For every guitar player, playing in tune means the difference between rocking like slash, and sounding like trash. It doesn’t matter if you’re a bonafide virtuoso, if you aren’t playing in tune, your music will come across about as well as a cat in heat outside your bedroom window at 3 am.
Investing in a reliable guitar tuner is a no-brainer. But, with so many choices on the market, choosing the best guitar tuner for your playing is easier said than done. We’ve taken the guesswork out of the process for you with this comprehensive review of the thirteen best guitar tuners today.
Our Top Picks for the Best Guitar Tuner of 2020
Without further adieu, lets take a closer look at these tuners you can buy today.
Clip-on tuners were all the rage when they debuted around a decade ago. The unfortunate truth is that virtually all of these tuners were cheaply made and inaccurate. Fortunately, some clip-on tuners, like the UberTuner from KLIQ, deliver impressive performance and accuracy at a bargain price.
The Ubertuner features a piezo sensor that’s accurate to within +/- 1 cent, an easy to read color display, an articulating screen that can be positioned at any angle, and an improved clip that secures the tuner to your headstock without marring your guitar’s finish.
While it’s intended for guitarists, the UberTuner also has modes for bass guitars, violin, ukelele, and a chromatic mode for tuning virtually any instrument. Other notable features include Bb, Eb, F and D transposition settings, a power-saving mode for extended battery life, and a 3V lithium battery.
- Very accurate for a clip-on
- Easy to read display
- Power save mode preserves battery life
- Larger than most clip-on tuners
- Articulating screen can move out of view when playing live
Peterson has been the industry standard in tuning accuracy for decades, and they’re bringing their cutting edge technology to the masses with their StroboCLIP tuner. While Peterson’s tuners are some of the most expensive in the business, their StroboCLIP tuner is available for less than the cost of a decent pedal tuner.
The StroboCLIP offers precision accuracy to within +/- .1 cent, a wide tuning range of C0-B6 and a transposition range of -4 to +7, plus transposition to keys C, F, Bb, and Eb. Where the StroboCLIP shines is when it comes to alternative temperaments and sweetened tunings.
The StroboCLIP offers 50 different sweetened tunings and 11 historical temperaments.
The StroboCLIP also offers input for a piezo pickup and a micro-USB port for upgrading the tuner’s firmware so that you can stay on the cutting edge of whatever Peterson is offering. For players who need precision accuracy without breaking the bank, the StroboCLIP is a top choice.
- Unbeatable accuracy
- Tons of sweetened tuning and temperament options
- LCD provides perfect visibility in dark or bright environments
- Expensive for a clip-on
- Clamp doesn’t work well with classical guitars
Snark ushered in the clip-on tuner craze, and they’re one of the first and most well-known tuner brands. Their HZ1 tuner has built a cult following because it’s every bit as accurate as other Snark clip-ons, but it has a much smaller footprint than their larger offerings.
The HZ1 is 40% smaller than Snark’s previous models, and a newly-designed clip is virtually unbreakable and compatible with practically any instrument. This tuner offers Hertz tuning, but it doesn’t quite boast the same accuracy as more expensive clip-on tuners.
If you’re looking for the most affordable tuner possible, the HZ1 will be a strong fit for you. But, you’ll be sacrificing some quality and accuracy in the process.
- Smaller than other Snark tuners
- Easy and intuitive single-button operation
- Compatible with any instrument
- Mediocre accuracy
- Only has basic features
D’Addario is best known for producing some of the best strings and accessories in the game, and their clip-on tuners are among the most affordable and reliable on the market. Any player looking for an affordable clip-on that delivers accurate tuning and some handy additional features, the Eclipse is a reliable option.
The Eclipse is available in six different colors to match your gear, and it features a vertical full-color display that’s easy to view regardless of the lighting conditions on stage. The clamp is fully articulated so you can turn the tuner to any angle for easy viewing.
This tuner is compatible with practically any instrument, and it can be calibrated between 435-450Hz. A long-lasting lithium battery is included, so you’re ready to go right out of the package.
