Last Updated on December 30, 2019 by Michael Benghiat
5 Best Guitar Tuners For Acoustic Guitars
Staying in tune is one of the crucial elements of playing the acoustic guitar.
Guitars can go out of tune for a variety of reasons: temperature changes, the age and condition of the strings, guitar tuning pegs that slip, etc.
Whatever the reason, you can count on it that your guitar will go out of tune. It’s part of playing an instrument with strings.
So, it’s essential for all guitar players to have an easy to use and reliable tuner to rely on when it’s time to play a song.
There are a lot of guitar tuners to choose from these days, and it’s easy to take tuners for granted. However, like any piece of gear you should put some thought into choosing the right product that will best suit your needs.
This article is going to walk you through what to look for in a guitar tuner, and then review the five best guitar tuners for acoustic guitars in the different tuner categories.
Here are the five best tuners for acoustic guitars that we’ll be covering:
5 Best Guitar Tuners For Acoustic Guitar
- Clip-On Tuner: Snark ST-2 Chromatic Tuner
- Pedal Tuner: Behringer TU300 Chromatic Tuner
- Handheld Tuner: Boss TU-12EX Chromatic Tuner
- Soundhole Tuner: D’Addario NS Micro Soundhole Chromatic Tuner
- Smartphone App Tuner: Cleartune Chromatic Tuning App (for Android and iOS)
All guitar tuners included in my reviews were selected based on their widespread use and reputation in the professional music community and from personal use and knowledge.
I’ve also added my insights gained from my 25+ years of experience running a very successful music production company, plus working with dozens of composers and thousands of tracks for my Audio Addiction Music Library, a production music library with global distribution.
What To Look For In An Acoustic Guitar Tuner
Chromatic vs. Non-Chromatic Tuners
It’s important to realize that there are chromatic and non-chromatic tuners available to purchase.
Chromatic tuners let you tune any note in a musical scale. They also allow you to tune to reference notes like A440 (the standard pitch reference)
Chromatic tuners are very handy if you use alternate guitar tunings such as dropped D, or want to tune your guitar in a non-standard way.
Non-chromatic tuners only let you tune to specific notes, such as the six strings of the guitar.
Though non-chromatic tuners are easier to use for beginners, chromatic tuners are more versatile and don’t cost any more than regular tuners. You can also use a chromatic tuner to tune other instruments like a mandolin or ukulele.
So, always get a chromatic tuner! All the tuners we recommend are chromatic tuners.
Five Types of Guitar Tuners
There are five main categories of guitar tuners:
- Clip-On tuners
- Pedal tuners
- Handheld tuners
- Soundhole tuners
- Mobile Phone App tunersLet’s talk about each type in more detail.
True to their name, clip-on tuners are literally clipped onto the guitar, usually onto the headstock. They work by detecting the vibrations of each string as you play it.
Clip-on tuners are especially popular for players who find themselves in loud environments like a club or concert stage. They work better in a noisy environment that most other tuner types.
Because of their simplicity and small footprint in a gear bag or guitar case, clip-on tuners have become a very common acoustic guitar tuning method in recent years.
Pedal tuners are a great option for acoustic guitars that have a pickup. Because you have to plug your guitar into the pedal for it to work, this is not an option for acoustic guitars without a pickup or output jack of some kind.
Pedal tuners usually feature a needle display that lets you see whether the string you play is sharp, flat or right on pitch.
They are highly accurate tuners and very popular for on-stage use, as you can keep the guitar tuner plugged in during a performance and check your tuning anytime you want.
Handheld tuners are a classic tuning option for guitarists who want to keep it simple.
In fact, you may even have one laying around somewhere. I have an old Boss TU-12 tuner I’ve used for more than 20 years that still works perfectly. (I’ll review the newer TU-12EX model below).
As their name suggests, handheld tuners are small enough to fit in your hand and generally feature a display with a needle or LEDs that show the note you play.
Play an E string, and the needle/LED shows if the string is sharp, flat, or on pitch. You simply turn your guitar’s tuner until the needle shows it’s in tune.
These tuners are very straightforward to use and have become a pretty ubiquitous item for guitarists to have in their guitar case.
If you’re worried about losing your tuner or forgetting to bring it to a gig, a soundhole tuner may be the perfect tuner for you.
True to their name, soundhole tuners are designed to fit inside of your acoustic guitar, giving you one less item that you will have to keep track of with your gear setup. And it can be always on, letting you quickly tune the guitar whenever you need to.
Mobile Phone Apps
Just as today there’s a smartphone app for just about anything, there are quite a few guitar tuner apps available for your smartphone.
While many of the free or very inexpensive guitar tuning apps are buggy or don’t have many features, they’re definitely an awesome new tool for guitarists to have in their tuning arsenal, if for nothing other than a backup option.
Most tuning apps pick up your guitar through your smartphone’s built-in mic. For this reason, guitar tuner apps are best used in quiet environments.
5 Best Guitar Tuners for Acoustic Guitar Reviews
Musicians have been turning to Snark for clip-on tuners for years now, and the Snark ST-2 is one of the best and most popular acoustic guitar clip-on chromatic tuners around.
Guitarists love it because it offers precise and accurate tuning and takes up little space in a gear bag.
The Snark ST-2 is the new and improved model of their very acclaimed SN-2 tuner. It features a faster processor, better accuracy, and a new high-def screen that is easier to read. On top of all that, the ST-2 is quite inexpensive and is a great value for the money.
