Comparison of Snark Tuners for Guitars

One of the most popular lines of clip-on tuners for guitars are the Snark Clip-on Tuners.  These include the SN-1, SN-2, SN-5, SN-8, SN-11, SN-14, SS-20, HZ-1, and S-1, along with the variations in model numbers (such as ST-2, ST-8, and SN5X).  But which one should you get?  That is not an easy question to answer, in large part because Snark hasn’t done the best job of providing a detailed summary of the differences between the models.  What you need is a Snark tuner comparison to help you along.  So, below you will find a comparison of Snark Tuners, with a summary of the features, for your use in selecting the best model for you.

snark-sn-5x-view-1

When I first started playing, I noticed others using these tuners with their very distinctive look.  Everyone I talked to loved them, but I was a bit overwhelmed.  There were blue ones, and red ones.  Black ones.  I even saw one that was white and black.  Most were labeled “Snark”, but some were labeled “Super Snark”.  A quick Google search didn’t help much, so I dug deeper and the results are below.  I hope these help!

Features of Various Snark Tuners

Model

Instruments

Microphone

Calibration Range

Tap Metronome

Flat Tuning

Hz Tuning

SN-1

guitar, bass

415-466

Yes

Yes

SN-2

all

Yes

415-466

Yes

Yes

SN-5

guitar, bass, violin

SN-6

ukulele

SN-8

all

415-466

Yes

Yes

SN-11

all

415-466

Yes

Yes

SN-14

all

415-466

Yes

Yes

SS-20

all

415-466

Yes

Yes

HZ-1

guitar, bass

Yes

S-1

guitar, bass

 

A little clarification:

“All” instruments means it can be used for a wide range of instruments, so long as it can pick up the vibrations.  The one exception is the SN-2, which has a microphone (in addition to picking up vibrations) that can be used to tune band instruments.

A tuner with blank under Calibration Range means its reference is set to 440 Hz for ‘A’ and can’t be changed.  For those that can be changed, the reference range is show above.

Flat Tuning refers to the ability to change tuning for use with a capo.

Hz Tuning is the ability to tune based on actual frequency of the string being played.

Displays

One of the most obvious differences between models is the LED display.  Rather than me try to describe these, I’ll just show you.

SN-1                                    SN-2                                    SN-5

snark-sn-1-view-4      snark-sn-2-display       snark-sn-5-view-1

SN-6                                  SN-8                                    SN-11

snark-sn-6-display     snark-sn-8-view-1      snark-sn-11-view-1

SN-14                                SS-20                                   HZ-1

snark-sn-14-view-1    super-snark       snark-hz-1-view-1

S-1

snark-s-1-view-1

Clamps

Almost all Snarks use the same type of clamp, shown below on the left.  The only exceptions are the S-1 and HZ-1, which is shown below on the right.

   snark-sn-2-view-4             snark-hz-1-clamp

Additional Features

All of the models use the same battery type, CR2032, which will cost you about $4 to $5 locally (at least here in my town), but that might vary where you live.  They are available at Amazon for about $1 each (less if you buy a larger pack).

All models have Power Save features.  The screen will dim after 5 seconds of no inputs, and the unit will shut-off automatically after 2 minutes.

Cautions

Damage to Guitar Finish

Snark warns users to not keep the tuner clamped to the headstock all the time because the rubber on the clamp can damage certain finishes.  They specifically state it can damage nitrocellulose lacquer, polyurethane, French polish, and oil finish.  I have never personally seen finish damage, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.  In fact, if Snark offers such strong warnings, it must have happened, multiple times in fact.  So, my word of warning – tune your guitar then take it off and enjoy the beautiful finish on your headstock.

Battery Life

Despite the automatic shut-off after 2 minutes, if you tune and then start playing without waiting more than 2 minutes, the unit will stay on and try to tune.  The result – a shortened battery life.

Breakage

The biggest complaint lodged against Snark Clip-on Tuners is how delicate the ball joints are.  The head is attached to a banana arm, which attaches to the clamp.  Both of these attachments are with ball joints.  I love the design because it allows an amazing range of motion so you can position the head exactly how it works best for you.  The problem is that this design was not implemented as successfully as it could have been.  At each ball joint, there are 3 small pieces of plastic that hold the joint together.  Unfortunately, these can be broken off, rendering the tuner useless.  So, be careful!

However, there is hope!  It is possible to repair the joint if you can save the broken piece of plastic.  Yeah!  There’s a nice video on YouTube showing you how.

Guarantee

All Snarks have a 12 month guarantee.

Summary

The Snark line of clip-on tuners is very popular, in large part because they do a good job of tuning and are relatively inexpensive.  Hopefully, the above information will help you to choose the model, or models, that will serve you best.  If you have a comment, please leave it below.

Rock On!

