Best Locking Tuners for Les Paul, Strat & Other Guitars

Author: Ross McLeod | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

The best locking tuners improve the stability of your guitar and ensure that the correct tension is maintained while you play. With so many options on the market, choosing the best-suited tuners for your instrument can be a tricky endeavor.

The importance of high-quality tuning machines is often overlooked. These mechanisms do their jobs discreetly, but they are incredibly important nonetheless. In this guide, you’ll find a range of fantastic locking tuners to suit all guitar types.

The Best Guitar Locking Tuners

Universally respected for their expertise in the field of machine heads, Grover produces a range of premium quality locking tuners. Their products are renowned for long-term reliability, and their exceptional ability to keep a guitar in tune.

Featuring a precise 18:1 ratio, the 502C Roto-Grip locking tuners are compatible with any style of the electric guitar. Whether you play a popular model like the Fender Stratocaster or a semi-hollow body, these tuners will work seamlessly.

Another quality that Grover focuses a lot of its attention on is the appearance of their tuning machines. Made from durable metal and finished in stylish chrome, the 502C Roto-Grip locking tuner will add a distinguished touch to your instrument.

Installing the locking tuners is very straightforward. To do so, you simply thread the string through the post hole, wrap it around, and then gradually tighten the thumbscrew. This locks the tuner head firmly in place, without putting unnecessary strain on the guitar.

Another aesthetic feature is the engraved Grover logo on the back of each tuning head. This, coupled with the textured paternal on the thumbscrew, really give these locking tuners a classy appearance.

The hole size of the tuners is .391 inches. This is the universal measurement for the vast majority of standard guitars. Unless you’re playing a very obscure guitar type, the Roto-Grip tuners will fit easily.

Indeed, appearance is important, but locking tuners need one main quality – tuning stability. The 3 x 3 configuration of the Grover 502C Roto-Grip locking tuners holds your string firmly in place for longer, so that you can relax while performing or recording.

PROS

  • Fits the vast majority of guitars
  • Distinguished chrome finish
  • Highly reputable manufacturer
  • 1 gear ratio

CONS

  • None

It’s fair to say that in the world of guitar accessories, there are very few manufacturers who can claim to have even a fraction of the experience that Fender does. Unsurprisingly then, their Locking Tuning Machines Set is one of the best available.

With a long list of iconic guitars like the Telecaster, Stratocaster, Jaguar, and Mustang in their catalog, Fender boasts countless decades of perfecting their products. These locking tuners fit all of their popular US and Mexico-made guitars.

As a young guitarist, I became obsessed with Fender. It seemed that all of my favorite musicians were endorsed by them, and therefore I still get excited when I see the iconic logo.

The first thing that you’ll notice about these locking tuners is the presence of the classic “F” in Fender’s logo font. If you’re looking for replacement tuners for a Strat or Tele, the authentic logo will look fabulous on your guitar.

You get a complete set of 6 locking tuners accompanied by bushings, removable tuner caps, and all of the necessary mounting hardware. Installation is very easy and can be done within minutes.

One thing that you should be aware of is that these locking tuners are not compatible with the American Vintage series instruments by Fender. Don’t worry though, there are several tuners on this list that are. 

To increase the break angle and promote tuning stability, Fender chose to employ a slightly unconventional, yet effective design. They have staggered the locking tuners and fitted them with texture grips to maximize their effectiveness.

PROS

  • 18:1 gear ratio
  • Compatible with the majority of Fender guitars
  • Chrome finish
  • Includes all necessary mounting hardware

CONS

  • Incompatible with American Vintage series instruments

With its progressive and innovative design techniques, Graph Tech is one of the leading producers of locking tuners. Rather than using the conventional methods to create their tuner heads, they opt for an interesting, unique approach. 

Most locking tuners have a fixed gear ratio that is consistent across all of the strings. This can cause slight inconsistencies between the tuning heads, and cause them to be less effective.

Each tuner in this Graph Tech set features a custom gear ratio, which makes all of the machine heads work in a more harmonious, consistent manner. This may sound like a minor detail, but it makes a huge difference.

Due to the unique design of the machine heads, you can turn the heads by the same amount when tuning them. For example, if you wanted to tune a string up by a whole tone, you simply turn the machine head one full turn.

