Best guitar tuners 2024: chromatic, polyphonic, and strobe options

Whilst purchasing a tuner pedal is probably not going to cut it in terms of landmark moments in your guitar-playing career, there's no doubt that the humble guitar tuner is one of the most important pedals you'll ever possess. Whether you're building your first 'board or just got started playing, our pick of the best guitar tuners will suit any kind of player.

We get it, a guitar tuner pedal is not as sexy as a boutique stompbox or a brand new tube amp, but there's a reason a tuner is the first pedal on any pro guitar player's pedalboard. That free app on your phone is great, but it just won't cut it outside of your bedroom. As well as ensuring you're always in tune, a tuner pedal is also a fantastic tool for set-up work like changing your strings or adjusting your intonation.  Get a great pedal tuner as the first step in your setup and everything that follows will sound that much better.

There's a myriad of different tuners to choose from so we've picked out our favorites for you here, if you want to know a little more before you purchase then make sure to check out our buying advice section. It's packed full of useful info from the experienced writers here at Guitar World and will ensure you have everything you need to know to make the right decision.

Chris Bird author image
Chris Bird

Chris has been the Editor of Total Guitar magazine since 2020. Prior to that, he was at the helm of Total Guitar's world-class tab and tuition section for 12 years. He's a former guitar teacher with 35 years playing experience and he holds a degree in Philosophy & Popular Music. Chris has interviewed Brian May three times, Jimmy Page once, and Mark Knopfler zero times – something he desperately hopes to rectify as soon as possible

Best guitar tuners: The quick list

Bored of walls of text? Here you'll find the very best guitar tuners available today, with links to read more if you want.

The best guitar tuners available today

You can trust Guitar World Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing guitar products so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

Here you'll find full writeups for the best guitar tuners available today. Many of these products have been extensively tested by our team of expert musicians, so you can rely on our recommendations.

Best overall

TC Electronic PolyTune 3 Mini tuner on a wooden surface

(Image credit: Future)
The best guitar tuner (polyphonic) in a small footprint pedal

Specifications

Type: Mini pedal
Tuning range: A0-C8 (27.5Hz-4186Hz)
Calibration range: A4 = 435Hz-445Hz
Accuracy: +/- 0.02 cents (strobe mode) 0.5 cents (chromatic mode)
Modes: Polyphonic / chromatic / strobe

Reasons to buy

+
Bypass/buffered outputs
+
Always-on mode is handy
+
Great accuracy and speed

Reasons to avoid

-
Not ideal for big feet

TC Electronic's PolyTune 3 Mini could be the best guitar tuner for you if you’d rather devote pedalboard space to cool, creative effects. During testing, we were thoroughly impressed by what the Mini is capable of - and the tuning accuracy is spot on.

Polyphonic functionality is part and parcel of the PolyTune line – and the dinky display’s 109 LEDs do a good job of clearly conveying the potentially complicated view of your guitar’s full six-string tuning. 

Ever play slide guitar? Fretless? Long emotive string bends? Use the Mini’s handy always-on function to guide your pitching. And, with both buffered and true bypass modes, you can be sure there’s a place for the PolyTune anywhere in your signal chain.

Read the full TC Electronic PolyTune 3 Mini review

Best for accuracy

Best guitar tuners: Peterson StroboStomp HD Guitar Tuner

(Image credit: Press Material)

2. Peterson StroboStomp HD

With optimized presets for 135 tunings, Peterson has you covered

Specifications

Type: Pedal
Tuning range: C0-A#8 (16.35Hz-7302Hz)
Calibration range: A4 = 390Hz-490Hz
Accuracy: +/- 0.1 cent
Modes: One screen mode / 135 tuning presets

Reasons to buy

+
Screen visible even in bright light 
+
135 ‘sweetened’ tuning presets
+
Save your own presets

Reasons to avoid

-
Too expensive for some

Famed for their accuracy, Peterson strobe tuners have long been the choice of pros seeking the highest quality gear, and in 2019 Peterson unveiled what it considers to be ‘the ultimate pedal guitar tuner’: the StroboStomp HD. 

Boasting a feature set far beyond most of its rivals, you’ll find both true and buffered bypass modes, plus 135 ‘sweetened’ tunings – micro-adjusted reference pitch points optimised for a variety of instrument types and altered tunings. If you notice some of your chords sound a little off at different places on the fretboard, and you've checked your intonation, then these sweetened tunings help you get the very best out of your instrument.

