Sunday, March 17, 2013

Peterson Istrobosoft iPhone Electronic Tuner App Review


I travel a bit for work, and sometimes carry along a ukulele or my U Bass so I have something to kill time with in hotel rooms, and have until recently carried along some sort of clip-on electronic tuner. Well, I can leave those at home now because I have been using a kick-butt tuner app on my iPhone – the Peterson Istrobosoft app.

There are tons of guitar tuner apps out there and I have experimented with many of them, in general they do a pretty good job. But, I am a big fan of Peterson strobotuners; in fact the Peterson VSS-C Stomp Classic has replaced the trusty Boss TU-3 in my studio. So, when I heard there was an app version of the tuners I had to give it a shot. It is well-reviewed, and for only $9.99 it was a no-brainer.

Old-school mechanical strobotuners (which Peterson has been making since 1948) use a spinning 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. This app simulates the effect with a nice bright display that is a little simpler to look at.

After downloading the app, if you are using an iPhone you should pretty much be ready to go. If you are using an iPod Touch you will need to plug in a microphone (also available from Peterson) so it can hear what you are doing. It can be hard for the microphone to pick up unplugged electric guitars, but there is also a $12.99 guitar cable adapter that you can purchase.

When the app is opened, it goes directly to the main screen. As soon as it hears sound the strobe will start moving, and the display will tell you what note(and octave) it hears and whether it is sharp or flat, and by how much (in cents). As the note gets closer to in tune the strobe display will slow down and then stop when the note is in tune. This tuner is supposed to be insanely accurate, to within 1/10 cent. I do not have any way to verify this, but when using it at the same time as my Peterson pedal, they react the same when hearing notes, so it does pretty well.

There are a few icons on the main screen that might make life easier for you. There is a noise filter that can be used when you are not plugging an instrument directly into your iPhone that will help isolate your sound and not pick up so much background noise. There is also an input boost that will boost all frequencies by 24 dB (in case your sound source is too quiet).

If you press the “I” icon you will find a menu that allows you to select tuner settings, calibration, and customization. In tuner settings, you can adjust your concert A from 440 to whatever you please. There is also a drop/capo feature that will transpose your notes by up to an octave (up or down). The calibration mode allows the tuner to be calibrated to an external source, and the customize screen allows you to change the colors of the various parts of the main display.

Like other iPhone apps, this will zoom to a full screen mode, so with a swipe of the finger you can make the main part of the display bigger so you can set the phone on the floor or music stand and still be able to see what is going on.

I have used the iStrobosoft app and have come away very impressed. With a touch screen, this is really easy to use and customize, and in this respect it is even better than my regular Peterson tuner pedal. I think they have a real winner here!

As I said earlier, the Peterson iStrobosoft app is only $9.99, and will work on most iPhones. It can also work on some iPod Touch models if you plug in the $11.99 accessory microphone. See the App Store for application details, and the Peterson website at to order the optional microphone or guitar cable adaptor.


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