Korg Pitchblack vs Polytune vs Boss TU-3: Which Is Best?

Guitar tuners are non-negotiable if you’re going to be a guitar player.

And while there are many cheap tuners that do the job just fine, they lack the convenience and accuracy provided by industry-standard tuners. 

The Pitchblack, Polytune, and TU-3 are all great tuners and do what is required, but they have notorious differences: The Pitchblack comes in as the most expensive at nearly $200, whereas the Boss and Polytune are both closer to $100. The Boss, unlike the others, is buffered instead of true-bypass.

Regardless of which one I like best, we’ll be covering each tuner in great detail so that you can make your own conclusion on which tuner you’d want.

Korg Pitchblack’s main features

Korg has a 40-year history of producing high-quality tuners. The Korg Pitchblack pedal debuted in 2008 and has earned a reputation as a trusted piece to every professional pedal board. 

The latest tuner models boast a tuning accuracy of 0.1 cents, that’s an insane level of precision. Featuring true bypass, it won’t affect the sound of your setup whether in use or not.

Receiving overall positive reviews, the Korg Pitchblack really sits as one of the industry-standard tuners. While it may not be as accurate as the Polytune tuner (0.02 cents), 0.1 cents is still better than most.

The color and sleek design are also a big plus to me, black just has a very clean feel to it that other, more colorful pedal tuners just can’t aesthetically match.

Features

  • High precision advanced functionality
  • Tough Aluminum body
  • LED Meter
  • 100% True Bypass Output
  • Mutes input signal for silent tuning
  • Multiple Display Modes:
    • Meter Mode
    • Full Strobe Mode
    • Half Strobe Mode
    • Mirror mode
  • DC output to power other pedals

Specs

  • Same size as a compact effects unit
  • Adjustable calibration between 426 and 445 Hz
  • 12 note equal temperament
  • Detection accuracy within ± 1 cent
  • Battery life: approximately 5 hours at max usage
  • Dimensions: 68 x 120 47 mm / 2.68” x 4.72” x 1.85” (including feet)

Polytune’s main features 

When it was introduced in 2010, the original Polytune revolutionized the way musicians tune their instruments. Considered the best-selling polyphonic tuner to date (according to their website) the Polytune’s newer models come with multiple different tuning modes. 

They also boast an automatic switch between their polyphonic and single note tuning modes which is quite a nice addition to their uses. 

The great thing about Polytune pedals is that aside from being able to tune multiple strings, reviews note that the tuner itself has a high level of accuracy when using the chromatic, single-string mode.

The only notable drawback to consider with these pedals is that their screens are prone to scratching. You can get around this by getting a screen protector on it though and then you have one of the best tuners you can buy in its price range. $100-130

Features

  • Ultra-compact polyphonic tuner to give fast, accurate tuning and a high-quality tone tool in a single unit
  • Three tuning modes: Polyphonic, chromatic, and strobe tuning
  • Built-in analog buffer circuitry
  • Polyphonic tuning lets you tune all your strings at once
  • Chromatic tuner offers 0.5 cent accuracy
  • Strobe tuner gives an accuracy of +/_ 0.02 cent accuracy for ultimate tuning performance
  • Switchable true bypass/buffer modes
  • “Always on” tuning mode keeps tuner on and detecting even when not muted
  • Super-bright 109-LED display and an ambient light detector 
  • Automatically switches between polyphonic and monophonic tuning modes based on how many strings you’re playing

While the Polytune boasts high accuracy, it should be noted that some of that accuracy is forsaken in its polyphonic tuning mode. In this mode, the accuracy drops to about 3 cents, which is still pretty good, but it’s best suited for live playing.

The strobe tuner is the most accurate, coming in at a tolerance of 0.5 cents, which makes it best suited for studio recording level accuracy. 

Overall it’s a great tuner with overwhelmingly positive reviews and I’ll admit it’s my personal favorite too. But don’t take my word for it, just a quick google search for the polytune pedal will bring up a slew of 5 to 4.5-star reviews.

Boss TU-3’s main features

BOSS is known for producing quality products with a practical approach to their design and features. In 1983 they introduced the BOSS TU-12, the world’s first automatic tuner. 

