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TC Electronic Polytune 3 review

TC Electronic Polytune 3 review

by 2017/06/14


Product Name

TC Electronic Polytune 3


• Competitively priced
• Chromatic and poly tuning
• Tough enough for touring
• Buffered and true bypass operation
• Easy to use


• Chromatic tuning mode is still what I ended up using most of the time

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TC Electronic have hit the nail on the head with the Polytune 3, which has multiple modes, a tough build and is a breeze to use.

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TC Electronic recently released the Polytune 3, which is an updated version of their world-first polyphonic tuner for guitar. The pedal is designed to free you from the tedious one-note tuning we’re all familiar with, and has a raft of other advanced features. We got our grubby mitts on the fancy bit of tech and gave it a thorough road-testing. I recently did a run of shows with it, and it managed to survive some knocking around and beer soaked stages. But did it perform as advertised… You betcha!

New Polytune won’t break the bank

The Polytune 3 will set you back $99. For some comparison, the Boss TU3 Chromatic Tuner Pedal costs $95, and that of course is not polyphonic. So despite the advanced tech in the Polytune 3, TC Electronics have kept the pedal competitively priced. The Boss TU3 is the world’s top selling tuning pedal, so I’ll compare it directly to the Polytune a little further into the article. But for now I’ll start with the features of the Polytune 3.

TC Electronic pack two pedals in one

TC Electronic Polytune 3 header

The TC Electronic Polytune 3 in chromatic mode.

The big upgrade for the Polytune 3 is the inclusion of switchable true bypass or buffered modes. So it’s now flexible enough to fit into a range of pedal set-ups with ease. TC Electronic have crammed the circuit from their BonaFide Buffer pedal into the new Polytune, so you’re basically getting two pedals in one. The Bonafide Buffer ($65) is an analog build designed to preserve your tone across long cable runs. The Polytune’s switchable modes can be accessed by opening the rear cavity of the pedal, which is easy to do, although you will need a screwdriver. It’s a smart move to put it inside the pedal, because it’s not the type of thing you want accidentally switched if the pedal is knocked around.

The buffered mode of the Polytune 3 can run in ‘always on’ mode, so you can check your tuning without muting the pedal. TC Electronic have also included a strobe mode for high accuracy tuning. The chromatic mode tunes at 0.5 cent accuracy while the strobe offers ±0.02 cent accuracy.

Polytune 3 is reliable and easy-to-use

Every gigging guitarist wonders about how to tune a guitar on stage effectively. Putting faith in a cheap clip-on guitar tuner like one of these or doing it by ear can be more of an ordeal . During a live performance, it has to be reliable and easy-to-use. Fortunately, the Polytune 3 ticks both boxes, and it’s a nice looking piece of kit too. The tuner display is large, bright and easy to read onstage and off. The whole thing is built like a tank and I can’t really imagine how you could break it, short of dropping something extremely heavy directly onto the display. There’s a three-year warranty for the pedal in any case.

I found the chromatic mode easier to use than the polyphonic mode, as you get the whole display devoted to a single note. The polyphonic mode only gives you a limited number of bars to tune with. It is handy though for a quick check between songs or to do a ‘once-over’ before doing each string individually.

You can set the tuning pitch as well as accessing alternative tunings for the polyphonic mode via buttons on the top side of the pedal. There’s a single sheet quick-start guide in the box which explains how to use these functions. You better hope you don’t lose it before you memorise it though as the pedal itself doesn’t indicate how to access them that clearly. There’s always the online manual as a back-up though.

TC Electronic Polytune 3 vs Boss TU3?

TC Electronic Polytune 3 rear

The rear panel of the TC Electronic Polytune 3.

Prior to using the Polytune 3, I was using a Boss TU3, and believe me the Polytune is much better. The Polytune’s display is clearer and less cluttered, and there’s the obvious advantage of polyphonic tuning. The Boss TU3 has a ridiculous feature that makes it display the notes as normal, but actually tune them all a semi-tone flat. As you can imagine it can result in quite a big inconvenience in a live show if the button is pressed accidentally and you don’t immediately notice. The alternative tuning mode is implemented in a more user-friendly way on the Polytune 3, which is the main reason why I prefer it over the Boss TU3.

Related: Finding the best Boss delay pedal

TC Electronic onto a winner with Polytune 3

So what’s the verdict on the Polytune 3? In my book it’s a winner. I had no problems with it using it in a variety of live contexts. It’s tough, easy to use and features a range of handy features. Highlights include the switchable buffer/true bypass feature and the multiple tuning modes. It’s not cheap but it’s not that much more expensive than other flagship tuning pedals offered on the market.

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  • Quickly get in tune with polyphonic, chromatic and strobe tuning modes
  • Built-in all-analog Bonafide Buffer circuitry preserves your tone through long cable runs and convoluted pedal boards
  • Polyphonic tuning lets you tune all your strings at once
  • Lightning-fast chromatic tuner offers 0.5 cent accuracy
  • Ultra-precise strobe tuner gives you ±0.02 cent accuracy for ultimate tuning performance
  • Exceptional buffer keeps your tone transparent and crisp with a 1 MΩ input, 100 Ω output and extremely high >112 dB signal to noise ratio
  • Switchable true bypass / buffer modes let you optimize signal integrity for any setup
  • "Always on" tuning mode keeps tuner on and detecting your strings, even when not muted
  • Super-bright 109-LED display and an ambient light detector provide an instant clear readout in all viewing conditions
  • Automatically switches between polyphonic and monophonic tuning modes based on how many strings you play

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About The Author
Stephen Charlton
Stephen Charlton is a musician, journalist and editor.

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