As musicians, it is extremely important that our instruments are always in tune. That means that, apart from a good instrument and amp, having an accurate tuner is a vital part of your gear.
While buying a tuner isn’t as exciting as buying an instrument, an amp, or a pedal, it should still be taken seriously. A good tuner should be accurate, easy to use, and come with a few tuning options.
Top 3 - Tuners for Bass Guitar
With that said, let us take a look at a selection of the best tuners for bass, both pedal and clip-on options.
Best Bass Guitar Tuners for the Money
1. Peterson StroboStomp HD
The Peterson StroboStomp HD is an excellent, professional grade tuner. This is the tuner for players who want zero compromise when it comes to tuning accuracy.
Out of the box, the first thing I noticed was the absolutely massive LCD display of this tuner. This is certainly one of the biggest displays I have seen, especially on a tuner this size.
Even with such a big display, the tuner is still very compact and light. You won’t need to sacrifice much space on your pedalboard to make room for the StroboStomp.
Besides the big, highly readable display, the StroboStomp also has some nice features. It has 25 tuning modes and covers everything from standard tuning, alternate tunings, drop tunings, and many more.
It also has a very wide tuning range, going from C0 – A#8. Not only is this great for tuning bass guitars, but if you downtune your bass, you will just as easily and accurately be able to tune it.
While not the most important part of a tuner, I also like the bypass of the StroboStomp. It doesn’t have that pop that a lot of other tuners have when you turn them off or on. It just makes for a more pleasant experience.
While this is a great tuner, it is quite expensive. And if you don’t need all the features it has, you might feel that it’s not worth paying the premium.
In my experience, though, it’s probably the most accurate and reliable pedal tuner for both basses and guitars. So, if you’re not on a tight budget and reliability is a key factor in your buying decision, you can’t go wrong with this device.
2. TC Electronic PolyTune 3
I am a big fan of TC Electronics’ pedals. So, I was rather interested in trying out the PolyTune 3 since it seems like an intriguing tuner underneath its unassuming exterior. And intriguing it is.
The cool thing about the PolyTune is its polyphonic tuning mode. What this means is that if you strum all of your strings, the PolyTune will show which ones are out of tune, and which ones are okay.
I found the polyphonic tuning to be pretty accurate. It doesn’t seem to struggle to identify which strings are out and which aren’t. And it really saves you a few seconds since you don’t have to check each string individually.
Tuning itself is also super accurate. Even a down-tuned bass is no problem for the PolyTune. It easily detects the exact note you are playing.
My only issue with the PolyTune is the LED display itself, specifically the note display. While most notes are perfectly easy to read, I did find B and D to be a bit hard to distinguish some times.
This is especially bad while you are standing, and can be even worse on a dimly lit stage. And for those of us that need glasses, it is even worse.
But apart from that issue, the PolyTune 3 is a great tuner. While it is a bit on the pricier side, I think it is well worth it for the convenience it provides.
3. Peterson StroboClip HD
The StroboStomp’s little brother, the Peterson StroboClip HD packs everything great about the StroboStomp into a compact little package.
The StroboClip comes with a similarly large LCD display, as well as a bunch of tuning presets as the StroboStomp. That means it is super readable and you can easily tune regardless of the tuning you are playing in.
Having such a large display is especially great if you are playing a regular long scale bass. Because the headstock is a bit further away, I found the large display to be just as readable as if it were attached to a short scale bass.
While the frequency range isn’t as wide, the StroboClip only goes from C0 – B6, it is still more than enough. And on a bass you aren’t going to be tuning as high. It also has the same 0.1 cent accuracy to make sure you are perfectly in tune.
The clip is also one of the nicer ones I have seen on a clip-on tuner. It has soft rubber to prevent the clip from scratching your headstock, and has “teeth” for extra grip so that the tuner doesn’t slip.
The StroboClip is a bit pricey for a clip-on tuner, but similar to the StroboStomp, I think it is well worth the price. I also recommend getting the bundle that comes with a case to keep the tuner safe.
4. Fender FCT-2
The Fender FCT-2 might be a fairly basic tuner compared to the rest of the tuners on this list, but it is one of the best basic tuners out there.
The FCT-2 is a very compact clip-on tuner. This is one that you will be able to throw in your bass case or bag without it taking up much space.
It is also light, and the dual hinge is pretty solid. I didn’t notice any drooping, and it stayed in place fairly well with a lot of movement.
The grips on the clip are also fairly nice and I didn’t see them slipping. They are a bit on the thin side, so I would keep an eye out for wear over time.
With the tuner being so small, the LCD display also isn’t very big. But it uses a nice combination of colors to indicate how in or out of tune a string is. The note indicator is also big and legible.
As a bonus, there are also a few tuning modes available for you to choose from. You can choose between bass, guitar, ukulele, and chromatic modes.
While I didn’t notice any issues personally, I have seen people mention that the FCT-2 can struggle a bit with bass tunings. But as long as you aren’t tuning much lower than standard, it should work just fine.
