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Top 6 Best Drum Tuners On The Market 2020 Reviews

Has this ever happened to you?

You set up your kit all ready for a gig and start soundcheck, and things sound terrible. Or maybe you haven’t played your kit at home for a while. You sit down to have a quick whack, and it sounds like you’re hitting cardboard boxes.

Best Drum Tuner

Now, maybe your drum teacher taught you how to tune by ear (if you ever took lessons?), but is it really all that fast and easy to do?  When the pressure’s on, a drum tuner can make all the difference.

So which is the best drum tuner for you? Let’s go through the best currently on the market 2020 and find out… 

Top 6 Best Drum Tuner Review

  1. DrumDial Drum Tuner – Best Over All Drum Tuner
  2. DrumDial Digital Drum Tuner – Best Digital Drum Tuner
  3. Tama Tension Watch TW100
  4. Tune-Bot Gig Digital Drum Tuner – Best Drum Tuner for Gigs
  5. Tune-Bot Studio Digital Drum Tuner – Best Studio Drum Tuner
  6. Cherub DT-20 Drum Tuner – Best Infrared Drum Tuner

1 DrumDial Drum Tuner – Best Over All Drum Tuner

The DrumDial is a tympanic pressure drum tuner.

This means that rather than measuring a vibration or a note, this tuner simply measures the tightness of the drum head. You move it around to each of the lugs on your drum and press the tension needle down. You’ll see immediately the tension level at each lug, so you just have to tighten and loosen until they’re all the same. Presto!

Now, does this make the drums sound great?

Kind of. First of all, the machine has to be calibrated. It should work very accurately out of the box, but with frequent usage, the machine will need to be re-set to zero. Luckily a small pane of glass is included for calibration. Press down on the glass, and there should be zero stretch, so the machine can be re-set to zero.

With a calibrated and very sensitive DrumDial, you can start tuning. They also include an “edge gage,” which is a spacer to keep the tuner the right distance from your lugs. But once all the lugs are at the same tension, this doesn’t necessarily mean your drum will sound perfect.

Why not?

Damaged skins might throw the machine off a little. But on top of that, equal tension on both top and bottom skins might give you too much reverb. So you should find the tuning that you think sounds best then record the tension readings.

The great thing about this kind of tuner is that it makes no noise. This is perfect if you have to tune without making a peep, especially between songs at a gig.

DrumDial Drum Tuner
Our rating:4.7 out of 5 stars (4.7 / 5)

Pros

  • Affordable, accurate, durable, and dependable.
  • Quiet tuning – no whacking necessary.
  • Manual, so no power supply needed.

Cons

  • No recording function to help remember your tunings.
  • Needs to be re-calibrated manually.

2 DrumDial Digital Drum Tuner – Best Digital Drum Tuner

The DrumDial manual drum tuner above is a great benchmark to measure all other competitors against. And what better to compare with it than a similar tuner made by the same company?

The people at DrumDial have a really solid product in the original drum tuner, so why bother to make any changes? Well, in fact, they haven’t touched much with this modernized version. The big difference is the digital rather than analog display. Well, that’s really it!

Or is it?

The big display is super-easy to read, and for people with eyesight issues, this can be a real winner. The display brings the price up, though, and it needs to be mentioned that the DrumDial Digital Drum Tuner is powered by a lithium battery that will last a long time but eventually will need replacing.

So there’s a tiny maintenance cost. But is there any real difference between the two machines? 

We had to know, so we put them head to head (geez, too punny!). And you know what? Nope.

It must be that the internal mechanism is the same, and the only difference is the display. Again and again, whether high toms or bass drums, we found the exact same readings at the exact same lugs every time. Only the digital display made it easier to see them.

DrumDial Digital Drum Tuner
Our rating:4.4 out of 5 stars (4.4 / 5)

Pros

  • Accurate, durable, and dependable.
  • Easy-to-read display.
  • As with its non-digital little brother, this is a great tuner if you need to tune in silence.

Cons

  • The display brings the price up enough to wonder if it’s worth it.
  • Lithium battery will need replacing once in a while.

3 Tama Tension Watch TW100

Well, if we use the DrumDial manual tuner as a baseline against which to measure all comers.

So, how does Tama’s little beauty, the Tension Watch, measure up? 

Tama is an internationally trusted name in drums, hardware, and accessories, so right away, we expected a quality machine. And we weren’t disappointed.

At a similar price point to the DrumDial, Tama offers what is essentially the same machine. We mean almost exactly the same machine!

