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SOS Strobe Tuner

Available For Bass or Guitar


The SOS Strobe Tuner from Planet Waves is a very unique product. It is pocket sized, and looks as though you are getting a guitar-pick shaped flashlight. Even when people realize it is a tuner, many will assume it is little more than a novelty item. They do not realize this little wonder is one of the most accurate tuners on the planet and it costs less than $20.

Read on to find out just how accurate this very affordable tuner is, and why you should get one (or give one as a gift).

I have to admit, I always looked at this tuner, which is available for 6-string guitar or for bass (4, 5, or 6 string), I was in the group that wondered why anyone needed another toy tuner. After participating in a recent web-cast hosted by the the fine folks at Planet Waves, I am a convert. Even more, I am a strobe tuner entheusist!

The host of the web-cast was Rob Cunningham, a Planet Waves' Product Specialist. He took us through how strobe tuning works and described the power of this pocket-sized device.


The Downside Of Non-Strobe Tuners

To understand how strobe tuners can be so accurate, you first need to understand one point about how non-strobe tuners work. Specifically, they must analyze the input signal. This analysis requires a processor, a small on-board computer, to determine the note being played and if that note is sharp or flat. The limitations of that processor affects the accuracy of the tuner. This processing, and the associate accuracy problems, are eliminated in the SOS Strobe Tuner.

SIDEBAR: For additional information on guitar tuners, including additional information on how standard tuners work, see our Guitar Tuners Buyer's Guide.


How Strobe Tuners Work

If you have ever seen a professional model turn-table (to play those big discs old-timers like me call 'albums') then you may have noticed rows of black dashes on the edge of the turn-table. When spinning, if it is adjusted properly, one row of these dashes appear to stand still. A strobe makes this possible.

Here's how.

A strobe tuner works by knowing the standardized frequency at which guitar strings move. In the case of the SOS String Tuner, the standard tuning of a six-string guitar or bass.

By flashing one or two lights at this frequency, an object moving at exactly the same frequency (such as an in-tune guitar string) will appear to stand still.

The SOS Strobe Tuner works by employing this same approach.

PW-CT-06B SOS Strobe TunerFirst, you select the note name, E-A-D-G-B, or A. Then you pluck the string (there is even a pick-like extension built into the tuner for this) and point the SOS Strobe Tuner at the string, at about the 12th fret. If the string is out of tune, the lights will appear to move. Adjust the tuning key until the lights appear to stop moving. Your string is now in perfect tune.

How perfectly in tune is 'perfect'? One-tenth of one cent! That is three to five times more accurate than most of the non-strobe tuners on the market and just as accurate as strobe tuners costing three or four times as much!

How is this possible? Remember the processor we talked about earlier? It does not exist with this strobe tuner. By eliminating the processor, you have eliminated nearly all error.


All About Using The SOS Strobe Tuner

The Strobe Tuner requires one battery, a CR1620, which is included.

PW-CT-06 SOS Strobe Tuner GuitarTo activate the tuner, turn the dial at the top of the tuner to select one of six standard tuning notes. Then point at the twelfth fret and pluck the string. Why the twelfth fret? This is where the string vibrates the widest on most guitars.

The speed at which the strobe lights appear to move will indicate how much the string is out of tune. As you near 'in-tune' the lights will slow down. If the lights appear to speed up, tune in the other direction. When the lights stop, you are in tune.

When you are finished, turn the dial to off. If you forget, the tuner will automatically shut down after a short period of time.




The SOS Strobe Tuner is not perfect, but for accuracy it is unbeatable at this price point.

The tuner works brilliantly for standard tuning. However, you have to know the note you need to hit, and if you tune to an alternate tuning, you will need to be creative.

In addition, because there is no processor, you will need to play with the tuner a bit to figure out how to tune up. Once you do, though, it quickly becomes hard not to love this little wonder.



With the SOS Strobe Tuner, you get nearly perfect tuning for standard tuning on guitar or bass. As Rob put it, once you get used to a guitar tuned with strobe tuners, any other tuning will fall short to your ears.

Get an SOS Strobe Tuner for guitar or bass at a great price now.



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