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Making sure that guitar is in tune.


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Make sure that guitars in tune. 07-27-2015, 02:42 PM

 

I was asked to post this review over here for you guys who record. Having an instrument set up and in tune is essential in getting good recording results so

I'll post my results of the new polytune for you. I'll abbreviate what I posted on the guitar forum.

 

Its not like I don't have a bunch of tuners already including a strobe, but I thought these were too cool to pass up for $50. The cool thing is you can see the tuning for all six strings at the same time. Its especially useful for floating whammy bars where you tune one string up and the other five tune down slightly.

 

I want to see how well it does on some of my thin necked guitars where the relief can vary a little. The specs say it has .02 cent accuracy which is really good. I'd prefer the plug in type that run on an adaptor but they're double the price. This may still find its use however. I'll just have to buy extra CR2032 batteries.

 

 

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Well I got it last weekend. It was smaller then I expected, about the size of a very large tie clip. Installed the battery and it powered up without any issues.

 

Get this, in the box was a Free promotional code for a copy of the Polytune DAW plugin. Its normally on sale for $39 right now and its a free download with the code you get with the purchase of the clip on. I just downloaded it and will be trying it out on my DAW today. http://www.tcelectronic.com/polytune-plug-in/ Looks like it works like the hardware version. I'll have to review that later too.

 

The clip to the clip on folds out. its a metal spring clip so it looks very durable. I looked to see if there was a Piezo element on the clip but couldn't see any wires between the rubber pads and the unit. My conclusion is either the metal clip is the conductor to the Piezo element inside the rubber pads or the entire clip resonates and the element is inside the unit. I don't know which but its nice to know there isn't some thin wire that can get broken.

 

I clipped it on to 10 different guitars so far for testing. When I strum the six open strings it works exactly as intended. You see which strings are flat and sharp. The speed of the led elements are smooth and steady, practically no jumping around. The duration of them showing was a big concern of mine too. That was an unnecessary worry. The duration seems to be a good solid 30 before some of the led's fade.

 

During this test I tried strumming hard and lightly. Some tuners go nuts with a hard pick attack, this one didn't. I did get the low E and A string twang sharp for a second before it settled down. I came to find out those two strings on that guitar had slightly sharp intonation. I fixed that and the strings twanging sharp open disappeared. Bingo, just what I was looking for.

 

When I picked single strings the tuner automatically switched to the needle mode. I was then able to check my intonation. This is where the tuner shows its accuracy. The LED's to the left or right of center will gradually dim brighter if its of in pitch by even the slightest amount. The tuners on my first guitar tested have 18:1 ratios and I was barely cracking them making fine tuning changes. Same setting the intonation, I was turning the intonation screws 1/16 of a turn and seeing the results. My Strobe will see these changes too, but the stability of this meter is so much better, I can get things zeroed in on a 1:1 basis ultra fast.

 

I then tested the guitar by ear plugged in and gained up. String beating between notes playing chords was practically non existent after making those micro tweaks the tuner detected. I also compared the tuning to the strobe which was using the pickups. It did show some strings slightly sharp in comparison to the polytune yet the instrument was tuned better with the polytune. It may be the difference between the pickup seeing only a small area of the string vs the clip on hearing the body resonance or it may be the difference in accuracy between the two. Don't know which. Maybe when I get the plugin going I can compare it to the clip on.

 

I tried the tuner on my Les Paul which is a very finicky guitar to set up intonation. Its got a shorter scale and lower ratio tuners which makes tweaks very difficult to zero in. My worries were unfounded. The tuner did a fantastic job on it. I had two strings, the G and low E with slightly sharp intonation and after tweaking it played like a dream.

 

Next was the Epi Dot. It had set for awhile and was about a half tone flat overall. I quickly tuned it to pitch and checked the intonation. Again, I found a couple of strings had slightly sharp intonation which I corrected. This guitar is normally a best to tweak because the saddle screws have so much schlock in them. No problem for this tuner however. I was also able to detect the bass side of the bridge was a tad low too. I could tell by the way the open strings vs the 12th fret were reacting. The open bass string would twang sharp and the 12th required extra pressure. I tweaked the height 1/16 on the low side and both were resolved.

 

The last guitar I tried was a strat build with a floating whammy. This is my favorite whammy guitar because its does those incredible dive bombs and returns to tune. I can do my Jeff Beck stuff on this one and its wonderful to play. I connected the tuner and began to test and intonate. I could tell things were going south quickly. I plugged it in and played it and it sounded awful. I said to myself, what the heck is going on here. I wound up breaking out a ruler, setting the saddles back to specs, using the strobe for fine tuning and doing the rest by ear. I tried the clip on again, and it wanted to take me south again.

 

This morning I woke up and it came to me. The clip on picks up body resonance. This means the springs for the whammy resonate and get picked up by the tuner. I took a piece of soft foam and stuck it under the springs to deaden them and bingo, the tuner was working the way it was supposed to. . Of course using a plugin tuner wont have this spring reverb issue because they use the pickups directly off the strings.

 

Anyway, its been a full week so I was able to evaluate the tuner quite a bit. After doing a few setups, the results I got tracking were wonderful.

