What is a strobe tuner?
A strobe tuner uses stroboscopic action to compare the sound from a musical instrument to a reference frequency. The traditional type of strobe tuner uses a rotating disk with a pattern of white and black areas as the reference. This rotating disk is illuminated by a strobe light driven by the input signal. When the frequency of the input matches the speed of the rotating disk, the pattern will appear to stand still. If the frequency is a little faster or slower than the disk, the pattern will rotate. This same effect can be seen on car wheels in a motion picture.
The Turbo Tuner operates electronically and has no moving parts. The input from the musical instrument is amplified and fed directly to the LEDs. The LEDs are strobed by a precision reference frequency generated electronically by circuitry in the Turbo Tuner. The result is a solid state stroboscopic display with instant response and no moving parts to wear out.
Why is a strobe tuner more accurate than a needle type tuner?
A strobe tuner shows the difference between a reference frequency and the musical note. Even the slightest difference between the two will show up as a rotating motion in the strobe display.
A needle type tuner uses a microprocessor to measure the average period of the waveform, then uses this to drive a needle, a simulated needle in an LCD, or an array of LEDs. The problem is that the waveform generated by a musical instrument is very complex, and is constantly changing. For this reason the tuner must average a number of cycles of the note and use this average to drive the display. Any background noise or harmonics from the musical instrument add to the problem, and this is why the needle tends to be unstable.
The display on the needle style tuner is also a source for inaccuracy. Just a small movement of the needle represents a tuning error of 1 cent. Coupled with the way the needle tends to wobble, the typical accuracy of these types of tuners is +/- 3 cents at best. That is why after using a needle tuner it's usually necessary to go back and fine tune by ear to get the instrument sounding just right.
With a strobe tuner, even the slightest difference between the note and the reference frequency is shown as a rotating action in the display. The accuracy of the tuner is only limited by the internal frequency generator. Each Turbo Tuner is calibrated at the factory to better than +/- 1ppm (part per million) which is about .0017 cents. Furthermore, it is guaranteed to hold an accuracy of +/-.02 cents for the life of the product.
Also, needle type tuners typically have LEDs to indicate when the note is in tune. These LEDs actually show when you are in tune within a range that is quite large, usually +/- 3 cents, but units we've tested have been as far off as +/- 9 cents!
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What are the different types of strobe tuners?
There are three types of strobe tuners: The rotating disk strobe tuner, the Turbo tuner which uses an LED array in place of the rotating disk, and "virtual" tuners.
There are also a lot of tuners with LEDs that claim to have a strobe mode. These in fact are not strobe tuners, but a simulation. The accuracy of these tuners when used in strobe mode is no better than when in the standard mode because it uses the same technique as a needle tuner to measure the frequency of the note. It then uses this to set the speed of the pattern in the LEDs instead of driving a needle.
The TurboTuner is all solid state so there are no moving parts to wear out or slow down the action. The input signal, be it from an electric guitar or the built in microphone, is amplified and used to directly drive the LED strobe display. A precision electronic timing system generates electronic strobe signals to the LEDs to enable them in a sequential manner.
The Turbo Tuner gives you the instant response that can only be achieved by direct drive of a visual element by the signal from your instrument, without the delay of a mechanical motor changing speeds every time you need to tune a different note, and without the delay of a microprocessor analyzing the signal then driving a display device.
Needle tuners and tuners with simulated strobe action first have to measure a number of cycles of the waveform and take the average of them, then use this to position the meter's needle or to set the speed of the simulated strobe display.
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What makes the Turbo Tuner so fast?
There are three things that separate the Turbo Tuner from the rest:
- The strobe display is driven directly by the input signal from the musical instrument. All other tuners except a rotating disk strobe tuner must digitally process the signal using a microprocessor. There is zero lag between changes to the tuning of the instrument and the display on the Turbo Tuner.
- In auto mode, the Turbo Tuner responds to note changes faster than a rotating disk tuner because it takes time for the motor driving the disk to change speeds.
- The automatic note selection used by the Turbo Tuner actually works the same as the circuitry in a needle type tuner, but is only used to get a rough measurement of the note and set the strobe action to the nearest note in the scale. Because it does not have to make a precise measurement of the note, it makes the decision quicker, allowing the Turbo Tuner to grab a new note faster, speeding up the entire process of tuning.
- After you have tuned your instrument with a strobe tuner there is no need to go back and fine tune it by ear which is common when using needle tuners. Even if your instrument has intonation problems and requires special tuning for different songs, the Turbo Tuner's user defined alternate tunings and temperaments can easily be set up to compensate for a particular instrument's idiosyncrasies.
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Does the Turbo Tuner have alternate tunings for guitars?
Yes. The Turbo Tuner comes with a number of built in alternate tunings, and it's easy for the user to add his own. As shipped, it has the following tunings:
- Guitar (standard 6 string)
- Drop D
- Open A
- Open D
- Open E
- Open G
- Bass (standard 4 string bass)
- Bass Drop D
- 5 String Bass
- Violin (equal temperament)
- Violin (perfect 5ths A4=440 Hz)
- Cello (equal temperament)
- Cello (perfect 5ths A3=220 Hz)
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What temperaments does the Turbo Tuner use?
The turbo tuner comes equipped with three temperaments (equal, just and Pythagorean). The user may easily define up to 12 additional temperaments.
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