Tuning accuracy is plus or minus one cent. Detection range is from E0-C8. Calibration range is 436-445 Hz in one- Hz steps.
Korg created the world’s first rackmount tuner in 1987, and they have continued to produce a high-quality, value-priced product that’s there when you need it.
The Peterson VS-R StroboRack is the ultimate rackmount tuner. Guitar techs love this tuner for setups and setting intonation. The extras put this tuner a cut above all others, with a 12-string mode, and sweetened tunings to compensate for things like capos and alternative tunings. There is a built-in mic on the front panel for acoustic instruments, and with the multiple tuning modes, this is a tuner that delivers, no matter which instrument you play.
What more do you get for the extra cash? Tuning accuracy of plus or minus 0.1 cent, tuning range from 16.35 Hz to 7302 Hz, a much wider range than any other tuner. And what about tuning modes? There are more than 35. Many reviewers agree that this tuner is state-of-the-art.
Attach a soundhole tuner to your acoustic instrument and getting in tune is always a finger away. Unlike the clip-on types, you insert this tuner and it stays put.
Once again, Korg leads the quality-for-value pack with the Korg Rimpitch-C. The rubber grip keeps a firm hold without damaging your instrument, and its ease of use for six-string guitars makes this the favorite soundhole tuner for most guitarists.
Tuning range is from E2-E7, so it may not be for you if you use tunings other than standard. Reference pitch range is from 438-445 Hz. The tiny lithium battery gives you about 30 hours of charge, so unless you keep it powered all the time, it should last you quite a while. This bright, easy-to-read tuner is the first choice in soundhole tuners for those who play premium guitars.
eBay has a wide selection of tuners, no matter which type you prefer.