These days there are plenty of free smartphone apps that do a good job of guitar tuning. If you’re not gigging or recording, they will do the job. So, the question is, why bother with a clip-on tuner?
A clip-on tuner, like your phone, may have a microphone sensor, but it will also almost certainly have a vibration sensor. This means that when you play in a noisy room or with other musicians, you can still tune-up your guitar without other noises interfering with the tuning.
Other advantages of a clip-on tuner include the fact that it can stay with your instrument; plus, you don’t have to balance it on your knee like you normally end up doing with your phone. There are undoubtedly plenty of reasons to choose one.
So, let’s now take a look at some of the best clip-on guitar tuners currently on sale and find the perfect one for you and your budget…
Top 8 Best Clip-On Guitar Tuners You Should Buy In 2021 Reviews
1 Snark ST-8 Super Tight Clip On Tuner (Current Model) – Easiest to Read Clip-on Guitar Tuner
The Snark ST-8 Super Tight… sleek, elegant, and stylish. Yes, indeed, three words you could never use to describe it. More like bulky, obtrusive, and ugly.
But wait a minute, are we being just a bit too harsh?
Frankly, we probably are. The fact is that no clip-on guitar tuners look cool. It’s just that the Snark tuner looks a lot less cool than most. Plus, despite the strong clamp, it also tends to get knocked off more than most. Sadly, the shape and design seem to lend itself to finding its way to the floor.
So, what about all the good stuff?
Firstly, it’s accurate, fast, and reliable. These facts alone explain why it’s so popular and why it’s a ubiquitous sight just about anywhere you find a guitar. The second big plus is that it has a super easy to read dial. In any situation or lighting condition, you won’t have a problem. It is even easy to read for musicians who are long sighted.
The strong clip and the 360 degrees rotating head means that you can attach pretty much anywhere on your headstock. Wherever it’s placed, you can still see the screen. It’s genuinely easy to see from just about any angle.
The Snark can be used on any string instruments, including bass guitars, 12 strings, mandolins, and ukuleles.
Finally, it can be set to track tuning either via its in-built microphone or its vibration sensor. In a noisy environment, set to vibration, it performs well.
However, if you choose to use the internal microphone, you’ll need a very quiet setting, or it’s highly unlikely to give you an accurate reading.
- Easy to read dial.
- The screen can be rotated 360 degrees.
- Works with most stringed instruments.
- Microphone tuning mode.
- It’s not pretty.
- Can easily get knocked off.
2 D’Addario Micro Guitar Tuner, Headstock Clip-On – Best Micro Clip-on Guitar Tuner
The D’Addario Micro Guitar Tuner is small and discreet. If you want a clip-on tuner that, when switched off, almost seems to disappear on your headstock, then look no further. Measuring just 1.5” across, this is about as small as they come.
Despite its small size, when it’s turned on, the display is still nice and legible. Admittedly, the graphics are all a little 1970s video games. However, partly due to the lurid colors, it makes everything clear and legible.
The design of the clamp makes it easy to position the D’Addario Micro Tuner either on the front or at the rear of your headstock. The clamp can swivel through a full 360 degrees and can be angled in multiple different viewing positions.
The clamp is not as strong as the one on the Snark, but then again, given its size and weight, it doesn’t need to be.
Compact with excellent sensitivity…
It can be used on a wide variety of stringed instruments, including electric guitars, and regardless of the thickness of the headstock. The clamp is well-padded, so there’s no fear of it damaging your instrument.
The tuner is happily small and stealthy enough to be discreet if left clamped to your headstock when you’re playing live. What’s more, you can even leave it fixed to your guitar, and you will still be able to get your guitar in its case.
Even though it’s small, it has a big range. It can calibrate between 410 to 480HZ, which is a bigger range than the Snark ST-8 Super Tight can manage.
Only a vibration sensor…
The one thing lacking, like a lot of clip-on tuners, is that there’s no built-in mic for sound-detection tuning. It only has a vibration sensor. If this is an issue, then you need to look elsewhere.
All this D’Addario goodness is powered by a CR2032 battery and features an auto-off function to extend your battery life. As a bunch of forgetful musicians, we like that.
- Small profile.
- Easily adjustable.
- Suitable for all strong instruments.
- Wide range of calibration ability.
- Auto power-off function.
3 Fender “Bullet” Chromatic Tuner – Most Accurate Clip-on Guitar Tuner
Fender has thrown their hat in the ring with the Bullet chromatic tuner.