Another great quality of the PRL-8341-C0 locking tuners is how easy they are to install. No drilling is required, thanks to the InvisioMatch mounting plates that come with the tuners.

This invasive installation method has no adverse effects on the appearance of your guitar. The mounting plates are completely hidden by the machine heads, offering a low-profile, sleek look.

PROS

  • Vintage chrome finish
  • Innovative design for easier tuning
  • One full turn tunes up or down by a whole tone
  • No drilling required for installation

CONS

  • None

The SE Locking Tuning Machines Set boosts your guitar’s ability to stay in tune. They also make it much easier to replace strings. Although they’re specifically designed for PRS SE guitars, these tuners are also compatible with various other models.

PRS has gradually risen to the top-tier of guitar manufacturing in recent decades. Challenging established heavyweights like Gibson and Fender, they have amassed a loyal and large fanbase through their exquisite axes.

The SE is arguably their finest offering. With these specifically designer locking tuners, you can improve the tuning stability of your guitar, and therefore, focus solely on your performance.

The last thing any guitarist needs when they are onstage or recording a track is to be hindered by a string that refuses to hold tuning. With their ultra-strong locking mechanism, the PRS SE Machines Set ensures that this worry is a thing of the past.

Installation is quick and simple, too. You simply screw the thinning heads into the correct positions and secure them with the tension caused by the string. This holds them in place firmly for a long period.

PROS

  • Direct replacements for PRS SE guitar tuning heads
  • Firm lock mechanism
  • Classy chrome design
  • Makes string changes much easier

CONS

  • Limited to PRS SE guitars or similarly designed models

Conveniently sized and highly reliable, the 406C6 mini locking tuners are a great choice for a wide range of guitars. They have a gear ratio of 18:1 and offer all of the benefits of the original standard Rotomatics tuners.

Grover’s expertise stretches back over a century. They have fulfilled the commendable purpose of keeping some of the finest stringed instruments in the world in tune throughout their long and impressive history.

In addition to the Rotomatic-style qualities that the 406C6 tuners offer, they also benefit from the positive locking of the internal cam post. This mechanism is exclusive to Grover, and it ensures maximum stability at all times.

Switching strings is also very easy with these locking tuners. All that you need to do is simply feed the string through the correct hole, pull it gently by hand until there is tension, and then turn the tuning head.

As you start to tune the string, the locking cam in the string post is isolated. That is the only part of the locking tuner that turns until the string is locked in place. This helps to ensure that the strings stay perfectly in tune, regardless of playing velocity.

PROS

  • All washers and screws included
  • Permanently lubricated
  • Compact size

CONS

  • None

If you’ve heard of D’Addario before, you probably associate them with guitar and bass strings. They’re one of the leading producers of strings in the world, but they also make exceptional tuning machines.

The Auto-Trim locking tuners go above and beyond to ensure that your guitar stays perfectly in tune. They also offer several other benefits that set them apart from other options.

As the name suggests, the Auto-Trim tuners cut off any excess string as you tune. All guitarists are familiar with the inconvenience of long strings handing over the frets after replacing old ones with a fresh set.

Not only does excess string length potentially hinder your playing, butit can also be quite dangerous. The end of a guitar string is sharp and can cause discomfort if they press into your hands while playing.

Therefore, using the D’Addario Auto-Trim locking tuners is a great way to eradicate this common issue. They also save valuable time and remove the need for string cutters that aren’t always available, especially midway through a performance.

This set of 6 inline locking tuners are finished in chrome and have a gear ratio of 18:1. They fit the vast majority of conventionally-designed guitars and are incredibly easy to install.

PROS

  • Smartly-designed tuners that automatically trim off excess strings
  • Save valuable time and effort
  • A sturdy locking clamp secures the string in place
  • Compatible with most standard guitars

CONS

  • None

Sperzel’s Trim-Lok tuners combat the common issues that occur when trying to keep a guitar with a tremolo bridge in tune. They do so without the need for locking nuts, which can potentially have a detrimental effect on tone.

Perhaps the best thing about the Trim-Lok tuners is how quickly they facilitate string replacements. Once you get the hang of changing strings with these tuning heads, you can install a fresh set in a matter of seconds.

The process consists of inserting the string through the relevant tuner eye, pulling it until there is adequate tension, then locking the mechanism of the tuner. You can then tune the string to perfect pitch, and rely on the tuners to preserve the tension.

