Last Updated on
Guitar tuners are absolutely essential for aspiring musicians and experienced guitarists alike. But with so many different models and varieties on the market, it can be hard to figure out which tuner is best for your needs.
If you’ve been struggling to tune your guitar by ear or just need a reliable tuner for playing live gigs, then you’ve come to the right place.
We’ve rounded up the best guitar tuners available, so no matter what kind of guitarist you are, you won’t have any trouble finding that perfect tune.
Quick List: Best Guitar Tuners in 2020
- Snark ST-8 Super Tight – Best Clip-on Guitar Tuner
- Boss Chromatic Tuner TU-3S – Best Guitar Tuner Pedal
- TC Electronic PolyTune 3 – Best Electric Guitar Tuner
- TC Electronic PolyTune Clip – Most Accurate Guitar Tuner
- D’Addario NS Micro Sound Hole Tuner
- Korg Sledgehammer Pro
- Roadie 2 Automatic Tuner
- TC Electronic PolyTune 3 Mini
Guitar Tuner Reviews
There’s a lot of variation when it comes to guitar tuners. From clip-on versions, to pedal tuners, to rackmounts and handheld options, tuners come in an array of different form factors as well as capabilities.
In putting together this list, I wanted to find guitar tuners that combined convenient form factors and easy-to-read displays with razor sharp tonal accuracy. While I also paid attention to the presence of special features like buffered bypass and polyphonic capability, I wanted to keep in mind that not everyone has an unlimited budget or needs all the bells and whistles of a professional tuner.
The products in this line-up are some of the most accurate and easy to use tuners out there, representing a range from the highly affordable to the high-end and stage quality.
The Best Guitar Tuners
1. Snark ST-8 Super Tight – Best Clip On Guitar Tuner
- Display Rotates 360 Degrees (works for right or left-handed players)
Snark is one of the most popular brands for high quality, yet inexpensive tuners. They specialize in clip-on tuners that are light-weight, powerful, and can be used on all kinds of stringed instruments, including acoustic, electric, and bass guitars.
The Snark ST-8 Super Tight improves upon the basic clip-on tuner by incorporating a gripped clip that fixes very tightly to the headstock, so that you can be confident your tuner will stay in place throughout long jam sessions.
- Very inexpensive
- Works with all stringed instruments
- Includes Metronome
- Display Rotates 360 degrees
- Super Tight Grip Clip
- Accuracy not specified
- Plastic build is not very durable
- Only does the basics
The Snark ST-8 wins our pick for best clip-on tuner because of its highly intuitive design. The display is nice and bright with large, colorful lines that makes it easy to tell just how in or out of tune each string is.
The high-quality display is also able to rotate 360 degrees, which means you can clip it onto any guitar or stringed instrument and be able to adjust the screen to a readable angle, regardless of how you’re standing or sitting. If you’re a folk musician or someone who plays a lot of stringed instruments, you’ll appreciate having this extra flexibility and versatility, especially during live performances.
For a basic tuner that has been pared down to the bare essentials, design considerations like a strong grip clip and light-weight design go a long way. You can throw this tuner in your guitar case or music bag and rest assured that it will get the job done with ease.
2. Boss Chromatic Tuner TU-3S – Best Guitar Tuner Pedal
- Respected TU-3 tuning performance in a more compact size21-segment LED meter with brightness controlHigh Brightness mode enhances meter visibility outdoorsAccu-Pitch Sign function provides visual...
The Boss Chromatic Tuner has long been the industry standard for tuner pedals. The newer TU-3S model is an upgrade on the ubiquitous TU-2 that has been serving industry professionals for over 20 years, featuring enhanced accuracy and a special high brightness mode.
- Straight-forward operation
- Highly accurate
- Special High Brightness Mode
- Works on bass as well as guitars
- Buffered bypass only
- No polyphonic capabilities
The Boss TU-3S shines best in live settings. With an accuracy of +/- 1 cent, you can be sure that your intonation will stay precise during live shows.