Not actually that small…
Despite the small size of the screen, the tuner takes up a lot of space. It’s not as bulky or obvious as Snark tuners, but it’s not likely to win any beauty contests either. It’s not the kind of tuner you’d want hanging around on your headstock when playing a gig.
It clamps on easily to any headstock, and the screen can be moved and swiveled around to where ever you want it. So that’s all good.
A bit of a downside…
But, there is a bit of a question mark over its rotating joint. We can’t help but feel that it’s a bit of a weak point. If that hits the floor, it looks liable to break.
The Fender Bullet has kept things nice and simple as far as its controls are concerned. It has an on and off switch, and that’s your lot. We think that even we can manage that!
Unfortunately, though, there’s no auto-off power switch. Consequently, you’ll need to keep an eye on it to make sure it’s off once you’ve finished tuning up; otherwise, it will suck the life out of the battery.
Accurate and reliable…
We agree with Fender that the LED screen is easy to read bit we’re also sure you’ll agree that it could be bigger. Given its size, there’s proportionally a lot of the device and very little screen. We’d have liked more screen, Fender.
Despite a few shortcomings, including no built-in microphone tuning, it’s extremely accurate and consistent for a clip-on tuner.
Plus, all the internal workings do a great job of creating a noise-proof sensor that seems all but impervious to superfluous vibration.
- Simple to use.
- Bright display.
- Good quality clamp.
- No auto-off switch.
- No built-in microphone tuning.
4 ROADIE 2 | Smart Automatic Guitar Tuner & String Winder – Best Automatic Clip-on Guitar Tuner
This is a great concept and is much more than just a mere clip-on tuner. It’s packed with features, but the essence is that you place the head of the unit over the tuners on your headstock, and it will turn the tuners and tune your instrument for you.
That’s right. No more having to go through the drudgery of having to do everything by hand. How last year!
So, should you buy one?
Let’s take a look at the good stuff first and find out.
The tuning sensor uses the same tuning technology that’s found on clip-on tuners. It can be used on any stringed instrument and has a bunch of factory tuning presets as standard. You can also add up to 40 of your own.
All the presets and additional settings are accessed by syncing the device to your phone and the Roadie App. Roadie claims that you can tune your guitar in as little as 30 seconds. This is frankly a little ambitious, but we’re prepared to let that one slip.
More than just a tuner…
A final additional function is that it can be used as a string winder and unwinder. This should, in theory, help to take a bit of the slog from changing your strings.
It is a little slow, but we’ll let that slip too.
Now for the bad stuff…
First, although it uses the same vibration technology as clip-on tuners, you don’t get the same accuracy. Instead of one cent plus or minus deviation, you get two cents. Although we don’t expect the same kind of accuracy that you get from a pedal tuner, this should be better.
Another issue is that the consistency is poor. Tune-up the same string half a dozen times, and it will tune it to six different settings. That’s not good enough.
And there’s more…
Another shortcoming is that periodically the device may lock. This then requires you to do a reset, and you’ll lose all your saved settings. Also, settings you do save are always accessed after the factory settings, and these cannot be changed or deleted.
All in all, it’s an interesting idea, but it’s not accurate enough, and it’s a little too glitchy for our liking.
- Winds the tuners for you.
- Has factory presets.
- Forty custom settings are available.
- It can be used to wind and unwind strings.
- Not very accurate.
- Glitchy software.
5 KLIQ UberTuner – Professional Clip-On Tuner for All Instruments – Most Durable Clip-on Guitar Tuner
Kliq has a good reputation for making reliable and accurate tuners. The KLIQ UberTuner uses an advanced processor in combination with a sensitive vibration sensor to deliver great results. No wonder it’s such a popular choice.
Tune just about anything…
The KLIQ UberTuner can be used for most musical instruments and has dedicated modes for ukuleles, bass guitars, violins, and other instruments. It has a sensitivity rating between 430 to 450Hz. Admittedly, the range isn’t as large as some other clip-on tuners, but for most of us, it’s more than enough to get the job done.
For those of you who need microphone tuning, skip ahead; this ugly little tuner doesn’t have any.
Bright and large display…
The screen is large, bright, and easy to see. It’s a lot larger in comparison to tuners like the Fender Bullet and about the same size as Snark tuners, except in a square form.
In many ways, the clip-on clamp and swivel system resembles a Snark. You get the same 360-degree turn and 125-degree tilt adjustability and flexibility. You also get the same bulky, obtrusive piece of tech cluttering up your otherwise beautiful headstock. That was sarcasm, by the way.
