If you’re in a hurry and looking for the best bass tuner, it’s the Snark ST-2. It’s compact, versatile and highly accurate.
Keeping your instrument in tune is the most bas(s)ic aspect of being a bassist, but it’s often difficult to do.
For the best tuning, you need a convenient and portable tuner you can use any time—one that isn’t your phone!
Before we get into the detailed reviews, these are the best bass tuners right now:
|Korg SHCS100 Sledgehammer|
|Swiff Cartoon Clip|
What Is the Best Bass Guitar Tuner?
Best Overall Bass Guitar Tuner
The Snark Super Tight is a small, clip-on bass guitar tuner that works for all instruments. It also features a large LCD that shows you what note you’re playing.
The above two features alone make it ideal for anyone, but it gets better…
Either side of the note is a red or yellow zone showing you when you’re a little too sharp or flat. When you land in the green zone between them, you have the perfect pitch. Simple visualization is really handy for a beginner or swift tuning.
It’s also extra-accurate, featuring two methods of keeping your instruments in line:
Users particularly comment on how the microphone has let them tune ALL instruments, not just a bass guitar or other strings.
It also has a metronome feature to keep you in time—wonderful for practice sessions alone or with your band.
When with your band, you can attach the tuner to a music stand or anyone else’s instrument. It opens wide enough to fit most instruments, which customers rave about.
Despite its large opening, the tuner is barely bigger than a tuning peg, so it’ll never get in your way while playing.
However, be careful when moving it, as customers mention the flimsiness. They especially found that the clip can snap easily. While you can still use the tuner with a broken clip, it’ll be inconvenient as you need to be close to the tuner for it to work.
The mic and frequency sensors aren’t the strongest, either, so you need to be very close to the tuner for it to work. Specifically, many bass players struggled with tuning the low E-string.
Best for String Instruments
The Snark SN5X detects a frequency range tailored to guitars, basses and violins, making it ideal for tuning string instruments.
It also has an LCD that tells you when you’re on either side of the note, helping beginners see how close they are to the perfect pitch.
It’s highly sensitive, though, with users complaining that it changes from flat to sharp quickly. However, others found the tuner accurate, indicating it’s simple to turn the tuning peg too far. Another error would be trying to use this tuner with other instruments, as users found out.
While theoretically it would work with all instruments, be aware that the tuner picks up overtones incorrectly—especially for brass instruments, according to customers. That’s why the manufacturer has solely designed it for strings.
Customers also note its portability, letting them access their tuner quickly and easily. Its operation is speedy all-around—one strike of the “on” button and the bass guitar tuner gets in gear. Meanwhile, their comparison tuners required a longer button-push to get started.
Just be careful when you’re not using it, as the clip breaks easily. Keep it in an accessory pocket once powered off to combat this, and treat it with as much care as you would your bass guitar.
Now we’re stepping into territory with more features, including adjustability—namely, the tuning mode’s adjustability. It both tunes via frequency as a chromatic tuner or works as a transposer.
It only works if you clip it to the instrument’s head, though, which some users found made it difficult to see when using the transposing feature.
The tuner can transpose instruments in the keys of Bb, Eb, F and D; however, this only works for brass and woodwind instruments. Meanwhile, its tuning works best on string instruments, according to customers. This is down to how well it detects the frequency and the strings’ vibrations.
As you tune or transpose, you can view the large screen packed with information. You’ll see the note you’re playing in the center, with yellow and red on either side of the green perfect pitch indicator.
Alongside the note, you get the key you’re playing in and the Hertz frequency, helping you learn notes and ensuring you play correctly. The tuner’s microprocessor and piezo sensor create this accurate display. So, while the bass guitar tuner will hear the note you play, the piezo sensor picks up on the charges and vibrations of each note, too.
While the features above work to keep you in tune, the device clips to your instrument while protecting the instrument’s finish. The tuner’s silicone clips are grippy but soft against the wooden headstock.
Although, customers note it’s too bulky to use with smaller instruments, like the soprano ukulele, but it works fine with a bass.
