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Thread: A tuner shootout: TC Electronic Unitune vs. Peterson StroboClip

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    Registered User Aaron Bohnen's Avatar
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    Default A tuner shootout: TC Electronic Unitune vs. Peterson StroboClip

    A tuner shootout: TC Electronic Unitune vs. Peterson StroboClip HD

    While tuning today I thought of the tuners thread going on in this same forum. It inspired me to do a little head-to-head between the TC Electronic Unitune and the Peterson StroboClip HD, two of the better clip-on tuners that seem to come up occasionally. My testing wasn't particularly formal, but since I was tuning anyway it seemed maybe worthwhile. I did use the same instrument and strings, in the same room, one tuner after the other, back and forth. Hopefully this writeup might be helpful for anyone considering one or either of these. (Don't laugh too much at how mundane this is - I had a bit of free time on a Sunday afternoon and I did enjoy playing the mandolin for a while once it was tuned so no opportunity was lost!)

    TC Electronic Unitune is clearly a good quality well-made machine. Nice stainless clip mechanism and a monolithic-feeling body. It's reminiscent of something the Apple design lab might come up with. It has a bright and easy to read multicolour display that works in either standard or strobe mode, and orients itself vertically or horizontally depending on how you position the unit. The tuner doesn't rotate on the clip so that's something that could maybe be improved. Locking onto a note is fast and tuning precision seems excellent. Very easy to use - give this to anyone who has used an electronic tuner before and they won't need instructions. It just goes. Claims 0.02 cent accuracy which is incredible. $US 25. (or $US 21 ea in qty 3+)

    Peterson StroboClip HD is also a good quality well-made machine. It's a bit bigger than the Unitune and has no metal body or clip (everything's plastic and rubber on this) but it all seems very well done. It has a high-speed monochrome display that only works in strobe mode. Has the "sweetened tuning" options. The tuner can rotate on the clip. Locking onto a note can be fussier than with the Unitune. Like the Unitune, tuning precision seems excellent. Claims 0.01 cent accuracy which is even more incredible than the 0.02 cents claimed by the Unitune. $US 60.

    The StroboClip HD "sweetened tuning" feature is extremely subtle... so subtle it's hard to pin down. As far as I can tell it seems to consist of sharping the A strings just very slightly. I could be wrong - whatever's changed is tiny so it's very difficult to hear a difference between this and regular chromatic tuning mode. There may be more to it beyond that but I'm not sure what it would be if there is. I tried both tuners in chromatic mode against the "sweetened" tuning and neither of them seemed to be able to resolve much else except maybe the very slightly sharped A strings (if in fact that's what it is!) This is confounded by the fact that both tuners are precise enough in strobe mode to detect moment-to-moment variations in tuning. These minor variations may be enough to obscure whatever the "sweetening" may be changing - so in that sense the "sweetening" may be "below the noise floor". In any case whatever it is might be able to be accomplished by making the final fine adjustments by ear which many players do anyway.

    The StroboClip HD manual recommends plucking rather than picking when tuning - I definitely agree with that. It's much harder to use with a pick since it can have a tough time locking onto a picked rather than plucked note. Too many harmonics maybe? In any case, plucking the strings one at a time with the left corner of my right thumbnail seems to work best. This is definitely a case of RTFM before using the product. Before reading the manual and figuring out how to use my thumb with it I had a lower opinion of the StroboClip HD. I'd bet there may have been a few of them returned by irritated customers since someone who didn't know about using it with a finger rather than a pick might the StroboClip HD quite frustrating.

    My personal view is I don't think you can go too far wrong with either the Unitune or StroboClip HD. In a noisy, bright environment or where durability is at issue I'd pick the Unitune. It's also faster to use and requires less thinking than the StroboClip HD. It's not fussy. It just starts, locks on and tunes right away. Awesome precision and totally intuitive.

    For at home on the sofa with better lighting, a quiet environment and no rush the Peterson is a treat. Its default strobe setting is really nice - and the ability to get down to 0.01 cent is tantalizing. The Peterson is also a great tuner, no question about it - and for ultimate performance in ideal conditions it could be the winner. (Although to be fair I 'm pretty sure I can't resolve that last 0.02 cents never mind 0.01 cent!)

    For value, I think it's an easy win for the Unitune at $US 25 or $21 each for 3+ of them. Easily the best $/performance I've seen in a clip-on tuner. It's not too much more expensive than the various Snarks I've had but I think it totally outclasses all of them. No comparison. From the value perspective it's an easy win going the other way too, since if you want you can have three Unitunes for the price of one StroboClip HD.

