Tuner pedals sure aren’t the most exciting on a pedalboard but are certain one of the most important investments a guitarist or bassist could make. This is true in live, studio and practice settings. No one wants to hear an out-of-tune guitar or bass!
There are plenty of tuner options out there but a pedal is likely the best bet for electrical instruments. In this article, we’ll discuss the top 5 choices for tuner pedals.
The top 5 best tuners for guitar & bass guitar are:
- TC Electronic PolyTune 3 Polyphonic Tuner
- Boss TU-3 Chromatic Tuner
- Korg Pitchblack Chromatic Tuner
- KLIQ TinyTune
- Peterson StroboStomp HD
Let’s discuss each pedal on this list and the reasons why they are the best.
What Are Tuner Pedals & How Do They Work?
Tuner pedals are utility pedals that read the frequency information in the inputted audio signal and tell us whether the string(s) responsible for the signal are in tune or not.
A tuner pedal will be more accurate than other tuning methods in most situations and especially in noisy environments.
Tuner pedals are typically either chromatic or polyphonic and tune to the Western 12-tone system. Some offer variation in note frequencies (ie: A4 = 440 Hz or A4 = 432 Hz).
Related article: Fundamental Frequencies Of Musical Notes In A=432 & A=440 Hz
Chromatic tuners will tune one note at a time and tell us if the pitch of a single string is below or above the nearest musical note.
Polyphonic tuners can tune multiple strings at the same time, allowing for quick tuning. These pedals are often set to a specified tuning before they work.
Tuner pedals typically go at the very beginning of the signal chain and read the clean signal from the immediate guitar or bass.
Related article: How To Order Guitar/Bass Pedals (Ultimate Signal Flow Guide)
With that being said, let’s talk about some tuner pedals!
TC Electronic PolyTune 3 Polyphonic Tuner
The TC Electronic PolyTune 3 Polyphonic Tuner (link to check the price on Amazon) is perhaps the best and most versatile tuner the market has ever seen.
TC Electronic’s PolyTune 3 is a three-in-one tuner pedal with polyphonic, chromatic and strobe tuning modes.
The pedal will automatically switch between polyphonic and monophonic tuning modes based on the number of vibrating strings.
Toggle the Display Mode switch between Needle or Strobe tuning modes for guitar (G) or bass (B).
The lightning-fast chromatic tuner offers ±0.5 cent accuracy while the ultra-precise strobe tuner gives you ±0.02 cent accuracy.
TC’s Polutune 3 has a super-bright 109-LED display and an ambient light detector designed to provide clear readouts in any and all light conditions.
The footswitch turns the tuner on and off with a press. Holding the footswitch will toggle the pedal between standard and drop-D tuning.
The aforementioned Tuning Mode also allows us to toggle between standard tuning and one of the dropped tuning or capo modes. Press the Tuning Mode button repeatedly to cycle through 13 different tunings:
- E: Standard tuning.
- Eb: All strings tuned down 1 semitone.
- D: All strings tuned down 2 semitones.
- Db: All strings tuned down 3 semitones.
- C: All strings tuned down 4 semitones.
- B: All strings tuned down 5 semitones.
- F1: Capo on first fret (standard tuning).
- Gb 2: Capo on second fret (standard tuning).
- G 3: Capo on third fret (standard tuning).
- Ab 4: Capo on fourth fret (standard tuning).
- A 5: Capo on fifth fret (standard tuning).
- Bb 6: Capo on sixth fret (standard tuning).
- B 7: Capo on seventh fret (standard tuning).
The PolyTune 4 even allows us to change the reference pitch by 1 Hz increments from the typical A4 = 440 Hz.
The USB port allows for easy firmware updates.
On top of these accurate tuner modes, the PolyTune 3 also has TC’s superb Bonafide buffer built-in. Depending on your rig needs, you can choose to use this buffer or to switch the pedal to true bypass.
The standalone TC Electronic Bonafide buffer pedal is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 5 Best Buffer Pedals For Guitar & Bass.
There are 2 switches accessible by removing the underplate of the pedal that allow for the following bypass modes:
- True bypass: both switched set to the left.
- Buffered bypass: Top switch set to right; Bottom switch set to left.
- Buffered bypass with Display always on: both switches set to right.
The pedal even offers a 9V output to allow for easy daisy-chaining with other pedals.
So we can set up the TC Electronic PolyTune 3 any way we like. Total recall retains our parameters when the pedal is turned off and back on again. The versatility, accuracy and quality build make the PolyTune 3 one of the greatest tuner pedals ever!
TC Electronic is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Guitar/Bass Effects Pedal Brands To Know & Use.
Boss TU-3 Chromatic Tuner
The Boss TU-3 Chromatic Tuner (link to check the price on Amazon) is the successor to Boss’s famed TU-2, which is regarded as the world’s best-selling tuner pedal.
Chromatic tuners don’t get much better than the Boss TU-3.
This tuner pedal has an accuracy of ±1 cent and offers plenty of different tuning modes:
- Chromatic: tune by all twelve chromatic steps of the octave. Note name is displayed.
- Chromatic Flat: tune one semitone lower (b) or two semitones lower (2). Note name is displayed.
- Guitar: tune by guitar string numbers. 7th string is displayed as “7”.
- Guitar Flat: tune one semitone lower (b) or anywhere from two to six semitones lower (2-6). 7th string is displayed as “7”.
