The dullest and yet most important pedal in your arsenal. Tuners are crucial to any guitarists collection, but which one should you buy?
There are many tuners on the market at the minute but there are some key players that you can’t ignore. The BOSS TU series has been top of the bunch for a very long time, the TU-2 being upgraded to the TU-3 a few years ago to keep up with TC’s Polytune and the Korg Pitch Black. These are the 3 that I will focus on as they are the most common, most available and, I think, most usable.
Let’s start with the trusty BOSS TU-3.
The TU-2 was (and I hate this phrase) industry standard for many years. The size and weight meant it will fit on almost all boards and can also act as a kill switch for your rig. The TU-3 is simply an ungraded version with a more accurate display. It still has one input and both the standard output (which mutes all sound coming from it when on) as well as the bypass output (sound still goes through your rig to your amp without muting). The footprint is the standard boss size, with the big button at the front. The one thing I have really liked with both the TU-2 and TU-3 is the power socket at the top. There are two sockets, one for powering the pedal, and then a further output to power other pedals. This is really handy if you have a small board and are limited with power supplies, you can daisy chain off the pedal. I think BOSS claim it will power up to 7 other BOSS compact pedals.
The display is very accurate, a green light in the middle to tell you when you are in tune, and multiples of red on the left and right to tell you if you are sharp or flat, and by how much. It will also cater for drop tunings and bass tunings.
Not a lot needs to be said about it, it is more accurate than it predecessor but is still just as solid, compact and trustworthy!
The TC Electronic Polytune.
This is the pedal that made BOSS update, the Polytune is the next step in tuning pedals. So it is the same sort of size as the BOSS pedal and uses the same power supply. The TC uses a digital display to tell the player whether they are sharp or flat again through the use of the Green is good, Red is bad method. It doesn’t have the bypass output of BOSS tuner but to be honest, I have never used the bypass output. One of the key features of the Polytune is it’s ability to tune all 6 strings at once. You can strum all the open strings at once and the tuner will show you a display of each string and whether the are in tune or not and by how much. As you adjust the tuning the display changes accordingly. (Shown in picture above)
It will allow you to change your tuning to altered tunings and drop tunings so there is more flexibility with this tuner. you can also adjust the display ti suit what you are used to or what you need. One thing I will say is that I am not a fan of the foot buttons that TC are using at the minute, I find them a little timid, but that is personal preference, I like to know when I have stood on something!
The TC is a great tuner and you can by it 2 ways as well. There is the standard size, similar to the TU series, and there is the Polytune Mini. I have owned both and I have settled for the Mini as it gives me a bit more room on my board, however if you have room enough to buy the big version, buy the larger size. The screen in the mini is good, but it isn’t as clear as the standard unit and makes the strum tuning option quite challenging to work with until you get used to it.
One downside that I have found, and I am not sure whether this is my pedal, the board power supply, or the other pedals in my chain, is that when I am tuning with the Polytune I can get a bit of a hiss that is sent to the amp, making it not the quietists of pedals. If I replace it with a TU-3, there is no hiss.
The Korg Pitch Black
For me this is the best of both the previous tuners. The Pitchblack is a strobe tuner and is super accurate. There are many different modes that you can use on the pedal to change the way you tune from a full strobe tuner, half strobe, meter tuning and mirror mode. These are all changeable via a switch on the top of the unit. The display is very easy to see in all lighting conditions, something that other tuners can struggle with and the lights are very bright. It doesn’t have the bypass like the BOSS, but not really something to worry about in my opinion. Korg have also added the outgoing power supply like the TU pedal so you can power other pedals of a similar size from the Pitchblack. The Korg is also true bypass so it completely maintains you signal when not in use.
Because this is a strobe tuner is will manage all tunings from drop tunings, altered tunings as well as all bass tunings. It also works really well with acoustic and electric guitars so is perfect for most players and their needs.
There are plenty of other versions of this pedal as well. So HERE is the website, go and take a look. There are rack mounted versions, a 2 button set up that allows you to customise and recall settings, as well as a polyphonic version and the mini.
If you are looking for something that is tried and tested, buy the BOSS. I have 2 of them and they have never, ever let me down. The TC is great but a takes a little time to get used to, it has some nice features like the strum tuning feature. If you are looking for super accurate and something a little different go for the Korg. They all have upsides and downsides, but if I was buying one right now I would choose the Pitchblack. It covers all basis, you can power other pedals with it, the display is great and clear
BOSS TU-3 : 9/10
TC Electronic Polytune : 8/10
Korg Pitchblack : 10/10