Guitar tuners need to get the credit and attention they deserve. Today we’ll look at some of the Best Tuner Pedals for Guitar and Bass players. The list we’ve put together covers offerings from brands like Boss, Donner, Tc Electronic, Amazon Basics, Monoprice, Peterson, Korg, Ibanez, Electro Harmonix, Joyo, and Ernie Ball.
In a nutshell, here is our selection of the best tuner pedals:
8. Tc Electronic Polytune 3 Noir
9. Korg Pitchblack Custom Pedal Tuner
11. Electro-Harmonix 2020 Pedal Tuner
A tuner pedal sits quietly on your board and doesn’t actively participate in sound creation like other guitar effects pedals and processors. However, no matter how well-endowed your pedalboard is, things will eventually fall apart if you’re out of tune.
All the instruments in the band need to be in tune with each other to make sense of the music being played. As you read on, you’ll find some very handy tuners that not only cover the basic of correcting the pitch of your instruments but also bring many other features to the fore.
Different visual modes, instrument settings, tuning adjustments based on semitones, capo positioning, and much more, you name it, and chances are you’ll find it in most of the tuners we have in store for you today.
Do guitar tuners work for bass guitars?
Generally, most electric guitar pedals work with bass guitars. The same is the case with tuner pedals in general. Although some tuners have separate settings for bass guitars to account for the lower frequencies, most regular tuners will do a good job of tuning your bass perfectly.
The 12 Best Tuner Pedals For Bass & Guitar 2023
1. Boss TU-3 Chromatic Tuner
On this Boss tuner, you’ll find a solid exterior, multiple display modes, and a multitude of tuning options.
The TU-3 is Boss’s all-time best-selling pedal which says a lot since there are tons of pedals in the company’s portfolio. Regarded highly by guitar players worldwide, this tuner is solidly built and possesses many LEDs and meters to set the tuning of your instruments.
Taking all the best features from its predecessor, the TU-2, the TU-3 tuner pedal from Boss is equipped with even more enhancements. Whether you’re using a bass or an electric guitar, this Boss tuner has you covered.
- Arrows, Metering & Note Indicator
The tuning panel has two arrows. When a note is played, and the left one illuminates, this is an indication that the note is flat. When only the right arrow lights up, the note is sharp. Perfect pitch is achieved then both arrows light up. Bellow the arrows is a boomerang-shaped band that lights up according to the chosen mode. Just below is a single-digit display that shows the name of the note or the number of the string being played.
- Cent & Stream Button
Below the meter is the “Stream/Cent” button, which helps the user choose between the two available options: “Cent” and “Stream” modes. In Cent mode, the pedal acts like the needle of a VU meter. This setting is more standard and is soon on most handheld Boss tuners. When the needle is on the right, the note is sharp, centered when in tune, and to the left when the note is flat. In Stream mode, you’ll see strobe lights on the meter whenever the note is flat/sharp. When the strobing halts and the needle stops in the center, perfect tuning has been achieved.
- Tuning Modes
Pressing the “Mode” button will enable a different mode every time. The options include Chromatic, Chromatic flat, Guitar, Guitar flat, Bass, and Bass flat. The Bass and Guitar settings display string numbers instead of note letters. Depending on the connected instrument, the flat settings let you tune half or a whole step down.
The pedal has a quarter-inch input on the right panel for connecting an electric or bass guitar. On the right are two jacks, one of which acts as a standard output while the other is labeled “Bypass.” The pedal lets you tune in silence when the standard output is used. In the Bypass jack is used, you can listen to the notes played as you tune your instrument. Both outputs can be used simultaneously to send the signal to different destinations.
- Power & Display Brightening
The pedal has a 9V power input that is top-mounted along with a handy “DC Out” jack. Connecting a PCS-20A DC chord can provide power to other pedals on your board through the TU-3 unit, which helps avoid clutter and enhances ease of use. Another great feature if you’re performing in sunlight or extremely low light is the adjustable display brightness. Long pressing the Stream/Cent button can help achieve this result. Finally, the TU-3 can be powered by a 9V battery which can be inserted by unscrewing the thumbscrew on the pedal switch.
As far as tuners go, the Boss TU-3 is loaded with features. You get 6 tuning modes that cater to different tuning styles and instruments and plenty of metering and display options to see precisely how flat or sharp the note is. The DC Out jack is revolutionary as it helps transfer power to other units on your board.
Since tuners are expected to perform just one function, which is to tune your instrument, the different modes and display styles may put off some people. Also, for me, it’s always good to have a mini tuner pedal that doesn’t take much space so that I can have more room for other pedals on my board.