- Bass: tune by bass string numbers. High C string is displayed as “C,” Low B string is displayed as “b.”
- Bass Flat: tune one semitone lower (b) two semitones lower (2), or three semitones lower (3). High C string is displayed as “C,” Low B string is displayed as “b.”
If you happen to be using an 8 or 9 string guitar (or some other monstrous instrument), worry not! The TU-3 has a chromatic tuning range of C0 (16.35 Hz) – C8 (4186 Hz).
This pedal features a 21-segment LED meter to show us how close we are to perfect tuning. The entire display can be changed with High Brightness mode to improve visibility in high-light and outdoor situations.
Easily zone in to get your strings in tune with the Tuning Guide Indicator arrows and the Note/String Number Indicator. Choose between Cent Display or Stream Display to get yourself as comfortable with the pedal as possible.
Utilize the bypass output to keep signal flowing out of the pedal as you tune or the regular output to mute the pedal’s output as you’re tuning.
Like the aforementioned PolyTune 3, this pedal has a DC output jack for easy daisy-chaining of other pedals. Like all Boss pedals, the TU-3 is buffered bypass which helps to maintain signal strength and clarity in long cable runs whether the tuner is on or off.
All in all, this tuner pedal is another superb option. If you’re looking for a versatile chromatic tuner, a TU-3 is an excellent choice for you!
Boss is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Guitar/Bass Effects Pedal Brands To Know & Use.
Korg Pitchblack Chromatic Tuner
The Korg Pitchblack Chromatic Tuner (link to check the price on Amazon) is another fantastic choice if you’re looking for a chromatic tuner pedal.
The Korg Pitchblack is a compact and rugged pedal with a broad chromatic tuning range from E0 (20.60 Hz) all the way to C8 (4186 Hz). That covers more than enough from guitar and bass guitar.
Calibrate the reference pitch of A4 between 436 and 445 Hz in 1 Hz steps. Tune chromatically with ±1 cent accuracy.
This tuner pedal has a 100% True Bypass output that keeps the signal tone intact whether it’s turned on or in bypass mode. Turning the Pitchfork on will mute the output as you tune.
The durable housing and layout of this pedal are easy on the eyes. Large bright LED meters clearly show any tuning discrepancy.
Depending on your needs, you may prefer 1 of Pitchblack’s 4 modes over the others. The modes are:
- Full Strobe: tune until the stream of LED lights stop. When your instrument is in tune, both tuning guide LEDs will light and the note name will appear in the note name display.
- Half Strobe: tune until the stream of LED lights stop and only the center indicator LED is lit. When your instrument is in tune, both tuning guide LEDs will light and the note name will appear in the note name display.
- Meter: tune so that the center LED lights up. When the note is in tune, both tuning guide LEDs will light and the note name will appear in the note name display.
- Mirror: tune so that the two LEDs (bright and dim) are aligned at the center indicator LED. When your instrument is in tune, both tuning guide LEDs will light and the note name will appear in the note name display.
This tuner pedal also has a DC 9V output for daisy-chaining.
The KLIQ TinyTune (link to check the price on Amazon) is a compact and highly accurate tuner pedal.
This simple chromatic tuner from KLIQ is a perfect addition to a tight pedalboard. Sure it isn’t as versatile as the other pedals on the list but if you’re looking for an inexpensive and highly accurate (within 0.5 cents) tuner, the TinyTune could be the perfect choice for you.
Though the pedal is small, the display is quite large and super-simple. The display is easy to see in any lighting situation and quickly shows us the note name, tuning meter, A4 reference pitch and if flat tuning is engaged.
The KLIQ TinyTune is true bypass with a tuning range from A0 (27.50Hz) to C8 (4,186.01Hz). Adjust the A4 Pitch Calibration between 430 and 450Hz in 1 Hz steps.
Use flat tuning to quickly tune 1 to 4 semitones lower without changing the “string name”.
Simple and effective, the TinyTune from KLIQ is a top performer when it comes to user-friendly tuner pedals.
Peterson StroboStomp HD
The Peterson StroboStomp HD (link to check the price on Amazon) is a strobo tuner and excels at its job, putting it in the top 5 best tuner pedals in the world.
This is an awesome pedal. The variable-colour high-definition LCD screen takes up most of the pedal’s face, making it easy to see exactly what’s going on when using the unit, even outside.
The StroboStomp HD actually has two screens for us to select. Each will display on the LCD. The Settings Screen shows us the detailed adjustments we can make while the Tune Screen shows us all the info we need to tune our instrument properly.
The tuner provides a 100% silent, true-bypass operation mode to keep precious tone safe. It also has a buffered output mode to help maintain signal clarity in longer chains whether the pedal is on or bypassed. Choose between bypass mode, buffered output mode, or monitor mode (tuning always visible).
The StroboStomp HD features over 100 exclusive Sweetened Tunings. These tuning modes are designed to help correct inherent tuning issues exhibited by specific instruments.
Guided tuning modes make the pedal display specific string values rather than note values to give us more control over what we see.
The pedal offers over 130 built-in Presets. It can be set to transpose –6 to +5 semitones. The reference A4 can be altered between 390 and 490Hz by 0.1Hz increments. We can also choose to change the colour of the tuner display color to fit our personal preference.
This pedal, like 3 of the others, has a 9V DC output to help power other pedals.
The Peterson StroboStomp HD is a wonderful unit with super functionality and finished off this list of the 5 best tuner pedals for guitar and bass guitar!