Best Additional Features
The MetroPitch is a retro-esque chromatic tuner but with some excellent functions and a changeable exterior. It has features beyond the tuners above, including three tuning modes, a metronome and a tone generator.
While the MetroPitch is a bass guitar tuner, it’s also versatile and works for all instruments, with a quick response and incredible accuracy. On top of this, it has a range any vocalist would die for at A0–C8, so your entire band is covered for tuning.
There’s more than the basic tuning mode available, though, so you can specifically set it up for your instrument. One of the modes is for basses, where the other specialized modes are guitar, violin and ukulele.
Although it uses a mic to pick up sound, it has no fancier detection software like some of the competition. Bear in mind the mic is incredibly sensitive, so the slightest background noise can mess with your readings.
That isn’t to say it doesn’t have some fancy add-ons. The tuner is a metronome with a tempo range of 30–250 beats per minute, a fantastic range for any musical genre. There are also multiple rhythm patterns to help you expand into other musical styles.
Lastly, the bass guitar tuner has a tone generator option so you can match your bass’ sound to something with a perfect pitch.
Despite these incredible features, they make quick work of the battery, so always have a pack of AAA batteries nearby. The more features you use, the faster it drains.
Also, if you’re trying to achieve the perfect pitch on a particular sharp or flat note, you’re out of luck. Customers say the tuner won’t detect it unless you use the tone generator to match it. For example, if you play C#, it will come up as a C on the bass tuner. The sharp indicator light will flash red, but you’ll never know how sharp you are—you could be a hair away from C or in a totally perfect C#.
Best Tuner Pedal
If you need to tune on stage, consider a tuner pedal that fits on any pedal board.
As the tuner will be on the ground, it needs a large and simple display, exactly what this TinyTune option has. Even so, be aware that some customers feel it could be bigger.
The TinyTune shuts off the mic once you plug it in and reads the signal with wonderful accuracy. You can also use it without plugging your bass in, but customers mention that that’s best done offstage.
Users also feel the tuner’s bypass works as it should—the tuner is decently speedy, and the detection is accurate when tuning drop strings, too. That said, they feel it doesn’t work as well for a five-string bass.
Customers also had gripes with how the tuner doesn’t come with a power supply and that you can’t use batteries with it. They also noted it slows down after a while, but they apply the old saying of “you get what you pay for.”
If you don’t mind a tuner that slows a little and you’re fine with buying a power supply separately, consider this tuner. It’s a budget buy and would make a great backup or stage tuner while you utilize another tuner type for offstage use.
Best Strobe Tuner
Many bassists hold strobe tuners in high regard, so here’s one of many strobe bass guitar tuners you may enjoy.
The tuner is a little larger than some people like, but if you don’t keep it clipped to your instrument all the time, you should be fine. The tuner fits in most standard accessory pouches on instrument cases.
As far as instruments go, it’s best for string instruments and has a visual meter showing you if you’re too sharp or flat. In strobe mode, the note you’re hitting shows up on the left, and your instrument’s in tune when the lines stand still—fantastic for highly accurate, real-time tuning.
Users found strobe mode the most accurate; however, some found the bass strings’ harmonics throw off the accuracy. If you have this issue, you can use the half-strobe or “normal” mode. The lines move less with the former and stay still with the latter.
Best for Kids
You probably don’t care what your chromatic tuner looks like. Kids, on the other hand? Kids want something cool!
This bass tuner is every bit the chromatic tuner as well as the fun visual. Visually, it’s an owl available in four colors, or an alien available in one.
Its playful design does nothing to impact its tuning ability, though. It’s suitable for use with the ukulele, violin, guitar and bass and has a tuning range of A0–C8, so it’ll encompass your instruments’ sound, no matter what.
The Swiff lacks fancy features so it won’t overwhelm beginners, which customers also pointed out. It’s pure tuning, all the time. The LCD shows the note, the octave and whether the string is too sharp or flat, so even the display is simple to comprehend.
Its adorable physique comes with a downside, though, even if the bass tuner part works well. Customers say it’s a nightmare to get the battery case open, which can be frustrating for kids (or you!).
