Hands-On Review: Korg Pitchblack Chromatic Pedal Tuner

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Tuning is its business . . . and business is good

By Ryan Conrad
Musician’s Friend Staff Writer

I was a little surprised when I heard Korg was coming out with a new pedal tuner. After all, the previous Korg DT-10 pedal tuner was a cool unit. It was accurate, flexible, and had a massive, heavy-duty case. The note display was small and could be hard to see sometimes, but the meter was bright blue and worked great. Little did I know that Korg was cooking up something special: the Pitchblack Chromatic Pedal Tuner for guitar and bass.

New and improved

Korg Pitchblack Chromatic Pedal Tuner

I got to check out the pitchblack for the first time a week ago, and retiring the DT-10 suddenly made sense. All the things that were wrong about the DT-10 were made obvious by the absolute perfection of the pitchblack pedal tuner. It not only leapfrogs the DT-10, it one-ups just about every pedal tuner on the market with a beautiful blend of form, function, and a bad-attitude vibe that won't let your Big Muff scare it off the pedalboard.

The pitchblack is just as indestructible as the old DT-10, with a smoothly shaped, solid cast-aluminum chassis with a textured, satin black finish. And Korg knows pedalboard real estate is precious so they made the pitchblack roughly half the size of the DT-10. And let's face it, if you can get a more compact tuner and make room for another overdrive or fuzz on your board—that's a no-brainer. It's also shockingly light—just barely over half a pound, including the battery.

100% more tone

Where do you start when you want to build it better? At the beginning, of course. A pedal tuner starts with its input circuitry, and Korg began there by giving the pitchblack a Hi-Z, one mega-ohm load input for optimal performance with electric guitar pickups. They also made the circuit completely true bypass with no buffers to molest your tone when the tuner isn't on. That means you can put the pitchblack anywhere in your signal chain without worrying about losing a single expressive nuance of your playing or any of the dynamics from your effects. When you kick in the tuning circuit, the pitchblack mercifully mutes the output. No one wants to hear you tuning or that tired joke about playing an "ancient Chinese folk song" . . . trust me.

Not only does the pitchblack play nice with your guitar signal, it will fit in great with your other pedals, too. It has a DC output for distributing power from its dedicated AC adapter to the rest of your effects—up to 200mA worth. Just grab a daisy-chain cable and dole out the juice to your dirt, delay, wah, or whatever. Of course if you prefer to go AC free, the pitchblack runs great on a 9V battery.

Korg Pitchblack Back Inputs & Outputs

Now with more tuning

Korg recognizes that people have preferences, predilections, and prerogatives about their method of tuning. Heck, I used to play with a kid who insisted on using an old-fashioned tuning fork . . . live onstage. Yup. Anyway, there's no tuning-fork mode, but the pitchblack does have four different display modes: Meter, Strobe, Half Strobe, and Mirror. A small, recessed button on the back lets you cycle through the modes. Each mode changes how the 11-segment LED meter above the note-name window operates, but in all modes, only the center, green LED will be lit once you're at pitch. There are also tuning guide LED indicators beside the note name to help you tune up.

Meter is the familiar mode most tuners offer, with the LEDs to the right of center lighting if your instrument is sharp, and the ones on the left light if it's flat. Strobe mode streams the LEDs across the meter rapidly if you're way out of tune, and then slower and slower until the meter stops moving as you approach pitch. It moves from right-to-left if you're flat, and left-to-right for sharp. Half-Strobe mode is similar, with only half the LEDs in the meter strobe. The meter streams from the left to the center if you're flat, and right-to-center if you're sharp. For Mirror mode the LEDs march from both sides to the center as you tune to pitch, with the tuning guides indicating whether you're sharp or flat. The farther away from center the meter LEDs are, the farther out of tune you are.

In all modes, the pitchblack was smooth as silk. No jumpy-meter nastiness going on here. Just nice, steady, and incredibly bright LED tuning guidance streaming from the large meter. In fact, the pitchblack reminds me of the big rackmount DTR-series Korg tuners with its fluid movement and easy-to-read display. I was probably most surprised by how easy to use the Strobe mode was, because most other strobe tuners I've tried were a pain.

As far as tuners for your pedalboard go, the pitchblack is the new standard. Korg nailed it with the features guitarists and bassists want most while keeping the functionality simple and exceptionally fluid. Plug into one and you'll immediately see and hear the difference.

Features & Specs

  • Compact chromatic guitar/bass tuner
  • Satin black-finished die-cast solid aluminum body
  • 100% true-bypass output
  • Muted tuning
  • 4 display modes: Meter, Strobe, Half Strobe, and Mirror
  • Large bright LED meters
  • Tuning range from E0 (20.60Hz) to C8 (4186Hz)
  • Calibration is adjustable from 436-445Hz
  • AC adapter input jack
  • 9VDC output jack for powering other pedals
  • Includes 9V battery

Tags: Tuners

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