- Easy to read on stage
- Fully articulated clamp for easy viewing
- Clamp is flimsy
- Accuracy is decent at best
Since the late 70s, BOSS has been synonymous with the top pedals in the game. From delay to distortion, BOSS does it all, and their chromatic tuner pedals are relied upon by thousands of guitar players the world over.
Piggybacking off the TU-2 tuner's success, the new TU-3 model offers a 21-segment LED meter that provides a bright mode for outdoor performances. There are specific modes for guitar or bass, and a chromatic mode for tuning any instrument. The TU-3 also offers support for 7-string guitars and 6-string basses, and flat mode for drop tunings up to six half-steps below standard.
The TU-3 is accurate within +/- 1 cent, which is considered the industry standard by most guitarists. A strobe tuning mode allows players to dial in their tuning with even greater accuracy. For guitarists who run large pedalboards, the TU-3 can provide power for up to seven pedals, eliminating the need for a large power supply in many cases.
- Unbeatable reliability
- Support for 7-string guitar, 6-string bass, and drop tunings
- Five-year warranty
- Not true bypass
- Sometimes takes a second to pick up the proper note
Peterson’s strobe tuners are the heavyweight champion of the tuner world. But, strobe tuners were never intended to be portable, so they were mostly the territory of luthiery shops and studios. Thankfully, we live in a world where strobe tuning technology can be applied to a tiny pedal tuner, allowing guitarists everywhere to play in perfect tune.
The StroboStomp is accurate within +/- .1 cent, it supports 135 sweetened tunings, and it has an incredible range of C0-A#8. It’s impossible to find a tuner that’s as accurate or as full-featured as the Strobostomp.
The tuner features switchable buffered and true bypass modes, so it’s ideal for players with large pedalboards, and it’s compatible with Peterson’s Connect app. If anything goes wrong with your tuner, Peterson has you covered with a 3-year warranty.
- Precision accuracy
- 135 Different sweetened tunings
- Unparalleled tuning range
- Difficult to attach velcro to bottom of pedal for pedalboard use
The PolyTune 3 from TC Electronic is far and away the most unique guitar tuner on the market. Unlike other tuners that tune a single note at a time, the PolyTune 3 can tune multiple pitches.
While polyphonic tuning is cool, it isn’t for everyone, so the PolyTune 3 provides additional modes from chromatic and virtual strobe tuning. The chromatic mode is accurate to within .5 cents, and the virtual strobe mode delivers impressive +/-.02 accuracy.
An ultra-bright 109 LED display ensures you have no trouble seeing the tuner and an ambient light detector that adjusts brightness to match your lighting conditions. Rounding out this tuner is TC Electronic’s Bonafide buffering system, which delivers all the benefits of a buffered bypass while maintaining true analog circuitry.
- Three tuning modes
- Very accurate
- Bonafide buffered bypass
- Polyphonic tuning mode is too inaccurate
Sometimes, you want a pedal tuner without shelling out a Benjamin to add one to your pedalboard. Fortunately, for a little more than a $20 bill, this Donner tuner fits the bill while delivering impressive accuracy and performance.
This pedal is accurate within +/- 1 cent, and it offers true bypass switching, which will delight players with extensive pedalboards. The solid metal chassis and heavy-duty stomp button are built to stand up to anything you dish out.
The one downside with this pedal is unlike most pedal tuners; it doesn’t offer the option to power it with a 9V battery. You’ll need to purchase a compatible power supply to use this tuner.
- Bright LCD
- Heavy-duty build quality
- Can’t run on batteries
- Not as accurate as higher-end pedal tuners
Korg is one of the best-known tuner brands in the industry, so it’s no wonder their PBAD pedal tuner is so popular among gigging guitarists. This affordable pedal tuner is packed with features and functionality that usually only exist on tuners in the $100-up range.
This pedal provides impressive accuracy within +/- 0.1 cents and four different display modes that provide high-visibility in any stage or lighting scenario. The pedal can be powered with the DC out, and it will provide power for up to eight additional pedals. You can also run the pedal using batteries, and it provides an impressive 60-hours of battery life.
