Peterson VS-S

Fast, Accurate Sour-Note Killer
Fast, Accurate Sour-Note Killer

Peterson Electro-Musical Products may not have invented the strobo-tuner, but since the early 1950s, it has been a major player in the electronics field as it relates to instrument tuning devices. In the late ’60s, its Model 400 strobo-tuner was one of the most popular tuners on the scene, and appeared on stage with the Grateful Dead, the Who, Frank Zappa, Pink Floyd, and other top-notch professional acts.

Since the mid 1980s, Peterson has been the only company in the world building strobe tuners. In 2001, it took the technology into the digital age with its VS-1 Virtual Strobe Tuner, and in ’04 brought the concept of hyper-accurate tuning into the realm of the pedalboard.

The Peterson VS-S StroboStomp is a compact (5″ x 4″ x 23?8″) unit that will fit in any pedalboard, yet surrender nothing to its big brother VS-1 or to any strobe tuner of yore.

Housed in die-cast aluminum, the VS-S oozes durability (Peterson’s website has a StroboStomp vs. a baseball bat section dedicated to this) with its chassis-mounted 1?4″ input/output jacks and balanced XLR output. Controls are straightforward and include a true-bypass stompswitch and two microswitches for changing modes and calibrating. There are also small dip switches in the battery compartment for selecting tuner mode (true-bypass or tuner monitoring) and lifting the ground on the XLR output. And its 21?4″ x 11?8″ backlit display is easy to read in any lighting condition.

The VS-S operates in two modes – true-bypass and tuner monitoring; in true-bypass, the signal from the 1?4″ output is muted and routed to the tuner. When the tuner isn’t muted, the pedal essentially drops out of the signal chain.

In tuner monitoring mode, the stompswitch still mutes the output, for silent tuning. But the tuner and DI out are always active, for continuous monitoring of the signal. The VS-S ships in this mode, but I switched to true-bypass and tested it by plugging directly into an amp, then adding the tuner to a signal chain. There was no noticeable tone or signal loss.

The menu switch lets the user adjust the tuned-to pitch from A433Hz to A447Hz in 0.5-Hz increments, which can be saved as a default setting (so you won’t reset it every time you power up). Pushing the menu switch twice brings up the drop-tuning menu, which offers 10 drop and capo settings, ranging from a straight SRV/Hendrix Eb to a drop-C, all of which can be saved.

Three pushes of the menu switch brings up the temperament presets. Again, there are 10 to choose from, plus two user-programmable presets. The first (EQU), is a straight chromatic temperament, followed by a Peterson “sweetened” guitar temperament suitable for EADGBE tuning. This one found the note faster and held steadier than the EQU setting, especially when intonating a guitar. There’s also a sweetened setting for bass guitar, designed to tune when accompanying an acoustic piano.

The next two presets were also Peterson temperaments for 12-string guitar – one for the standard strings and one for the octave strings. All of the Peterson temperaments work well for fast, accurate tuning.

The last five presets work on guitars equipped with the patented Buzz Feiten Tuning System, and include temperaments for electric, bass, acoustic, and two for 12-string. The Feiten system is similar to stretch tuning on a piano, where the intonation isn’t necessarily mathematically correct, but more musically correct and more pleasing to the ear.

The Peterson VS-S StroboStomp eliminates pedalboard domination by an old-school strobe tuner, or having to turn around to see one in your rack. Gone also are the days of having to settle for the inaccuracy of an LED pedal tuner, especially if your guitar has the Feiten system or you use a custom tuning temperament.

The active DI output and the true-bypass are mere icing on the cake, because the Strobostomp’s greatest asset is its fast, accurate tuning that can be accomplished on just about any fretted instrument.

Peterson VS-S Strobostomp
Features Die-cast aluminum chassis, 9-volt AC/DC with power-through jack, backlit strobe display, balanced direct output, programmable.
Price $309.
Contact Peterson Electro-Musical Products, Inc., 11601 S. Mayfield Ave., Alsip, IL 60803; phone (708) 388-3311;

This article originally appeared in VG‘s March ’05 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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