Review: TC Electronic’s PolyTune Pedal Tuner

TC Electronic’s PolyTune is the World’s First Polyphonic Guitar Tuner!

TC Electronic is a Danish company founded in 1976 by musician brothers Kim and John Rishøj. They started by seeking ways to improve the quality of guitar pedals and as the business grew, they expanded into rack-mounted effects, audio interfaces and processors, software, and computer hardware. With a focus on innovation and quality, TC Electronic is recognized as leaders in their field. They’ve attracted a lot of attention recently with their release of a guitar/bass tuner in pedal form that allows players to tune all strings at the same time!

FRESH OUTTA THE BOX

The PolyTune is cased in a rugged metal housing with standard input and output jacks on either side, a heavy duty metal footswitch, large LED display, and 9V power jack on the back. Also on the rear are two small switches to change how the pedal functions: visual feedback in ‘Needle’ or ‘Stream’ mode for both guitar and bass, dropped tunings down to 5 semitones (no setting for alternate tunings – straight dropped tunings only), and reference pitch adjustment from 435Hz to 445Hz. A power out jack allows the pedal to serve as a power supply to other pedals through a daisy chain cable. Word of warning: You can easily confuse this for the input power jack and fry the pedal. I immediately put a piece of tape over it just to be safe. A USB port offers a way to service the unit (not meant for the end user). A single almost dime-sized screw on the bottom, easily loosened by a coin, allows access to the battery. Not easily visible, but present in the lower right side of the display, is an ambient light sensor meant to adjust the brightness of the display according to the environment.

GIMMICK OR THE REAL DEAL?

The first thing I noticed was the bright display. Several small red and green LED’s combine to give visual feedback. The LED’s are dimmable which aids in more accurate feedback. Clicking through the various functions was intuitive as my changes were clearly displayed. I would prefer a little better resolution, however, as the LED’s are spaced pretty far apart (relatively speaking) which rides the fence between a cool Christmas lights display and smooth, refined legibility.

Author’s 1st attempt tuning right out of the box. Quicker results achieved with just a little practice.

The moment of truth! I strummed all six strings and an arched row of lights across six columns immediately lit up. This, too, was simple to understand as a single row of green pairs designates notes in tune. Red pairs above and below at various distances from the middle reveal degrees of sharpness and flatness for each string. Plucking individual strings immediately engages the chromatic mode and I was given more refined feedback to dial in each note perfectly. This auto-switching feature is great, the response is quick, and it works well. One additional gripe I have about the display is I would like to see some sort of bold and clear indicator for each string whether it’s in numerical form like ‘6 5 4 3 2 1’ or note form like ‘E A D G B E’. With all the lights going at once in polyphonic mode it can be a bit tricky for your eyes to decipher which string is which.

THE FINAL WRAP

The PolyTune works as advertised. I found that even though I started tuning in polyphonic mode, I almost always checked each individual string for greater accuracy. If I were in a huge rush on stage to get in the ballpark between songs, this pedal would save me time. It does also help to get a badly tuned guitar in rough tuning quickly. The auto switching feature is great so you can decide for yourself. If you’re a cutting edge Poly Tuner – go for it! If you’re old school, go string by string – doesn’t matter. The PolyTune will get you there quickly and reliably one way or another.

PROS: Big bright display. Tunes polyphonically and chromatically on the fly. Additional tuning features available. True bypass.

CONS: No clear reference for each string in polyphonic mode – lots of lights can make it tricky to single out individual strings. LED resolution is a bit coarse.

MSRP – $149

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