2. Donner DT-1 2 Mode Tuner
The Donner DT-12 doesn’t beat around the bush; everything is upfront and in your face.
Judging by the price tag, you would expect this unit to have a very cheap feel, but this one is built like a tank. The pedal is made of solid metal and is near impossible to wreck. Measuring just 2.36″ x 2.36″ x 4.72″, the unit is nice and sleek.
Also, contrary to the nominal price, this Donner tuner is well-engineered and doesn’t cut corners. Offering precision of +/-1 cent in terms of hertz, the device has a tuning range of 27.5Hz to 4186HZ.
- Metering LEDs
The user interface couldn’t be more straightforward. The pedal has a row of lights and a display. When the played note is in perfect pitch, the light in the center illuminates in green. However, if there are any pitch issues, the other two LEDs will light up in red, depending on whether the note is sharp or flat.
- Note Display
Below the LEDs is a large display that changes color according to the note’s pitch and displays the note being played. When sharp or flat, the display will turn blue. When in tune, the screen turns green in correspondence with the green LED.
- Footswitch & Connections
The DT-1 is extremely easy to operate. Simply press the footswitch once to activate the tuner and a second time to enter bypass mode. On the unit’s right is a quarter-inch input for connecting a guitar. The right side also has a single output jack. The pedal has a top-mounted 9V input for powering the unit. You can also power the DT-1 with a 9V battery.
Perhaps the biggest pro about the DT-1 is its ease of use. There are no unnecessary modes or weird display options. You just play the note, and the pedal will instantly tell you what it is and what you must do to get it in perfect tune. The unit offers silent operation and doesn’t alter the tone.
If you’re looking for a pedal that offers more options like adjustable modes for common types of tuning (drop D, Drop C, half step, full step, etc.), perhaps the DT-1 is not the best option. However, it says what it does and does what it says. And at such a throwaway price, why not get one and see if it works for you?
3. Tc Electronic Polytune 3
The Polytune 3 is a highly intelligent pedal that raises the bar for other tuners in the price range.
This one seems to be the king of tuner pedals. With so much going on under the hood, the Polytune 3 is everything a tuner pedal should be and more. The pedal can store your preferred settings like a preset, thanks to the total recall feature.
Keeping their ears open, the think tanks at Tc Electronic have added several features to this tuner pedal after listening to their customers. The Polytune 3 has dipswitches to toggle between true bypass or buffered bypass settings.
- Top Panel
The top panel of the Polytune 3 is very happening. On the far left is the “Tuning Mode” button which will be discussed in greater detail below. Next to this button are two power ports. One acts as a 9V input and is used to power the pedal. The second one provides power to other pedals in the effects chain, provided that the combined current drawn from the Polytune 3 doesn’t exceed 2A. Finally, towards the right is a button to change display modes.
- Tuning Modes
Changing the tuning modes is simple. All you need to do is press the “Tuning” button to access as many as 13 tuning modes. The great thing about the Polytune 3 is that apart from standard tuning, you can set the tuner to tune all strings 1 semitone to 5 semitones down. You can also set the tuner to mimic the tuning of string when a Capo is placed anywhere between the first and seventh frets, which is a practical option. Lastly, by long pressing the footswitch, the pedal switches to dropped D tuning instantly.
- Display Modes
The display modes can be set by pressing the “Display” button on the top panel of the Polytune 3. There 4 options that can be cycled through. You can pick whether to switch to “Needle” or “Strobe” mode. This option is available separately for guitar and bass, giving you four combinations. The Needle mode is standard, as you’ll see a column of LEDs moving left and right to indicate the note’s pitch. When centered, the note is perfectly in tune.
- Tuning All Strings
Select the neck pickup and strums your strings with your thumb. You’ll notice that as soon as you do so, six separate sections will be displayed to indicate all six strings. The bright green LEDs in each area will move up and down to show when each string is in perfect tune. Not many tuners in the market allow you to tune all strings together, like the Polytune 3.
The center of the pedal has a large clear display adorned with green and red lights to provide a reference as you tune. The great thing about this display is that in the lower right corner, there’s an “Ambilight” sensor. This sensor is engineered in such a way that it assesses the surrounding light and adjusts the brightness of the display accordingly. This smart option also keeps the display working optimally by saving the battery.
Tc Electronic has packed the Polytune 3 with tons of features. There aren’t many tuner pedals that can tune all 6 strings in one go, offer separate modes for electric guitars and bass, and adjust screen brightness automatically through a sensor. The power output is also an extremely useful feature when your Polytune 3 is part of a pedalboard.
Some of the features the pedal brags about and has separate modes for appear as standard features on more low-end tuners, for instance, the option of setting the preferred instrument. Usually, guitar players prefer things on a tuner pedal to be kept simple. If that’s your preference, go for the Donner unit.
