The Best Guitar Tuner

Snark SN-8 Super Tight Guitar Tuner

Our Top Pick for 2016: Snark SN-8 Super Tight Guitar Tuner
Read our full review.

See it on Amazon for $10.00*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
Too expensive? See our budget pick.

Some musicians are capable of hearing the frequency of any note and determining whether or not the instrument that played it is flat or sharp. Having perfect pitch is a great ability for a guitarist, but it is rare to find a musician who wields this ability. The rest of us need an essential accessory known as a tuner to accurately tune your guitar properly. Tuners can also have other features that can be important to a guitarist, and deciding which ones are important to you can be a process. We have taken a look at some of the most popular tuners available today and created a list of four of the top options.

Table of contents

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Ultra-compact Design
Super Tight Tuning
One-handed Swivel Clamp
High-precision LCD Needle-type Meter
Fast
Compact Size
Quinta Flat Tuning Mode
Bright EZ Read Display
Guitar, Bass, Ukulele, Violin and Chromatic
Supports 7-string Guitar Tunings
Display Rotates 360 degrees
Tuning Range B0-B7
Can Produce A Reference Tone
Pitch Calibration and Transpose Features
1x 3V 2032 Battery Required (included)

*Price at time of publishing and may not reflect current pricing.

#1 Gold pick (Winner): Snark SN-8 Super Tight Guitar Tuner

Snark SN-8 Super Tight Guitar Tuner Gold Pick

View it on Amazon for $10.00*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-gold-winnerTypically, when an item is selected as our gold pick, it has the love of critics and consumers alike. The same is true with the Snark SN-8. It is a tuner that is capable of correcting you tuning quickly and accurately. It is designed to tune string instruments such as guitars, bass guitars, banjos, ukuleles, and even mandolins.

It features a bright display that is seen in full color. This tuner is designed with an EZ read display that can be seen in any light, even if there is a glare from the sun. It rotates a full 360 degrees to make it easy to tune any sized instrument. In addition, it is a lightweight device that only weighs 1.5 ounces, which means that it can easily fit into your gig bag to help you tune your guitar on the road. This tuner comes complete with a visual tap mode, so you can see how it would be great for beginners and pros alike.

There is a pitch calibration mode that allows you to simply play any note that you desire and the tuner will let you know if your frequency needs to be adjusted. There is also a tempo metronome that is extremely useful for practicing new music. It allows you to accurately keep the beat in time with what it is suppose to sound like.

For those of you who like playing music that requires a capo, this tuner is compatible with that play style. Simply use the transpose function to tune in this fashion. The SN-8 also has an auto shut off function, which is designed to save the life of your battery. This is especially useful for those times when you are running a bit late for your gig. If the tuner is not used for five seconds the screen will dim, and then after two full minutes the device will turn off completely. In addition, this tuner requires a three volt lithium battery that is included with the purchase.

When it comes to the reviews of our gold pick, you can be sure that they are incredible. 80 percent of all of the reviews on Amazon gave this guitar tuner a five star rating. An additional 13 percent of the reviews gave it a four star rating. That means that 93 percent of the 2,333 reviews are positive, and an overwhelming amount of them believe that this tuner is an exceptional device.

Here is one example of such a five star review: “I bought a pack of two of these Snark SN-8 Super Tight tuners for my Ukuleles. I have multiple ukes and needed a simple tuner to clip on the headstock and pack in the case. This tuner does a great job of helping me find the sweet spot on each string. The display is bright and it just works. I like the included metronome too. But my favorite is the transpose tuning feature which can be adjusted to whatever fret I have my capo on. That is a very neat feature.”

#2 Silver pick (Runner-up): Korg GA1 Guitar and Bass Tuner

Korg GA1 Guitar and Bass Tuner

View it on Amazon for $10.95*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-silver-winnerOur silver pick is the Korg GA1, which is a great device that can be used to tune guitars as well as bass guitars. It has a small pocket-sized design that is only about 3.25 inches high, 5.25 inches wide, and 0.9 inches deep, which is similar in size to what an old school Walkman was back in the 80s. It is also a very lightweight device that only weight about a quarter of a pound.

This tuner features a large display window that utilizes LCD technology to give you a needle meter. It also displays the string number that you are strumming as well as the name of the note that you are playing. There is also a LED display above the screen that is designed to help you determine if your instrument is properly tuned. It has three different indicators. The left most will shine red whenever your guitar is flat. The right most light will glow when your guitar is sharp. When your instrument is tuned properly, then you will see the middle indicator glow a bright green.

If you are an individual who likes to play in a flat tuning, then there is a functionality that allows you to drop your tuning anywhere from one to five steps to accommodate your play style. In addition to this customizability, you can also use this tuner on seven string guitars as well as six and seven string bass guitars. This tuner also features a sound out option that plays a reference tone for you to play along with and compare the frequency to see if your guitar is in tune.

