As a guitarist for the band Ars Nova, I’ve spent my fair share of time tuning guitars. And although I love to play, when it comes to tuning… not so much. If someone were to offer me a device that could, say, pretty much tune my guitar for me, I’d jump at the chance. And as it turns out, that’s just what happened when the folks at Roadie offered to send me their new Roadie tuner for review.
Robotic tuners (such as Gibson’s Min-ETune system) have been around for a few years now in the form of integrated tuning machine hardware. Certainly, this is the way to go, if you can afford to get every guitar you own outfitted with such a system. For most people, though, the cost and installation difficulties associated with doing so currently puts that goal a bit out of reach. For those in that boat who still want a bit of a robotic assist with their tuning: Say hello to the Roadie tuner.
The Roadie tuner is a vaguely gun-shaped hand-held device that, when connected to its companion app through Bluetooth (available for iOS on iPhone 4S and above, and for Android devices running 4.3 and up, and equipped with Bluetooth 4.0), and slotted around your guitar’s (or mandolin, banjo, ukulele, etc) tuning peg, actually does tune your guitar for you. And, for the most part, it works fantastically.
Even if the only thing the Roadie tuner could do was tune your guitar to standard tuning, it would be a pretty awesome device. In point of fact, though, it can actually do much more. Want to quickly switch to Drop D tuning, or Open G? No problem, the Roadie has presets for that. Want to tune to C F C G B E to play Soundgarden’s 4th Of July? The Roadie can help you with that, thanks to the ability to create your own custom tunings.
Aside from just getting your instrument in tune, the Roadie tuner also has a couple other handy features to make your life as a musician a bit easier. It can quickly wind/unwind strings to aid in string replacement (another bane of my musical existence, especially on my 12-string), and also features an Instrument Doctor mode which keeps track of your string quality and lets you know when it’s time to change them.
The Roadie tuner far surpassed any expectations I originally had for it. When I first heard about it, I thought it would be pretty gimmicky, and just sort of barely work to get your guitar close to in tune. As it turns out, the Roadie can tune a guitar far better than I can, after playing for 20 years and attending college for classical guitar performance, approaching the accuracy of world-class tuners like the PolyTune 2. It has, at home at least, become my go-to method for tuning, and is especially appreciated when it comes to tuning my 12-string, which, as anyone who owns one can tell you, is no easy task.
It is not, however, perfect. It works excellently in quiet environments, but when you get into a louder situation, it has a tendency to freak out a bit. You might have trouble getting it to register a string, and occasionlly it will even go nuts and way detune a string. Thankfully, Roadie has included Quiet/Noisy and Fast/Accurate settings sliders in the app that can help to alleviate the issue with a bit of experimentation. Also very helpful and much appreciated is the included 1/4 inch to 3.5 mm adapter, which allows you to plug your guitar into your smartphone and helps the Roadie to work much better in noisy environments, potentially even making it suitable for live concert applications.
If you are a guitarist, banjoist, or a player of any other instrument that uses guitar-style machine heads, I can absolutely without hesitation recommend the Roadie tuner. It blew away my expectations, and I’m confident it will do the same to yours. And if you’re looking to order one now, you’re in luck! Thanks to the fine folks at Roadie, the first five Tech Dissected readers to place an order at their website can use the coupon code ROADIEDISCOUNT5162 for $20 off the regular $99 price. Enjoy, and give the world the gift of your (super in-tune) music!