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From stringed instruments to synthesizers, tuning is a normal part of instrument maintenance and performance across a broad range of instrument types.
If you regularly use real instruments in your studio, or if you work with people who do, then your studio setup could certainly benefit from the addition of a virtual tuner and wouldn’t be complete without one.
Of course, when it comes to digital tuners, accuracy is key. In this guide, we’ll be looking at the best tuner VST plugins.
AmpKnob RevC by Bogren Digital – Best Overall
Bogren Digital’s AmpKnob RevC is a one-knob amp concept for heavy guitars. It comes with a perfectly matched cab, but you can use the built in “Cab-Off” button if you’d like to take advantage of your own impulse responses instead.
This baby comes with its own handy tuner, which is perfect for tuning up guitars. Honestly, the extra cost of the amp might be worth it (if you like the tone of AmpKnob RevC).
But aside from that, AmpKnob RevC was designed with simplicity in mind. If you don’t like spending hours setting up mics, experimenting with mic placement, swapping out cabs and tubes, dialing in the perfect EQ settings, finding the right stomp boxes, etc., then you will love AmpKnob RevC.
But why is AmpKnob RevC our best overall pick? Well, in addition to being a great tuner, it’s also a great amp sim for heavy guitars. We like that it’s uncomplicated, but you still get something a little extra. To top it all off, it’s not too expensive either. So, there you have it.
Learn more: Plugin Boutique
Blue Cat’s Axe Pack by Blue Cat Audio – Best Premium Option
Blue Cat’s Axe Pack is a comprehensive multi-effects bundle for guitarists.
First up is Blue Cat’s AcouFiend, an acoustic feedback simulator for adding growls and screams to your tone (without the need to crank up your amp to achieve the same effect). You’re given a lot of control over the effect too, including how to trigger the feedback (sustained notes or chords), selectable main harmonic, and even a transpose function.
The feedback can be automated or controlled via MIDI, and the effect can even be used on vocal harmonies, synths, and more. Love the extra utility!
Next up is Blue Cat’s Axiom, also found in this guide. This multi-effects processor features two parallel amp sims, 40 effects, tuner, third-party plugin support, thousands of presets, global stereo control, lock sections, and more.
Then there’s Blue Cat’s Destructor, a module that’s included with Blue Cat’s Axiom. This is a distortion and amp sim modeling tool that lets you create distortions of all types.
Destructor features hundreds of editable presets inspired by real gear, over 1,400 visual styles, input gate and compressor, pre and post filters, shape dynamics control, internal or external sidechain, output brickwall limiter, and comprehensive visual feedback.
Blue Cat’s Late Replies is also included. This is a delay and multi-effects plugin with third-party plugin support, eight taps pattern section with plugin slots and integrated mixer, two feedback loops with crossfeed and plugin slots, and 25 built-in effects.
You also get tempo / host sync, global stereo spread, hundreds of editable presets, and integrated ducking.
Blue Cat’s Hot Tuna is also included and can also be found elsewhere in this guide. This is a high precision tuner.
Then comes Blue Cat’s PatchWork, a universal plugin patchbay that can play host to 64 plugins in a single DAW. PatchWork also comes with global dry / wet control, parameters mapping, flexible MIDI and audio routing, external sidechain and multiple outputs, pre and post gain link, and more.
Blue Cat’s Axe Pack’s overall versatility is frankly insane. Obviously, it comes with a guitar tuner, but if all you need is a tuner, this is simply too much power. If you need to cover your bases in terms of guitar effects, it’s an excellent selection. That makes it our best premium selection.
Learn more: Plugin Boutique
Blue Cat’s Hot Tuna by Blue Cat Audio – Best Budget Option
If you thought this baby looked a lot like a certain Polytune… well, you’re not alone.
Blue Cat’s Hot Tuna, true to form, is a precision chromatic tuner with dimming (adjustable) and muting functionality. You can even change the reference pitch to suit all kinds of uses (within 430 to 450 Hz). The tuner is resource optimized so as not to interrupt your Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) or host’s workflow.
Blue Cat’s Hot Tuna also comes with some standard Blue Cat Audio features, like full MIDI control, MIDI learn, automation support, customizable user interface with zoom and transparency, smooth bypass, undo / redo, integrated presets manager, copy / paste between instances, and support for all sample rates.
