When it comes to stompbox guitar pedal tuners, there are a few products that have risen to the top as the most popular picks of most players. These products owe their success to their own merit as solid tuners as well as the huge marketing push their makers could afford. But what if there’s a product out there that blows away the competition and comes from a much smaller company, one you may have never heard of? In our Sonic Research Turbo Tuner ST-200 review, you may discover the best guitar tuner you’ll ever use.
A True Strobe Tuner in a Stompbox Format
Chromatic and Guitar/Bass modes
Fully programmable for alternate tunings and temperaments
Extreme accuracy: +/- .02 cents guaranteed
Rugged die-cast aluminum case
Made in USA
I have a confession to make. I’ve tried strobe tuners before but never really cared for them. I have always used digital needle tuners. I owned a Boss TU-2 for years. I then switched to the TC Electronic Polytune. But the Turbo Tuner ST-200 caught my attention for one simple reason: tuning accuracy within a .02 cent range. That sounded most impressive, so I thought I’d give this one a shot.
As far as tuners go, the Boss TU-3 and TC Electronic Polytune 2 are arguably two of the most popular guitar tuner pedals available with the TU-3 claiming accuracy within +/- one cent and the Polytune 2 boasting a more impressive +/- 0.1 cent precision. However, just looking at this comparison, it’s clear that the Turbo Tuner ST-200 dwarfs the competition with its extremely precise +/- .02 cent accuracy.
I plugged in my American Stratocaster (which I previously intonated with the TC Electronic Polytune) and activated the ST-200.
I hit a low E and was greeted to a gently swirling strobe of red LEDs. Strobe tuners are generally easy to read but may take a moment to get used to for some. The Turbo Tuner lights rotate clockwise when you’re sharp and counter-clockwise when you’re flat. The idea is to tune a note until the lights are as still as possible.
One thing I noticed right away was how quick the ST-200 responded to the string I plucked. Other tuners have an algorithm that takes longer to read the note, convert it to data, and display it accordingly. I never really noticed this slight delay in other tuners until using the Turbo Tuner.
Essentially, the LEDs of the ST-200 give a real-time display of the note pitch in relation to the reference pitch. Want to test how sensitive and fast this tuner is? Hit a fretted note anywhere on the neck and add some vibrato or quick bends. The Turbo Tuner keeps up with an instantaneous display of swirling lights that quicken and slow at the exact rate that you change the pitch of the note. Kudos to the engineering wizards at Sonic Research for creating such a responsive tuner.
And of course this pedal is true bypass if you’re one of the tone-obsessed. I also like how the ST-200 is completely cut out of your signal and from power when disengaged. No LEDs are lit when it’s off. This also means no drained batteries if you leave a cable plugged in.
The ultimate test came for me when I checked my guitar’s intonation. I have always set up all my guitars myself. And even though I always thought I knew what I was doing, I now feel a bit silly to have relied on the +/- 1 cent accuracy of the Boss TU-2 at one point.
The ST-200 will reveal the inferiority of less accurate tuners once you conduct your own intonation test. Simply set your intonation with one such pedal, then plug into a Turbo Tuner and compare on open note to its octave at the 12th fret. The extreme accuracy for setting up your guitars makes the ST-200 an essential pedal if you’re serious about the intonation and playability of your instruments.
But that’s not all. The Turbo Tuner has 6 preset banks on front, easily selectable and programmable with two buttons on the top surface of the pedal. The Chromatic preset always allows for chromatic tuning while any of the other 5 banks may be configured for open and temperament tuning for instruments with up to 9 strings. I was amazed by the deep, yet simple customization of the Turbo Tuner once I delved in and started making presets.
The only limitation I found was in that the reference pitch and flat settings are set globally and not per preset. This seemed like an issue for a moment. I actually called the customer service number in the manual to ask about this and a few other things. Someone was on the phone to help me in less than a minute! Sonic Research took my call seriously and showed great interest in the possibility of improving their products. The extremely knowledgeable and friendly service rep even gave me an ingenious workaround.
Since I wanted to set the reference pitch of only one preset to A = 432hz, I was able to manually set the pitch of each string in a six string preset to -31.8 cents to achieve exactly this. I actually find this approach more useful than adjusting the reference pitch or flat settings globally. Setting up precise microtonal presets is a breeze. You can easily make presets for DADGAD, half step down tunings, or anything else.
Do you play a True Temperament guitar? The Turbo Tuner has you covered with 3 True Temperament tuning presets built-in and references in the manual for programming them manually if you ever need to.
The ST-200 works flawlessly with bass and acoustic electric guitars as well. It shows a precise, clear reading even on an instrument with an abundance of harmonic overtones. The ST-200 is a gem and is one of the finest tuners available.
Let’s see the final result.
The Sonic Research Turbo Tuner ST-200 is the best guitar tuner pedal I have ever used. With unparalleled accuracy in such a compact true bypass enclosure, this pedal trumps the competition. Even as someone who has always relied on needle tuners, I adapted to the true strobe tuning of the ST-200 with ease. The six easy-to-use preset banks make the Turbo Tuner perfect for using with multiple instruments with any custom tuning settings you can imagine. Once you try the ST-200 you will never set intonation or tune your prized guitars with anything else. The Sonic Research Turbo Tuner ST-200 is truly a world class tuner and has earned its place as the new tuner on my own pedalboard. It deserves a place on yours, too.
That concludes our Sonic Research Turbo Tuner ST-200 Review. Thanks for reading.
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