The tuner is a highly durable stomp-box design, so when you’re on stage all you have to do is stomp the box and you’ll achieve a perfect tune no matter how hard you’ve been laying into your guitar. Still, if you’re ever paranoid about being out of tune, The TU-3S features an LED display with an Accu-Pitch function that will verify your tuning in a matter of seconds.
There’s also a high brightness mode that increases the maximum current draw to 85mA, if you’re looking for an edgier, punk rock sound.
The only downside to this tuner is the price. With no polyphonic capabilities or a true-bypass option, the TU-3S lacks some of the features of similarly priced, newer brands. Still, most guitarists won’t miss these specialty features. And if you’re looking for a reliable, straight-forward pedal tuner, you can’t go wrong with this one.
3. TC Electronic PolyTune 3 – Best Electric Guitar Tuner
- Ultra-compact polyphonic tuner gives you fast, accurate tuning and a high-quality tone tool in a single unit Quickly get in tune with polyphonic, chromatic and strobe tuning modes Built-in all-analog...
TC Electronic’s PolyTune line offers extreme accuracy and world class polyphonic technology that really sets their tuners apart. The full-sized PolyTune 3 is by far the best full-feature tuner on the market, with everything an electric guitar player could possible need.
- Extreme accuracy
- Polyphonic, Chromatic, and Strobe Tuning
- Switchable Buffer
- Polyphonic display takes some getting used to
The first thing that stands out about this tuner is just how insanely accurate it is. In strobe mode, the tuner is accurate up to +/- 0.02 cents. This kind of accuracy is so precise, you can feel confident double-tracking guitars in the studio, tuning other instruments to your arrangement, or playing on stage without any fear of being out of tune.
Unlike other tuners, the PolyTune 3 doesn’t compromise speed for accuracy. Polyphonic tuning allows you to save time by strumming all the strings at once and automatically identifying those that are out of tune.
What makes this tuner the standout option for electric guitarists is just how much flexibility it offers. Its speed and options for switching between lightning fast chromatic tuning and polyphonic tuning are great for live shows where you don’t want to stand on stage tuning your guitar between sets. It offers both true bypass and buffered bypass for those who are really finicky about intonation. It even has an auto-dimming, highly bright LED display, so you won’t have any trouble reading the screen in a dark concert hall or an outdoor, sunlit stage.
If you aren’t a professional guitarist, you’ll certainly feel like one when using this full-feature tuner that’s both studio and stage ready.
4. TC Electronic PolyTune Clip – Most Accurate Guitar Tuner
- Poly tune technology - tune all 6 strings simultaneously
Unsurprisingly, our pick for most accurate guitar tuner has to go to TC Electronic as well. There simply aren’t any other tuners on the market with strobe mode tuning range that’s accurate up to +/- 0.02 cents. For the most accurate guitar tuner, we’re going with the PolyTune Clip model, which has the same level of incredible accuracy as TC Electronic’s pedal tuners, but at a fraction of the cost.
- Extreme tuning accuracy
- Polyphonic, Chromatic, and Strobe Tuning
- Light-weight clip-on
- Polyphonic display takes some getting used to
This tuner is by far the most accurate clip-on tuner on the market. If you’re looking to record your own tracks, then this tuner is a great choice because it offers a professional level of accuracy in a compact, highly portable, and affordable body.
The option for polyphonic tuning also sets it apart from the majority of clip-on tuners. You’ll feel incredibly stylish clipping this to your headstock, strumming all six strings at once, and immediately identifying which ones need attention.
It also offers a chromatic, one-note “needle” mode reminiscent of the most basic tuners, so if you’re intimidated by the polyphonic display, you can ease your way into it.
The price point of the PolyTune Clip makes this sleek tuner an affordable option for beginners and amateurs. So, if you want to start recording and publishing your own songs, rest assured that this tuner will give you the precise tone of professional artists.
5. D’Addario NS Micro Sound Hole Tuner
- Perfect for Acoustic Guitars, Ukulele, and other acoustic instruments
If you’re an acoustic guitarist looking for a more discrete option, then the D’Addario NS Micro Sound Hole is the tuner for you. Designed to clip onto the inside of acoustic guitar or ukulele sound holes, this D’Addario tuner completely eliminates the appearance of needing to tune your instrument. You’ll hold onto your pride, giving audiences the impression that you are tuning solely by ear, without sacrificing the confidence of achieving that perfect tune.