If you would sooner have a tuner that can easily sit on your table or music stand as you play, instead of placing it in your pocket, this tuner has the perfect solution to that issue. It is designed with a tilt slot that is located on the back of the device. You simply slip a pick into the slot and place it on the table, where it will be easier to read the device. The Korg GA1 comes with a three volt battery. Even if you use this tuner a lot, you will see that the battery lasts for a long time. There is even an auto turn off feature that is designed to preserve you battery life if you forget to turn the device off.

When it comes to reviews, the GA-1 has almost 800 on Amazon alone. Out of these individual testimonials, you will see that 71 percent of them are five star reviews, and another 16 percent gave it a four star rating. That means that about 87 percent of all of the reviews on Amazon gave astoundingly positive feedback. Many of the reviews express how much they love the LED indicators and the accuracy of the tuner. Here is a great example of a five star testimonial that can be found on Amazon: “I am new to playing the guitar, and became extremely frustrated with trying to tune my guitar by ear. It was impossible for me, and my guitar sounded horrible! Then, I got this electronic tuner, and my guitar sounded like an actual guitar.”

#3 Bronze pick (3rd place): Fender FT-004 Chromatic Clip-On Tuner

Fender FT-004 Chromatic Clip-On Tuner

View it on Amazon for $8.99*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-bronze-awardIf you play a guitar, you have heard of Fender. It is a great company that is dedicated to bringing quality instruments and gear to your guitar playing experience. They have been bringing quality guitars to the market for decades, and recently they have extended their expertise to tuners and other musical accessories. The Fender FT-004 is a chromatic tuner that is designed to be simply clipped on to the headstock of your guitar. It is compatible with guitar, bass, violin, ukulele, and chromatic tuning.

This tuner is designed to be a small and compact device that will easily fit into any guitar case, which means that you will always have it with you when you are performing. It is three inches by six inches by three inches; in addition, it only weighs 3.5 ounces, which makes it an extremely lightweight model. This tuner features an easy to read LCD screen that is backlit for clarity. The display is typically white in color when you are tuning your guitar, but once you hit the correct frequency, you will see the indicator turn green. This is a great visual indication that is designed to help you move from string to string in a quicker fashion.

As discussed in the pre-purchase considerations, many tuners utilize microphones to tune your instrument, but this specific tuner does not. Instead of using the sounds you create, it actually uses the vibration and the frequency that your guitar generates. Using this technology means that background sounds are not picked up and the guitar can even be tuned in areas with a lot of excess noise. This is a great way to ensure that you can reach your guitars true tuning quickly during a gig where the crowd could be restless waiting for your performance. It is capable of tuning from a range of B0 to B7. In addition, this tuner requires a three volt 2032 battery, which is provided by the company and included in the packaging.

When it comes to the reviews of this Fender clip-on tuner, there are quite a few available on Amazon. 81 percent of the Amazon users who gave reviews for this tuning instrument have rated it with a positive review of at least four stars. Reviewers tend to agree that this tuner is a great value; in fact, the quality of this tuner is in line with many other tuners that are sold at a much higher price point.

Here is on example of a great five star testimonial: “In my opinion, it’s the best tuner out there. Love that it can be set to instrument being tuned so no question as to which string you are tuning for a given instrument. You can also be set to “C” instruments to tune anything. Very accurate and easy to use. Haven’t seen anyone with a better one when going open mike events.”

#4 Budget pick (Best cheap): Rowin LT-23 Mini Clip On Tuner Digital Tuner For Guitar

Rowin LT-23 Mini Clip On Tuner Digital Tuner For Guitar

View it on Amazon for $4.79*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-cheap-budget-pickEven musicians who are down on their luck and need to purchase a more budget friendly tuner have the option of purchasing a great device to tune their guitars. Our ballin’ on a budget pick, which is the mini clip-on digital tuner from Rowin, is a small, compact device that is easy to connect to the headstock of your guitar. It is designed with a one hand swivel, which is capable of freely turning a full 360 degrees.

It is a great tuner for beginning guitarists who want to learn how to tune their own instrument. This min clip-on tuner is compatible with guitars, but it can also properly tune a bass, a violin and a ukulele. It is capable of tuning most of the notes on the chromatic scale. The standard calibration is an A4, which is 440 Hz, but it also has a range detection that ranges from an A0, which is 27.5 Hz, to a C8, which is 4186 Hz. The precise tuning detection is a great way to tune on the fly.

The display is a backlit LCD screen that shows you a digital reading of the frequency of your guitar. This tuner is powered by a three volt battery that is included with the purchase of the device. When it comes to the reviews of this tuner, you will notice that they are all amazing. In fact, 95 percent of the reviews on Amazon are rated with a five star rating, and the remaining five percent are rated as four star reviews. Here is an example of one of the five star reviews that can be found on Amazon: “This is the greatest thing since sliced bread. It was never so easy to tune my guitar and ukulele. I used to put it off until it was really bad because I hated doing it. Now I can easily tune them each time I play.”


