Clip on guitar tuners are the ultimate in convenience. When I first started playing I had to run a jack from my guitar to a “portable” tuner. That or I had to rely on the cheap mic built in to the tuner, which was a nightmare in a busy environment. Perhaps we take clip on tuners for granted these days, but what are the best clip on guitar tuners available today? We’ll take a look at the best the market has to offer, unpicking their features and quirks. Finally we’ll round off with a recommendation. Ready? Let’s go.
What are Clip on Guitar Tuners?
As you might guess from the name, these tuners clip on to your guitar’s headstock. When you play a string they sense the vibration and provide feedback on-screen. It doesn’t matter if you play a single note or a chord, it’ll always try and figure out what you’re playing and how in-tune you are.
One thing to remember is that each note has a frequency, which we measure in hertz. In standard tuning, when a string is tuned properly it’ll have a unique frequency:
- Low E: 82.41 hz
- A: 110 hz
- D: 146.83 hz
- G: 196 hz
- B: 246.94 hz
- High E: 329.63 hz
Your clip on tuner may allow you to select a frequency. Standard tuning, also known as “western tuning” is always 440 hertz. You can of course change the frequency to alter your tuning. I don’t really mess around with frequencies too much. If I need to dramatically change my sound I opt for a different tuning, for example open D tuning. You can read more about types of tuning here. Drop C is great for metal by the way!
Anyhow, clip on tuners will provide feedback when you play a note. Say you want to tune the low E. Unless the string is way out of tune the tuner will know which note you’re trying to tune to. It’ll show a digital needle, which will either be to the left of the note (indicating that the string is currently too flat), to the right of the note (indicating that the string is currently too sharp), or right in the middle (indicating that the string is tuned accurately).
That’s really all there is to it :). If you’re a new guitarist be sure to check out my post outlining the best guitar accessories for beginners. Let’s take a look at the best clip on tuners out there right now.
Neuma Guitar Tuner
This little tuner is capable of tuning not only guitars, but also bass guitars, ukuleles and violins. There’s a tuning range of between 430 and 450 hertz. The pivot enables 360 degree rotation. The bright LEDs help you to tune even in the darkest of environments. That’s handy for a quick tune up in between songs. The screen is a little larger than other tuners, which makes it a little easier to see, although I can’t say I’ve ever needed a larger display. After all the tuner is never really more than a few feet away from you when clipped on. When clipped on, if you have the tuner upright, it’ll measure in at 8.5cm. That’ll sit around 5cm proud of your headstock.
It comes with a lithium battery, which will last but will ultimately need to be replaced. Fortunately there’s battery saving functionality with the auto-off feature. If the tuner isn’t used for 5 minutes it’ll switch itself off. Unfortunately that won’t work if you leave it clipped on whilst your playing.
To the bottom right of the display is an indication of which mode you’re using. “G” for guitar and “B” for bass is probably all we’re concerned about. As well as identifying the note you’re closest to, it’ll also try to figure out which string you’re tuning. So if you’re tuning the low E on a guitar it’ll pick up that you’re tuning string 6. When fine tuning it’ll show yellow if you’re flat, red if you’re sharp and green if you’re accurate. Neuma also offer an 18 month warranty.
Just make sure to hold the power button when you want to turn it off, otherwise it’ll switch modes. That can get a bit annoying until your remember to hold the power button for a few seconds.
- Bright display
- Multiple tuning modes
- Battery saving functionality
- Battery included
- A little bigger than other tuners
- Would be nice to have a separate button to change tuning mode
Wingo Rechargeable T-800 Clip on Tuner
This rechargeable clip on tuner sits at a little under 8cm in height, whilst retaining the bright display found in the Neuma. The model name might bring back connotations of the Terminator movies, but this little tuner is a pretty decent bit of kit. I like that it’s rechargeable. Some might argue that you risk the battery going flat at exactly the wrong time. There’s merit to that, but most people have power banks these days, so you could easily power it up. Let’s face it, that’s better than relying on someone having a spare set of triple A’s or worse one of the coin batteries that no one every has lying about! Once charged the battery life is decent, so you shouldn’t find yourself rummaging for your power bank too often.
In many ways this tuner is similar to the Neuma. It features 360 degree pivot and twist. It has modes for guitar, bass, ukulele, violin and chromatic. There’s a bright display and the ability to select your frequency (430 to 450 hertz). The Wingo also has an auto off feature, however it’ll automatically switch itself off after 3 minutes instead of 5 minutes if there’s no input.
The on screen feedback is even similar (yellow for flat, red for sharp and green for accurate). It even has the same annoying single button feature to control power and tuning mode. Yes you have to hold the power button for a few seconds if you want to power it off, otherwise you’ll find yourself in a different mode. It’s very responsive, so there’s no discernible lag between plucking the string and display feedback.