- Small and discreet
- Invisible to audience members
- Accurate and fast response
- Not compatible with electric guitars
This Micro Sound Hole Tuner is one of the smallest and least intrusive models available. It clips onto the guitar with a simple, non-marking clip that won’t leave any scratches or dents in your instrument and has a highly sensitive vibration sensor. You can then easily tune your instrument via a bright, multi-color display that won’t be visible to anyone else. It is also highly accurate in comparison to other chromatic tuners, boasting an impressive +/- 0.3 cents tuning range.
Still, you pay a high premium for discrete tuning. The D’Addario costs roughly the same as the PolyTune Clip-On Tuner, but with none of the special features. It also cannot be used on electric guitars. If you’re really self-conscious, then this tuner is an easy to read and unobtrusive option. However, if you’re willing to swallow your pride, then there are a lot of other tuners that will give you better bang for your buck.
6. Korg Sledgehammer Pro
- Easily operated shuttle switch
A solid mid-range model, the Korg Sledgehammer Pro provides some of the accuracy and cool-factor of more professional tuners, but at a beginner-friendly price point.
- Highly visible 3D display
- Highly accurate
- Fast response
- Flimsy clip mechanism
The Korg Sledgehammer Pro is a fairly standard chromatic, headstock tuner. It is one of the more accurate clip-on tuners available, boasting up to +/- 0.1 cent, for a precise tune that is suitable for live performances and outperforms most of the headstock tuner market. It’s also very fast and compatible with both guitars and bass.
That said, the major selling point for this tuner is just how cool it makes you look. It features a high-contrast, 3-dimensional display with a space-age, blue color palette that will make you feel like you’re straight out of Blade Runner. While Korg claims the 3-D design creates exceptional visibility intended for darkly lit stages, it’s more of an aesthetic bonus than anything else. You’ll feel like a real Rockstar when you bring this tuner to gigs.
Still, for the accuracy and price point, this tuner is a reasonable choice for beginners and professionals alike. The only downside is that the clip mechanism is slightly flimsy and not as strong as other models.
7. Roadie 2 Automatic Tuner
- WORKS ON ALL STRING INSTRUMENTS with a guitar machine head including electric, acoustic, classical, and steel guitars, 6, 7 and 12-string guitars, ukuleles, mandolins, banjos & more (Get Roadie Bass...
The Roadie 2 is a “smart” tuner unlike any other. An automatic, motorized tuning device, the Roadie 2 detects the pitch of a string based on its tension and then adjusts to any pre-set note of your choosing. All you have to do is attach the tuner to your instrument head, pluck the string once, and it automatically does the tuning and string tightening for you.
- Incredibly easy to use
- Great for replacing strings
- Full customization of alternate tunings
- Able to tune anywhere
- Lower tuning accuracy
- Separate bass model required for bass guitars
This tuner takes all of the hassle out of tuning, completely automizing the process so you don’t have to do anything. The built-in vibration sensor makes the Roadie 2 great for performers who frequently work in noisy environments. Because the device relies on tension, you can tune literally anywhere and still get decent accuracy up to +/- 2 cents.
Another major benefit of this tuner is how much it simplifies alternate tunings. The device even comes with pre-set alternates. So, if you’re a true artist, can’t find your capo, or you just want to feel like Keith Richards for a day, then the Roadie 2 has you covered.
In addition to functioning as a fairly accurate tuner, the Roadie 2 can also be used as a string winder. If you’ve ever struggled to replace a broken string, then you’ll really appreciate just how amazing this feature is. You won’t ever feel stressed about changing strings again.
It also works on all string instruments with machine heads, including acoustic guitar and electric guitars as well as mandolins, banjos, and ukuleles. If you’re someone who plays a lot of folk instruments, then this tuner is a really worthwhile investment if only for the string winding feature itself.