One feature we loved especially is the ability to save your own presets - making those tuning changes at shows so much easier. Of course, this level of nerd-ish tweakery can only be employed by the most precise tuners, and the StroboStomp HD delivers 0.1 cent accuracy. That’s plenty enough for the most discerning of ears. 

Best multi-purpose

Best guitar tuners: Ernie Ball VPJR Tuner

(Image credit: Ernie Ball)
A game-changing hybrid tuner from the Ball family

Specifications

Type: Volume/Tuner Pedal
Tuning range: A0 to Bb6 (27.5Hz to 1864.88Hz)
Calibration range: A4 = 432Hz-447Hz
Accuracy: +/- 0.1 cents (chromatic)
Modes: Chromatic

Reasons to buy

+
Ultra-modern user interface
+
Bold display is unmissable
+
Well priced, considering the extra features 

Reasons to avoid

-
The actual tuner is quite simple 

You’re probably thinking we’ve lost the plot here by including a volume pedal in this guide, but please let us explain. Ernie Ball’s expression pedal-based delays and overdrives have been a popular choice for guitarists worldwide, and now they’ve incorporated the most important pedal of them all. 

The VJPR is a two-in-one pedal that combines a volume display and an onboard digital chromatic tuner on a crystal-clear display screen integrated into the pedal’s footboard. In ‘volume + tuning’ mode, wind the pedal all the way to the heel-down position (no signal) and the tuner engages, and as you increase the signal, a volume readout will appear. Ernie Ball has also provided ‘volume only’ and ‘tuner only’ modes, for those who like to keep things a bit more simple. We found these super useful during testing, as getting used to any new tech can be a challenge.

The tuner can not only be calibrated to a whole range of different pitches but can be used as a master volume or gain control on your rig. The pedal sits in an ultra-durable aluminum housing that features a Kevlar cord to ensure even tension throughout the foot sweep. Input-wise, the mono input jack can handle both passive and active signals, with up to 18V of headroom. This makes the VJPR perfect for passive and active guitars and basses.

Read the full Ernie Ball VPJR Tuner review 

Best value for money

Best guitar tuners: Boss TU-3 Guitar Tuner

(Image credit: Press Material)

4. Boss TU-3 Guitar Tuner

One of the best guitar tuners, and an industry standard pedal too

Specifications

Type: Pedal chromatic tuner
Tuning range: C0-C8 (16.35Hz-4,186Hz)
Calibration range: A4 = 436Hz-445Hz
Accuracy: +/- 1 cent
Modes: Chromatic / strobe

Reasons to buy

+
Trademark Boss build quality
+
Ultra-clear display
+
Superb accuracy

Reasons to avoid

-
Buffered bypass only

An evolution on Boss’ top-selling industry-standard TU-2, the TU-3 now features drop tuning functionality, improved tuning accuracy, and ‘Accu-Pitch’ verification to confirm you’ve tuned successfully. All good stuff, and you can add to that the TU-3’s brighter screen for cutting through bright sunlight. Perfect for busking!

Still an industry standard, Boss’ ever-present rock-solid build quality is evident. You may find other pedals do more for your money, however. We'd argue, though, that there's only so much anyone wants their tuner to do - and tune effectively and efficiently is probably pretty high up on the priority list.

Boss offers only buffered bypass mode in the TU-3 which some players will love, others will hate, and many won't notice the difference. If you really need a true-bypass Boss tuner, you’re looking at the TU-3W ‘Waza Craft’ edition. At $50 extra, though, you do pay a premium. 

Best rackmount

Best guitar tuners: Korg Pitchblack Pro

(Image credit: Korg)

5. Korg Pitchblack X Pro rackmount tuner

Flagship rack-mounted tuner

Specifications

Type: Rackmount
Tuning range: E0 – C8 , 20.60Hz – 4,186Hz
Calibration range: A4 = 436Hz to 445Hz
Accuracy: +/- 0.1 cent
Modes: Regular, Strobe, Half-strobe, Focus

Reasons to buy

+
Huge LED display
+
Ultra Buffer tone protection
+
Four tuner modes

Reasons to avoid

-
Rackmount option not for everyone

Imagine taking all the good stuff from a Pitchblack X Pedal Tuner and shoving it into a 1U rackmount enclosure. Yes, but why would you want to do that? Visibility and accuracy, that’s why. The Pitchblack X Pro’s massive display makes it so much easier to perform very fine adjustments, which is critical with a tuner as accurate as this.