But overall, this is a very straightforward plugin.
Blue Cat’s Hot Tuna is precise, nicely designed, and affordable. There isn’t much by way of features or presets, but you probably aren’t expecting much if you’re just looking for a standalone tuner VST anyway.
In addition to being our best budget pick (because it’s so affordable), if a standalone tuner is all you need, it may well be the best overall pick too!
Learn more: Plugin Boutique
BassKnob STD by Bogren Digital
Created with bass players in mind, Bogren Digital’s BassKnob STD is a dialed-in bass amp boiled down to just the essentials – a power switch, clean / dirt switch, and a gain knob. If you like streamlined rigs, you might want to check out this beauty.
If you noticed the similarity to AmpKnob RevC, you’re right – this baby is basically the bassist equivalent.
Whether for practice, sketches, demos, or recording sessions, BassKnob STD is powerful yet simple enough for just about any application you can name.
BassKnob STD also comes with a cab-off button (use your own IRs), a bass guitar optimized tuner (naturally), and a built-in gate to round out the module.
BassKnob STD is Windows and Mac compatible.
Learn more: Plugin Boutique
Electrum by United Plugins
United Plugins’ Electrum aims to be your comprehensive guitar amp sim and multi-effects processor. Regardless of genre, Electrum can help you find the right tone.
Electrum serves everything up in one screen instead of hiding options in submenus, hidden buttons, back panels, and the like. As result, it has a very streamlined and easy to follow workflow.
With the smart input setting, you can have Electrum set your input levels for you, and EQ Matching makes it possible for you to automatically dial in tones that sound just like your favorite performances.
Electrum also comes with five guitar amps, over 300 cabinets (16 types, 21 variations, over 300 models), three distortion pedals, doubler, reverb, advanced PolyTuner, multi-modulation, delay, seven-band EQ with HP and LP filters and Magic EQ, reorderable modules, and a ton of presets.
Finally, you’ll also find 2D and 3D GUI styles, smart bypass, intelligent sleep on silence, and more.
Electrum is going to make for a mighty expensive tuner if that’s all you use it for! But if a virtual pedalboard is what you’re after, you’re going to get a kick out of this entry.
Learn more: Plugin Boutique
Bassment by United Plugins
With Bassment, United Plugins set out to create a virtual multi-effects solution for bassists. And this baby is loaded with killer features.
Want a plugin that automatically sets your input level for you? With the “Analyze Input Level” button, Bassment will do all the heavy lifting for you and prepare your instrument for recording.
Want to sound exactly like your heroes? Take advantage of the built-in EQ Matching tool, and Bassment will analyze performances and your bass to dial in a tone matched to that of your favorite players.
You’ll also get an amp with a five-band EQ, compressor (with low-pass filter, aggression, and presence parameters), midrange controls (frequency, low-cut, brightness, color, drive), six controls for high frequencies, 15 cab sims with 15 variations, and 200+ models.
With Bassment, you can also reorder the modules, tune your instrument using the advanced tuner, take advantage of the modulation section (chorus, phaser, flanger, tremolo, sweeper), and use the leveler section to balance volume dropouts and performance mistakes.
Finally, you get parallel saturation, 2D and 3D GUIs, smart bypass, intelligent sleep on silence, and free for life updates.
I don’t know too many bass players that use a ton of effects, but Bassment offers that rare opportunity to take your tones beyond.
Learn more: Plugin Boutique
Blue Cat’s Axiom by Blue Cat Audio
Blue Cat’s Axiom isn’t just a tuner – it’s a fully fledged amp sim and multi-effects processor, and it can be used for both guitar and bass. Just for reference, Blue Cat’s Axe Pack, seen earlier in this guide, comes with everything included in Axiom, and more.
This kit features two amp sim channels that can be mixed together (with pre and post effects), hundreds of amp model presets, an amp editor (for building your own amp), input and master section, high precision tuner, and a brickwall limiter.
Also onboard are 44 effects and 32 effects slots (with Late Replies and Destructor). What’s especially cool is that even third-party effects plugins can be used in these effects slots. So, if you’ve got a favorite reverb or chorus, just add it to the mix!
