Product Spotlight: Boss TU-3 Chromatic Pedal Tuner

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No pedalboard is complete without a BOSS TU-3

By Jim Bybee
Writer/Editor, Roland Corporation U.S

Boss TU-3 Chromatic Pedal Tuner

If you're one of those guitar-gear geeks (you know who you are) who pokes around on the web looking at players' pedalboard pics or bellies up to the stage at concerts to sneak peeks at famous guitarists' pedal rigs, you'll see quite a varied range of stompboxes to be sure. But most likely, you'll see one pedal more than any other: the venerable BOSS TU-series tuner, the world's best-selling pedal-based tuner. This workhorse is every guitarist's best friend, delivering rock-solid reliability and super-accurate operation for the single most important part of any performance—getting in tune. In this article, we'll take a brief look at the history of the BOSS stompbox tuner and dig into the cutting-edge features found in the latest model, the BOSS TU-3 Chromatic Tuner.

The road to now

BOSS has been the industry leader in instrument tuning technology since 1983, when it introduced the TU-12, the world's first automatic chromatic tuner. By automatically sensing and displaying the pitches played into it, this revolutionary product allowed players to keep their hands free for tuning their instrument instead of messing around with switches and buttons. This technology was later integrated into the famous BOSS Compact Pedal format as the TU-2, and that floor-based tuner quickly became a pedalboard staple for guitarists and bassists around the globe. Eventually, it became the best-selling BOSS pedal of all time—and that's no small feat, considering that BOSS has sold over 10 million Compact Pedals to date. In early 2010, the ubiquitous black and white stomp was updated with the current BOSS TU-3, which adds even better tuning resolution and a number of other handy features to the TU-2's already solid specs.

Tuning into the BOSS TU-3

Just like the TU-2, the TU-3 tuner is housed in the standard road-ready BOSS stompbox chassis, so you know it's built to last. Tuning modes include the default Chromatic, where you can tune by pitch name, and Guitar/Bass, which lets you tune by string number. Guitar/Bass mode works with modern extended-range instruments like seven-string guitars and six-string basses, as well as standard guitars and basses.

In either tuning mode, the BOSS TU-3's high-resolution, 21-segment LED meter and arrow indicators clearly show you when your axe is in tune. In addition, you can engage a special high-brightness mode to better see the LED meter in bright sunlight, perfect for outdoor gigs. Speaking of high resolution, the TU-3's tuning precision is super-fine, with accuracy within ± one cent. This is a marked improvement over its predecessor's already fine performance.

The LED meter can be set to display tuning info in two ways: Cent or Streaming. The Cent display acts like an LED version of a traditional VU meter with a single indicator that moves as you tune; when the indicator is in the center, the pitch is dead-on. With the Streaming display, the LEDs take on a strobe-like look: the farther from the target pitch you are, the faster the LEDs stream; as you get closer, the LED stream slows, finally stopping when you're in tune. In both display modes, the cool new Accu-Pitch feature gives you a strong visual indication when a string is in tune with a distinct series of flashing LEDs.

The lowdown

Tuning guitars and basses to a pitch lower than standard gives a rich, deep sound, and this "down tuning" has become very popular in recent years, especially for heavy rock and metal styles. However, this can be a little problematic when it comes to using an instrument tuner, because even though you're tuned down a semitone or more, you're still "thinking" in standard tuning when playing the music on guitar or bass. This is where the BOSS TU-3's Flat Tuning feature really helps out.

Flat Tuning allows you to calibrate the tuner anywhere from one to six semitones down (six semitones for guitar, three for bass), so that you can always tune with the TU-3 as if you're in standard tuning. For example, say you want to tune your guitar two steps down from standard pitch: D-G-C-F-A-D, low to high. No problem—just press the MODE button so that "2" lights on the TU-3's panel. Then, tune your guitar by string number and the TU-3 handles the rest.

Power player

Like all BOSS compact stomps, the TU-3 runs on a single 9-volt battery or an optional BOSS PSA-120S Power Adapter. When you power the TU-3 with the PSA-120S, the tuner can do a very handy trick: it works as a power hub for other BOSS pedals. With an inexpensive BOSS PCS-20A Parallel DC Cord, you can daisy-chain power from the TU-3 to as many as seven other pedals. The actual number will depend on the current draw from all attached pedals, including the TU-3—you don't want to exceed a total 500 milliamps that is the maximum capacity of the PSA-120S. You can find the actual current draw of any BOSS pedal in the specs section of its owner's manual; just gather the info from each of your pedals and add them together to get the total draw.

The legend lives on

There's no doubt that the TU-2—the original stompbox tuner—is a modern classic among guitarists and bassists. Now, the TU-3 has taken floor-based tuning to an all-new level, improving on the first generation while retaining all the features that made it great in the first place. Pick up a TU-3 and discover why BOSS' TU-series tuners are the most popular pedal-based tuners on the planet.

Tags: Tuners Boss


# stephen noble 2015-03-28 07:48

I like what I read about the TU-3 stomp box tuner, but I didn't read anything in your write up about tuning for twelve string guitars... On the TU-2 write up I saw that it stated, "8-octave tuning range—the widest in its class." But the TU-3 makes no such claim... Please, have someone who knows the proper info to this question reply. Am I going to have issues tuning my twelve string through the TU-3?

Thank you for your help.


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