PROS: Interesting technology.
CONS: May require modifications to an instrument, difficult to understand control system, expensive, not entirely necessary.
Self-tuning guitars kind of fall into the category of self-parking cars, an interesting concept, but how practical can they be?
We were shipped a set for a Fender guitar that included tuners, mounting hardware, a base plate that has the controls, and a battery pack. Unfortunately the base plate’s holes didn’t quite line up on our test Strat, however they did fit better on a partscaster guitar, but it was still a struggle to install. The bass string tuners are geared in the opposite fashion, versus the treble strings.
The controls are a little counter-intuitive, however a more in-depth manual is available online from Tronical’s website.
String up a guitar, pluck an open string, and the tuners will bring the strings up to pitch. It can save alternate tunings like drop-C as well. If the battery dies, the tuners can operate manually, like a normal tuner. Practically speaking, they do work, but it can take some getting used to, especially the bass tuners going in the opposite fashion; navigating the onboard menu and controls may also require a crib sheet in the beginning.
For the cost (street price of $329), and the possibility of having to modify an instrument, it kind of begs the question: why? If modifying a guitar, a set of locking tuners and the combination of a properly cut nut, smooth bridge saddles, and a clip-on tuner would serve the same purpose (and cost hundreds less). One of those modifications alone would improve any guitar’s tuning stability, and its value.
Any decent musician should be able to tune their instrument on-the-fly, and while technology is a good thing, these just seem like a crutch, and not a great one at that.