Most guitar techs will tell you that there has always been a void between small battery-powered tuners and full-blown rotating disc strobe tuners; the small ones are not all that accurate or steady-reading, while rotating disc tuners are big and cumbersome.
That’s where Peterson’s Virtual Strobe Tuner (VS01) now fills the void. The company calls it the “first real-time portable tuner,” and it offers a load of benefits; it’s small (about the size of a multimeter), very accurate (to 1/10 cent), hands-free, loaded with useful features, and best of all, can run on battery power. All housed in a rugged case with protective rubber boot.
The VS-1’s backlit display simulates the “bars” of a real strobe tuner, as well as giving you a display of the note, key, temperament, and cents. The controls are sparse and for the most part self-explanatory; an on/off switch, value/choose knob, and two menu buttons. Input and through 1/4″ jacks on the right side of the unit allow you to leave the tuner in your signal chain, and there’s power input jack for a wall wart.
The Peterson offers several temperaments for tuning other instruments, such as pianos. Piano tuners need to stretch the intervals between notes on the upper and lower ranges of the piano to achieve the correct sound. For the most part, we used the “equal” and “guitar” temperaments. The unit defaults to the “equal” temperament setting when it’s turned on, but can be programmed to go to any of the others. According to Peterson, the “guitar” temperament setting is geared toward sweetening the 4th and 5th intervals on a standard-tuned guitar, and it did give more even tuning.
Beyond the strobe modes (auto and manual) the VS-1 offers a tone generator mode, so you can tune using an audio pitch. This is useful for simulataneously tuning a group of instruments or getting a string close to pitch quickly. The audio pitch is amplified by an internal speaker or at the through jack, for external amplification.
For guitar players who tune to E flat or D, the tuner offers a “fret” mode that eliminates mental transposition of notes.
We used the tuner on a variety of instruments, both acoustic and electric, and found it to be very accurate and easy to use, the automatic note function was a nice change from our old strobe tuners. Acoustically, the signal faded easily, but on electric instruments the display was steady and easy to read.
Overall we like the VS-1’s accuracy, and small size and features, especially the guitar temperament and “fret” mode.
Peterson Virtual Strobe Tuner
Type of Tuner: Real-time portable strobe.
Features: Accurate to 1/10 cent, instantaneous response, nine-octave capability, fret mode, automatic or manual note selection, built-in microphone, large note display with transposition to all chromatic keys, selectable historical tempera-ments, battery/AC power, pro-tective case.
Price: $329 list ($35 for case)
Contact:Peterson Electro-Musical Products, Inc, 11601 S. Mayfield Avenue, Alsip, IL 60803, (708) 388-3311, petersontuners.com.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s May. ’02 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.