So, if you’re confined to your studio for most of your guitar-playing life and already use a rack or two to house other equipment then the Pitchblack X Pro is a natural fit. You’ll be able to see it clearly from across the room, and it’ll speed up the process of tuning no end.

What about performance? Wouldn’t it be great to benefit from a super-large display on stage? Absolutely. In fact, with the help of some rack ears, it’s simplicity itself to mount it on a pedalboard.

Another reason Korg super-sized the Pitchblack X is so that it could throw in some extra features. As well as all the regular highlights and innovations – such as true bypass, Ultra Buffer, four meter modes, and incredible accuracy – this version also includes a cable checker and an option to change the hue of the LEDs.

You see, the Pitchblack X Pro is an absolute riot of colour. You can choose one of five different colour types, from a blue to red gradation, green to a red gradation or single-coloured gradations rooted in cyan, green, or blue. Make your selection for maximum visibility, or to match your stage lighting, your guitar, your outfit, or even your lippy. The choice is yours!

Best budget

Best guitar tuners: Snark ST-2 Super Tight Guitar Tuner

(Image credit: Snark)

6. Snark ST-2 Super Tight Guitar Tuner

One of the best guitar tuners that handles the basics well

Specifications

Type: Clip-on chromatic tuner
Tuning range: Not specified
Calibration range: A4 = 415Hz-466Hz
Accuracy: Not specified
Modes: Microphone/vibration chromatic mode / metronome

Reasons to buy

+
Works with guitar, bass and more
+
Tune with vibration sensor or mic
+
Onboard metronome is handy

Reasons to avoid

-
Accuracy and tuning range not specified

At this small price, it’s worth having an ST-2 around even if you only keep it in a gigbag. Definitely the best guitar tuner for those on a budget. Though there are several pricier and fully featured guitar tuners here, Snark’s ST-2 is aimed at the player who wants just the bare essentials.

First of all, the attachment system is robust and the screen is easily angled – a surprisingly important feature because these types of tuners have to fit in around tuning machines on six-string guitars, 12-strings, mandolins, basses… you get the idea! 

Secondly, the ST-2 tracks quickly. Set it to the vibration sensor and it’ll work just fine in all but the loudest of gigs. The microphone is for acoustic instruments, of course, so you’ll need some peace and quiet at home to use this mode. All-in-all you can't knock the ST-2 considering the price point, perfect for beginner guitarists or those on a shoestring budget.

More options...

Best guitar tuners: Korg Pitchblack X Pedal Tuner

(Image credit: Korg)
New pedal brings more power and safeguards tone

Specifications

Type: Pedal
Tuning range: E0 – C8 , 20.60Hz – 4,186Hz
Calibration range: A4 = 436Hz to 445Hz
Accuracy: +/- 0.1 cent
Modes: Regular, Strobe, Half-strobe, Mirror

Reasons to buy

+
Ultra Buffer tone protection
+
Four tuner modes
+
Bright mode for low light

Reasons to avoid

-
No polyphonic mode

The Pitchblack X Pedal Tuner is Korg’s next-gen stompbox tuner, a pedal that boasts many new features, yet has become even easier to use. Not that the previous version required MENSA membership!

Korg is particularly proud that the Pitchblack X now features its newly developed Ultra Buffer technology, as well as true bypass. Continue to choose true bypass for unadulterated tone when you’re using a rig with short cable runs and just a few I/O points. If, however, you’re using passive pickups with a rig that has a longer reach of cables, or multiple pedal instances, then you’re better off switching to Ultra Buffer. This will boost your signal slightly to avoid loss of tone, even when the Pitchblack X is switched off.

More LEDs have been added for higher visibility on brightly lit stages, and Korg has introduced ‘just-right tuning’ which is a fancy way of saying that both arrows blink when tuning is correct. Accuracy is a jaw-dropping +/- 0.1 cents, so you’ll be putting those blinking arrows through their paces.

