Monday, July 30, 2012

Peterson VSS-C Stomp Classic Strobotuner Review


Everybody and their brother makes a tuner pedal these days, and you can pick up most of them for under a hundred bucks, and clip-on tuners are so cheap that you can usually get one thrown in for free when you buy a new guitar. So when I saw the price of the Peterson VSS-C Stomp Classic Strobotuner, I was taken aback. It has a list price of $299 and a street price of $205. That is a lot of simoleons for a man of simple means, but it is one gnarly tuner.

You have probably seen the old Conn ST-11 strobotuners before – I remember the day our school orchestra got one back in 1980 or so, and it transformed my ideas about tuning. The Conn tuner uses a wheel that shows different octaves and the strobe effect of the tuner will make one row of the wheel appear to stop for the octave that is being played, while the overtones for other octaves will move about depending on how far they are out of whack. The advantages of this are incredible accuracy (within 0.1 cent), along with an intangible coolness factor. The Peterson VSS-C Stomp simulates all of this with a nice bright LCD display that is a little simpler to look at and use.

The pedal itself is normal sized, measuring 5 ¼ by 3 ¼ by 2 ¼ inches, but it is a brick, weighing in at around a pound. The die-cast chassis had built-in lugs for secure pedal board mounting, which is good as a strip of Velcro might not hold it in place. There is also a built-in cable guard to keep them from getting damaged. It has a very sturdy feel and Peterson backs it with a 3-year warranty, which I would expect at this price point. It uses one 9-volt battery, or you can use an AC adaptor (it draws 80mA).

This tuner has the usual Switchcraft ¼-inch in and outputs, but there is also a balanced XLR output, so the pedal can be used as a mutable active DI with user-selectable 3-stage attenuation. A USB port is provided to download new presets, if you find that the 23 preloaded ones are not sufficient.

The specs look really good on paper, with 100% true-bypass circuitry and a tuning range of 8Hz (go III-X!) to 8000Hz. The accuracy is guaranteed to be within 0.1 cent, and A 440Hz is adjustable from 390Hz to 490Hz. The Stomp Classic delivers on all of this, and it is easy to use for conventional tunings. It adds no noise to my signal chain, and there is no pop when the switch is pressed. Not to mention that the display is plenty bright for most any environment, and it will hold notes for longer than any other tuner I have tried. It is the best tuner pedal I have ever used. No doubt.

As an added bonus they include the 23 preset “Sweetened Tunings” (terrible name, by the way) that include specific programming for less common instruments such as the electric violin, 7 string guitars and mandolins, that take into account string deflection and unique harmonics to make tuning as accurate as possible. I use almost none of these presets, by the way.

So, I guess I am saying that the Peterson VSS-C Stomp Classic Strobotuner is worth every penny of the $205, but I would happily give up the programmability and the DI to get a tuner that was this accurate and well-built, for a few less bucks. Even in its current configuration you will not go wrong if you purchase this tuner – it is the best one on the market, and they guarantee it.


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