Today we are featuring the Peterson StroboPlus HD Handheld Strobe Tuner. Luthiers and guitar setup techs who got their start in the 1970s or 80s “cut their teeth” on the Conn or Peterson Stroboscopic tuners. The Conn Strobe-tuner was the “holy grail” of workshop tools, used for intonation setup on electric and acoustic guitars. Entirely analogue, an electric motor spun a plastic disk in front of a orange tinted neon bulb. The pitch of the note was dialled in using a mechanical 11-position rotary switch. When you played a note into the tuner, dark bands of light would appear on the screen which covered 8 full octaves. The dark bands would drift to the left or counter clockwise if the note was flat and to the right or clockwise if it was sharp. With a “Strobe-tuner” one can sense very small tuning variations. A very slight drifting of the strobe image to the right or the left offers accuracy far beyond conventional tuners.
Over the past 60 years Peterson has focused on building the best electronic tuners. Their tuner technology remains “the benchmark” for high resolution stroboscopic tuners world-wide. Decades ago, Peterson took over the Conn brand name and became the sole source for Strobo-tuners. More recently they took the strobe concept into the modern age by adapting the strobe effect to a variety of pedals and flip up screen tuners. Effectively these high-tech creations are “tuning computers” with a screen that is a “virtual strobe” without any actual moving parts or motor.
Strobe tuners react quickly and are more “intuitive” to use for the experienced guitar tech. Since we intonate many guitars daily we could not function without our precious strobe tuners. Plus the multiple octave bands indicate what is going on with the octave and third overtones so one gets a sense of the condition of the string; if one of the upper overtones is spinning sharp or flat while the fundamental pitch is sitting still, that suggests that the string is defective. Or possibly the pickup is adjusted too high, causing a “wolf tone”.
The modern Peterson family of “virtual Strobe” tuners offers unparalleled accuracy with many programmable functions plus specialty tunings and historical tuning temperaments from eras before tempered tuning became standardized.
My personal current favourite clip-on tuner is the Peterson StroboClip — the finest clip on tuner available in my humble opinion. Here’s the Peterson YouTube video about the StroboClip:
Read the Peterson page for the StroboClip Clip-On Tuner here
StroboClip Price: $79.00 CAD
As each new Peterson was introduced, I would attempt to supplant our last 3 operative 1970s era Conn tuners, but for me and the 6 other Luthiers in the shop…it was a hard sell indeed! We were all so accustomed to the way the old analogue tuners work. Adapting to the more sensitive and reactive virtual screens just was not in the cards.
Here are three vintage tuners, by Conn and Peterson, that have been in use in our shop for decades:
But that said, I think Peterson has finally “nailed it” with the new StroboPlus HD; the screen has been enlarged to the size of the old Conn tuners. A microphone has been added, a feature missing on the StroboStomp. Most significant is that the reaction time has somehow been “damped down” or buffered so the image appears to spin and react at the rate of the old analogue Conn tuners so guys like me for whom “change is bad” feel entirely at home using this tuner. The image is smooth, stable and not “jumpy” like it was in previous versions.
The Peterson StroboPlus HD Handheld Strobe Tuner still has the myriad features of the previous Peterson units — preset tunings, multi octave sweetened and stretch tunings (over 90 preset temperament tunings), built in microphone and USB rechargeable lithium-ion battery etc etc. The StroboPlus HD is updatable via USB, and the available updates – not all free – include the BodyBeat metronome software!
Price for the Peterson StroboPlus HD Handheld Strobe Tuner: $169.50 CAD
All this and Peterson’s incredible accuracy to 1/1000th of a semitone. I can see my buddies now — scolding me that I’m 4/1000ths of a semitone sharp at my next jam !!
Though all of the extra features are certainly a bonus, I like the fact that I can just turn it on and it works like a standard strobe-tuner. Hit the ON-button and it’s ready to go and no warm up issues like the old motor driven strobe-tuners.
Read the Peterson page for the StroboPlus HD Handheld Strobe Tuner here
Peterson also makes a software version of the strobe tuner that works on various smartphone and tablet platforms. Here’s the Peterson StroboSoft running on an Apple 5g Ipod Touch:
Well done Peterson !!
All of these tuners can easily help with one of the more critical tasks on guitars with adjustable bridges – setting intonation. Intonation is setting the bridge saddle locations to bring the maximum number of notes in tune with each other. It’s done last during a setup because everything else affects it.
To set intonation, use the tuner to get the guitar to the correct general pitch, then choose two notes and compare them. Traditionally, these two notes are the open string and the octave (twelfth) fret, but sometimes ‘better’ results can be obtained by comparing notes at other frets, such as the fifth and seventeenth.
If the higher note is sharp relative to the lower note (if the strobe wheel drifts to the right) the saddle needs to move away from the nut. If it’s flat (the strobe drifts to the left), the saddle needs to move towards the nut. Often the distances are quite small, and ideally, the saddles should be grouped towards the center of the bridge body so that the pressure goes straight down to the top. Repeat for all strings. On guitars with floating bar bridges, like many Gretsches, choose two strings (such as the A and B) and set those.
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