Review: Snark Clip-on Guitar Tuner

The Snark Clip-on Guitar Tuner!


We’ve come a long way since the days of pitch pipes and tuning forks when we had to, God forbid, use our ears to tune our instruments! While using our ears to tune is advantageous in that it aids ear training and strengthens the bond with our beloved instruments, it’s not always practical and can slow down the process. Clip-on tuners have been around for a while, yet they still represent a relatively new approach to tuning that no guitarist should be without. They’re generally small enough to fit in a pocket, lightweight, affordable, and effective in a variety of environments from light to dark, and quiet to noisy. Snark manufacturers their own brand of tuners and sent over their SN-1 guitar tuner for us to check out.


The tuner, colored slick metallic blue, looks like a character out of a new Pixar movie. The 1-5/8″ wide round face has a large welcoming screen. This is supported by a neck that eagerly arches up and towards you from the beefy base which clips with good pressure to stay put on the headstock, yet is gentle with soft rubber tread at the points of contact. The display rotates 360 degrees and can pan and tilt in any direction. Likewise, the base rotates and pans/tilts in the same manner. Controls include an easily accessed power button on the front, pitch calibration on the back, and tap tempo metronome on the side.


Clipping the tuner to a Walden CO500 acoustic guitar, I easily manipulated the pivot points to put the display in an ideal viewing position. Powering up the unit, I was presented with a bright multi-colored display. The tuner defaults to A440Hz but this can be adjusted between 415-466Hz. Upon striking a note, the display indicated a large capital letter representing the note name as a sweep of lights representing pitch accuracy lit up. The tuner responds to an instrument’s vibrations and response time was excellent, besting another clip-on tuner I’ve been using for years. Flat pitch is represented by red lights on the left, sharp pitch by yellow lights on the right, and at pitch by a single bluish-green indicator in the middle. In addition to the bright readout, this variety of color indicators aids in quick interpretation. Speaking of the bright display, I used it inside where it was a bit darker as well as outside in full light and had no trouble reading it in either environment. I also used it on a ’76 Telecaster and response time was just as good.

A transpose feature is included for capo use. By pressing the transpose button on the back, the tuner can be calibrated relative to the position of the capo. For example, with a capo on the 2nd fret, the “open” low E string is F#. Using the transpose function, the tuner will display E rather than F#. This can be used up to four frets.

Rounding out the features, the tuner includes tap tempo metronome. This is a visual metronome represented by a beating heart symbol that lights on and off to the desired tempo. Tempo is adjusted by “tapping” the button on the side or by using the buttons on the back to adjust single beats per minute up or down. In practice, I found this too difficult to be useful. Not only is the lack of an audible reference tricky to maintain on beat, but the heart symbol exhibits a slight fade between on and off making it more frustrating than anything else. However, I consider this an additional “bonus” feature that doesn’t take away from the tuner’s primary purpose.


As far as clip-on tuners go, this is one of the best I’ve come across and will become an important part of my accessory kit. Aside from the tap tempo metronome, Snark scores big with display, size, weight, convenience, practicality, looks (hey, you gotta look good on stage!), and cost. I encourage you to hang on to that tuning fork – it’s good for your ears, but when you need immediate accuracy in any environment, look no further than Snark.


Dan Coplan is senior staff writer at SMG. Dan is a Los Angeles based cinematographer and self-admitting guitar junkie. Email:

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