4. Amazon Basics Mini Tuner
Here is a product from the most prominent e-commerce brand in the world…Amazon.
As the name suggests, the Amazon Basics Mini Tuner is a tiny pedal with dimensions of 3.7 inches by 2.1 inches by 2.1 inches that’ll quietly adjust on even the most cluttered pedalboards. The pedal is made of aluminum and is solidly built for the price.
Buying a pedal that hardly costs anything usually means you’ll have to compromise on quality, but the Mini Tuner may surprise you. The overall functionality is reasonably straightforward, and you can work with several different modes and buttons.
- Display Modes
The pedal offers two modes that can be toggled by the “Flat/Disp” button below the square display. In Normal mode, you’ll see a light moving in a curve. The light turns red when the note is flat or sharp and turns green while moving to the center when the note is in tune. In Strobe mode, multiple lights blink on either side of the center when the note is out of tune. When proper tuning is achieved, the center shows a green light.
- Flat Tuning
The second function of the “Flat/Disp” button helps tune your guitar up to four semitones down. You can keep tapping the button until you reach the number of semitones you want to tune your guitar to. For Metallica fans, one semitone down will be perfect.
The second button on the pedal is marked “Pitch .” Pressing this button enters the pedal into A4 mode. While the universally accepted frequency for A4 tuning is 440Hz, the Mini Tuner allows you to set this frequency anywhere between 435Hz and 445Hz.
On both sides of the pedal, you’ll find quarter-inch jacks. You can connect your guitar or bass directly to the input jack on the right and connect the pedal to an amp or the next pedal in the effects chain. The footswitch is then pressed to activate the pedal for tuning. Pressing the switch again will bypass the unit.
For something priced so low, you might find yourself ordering this tuner pedal just for the heck of it. It brings some exciting features, including different tuning modes and buttons to switch to flat tuning or change the pitch.
The Mini Tuner does a good job with the tuning but seems to add some coloration to the sound. The buttons below the screen also seem to be made of low-quality material. However, at this price point, who could complain? The tuning itself is quite accurate.
5. Behringer TU300
Here’s a tuner from the ever-affordable range of pedals offered by Behringer.
Following in the footsteps of most Behring products, the TU300 is decently ordained with features and comes at a mind-boggling price. To put things in perspective, this pedal provides a layout reminiscent of the Boss unit discussed earlier.
Even the modes and the tuning settings are almost identical. Still, comparing the price, the Boss pedal costs nearly three times more. Of course, there are some pros and cons to both devices. However, seeing them side by side on a shelf makes one inclined to choose the more economical option.
The TU300 has plenty of metering options that help understand where a particular note is and where it needs to be. First and foremost, a curved strip of 11 light segments shows when the note is sharp/flat or in tune. Above the strip is a small single-digit screen that displays the letter of the note or the number of the string. Flanking the screen are two arrows that illuminate depending on the situation. The right arrow illuminates in yellow when the note is sharp, and the left one lights up when a flat note is played. When the correct pitch is reached, both will light up.
First, you can select the guitar or bass mode, depending on which instrument you plan to tune using the TU300 pedal. Once you enter any of these modes, you can further select the tuning setting. These options include standard turning, flat tuning (half-step down), or double flat tuning (full-step down). Finally, in the regular or chromatic mode, the pedal will intelligently recognize what note is being played and indicate what action needs to be taken.
How the display behaves to specify the note’s pitch can be set via the “Stream/Cent” button. In the Cent setting, the display strip acts like the needle seen on a VU meter and moves from left to right till the correct pitch is achieved. In the Stream mode, you’ll see a stream of lights on either side of the display strip till the note is perfectly tuned.
- Inputs & Outputs
Your bass or electric guitar can be connected on the pedal’s right side. The opposite side has two quarter-inch outputs. The standard output connects to an amp or the next pedal in the setup. When the tuner is activated, this jack marked “Out” mutes the output signal. The neighboring output marked “Bypass” remains active while tuning, so you can hear the strings playing as they are tuned.
The pedal is powered by a 9V DC power supply, which must be purchased separately. However, if you don’t want to spend the extra money or don’t have a power supply, you can always detach the foot pedal from the hinges to open the compartment where the 9V battery can be popped in. The “On/Batt” LED will light up when the pedal is activated via the battery or through a power outlet.
This tuner has a lot to offer. You’ll notice a dedicated button that helps in setting different display options. You also get a separate control to change the tuning modes, which include chromatic, flat, and double-flat tunings. If you own both bass and electric guitars, the pedal can be set accordingly to tune both instruments.