Stable and secure clamp…
Compared to a Snark tuner, you get a beefed-up connecting arm and a stronger connection from the arm onto the clamp. The fact is that unlike plenty of other clip-on tuners, this is sturdy and well-built and will likely survive a few unscheduled trips to the floor.
Battery life is a respectable 16 hours from a CR2032 battery that’s included. The long battery life is partly down to the power-saving feature that dims down the screen after tuning.
Unfortunately, there’s no auto power-off mode, which is a bit of a shame. But still, easily one of the Best Clip-on Guitar Tuners you can buy.
- Dedicated instrument modes.
- Large screen.
6 Real Tuner – Chromatic Clip-on Tuner – Most Versatile Clip-on Guitar Tuner
The Real Tuner has plenty of features and functions for not a lot of money. Additionally, it covers the basics well. Namely, it has an easy-to-read screen, it’s highly adjustable, it has an auto power-off, and it’s well built.
Now that’s a good start.
Works with all kinds of instruments…
The tuner has a tolerance of one cent plus or minus and is consistent. Unlike most of the other tuners we’ve reviewed, this one also has a microphone sensor. That means that you have the option to use it for woodwind instruments as well as for string instruments.
It can be used for a range of instruments and has special presets for specific instruments and specific tuning. All the operations keys are on the front of the tuner and are intuitive to use. The switch button between polyphonic or vibration tuning is also on the front.
Extra details on the screen…
The display is wider than most and therefore has more room on the display for the information you don’t normally see. This includes space for the Hz reading, as well as the note and the string number.
The Real Tuner is quite large and, when it’s clipped-on to your headstock, looks as ugly as any other. However, the long rectangular shape lends itself to being used behind the headstock. That way, if you’re playing live, it gets hidden from the audience. We’re sure you’ll agree, no bad thing at all.
Built to last…
Finally, you get all of this with a three-years no quibble warranty.
Now that ain’t bad.
- Sound detection tuning.
- Intuitive to use.
- Big screen.
- Auto power off.
- Fit snugly behind the headstock.
- Three-years warranty.
- No metronome.
- The display could be brighter.
7 Snark SN5X Clip-On Tuner for Guitar, Bass & Violin (Current Model) – Best Budget Clip-on Guitar Tuner
The Martians have landed and placed a satellite spaceship on your headstock in the form of the Snark SN5X. Yes, folks, the tuner has all the looks of the more expensive Snark ST-8 Super Tight. That is… none.
However, the fact is that looks aren’t everything. And what it lacks in aesthetics, it makes up for in accuracy and reliability. This stripped-down version of the Snark ST-8 Super Tight gives you inexpensive, no-nonsense, and easy to read tuning.
Now, who wouldn’t want that?
Large and maneuverable screen…
The Snark SN5X uses the same large screen found on all the other models. It sits on the end of an arm that’s attached to the clamp. It can be angled to suit any way you prefer to view it.
Unfortunately, it’s a shape that still lends itself to getting knocked off. Even worse is that once it’s taken a trip to the floor, the swivel joint or arm is likely to break. Its next trip is likely to be the clip-on tuner heaven in the sky.
It can be used to help tune your acoustic-electric and bass guitars as well as violins and violas. Unfortunately, it can’t be used to tune ukuleles.
Things it does have include a tap tempo metronome and a long-lasting CR2032 battery. Things it doesn’t have include sound detection tuning and an auto switch off to further enhance battery savings.
Considering the incredibly low price-point, we can look past having only vibration tuning and having to manually switch it off between tune-ups. Any way you look at this, the Snark SN5X offers great value for money.
- Large easy to read dial.
- Multi-adjustable screen.
- Tap Tempo Metronome.
- Accurate and consistent.
- Great value.
- Liable to break if dropped.
- No sound detection tuning.
8 D’Addario Accessories Eclipse Headstock Tuner, Black – Best Value for the Money Clip-on Guitar Tuner
The D’Addario Accessories Eclipse Headstock Tuner has a large size rectangular display. There’s no doubt it’s one of the best clip-on tuners for screen size and clarity. It’s also one of the best for simplicity and value for money.
Simple and straightforward…
There are three buttons on the front. One is a power button and the other two, on either side, are to adjust the calibration. This runs between 410 to 480Hz and is set at 440Hz as standard. Nice and simple, just the way we like it.
The accuracy is to plus or minus one cent, and you can use it with just about any fretted instrument. It doesn’t feature any presets or a built-in microphone, but at this kind of price, it’s hard to criticize and certainly not a deal-breaker.