If jamming alone isn’t enough to get you excited, though, Blue Cat’s Axiom also features a tool section where you can load in a drum machine, metronome, sequencer, or even synthesizer, so you can jam along.
Altogether, Blue Cat’s Axiom features two parallel amp sim channels with effects and input and master sections, as well as 44 effects (including wah, reverb, delay, EQ, pitch bender, filters, distortion, compressor, gate, chorus, flanger, and more).
Blue Cat’s own Hot Tuna, Late Replies, Destructor, and Re-Guitar are all built into Axiom, and you can also load in third-party plugins and impulse responses for endless customization.
Additionally, you get thousands of presets, global spread control, lock sections, tone maps explorer, and much more.
Blue Cat’s Axiom is the wrong solution if you’re looking for a standalone tuner (because, after all, you should not pay this much for an instrument tuner). You may as well get Blue Cat’s Hot Tuna if you want to save a bit of money, because it’s probably everything you need already.
But if you’re looking to purchase an entire guitar and bass workstation with tons of amp models and effects, this is a great sounding, versatile solution.
Learn more: Plugin Boutique
TrapTune by United Plugins
United Plugins’ TrapTune is a tuner of sorts, but please note – it’s not an instrument tuner. TrapTune is a vocal processor that helps you achieve the perfect sound in every mix. From nuanced pitch correction to robotic auto-tune style effects, TrapTune is equipped to handle it all.
Of course, it comes with a few extras that make it unique and versatile – voice harmony, doubler, and even an FX section.
TrapTune is well suited to R&B, hip-hop, trap, pop, or even EDM. The Tune-in section is where every TrapTune journey begins, and sometimes ends. Simply dialing in the parameters (intensity, speed, style, transpose, formant, and keep formants) is often enough to achieve the desired effect.
But further tweaking is obviously possible. The Second Voice section acts as the doubler, and it offers controls for transpose, octaves, level, and stereo voice for fine-tuning the effect.
Move on down to the effects section for additional processing. There’s distortion (drive, dry / wet), reverb (dry / wet, decay, size), and delay (dry / wet, length, type, and feedback).
Finally, there’s master input, hi pass, and output controls.
If you need an instrument tuner, this obviously isn’t it. But if a simple but effective vocal processing and tuning VST is what you need, you will enjoy TrapTune.
Learn more: Plugin Boutique
What Should I Look For In A Tuner VST Plugin?
In terms of premium instrument VST tuners (designed for tuning guitars, basses, violins, cellos, double basses, ukuleles, mandolins, banjos, and more), there aren’t many options out there. Most tuners come bundled with guitar and bass amp sims, workstations, processors, and so on.
The only standalone tuner VST plugin you will find in this guide is Blue Cat’s Hot Tuna (our best budget option). It’s affordable, simple, easy to use, and basically everything you need if basic instrument tuning functionality is all you need. As a bonus, its GUI reminds us of TC Electronic’s POLYTUNE.
But there’s nothing wrong with looking beyond the standalone / dedicated options, as we have done in this guide.
For starters, AmpKnob RevC and BassKnob STD are good options for guitarists and bassists, respectively. They are “fancy” tuners, in a matter of speaking, because they are marketed as perfectly tuned amps with only a few parameters. For guitarists and bassists that like to pick up and go (think less and play more), these are great plugins.
Beyond that, you’re effectively looking at more comprehensive guitar and / or bass solutions with amps, cabs, effects, and the like. These will naturally run you considerably more in terms of cost.
There’s also a vocal tuner plugin in this guide, just in case, in the form of TrapTune. If you’re not looking for a vocal processor, this is obviously not what you need. But these types of plugins can be great for tuning track after the fact (like Melodyne), so you never know.
But if you’re still not sure what plugin to buy, no problem. We recommend exploring the following criteria in greater detail:
- Sound quality (relevant only to virtual guitar workstations)
Once we’re done covering these, you should be ready to make up your mind. Let’s dig in.
When it comes to instrument tuners, there are few factors as important as accuracy. When you tune up your instrument, you don’t want to be left with any doubt whether it’s in tune. But with the growth of digital tuners, artists have found that some tuners are certainly better than others.
