Do you need a strobe tuner??

Do you need a strobe tuner?

Example of a simple  strobe tuner disc

Example of a simple strobe tuner disc

What is it really???

To start with, what the heck is a strobe tuner?? Also known as a stroboscopic tuner, these tuners function by spinning a disc with markings at precise places in circles around the disc in front of a flashing light. The concept is just like that of being in a dark room with a strobe light on. If you move your hand at the same speed of the light, it appears that your hand is standing still. We have all seen this effect at some point. A stroboscopic tuner functions in the same way. The disc is spinning at a fixed speed for the note desired, but the strobe light varies it flash speed based on the frequency of the note that is being fed into the tuner. Since all notes are a frequency, and the spinning is a constant speed, when the frequency is correct the wheel appears to stand still. If the note is flat the wheel appears to rotate to the left and the opposite is true if the note is sharp. The idea is to get the marks on the wheel to appear to be still or as close to it as you can get. Each of the rings on the disc represent different octaves of the same note, so you will see the ring associated with you actual note you are playing be the one to appear to stop. This kind of tuning is truly the most accurate measurement of tuning that we currently have when using an analog strobe tuner. And it’s been around for a long time.

Over the years, different versions of tuners have been manufactured to combat some of the shortcomings of a true analog strobe tuner. First off, the size and expense is prohibitive with an analog strobe having a fairly large footprint and often costing hundreds and even thousands of dollars. Not to mention, they can be confusing to use if you aren’t sure what you’re doing. With these new tuners came the chromatic tuner (a tuner that would detect the note being played) which allowed you to not have to select a note to tune to and have the tuner itself automatically detect it for you. After that you got polyphonic tuners (a largely unused function that allowed tuning multiple strings at once), and finally digital strobe tuners. The digital strobe tuner was quickly a go to for many people, but it was not the same as an analog one and a lot of times just ended in frustration trying to get the digital “wheel” to stop skipping around.

So, do you need a strobe tuner? Unless you are doing a lot of repair and setup work, on the road with a big touring act, or just enjoy the nostalgia of the analog unit, the answer is probably not. A good digital tuner can be very accurate for tuning purposes and a whole lot less money. Not to mention, with the options available today you can clip one on the headstock of the guitar or on your pedalboard and easily carry it with you wherever you take your guitar.

Need a recommendation on a good tuner? Feel free to reach out to us at the shop and we will gladly guide you in the right direction for your needs. And yes…..we do sell strobe tuners too if you just have to have one!

Ben Calhoun