ST-200 Stomp Box Strobe Tuner

By Jeff a.k.a "5E3"

Quick summary for the impatient: Very accurate strobe tuner with true bypass, made in USA by Sonic Research, current price $129 shipped, rugged, black powder-coated die-cast aluminum housing, bright and easy to read display, 15 common tunings from the factory with more user programmable, battery or external 9V power supply. More information or to buy direct: www.turbo-tuner.com.

strobetunerAre you still reading? Good! Here is the rest of the story. I recently went about setting the intonation on one of my guitars with an inexpensive, jittery tuner. It didn’t take long for me to realize the procedure would benefit greatly from a more accurate and stable tuner. After a little research I learned of a recent entry into the market called the Turbo Tuner from Sonic Research.

The Turbo Tuner is currently available in two models; the ST-122 True Strobe Tuner which is suitable for both desktop and pedal-board and the ST-200 Stomp Box Strobe Tuner. Both currently sell for $129. I opted for the more rugged ST-200. The Sonic Research website has a wealth of information regarding both models that I will not recreate here. Please visit www.turbo-tuner.com for detailed specifications.

The ST-200 housing is 2.25” x 4.25” and stands 1.25” tall. Weight is negligible, less than a pound is my guess. With the tuner on, output is muted, with it off you have true bypass. The ST-200 comes with a battery installed (good for 12 hours / 1000 tune-ups per Sonic Research), a 28 page Owner’s Manual, and a un-installed non-skid rubber pad for the bottom. Nice that the pad is not installed, should you want to apply Velcro directly to the housing for mounting on your pedal-board.

So how does a strobe tuner work? It shows the difference between a reference frequency and the musical note’s frequency. The slightest variation between the two is displayed as a rotating motion on the Turbo Tuner’s display. The display ring rotates left for flat and right for sharp, steady for right on. The faster it rotates, the more flat or sharp the note is. The ST-200 is very fast at detecting the note and displaying its pitch. The display is also bright and easy to read from a standing position in both a dark and well lit room.

Per Sonic Research typical accuracy of non-strobe LCD and LED tuners is +/- 3 cent, while the strobe Turbo Tuners are calibrated at the factory to +/- .02 cent! The Turbo Tuners are guaranteed to hold that calibration for life. If you ever feel your tuner should need recalibrating, simply send it back to Sonic Research and they will adjust it free of charge.

The Turbo Tuner comes programmed with fifteen selectable tunings, and the end user can custom program more if so desired. In Guitar mode the Turbo Tuner is used for the standard six open strings. Chromatic mode will tune any notes, such as those at the twelfth fret while checking intonation. Other popular guitar tunings programmed from the factory are Drop D, DADGAD, Open A, D, E and G. Both 4 and 5 string bass players will also be ready to tune right out of the box.

My first impression while using the turbo tuner was “this thing is fast!” A short moment after plucking a string the bright red LEDs illuminate and begin rotating either left or right. My other tuners take a few moments to lock in on the note, then the needle or LCDs typically dance back and forth while I plucked the string a second or third time hoping for a stable reading. No more of that!

I recently raised the action on one of my guitars and installed new strings. After tuning up with the ST-200 I checked and adjusted the intonation in Chromatic mode. (In the Guitar mode the ST-200 displays the string numbers 1 through 6, while in Chromatic it displays the actual note letter as well as the # indicator as needed.) The entire process was a breeze!

The bottom line: this tuner is awesome! I finally have a fast, accurate, rugged and stable tuner with true bypass. It is easy to read, easy to use and simplifies my tuning chores. If you are in the market for a new tuner, I highly recommend you check out the Turbo Tuner line from Sonic Research.