18 Replies to “Comparison of Snark Tuners for Guitars”

  1. Marc Blandori says: Reply

    I just bought a couple of SN-1 tuners to replace an older version because it’s arm is glued and is rigid. I am particularly interested in the display on my new ones. My old one looks exactly like your photos of SN1-6. This new SN-1 I got has a much wider center green bar (very similar to the first pic of the black one in your article) and it seems less sensitive or accurate for really fine tuning. Maybe I’m just not used to it yet. I’m wondering if the displays on the SN1,2,5,6 have all changed recently. For now I prefer the old display and I’ll stick with until it totally craps out….

    1. Marc, thanks for the comment. The newest versions do have displays with a wider bar, and I agree with you that it seems less sensitive. Personally, I prefer the older displays, but I know other players who like the new displays and are satisfied with their accuracy. I guess it’s a matter of preference. Rock on!

  2. Dear Cade,

    could you explain me why get a tuner for a specific instruments when I can get a tuner for all instruments? What is the advantage getting a tuner for a specific instrument instead of a tuner for all?

    Thank you
    Ayline

    1. Hi Ayline! Good question – here’s my take on it. Some makers will add custom features to an instrument-specific tuner. Like alternate tunings for a guitar tuner. To my knowledge, that’s not the case with Snark. To tune my guitar, I’ve used at least four different Snark models, and all have worked well. Keep in mind that if you may want to tune a band instrument also, the only one that works is the SN-2 with the built-in microphone. I know that some guitar players will only use a model designed for guitars, but I don’t see the point in that. If you play in a group with banjos or mandolins or fiddles, invariably someone will need help in tuning, and having a model you can pass around is a real benefit. So, that’s my two cents. If you have any more questions, don’t hesitate to ask them. Thanks!

  3. Pete Martin says: Reply

    Is this Cade MIHS Class of ’83? In any case, great article. Pete Martin

    1. Hi Pete! First, glad you liked the article and thanks for the kind words. Second, sorry but I’m BCHS Class of ’78, which makes me a bit older, and I’d like to hope wiser (but probably not). Thanks!

  4. Thank you so much for making sense out of an annoying array of data! This article was exactly what I needed!

    1. You’re welcome!
      Cade

  5. Can you, with the HZ-1 do flat tuning for the use of a capo?

    1. Hi Hans. To my knowledge, the answer is no, it cannot. Sorry.
      Cade

  6. Hi I’m a little confused and hope you can clear things up for me!!! I just recently purchased a Snark SN-1 and struggled with tuning my guitar because it seemed to be picking up my voice as I was talking to my husband. I had watched a Youtube video where I were told the Snark would only pick up the guitar and no noise around unlike some very expensive tuners. Do you have any idea if my Snark is faulty or if this is something that actually does happen and you need a quiet room/quiet player until you are done tuning. Thank you for your time!!
    Rhonda

    1. Hi, Rhonda! I’d be confused too. One of the nice things about the Snarks is not having to be in a quiet room to tune. So, either your Snark is faulty, as you suspect, or you ended up with a model Sn-2 instead. It has a built in microphone and can sense sound either by vibration or the mic. If it has a button labelled “mic/vib”, then you have an Sn-2. Switch it to “vib” and see how it works. Otherwise, you might want to exchange it. Sorry for any problems this has caused.
      Cade

  7. Derek Van Artsdalen says: Reply

    If money were no object to, which one would you buy for your acoustic guitar?

    1. Hi Derek! Good question. The SN-2 is my favorite because it has the microphone. I’ve been in several situations where other instruments, like a flute, needed to tune and that microphone came in handy.
      Cade

  8. Hi Cade.
    Great article and thank you. I really love the Snark tuners but I and my band play in 432 and have to re calibrate down from 440 every time I turn the tuner on. I was wondering if any of the tuners stay set or if there there is a way to set them.
    Thanks for your help
    Cheers Mick

    1. Hey Mick! Good question. Unfortunately, none of the Snark tuners will hold their calibration pitch once they are turned off. In fact, the power button is how you reset the pitch to 440. There are other tuners on the market that will hold their calibration pitch, like Korg, but not Snark.
      Thanks,
      Cade

  9. Hey i’m learning to play guitar and Im looking for a good practical tuner. I see the hz-1 has smaller design and only has hz tuning highlighted in the chart. How is is hz tuning different from standard tuning and does it have any benefits over the other tuners. Would you recommend it just for its smaller design?

    1. Hi Davey! Thanks for the question about the HZ-1 tuner. This tuner allows you to tune in two ways, either the standard tuning (where the display shows the note name – like E or A) or in Hz mode, which allows you to tune each string to whatever frequency you like. For a beginner that may be too much, but it allows you to experiment with different sounds. The manual shows the target frequencies for standard tuning, to give you something to work off of. One caution, though – don’t overtighten, or you run the risk of breaking strings. That ability to target actual frequencies is what sets this tuner off from the other Snarks. The decision, to me, comes down to what features you might need in the future. If you might play in a group with other instruments then a tuner with a built-in microphone might be more suitable, for example.
      Thanks,
      Cade

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