Like some other pedals that come cheap, the build quality on the TU300 is a bit questionable. Also, there seems to be no button to switch between true and buffered bypass, which is not a deal breaker but maybe a preference for some.
6. Monoprice Stage Right
Another incredibly affordable pedal on our list, the Monoprice Stage Right, is a good option.
Measuring 2.9 inches by 4.3 inches by 1.9 inches, the pedal is bulky compared to some of the smaller tuners on our list. However, the Stage Right unit offers a tuning accuracy of 1 cent. Also worth mentioning here is that the available tuning range is from 27.5Hz to 4186Hz.
The display on the pedal merges nicely with the black metallic chassis of the pedal but is exceptionally visible when the footswitch is pressed to turn the pedal on. The vibrant reds, chilling greens, and scintillation blues will surely turn some heads with this baby on your pedalboard.
The pedal has a large, easily visible display which is divided into two sections. The upper portion has a segmented strip that lights up from left to right, depending on if the note is sharp/flat or in tune. Below the strip is an area that displays the note being played.
- Pitch Button
There are two buttons below the display. The first one, labeled “Pitch,” helps set the reference frequency. Close to the generally accepted A4 frequency of 440Hz, the pitch button allows the user to select the tuning reference between 436Hz and 445Hz.
- Flat Button
Below the Pitch button is the “Flat” button. The tuning settings will be altered depending on how many times this button is pressed. You can set the Monoprice Stage Right to tune half-step, full-step, and three-steps down. So if you want to play along with your favorite metal band that prefers any of these tunings or wants to accommodate a vocalist who likes a lower tuning, you’re all set.
On the output section on the left panel, there are two output jacks. The “Output” jack ensures that your output signal will be muted while you tune, so your audience doesn’t have to endure the torturous ordeal of hearing you tune your instrument. However, the “Bypass” output stays on even if the pedal is off, so you can listen to yourself tune when connected to this outlet. The right panel has a quarter-inch input for your instrument and a power input for the 9V power supply. Flip the unit over, and you’ll also find a removable cover for the 9V battery.
Nicely built and solid in its controls, the tuner feels great and is very easy to use. The large display is helpful and clearly shows which note is being played. The Flat and Pitch buttons change parameters quickly. The pedal runs on 9V of power and can be juiced by a 9V battery.
Regardless of whether you want to use an electric guitar or bass, there isn’t any way you can select the instrument you wish to tune. Also, the pedal will power on automatically when a cable is connected to the input jack on battery power, which is not really a con, but be sure to unplug your cables when the pedal is not in use.
7. Peterson Strobostomp HD
The good thing about the Strobostomp HD is that it offers True Bypass, Buffered Bypass, and Monitor modes.
These modes can be accessed by opening the battery compartment and adjusting the switch that helps select between three settings. In the “True Bypass” mode, the signal passes through the circuit when the footswitch is engaged for silent tuning.
In “Buffered Bypass” mode, when the tuner is bypassed, the signal is driven through a preamp within the tuner’s circuit. The “Monitor” mode works precisely like the Buffered mode except that you get an always-on display to view the instrument’s tuning while you play.
On the pedal’s left side is a “Menu” rocker that helps cycle through all Strobostomp HD’s options. While going through each menu, the adjustable parameters will flash. The +/- rocker on the right can then be used to increase or decrease the value of the selected parameter.
- Tuning Presets
Having tuning presets on a tuner pedal is something unheard of. The Strobostomp has a unique way of classifying these settings. You get as many as 130 tuning references, broadly classified as “Sweetener” presets and “Guided” presets.
Sweetener presets consider common tuning problems experienced on different instruments and adjust accordingly to make the particular instrument sound that much “Sweeter.” The 80-odd Guided presets are designed to ignore chromatic notes and go straight toward exact string pitches.
Pressing the up/down menu buttons will take you to the “Drop/Capo” transposition section. Once in this menu, you can use the +/- buttons to select any transposition value between -6 & 5. To reset this value, move the menu up/down button, and when the value flashes, long press both the + and menu up buttons.
- Display Layout & Color
The display layout is big and easy to spot, even in the most challenging lighting conditions. A large number or letter shows the string or note being played while the direction of the ring rotating around it indicates whether to tune your strings up or down. You can change the display color by cycling through the menu and stopping when you see the color palette icon. Next, you can use the +/- buttons to go through all the possible 10 color options. The selected color will be applied to everything thing the screen displays.
- Concert A & Tuning Pitch
While moving through the menus, you’ll come across the Concert A setting. You can change the tuning reference to any value between 390Hz & 490Hz by pressing the +/- buttons. You can also change the display settings by choosing if a note or string number should be visible during tuning.
