Buying Guide for Guitar Tuners
Why buy a guitar tuner?
It won’t matter how well you can strum a chord if your guitar is out of tune—just a pitch too high or low on a single string will turn your sweet-sounding instrument into a dissonant noise machine. This may be a quick fix for the trained ear, but not so much for newer guitarists. Regardless, a tuner will allow you to easily double-check your guitar’s tuning.
What should you look for in a guitar tuner?
Here’s what you should consider when looking for a guitar tuner:
- Accuracy: Accuracy is the most important consideration when choosing a guitar tuner. While tuning range and calibration are all factors that come into play, tuner quality can be differentiated based on price point, as high-end tuners typically produce better results.
- Style: While most tuners are clip-on ones, they can differ drastically in build quality, design, and how it displays frequencies.
- Price Point: While a high-end tuner can provide you with extreme precision, there’s no shame in choosing a more cost-effective tuner when it can produce results with a negligible difference.
Do you really need to purchase a tuner?
There are several smartphone apps that can help you tune your instrument, so that’s one alternative. However, most guitarists and musicians, in general, would recommend that you purchase an official tuning device.
For one, the accuracy of a smartphone app compared to a real tuner is questionable at the very least. If you’re playing in a noisier environment, your smartphone’s microphone could register other noises that could muddle the notes that it hears. Additionally, a tuner produces instantaneous, real-time feedback, while smartphone apps are less efficient and effective. Especially if you plan to perform, opening up your smartphone in the middle of your gig probably won’t cut it.
Our Picks for the Best Guitar Tuners
Fender FCT-2 Professional Clip-On Tuner
A portable, clip-on tuner with an LCD screen and multiple instrument compatibility.
Pros: Fender is no stranger to the guitar world, and their FCT-2 tuner checks out. It’s fashioned with a dual-hinge clip which can position the tuner on both sides of your headstock. You’ll enjoy an LCD screen that reads notes from a tuning range of B0-B7 and A440 calibration.
Cons: The tuner’s battery compartment is difficult to open and close, and you may have trouble viewing the LCD screen with bright lights overhead.
Bottom Line: If you’re not looking for a particular type of tuner, Fender’s FCT-2 tuner is undoubtedly our top choice. It’s a top-of-the-line tuner in quality and precision.
D'Addario Accessories Eclipse Headstock Tuner
A bright, vertical display that's perfect for any viewing angle.
Pros: There’s no need to hunch your neck over your guitar with this tuner: it’s designed with a multi-directional swivel to properly sit in your field of view. The tuner displays your guitar’s notes within its color display.
Cons: It’s hard to determine whether the tuner is turned on or off, as there isn’t a clear indicator. Additionally, the tuner will automatically power off after a certain period of time.
Bottom Line: This is another solid option for guitarists looking for an easy-to-read display.
Snark ST-2 Multi-Instrument Chromatic Tuner
Get a bright, colorful display and other nice features.
Pros: Snark tuners typically cover all the basics when it comes to tuning. This tuner can tune a number of instruments with pitch calibration through vibration sensors or its built-in microphone. It also comes with a metronome setting. It clips on quickly and easily.
Cons: The clip-on may not be safe for certain types of finishes. The clamp is capable of damaging finishes like nitrocellulose lacquer.
Bottom Line: While it’s a great option as a basic tuner, you may want to be cautious when using this tuner on certain headstock finishes.
Pros: This is a great cost-effective option if budget is a consideration. It can tune a variety of string instruments and features 360-degree swivel rotation, a tuning range from A0-C8, and an automatic power-off.
Cons: You get what you buy. It’s capable of tuning your instrument well but has limited capability compared to others.
Bottom Line: This tuner isn’t half bad if you’re just a run-of-the-mill guitarist. But if you want to advance your guitar game, you may want to graduate to a more full-fledged tuner.
Pros: If you’re looking for the ultimate tuning experience, this tuner from TC Electronic will deliver. You’ll be able to tune all six strings at the same time. You can tune with chromatic and strobe modes with impressive precision. The tuner can accommodate alternate tuning styles as well.
Cons: The main drawback of this tuner is the price point, which may dissuade those looking for a more wallet-friendly option.
Bottom Line: If you’re willing to invest in a tool like this, this tuner won’t disappoint. You’ll have access to numerous high-end features that standard clip-on tuners won’t provide.
Even the most talented musicians will use a tuner for their instruments. If you’re looking to snag one for yourself, check out our favorite picks for the best guitar tuners you can buy.