8. TC Electronic PolyTune 3 Mini
- Tiny polyphonic Tuner gives you fast, accurate tuning and a high-quality tone tool in a single unit
We would be remiss if we did not include a miniature pedal tuner in this list. The final model in the TC Electronic PolyTune range, the PolyTune 3 Mini stands out as a pared down version of the full-feature pedal tuner. Its compact size makes it a great choice for anyone low on pedal board space, or just looking for a professional pedal tuner on a budget.
- Tiny footprint
- Extreme tuning accuracy
- Polyphonic, Chromatic, and Strobe Tuning
- Highly visible
- Not suitable for people with large feet
The PolyTune 3 Mini contains a lot of the same features as the full-sized version. It’s still just as accurate and comes with options for polyphonic, chromatic tuning, and strobe mode tuning as well as buffered and true bypass.
What makes this tuner special is that it combines all of the excitement and versatility of a full-featured model with a discounted price and increased portability. You’ll love having the extra space for guitar effects on your pedal board, and unless you have very large feet, there’s really no downside to selecting the miniature version.
Furthermore, the PolyTune 3 Mini comes with the same ultra-bright, auto-dimming display we’re used to seeing in the PolyTune line, so you will still be able to easily glance at and read the smaller display on stage.
Guitar Tuner Buying Guide
How Does a Guitar Tuner Work?
There are a few different ways in which guitar tuners work. The most common clip-on tuners operate via an internal built-in microphone that detects vibrations in the wood of the guitar and matches these vibrations to a specific pitch. In contrast, pedal tuners are actually built into the audio equipment of electric or electric-acoustic guitars and receive a direct audio signal from the guitar. Both clip-on and pedal tuners function by identifying the pitch frequency emitted by the guitar and then comparing that frequency to the closest note.
Chromatic tuners and polyphonic tuners operate in this manner. The only difference between the two is that chromatic tuners detect a single frequency at a time, while polyphonic tuners can measure all the frequencies of all strings at once.
Finally, there are strobe tuners, which work slightly differently from other electronic tuners. They function as miniature strobe lights, emitting a flickering light at the same frequency as the note that is being played. This light is then reflected onto a wheel that spins at a precise frequency. When the pitch is in tune, the light on the wheel and the strobe light appear to be completely still. The benefit of this process is that it is a lot more accurate than other tuners, although it can take longer to process.
Are Guitar Tuners Accurate?
Most guitar tuners will come with an accuracy measurement that explains just how well they can effectively and accurately identify pitch frequencies. While it may not be possible to determine the exact pitch of any given string or note, most guitar tuners come surprisingly close.
For example, tuning accuracy ratings are given in terms of cents, which represent fractions of a semitone. Each cent is one hundredth of a semitone and the most accurate guitar tuners in this round-up are accurate to a tuning range of +/- 0.02 cents. This is the equivalent of 0.02% of the difference between a C and a C#.
In other words, yes! They can be extremely accurate.
Do Clip On Tuners Work on Electric Guitars?
Clip-on tuners can be used on any type of guitar. Because most clip-on tuners work by detecting low-level vibrations in the wood of the guitar, they work just as well on electric and acoustic guitars.
The advantage of using a clip-on tuner is that they are really small, portable, and easy to read. All you have to do it attach it to the headstock and you’re immediately able to get started. You do need to keep in mind battery life of the tuner and it is a good idea to keep a couple of spare batteries with you.
The reason a lot of electric guitarists choose to use pedal tuners, is that they are specifically plugged into the guitar through a jack cable (so no concerns about battery life). For electric or electric acoustic guitarists who are playing through amplifiers, pedal tuners are a preferred option because they hook up to the audio equipment directly. All you have to do is turn them on, and the audio signal will actually pass through the tuner before getting to the amplifier.
Finding the Perfect Tuner
While there is a lot of variety in styles and types of guitar tuners, you can’t really go wrong with any of the ones listed here. If you’re not a professional guitarist, then a basic, clip-on tuner is likely all you’ll need.
But if you’re someone who plays a lot of live gigs or wants to lay down multiple tracks in the studio, then investing in a high-quality model with strobe-tuning capabilities is definitely worth the price. These tuners will last you a lifetime and give you confidence in your intonation, leaving you free to focus on the music.