Pre-purchase considerations

Types of Tuners

There are a lot of choices available for tuning your guitar. They can be extremely simple devices or more complex machines, but tuners for acoustic guitars and electric guitars vary a little. Here are some of the options available to you when you play an acoustic guitar:

Electronic – This variety is used in connection with a microphone to correctly tune your instrument. Sometimes these types of tuners also utilize the vibration of the strings to help you tune your instrument.

Tuning Forks – These tuners produce the tone of an A when struck. With this method you will need to first tune the A string properly, and then tune the other strings in relation to that tone. This is designed for a more seasoned musician that has years of practice hearing and deciphering how different tones should sound.

Pitch Pipes – These tuning instruments have six different pipes that correspond with the six strings on a traditional guitar. Correctly tuning a guitar using this method can be a difficult experience if you are in a relatively noisy area. Electric guitars do not need to be played into a microphone to be tuned. They often can be plugged directly into the tuner. If you have an electric guitar that needs to be tuned, you may want to consider these types of tuners:

Headstock – These are often also referred to as clip-on tuners. They are designed to clip onto the headstock of your guitar to use the vibrations to determine if the instrument is in tune or not. Some clip –on tuners also have an option to tune an acoustic guitar.

Pedal – These models are designed to be used on stage with a pedal board, which means that it can be conveniently placed out of sight during a show. Some multi-effects pedals even include their own tuning function.

Tabletop – These types of tuners are often used on stage or in a studio. They are compact devices that are easy to transfer from gig to gig in your guitar case.

Built-in Preamp – This is a tuning feature that is available on many acoustic electric guitars. Some built-ins allow you to silently tune your guitar, which is a great feature for when you have a gig.

There are also apps that can be downloaded to make your guitar tuning an easy process that you can do on the go. They do not tend to be as accurate as a traditional tuner, but they are available in iOS and Android application stores if you need one.

Displays

Some tuners utilize needle based meters that are designed to show you how closely your guitar is to being tuned properly. There is a middle bar that shows where the needle needs to be located in order for your instrument to be properly tuned. Alternatively, you can choose to have a tuner that uses a LCD screen to display a ray of light that ranges from red to green. Red often indicates a flat intonation, while green means that your instrument is sharp. When a tuning display has a lot of segments, it means that you will be able to more finely tune your guitar. Some tuners use other methods of displaying a meter as well. Consider what type of display you prefer and consider your purchase options from there.

Pitch Detection and Tuning Modes

Tuners all differ, but some of the better quality options have pitch detection, which means that the tuner will pick up any tone that is played and let you know whether it is flat, sharp, or just right. The true pitch can be detected in less advanced tuners as well, but they may need to be set to a specific pitch for each string before it can compare the note frequency.

Many tuners offer special tuning modes that are designed for unique instruments. These instruments include six string basses, seven string guitars, and baritone guitars. These tuners also often are used to accommodate unique tuning styles such as Drop D or Drop E flat. If you use a capo when you play your guitar, then make sure to get a tuner that is compatible with that functionality.

Microphone, Speakers, and Metronome

Make sure that the model you choose has a microphone. Acoustic options may not play loud enough for the tuner to pick up the frequency of the instrument. If you are planning on tuning a few different instruments, you may want to ensure that you have a good microphone. Built-in speakers and amplifiers can also be a useful tool for developing more of a natural feel for music, which means that you develop the ability to tell if the tone of your guitar is off. In addition, some tuners have a metronome feature that will help you keep time as you are playing.

Conclusion (Wrapping it up)

Playing an out of tune guitar is like scraping your nails across a chalkboard. It is painful to listen to, and it is a sound that no one will enjoy hearing. There are many different types of guitar tuners available for you to purchase, but you do not want a tuner that will not work with your guitar. If you want an easy way to make sure that your instrument is tuned, then take a look at our pre-purchase considerations and decide which is best to fit your needs. Remember that acoustic guitar tuners are different from electric guitar tuners, so make sure to choose appropriately. Hopefully our guide will help you choose a tuner that will enable you to create wonderful sounding music.

Discussion and comments

We want to know what you think. Do you own any of the products we discussed? Which did you buy and how did it work out for you?

Do you know of an even better product?

Comment below and help your fellow consumers make the right choice. Over to you!

Resources

  1. The Lofty Oaks, Gear Review – Snark SN-8(B) Guitar Tuner, The Lofty Oaks, December 29, 2012
  2. Korg GA-1 Guitar and Bass Tuner, Musicians Friend
  3. Korg, Korg GA-1 Guitar & Bass Tuner Guided Tour, YouTube, October 3, 2011
  4. Kids Guitar 3, Fender FT-004 Tuner- Detailed Tutorial for Beginners, YouTube, April 30, 2013
  5. Fender FT-004 Tuner Review, Guitar Command, March 6, 2014
  6. Rowin, Rowin LT-23 Mini Clip On Tuner Digital Tuner For Guitar Bass Ukulele Chromatic Violin, Desert Cart
  • Some of the purchase considerations don’t apply much to me as I currently don’t do any live performances and am mostly a bedroom recorder. So with that being said, I think I’d have to go with the the Snark tuner. The transpose feature is awesome and I love the dimming screen, full color, and 360 rotation

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