Monday, May 28, 2012

Korg Pitchblack Chromatic Tuner Pedal Review

Como estas?

Everybody and their brother is making tuner pedals nowadays, and they are amazingly cheap for the performance you can get from them. So why buy one instead of another? It comes down to features, not catchy names, so Korg wasted their time naming their latest pedal the “Pitchblack” (get it?), when they could have spent their energy making a little more usable tuner.

The Pitchblack is a compact-sized pedal with a modern-looking sturdy cast aluminum case that is finished in stylish black. There is not much in the way of controls – just one beefy stomp switch on the front, and calibration and display switches on the back. It runs on a 9-volt battery or you can attach an AC adapter to power it up. There is an extra power output jack on the back that allows you to use this pedal as a power supply to support up the 200mA of other pedals. None of these cables are included, of course.

This Korg unit will tune between E0 (20.60Hz) and C8 (4,186 Hz), and the calibration can be adjusted easily with the switch on the back to change A440 between 436Hz and 445Hz. People might actually use that feature, but I don’t think I ever have. The accuracy is certainly good enough for me – I compared its reading to my Peterson and my Boss and it was the same. It’s rock and roll anyway, so how accurate does it need to be?

This stuff is all pretty standard, and about what I would expect any nice tuner pedal to do, but Korg tosses four different display mode into the mix, which really caught my interest. These modes can be selected by pressing the “DISPLAY” switch on the back of the unit. Here is a quick summary of each:

Meter: Almost like an analog meter tuner. The goal here is to get the green LED in the middle and both of the amber arrow LEDs lit up. If you cannot figure out how to use this mode, maybe you should be a singer instead.

Full Strobe: This kind of simulates my Peterson, and it immediately seemed familiar to me when I tried it. With this mode when you are in tune the eleven LED meters stop streaming and both of the amber LEDs illuminate. The LEDs stream from left to right if sharp, and right to left if flat. Steve Perry’s meter always streams from left to right…

Half Strobe: This is a hybrid of the Meter and Full Strobe modes, and I do not get how it is any better than either of those modes. The idea is to tune so that the LED meter no longer stream and so that the green LED in the middle and both of the amber arrow LEDs are lit up. Meh.

Mirror: This mode is the worst of the bunch. I am not going to waste brain cells trying to explain it.

The Korg tuner works well. It has true bypass, and in monkeying around with it I did not notice any change in tone with it plugged wither directly in line or in my pedal board. The LEDs and note indicator displays are bright enough to use outside, and they were viewable at all kind of angles. As I said earlier, it is plenty accurate as well.

I mostly used the Meter and Full Strobe modes, and liked the Full Strobe mode best of all. It reacted very quickly and it was quite intuitive and functional for me.

But, as always, there are a few things that I do not like. The Pitchblack mutes the signal when tuning, and the display turns off when the switch is pressed. So there is no provision for the tuner to work while you are playing. I like being able to watch my tuning sometimes as I am playing (especially on fretless) so this is a deal-breaker for me. My guess is that they designed the pedal this way to save battery life, but they should have checked with some end users before finalizing their design.

The list price for the Korg Pitchblack Chromatic Tuner pedal is a ridiculous $150, with a very sensible street price of $69.99. It comes in about $30 cheaper than my trusty Boss TU-3, so this could be a great deal for someone who does not mind that it mutes the signal when it is in use. But not me.


1 comment:

  1. I have one and I like it. The fact that you can't see your tune while you are playing I suppose is the one draw back... although that would probably be pretty distracting. Not a deal breaker for me personally.

    What I do like about it is that it is very clear and easy to see. Overall I give it a thumbs up.