 

I even used it on my Hofner Bass and it worked like a charm. It even picked up an issue with the bass I couldn't detect with a normal tuner.

 

Get this. I was using both the clip on and a regular tuner plugged in together. For some reason the clip on was reading a higher pitch then the tuner plugged into the pickup.

It had me scratching my head. I came to realize the clip on was picking up both sides of the string resonating between the bridge and 12th fret and the 11th fret and the nut.

The distance between the 11th fret and nut are shorter so it was reading sharp.

 

I then broke out my ruler and reset the string height at the 12th fret for 3mm on the low side and 2mm on the high side. I had it higher because I had some fret buzz on a lower fret.

The buzz came back so I slackened the strings and moved them out of the way. I then rockered the frets and found the 3rd and 4th frets were too high. This bass is fairly new and it

had some high frets from the factory.

 

I broke out my diamond file and leveled those plus some up top, then re-crowned and polished them all nicely, then oiled the fret-board. After restringing the fret buzz was gone and the sharp resonance disappeared. The tuner was detecting an abnormal issue and with a little investigation and setting it to specs it helped me fix a problem that wasn't being detected by a plug in tuner.

 

I did a few more guitars including my Rickenbacker and all were improved by the accuracy of the tuner. The biggest bonus is how the strings felt. Bending strings especially felt better because the strings were tensioned properly. My guess is because the pickup wasn't being used the entire string was being heard, not just a 1" section of it by a pickup. If a string twang sharp or had multiple nodes the clip on hears the instrument acoustically as a whole.

 

Once they were set up, setting pickup height for even output was a snap and plugging in an recording produced proper note articulation all along the fret board. My playing speed was increased as well because I wasn't fighting with notes that were slightly off.

 

 

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As an added note, I tried to install the free plugin version that came with the tuner on my Studio DAW only to find out its win 7 only. Dam.

 

My DAW is Vista which is nearly the same thing as win 7 with all the upgrades done. I haven't bothered to upgrade it to Win 7 because its extremely stable and works flawlessly. I don't think it would be a huge issue upgrading to 7 from vista. Surely not like it was going from XP to 7 which is a major undertaking and requires a clean install from scratch.

 

I'd likely wind up having to reinstall many of my plugins and maybe loose allot of my presets going from Vista to 7 so I been putting it off.

I'm getting ready to set up Win10 on my internet computer. Its downloaded and I just been putting it off until I have some free time.

 

My older DAW does have win 7 and I use it for music writing purposes in the living room. I'll install it there and give you a review on how well it works. I do allot of my guitar setups in there anyway so it may wind up being useful there. I'm curious to know if the tuner can establish polyphonic tuning through a normal interface. I can use the clip on at the same time too and evaluate both to see if they rate the same.

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Update. I got my old DAW running and got the plugin installed without issue.

It does indeed have polyphonic tuning.

 

I put the clip on version on the guitar and was able to view the software version at the same time and they produced identical results from everything I could see. The only differences I saw was the speed of the software version was slower. I rack that up to the computer being slower. Its a single core computer and I have the latency set very high to accommodate high track counts and multiple plugins without crashing.

 

Other then that both tuners read identical results.

 

As a second test I ran Sonar's Guitar tuners side by side. Again the results were good, but there were differences. The Polytune would lock into a note and barely fluctuate at all. The needle may move to slightly sharp or flat very slowly. The Cakewalk tuner would react very quickly to any pitch changes and would detect small pitch variances the Polytune would ignore or its LED's barely registered. Using the Cakewalk to fine tune did make the Polytune read 100% accurate.

 

In my opinion the scale of the Cakewalk is tuner has a narrower pitch range between sharp or flat. This does make the needle jump around more but doing fine tweaks may be superior to the Polytune. The Cakewalk isn't super tuning bass however. You have to use 12th fret harmonics on the low notes to get a stable reading.

 

The Polytune on the other hand is incredibly stable in its reading. If you guitar is properly intonated and all you need to do is tune to pitch its as easy as it gets. Its free of erratic needle movements an focuses on the root note. Jumpy needle syndrome common with many sensitive meters. It also lets you strum all six and immediately target the strings out of pitch. From there you can simply tune the one string with the full screen with detailed accuracy. The tuner does pick up bass notes better too, even low tuned bass is possible so its range is superior to the Sonar version.

 

In any case, its an excellent plugin and its super simple to use. The best part is it was free with the clip on which I've found extremely handy for both general tuning and doing general setups.

 

I'll have to give it a thu.gifthu.gifthu.gifthu.gif thumbs up because the cakewalk tuner does appear to have a slight edge in accuracy detecting small pitch variances which can be important recording. If you add the fact the Polytune does better job on open bass strings while still doing a fine job in all other areas, you could easily give it a 5.

 

I think TC could improve their products and give it an edge over any competition with an enhanced scale button. The Cakewalk reads as much as 3 digit variance compared to the Polytune. Instead of having 1/2 an LED lighting if the pitch is off a few cents, double the scale so that same pitch variance will light 1.5 or 2 LED's.

 

This would give you a fine tuning guitar setup mode which would greatly enhance viewing accuracy, doing micro tweaks. Other then that they got the rest of the formula nailed down very well and I have no problem recommending their product to others.

Edited by WRGKMC
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