In the arcane-to-some world of instrument tuning instruments, stroboscopic tuners are in a league of their own.
By rotating a mechanical disk at incredibly precise speeds and exposing them to a series of strobing LED lights, they offer better tuning feedback than any other mechanism.
When the whole thing is digital, like it is with Peterson Tuners’ iStrobosoft for iOS, one of these is way easier to carry around — not to mention harder to damage on the way to a gig, and definitely cheaper at $10.
Oh, and it can be zeroed out to counteract whatever weird variations might exist in your iPhone or your environment that could affect its ability to make precise pitch measurements.
Peterson’s iOS tuner is a bit pricy at ten bucks, but it’s really all the tuner you’ll ever need with the accuracy of hardware costing over ten times more, and it’s better than its app-based competition. We’re weren’t too surprised, because Peterson also makes hardware tuners.
You may also want to invest in some of the accessories below (or something similar) so that you can play your instrument directly to your iPhone rather than relying on its microphone — or if you want a better mic than the one your iPhone has (or your early iPod Touch doesn’t have).
Whereas most chromatic tuners can guarantee accuracy to plus or minus 1 cent (1/100th of a half step), Peterson’s external calibration option can adjust the reference pitch to an outside source, which Peterson says assures precision to within 1/10 of cent (1/1000th of a half step) — pretty darn accurate indeed.
- Lighted note/octave, cent, and flat/sharp indicators hone in on your reference pitch, which comes in handy when tuning from more than several cents off your target pitch after your bass player knocked over your axe.
- The “lighted” indicators also help new users navigate the strobe interface, which requires people to change their instrument’s pitch relative to the speed and direction of the strobe wheel’s motion.
- To counteract ambient noise if you’re relying on the mic, Peterson also offers a built-in noise filter and input frequency boost, which raises all input frequencies +24 db when using the iPhone’s built in mic (or an external mic accessory with the iPod Touch).
- Auto-transpose Drop/Capo mode
- Adjustable concert A helps tune fixed instruments such as the piano, or instruments that do not use the standard Western A440 reference.
iStrobosoft works through the iPhone’s built in mic, but often when one tunes, there’s a lot of other noise around, either from the crowd or your bandmates. To combat thatissue, Peterson offers two reasonably-priced ways to plug right into your iPhone rather than relying on a microphone: a quarter inch to 3.5mm cable adaptor for connecting electric guitars, basses or other external microphone, and a really slick capsule mic thats small enough to carry on your keychain.
We demoed both of these accessories with iStrobosoft, and found them to work great. I now carry the capsule microphone around for recording voice notes and melodic ideas to an iPod Touch on the go. For something barely bigger than a Mike & Ike candy, the sensitivity is pretty impressive. I finally have a use for that way-too-small pocket in my jeans.
If you break down and buy the thing, the features and clean display alone make it more than worth the money, and your roommate will appreciate your pitch perfect rendition of “Smoke on the Water”… well, more than they did before, anyway.
Peterson Tuners’ iStrobosoft for iPod Touch or iPhone costs $10. The HD iPad version costs $20. Both require iOS 3.1 or later.
Both of the following accessories can be used with any other app that handles audio input, so for around $12 a piece, it’s not a huge investment for the enhanced functionality, especially if you use a Touch, and the first one is near-mandatory for tuning in a loud environment.
- $12 for Peterson Mini Capsule Mic at Elderly
- $13 for Peterson 3.5mm (1/4-Inch) Adaptor Cable at Musicians Friend
How It Works
Digital stroboscopes have no gears, tolerances or possibility of mechanical failure, and so offer unparalleled accuracy. Significantly more accurate than needle-based chromatic tuners, strobe tuners show the relative difference in the rate of oscillation of a frequency against a pre-determined reference pitch. In less nerdy terms, a clear, patterned wheel spins like a slot machine in front of a backlight. If the wheel is spinning at the same rate as the strobe flashes it appears not to move, indicating that the given frequency is in tune with the reference pitch.