You know you’re getting a feature-laden pedal when it has a 22-episode “Instruction Manual” series on YouTube. The Peterson Strobostomp raises the bar extremely high with its 130 Sweetened and Guided presets adjustable display settings, elaborate parameter changing menu, and three bypass options.
For simpletons like me and many others who prefer the ease of use of some of the more basic tuners, the Strobstomp HD offers many features you may not need. A tuner is a tuner. It’s supposed to accurately tune your strings and nothing else.
8. Tc Electronic Polytune 3 Noir
The Noir tuner pedal from Tc Electronic is the tiniest member of the Polytune 3 series.
As you go through Tc Electronic’s tuner pedal range, you’ll notice three pedals in the Polytune 3 series. These include the Polytune 3 mini, the regular-sized Polytune 3, and the Polutune 3 Noir. By and large, these are the same despite the apparent color and size difference, of course.
The Noir version comes in a beautiful matte black finish and measures just 3.7 inches by 1.7 inches by 1.2 inches, making it a micro pedal in the true sense. Fitting this on even the most overcrowded pedal boards will be a cinch.
The pedal has a sharp display that takes up half of the pedal’s user interface. Filled with bright red and green LEDs, this display is exceptionally intelligent in that it automatically adjusts to the lighting conditions of your environment. So, you can be sure of great visibility whether performing outdoors or live under stage lights.
- Tuning Modes
On the top right of the pedal is a “Tuning Mode” button. Long pressing helps toggle between chromatic or needle mode and strobe mode. In the needle mode, you’ll see a column of LEDs that moves left to right like a needle till the note is tuned perfectly. The Strobe mode on this pedal shows a series of lights moving from left to right or right to left depending on if the note is sharp or flat. Generally, the Strobe setting on most tuners provides more accuracy.
- Polyphonic Tuning
This unique mode of tuning, made famous by Tc Electronics, offers the option of tuning all six strings in one go. You’ll see six static pairs of green lights representing each string and moving red LEDs above or below these lights to indicate if you need to tune down or up. On stage, you can quickly check which string needs to be tuned rather than going through all the strings one at a time. However, this setting isn’t as accurate as the other two modes. Tapping the Mode button will show the different options of tunings available for Polytune mode, including D, D#, C, B, F, G#, and even several capo fret options.
- Configuration Switches
The left panel has a pair of dip switches that can be turned on and off. The button marked 1 is for choosing between bypass and buffered bypass. The second button labeled 2, switches your tuner’s display to always on. This setting works only in combination with the buffered bypass setting. You could use the always-on display to memorize the neck or see which note is being played at any given time.
- Footswitch and Connection Jacks
The pedal has a 9V power input and a quarter-inch jack on its right panel. On the other side is the quarter-inch output for sending a signal to an amp or the next pedal in the chain. The footswitch simply activates or bypasses the tuner. However, it has another great feature. Long pressing the footswitch activates dropped D tuning.
With any pedal that has the “Polytune” name, you know that you’re getting a tuning mode where you can tune all six strings in one go. But the Noir is so much more in that it hardly takes any space and offers more tuning accuracy through its Strobe mode. In addition, you also get the option of a true/buffered bypass and an always-on display.
While the “tune all six strings at once” slogan from the Polytune 3 series is impressive when you first hear it, chances are you’ll be sticking to more conventional settings like the good old needle mode offered by more affordable pedals. Also, the always-on display is another option you’ll probably never use.
9. Korg Pitchblack Custom Pedal Tuner
At first glance, the Korg Pitchblack pedal seems like a unit with a single footswitch and limited options.
However, as you read on, you’ll notice many fun features concealed inside this tuner from Korg. The usage is pretty simple, as with most basic pedals. The right panel is where you can connect an electric or bass guitar for tuning.
On the left is a “Bypass” output that mutes the pedal as you tune. Use this output jack to connect to an amp or the next pedal in the effects chain. Furthermore, the pedal measures 2.7 inches by 4.4 inches by 1.8 inches and offers an accuracy of +/- 0.1 cent.
The pedal features a straightforward user interface that comprises a large display that takes up more than half of the panel. A single-foot switch on the display’s base turns the tuner pedal on or off. Formatted differently, the display shows a large letter corresponding to the note played and a column of lines to decipher what needs to be done to achieve a perfect pitch.
Apart from the modest display, quietly hidden at the top of the unit are a couple of buttons, one of which is the “Calib” button. Pressing it will switch the pedal into calibration mode, where you can adjust different tuning variations apart from the A4 frequency. But you’ll have to refer to the manual as you’ll see numbers ranging from 0 – 9, each corresponding to a different frequency to accommodate the small one-digit display. 0 selects 440Hz, while 9 brings the frequency down to 439Hz.