5. Korg Pitchblack X
The Korg Pitchblack X is the revamped version of their already great Pitchblack pedal tuner. It sports a new look and some new features, keeping it a top choice.
The new, sleeker look is the first thing I noticed. The old Pitchblacks were a bit angular, and not everyone liked it. This new version has a much more standard pedal design to keep it discreet on your pedalboard.
The display on the Pitchblack is fantastic. Both the tuning display and the note display are big and clear to ensure you are as accurate as possible and you know exactly what note you are playing.
The brightness of the display is also adjustable. This is a great little quality-of-life feature. I have found some tuners to be too bright and others too dim, especially on a dimly lit stage.
The Pitchblack X also introduces a great new feature: Ultra Buffer. This ensures that there won’t be any dips in signal strength, no matter the length of your cables or the number of pedals on your board.
As far as tuning capabilities go, the X has a range of E0 – C8. This means you can downtune your bass pretty much as far as possible without a hitch.
If accuracy and readability are what you are looking for, it is hard to beat the Korg Pitchblack X.
6. TC Electronic PolyTune Clip
The TC Electronic PolyTune Clip is another tuner that is basically the clip-on version of the pedal one. It has most of the features of the PolyTune 3, with a similar look.
The Clip has the same level of accuracy as the pedal version, and even features polyphonic tuning as well. Although, I do feel like the polyphonic tuning isn’t as accurate on the Clip, but not by much. It still works great when you need to quickly see which strings are out of tune.
One big improvement on the Clip over the 3 is in the note display. I found it to be much easier to distinguish between D and B than I did with the PolyTune 3.
While the Clip is a great tuner, I do have some issues with its design. Firstly, I feel like it is a bit too big for a clip-on. It sticks out a bit too much off of the headstock.
Secondly, I don’t like the exposed metal clip. While the grips are nice, I was still worried about scratching my headstock when I put it on. It also doesn’t feel too great in your hand, and the metal can dig into your fingers a little.
The clip does fold into the tuner, though. This makes the Clip a bit more compact to fit into a case or bag.
Clip-on vs Pedal Tuners — Which is Better?
While everyone is going to have a different opinion on which tuner is better, with some having very strong opinions, the simple answer is that there is a place for both. Both types of tuners have their advantages and disadvantages.
While a good clip-on tuner is going to be very accurate, the simple fact is that a pedal tuner is just going to be even more accurate. A pedal tuner is getting a signal directly from your instrument, while ambient noise can always interfere with a clip-on tuner.
But of course, a clip-on tuner is much more portable than a pedal tuner. Clip-on tuners are also much quicker to use since you don’t need to plug them in or deal with cables.
Clip-on tuners are also more beginner friendly. They are more straightforward and can’t confuse a beginner with extra tuning modes or with what bypass means.
The best thing to do is to have one of each. A pedal tuner for performances to make sure you are as in tune as possible, and a clip-on tuner for practice and casual jamming sessions to just make sure you aren’t significantly out of tune.
Tuning apps are a fairly new thing. While they have been around for a few years now, it is only in the last couple of years that actually decent and fairly accurate tuning apps have popped up.
They are a very convenient way of quickly checking that your instrument isn’t completely out of tune. You aren’t always carrying a tuner with you, but you pretty much always have your phone on you.
I would avoid any paid tuning apps, however. You can’t know for sure if it is just being sold by someone to make some quick cash off of people who think that paying for an app means that it is going to be good.
There are plenty of decent tuning apps that you can download for free. The Fender Guitar Tuner is free and an official Fender app.
And, of course, never use a tuning app at a gig or a band practice. Not only are they not as accurate as an actual tuner, but it also doesn’t look very professional.
True Bypass vs Buffered Bypass
One thing you will usually see on a pedal tuner is a bypass mode. When you add a pedal to your signal chain, it is important that you preserve your tone. This is where bypass comes in.
Your tuner pedal is going to be the first thing in your signal chain, after your bass. A bypass will allow the signal from your bass to go through the tuner unhindered while the pedal isn’t being used, or if it stops working.
True bypass disconnects the electronics in the pedal and connects the input and output. This then bypasses the pedal, and allows your bass signal to go through unchanged.
The downside of True bypass is that it can degrade your signal, causing you to lose some tone. Buffered bypass doesn’t have this degradation.
Buffered bypass is also the better option the longer your cables are, and the more pedals there are in your signal chain. This will prevent your tone from degrading if you have a large pedalboard.
One very important thing to look for in a tuner for a bass is the tuning range. Since basses produce lower frequencies than guitars, it is important that your tuner can accurately pick up those low frequencies.
Some tuners have a hard time picking up the frequencies of the B string on 5-string basses. And some even struggle with the E on a 4-string bass.
The lowest note on the E string of a 4-string bass is E1. That means that your tuner should be able to tune lower than E1 to ensure that it is able to accurately tune a bass.
All of the tuners on this list can tune lower than that, and are perfect for tuning a bass. But if you are buying a bass tuner that’s not on this list, a good tuner should be able to go as low as C0. This will give you enough headroom, especially if you downtune your bass.