TC Electronic is a company from Denmark that specializes in audio equipment and is famous in the guitar community for several products such as its effect pedals. In this TC Electronic Polytune Mini review, I will tell you all about the Polytune Noir, a small but sturdy tuner that has been on my pedalboard for years. This is their Polytune Noir model, and they have recently released the Polytune 3 Noir, which we will also discuss later on.
Bottom line up front: What you get with this pedal is a very small, high quality polyphonic tuner that also features two traditional tuning modes: chromatic and strobe. It has an insanely bright display that is visible under any circumstances, and can fit on any pedalboard setup.
I highly recommend this looper to anyone who does not need multiple channels, effects and advanced features. It is intuitive to use, and even with just one switch and one knob, you still have access to the most important features you’d expect having on a looper.
Aside from diving deep into its features, I’ll also talk about other types of tuners and different models that you might want to check out before pulling the trigger on your next pedal.
TC Electronic Polytune Noir Main Features
For such a tiny pedal, the Polytune Noir is packed with features that make it the obvious choice for so many guitar players. The most evident advantage is its small size.
In a world where many people like to play with complex pedal setups, no one wants to have their tuner taking up valuable pedalboard real estate. It is perfect for mini pedalboard setups, and you can also place it sideways if that allows you to accommodate your other pedals more efficiently.
Although keeping the size to a minimum is attractive, you still want to be able to see what your tuner is telling you if you want to tune your instrument properly while playing a gig.
The Polytune Noir is packing 109 ultra bright LEDs that are guaranteed to stand out under any conditions, whether you are on a stage full of lights or at an outdoor gig on a sunny day. It even features an ambient light sensor that automatically adjusts the brightness for you depending on your surroundings.
Polyphonic Tuning and Other Tuning Modes
The Polytune was also the first pedal that brought a polyphonic tuner into the game. Essentially, it lets you check the tuning of all of your guitar’s strings at once. After engaging the pedal, you just strum every string, and it picks them up individually, showing you which ones you need to sharpen or flatten with an accuracy of +/- 1 cent.
If you would rather use it as a normal tuner instead, you can pluck each string at a time, and it will automatically switch to MonoPoly mode, which works the same way as every other tuner. In this mode, you get to choose between a typical chromatic mode with an accuracy of +/- 0.5 cent and a stroboscopic mode that features even greater accuracy, at +/- 0.1 cent.
It is also worth noting that the Polytune is compatible with some of the most popular alternate tunings, which can come in very handy if you need to tune your guitar quickly without having to think about the notes too much.
Hold down the main switch for a few seconds to change it to Drop D mode, and repeat the same step to bring it back to standard tuning. The tuning button on the right side of the pedal lets you access other alternate tunings.
In any case, the chromatic tuner allows you to tune to any note you want, and it is worth noting that you can also tune a bass guitar and other stringed instruments easily with this tuner, since its tuning range goes from A0 to C8.
This model of the Polytune in particular features true-bypass switching, meaning that this pedal is completely outside of your signal chain while it is not engaged. Some people prefer a buffered-bypass pedal, especially if they are using lots of cables between their guitar and their amplifier, which typically cuts off some of the high frequencies of your tone.
If you would like to have the option of using either of these bypass systems, you should take a look at the Polytune 3 models, since these incorporate a high quality buffer that you can toggle on or off, depending on your preferences.
Several famous artists such as Tal Wilkenfeld, Brad Whitford (Aerosmith), Scott Holiday (Rival Sons) and Nik West rely on the Polytune to stay in tune during studio sessions and live performances, and it is no surprise, since this pedal has such a great value for a very fair price.
Complete Specifications of the TC Electronic Polytune Noir
Check the full specifications of the TC Electronic Polytune Noir below:
- Tuner Type: Polyphonic
- Format: Pedal
- Display Type: LED
- Reference Pitch: A4
- Tuning Range: A0 to C8
- Inputs: 1 x 1/4″
- Outputs: 1 x 1/4″
- Power Supply: Not included, can be powered by 9v, 100mA adapters or power supplies
- Dimensions: 1.77″ x 3.66″ x 2.01″ (H x D x W)
- Weight: 0.01 lbs
Pros of the TC Electronic Polytune Noir
The Polytune Noir is one of the smallest tuners that come in a pedal format. This is fantastic for saving up precious space in your pedalboard, which you’re probably a lot more excited to fill with distortion, delay and other pedals.
