Talk to any person who has experience with guitars and basses, and ask them what’s most frustrating about an instrument – what gives them the most problems. Chances are very good they’ll say the “neck action” is sometimes too high on less expensive guitars. They may also point out that the electronics of the guitar should be “silent.” There should be no hum or other unwanted noise when equipment is plugged in and turned on.
You may also find a few players who will mention the tuners on a guitar as a possible source of difficulty. Fortunately, when you spend a bit of extra money to get a mid-priced or professional-level instrument, this does not often occur.
With less expensive guitars, however, tuners can be a real issue. After all, the general idea behind performing on a string instrument is to produce sound that is in tune and pleasing to the ear.
- Top 5 Best Locking Tuners:
- How to Find the Best Locking Tuners: Buyers Guide
- Conclusion: What are the Best Locking Tuners?
Top 5 Best Locking Tuners:
|Schaller Locking Tuning Machine Heads (Editor's Choice)|
|Grover 502C Roto-Grip Locking Rotomatic Tuners|
|Sperzel 6 In-Line Locking Tuners Black|
|Planet Waves Auto-Trim Tuning Machines|
|Fender Locking Tuners|
Schaller Locking Tuning Machine Heads (Editor’s Choice)
The Schaller name has long been synonymous with quality guitar parts, especially with traditional winding tuners. The company now produces a locking tuner to lock the string in the peg with a knurled nut.
This company’s patent has a long history, about 20 years. The mechanism works much like a classic tuning head, but the string isn’t wound around the peg.
Just insert the end of the string through the hole with the screw loosened, lock the string with the clamp/screw and move on. Schaller designs in reliability with a ball-socket concept, even with a tremolo. The locking machine works like similar top-locking designs, but the string is locked from the bottom.
- Hold tune well
- Solid construction
- Some problems with individual units out of the box
- Fitting to specific guitars
Like Schaller, the Grover name is widely recognized in the music industry. In fact, some experienced guitarists look for the name on tuners when they buy a particular guitar.
This locking tuner requires one-time wrap of the string but it can then be locked in place with a thumb screw. The design is intended to make this an easy replacement for traditional machine heads.
With the chrome finish and traditional looking of the tuning knob, you’ll get the appearance you want, in addition to the reliable function of a quality tuning machine.
- Tuning ratio excellent
- Chrome, gold, black chrome options
- Problems with defects with one or two units, but rare
- Won’t accept extra-large strings
Like all these high-quality locking tuners, the Sperzel is sure to give you the performance you need and deserve. The name may not be quite as recognizable as Grover, Fender etc. but these are professional-grade machine heads from a company that often supplies tuners to brand-name guitar manufacturers.
This product is marketed as a 6-in-line locking tuner and as hassle-free hardware to improve tonal response. Tuning posts are staggered in height, so you won’t necessarily need to use string retainers.
- Holds tune very well
- Easy installation
- Loose feel
- Some problems with removable pin
These tuning machines are brought to you by a company that has established a good reputation among musicians. They do have the unique feature of being designed to automatically cut excess string with the guitar is tuned.
The clamping method means you don’t have to do a multiple wrap around the post. The Planet Waves tuners have an 18:1 gear ratio for smooth and accurate operation.
They come with a lifetime warranty and work well with tremolo guitars. You’ll appreciate the appearance and feel as well.
- Tight construction
- Smooth gearing
- Problem cutting larger strings
It’s hard to find something not to like about locking tuners from one of the icons of the guitar world. The company has continued its traditional look, with a design similar to the standard tuners on Fender guitars. Naturally, they should be an easy replacement for standard tuners on Fender guitars.
- Fender tradition
- Direct replacement on Fender guitars
- Fitting to some guitars
- Loose operation with some units
How to Find the Best Locking Tuners: Buyers Guide
The traditional/classic term used to refer to this part is “tuning peg.” An essential part of any string instrument, the tuning peg is used to tighten and loosen the string – to change the pitch. While this seems to be extremely basic and shouldn’t present a problem, the truth is a bit different.
With modern guitars, specifically, the tuners are no longer just pegs, as they are with acoustic instruments such as the violin and cello.
In fact, it’s more accurate to call them tuning machines, since the best of them use a gear arrangement (sometimes enclosed) to make tuning a guitar or base more efficient and accurate. Pegs for some larger acoustic instruments, such as the double bass, also used geared tuners.
Some less-experienced individuals may now be asking why tuning machines are dealt with separately. They may ask, “Isn’t this just a part that’s included when you buy the guitar?”
The answer to that question is, “Yes.” But, as mentioned earlier, there are times when the tuning machines are lacking in quality and don’t perform the task they’re meant to.
It’s important to repeat this: When you buy a quality guitar or bass, you shouldn’t have to worry about the tuners. They should be firmly attached and operate smoothly when you tighten or loosen the strings. If they don’t, you should talk to the seller or consult with someone who is knowledgeable in guitar repair.
We can now turn to the real focus of this review article – locking tuners. Many guitar players and bass players will simply rely on the design quality of the standard tuning machine, those attached to the guitar when it’s purchased. But some players find they need to take reliability to the next level and install locking tuners.
To keep things in basic terms, locking tuners have a pin or screw that clamps down on the string to keep it in place. This can eliminate the need for wrapping the string around the peg head, reducing problems with tuning and making string-change more efficient.
This is a relatively new idea, but if you’re considering a change to locking tuners, remember they don’t guarantee your guitar will stay in tune.
The Benefit of Locking Tuners
What this type of tuner will do is lock your string to the post, so your guitar won’t go out of tune because it slips or unwinds. That’s an important difference. It may still go out of tune due to stretching or when you use the tremolo bar (whammy bar). In fact, many guitar players and designers say the tremolo bar is the main reason for using locks on your tuning pegs.
Winding is the most consuming part of replacing strings. The choice of locking tuners will save you time, as mentioned earlier. These have been part of premium guitars and custom guitars but are starting to show up in the mid-price range as well.
You will be adding a small amount of weight, and you will have more parts to keep track of. Price may be an issue, if you’re on a budget.
This is not the right choice for everyone, so take some time to find tuners of high-quality. If they’re worth the investment and work for you, you’ll know soon after you install them.
Now that you have a general idea of what locking tuners can, and can’t, do for your guitar, it’s time to look at a few of the top products in this category. You’ll find some familiar names on the list, along with a couple of manufacturers you may not have heard of.
Conclusion: What are the Best Locking Tuners?
Now that you’ve had a chance to read about what traditional tuners do for your guitar, and about what locking tuners can do for your guitar, you should have enough information to decide if this is the right path for you. For many years, manufacturers of quality guitars have supplied tuning machines that work very well almost all the time.
There are going to be issues with any mechanical design, though you should expect to get flawless performance when you invest in a top-shelf guitar. Any of the products reviewed can work for you, if you believe you need to make the change to locking tuners.
One of the primary benefits will be the time saved when changing strings or replacing a broken string. This is a serious issue for performing guitarists, since a broken string can bring the show to a halt, unless you’re fortunate enough to have another guitar ready.
If you’re a regular user of the whammy bar, you may want to look more closely at locking tuners as an option. But keep in mind, this is not a guarantee that your guitar is going to stay in tune.
You should have good luck with any of the five companies mentioned here, since they all have a strong reputation. Good luck and have fun playing guitar.