Once you get the battery in, you have to put the case back together extremely tightly or else the battery slides around, preventing the tuner from working properly. Try to not jolt the tuner too much while the battery is in.
You shouldn’t have a problem if you don’t remove the chromatic bass tuner from the instrument, though. It clips to the headstock with a protective silicone clip that won’t damage the finish. If the screen’s angle makes it difficult to see when clipped, don’t worry. The owl twists and turns every which way for whatever’s most comfortable for you or your child.
All in all, not a bad little tuner for young beginners—and adults who enjoy cute things can get great use out of it, too!
Features to Consider Bass Guitar Tuners
With so many features across different tuners, what do you really need?
Let’s examine some of these aspects and when they’d be most beneficial.
All bass guitar tuners are relatively small, making all of them portable.
But, if you’re forgetful, consider clip-on bass guitar tuners so the tool is never far from your mind.
On the other hand, if you mostly transport your base in a case, clip-on tuners aren’t for you. Instead, consider using an accessory pocket to place your tuner in.
Also consider a true bypass tuner pedal, like the KLIQ TinyTune, but keep in mind these can be inconvenient for offstage use. A tuner pedal adds the most value if you need to transpose your bass between songs—but, clearly, a true bypass pedal tuner isn’t great for portability.
Chromatic tuners flash a note on the screen to let you know what you’re playing. However, you may not know how close you are to the perfect pitch.
A tuner that detects the note in detail is a great help. It’ll flash red on either side of your perfect, green note—perhaps with a helpful visual on the LCD. This feature goes a long way to speed up the tuning.
Ensuring the note is in the correct octave is also vital. Not all tuners will show you the octave—consider the Swiff Cartoon Clip for this feature.
Lastly, tuners that show you the frequency range can help you learn and improve tuning accuracy. Most of the tuners above have this feature, excluding the Swiff and the Sledgehammer.
If you’re multi-talented or have band members with tuning needs, definitely look into tuners working for more than one instrument—a true bypass pedal tuner would work well for this on stage.
Tuner Types—Clip-Ons, Handheld and Pedals
The main types of tuners to choose from are:
- Tuner pedal.
Most of the reviewed tuners are handheld and clip-on, but consider a tuner pedal if you want to plug your instrument into the tuner directly, such as the KLIQ TinyTune.
Your tuner pedal sits on the floor like a guitar pedal, and you control it with your feet mid-performance. But keep in mind, a true bypass tuner pedal isn’t as convenient as a handheld or a clip-on.
Clip-ons are for sure the most convenient type, but they’re also the flimsiest, so go handheld if you want something portable and robust.
Are Tuner Pedals More Accurate?
A true bypass pedal tuner has you plug your instrument directly into it. Rather than relying on a mic to tune your bass, it picks up the frequencies and works with the instrument’s components.
Because of this, are they really more accurate? After all, they block out all other noise so nothing can influence your sound and accuracy.
While this is excellent, there’s no sure answer on which tuners are more accurate—it’s brand dependent. With that said, some people who’ve tested plug-in vs. mic-using tuners found that the tuner is more accurate when plugged in.
This can vary wildly depending on the tuner’s mic quality, and in some cases, the quality of your instrument if it’s old or if it uses cheap inner components.
The best bass tuner brands, like Snark, Korg, KLIQ and Swiff, paired with high-quality guitars, will provide the most accuracy, whether you’re plugged in or not.
Plus, it’s not just true bypass tuner pedal tuners that allow this plug-and-tune element. They’re certainly the most common, though, making them the most accessible tuner type for accurate, plugged-in tuning.
The Best Bass Tuner
For us, the best among these bass guitar tuners is the Snark ST-2. It’s a chromatic tuner that works with any instrument and has multiple ways of detecting your notes. It’s a fantastic choice for any bassist with a mass of bass guitars in need of tuning.
If you’d rather something a little more specific to string instruments, the best tuner is the Snark SN5X. It has all the same incredible features as the top pick but with a focus on strings. It picks out frequencies rather than relying on a mic, ensuring accuracy with its focus instruments.