- Display: Regular A
You’ll also find a dedicated display button on the top that activates 4 different viewing modes. The Regular A mode is set by default. In this setting, when the note is flat, a pair of blue lines will be seen in the lower section of the screen. When the note is sharp, these lines will turn red and move to the upper area of the display. When the note is in tune, a single green “in pitch,” line is seen. The B mode works on the same principle as the A mode, except that instead of a pair of lines lighting up when the note is out of tune, all the LED lines the screen can display under and above the green “in tune” area are illuminated.
- Display: Strobe & Half Strobe
The Strobe mode is much more precise than the two regular modes. When a note is played, the screen displays several parallel lines that move upwards when the note is sharp and downwards when flat-pitched. The lines become static when the note is in perfect tune. The Half Strobe employs the same concept, but instead of using the whole display, only the upper or lower half is illuminated by parallel strobe lines when the note is sharp or flat, respectively.
- Power Management
Apart from the two buttons on the top panel, a couple of power ports are also present, where one is a 9V input to power the tuner, and the other outputs power. If you have a cascade cable on hand, you can power other pedals on the board directly through the Korg Pitchblack tuner as long as the overall current consumption is kept below 200mA.
This tuner from Korg is nicely designed and has a display with a very futuristic feel. You can choose between four different display modes and get calibration options and a Bypass output so you don’t hear your instrument while it is being tuned. Finally, the tuner can also be powered by a 9V battery.
The pedal does seem to add slight color to your tone. While the display is large and has plenty of brightness and visibility, it is very power intensive. Be sure to carry extra batteries to your gig just to be safe. Also, there are cheaper tuners in the market that do what the Pitchblack tuner does.
10. Ibanez Bigmini
This tuner from Ibanez is big on features and mini on price, hence the name Bigmini.
Very easy to use, the tuner is excellent because it measures just 2.18 inches by 2.8 inches by 4.8 inches, which makes it a comfortable fit for any sized pedalboard. The most important feature of any tuner is its accuracy, and this Ibanez device is certainly no slouch in that area.
The Ibanez pedal has a tuning accuracy of +/- 1 cent. The Bigmini also provides a tuning range between 27.5Hz and 4186Hz, making it well-suited for electric guitars and bass. Another great feature of the tuner is that it offers true bypass, which does nothing to change your tone.
The display covers half of the user interface. The lower section of the screen displays the note being played, while about it is an LED spectrum that moves from left to right till perfect tuning occurs. The display side is good, and the colors are vividly visible no matter what the lighting conditions may be.
- Flat Tuning
Below the display are two round buttons. The “Flat/Disp” button has dual features. You can use the Flat feature to put the tuner into one, two, three, or four semitone tuning modes. This comes in handy, especially if you need to tune your instruments a few steps down to adjust to a vocalist.
- Disp Feature
Two display modes can be set using the “Disp” button. In normal mode, the Ibanez Bigmini operates like the needle of a meter. The needle moves from side to side till it is centered to show perfect pitch. The second mode switches the pedal to Strobe mode. This is where a series of lights will be seen on the spectrum meter that moves from left to right and vice versa till the string gets tuned.
- Connection Jacks
On the connection side, the Bigmini has a quarter-inch input on the right where your guitar or bass can be connected. On the other side is an output that carries your signal to the next pedal in the chain or an amplifier, depending on your setup. The top-mounted power input takes 9V of power. Since the pedal is so small, there’s no room to pop in a 9V battery.
- Calib Button
If for any reason, you find yourself in need of shifting from standard A4 tuning, the “Calib” or calibration button can be pressed multiple times to get to the frequency you’re looking for. However, generally, the pedal offers a range between 435Hz and 445Hz.
Anything with the Ibanez name plastered onto its front will indeed exude quality. The Bigmini does justice to the name as it offers decent tuning accuracy and an option to deviate from the standard A4 tuning frequency. The tuner has needle and strobe modes which are not very common at this price point.
Being such a small unit, the Bigmini pedal cannot accommodate a 9V battery, so you’ll have to invest in a power supply if you don’t have an extra one at home. There might be some inconsistencies in tuning, although by and large, the Bigmini provides good accuracy.
11. Electro-Harmonix 2020 Pedal Tuner
The EHX-2020 tuner from Electro Harmonix claims to be the ultimate pedal for all your tuning needs.
Classified as a mini pedal, the EHX-2020 measures just 3.75″ by 1.25″ by 1.5″ and finds space on your pedalboard with relative ease. If you’re a perfectionist and like going into minor details, you can even vary the tuning frequency if A4 tuning is not your preference.