There are four meter display modes to choose from. The regular mode features a central, stationary LED together with a second LED that moves as you alter the pitch of a string. When the two coincide and the arrows start blinking then you’re perfectly in tune. ‘Strobe’ and ‘half strobe’ indicate changes in pitch by the direction and speed of the LEDs. Make them grind to a halt and you’ll be in tune. Finally, the ‘mirror’ mode uses moving LEDs on the left and right of centre that converge as your guitar string becomes progressively more in tune.

The Korg Pitchblack X Pedal Tuner can run on a 9V battery or an external power supply. Incidentally, if you don’t warm to its form factor then there are three other Pitchblack models to choose from: the rackmount 1U Pitchblack X Pro, the compact Pitchblack XS, and the tiny Pitchblack X mini.

Read the full Korg Pitchblack X review

Best guitar tuners: D’Addario NS Micro Soundhole Guitar Tuner

(Image credit: Press Material)

8. D’Addario NS Micro Soundhole Guitar Tuner

The best guitar tuner for those who want a discrete device

Specifications

Type: Soundhole
Calibration range: A4 = 435Hz-445Hz
Accuracy: +/- 0.3 cents
Modes: Automatic / manual

Reasons to buy

+
Barely visible to the audience
+
Quick tuning response
+
Non-marking attachment

Reasons to avoid

-
More accurate tuners are available
-
Acoustic instruments only

Designed for acoustic guitars, basses, and ukuleles, D’Addario’s soundhole-mounted tuner is a compact device, offering easy viewing from its bright multi-color display. Hiding discreetly inside your acoustic guitar’s soundhole, the NS Micro won’t spoil the appearance of your pride and joy either. A non-marking attachment enables stress-free installation.

It works by picking up vibrations from your guitar’s soundboard – far more accurate than old-fashioned microphone tuners prone to picking up ambient noise. Sure there are more accurate tuners available, and more expensive ones too. However, as it combines ease of use and a non-intrusive, diminutive form factor, the NS Micro is well worth a look.

Granted, this tuner will only work on acoustic instruments, but if you're looking for something small and infinitely useful to have in your acoustic gigbag, then you can't really go wrong with the NS Micro. Perfect for acoustic guitarists who don't want to spoil the look of their instrument.

Best guitar tuner: Fender Flash 2.0

(Image credit: Fender)

9. Fender Flash 2.0

Stay tuned for more. And more and more and more…

Specifications

Type: Clip-on headstock tuner
Tuning range: A0, 440Hz calibration
Calibration range: A4 = 440Hz
Accuracy: +/- 1 cent*
Modes: Guitar, Bass, Ukulele, Violin and Chromatic tuning modes. Alternate tuning modes: Open G, D, E, ♭ and ♭♭

Reasons to buy

+
Rechargeable, with impressive life between charges
+
Wide selection of modes and alternate tunings
+
Colour LCD screen

Reasons to avoid

-
A = 440Hz only

It’s a truly stomach-churning experience. You’re just about long enough into your set for the heat of the stage lights to knock your tuning off. So, as you start to move one hand towards your guitar’s headstock you do a double take at your clip-on tuner. It’s dead, completely and utterly unresponsive…

This is why Fender’s Flash Tuner is worth every cent of its minuscule price tag. It’s rechargeable, which is good for your mental stability and great for the planet. Give it a good wallop of power via the included USB cable and it’ll perform alongside you and your guitar for 20 hours. That’s continuous use mind, so the actual figure will be much, much higher because it has an auto shut-off feature that kicks in after five minutes of inactivity. In a nutshell, it’ll keep on partying long after you’ve called it a night.

For a small inexpensive clip-on tuner, it’s surprisingly big on features. The clippy bit boasts two 360° swivels and a 120° hinge, so you’ll always be able to adjust its colourful LED screen so that you can see it. 

There are modes for Guitar, Bass, Ukulele, Violin, and Chromatic tuning, plus alternate tuning settings of half step flat, full step flat, and open G, D and E. Perhaps best of all, its screen features a very visible battery indicator, so you’ll never be caught out ever again. 