    Like many of us I've worked my way through a few (lots of) different tuners over the last years. The Unitune and StroboClip HD are huge steps forward from everything else I've tried. If I had to have only one it would be the Unitune. As it is I'm glad to have both - they're definitely the best two clip-on tuners I've found.

    Enjoy!
    Last edited by Aaron Bohnen; Dec-09-2019 at 3:31am.
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    Default Re: A tuner shootout: TC Electronic Unitune vs. Peterson StroboCl

    I'm very curious about why the Peterson says "plucked rather than picked." Once you have tuned it with the plucked thumb, have you checked the tuning with a pick? I find that it's a bit sharper than plucking the string because there's more energy with the pick and the string is deflected a bit more. I find the same thing when tuning my fiddle. Plucking the string gets the string nicely in tune but when I bow it the pitch is a bit higher because there's more energy on the string. So if I'm not using the bow to tune it I tune just a tiny bit flat and then when I check it with the bow it's spot on.

    I have the Peterson strobe app on my phone and I always pick the notes when I tune my mandolin and it works just great that way -- I'm surprised the clip-on version of their tuner would work differently.

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    Phil Goodson Philphool's Avatar
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    Default Re: A tuner shootout: TC Electronic Unitune vs. Peterson StroboCl

    Now what I'd like is to see is: all the features of the Unitune squeezed into the size of the D'Addario Micro-tuners and with pads that NEVER mar a varnish finish. (Never satisfied)
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    Default Re: A tuner shootout: TC Electronic Unitune vs. Peterson StroboCl

    Aaron,I agree with your assessments. I can use the Peterson ok but prefer the Unitune.PS,My first Unitune would eat a battery in a few uses. Sweetwater sent me a new one to replace it. Works great.

    The most consistently accurate clip on tuner I ever used was a Korg that is no longer made. Not sure of model number etc. But it is silver with an oval shaped screen. Very delicate. Takes cr 1220 batteries. Hard to see screen in any light. Very accurate though.

    Pro guitar tuner app is very accurate on my tablet. Nice for quiet practice time. It does like to be fed a consistent tone/volume.

    Whenever the subject of mandolin tuning comes up I am reminded of Dawg saying something about the trick being to always make the instrument sound like it is in tune while playing,even if it is a bit off. I think this takes some minute left hand manipulation finessing. And big ears.

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    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: A tuner shootout: TC Electronic Unitune vs. Peterson StroboCl

    Quote Originally Posted by dhbailey View Post
    I'm very curious about why the Peterson says "plucked rather than picked."
    As I understand it, it's because brushing the string with the side or tip of a finger or thumb produces fewer high frequency harmonics. The display shows both the fundamental and first harmonic (the upper set of bars), so this avoids too many of the higher harmonics that aren't octaves from being picked up. A pick makes a brighter sound, so you're getting more high harmonics that have to be filtered out.

    I have the Peterson strobe app on my phone and I always pick the notes when I tune my mandolin and it works just great that way -- I'm surprised the clip-on version of their tuner would work differently.
    It might be that the piezo pickup in the clip is more sensitive to those high harmonics than the mic in your phone. Just guessing here.

    BTW, I have both the TC tuner (the PolyTune version) and the Peterson Stroboclip HD. I like the Stroboclip better because it gives me a choice of how deep I want to go into the tuning. The TC tuner has a wider window of acceptance for displaying that you're in tune, which does make it "lock on" faster, it's true. But I think some people using the Stroboclip don't realize that you don't always have to spend a lot of time getting the display to stop moving completely. The manual says the following:

    "If you are new to strobe tuners, you will notice that they are much more sensitive and accurate than your previous tuner. It's OK if the strobe image doesn't completely stop. It may shift slightly due to the 'real time' speed of a strobe tuner."


    In the heat of a jam or session, I never try get the display to stop moving completely. I might spend a little more or less time on it, but when I need it quickly, I can tune just as fast as using the TC tuner. I only go for a completely "caged" display if I'm doing something like checking or setting intonation.