The specialized locking system also prevents the string from slipping. No matter how hard you dig in when playing, the locking tuners will firmly hold the strings in place and support stable winding.

Another useful design feature of these Sperzel tuners is their graduated height. This ensures that the strings are positioned at the optimal angle, again promoting tuning stability.

PROS

  • Makes string replacements quick and easy
  • Staggered height for optimal string angle
  • Straightforward installation

CONS

  • The gear ratio of 12:1 may not be suitable for certain guitar types

Along with keeping your axe firmly in tune, locking tuners also need to look the part. Purists may argue that aesthetics are secondary to tone, but I think that the guitar you play should tick both boxes.

The 6GLO grip-lock tuners by Hipshot are undeniably robust and reliable. They are made from high-quality materials and components, ensuring that they will withstand heavy usage and continue to function at a high level for a long time.

However, it is their sleek, understated appearance that makes them stand out. Designed with a vintage, metallic look, they will blend effortlessly with the color scheme of any guitar, no matter how plain or eccentric your instrument is.

These machine heads also come with a universal mounting plate. This method of installation is unobtrusive, and won’t cause any damage or marking to your beloved electric guitar.

Installation is a breeze, and so is changing strings once these locking tuners are in action. They fit almost all electric guitars and are available in several formats for less common instruments.

PROS

  • Classy, vintage aesthetics
  • Chrome finish
  • Universal mount included
  • Simplifies string changes

CONS

  • None

Everything You Need to Know About Locking Tuners

Machineheads are one of those pieces of equipment that have many different names. Some guitarists simply call them tuners, while others prefer tuning pegs or tuning machines.

Whatever name we give them, there’s no denying that tuners are essential components of a fully functioning guitar. The truth is, standard tuning heads aren’t the most reliable. Locking tuners are here to solve this problem.

Why Should You Choose Locking Tuners?

Perhaps you’ve had your guitar for a long time and the various components are starting to show signs of wear and tear. Or, you simply want to be able to tune your instrument more quickly so that you can get back to playing.

Or maybe you’re plagued by the common issue of one or more strings drifting out of tune straight after you’ve corrected its pitch. Whatever the issue, locking tuners provide a practical solution.

Compatibility

The first thing I’d advise you to do is attempt to choose locking tuners that at least slightly resemble the ones that came with your guitar. This will make installation much easier, and avoid any issue surrounding compatibility and sizing.

It is certainly possible to drill new holes in your guitar to install locking tuners that don’t fit the premade dimensions. However, I’d aim to avoid this as modifying your beloved axe can be a very tense and anxiety-inducing experience!

Thankfully many locking tuners come equipped with universal mounting plates. These mechanisms slot onto your guitar and secure it without causing any lasting damage to the wood.

Configuration

Another vital consideration you must take into account when choosing the right locking tuners for your guitar is how they are configured. To simplify, this means checking that the layout of your guitar’s tuning pegs matches up with the new set you are installing.

A Gibson Les Paul, for example, features three tuners mounted on either side of the headstock. Fender Strats and Teles, on the other hand, have all of their six tuners lined up along one side.

Granted, some locking tuners are versatile and can be used for any headstock design. Some, however, are specifically designed to be used in a straight line like on the Fender models, or with three on each side like the Les Paul blueprint.

Additional Features

In addition to carrying out the primary function of holding your strings firmly in place, locking tuners are also sometimes equipped with other interesting features.

One example of this is locking tuners that have auto-trim capabilities. This essentially means that when you replace your old strings with a new set, the tuning peg automatically trims off any excess length as you initially tune the string.

Another interesting feature that is sometimes used by tuning head manufacturers has graduated heights. The slight differences in size between the individual tuning pegs ensure that they stay perfectly in tune and don’t interfere with one another.

Conclusion

They may not be as exciting as effects pedals or a new amplifier, but tuning heads are an essential part of a fully working guitar nonetheless. Locking tuners are a great solution for guitarists who are tired of constantly needing to adjust the tension of their strings.

About Ross McLeod

Ross is a music producer, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter. He is the frontman of The Blue Dawns, where he handles vocal and bass duties. He has extensive experience with bass, drums and guitar. His most recent project is named Gold Jacket.

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