The slim design is perfect for already cramped pedalboards, and the pedal is available in both black and white.
- Very accurate
- Powers up to 8 pedals with DC out
- Not true bypass
- No alternate tuning modes
Another compelling option for guitarists who want a pedal tuner but don’t want to shell out a ton of money for one, this pedal from Deadbeat Sound is affordable and packed with high-end features.
This pedal offers true bypass construction and switchable display modes for traditional or strobe operation. An impressive range of A0-C8 ensures that you’ll be able to tune guitar and bass in standard and drop tunings. A muted output ensures you’re able to tune quietly while your audience anticipates your next song.
The pedal runs on DC 9V power, and the power supply is included, so you’re ready to go right out of the box.
- Includes power supply
- Impressive A0-C8 range
- Pedal is wide - might be a tough fit on crowded pedalboards
- Not as accurate as high-end pedals
It’s hard to beat the tried-and-true convenience of a pocket tuner, and the MetroPitch from KLIQ is one of the best choices on the market. This powerful device combines the functionality of a tuner, metronome, and pitch generator in one tiny package.
The tuner offers several tuning modes and transposition settings, pitch calibration, and a range of A0-C8, so it’s perfect for guitar, bass, and any other stringed instrument with a good pickup.
The metronome offers a range of 30-250 BPM with tap tempo and a handful of different beat and rhythm patterns to help keep you locked in as you practice. There’s also a unique dial control that makes it easier to change tempos when using the metronome. The dial also acts as a pitch shifter when using the MetroPitch as a pitch generator.
- 3-in-1 functionality
- Wide tuning range
- 3-year warranty
- Backlight turns off too quickly
- Not as accurate as high-end tuners
The TM60BK is Korg’s flagship pocket tuner, and thousands of guitarists rely on this tiny device to keep them in tune and on time day after day.
This tuner delivers surprising accuracy and a wide range of C1-C8 to support a variety of instruments. There is an onboard microphone, so you can use the TM60BK to tune any instrument, whether it has a pickup or not.
The metronome can be used independently of the tuner, or you can use both at once. The range is 30-252 BPM with three tempo settings and 15 different rhythm patterns. An auto-off function helps to save battery life, and this pocket tuner delivers over twice the battery life of its predecessor, the TM50.
- 3-in-1 functionality
- Large backlit display
- More accurate than most pocket tuners
- C1-C8 range is smaller than many competitors
When most guitar players close their eyes and think of a tuner, this is what they picture in their heads. A lot of guitar players will remember the CA-2 as their very first tuner, but it’s surprisingly feature-rich for the price.
This chromatic tuner offers an easy to read display with an analog-style needle meter, and while it’s designed for guitar and bass, the onboard mic allows you to tune any instrument. There’s also a speaker to play pitches for tuning by ear, and this handheld can be calibrated from 410-480Hz.
The CA-2 delivers an impressive 200 hours of battery life on two AA batteries, and Korg backs this tuner up with an impressive 5-year warranty.
- Unbeatable battery life
- Can be used for any instrument
- Strong warranty
- Display isn’t backlit
Selecting the Best Guitar Tuner: Buying Guide
Before you head off to buy your new tuner, it’s a good idea to consider a few different specs and features that will make choosing the best tuner for the way you play much easier.
What are the Different Types of Tuners?
Guitar tuners usually fall into three different categories: chromatic, polyphonic, and strobe.
The most common and popular guitar tuner, chromatic tuners automatically recognize any of the 12 pitches in the chromatic scale.
These tuners are a practical option because they allow you to easily set your guitar up to play in any tuning, as long as you know which notes make up the tuning. Many chromatic tuners have additional modes for drop and alternate tunings.
Polyphonic tuners are a fairly recent development, and only a few manufacturers have polyphonic tuners available. TC Electronic pioneered this technology, and it allows players to tune every string on the guitar at once instead of plucking the strings individually.
They’re certainly interesting, but the technology is still in its infancy, and polyphonic tuners tend to be less accurate than standard chromatic tuners.
