Changing tuners can be a risky business unless you are careful. It isn’t just a case of seeing some tuners you like the look of and buying them. Finding the Best Locking Tuners for Stratocasters will involve making sure they are compatible with the guitar.
This means how they are designed. For example, Gibson has a three by three configuration. Three on each side of the headstock. Tuners that are designed for this configuration won’t work on your Strat. Or on a Telecaster either, for that matter. The Fender headstock needs tuners designed for the traditional “six in a line” configuration.
Also, you will need to ensure the shaft hole sizes will fit. There can be variations. The size you will need is 10mm. If you see vintage tuners, it may be that they are using the original spec size for the peg holes. The original Strats used 8.55mm against the 10mm used today.
Brand and Price Point
Most will naturally think of Fender as the obvious replacement. But like just about everything in the Fender catalog, these days, standards have dropped. Other manufacturers may likely produce better-quality tuners.
That is not to say that all Fender tuners are bad, far from it. Just don’t get carried away with this idea that because it has Fender written on it, it will be good. Those days are long gone.
The Price will depend on a lot of things. But you will find some budget options. If you are on a tight budget, there will be some reasonable tuners at a decent price point. Having looked at those issues, let’s take a look at what is around, starting with an excellent set of tuners from Fender themselves…
Top 6 Best Locking Tuners for Stratocasters of 2023
1 Fender Stratocaster Locking Guitar Tuners – Best Fender Locking Tuners for Stratocasters
These may well be the best tuners that Fender produces for their Stratocaster. They should know how to make tuners for their iconic guitar, after all.
All-metal with a good quality polished chrome plating; these certainly do look nice. They add to that classic look by giving the tuning caps a satin finish.
They have attempted to stay as close to the look of the original designs as possible. I am sure that is going to appeal to the Fender enthusiasts. They have 10mm fixing holes, not the vintage 8.5mm. In my view that is a good design decision.
They have been designed as a “drop-in” solution, and the standard sizes all around make them easy to fit. They will be compatible with both American and Mexican-made guitars.
A Staggered design
One of the flaws that Fenders are sometimes criticized for in their guitar design is the lack of any break angle at the headstock. The staggered design of these tuners goes a little way to overcome that problem.
Some say it will improve the tone, etc. I am not sure about that. But it is probably going to cut down on early string breakages. They have a standard nineteen-to-one ratio for the gearing.
The Locking Mechanism
The design of the locking mechanism has made it easy to use and gives a strong and stable base. Re-strings will be quick and painless. You don’t need to wind the string round and round the peg.
Instead, you can just cut off the string at a length a little longer than you need. Then insert and tighten the locking system to hold the string in place as you wind. They come with all the tuner caps, screws, bushings, and other mounting hardware you will need.
- Good materials with an established style.
- Easy to install and have a good locking system.
2 Gotoh Locking Vintage Oval Knob 6-In-Line Tuners – Best Vintage Locking Tuners for Stratocasters
If you are into dressing up your Strat in its original clothes, then these tuners from Gotoh are going to be of interest. These give off a definite retro vibe and have that “Kluson” look.
The original Kluson tuners
One of the original Fender Strat tuner designs, the Kluson Deluxe series, is part of that vintage look that so many now demand. The originals were on Fender guitars, but you also found them on Epiphone, Rickenbacker, Gibson, Guild, and Martin, to name a few. These are locking versions of that original design.
Vintage tuners can lose their tune
There are some criticisms directed at manufacturers and their “vintage style” tuners. And they can be prone to slipping and losing tune quickly. Gotoh has tried to address that problem with this set of tuners with their locking mechanism.
These machine heads have good stability and retain intonation with an excellent turning response. In improving the mechanism and enhancing their performance, they haven’t lost that vintage-like look.
The design includes that classic oval knob design and the stamped housing. They have a fifteen-to-one gearing system. Likewise, they come with mounting screws and press-fit bushings.
Peg Hole size
It will be advisable to check the peg hole size on your Strat. The info lists a peg hole size of 8.73mm for these tuners. There may need to be some adjustments to the peg holes on some instruments.
- Vintage style Kluson series look.
- Oval knob with secure locking mechanism.
- May need some peg hole adjustments.
3 Schaller Machine Heads Original F Series Locking Tuners – Best Value for the Money Locking Tuners for Stratocasters
Helmut Schaller set up his company in Germany amidst the devastation at the end of the Second World War. Somehow he managed to prosper. The quality of his products soon began to receive worldwide attention. It wasn’t long before Fender, Gibson, Ovation, and Martin all came knocking wanting to fit them on their instruments.
A Direct Replacement
They are an exact replica with the original dimensions of the original designs produced by Schaller himself. The Schaller company owns the patent, and these just fit exactly into place as replacements.
They are an all-metal build with a chrome finish. It is a very plain design with nothing fancy. The good thing about these tuners is they work, and they work well. But if you are looking for something fancy in its design, it won’t be there.
