Chromatic Tuners, Old and New
Until 1994 I generally tuned my guitar so it was in tune with itself, but rarely tuned it to some absolute standard. If I was playing with another guitarist then we chose a guitar and tuned the other to match the first one. I owned a pitch pipe and occasionally used it to get one string close to a standard pitch. However, the pitch pipe was as old as my 1963 Gibson acoustic and by 1994 only had three of the six notes.
Then I received my first electronic, chromatic tuner. Such a great invention! I sadly had recognized that my hearing wasn’t as accurate as it once had been so using a chromatic tuner was truly a joy to use. It was faster and more accurate than by ear. Chromatic meant I could tune any of my instruments and put my guitars in any alternate tuning. Great.
Electronic Tuners I’ve Owned
- Korg AT-2 Chromatic Tuner 1994-12-1
- Qwik Tune QT2 Chromatic Tuner 1998-12-30
- Intellitouch Tuner 2003-12-35
- Sabine NT9000 Metronome/Tuner 2004-12-25
- gStrings Android Phone App ~ 2010-08-01
- iPad App ~ 2012-05-01
- Planet Waves NS Mini Headstock Tuner 2012-08-07
- Snark SN-8 Chromatic Tuner
Over the years I’ve owned a number of tuners as you can see from the above list. I just purchased two new chromatic headstock tuners and wanted to review them for you. But I also wanted to share highlights of my best and favorite tuners.
Until recently my favorite tuner had been the Intellitouch. It cost about $50, probably discounted. It was one of the first piezo, contact, headstock tuners if not the first. The fact that it detected the instrument vibrations and could do so in a noisy room without interference was such a nice feature.
However, compared to today’s headstock tuners, this old Intellitouch is huge in size. Also, after almost 9 years, the tuner is showing its age. It is held together with plastic ties and tape.
I had already owned the Intellitouch for a year when I got the Sabine MT9000 metronome tuner. I own a Traveler Elite headless electric travel guitar and there is no convenient place to attach a headstock tuner. Also, I wanted a metronome as well as tuner for my Guitar Camp for One vacations. The Sabine is a good tuner with a built in mic for acoustic instruments and an input for electric guitars. It also has a good choice of metronome sounds and counting options. One thing it is lacking is a pass-through for the electric input. For me that wasn’t a big deal.
- I almost always have my phone with me. I can tune an instrument I’m trying out at a music store. I can tune on the back porch. I can tune a friends guitar when I visit. I don’t always have my other tuners nearby but my phone is usually in my pocket.
- It is as accurate as my Intellitouch or Sabine. It quickly finds the note I’m playing and once it does, doesn’t get too distracted by lesser noises.
- Although I don’t use many of the features, it has a lot of options such as just tunings.
I recently reviewed the iPad apps for Musicians and the Tuner App I use, Cleartone. It does the job but isn’t as good as gStrings on my Android phone.
Technology is changing and improving, making things better, smaller and less expensive. I just purchased two headstock tuners for a combined cost less than I had paid for either the Intellitouch or the Sabine. They are now inexpensive enough that you might have a headstock tuner for every instrument. OK, I’m not there yet, but you can easily afford more than one. I’ve seen some headstock tuners for under $10.
The NS Planet Waves Mini Headstock Tuner is a wonder of miniaturization. The “NS” before the name is because this was designed by Ned Steinberger. He also designed the famous headless guitars and basses. The tuners is designed to be hidden behind the headstock so your audience sees only the small footprint of the clamp that hold the tuner to your guitar. This is a well designed and thought out piece of technology. Inconspicuous yet always ready.
The Snark SN-8 Super Tight All Instrument Tuner is the latest headstock tuner from Snark. Snark is owned by the Evetts Corporation, the same folk who have been reissuing Danelectro guitars and effects. Snark tuners are the opposite of inconspicuous. They are bright, colorful and noticeable tuners. The SN-8 has some nice extra features such as a tap tempo metronome (visual, not audible), and the ability to transpose (e.g., if you are using a capo). But the thing I like most about this tuner is it is very easy to read.