Of course, there are other factors that can come into play, such as the instrument’s intonation, strings (if relevant), setup, and the like. But assuming everything’s fine on a technical level, you want your tuning to be smooth, efficient, and importantly, accurate.
We can’t make any comment as to the accuracy of every tuner found in this guide. If in doubt, it would be worth consulting customer reviews or asking people in music production forums whether they know anything about the plugin(s) you’re considering.
In time, you will develop your ear and be able to hear whether your instrument’s in tune, but not everyone has perfect pitch, so it is better to have solid tools available to you than not, especially if you plan to use them with clients.
So, while it may be hard to assess the reliability of a specific tuner, accuracy is still well worth considering.
There isn’t much to a tuner. Its main features are likely some combination of dimming, muting, reference pitch, and maybe a bypass switch of some kind. Anymore than that, and it might not be a tuner! Though sometimes tuners come with metronomes and vice versa.
If you’ve identified certain features you need, then see if you can find them in the plugins you’re exploring. Otherwise, a very basic feature set should more than suffice.
Naturally, it’s a different game entirely if we’re looking at virtual guitar / bass amp and pedalboard setups. No two were created equal, but these babies often come with a ton of features.
Things like amp sim or amp modeling, virtual amps and cabs, distortion or distortion modeling, effects, modulation, feedback simulator, third-party plugin integration, “smart” features like smart input leveling, EQ matching, a tuner, and more.
Sorting through plugins begins with identifying what features matter to you. More is better when you plan to use more but may not be relevant if the features don’t make it into your workflow (unless you’re especially enthralled with the sound of the plugin). After all, you can end up paying more for more features.
If you’re going to buy a guitar workstation, then there’s no question features are going to factor into your purchase decision. The idea with these plugins is to be able to do all your guitar or bass processing from a singular, convenient location, so you should demand more.
But there’s no need to rush the purchase, though. You can take your time, explore the options available, and determine what’s right for you. That’s generally the best advice we can give for purchasing VST plugins.
Sound quality obviously does not apply to standalone tuners. A tuner is not an effect (unless it’s a vocal tuner, or a tuner of some other persuasion), it’s a utility for ensuring your instrument is in tune.
Tuning is key in recording, especially when tracking, because you don’t want to have to do over a perfect performance just because it was out of tune.
Imagine recording for someone like Tosin Abasi and having to tell him you can’t keep the perfect take he just banged out because the guitar you gave him wasn’t in tune. Ouch!
It’s a pretend scenario, for sure, but the point should be self-evident.
Anyway, the only reason we’re talking about sound quality is because most tuners come bundled with guitar or bass amp sim / workstation / multi-effects / processor packs. If you’re going to buy one of these anyway, you may as well be happy with what you get!
The best way to figure out whether you like a specific VST plugin is to listen to it. Every prominent plugin has multiple audio clips you can check out, as well as video demos and reviews you can watch for yourself.
Although I can tell you what I like, it would only be of some use to you. You should have a listen for yourself and determine which plugin you could see yourself using in current and future projects.
Premium plugins cost something. And while tuner VST plugins can be gotten for as little as $9 (and good quality tuners at that), if you want to get a more holistic guitar solution, you can easily spend as much as $300.
If money’s not an object, then you’ve got nothing to worry about. Otherwise, we suggest consulting your budget.
Firstly, letting your budget inform your purchase decision can help you filter out options that are currently out of reach. And that can help with homing in on the plugin that’s right for you right now.
Secondly, we advise against going into debt for any musical project related purchase. Spend conservatively, and if necessary, save up for the plugin you want. That way, you’ll get more enjoyment out of your latest purchase.
Top Tuner VST Plugins, Final Thoughts
If you’re looking for other instrument tuner VST solutions, then there are two places to look.
First, your DAW may have a built-in tuner of sorts, and if not, it’s possible that one of the plugins you already have comes with a tuner.
Second, you can also check out free tuner VST plugins. There are a few out there, and while they may not be anything spectacular visually, for quick and dirty tuning, they’re often adequate.
We hope you learned lots and found everything you’re looking for. Let us know how you get on with that tuner!