Despite having such a small size, the ultra bright display does a wonderful job of showing you the pitch of each string under any lighting conditions, which is definitely a plus. The only downside of the reduced dimensions is the fact that it can’t be powered by a 9v battery, but most people use power supplies or a power adapter anyways.
The TC Electronic Polytune Noir offers several choices when tuning. You can use the Polyphonic tuning mode, an innovation by TC Electronic that tracks the pitch of the 6 strings simultaneously with an accuracy of +/- 1 cent. This is great to check your tuning quickly at a glance and make minor adjustments.
If you pick strings individually, you engage MonoPoly mode, which features a traditional chromatic tuner that displays your pitch through a needle with an accuracy of +/- 0.5 cent, or a stroboscopic mode that has an even higher accuracy at +/- 0.1 cent.
The wide range of tuning modes and the possibility of setting it up for Drop D and other alternate tunings make the Polytune Noir an extremely valuable and useful pedal.
TC Electronic is known for making excellent audio equipment that lasts for a long time without any major issues. I have had the Polytune Noir on my pedalboard since the day I bought it, and since then I have used it in several sessions, gigs, rehearsals, and it has never let me down once. It picks up notes very quickly and it allows me to tune all of my instruments fast and accurately.
Cons of the TC Electronic Polytune Noir
Polytune Noir Lacks Buffer
While many players will not complain about the absence of a buffer in this pedals circuit, others who run long and numerous cables through their setup might appreciate a buffer in their signal chain to compensate for some of the high frequencies that start to be cut out as the signal travels through your cables.
If this is something you would value having, you should check the Polytune 3 range, as those allow you to switch between true bypass and buffered bypass at the flick of a switch.
No Battery Option
Once again, this is really not a huge disadvantage since many people use an isolated power supply or a power adapter to make sure their pedals are always running properly.
If you would like to have this option anyway, you can look into the bigger Polytune models which are also compatible with a 9v battery.
Other Tuners to Take into Account as Alternatives to the TC Electronic Polytune Noir
Aside from pedal tuners, which already come in several shapes and sizes, there are also tuners in different formats that have their advantages and disadvantages in comparison to pedals.
Let’s take a closer look at the main types of tuners to get a better idea of what they excel at.
Pedal tuners are seen in the rigs of players all around the world. They are reliable, fit right into your pedalboard and mute your guitar signal while you are tuning, which comes in very handy during gigs. They are engaged as any other pedal, and they are usually powered by a 9v power supply.
Over time, they have started getting smaller, packed with more features that increase their versatility, and I can’t see them going away anytime soon. They are especially great because since they are receiving the signal straight from your guitar, it is not affected by any exterior noise.
If you haven’t got any other pedals and you aren’t playing much outside your home, maybe the pedal tuner isn’t such a valuable investment. A clip-on tuner is cheaper and might fulfill your needs just as well, without having to carry a power supply to power it.
Here are a few examples of pedal tuners aside from the Polytune that are worth checking out:
- Sweetwater Music – Korg Pitchblack Advance Tuner Pedal
- Sweetwater Music – Boss TU-3 Chromatic Tuner Pedal with Bypass
Clip-on tuners attach themselves to the headstock of your guitar and pick up the vibrations from the instrument as you pick the strings. They are small, compact, and usually powered by a CR2032 battery, which is inexpensive and lasts a long time.
They are not affected by exterior noise, which makes them great for tuning under any circumstances, but unlike pedal tuners, since they are not in your signal chain, they can’t mute your signal automatically while you tune.
They are great to carry around conveniently in a guitar case, backpack or even inside a jacket’s pocket. I have a couple of these tuners that I generally take with me to classes, since I am rarely taking any pedals with me.
Here are a couple of examples to look into if you’re interested in getting a clip-on tuner:
- Sweetwater Music – TC Electronic PolyTune Clip Black Clip-on Polyphonic Tuner
- Sweetwater Music – Snark Silver Snark Chromatic Tuner – Black
These tuners are commonly found at music stores, and although they are cheap, they sometimes come with a metronome as an added feature, which is always nice to have while practicing.
They have an onboard microphone that picks up your guitar’s sound and gives you visual feedback on it’s screen. This is not the most accurate way of tuning since outside noise can interfere, but some models also have an input jack so you can connect your guitar instead, which solves this problem.