Before the TU-3 was released, it was preceded by the TU-2, BOSS’s first compact pedal tuner. The TU-2 received a positive response, despite BOSS being originally unsure if there would be a demand for a pedal tuner.

In 2009, BOSS took the TU-2 and improved on it with the TU-3, mostly with improvements to its display, along with a slight improvement in its tuning accuracy. $105

Features

  • High-Brightness mode enhances meter visibility outdoors
  • Accurate to +/-  one cent
  • Accu-Pitch Sign function provides visual verification when tuning is complete
  • Chromatic and Guitar/Bass mode with support 7-string guitars and 6-string basses
  • Flat tuning is supported with Guitar Flat mode, which allows for “drop” tunings up to six semitones below standard pitch
  • Tuner automatically mutes when the tuner is on
  • Supplies power for up to seven Boss compact effect pedals
  • Modes 
    • Chromatic
    • Chromatic flat X2
    • Guitar
    • Guitar Flat x2
    • Bass
    • Bass Flat x3
  • Cent and Stream Display mode
  • Buffered Bypass
  • 3 Controls: Pedal switch, Mode button, and Stream/Cent button
  • Has a CHECK indicator
  • Expected battery life under continuous use for
    • Carbon battery: Approx 5 hours
    • Alkaline: Approx 21 hours

Main differences among the Korg Pitchblack, Polytune, and boss TU-3

Many of the differences between these three tuners lie in their designs, but that’s not to say they’re purely aesthetic or inconsequential. 

Korg PitchblackPolytuneBOSS TU-3
Has a LED display
Has high tuning accuracy of ± 1 cent
Is true Bypass
Has a built-in power supply to power other pedals
Not suitable for outdoor tuning due to less bright display
Has a bright LED Display
Highest tuning accuracy in single string mode of ± 0.2 cents
Is true Bypass
No built-in power supply
Has a strum tuning mode unique to this pedal
Well suited for outdoor tuning like at daytime gigs
Has a bright LED display
Lowest relative tuning accuracy between the three tuners
Is buffered
Has built-in power supply to power other BOSS pedals
Suited for outdoor use
Has multiple tuning modes

All three tuners are designed to fit into a pedal board, so their dimensions are quite similar, but I would say as far as their design goes, I find that the BOSS tuner is very blocky, the Polytune is slightly less so, while the Korg is relatively sleeker. 

Which one should you get?

The nice thing about these three tuners is that overall they do the same job and they all do it well. There are some slight differences that make considering what you need when selecting your tuner important.

Korg Pitchblack 

The Korg pitchblack tuner is actually a model with its own series with a small variance of different designs and sizes.

The Korg Pitchblack will do well as a tuner for many roles:

  • Tuning at gigs 
  • Bedroom playing
  • Studio tuning
  • most Simplicity in tuning

Its main pro is its simplicity over the Polytune and BOSS TU-3. It’s straightforward and if you don’t like to fuss with tuning, you’re best off buying the Korg

Polytune  

The Polytune tuner is perfect for a number of uses. I would say it’s the best for efficient tuning during live performances and while it’s not as accurate, most people won’t hear a 3-cent difference in tuning.

The Strobe tuner is by far the most accurate of the bunch and is well regarded for studio tuning too, even with acoustic guitars, although there’s a trick to that.

You should get the Polytune tuner if you:

  • want a tuner for quick gig tuning
  • want accurate tuning for studio recording
  • like to have options when it comes to tuning modes

BOSS TU-3

The BOSS TU-3 is also a pretty accurate tuner- if it weren’t, it wouldn’t be on this list I suppose- but it seems to come with a few more bells and whistles in a sense.

I’ve always found the design of BOSS pedals a little blocky and ugly, so if you’re also not into the industrial feeling aesthetic then the BOSS tuner is probably not for you either.

It’s still a great tuner as far as its accuracy and durability though.

You should get the BOSS tuner if you:

  • already have a lot of BOSS pedals
  • want a tuner that fits in well on your pedal board
  • like something with a more sturdy tank-like design
  • gig outdoors a lot