A guitar tuner is one of the most important accessories you should own when you are playing the guitar. Having one is especially important if you are still learning to play. The more experience you get, the easier it is to tune the instrument yourself without a tool. However, even pros can tune faster if they have a tuner on hand.
In this post, we will review five of the best tuners on the market. We will talk about their value, their features and characteristics, and their pros and cons. We will also go over some of the key things to keep in mind when you are shopping for a guitar tuner.
You should think about the plans you have for your new tuner, such as whether you will travel with it to gigs or play at home, and what kind of music you will play. Those facts and more will determine the type of tuner that is the right fit for your needs.
There are plenty of well-made guitar tuners available for good prices, so it isn't always easy to decide on a final choice.
This post will give you the information you need.
Top 5 Guitar Tuners
The first tuner on our list is a $20 model from Snark. The display is round and offers a full color LED construction. The nearest note is in the center and the plus and minus range on either side will guide you towards that note.
To use it, attach it to the headstock of the guitar and start playing. You can freely rotate the display for your own comfort. The tuner works with guitars and basses. The display is more advanced and detailed than you would typically see in this price range. Homing in on a note is intuitive and simple.
The Snark is sensitive enough to pick up the tone no matter what kind of headstock you have or where you attach it.
Be careful to open and close the clamp before taking on or off the tuner, because otherwise the rubber may scuff the surface of your instrument. There is no interface aside from a power button and the display itself.
The Kliq is a significant step up in price at $44. There are a few extra enhancements that come with the higher price tag.
First of all, the tuner has a warranty. It is backed by the company for three years, provided that you use it under normal conditions and do not intentionally damage it. That should keep it working longer than the Snark or some of the other choices on this list.
Next, the Kliq has a larger list of instruments that it can serve. If you play the ukulele, bass, or violin, or just want a chromatic-scale tuning reference, the Kliq can help.
It does not have a metronome, but the display is bright and clear. You can set up the goal tuning for your instrument and it will show you how to tune each string with a simple set of graphics. The Kliq can easily swap or transpose between instruments if you want to make a switch.
The FT-1 is $20, so it is back in the same price range as the Snark. In style, it is different from the Snark, however. Rather than a full color display, the FT-1 uses a green LED with a backlight.
This backlight flashes to indicate that you have reached the proper tuning. It's a simplified display, but that makes it more durable because there is less than can go wrong. The FT-1 is suitable for several instruments including the mandolin and banjo, which no other tuner so far on this list can manage.
The tuner has a pair of hinges to help you turn and swivel it in a comfortable orientation. It is also smaller than other tuners, so it will fit more easily into a case or gig bag. This is a good tuner to take along with you to shows or other events. It runs on an included battery and the calibration is a standard A440.
To select the instrument you are tuning, press the button as it cycles through the options.
D'Addario is a popular brand in the music field. They are probably best-known for their guitar strings, but they also make tuners like this one. The NS Micro is quite inexpensive at $12.
It is a small, highly portable unit that does not have a screen in the same sense that the other tuners do.
Instead, it has a set of multi-colored lights that form an arc shape. If you are far from the note, one end will light up red. As you get closer, the lights nearer the center will glow yellow and then blue to indicate when you are at the right tuning.
The NS Micro is small enough that you can potentially keep it on your instrument while you play.
This can come in handy if you are concerned about your instrument detuning during a gig, which may happen if your strings are getting old.
The last tuner in this post is the least expensive one. It costs just $8. Its display is the simplest.
Like the F-1, it uses a green backlight display, although it does offer a little more detail. It can rotate quickly and easily to face you.
It includes modes for guitar, bass, ukulele, and violin. The Mugig has a Mode button on the side for choosing between different instruments.
Among the five tuners on our list, the best option for most people is the NS Micro from D'Addario. It fits the budget and gives you everything you need without any bells and whistles, plus it is compact enough to bring and use anywhere and anytime.
If you want to save a little more money, go for the Mugig. You can't find a cheaper guitar tuner without risking poor build quality.
However, you might be interested in doing some research of your own. Here are a few key concepts to keep in mind as you shop.
Guitar gear can be expensive. This includes tuners just as much as amps, pedals, and cords. There is no point spending more money than you need on a tuner that has extras you will never use.
Plan out what you think a tuner will do for you and why you need it so that you can restrict yourself to the ones that really fit. The more money you save on the tuner, the more you can spend on the more fun pieces of gear.
Your tuner absolutely must be accurate when it guides you to the right tuning. A machine that loses accuracy over time or isn't accurate in the first place is useless.
Accuracy is the most important characteristic a tuner can have. Before making a purchase, consult some reviews and guides to make sure the tuner you are considering won't mislead you when you need it. This can happen with poorly-made models.
It only takes a small tuning mistake to cause a large problem with your sound, so accuracy has to be your top priority.
Durability and Portability
Tuners should last a long time. The more intricate the electronics are, the more likely they are to break. That is not to say that you should only buy a simple tuner, but make sure the one you choose has a tough build quality.
This is especially true if you plan to take it on the road. In that case the tuner could easily pick up some bumps and scrapes on each trip and gig, so it has to handle that without breaking or losing accuracy.
Tuners don't last forever, but you should expect to rely on them for quite a while before anything happens. If the tuner stops working before you have a chance to replace the batteries, then something is wrong.
Some tuners have more advanced and varied features. This might include the ability to add on custom tuning targets or a better display. The basic task of a tuner is fairly simple, so some manufacturers add these features to attract buyers.
They can help you settle on a good choice, but they shouldn't come before accuracy or durability. You also should be careful not to let features tempt you into going over your budget. When it comes to guitars, it is easy to find reasons to spend more.