Strobe tuners are the most accurate tuning option, so they’re favored for studio applications, and they’re an essential tool for luthiers, who can set a guitar’s intonation dead perfect with the help of a strobe.
Until recently, these tuners were desktop-sized, so they weren’t practical for gigging, but virtual strobe technology has made it easy to harness the accuracy of strobe tuning for practice and gigs.
Tuners are available in several configurations, and depending on how and where you play, one style will probably be the best fit for you.
Pocket tuners are affordable and accurate, and their small size makes them ideal for practice, lessons, and storing in your gig bag, so it’s always ready to go.
Pocket tuners typically feature a single input, and some have additional modes and features for calibration, alternate tunings, and altered temperaments.
Clip-on tuners are a relatively new style of tuner, and they’re useful in virtually all situations. These tuners feature a small display mounted to a clip which is placed on the headstock of the guitar. The tuner reads the vibrations of the wood and provides a readout so you can tune the guitar.
These tuners are available in chromatic and strobe styles and they’re compatible with most string instruments and virtually all guitars. These tuners are surprisingly accurate in quiet environments, but if you’re in a loud room, the tuner will pick up other vibrations, so these aren’t a good choice for most gigging musicians.
Pedal tuners are favored by gigging musicians since they allow for hands-free operation and can be incorporated into a pedalboard.
Pedal tuners feature an input and output and usually feature a mode for silent tuning. Some of the best pedal tuners can also provide power for several additional pedals, so they’re perfect for guitarists who use a pedalboard since you can cut back on power supply cables.
Popular with bass players and for recording applications, rackmount tuners fit inside of a rack housing, and they feature a huge LED display that’s visible from outer space. These tuners provide the same functionality as a pedal tuner but in a different shape.
How to Choose a Guitar Tuner
Here’s what you need to consider before choosing a guitar tuner.
How Will You Use Your Tuner?
Knowing how you’ll use your tuner makes it much easier to find the best guitar tuner for you. Are you a gigging musician? A bedroom rockstar? A student?
If you play live, especially if you’re playing in a band, a pedal tuner is going to be the best option for you. But, if you need a tuner for your bedroom, or for jamming or taking lessons, a pocket tuner or clip-on may be the best choice for you.
If you aren’t sure which type to get; investing in a pedal tuner is always a sound choice. Pedal tuners are nearly as portable and practical as a pocket or clip-on tuner, and they’re the best choice for playing live.
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What’s Your Budget?
Guitar tuners range widely in price. Some of the best guitar tuners can be had for as little as $10, while the top of the line strobe models can cost $300 or more.
The price variance of guitar tuners is mostly because of the style of guitar tuner, as pedal or rack tuners are much more expensive to make than clip-on or pocket styles.
More expensive tuners also offer additional features, like support for altered temperaments, alternative and drop tunings, and a variety of tuning modes and display options.
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Tuner accuracy is measured in cents, which indicate how sharp or flat your guitar is compared to the proper pitch. There are 100 cents in a semitone, or ½ step, and most people can’t pick up on differences of less than a few cents in either direction, but that doesn’t mean that accuracy isn’t a crucial concern.
The more accurate the tuner is, the better. Keep in mind that the most precise tuners (accurate to within +/- .1 cents) are usually much more expensive than less accurate tuners. A tuner that’s accurate to within +/- .5 cents is often a solid choice for guitarists.
Read Next: How to Tune Your Guitar
A guitar tuner is essential for any guitarist, and you should never be far from one, whether you’re practicing, taking a lesson, or shredding with your band. With so many options on the market, shopping for a tuner can seem like a daunting task. Thankfully, any of the 13 tuners on our list would make a solid choice for your next tuner.
While each of these tuners is a sound choice, one, in particular, earns our top pick for the best guitar tuner, and that is the Peterson StroboStomp HD. This pedal offers unrivaled accuracy with an assortment of high-end features, like support for a diverse array of altered tunings and temperaments, adjustable lighting, multiple bypass modes, and a solid 3-year warranty.
Last Updated on September 26, 2020 by Liam F. Admin