Best Acoustic Guitar Tuner
This is your guide to the best tuners for acoustic guitars - it includes information on the major types of tuners and recommendations to help you find the tuner that will fit your needs.
While electric guitar tuners get the pitch of your guitar via the output signal, acoustic guitar tuners rely on audible sound or wood vibrations to monitor your intonation. This presents a challenge and at the same time provides practical advantage - the obvious challenge is not being able to silently tune your guitar, while the main advantage is flexibility because they will work on virtually all instruments that produce sound or vibrations. To hear the sound of your guitar, acoustic guitar tuners are usually equipped with a built-in microphone and piezo sensors that can pickup the string vibrations through the wood when the tuner is attached or clipped to the guitar.
1. Clip on Tuner
These are sometimes also called a 'piezo tuner' because they use a piezoelectric sensor which, when attached directly to your guitar, is able to pick up the vibrations of the strings directly through the instrument. The advantage of this design is to let you tune your guitar in noisy venues, the surrounding sound causes almost no interference with your tuner. These usually clip on to the headstock where the tuning pegs are, although some are designed to attach to the top of the guitar body.
The downside with these is that you can't use it to tune other acoustic instruments like brass or woodwind unless the tuner also has a built in microphone, and you may not like the look of them hanging off the end of your guitar.
The clip on tuners we recommend:
This is one of the most feature-packed and versatile clip on tuners available, ideal for multi-instrumentalists and guitarists who use multiple tunings. It works just as well with other stringed instruments including Banjos, Ukuleles, Mandolins, and Dobros. It also has special settings for alternate tunings and capos making it well suited for live performance where you need to make tuning changes quickly.
On top of its versatility, the StroboClip is known for its impressive 1/10 cent accuracy, allowing you to tune your instrument as precisely as possible. This tuning accuracy is then paired with the alternate temperaments and tunings that are meant to cover various string and wind instruments. Note that it can even handle guitars with the Buzz Feiten Tuning System, and it can all be done conveniently via the easy to use display and controls. Another nifty feature of this tuner is the battery saving auto-sleep and auto-power-off functions.
The StroboClip costs more than other tuners in this category, and one of the main reasons is that it uses a proprietary virtual form of Strobe Tuner technology which provides its extremely high levels of accuracy (click here for an explanation on strobe tuners). The MSRP is $89.99 but many online stores sell it for $65.99. See Peterson for further details. Get the latest price & reviews at Amazon.com
The AW-2G is a straightforward chromatic tuner that gets the job done as accurately as possible, down to +/- 1 cent via its piezo sensor and microphone. It does not have extra features, but you'll get essential tuning functions, and this makes tuning quicker and hassle free.
Monitoring flexibility is what makes this tuner stand out from the crowd, thanks to the double ball-joint and adjustable-angle clip which allows you to clip this on to just about any guitar in existence. The modern join will let you place it in a position that gives you a good view of the screen while staying largely hidden from the audience's point of view, allowing you to discretely tune your guitar in virtually any position, be it when you are standing, kneeling or sitting down.
If you are looking for a stress-free no-nonsense clip-on tuner, then you would appreciate the AW-2G. The MSRP is $100.00 but you can buy it online for around $55. Although a bit pricey, the AW-2G is well worth its price tag. See Korg for the full specs. Korg also makes a great headphone amp. Get the latest price & reviews at Amazon.com
This great looking chromatic tuner packs quite a lot of features for its price. It starts off as a versatile all-instrument tuner, you can clip it on virtually any instrument and it will give you accurate reading. The Snark SN-2 has both a vibration sensor and a built in microphone so you can use it to tune regardless of the instrument or situation.
It's solid performance is matched by its impressive visuals. The tuner's full color back-lit display can be rotated through 360 degrees for easy viewing, while the clipping mechanism is designed to stay put while you change the viewing angle - and it does so without damaging your precious instrument.
Other features include alternate tuning settings and pitch calibration (415-466Hz). Interestingly, the tuner comes with a tap tempo metronome, a feature that is not found on other tuners. This adds even more value to the already value-packed Snark SN-2, and makes it a useful practice companion. The MSRP is $39.99, but you can usually get it for less than $12.77 online. See Snark for further details. Get the latest price & reviews at Amazon.com
2. Acoustic Tuner
These have a built in microphone and can usually be used to tune guitars and other instruments as well. The downside with these is they won't work very well with acoustic instruments in a noisy environment - particularly if there are other musicians around you trying to tune up at the same time.
Planet Waves Universal Chromatic Tuner II
This is the updated version of the best selling Planet Waves Universal Chromatic Tuner. The large LCD screen is easy to read and it has the added bonus of having an electronic mode via the 1/4" input which you can use to tune electronic instruments. Designed for both Guitar and Bass it represents excellent value in this category.
