TC Electronic PolyTune brings guitar tuning into the 21st century
(MattG | Posted 2010-07-08)
TC Electronic recently introduced a new and truly revolutionary way to tune your guitar or bass. The PolyTune is the worldís first polyphonic tuning device. It comes in rugged stomp box form and is one of the most user friendly tuners I have used. With a strum of the open strings in standard tuning, the PolyTune assesses each string and almost instantaneously gives a visual report of the tuning of each individual string. It is also a fully functional chromatic tuner that quickly recognizes when the player is trying to tune a single string. The PolyTune really shines in live settings when a player can quickly discover the problem string and fix it instead of checking each individual string to find the culprit.
Fast and accurate
The accuracy of the chromatic function on the pedal is very good and not slow to respond like several of its competitors. TC claims the accuracy to be within a half a cent. It isnít finicky either. When you are in tune, the needle comes to a stop in the center and lights up green. There isnít any bouncing around the illusive Ďin tuneí notch that can be so hard to achieve for more than a split second on some tuners. There are two modes for the LEDís when tuning chromatically. There is the standard needle mode and a stream mode, which provides a little too much movement for my eyes. The PolyTune is also equipped with AmbiLight sensor technology. It senses the amount of exterior light and adjusts the brightness of the LEDís accordingly.
The accuracy of the polyphonic mode is not as good as the chromatic function. The mode consistently showed the sixth string as being flat on every guitar I tested. All of the other strings showed in tune when they were. It was something that was hard to adjust to though. I knew I was in tune if it showed the sixth string a little flat. One feature that I really like about the polyphonic mode was that it didnít show a string sharp or flat unless it was going to be noticeable. I was afraid that it might be too sensitive and never show the strings as being in tune. If one of the strings is a cent or two flat, it doesnít show up in the polyphonic mode. You can also adjust the problem string in polyphonic mode in a snap.
One limitation of this mode is that it only works for standard tuning. If you play in any alternate tunings, it wonít show the guitar as being in tune. If you play drop D, it will show the 6th string as being flat but it will still show if the rest of the strings are in tune. If you like to play in standard tuning but below standard pitch, you can still use the polyphonic function. You adjust the mode by semi-tone and it will allow you to go up to a perfect fourth down to B. This means a baritone guitar can also be used with the PolyTune.
Function over form
As far as features go, the PolyTune doesnít have any bells and whistles aside from the polyphonic function. It has internal memory which allows the user to save the settings they prefer for tuning. There arenít several tuning types to choose from like the Boss TU-3, but I figure that the musician should know the pitches at which they tune their strings. It does have the capability to power other pedals as well with a 9V in and out. It has one input and one output, there isnít a regular out and a bypass like many other tuners. The pedal is true bypass so it doesnít affect tone at all. The screw to change the battery can be taken off with a coin, so you donít have to have your tools with you when your battery dies. The LEDís are bright and make it easy to see what you are tuning. I never used it at an outside gig, so I donít know how they perform outside.
The bottom line
Overall, this pedal is a fantastic and innovative piece of technology. TC has a few tweaks to make for the polyphonic mode, but even as is the pedal is perfectly usable. There are a few things I would like to see fixed or updated for the next PolyTune. I would like to see a programmable mode for the polyphonic function. If you are a player that only plays in open D, it would be nice to be able to program the polyphonic mode to open D. It would also be nice to have two outputs like some of the other tuning stompboxes. The pedal is priced very competitively at $150 retail and $99 MAP. They also have an iPhone application which I havenít tested, that sells for $9.99. If you have $100 to spend on a tuner, this is the pedal to buy.
Electric Guitars Editor: Matt Griffith
Matt Griffith, born and raised in Western Colorado, made the leap to move to Nashville 5 months ago to pursue a career in music along with the thousands of other hopefuls that call Music City home. Matt is an acoustic singer/songwriter at heart but is currently playing lead guitar for the band Brookline who is in the beginning stages of recording a 3 original song EPK. To check out some of Mattís acoustic work, visit www.garageband.com/mattgriffith