- Clear and bright display
- Auto-off feature
- Very responsive
- Multiple tuning modes
- Would be nice to have a separate button to change tuning mode
Lekato Rechargeable Clip On Tuner
This is perhaps the most feature rich clip on tuner available right now. It’s compact, less than 6cm when clipped on and up right. The display pivots 360 degrees to allow you to find the perfect viewing angle. The tuner is designed to draw minimal power from the battery so you can get 10 hours continuous use from a single charge. There’s also a battery level indicator on the display so you won’t get caught out by flat batteries. The tuner comes with a USB cable to enable you to charge the battery and has auto off mode to help conserve the battery.
Inside the tuner there’s a built in pickup to help block out any background noise that might interfere with tuning. It also features Piezo sensors, which are highly sensitive coupled with a micro processor. That means fast and accurate tuning. The display is made up of ultra bright LEDs, making the display clear to see. Operation is simple. Select your mode and start tuning. It’ll show yellow if the note is flat, red if the note is sharp and blue if you’re accurate. It’ll show you the note you’re closest too and guess which string you’re tuning, which is all shown on the display.
It features modes for guitar, violin ukulele and chromatic. Unfortunately it doesn’t have a mode for bass guitars. One really cool feature is the ability to set the tuner to alternative tuning. When in guitar mode a separate button enables you to select drop D, drop C, open D, open E and flat tuning. That’s really great. When I used to tune to drop C a bit of guess work was involved. With this tuner you can select drop C and then tune away with confidence. Unfortunately there’s still only one button to power on/off and change the tuning mode. Just remember to hold the button for a few seconds when powering off.
- Alternative tuning (i.e Open D, Drop C) available at the push of a button
- Rechargeable battery (USB connector included)
- 10 hours of continuous use in a single charge
- Auto off mode
- Bright and clear display
- In built pickup to reduce background interference
- Fast, accurate and easy to use
- No mode to tune bass guitars
- Single button to change the mode and power off
Fender Original Clip On Tuner
This isn’t the most feature rich tuner. It’s not rechargeable. But it’s has got Fender quality and style! I think you’ll agree that the Fiesta Red color looks very nice. Apart from styling it features a 360 pivot to enable you to find the right viewing angle. It’s a little bigger than the others, at around 8cm when clipped on and stood up. The display features bright LEDs, which make reading the display easy. The tuner takes one of the dreaded coin type batteries, but fortunately one is included with the tuner. There’s no battery level indicator, but you can tell when the battery needs changing because the LEDs will start to slowly fade over time. The tuner has an auto off feature. If there’s no input after 10 minutes it’ll switch itself off.
This tuner will tune any stringed instrument. It’ll work with guitar, ukulele, bass and banjo to name a few. The tuner works purely on vibration. It’s simple to use. If the note is flat it’ll show red at the bottom of the display. It’ll show red at the top of the screen if the note is sharp. If you’re accurate the whole screen glows green. There’s something oddly satisfying about that. Good job Fender. It’ll tune to 440 hertz out of the box, but you can use the calibration buttons either side of the power button to alter to between 430 and 450 hertz. There’s no messing about with modes here, the power button just powers it on and off!
- Fender quality
- Very easy to use
- Works with a variety of stringed instruments
- Lacks features of comparative tuners
- Not rechargeable
- Bigger than comparative tuners
Ammoon Clip On Guitar Tuner
This is the budget offering in terms of price, but actually it’s not bad feature wise. There are different modes to tune guitar, bass guitar, ukulele, violin or chromatic. The screen isn’t LED and therefore isn’t super-bright like the other tuners. Like the others it has the ability to pivot 360 degrees so you can find the right viewing angle. It takes a coin style battery and one is included with the tuner. There’s an auto off feature. If there’s no input for 3 minutes it’ll turn itself off.
The display will show blue with the needle to the left of center if the note is flat, blue with the needle to the right of center if sharp and the screen will glow green if tuned accurately. It’s not a large tuner, coming it at around 5cm when clipped on and upright. The tuner appears to be well built. The only draw back is that sometimes it needs careful positioning on electric guitars to pick up the input. Obviously it lacks some of the features of the more expensive tuners, but for the price you get more than enough.
- Great value for money
- Well built
- Multiple tuning modes
- Auto off feature
- No super-bright LED screen
- Can be a bit hit and miss with electric guitars
Clip on guitar tuners are an essential bit of kit for any guitarist. They’re starting to evolve beyond a convenient method to tune up quickly to more feature rich offerings. Being able to select alternative tunings at the touch of a button is a real winner for me. It’ll be particularly useful for guitarist that change tuning frequently. I love the sound of open D tuning, but it can be a bit of a pain to switch to with a traditional tuner. The option to select open D tuning and get on with it with confidence is simple yet innovative.
It seems to me that the clip on tuner market is pretty competitive, which is only going to force manufacturers to keep loading on additional features for our benefit. If you’re looking to buy a clip on tuner I’d recommend the Lekato Rechargeable tuner. It’s packed with features yet is practical with 10 hours battery life from a single charge. It pips the Wingo rechargeable tuner into second place by a whisker, but I feel that the Lekato is the overall the pick of the bunch.
I hope you’ve found this post useful. Feel free to leave a comment below or get in touch using my contact page. Please share with anyone who you think might benefit from this post. As always, happy strumming!
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