  10. #6

    Default Re: A tuner shootout: TC Electronic Unitune vs. Peterson StroboCl

    The Unitune in strobe mode is plenty accurate for me. I bought a Peterson and returned it. I use a pick to tune, so that's probably why it never worked for me.
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    Registered User Doug Brock's Avatar
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    Default Re: A tuner shootout: TC Electronic Unitune vs. Peterson StroboCl

    I use my pick when tuning with my Stroboclip HD and don't seem to have any issues. The way I tune might actually be difficult with the thumb (or thumb nail) - I play one string of a course and bring the pick to rest on the second string of the course, muting it so that only one string of the course plays. After tuning that string, I pick in the opposite direction, again bringing the pick to rest on the other string of the course. I don't remember where I heard about tuning this way, but I'm thinking it might have been Don Julin.
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    Registered User jim simpson's Avatar
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    Default Re: A tuner shootout: TC Electronic Unitune vs. Peterson StroboCl

    I picked up the Peterson Stroboclip recently for the benefit of being able to use it at outdoor gigs where the light conditions can be quite bright. It is supposed to be visible in such conditions. I have not found other brands satisfactory for that reason.
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    Default Re: A tuner shootout: TC Electronic Unitune vs. Peterson StroboCl

    Once you get used to it (through practice) you can use a pick with the Peterson without any problems

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    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: A tuner shootout: TC Electronic Unitune vs. Peterson StroboCl

    To get the least harmonic "interference" from a string, pluck it with fleshy part of finger at the twelfth fret. With that in mind, I go for a compromise, generally tuning with a "darker" sounding pick (Wegen 1.4mm) and picking up near the end of the fretboard. That works fine with the Peterson and every other tuner I've used. Also, I generally follow the method mentioned by Doug, using rest strokes and muting other strings as well.
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    Registered User archerscreek's Avatar
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    Default Re: A tuner shootout: TC Electronic Unitune vs. Peterson StroboCl

    Quote Originally Posted by Doug Brock View Post
    I use my pick when tuning with my Stroboclip HD and don't seem to have any issues. The way I tune might actually be difficult with the thumb (or thumb nail) - I play one string of a course and bring the pick to rest on the second string of the course, muting it so that only one string of the course plays. After tuning that string, I pick in the opposite direction, again bringing the pick to rest on the other string of the course. I don't remember where I heard about tuning this way, but I'm thinking it might have been Don Julin.
    This is the method I use with the Stroboclip HD. As I also use the same tuner for my acoustic guitar, I mostly use the regular mode rather than the mandolin sweetener mode even though it's an easy swap between the two. But I also started tuning with the Sam Bush method of using the tuner to tune one string in the course then using your ear to match the other string with the first.

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    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: A tuner shootout: TC Electronic Unitune vs. Peterson StroboCl

    None of the above. I still have a big old Intellitouch PT-1, then later added one of their smaller more recent ones..

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    Default Re: A tuner shootout: TC Electronic Unitune vs. Peterson StroboCl

    The most consistently accurate clip on tuner I ever used was a Korg that is no longer made. Not sure of model number etc. But it is silver with an oval shaped screen. Very delicate. Takes cr 1220 batteries. Hard to see screen in any light. Very accurate though.
    This was the first clip-on I ever had. I absolutely loved it, but the lack of back-lighting was it's downfall. I eventually switched to the Planet Waves mini.

    I picked up the Peterson Stroboclip recently for the benefit of being able to use it at outdoor gigs where the light conditions can be quite bright. It is supposed to be visible in such conditions. I have not found other brands satisfactory for that reason.
    I moved to the Unitune about a year ago because it's so easy to see in bright light or dark conditions.
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    Registered User Elliot Luber's Avatar
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    Default Re: A tuner shootout: TC Electronic Unitune vs. Peterson StroboCl

    I'm quite fond of my Unitune after poor experiences with some other tuners not directly compared here. It has strobe capabilities, but I find these of less practical use when in a crowded and noisy orchestra setting. At home, I can rely more on my own ears. That said, I do see some sluggishness of the Unitune to switch strings when I do, even if I silence the original string, but it's the best I've worked with in terms of a clip-on to date.
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    Registered User Aaron Bohnen's Avatar
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    Default Re: A tuner shootout: TC Electronic Unitune vs. Peterson StroboCl

    Yesterday I redid the comparison between the Unitune and StroboClip HD - this time on a solidbody electric mandolin with flatwound strings.

    In this scenario the StroboClip has no trouble locking onto the note being tuned whether the strings are picked or plucked. Maybe because the solidbody mandolin and flatwound strings present fewer overtones and upper harmonic content, making it easier for the tuner to lock onto the fundamental. The Unitune works perfectly in this scenario as it does with the acoustic/roundwound setup.

    Comparing the clips on these tuners, although the Unitune's stainless clip is very nice I'd prefer if it could rotate. Given that the display rotates it's not essential that the clip do so as well, but nevertheless it would even slightly easier to use if it did. The StroboClip HD's clip is much less visually appealing but it rotates. I suppose that's necessary since the StroboClip HD display doesn't rotate. Not a big deal - but if seeing your tuner at a strange angle might bug you then the StroboClip HD may be your better option.
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