Best guitar tuners: TC Electronic PolyTune Clip Guitar Tuner

(Image credit: TC Electronic)

10. TC Electronic PolyTune Clip

For acoustic players who want polyphonic tuning

Specifications

Type: Clip
Tuning range: A0-C8 (27.5Hz-4186Hz)
Calibration range: A4 = 435Hz-445Hz
Accuracy: +/- 0.02 cents (strobe mode) 0.5 cents (chromatic mode)
Modes: Polyphonic / chromatic / strobe

Reasons to buy

+
Amazing accuracy
+
Small form factor design
+
Polyphonic functionality

Reasons to avoid

-
Not the cheapest option

It’s been around since 2015, but TC Electronic’s diminutive clip-on is still a worthy offering, boasting impressive accuracy of a minuscule +/- 0.02-cent strobe-mode accuracy (that’s one 5,000th of a semitone!) and 0.5 cents in chromatic mode.

As its name suggests, the PolyTune Clip is polyphonic but it offers a regular one-note ‘needle’ mode for players who find a six-string display just too much of a light show. We say ‘six-string’...  PolyTune Clip is suitable for bass guitars too, albeit only in needle mode. Still, this is a stylish and functional tuner regardless.

It's not exactly cheap as far as clip-on tuners go, but in our testing, we found it outdoes nearly every other clip-on tuner on the market - so if you need a small, convenient, accurate tuner, then this is the one.

Best guitar tuners: D’Addario Micro Headstock Guitar Tuner

(Image credit: Press Material)

11. D’Addario Micro Headstock Tuner

Easy to use and cheap as chips, D’Addario has done it again

Specifications

Type: Headstock tuner
Calibration range: A4 = 410Hz-480Hz
Accuracy: +/- 0.3 cents
Modes: Chromatic / metronome

Reasons to buy

+
Small and compact
+
Doesn't add weight to your headstock
+
Excellent value for money

Reasons to avoid

-
Display could be better

Much like D’Addario’s soundhole-mounted offering, the Micro Headstock Tuner is a small un-intrusive device. It’s lightweight too – ideal for maintaining your instrument’s balance. If you really want a clip-on tuner but find they weigh too heavy on your headstock, this could be the tuner for you.

At 0.3 cents, this is one of the most accurate models in our best guitar tuners list. That’s an impressive feat considering it’s also one of the cheapest here. It can also stay on your guitar while it's in transit, removing the chance of you rocking up to a show having forgotten your tuner.

Sure the display is a simple chromatic layout, with none of the strobe style offerings of the more expensive models here, but this is all about wallet-friendly simplicity. There aren't many tuners with as small a profile as the Micro Headstock Tuner, which makes it a great choice for guitarists who want to maintain the look and balance of their guitars.

Best guitar tuner: Peterson StroboClip HD

(Image credit: Peterson)

12. Peterson StroboClip HD

Powerful clip-on strobe tuner with sweetened tunings

Specifications

Type: Clip-on headstock tuner
Tuning range: C0 – B6 , frequency response 16Hz – 1,975Hz
Calibration range: A = 390Hz to 490Hz
Accuracy: +/- 0.1 cent*
Modes: 50 ‘sweetened’ tunings

Reasons to buy

+
Incredibly accurate
+
Easily visible, whatever the conditions
+
Sweetened tunings

Reasons to avoid

-
Takes a little getting used to
-
Not cheap

As the name suggests, the Stroboclip HD offers the accuracy of a stompbox strobe tuner but in a much smaller package that’s ready to be clipped to the headstock of your guitar. Or many other instruments for that matter.

Accuracy is an astonishing 0.01 cent, and tuning is as easy as adjusting your guitar’s tuning pegs until the animated strobe disk stops spinning. Peterson claims that this method of tuning is quite literally ‘spot-on’, and far more accurate than the animated arrows or flashing lights found in other tuners. 

It goes without saying that being in tune is always a good thing, but the accuracy of the StroboClip HD enables you to experiment with ‘sweetened tunings’ too. It ships with a library of 50 sweetened tunings for a variety of instruments from banjos to brass including, of course, guitar. 

Despite its tiny size, the StroboClip HD’s LCD screen is easily seen in the gloom of a poorly lit stage and even remains perfectly visible in direct sunlight. If you own a bass as well as a guitar or two, you’ll be delighted to learn that it’s one of the few clip-on tuners that’ll recognize the low E string without any issues whatsoever.

