All tuners are not created equal. If you have several instruments playing together, each of which has been tuned from a different reference, you end up with an open “G” being ever-so-slightly different on every instrument in the session, leading to muddy and indistinct sound that has nothing to do with your effects or amp settings. Good sound starts with the instrument, and improper tuning can’t be corrected down the line. For years, Peterson has made highly accurate strobe tuners that savvy studio owners know to keep handy. In November 2007, Justin Peacock had a great time reviewing the StroboFlip, a flip-open tuner that easily stows in a drawer. For this issue with its emphasis on guitar and bass, I took a look at the StroboStomp 2, which builds Peterson’s tuner technology—and a good-sounding active DI for easy tracking/reamping—into a handy and rugged metal stompbox. Getting started Hookup is easy: 1/4” guitar in, 1/4” unbalanced guitar out, and XLR DI out if you wish. Any regulated 9VDC standard-polarity power supply will run the StroboStomp 2, and a DC Output jack distributes power to other stomp boxes if desired. You can also use a 9V battery, although powering other stomp boxes from it will drain it quickly. The StroboStomp 2 has one obvious control: a big metal Mute switch. There are also recessed Menu and Select buttons for programming, and internal DIP switches to set the three DI/bypass modes (and lift the ground if needed). The first pedal mode has the DI and tuner always active, whether muted or not; the second leaves the DI on but turns the tuner off when not muted, to save battery power. The third mode is for extremely picky players who worry about what the tuner’s electronics might do to their tone, even when it’s supposedly turned off—it deactivates the DI completely, and hard-bypasses the tuner and turns it off when unmuted. A virtual strobe tuner takes about three minutes to learn to read. Once you’ve gotten the hang of watching the spinning display line up and steady when you’re on target, it’s hard to go back to other tuners with their moving arrows or needles. One thing you do have to get used to is that the Peterson isn’t designed for “yeah, close enough”. If you have an instrument with tuning or intonation/setup issues, the StroboStomp 2 is going to make them frustratingly evident as you struggle with tuning up and it stubbornly tells you that nope, you’re not there yet! All temperaments are not created equal Our traditional equal-temperament tuning system isn’t perfect by any means; setting 12 notes to evenly fill an octave involves making compromises in the relative pitches of notes, so that some intervals will sound better than others (e.g. fifths will sound more “pure” than thirds). Some instruments are better served by being tuned ever so slightly away from equal temperament, so that certain strings sound “sweeter” when played together. Peterson calls these specialized tunings Sweeteners; the StroboStomp 2 ships with 18 of them, plus four more the user can set up. You can even create a quick-access mini-menu of your favorites. Electric and acoustic guitars, DADGAD, and basses are only the beginning. Instruments set up with the Buzz Feiten Tuning System, a trademarked method for producing better intonation on guitars and basses, have their own Sweeteners so the tuner doesn’t undo the good work of the instrument’s setup. You even get two different Sweetener settings for 12-strings... one for the main strings and one for the octaves! There are three pedal steel setups, and Dobro setups for pure or half-tempered thirds—you have to hear the difference for yourself. You can set up the StroboStomp 2 for drop tunings, or for an instrument intended to be played with a capo (up to the seventh fret). These changes alter an instrument’s intonation, sometimes drastically, and the StroboStomp 2 keeps you on target no matter where you are. In practice I found these settings invaluable. In addition to working with guitarists and bassists, I play electric mandolin and mandocello, instruments normally tuned in fifths. The E-Violin mode let me truly nail those intervals and adjust my intonation beautifully on my Schecter A-5X. I even noticed that with truly perfect fifths, there was less sympathetic vibration and longer sustain on open strings! Tune it or die The StroboStomp 2 isn’t the cheapest tuner on the market by any means, but if you consider the active DI, it becomes a lot easier to justify as a studio expense... and the very first time you record a band where every instrument has been tuned with it, in accordance with each instrument’s specific needs, you may find the playback sounds like you’ve just had a bunch of wax cleaned out of your ears. Listen for yourself! Price: $309 ($199 street) More from: Peterson Electro-Musical Products, Inc., 11601 S. Mayfield Ave., Alsip, IL 60803. 708/388-3311, www.petersontuners.com.