The Snark ST-2 is incredibly easy to use. You simply clip it onto the headstock of your acoustic guitar and then begin playing a string. A digital readout will let you know whether to tune the string up or down.
The clip allows the tuner to rotate 360 degrees so you can view it easily from any angle.
The ST-2 is very compact and can easily be tucked away in your guitar case. However, be sure to take some care with it, as its small size and plastic case make it susceptible to damage.
- Very inexpensive
- Simple to use
- It even includes a tap tempo metronome
- Easy to lose due to small size
- Could be difficult to read in a dark environment
Behringer is a well-known name in pro audio equipment. Their TU300 is an affordable chromatic pedal tuner that is one of the best acoustic guitar pedal tuners available.
Remember, pedal tuners are only available for acoustic guitars with pickups, as you need to plug the guitar into the device to use it.
To begin tuning, just press down the pedal to engage it. As you play a string, the TU300 will track your pitch with an LED meter that changes color as you move from sharp to flat to on pitch.
Behringer has included 7 tuning modes – 3 for guitar, 3 for bass, and chromatic – that will be useful for players who need more advanced features.
The pedal also features a mute/bypass switch that mutes the audio so you can tune without your audience hearing you do so.
The TU300 is made from rugged materials that should stand up to regular wear and tear with ease. The pedal can be powered either by a 9V battery or by a power supply, though the power supply is sold separately.
- Highly accurate 7-segment LED metering
- Less expensive than a lot of pedal tuners
- Rugged construction
- Has built-in reference tones from 438 Hz to 447 Hz
- Doesn’t work with acoustic guitars without a pickup
- Less portable than other types of tuners
- Power supply not included
The Boss TU-12EX Chromatic Tuner is the updated version of the classic TU-12 model which has long been a go-to choice for both acoustic and electric guitar players.
Boss’ reputation needs little explaining at this point, as they’ve become one of the guitar community’s most trusted gear manufacturers over the years with affordable products that always deliver.
The TU-12EX is a straightforward handheld chromatic tuner with a meter display that responds as you play a string.
One of its strongest points is that has both a jack for connecting an acoustic guitar with a pickup AND a microphone for tuning guitars that don’t have pickups. This makes it ideal for any acoustic guitar, as well as electric guitar tuning.
The TU-12EX is a very accurate tuner and considering this is Boss we’re talking about, you know it will hold up for years to come. As I mentioned earlier, my TU-12 is more than 20 years old, and still works perfectly.
While it’s a bit more expensive than the average handheld tuner, its all-around versatility and reliability make it a best buy.
- Very accurate
- Lives up to Boss’ reputation for high quality
- Easy to read interface
- Expensive as far as handheld tuners go
- Not ideal in loud environments when using the built-in mic
If you’re looking for a guitar tuner that you won’t forget to bring, you can’t go wrong with the very affordable D’Addario NS Micro Soundhole chromatic tuner.
The tuner itself is very compact and fits within the soundhole of your acoustic guitar. It is only visible to you, not the audience.
The NS Micro uses a piezo transducer to pick up your string’s vibrations from the soundboard, resulting in fast and reliable tuning.
The NS Micro has a very simple interface, consisting of only two buttons: the On/Off button and a calibration button.
Once you turn it on, it will stay on for 10 minutes and then power down to save battery life. It runs on one CR2 battery.
The LCD meter readout shows you the note’s pitch and has little arrows that adjust in real time to show if you are sharp, flat, or on pitch.
It also has a calibration button that lets you tune the guitar to reference tones that are different from standard A440 tuning.
It’s simple to use and does what you want it to do: quick and easy tuning!
- Simple yet accurate design
- Low profile compared to clip on tuners
- Very compact
- Works great for ukuleles, acoustic basses, and other acoustic instruments with soundholes
- Clip that holds tuner to the guitar is plastic and can break
- Small size can make it hard to see
Although there are dozens of free tuning apps available, most users who try them end up realizing that “you get what you pay for.”
At $3.99 the Cleartune chromatic tuner app is not only very inexpensive but very effective. It’s the best-selling tuning app for mobile devices, with over 500,000 users, including artists such The Black Keys, The Killers, and more.
Best of all, it’s available for both iOS and Android devices.
The app works by using the mic on your smartphone to detect the pitch of the string you are playing. However, this makes it less ideal for loud environments but perfectly suitable for in-home or studio use.
The app has a simple graphical interface featuring a standard needle-based meter as well as a dial meter with note names listed on it.
There’s also a second tuning mode that you can use. Cleartune can generate any tone you like and play it through a built-in speaker, and you can tune accordingly by ear.
This won’t be useful to all players, but it’s a nice feature to have included regardless.
Clearview also includes a calibration mode that lets you be able to tune to other instruments that may not be tuned to standard A440 pitch.
It also has quite a few pre-loaded tuning systems included.
Hard to beat for less than $4.00!
- Very inexpensive, so makes a great backup tuner
- Easy to use
- Conveniently located on your phone so you can take it anywhere
- Not ideal in loud environments
- Tuning very high or low notes may not be accurate
Ultimately, the type of tuner that works best for you will ultimately depend on how you will be using it, and if your instrument has a pickup or not.
For everyday tuning, we’ve covered options ranging from clip-ons to handhelds to pedal tuners to mobile phone apps.
For those who don’t want to worry about forgetting the tuner at home, a soundhole device might be the best option.
It all comes down to personal preference.
And finally, as many tuners are quite inexpensive, some guitarists end up owning a few different tuners, if for nothing as having some backups. It’s never a bad idea to have a few different options in your gear bag.