Best guitar tuners: Band Industries Roadie 3

(Image credit: Band Industries)
Get your own personal Roadie to tune your guitar for you

Specifications

Type: Motorised automatic tuner
Accuracy: +/- 2 cents
Modes: 40 factory tuning presets + 40 user presets

Reasons to buy

+
Takes the hassle out of tuning
+
Replace/re-wind strings easily
+
Ace for guitars, banjos, ukuleles

Reasons to avoid

-
Bass model required for bass guitar

Whereas the market is flooded with pedals, automatic motorized tuners are few and far between. Using its vibration sensor, the Roadie 3 detects the pitch of a string and then adjusts it to a preselected note. Just stick it on a machine head and the tuner does the winding for you, at up to 120rpm.

Roadie 3 also has an integrated metronome to help you nail your timings, and an improved peg connector means it’ll fit even more instruments. Working on the majority of guitars, it can also tune banjos, acoustic guitars, and even ukuleles. It may be disconcerting to let a machine do the tuning for you, but it works incredibly well.

Not enough to tempt you? Well, consider that Roadie 3 comes equipped with over 100 built-in tuning presets. DADGAD? Sure! Capo tunings? You bet!! Simply access them via the onboard LED screen. For expanded editing features you’ll need the free Roadie 3 app. 

Read the full Roadie 3 Automatic Guitar Tuner review

Best guitar tuners: Buying advice

Roadie 3 guitar tuner sitting on a green guitar

(Image credit: Band Industries)

What types of guitar tuners are there?

There are three main types of guitar tuner. Once you peel back the marketing hype, the main difference comes down to personal preference:

Chromatic: The first is chromatic. These tuners compare the input signal to one of the 12 notes in the chromatic scale. This means they are limited to only these notes, as well as only tuning one note at a time. For most players, neither of those limitations is likely to be an issue.

Polyphonic: The second type of tuner is polyphonic. Just as with pitch-shifters or synths, 'polyphonic' simply means that the tuner can process multiple notes at once. The downside, of course, is that this is harder to show to the user. They can be incredibly useful live, however, as you can strike all the strings to see if everything lights up green.

Strobe: The final type of tuner is the strobe tuner. Unlike the chromatic tuner, the strobe tuner can be set to custom frequencies and temperaments. This is very useful for players that play music outside of standard Western scales. It can also be useful for experimenting with different pitch standards, like basing around 432Hz instead of 440Hz. Though this sounds esoteric, Soundgarden's smash Black Hole Sun used 432Hz and many artists favor the standard. Strobe tuners are typically the most expensive and specialist of the three.

Generally speaking, although it's a matter of taste, you can't go wrong with a chromatic tuner as long as you're working within standard Western scales.

Pedal vs clip-on vs microphone tuners - which is better?

Form-factor-wise, there are again three main types. Although some bass and uke-specific models exist, there should be no issues switching between instruments.

Microphone tuner (free-$/£10):  As these small, usually cheap tuners use a microphone for their input, they're flexible in terms of what source they can take. Great if you need to tune up many stringed instruments - but the trade-off is that they're susceptible to interference from background noise. When we were coming up, these were usually dedicated hardware boxes, but nowadays, they're just as likely to be an app on your phone.

Clip-on ($/£5-30): Clip-on guitar tuners attach to the headstock of the instrument and work via detecting vibrations. As a result, they can be very efficient in battery use, as well as small. The accuracy of clip-ons like the TC Polytune Clip and Unitune is now good enough that we've seen them used in professional studios, mostly due to their convenience. They can be kept near to hand, or scattered around so there's always a tuner within reach for when that great idea arrives.

Stompbox tuner ($/£50+): The third type is the stompbox. These take a standard 1/4" jack input to operate. This means that they will only work with electric guitars, basses, and ukuleles, or acoustic instruments with a pickup. In terms of signal path, this stompbox should normally go first in your signal chain, as it can be used to mute the guitar when in use. However, due to the use of buffers in many tuners, some players prefer to keep it out of the audio path. There are effect pedals with a dedicated tuner out so you can split your signal into a tuner mid-chain. This generally has been our preference, and means the tuner can be left 'always on.' 

Rackmount tuner ($/£100+): The final type of tuner, usually found on professional touring rigs is the rackmount tuner. The main advantage of a rackmount tuner is the increased surface area which means you can get a far more accurate view of your guitar's tuning. The size is also a limitation, however, as it'll take up a lot of room on your pedalboard. If you already have a rackmount setup or you want one for your studio, then the rackmount tuner is the ultimate guitar tuner when it comes to accuracy.