The pedal is nicely crafted and designed in black, with the Electro-Harmonix branding on the interface in white. You’ll also see the trademark “Ram’s Head” logo below the display and the soft buttons. The chassis looks solid, which makes the pedal withstand the test of time.
The square display on the user interface makes use of bright blue and red LEDs to highlight different aspects while you tune your instrument. The lower half of the screen displays note letters in blue with an indication on either side of the letter if the note is sharp or flat. The upper area has a band that lights up to show if you need to tune up or down to reach the perfect pitch.
Below the display are two rounded soft buttons. The first one is related to the A4 mode. When pressed, you can set any frequency between the 436Hz and 445Hz range if you wish to alter the standard A4 frequency of 440Hz for any reason. The changes in frequency will be displayed on the screen in the form of numbers where 0 to 5 depicts 440Hz – 445HZ, and the numbers 6 through 9 indicate 436Hz to 439Hz. This is simply because the display cannot fit more than a single digit.
The next button on the user interface is labeled “Flat.” As the name suggests, you can press the button to reveal the flat tuning settings if you wish to tune your guitar down. The EHX-2020 allows you to tune a stringed instrument half step, full step of one, and a half step down, depending on whatever is required for the given situation. A single bar on the display means the pedal is in half step-down mode, while two and three bars show the other two available settings.
Use the top-mounted 9V power input to connect the power supply. Plug the quarter-inch cable from your guitar into the pedal’s input on the right and connect a patch cable to the output jack or use a standard quarter-inch cable to send your signal to an amp. Finally, turn the tuner on by pressing down on the footswitch.
A decent tuner, the Electro Harmonix 2020, covers all the areas a tuner should. There are some handy options for tuning your guitar a few steps lower than standard tuning. The Pitch change feature is also there, so you can adjust which frequency the tuner works on.
Being such a tiny unit, popping in a 9V battery is out of the question since there’s no space for it inside. Also, the footswitch on the unit isn’t the most responsive, so make sure you apply enough pressure to activate the tuner when needed.
12. JOYO Jf-326 Irontune Chromatic Mini
The JF-326 Irontune is the smallest tuner pedal on today’s list, measuring just 1.7 inches by 2.9 inches by 2 inches.
The simple addition of a display cover makes it look wicked cool. Named the “Irontune,” the interface would surely remind you of Iron Man’s helmet when the pedal’s protective cover is raised. The display on the unit is quite bright so that you can tune your instrument even with the cover in place.
Another thing you’ll notice when you examine this minuscule tuner are the words “True Bypass” written next to the footswitch. In guitarists’ circles, this is a big deal because it means that the Jf-326 will not affect the tone of your guitar in any way.
- No Modes
The pedal has an intelligent circuit board inside that automatically adjust to the note being played and displays the name and pitch of the note. Apart from the footswitch, the Joyo tuner pedal has no extra buttons or modes. Things are kept simple but effective. The pedal offers a wide range of 18Hz – 4186Hz. The tuning accuracy on the unit is close to +/-0.1 cent, which is great.
The display takes up more than half of the interface real estate. Designed like most tuner pedals, the Joyo unit mimics the needle of a volt meter when trying to indicate the pitch of a note. When you play something, a red needle will move side by side to show that the note is sharp or flat. Once you properly tune, the needle moves to the center of the spectrum and turns blue.
The pedal is extremely easy to use. Simply connect the power supply to the right of the pedal. Then connect the quarter-inch cable coming from your guitar to the input jack. Use the output jack to connect to an amp or the next pedal with the help of a patch cable. Once everything is set, press the footswitch to activate the tuner.
Going through the vast range of pedals discussed here, you’ll notice that the Joyo JF-326 gives every other unit a tough time regarding compact size and straightforward usage. Sometimes, less is more, which this tuner is a great example of. Enjoy a tuning range of 18Hz – 4186Hz and an accuracy of +/-0.1 cent.
This is as simple as it gets. No buttons, no display modes, and no altering of the A4 pitch. What you see is what you get. If the minimalist design doesn’t sit well with you, go for a pedal that offers more controls and adjustments. But if you want an uncomplicated plug-and-tune unit, the Joyo Jf-326 is the best choice.
Ernie Ball VPJR Tuner – Red
Here’s a pedal from Ernie Ball that stood out during the 2019 Winter NAMM show.
For me, this may be unfamiliar territory as I, for one, hadn’t seen a tuner on an expression pedal before. However, people at Ernie Ball are always up to crazy innovative things, and well, here’s the result of that…the hybrid tuner pedal called VPJP.