I haven’t had one of these in a long time, since I always use the clip-on tuner or the Polytune, but they are still a good option if you need a quick solution for tuning.
Check below for a couple of tuner examples from this category:
- Sweetwater Music – Korg TM-60 Tuner/Metronome – Black
- Sweetwater Music – Boss TU-30 Metronome and Tuner
FAQs – Frequently Asked Questions About the TC Electronic Polytune Noir
Question: What is TC Electronic’s “Polyphonic Tuning” present in the Polytune pedals?
Answer: Polyphonic tuning is an innovation designed by TC Electronic that allows guitar players to strum every string of their guitar and get instant visual feedback about the tuning of every single one, individually.
It is a great feature to quickly check your tuning between songs, in case you don’t want to pick string by string. This tuner is also capable of tuning normally, and changes modes automatically depending on how you pluck the strings.
Question: Is the TC Electronic Polytune Noir accurate enough?
Answer: While using its Polyphonic mode, you get results accurate to within +/ 1 cent. In its MonoPoly mode, you can get even more accuracy: the chromatic mode has an accuracy of +/- 0.5 cent, and the stroboscopic mode goes even further at +/- 0.1 cent.
This should be enough for any player, amateur or professional.
Question: Is the TC Electronic Polytune Noir true bypass?
Answer: The Polytune 2 Noir from TC Electronic is a true-bypass pedal, meaning that it is not coloring your tone at all while it is disengaged.
If you would rather have a buffered bypass version, the Polytune 3 models offer the possibility of using whichever you would like and changing between them.
Players who have big pedalboards with lots of patch cables tend to appreciate having a good buffer in the start of ending of their signal chain to get some of the high frequencies back
Question: What kind of guitar tuner should I get?
Answer: There are several types of tuners available on the market nowadays, and you should know which one will suit your needs the best.
Pedal tuners are great for performers since they fit right into any pedalboard, they mute your sound while tuning, and you don’t need to worry about powering them when you connect them to a power supply like any other pedal.
Clip-on tuners are extremely convenient, portable, and they are generally cheaper than pedal tuners. They are perfect to carry around anywhere and use quickly without needing to plug your guitar anywhere.
Standard tuners usually have a microphone and will sometimes have an input jack as well. While the microphone is not the best way to get an accurate reading, plugging your guitar into it yields better results.
Think about the situations in which you will need to use your tuner most frequently, and choose the best one for you by taking these properties into account.
Question: Is the TC Electronic Polytune Noir compatible with alternate tunings?
Answer: The TC Electronic Polytune Noir is compatible with a few alternate tunings. It allows you to switch to Drop D, and 15 other tunings that consist in lowering every string by the same number of semitones, or placing a capo between the 1st and 7th frets.
Sadly, it doesn’t offer support for other popular tunings such as DADGAD, Open G, Open E, etc. It still features chromatic tuning, so if you know the pitch of every string within an alternate tuning, you can still achieve it easily.
Question: What Other Pedal Tuners are Worth Getting Besides the Polytune Noir?
Answer: There are many great examples of quality pedal tuners on the market today, each of them with its own take on the design and available features. Here are a few great pedal tuners you can find at most guitar shops:
• Sweetwater Music – D’Addario Chromatic Pedal Tuner+
• Sweetwater Music – Korg Pitchblack Advance Tuner Pedal
• Sweetwater Music – Boss TU-3 Chromatic Tuner Pedal with Bypass
• Sweetwater Music – Peterson StroboStomp HD Pedal Tuner
Closing Considerations about the TC Electronic Polytune Noir
The TC Electronic Polytune Noir is undoubtedly an amazing pedal that any guitar player would benefit from having. It comes at an affordable price, and it is packed with useful features while keeping its size to a minimum.
Among the most notable features is the polyphonic tuning mode that automatically changes to a chromatic or stroboscopic tuner if you pick the strings individually, an extremely bright display that remains visible regardless of the lighting conditions, and a sturdy build quality that will ensure your pedal remains operational for a very long time.
If you would like to incorporate a tuner into your pedalboard rig, I would say that the Polytune is one of the best options available today due to its impressive price/quality ratio. There isn’t a reason to spend a lot of money on a tuner pedal when options like this one are readily available.
Photos by: Gustavo Pereira
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