A Doppelganger…

Aside from some color differences (let’s face it, the Tension Watch does look just a little bit cooler), the two tension drum tuners work in exactly the same way. Their readings were virtually the same on every lug on every skin on every drum we tested. They’re both silent tuners, both deadly accurate, and both quality machines.

There are only two differences worth pointing out…

First, the Tension Watch also has to be calibrated to zero now and again. While the DrumDial has a locking pin to do this job, on the tension watch, you have to turn the outer ring to set the dial. This is easier, but not lockable, so that a slip of a hand or careless transport could throw off your calibration.

The other tiny feature that’s lacking on the Tension Watch is an edge gage. Without this gage, you’re left to approximate the distance from the lug that you measure tension at. We found that this introduced some ever-so-slight differences when compared to the DrumDial.

Tama Tension Watch TW100
Our rating:4.8 out of 5 stars (4.8 / 5)

Pros

  • Affordable, accurate, durable, and dependable.
  • Quiet tuning – no whacking necessary.
  • Manual, so no power supply needed.

Cons

  • No recording function to help remember your tunings.
  • Needs to be re-calibrated manually, and calibration could slip.
  • No edge gage included for perfect accuracy.

4 Tune-Bot Gig Digital Drum Tuner – Best Drum Tuner for Gigs

With that, we can move on to a whole other family of tuners. The Tune-Bot Gig is a great representative of this category. Instead of measuring head tension, these tuners work like guitar tuners, helping you find the note or frequency you want for each drum.

So let’s call them drum note tuners…

The Gig is a perfect example. This tuner measures the frequency that your drum head vibrates at in Hertz (vibrations per second).  For example, a standard A2 note vibrates 110 times per second. With these tuners, you simply clip the machine onto your drum, choose the note you want, and tune up accordingly.

That sounds easy, doesn’t it?

Even if it doesn’t, Tune-Bot helps you out with a free App that can suggest tunings for your drums based on their sizes and how many you have in your kit. Great!

If it sounds like there must be a downside coming, there is, but only sort of.

Drum note tuners work on the tone of the whole drum. What that means for tuning is that you have to be careful to tune each lug evenly, because the tuner just looks after the overall tension.

Whack away…

Another very important point is that these tuners require whacking. You have to strike the drum, however quietly, in order for the machine to take a reading. To measure vibration, it has to vibrate! So it’s not always easy to tune inconspicuously.

However, the Gig is small and easy to use, inexpensive and accurate. And in a pinch, it can even be used to tune a guitar!

Tune-Bot Gig Digital Drum Tuner
Our rating:4.4 out of 5 stars (4.4 / 5)

Pros

  • Accurate and inexpensive.
  • Great Tune-Bot app to help you choose the best tunings for your kit.

Cons

  • Still requires ear work to tension all lugs equally.
  • Yo need to make some noise to operate.

5 Tune-Bot Studio Digital Drum Tuner – Best Studio Drum Tuner

If the Tune-Bot Gig is a basic, quality drum note tuner, the Studio is its fancy cousin. With both machines, you have to whack the drum to get a reading on your tuning. They have the same broad range of sensitivity from 30 – 400 Hz, or the notes C1 – G4.

But the Studio starts to offer more…

Both tuners can be set to measure the absolute frequency of each drum note, or the difference between your drums. But the Studio also has a third mode, which is crucial to superb accuracy.

Filter Mode cancels out the ringing overtones in a drum to focus only on the root or fundamental note. This is especially important in tuning up a snare or other highly tensioned drums. We found the Gig fairly accurate for most drums, but the Studio was exactly precise, especially when we tried it on a series of different snares.

But that’s not all!

Speaking of different drums, the other main feature you get from paying extra for the studio is memory. With the studio, you can save the ideal notes for up to ten kits, each with ten drums. If you’re a session drummer or playing around at a lot of different venues, you can program in the tunings you want for each kit you hit.

Alternatively, you can set different tunings for the same kit if you set up in different locations that might affect your sound. Or you can set different tunings for a single kit to switch to the best sounds for different styles of music quickly and easily.

Tune-Bot Studio Digital Drum Tuner
Our rating:5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Pros

  • Memory – save up to ten kits!
  • Superb accuracy and Filter Mode.

Cons

  • A bit pricier than your average tuner.
  • Runs on AAA batteries which have to be replaced.
  • Needs whacking to work.

6 Cherub DT-20 Drum Tuner – Best Infrared Drum Tuner

Finally, for comparison of drum note tuners, we took a look at the DT-20 Drum Tuner from Cherub. This is a tuner with a higher-end price from a relatively unknown company. So how does it stack up against the others?