The Universal Chromatic II Tuner precisely tunes guitars, basses, and other stringed, woodwind and brass instruments. Features both LED and bold LCD displays for tuning in well-lit or dark environments, and built-in microphone for acoustic and 1/4" input for electronic instruments. The compact, sleek design makes it extremely portable and convenient to store in instrument cases.
Although it can appear outdated, this tuner is easily among the cheapest of the tuners available while still being reliable. This makes it a very practical tool for guitarists that utilize both electric and acoustic instruments. The MSRP is $24.99 - you'll usually buy it online for around $13.25. Full specs are available at Planet Waves. Get the latest price & reviews at Amazon.com.
Boss TU-12EX Chromatic Tuner
Boss are well regarded for the durability and reliability of their tuners - in fact you find many people are buying this to replace it's predecessor which they've been using for over 10 years. In addition to its built in mic, it also has In/Out jacks for electric guitars.
It has everything you'd expect from a tuner that can handle the range of any guitar or bass that's out there [E0 (20.6 Hz)- C8 (4,186.0 Hz)], and it has the expected accuracy of +/-1 cent. It's point of difference is the needle meter that lets you see exactly how far you are from the desired note, and it can make an audible beep to let you know you're in tune.
With an MSRP of $137.50, and the usual street price of $99, it's not the cheapest out there - but long term owners swear by the quality of Boss. In the tradition of its top-selling TU-12 predecessor, the new TU-12EX offers needle-accurate metering for precision tuning, including high-visibility sharp and flat indicators to ensure perfect tuning. Never play out of tune again! See Boss for full specifications. Get the latest price & reviews at Amazon.com.
Korg GA-1 Guitar and Bass Tuner
Korg has produced some nice gear that carry good features while retaining an affordable price tag, and the GA-1 is great example. For something so affordable, it covers tuning both acoustic and electric instruments, thanks to its built in microphone and line-in port.
On top of electric and acoustic compatibility, this tuner also features a guitar and bass mode that allows the unit to accurately monitor two different instruments. The GA-1 is simply a flexible tool for multi-instrumentalists, and can be an once-and-for-all affordable tuning solution for home studios. You will only need to keep one tuner to tune multiple instruments. Drop tuning and 7 string guitars (7B through 1E) are supported as well as 6 string basses (Low-B and Hi-C), and it can handle both acoustic or electric guitars and basses conveniently.
Although affordable, tuning precision is not compromised, you get a bright needle-style display that combines the best of traditional with modern interfaces. The MSRP for the GA-1 is $30.00, but you can get it online for $12.99 which makes the tuner truly easy on the pocket. See Korg for full specifications. Get the latest price & reviews at Amazon.com.
3. Tuner Software / App
You can use a guitar tuner app on your Smartphone, PC, or Mac. An Android or iPhone tuner will generally use the built in microphone. We provide a basic description of each app here - click on the software title for more detailed information at Hitsquad.
Cleartune is a highly regarded chromatic tuning app. It has an intuitive interface and copes well with noisy situations. It has some pro features like transposition and custom temperaments.
Chromatia is a professional tuner that provides 32 alternate temperaments and scales - including historic tunings such as Pythagorean, mean-tone, just, and well tempered tunings, traditional folk scales, stretched piano tunings, and the common equal temperament tuning. It also Supports WASAPI, ASIO and DirectSound for low-latency.
You can download a trial version and if you decide to buy it the price is $19:95.
PitchPerfect is a free guitar tuner that is available on all popular platforms. It is a powerful chromatic tuner that comes with automatic note detection.
If you are running a computer with Linux operating system, the gxtuner would be a practical choice. This software is a simple free guitar & bass tuner that will let you tune your instrument via the Linux Jack audio.
It uses an equal-tempered scale based on A4 = 440 Hz.
4. Guitar Tuner Facts & Definitions
- Automatic tuner - this is an easy guitar tuner to use because you don't have to tell it which note or string you are playing, it will work it out by itself and tell you which note is sounding and how sharp or flat it is. There are still some older types on the market which require you to tell it which note you want to tune to - we don't recommend you buy one of those and we haven't mentioned any above.
- Chromatic tuner - Some guitar tuners can only tune the 6 notes of standard tuning - i.e. A E D G B E. A chromatic tuner can automatically tune to all 12 notes in the scale making it much more versatile in that you can use alternate tunings and tune other instruments.
- Cents - A measurement of interval which is exactly 1/100th of a semitone. Although most people can't hear the difference between two successively played notes if the difference is less than 6 cents, you still need to tune to an accuracy of less than 2 cents. E.G. if one string is 5 cents below correct pitch, and another is 5 cents above, then the difference of 10 cents will sound out of tune. The accuracy of guitar tuners is measured in cents.
- Online Tuner - Many of these just play a tone for you to listen and tune to, they don't tell you the pitch of your strings (click here for an example). Although these can be good for experienced musicians, we don't recommend a beginner use this type of tuning method.
- Temperament - This is basically a particular tuning, different temperaments may have different ratios between intervals. This is an advanced topic - for the best explanation see Wikipedia
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