Pretty tough, too…
The display part of the tuner can swivel for limitless viewing angles. However, it’s not attached to a flimsy stalk, and further, it’s attached to a decent quality bracket.
This means you can fling it to the floor in a moment of artistic temper, and it’s got a good chance of surviving the ordeal.
Another thing we like is that it can fold flat on itself. It makes it much less noticeable if you leave it attached to your headstock. It’s also nicely designed, so it’s easy to read if you choose to attach it to the rear.
A pleasant surprise…
One thing we’re surprised to see for such an affordable tuner is that it has an auto power off. This activates after ten minutes of inaction. We’d have preferred an auto-off at five minutes, but we’ve no major complaint here either.
For those that like to color coordinate their accessories, you get a choice of six snazzy colors. That’s gives it one-up on Snark that makes only black, red, or blue models.
- Easy to read the screen.
- Simple operation.
- Six color options.
- Auto power off.
Best Clip-On Guitar Tuners Buying Guide
It’s pointless having an accurate clip-on tuner if you find it hard to read. To this end, the screen should be large and bright. Additionally, it’s helpful if the screen can be rotated and angled for an optimum view.
We have to give full marks to both Snark and KLIQ UberTuner for the clarity and adjustability of their screens. Neither product will win any beauty awards, but that’s not everything.
The Fender Bullet and the Roadie have both somewhat underwhelming displays.
Not all of us want to play standard EADGBE tuning. Not all of us will play on the same instrument all of the time. Having presets for dropped, open, or alternate tunings is a big plus. Being able to create your own tunings and save them as presets is even better.
If you are just getting into guitar, then this won’t be essential, if even important. A basic tuner will be more than enough. But as you develop, it’s worth considering a tuner that can offer these kinds of features.
Although the Roadie has more features, we would recommend the Real Tuner as a better option if you require preset tunings.
Vibration sensor tuning
Vibration sensor tuning is a good idea in a noisy environment. Especially when it’s otherwise impossible to rely on microphone sensor tuning. If you’re playing a gig and not using a pedal tuner, a clip-on tuner with a vibration mode is a must.
All the best clip-on guitar tuners in our review have a vibration sensor. This is something that picks up the vibration from your instrument. And through the power of modern-day electronics and wizardry translates it to a frequency that in turn relates to a note on the scale.
Better quality electronics and sensors will give you more accurate results.
Microphone sensor tuning
The biggest issue with sound detection tuning is a noisy environment. If you’re practicing on your own, they’re fine. Put them in a noisy room with other musicians, or even somewhere with a TV or radio; all will be far from fine. Put simply; they won’t work.
However, if it’s something you still need, then check out either the Snark ST-8 Super Tight or the Real Tuner.
Accuracy is the most important feature of any tuner. Whilst a clip-on tuner won’t give you the same accuracy as a pedal or a rack tuner, it’s liable to be good enough for most musicians most of the time when not gigging or recording.
All the tuners in our review, other than the Roadie, give a result within plus or minus one cent. This is about half the accuracy of a pedal tuner. However, being able to give consistently accurate results is also important, and this is where we think the KLIQ UberTuner is a clear winner.
Nearly all clip-on tuners use the ubiquitous CR3942 battery. You, therefore, expect them to have similar battery lives. However, this is very far from the case.
In the real world, we tune up our guitars and then quickly get absorbed in our playing. At this point, it’s easy to forget that we’ve left our clip-on tuner turned on, and unfortunately, the result is a quickly drained battery.
Any tuner with an auto turn-off is, therefore, more likely to extend your battery life. For the forgetful guitarists amongst you, like us, take a second look at the Real Tuner or either of the D’Addario tuners.
Looking for more superb guitar accessories?
If so, take a look at our in-depth reviews of the Best Acoustic Guitar Strings, the Best Electric Guitar Strings, the Best Nylon Strings, the Best Guitar Stand, and the Best Guitar Cables currently on the market.
So, what are the Best Clip-On Guitar Tuners?
There you have it. Although clip-on tuners are not the most accurate means of tuning your guitar, they are inexpensive and good enough in most circumstances for most guitarists. Happily, these days, most clip-on guitar tuners are reliable and consistent enough to meet these needs.
We would be happy to use any of the tuners on our list. However, if we had to choose just one to take home with us, it would be the…
Despite being a little ugly, we like this tuner because of its consistently accurate results. Additionally, it has dedicated instrument modes, and it’s strong enough to be able to survive a few knocks and drops to the floor.
Until next time, may your music always make you merry.