Snark clip-on guitar tuner on the headstock of a Martin guitar

(Image credit: Future)

Are guitar tuner apps accurate?

Increasingly, new players are turning to microphone-using apps rather than dedicated hardware tuners. Although they can be useful for tuning an acoustic in a hurry, for practicing or concert use these are insufficient. Background noise and ergonomics mean that the microphone often can't get an accurate input. Besides, having an 'always on' option on the floor is far more reliable when you need it. 

Google also recently launched its new browser-based Google Tuner. While you have to strike the strings pretty hard for them to register, it worked consistently in our tests against the Korg chromatic tuner and TC Electronic’s PolyTune app. The main interface is pretty user-friendly, too. Google Tuner would be a useful backup if you ever forgot your hardware tuner or found yourself out of batteries, but we would always advocate owning a dedicated tuner.

What are sweetened tunings?

Because of their accuracy, some strobe tuners enable you to experiment with sweetened tunings. Let’s explain. Most modern Western scales and tuning standards use equal temperament, which means that an octave is equally divided into 12 notes. It works well enough and is mathematically convenient, but it’s not strictly correct. For reasons too complicated to go into here, it’s a compromise.

Similarly, on a stringed instrument such as a guitar, some fretted notes will be very slightly out of tune, even if it’s correctly set up and well intonated. Sweetened tuning attempts to rectify these problems by slightly adjusting the space between each interval. They’ll no longer be equally spaced, but dyads and chords should sound better, or sweeter, in some circumstances.

There is, however, always a trade-off. Although certain chords or harmonies played on a particular section of the neck will sound better, others may sound worse. Tuner developers overcome this by providing scores of sweetened tunings for different instruments, open notes, musical genres, and so on. This enables you to chop and change tunings to best suit the piece you are currently playing.

What does the term A440 refer to?

It seems extraordinary, but Western composers and musicians have only relatively recently agreed on which frequency constitutes a certain pitch. For example, not so long ago in France the note C had a different pitch than the same note C played just across the border in Germany. Consequently, you’ll find that antique flutes from France and Germany are slightly different lengths. In fact, some European cities within the same country adhered to their very own tuning standards, which must have made life for travelling freelance musicians a right pain.

Even in the late 1800s the French were tuning A below middle C to 435Hz, while the English were tuning significantly higher to 452Hz. It was only in 1939 that an international committee finally agreed to set 440Hz as concert pitch, but even that standard wasn’t ratified by the International Organization for Standardization until 1955.

Does any of this really matter? Is it a problem if your guitar tuner is fixed at A=440Hz? For most guitarists probably not. However, if you have any classical pieces in your repertoire that you play within an ensemble, you may find that your fellow musicians prefer to tune to an older, more authentic standard.

The rising popularity of music for meditation and wellness means that another standard is becoming increasingly common too. Many in the New Age fraternity believe that A=432Hz is better cosmically attuned to the universe, so should be used in place of A=440Hz. The upshot of this is that many singing bowls, chimes, and so on are tuned to the 432Hz standard, which makes accompanying them on a guitar tricky unless you can tune down with accuracy.

How we choose the best guitar tuners

Here at Guitar World, we are experts in our field, with many years of playing and product testing between us. We live and breathe everything guitar related, and we draw on this knowledge and experience of using products in live, recording, and rehearsal scenarios when selecting the products for our guides.

When choosing what we believe to be the best guitar tuners available right now, we combine our hands-on experience, user reviews, and testimonies and engage in lengthy discussions with our editorial colleagues to reach a consensus about the top products in any given category.

First and foremost, we are guitarists, and we want other players to find the right product for them. So we take into careful consideration everything from budget to feature set, ease of use, and durability to come up with a list of what we can safely say are the best guitar tuners on the market right now.

Find out more about how we make our recommendations, how we test each of the products in our buyer's guides, and our review policy.

Chris Bird

Chris has been the Editor of Total Guitar magazine since 2020. Prior to that, he was at the helm of Total Guitar's world-class tab and tuition section for 12 years. He's a former guitar teacher with 35 years playing experience and he holds a degree in Philosophy & Popular Music. Chris has interviewed Brian May three times, Jimmy Page once, and Mark Knopfler zero times – something he desperately hopes to rectify as soon as possible.

With contributions from