Even before we dive into the details, I can tell this is great as it takes care of your tuning needs and offers volume control simultaneously. The base is solidly built in an all-metal chassis. The treadle continues following the same theme but has a window cutout on the top to access the display.
How often do you get a touchscreen display on a tuner pedal that can also control the volume? The VPJR’s vibrant display is equally visible in broad daylight or on a dark stage. The large screen on the pedal can hold a lot of information. The most prominent feature is a needle that sways in both directions within a range of -/+50 cents to indicate varying pitches. Below the needle is a section that shows the name of the note, flat and sharp indications, octaves, and even the reference pitch. You can lock or unlock the display by pressing the little lock icon at the lower left corner so you don’t inadvertently change a setting while performing on stage.
- Three Modes
The great thing about the display on the treadle is its touch sensitivity. You can choose between three different modes by simply tapping the unit twice. These include “Volume Only,” “Tuner Only,” and a hybrid “Volume + Tuner” mode where both options are selected simultaneously.
- Tuner Only & Volume Only
In the Tuner mode, you see all the details discussed in the earlier section regardless of the treadle’s position. In Volume mode, when the treadle is moved towards the toe down position, you’ll see a volume meter filling up with an increasing number value also displayed. When the heel is being pressed down, the same graphic shows a decreasing number value to indicate that the volume is being lowered.
- Tuner + Volume
The hybrid mode is the most exciting setting and looks impressive too. When in the heel-down position, the treadle shows the tuner, which provides a good viewing angle and enhanced visibility. However, as the toe end of the treadle is being pressed down, the graphic changes to the volume meter to show an increase in the volume.
- Pitch Change
Tapping the note letter on the base of the display twice opens up a variety of frequencies to choose ranging from 432Hz up to 447Hz. Simply tap the frequency you want, and the tuner will select and display it at the base of the screen. This option comes in handy, especially if you are looking to match the tune of a vocalist.
The top panel is where all the connectivity options are placed. The panel has a quarter-inch instrument input and an amp output. Also, below these are dedicated “Send FX” and Return FX” quarter-inch jacks. The purpose of these is to send the signal out to a chain of pedals or accept a signal coming from other pedals, respectively.
This hybrid pedal helps you tune your guitar and then do volume swells with it. The large, vibrantly colored display is excellent as it also has touch-sensitive capabilities to change modes and frequencies. The top panel has many connection jacks, including the Return/Send FX ports for various applications.
Since the display is slightly depressed and not in line with the surface of the treadle, stepping on it with a muddy shoe will leave dirt on it, which can only be removed by flipping the unit over. Also, since it doesn’t come very cheap, a hybrid tuner/volume unit may not be required if you already have a volume pedal.
With so many options in the market, we’ve chosen the best of the best for you as far as tuners go. Depending on your needs and how simple or complex you want your tuning experience to be, the list has something for everybody.
The Donner Dt-1 and the Joyo JF-326 Irontune are great options if you’re looking for a simple tuner ready to go by just pressing a single footswitch. No extra buttons or modes on these, so you’re all set, especially if you’re a beginner or just like things nice and easy.
Moving on to the next step in complexity, the Electro Harmonix 2020, Korg Pitchblack, and Ibanez’s Bigmini all come equipped with some extra buttons to change display modes, calibration, and semitones. The Monoprice Chromatic Tuner and Amazon Basics micro tuner also fall in this category.
If the concept of “Polytune” interests you and you think that being able to tune six strings simultaneously is the way to go, both the Polytune 3 and Polytune 3 Noir have got you covered. The Noir is the more compact unit in case you don’t have too much space to spare on your current setup.
The Boss TU-3 and Behringer TU300 are almost identical in layout and features. The names are pretty similar. The only thing that is vastly different is the price range. The Behring unit costs almost 1/3rd, so take your pick.
In a league of its own, the Strobostomp HD brings forth a fantastic HD display, 130 presets (which is a feature unheard of on tuner pedals), and a ton of other parameters in a comprehensive menu that give you the ultimate control over your tuning needs.
Finally, the Ernie Ball VPJR does what the rest of the pedals cannot due. It delivers a hybrid pedal that tunes your instrument but also offers volume control through a rocking treadle. You get a touchscreen display that is quite interactive and helps switch modes and navigate menus easily.
As a guitar player, you can never have too many pedals. It’s great to see how so many brands have different approaches for pedals that all have the same aim: to tune your instrument. So…may the best tuner pedal win!
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Sultan Zafar is a guitar player from Islamabad, Pakistan. He has been playing music with various mainstream musicians for over 20 years. He is a song writer and music producer. These days he spends his time exploring different music genres and collaborating with fellow musicians on various projects. Read more..