Ummmm…

This tuner claims a range of 50-500 Hz. Well, let’s see. We tried it out on some loose booming bass drums, and it was satisfactorily accurate. But for tightly tuned mini-toms, things started to go downhill. At the 400 Hz and above range, we found ourselves turning lugs back and forth while getting confusing readings the whole time. Not great.

However, there is one really awesome feature with this tuner… 

The DT-20 has two modes for detecting your drum notes. Normally, you’d use a mic to detect the sound, just like with the Tune-Bot tuners. But what if you’re trying to tune in a really noisy venue without wanting to strike the drums hard?

The answer is an infrared mode to detect vibrations instead of sound. We actually found this mode worked better and more accurately than the mic mode in just about every instance!

At the same time, however, notes over 400Hz seemed to confuse this machine.

But there’s another big plus…

Rather than a lithium battery like the digital DrumDial, or replaceable AAAs like in the Tune-Bots, this made in China unit charges through USB. Of course! Now, how long the internal battery will last is something to wonder about, but at least for convenience sake, this is well thought out.

Cherub DT-20 Drum Tuner
Our rating:4.1 out of 5 stars (4.1 / 5)

Pros

  • USB chargeable.
  • Easy to use and fairly accurate.
  • Infrared mode cuts through the problem of a noisy venue.

Cons

  • A bit pricey.
  • Doesn’t work well at the advertised upper range of frequencies.
  • Requires whacking the drums to work.

Best Drum Tuner Drum Tuner Buying Guide

Best Drum Tuner Guide

As with any piece of gear, choosing the best drumkit tuner is not an easy task. That’s why we’ve done the legwork for you, bringing you a list of the best affordable drum tuners out there. But how do you ultimately choose the one that will suit all your specific needs?

Let’s find out…

Type

In this review, we consider two main types of tuners, tympanic pressure drum tuners (also known as tension tuners), and drum note tuners. The way they’re used is quite fundamentally different, leaving each with its own pros and cons.

  • Tension Tuners

Best Drum Tuner Tension

These measure the tension on the head at each lug. This means they’re great for getting a perfectly balanced tuning all around a drum. However, they don’t help you tune directly to any specific note, unless you’d ever tuned to that note previously and recorded the equivalent tension on your drum.

You also need to do some final ear tuning to get the perfect sound out of a drum, but can remember those tensions and tune back to them.

  • Drum Note Tuners

Best Drum Tuner Note

These measure the overall note of a drum. This means the tension on each individual lug is not necessarily going to be equal, and this could lead to slipping or detuning throughout the course of a session. However, these tuners are easy to use, quick and accurate to get a specific note out of a specific drum. That’s something you can’t just do on the spot with a tension tuner.

So which is better?

Of course, this depends on what you want and need. Tension tuners are accurate, and best of all, can be used without having to play your drums. If you need to tune efficiently and quietly, this may be your best bet.

On the other hand, if you have to tune up to new notes on the fly, only a drum note tuner can truly help you.

Durability

Is this piece of gear, which can cost upwards of $100, going to last? Simple construction and solid parts are key. So is calibration, especially the ability to quickly re-calibrate a machine even in the middle of a session.

For digital machines, battery life and reliability can also be crucial factors. If you’re planning a tuning change in the middle of a performance, you’re going to want to be sure your batteries won’t fail, or that you at least have a back-up.

Display

Best Drum Tuner Display

This is simple. Can you read the display clearly? Does it work in the lighting you’re going to need it for?

Price

Well, why shouldn’t it come down to price? Everything else does! If you can get an excellent, accurate, and dependable machine for less money, why wouldn’t you?

At the same time, a little extra can mean some convenient features like an easier to read display or memory capability. Those extra costs should be seen as exactly that – extra for your own specific needs or perks.

Looking for Other Ways to make your Kit Sound Better?

If so, check out our reviews of the Best Snare Drums, the Best Drum Practice Pads, the Best Kick Drum Mic, the Best Cymbal Packs, and the Best Dynamic Microphones currently available.

Or if you fancy a change from a standard kit, how about having a go on one of the Best Cajon Drums or even the Best Hang Drums on the market 2020.

So, what’s the Best Drum Tuner?

As always, to wrap up our round-up, we’re forced to pick a winner. And as always, it’s not easy.

The…

Tune-Bot Studio

…offers great features like Filter Mode and tons of memory, but it isn’t cheap. All the drum note tuners are great if you need to tune to set notes, but tension tuners distribute tension perfectly.

We have to give the overall crown to the simple, easy-to-use, no-nonsense…

DrumDial Drum Tuner

This little number is affordable, accurate, and can be used in any situation without making a racket.

That makes it our pick for the best tuner for drums you can buy!

Happy drumming and tuning.

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