Whether to increase tuning precision or for aesthetic purposes, changing your tuning machines can benefit your instrument. What should one look for in choosing good tuners? Here are the four major aspects and the brands I prefer below. If you are clients at the shop you can of course see with us to order and install these on your instrument. We can offer tips and advice according to your needs.
THE INFLUENCE ON SOUND
What will actually affect the sound of your guitar is the weight of the tuners. Heavier tuners will tend to increase the length, or endurance, of the note (referred to as sustain). You can observe this phenomenon by going to the other extreme: headless guitars.
WITH OR WITHOUT BEARINGS
Increasingly in recent years we see tuners equipped with bearings. They are there simply to increase precision and “smoothness” of the tuning by the finger. If you buy a model over 100$ it’s a good option to pick.
THE GEARING RATIO
In a ratio of 16 :1 for example, it takes 16 turns of the button for every full revolution of the string post (or barrel). That means that a higher gearing ratio will offer a more precise tuning. If you’ve actually never paid attention to this detail, I don’t think it is necessary to focus on this point when making your choice.
STRING POST SPACING
Before purchasing new machine head tuners, make sure to check that your guitar has standard post spacing to avoid any suprises.
THE BRANDS I RECOMMEND
Personally, it’s my favorite tuner manufacturer. The design is simple and elegant. The lowest is priced is at 100$ and the pricier ones are around 280$. Durability is excellent, they’ve got with and without bearings and certain retailers offer a wide range of customizing options. I always propose these first on the guitars that I build.
Rubner offers beautiful tuners that stand out by their elegant design and their options. Personally, I find the value for money isn’t as good as with Gotoh, but I’ve many times been tempted by the aesthetic of their models. They also produce special models for 7-string guitars and others. I recommend checking out their catalogue, they’ve got regular updates!
These tuning machines are great, I’ve installed many and I love them. However, count on spending over 400$ for a pair of these. In deciding between Gotoh and Sloane’s higher end products, the choice, in my opinion, is mainly aesthetic.
Lastly, if you want the product of an artisan jeweller, brands such as Alessi propose magnificent models (1000$ and up).