They are popular amongst pro guitarists and therefore must be considered as one of the Best Locking Tuners for Stratocasters. They have an eighteen-to-one ratio. The bore is 9.8mm.
A Different operation
These tuners work slightly differently from most of their competition. You don’t wrap the string around the peg. These are the original ‘F’ series Stratocaster tuners. They are not the imitation ‘Schallers’ that Fender sometimes places on their guitars these days.
The Fender option is made by Ping in China. The “real” Schaller tuners are made in Germany. A little more expensive than most, but you are paying for the quality. Tuners don’t get much better than this.
- Precisely engineered with a plain chrome finish.
- Quality exact replacements for your Strat.
- Some might think them expensive.
4 Hipshot Grip-Lock Vintage 6 Inline Staggered Closed 8.5mm Tuners – Best Grip-Lock Tuners for Stratocasters
These are a set of locking tuners from Hipshot. They have a vintage design and so have the traditional 8.5mm headstock holes. This was a design used on the early Strats. Today’s modern Strats feature a 10mm hole. You will need to check your instrument to see which size is on your guitar.
The locking mechanism features a grip-lock pin with a thumbwheel system. That clamps onto your string. No wraps are needed. These are a similar design to the Schaller M6 tuner. They have a staggered post design. This will give an efficient break angle over the nut. They have a fifteen-to-one gearing ratio.
Additionally, they come with a Universal mounting plate, which means you may not need to drill the headstock. As a result, these are some of the most versatile locking tuners for Stratocasters you can buy. They are made in Korea and set at a decent price point.
- Efficient locking system.
- Similar in design to the Schaller M6 tuners.
- Check the peg hole size.
5 Graph Tech PRL-8721-C0 Ratio Electric 6-In-Line Locking Tuned Machine Heads – Best Premium Locking Tuners for Stratocasters
Graph Tech is a Canadian company that also has a high reputation for producing quality machine heads. This set of replacement tuners have an interesting design, especially if you like to experiment with alternate tunings.
String reaction to the turn
Graph Tech has devised a mechanism that means that every string will react in the same way to a turn of the peg. Each tuner has a specially designed gearing ratio.
This is a system that gives you one full tone or full step for every full turn of the cap. This applies to each string individually. The result of this design is that if you want to change your tuning quickly, it is easier to do so. Furthermore, these are some of the most precise locking tuners for Stratocasters on the market.
But the clever gearing ratio is in addition to their general performance as tuners. Graph Tech is known for making high-quality products, and this is a good example. They are stable, and the build quality makes them durable and long-lasting. And the intonation is excellent.
A quality replacement tuner, but slightly above the average cost-wise. Nevertheless, it’s a quality tuner that should be considered as one of the Best Locking Tuners for Stratocasters.
- Well made with good materials.
- Specially designed individualized gearing for each string.
- Some may find them a little expensive.
6 Dopro 6 Inline Vintage Style Locking Tuners – Best Budget Locking Tuners for Stratocasters
Let’s close our look at replacement tuners for Stratocasters with the Dopro 6 Inline Vintage Style Locking Tuners. If you are on a tight budget but need to find some decent tuners for your Strat, then these might do the job.
We should make mention very that these are once again a “vintage” design. That means they have the original spec measurements for the peg holes of 8.5mm. They will therefore not fit the later standard size of 10mm holes as a drop-in. You will need to use conversion bushings to make them fit. The bushings are supplied as part of the package.
These are self-locking tuners that operate with the tension of the string. That makes them a good option for use on guitars with a vibrato as they will help to keep it in tune. They use a traditional thumbwheel-style locking mechanism. They have a fourteen-to-one gearing ratio and string through posts.
The package contains all the bushings, as I said, and the screws that you will need for a basic replacement fitting. They represent good value for money and have a nice aesthetic with their pearl-colored caps.
- Good-looking vintage-style machine heads at a cost-effective price.
- String tension operation.
- Some may want higher quality.
Replacing Your Stratocaster Tuners
As I said in the beginning, replacing the tuners on any guitar can be a risk and problematic. This seems to apply to a greater degree to Fender guitars. The in-line, six-in-a-row idea looks good, and it has its style. But it has always been a potential problem area.
The lack of any real break angle at the headstock can lead to certain issues. Some tuners carry a staggered design which eliminates the string “trees.” These were always a bone of contention. The staggered design then is something to look for. The Locking systems vary as well. Some prefer one system over another, but generally speaking, they all function well.
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What are the Best Locking Tuners for Stratocasters?
Going for a vintage design has its visual benefits if you like that sort of thing. But be aware, on the early Strats, the peg hole sizes were about 8.55mm, today they are 10mm. You might need some help with fitting those if they don’t come with bushels for fitting.
For me, if we’re going to fit replacement machine heads to a Fender Stratocaster, then I would choose the…
A quality product that has served Fender Strats well for quite some time.
Until next time, let your music play.