The 6 Best Locking Tuners for Guitars (2024)
Tuners are often overlooked, however, having reliable tuners is vital to having a good-sounding guitar. Tuner mechanisms haven’t changed much in the last 100 years since they are considered to be perfected. But as always, people were looking to improve them further – thus came the locking tuners.
My top recommended choice is the Fender Locking Tuners. This is a quality-made set with a modest price tag from a renowned manufacturer.
My second recommended choice is the D’Addario Auto-Trim PWAT-332L. This is a budget-friendly set with an auto-trim mechanism for accurate tuning.
The 6 Best Locking Tuners for Guitars (2024)
Let’s compare these in more detail.
We start off this list with the classics. The Fender Locking Tuners are made by one of the best and most renowned guitar manufacturing companies in the history of the world. So, the quality of these shouldn’t even be taken into question.
These tuners will fit most Fender guitars, but beware that they have dual guide pin mounting – meaning two additional pins hold them in place and need holes on the guitar head. They come in four different colors and you can get them in traditional and vintage style to match your guitar.
The locking mechanism is in the form of a wheel on the back of the tuner. But, be aware that if you start to unwind the guitar, the mechanism will also unwind so you’ll need to tighten it up again. They come for a reasonable price, so you should really think about getting them whether you’re an amateur or a professional.
The D’Addario Auto-Trim PWAT-332L tuners are a great affordable choice. They come in three colors and can be used in both 3+3 or one-line setups on different guitar heads. The locking mechanism works the same as the previous one, with a knob on the back of the tuner.
The great thing about these tuners is the auto-trim option. When you change the strings, you tighten the locker knob. When you start tuning the string, the auto-trim scissors mechanism inside the tuner hole will cut the string at the exact time the string is tuned. So, there is no more need to bring scissors with you everywhere or to bend and fold the wire to make it neat.
For this price, this is a great buy for anyone, but professional players are probably in more need of tuners with these specific characteristics and options.
The Schaller M6 135 Tuning Machines are a nice set of premium locking tuners with the same footprint as the iconic original M6 tuners. These tuners are exceptionally durable, so, if you want stability and reliability, this is the pick for you.
Available in 3+3 and 6 in-line configurations, the M6 135s can accommodate your exact guitar headstock. With the 18:1 Velvet-Tec technology gear ratio and the LX6 lubricant, you’re looking at an aesthetic, precise, and fast set of locking tuners.
With two color options available (gold and chrome), the Schaller locking tuners are a reliable choice with good durability and price tuning. Naturally, the price is a bit on the steep side but nothing too crazy to not consider it.
The Grover 502BC Roto-Grip tuners are an excellent mid-range choice. They are great quality, modest price type of chrome locking tuning mechanism. They are made to try and fit all of the guitars, but of course, that can’t be done. That being said, they do actually fit a lot of the standard guitars and you can easily fit them into other heads with a bit of handwork.
Available in four different color options (chrome, gold, nickel, and black chrome), these tuners come with included mounting hardware and support a 3+3 headstock configuration.
They work in the standard 18:1 ratio, meaning you will have unprecedented precision when tuning the strings with these tuners. This is a great option for professionals or people who want to buy the best of the best out there on the market.
The Graph Tech PRL-8721-C0 locking tuners are on the high-end side of the list. This set of 6-in-line locking tuners offers fast and accurate tuning thanks to the infamous Graph Tech Ratio technology. These tuners ensure you get the same response from your low E all the way to your high E.
The beauty of this tech is that fast and precise tuning is seamless. With one full turn, you change one whole tone pitch, meaning that alternate tunings can be done very easily and extremely quickly. In addition, the InvisoMatch mounting plates that come included with the purchase allow for an easy installation process.
With a low-profile mounting design, aesthetically pleasing chrome, mini contemporary look, and 2-pin casing, the Graph Tech locking tuners are an option worth considering, if you have the budget!
The PRS ACC-4337 locking tuners are another modestly-priced option to consider if budget is your main limitation. This set of chrome locking tuners is not only affordable but also quality-made. With good durability and stable tuning, this is an option to consider if you own a PRS guitar.
The only downside is that these tuners are not universal but tailor-made for PRS SE guitars. They are a direct replacement for PRS-designed SE Tuners because Vintage Style tuners have a different mounting screw footprint.
It’s interesting to note that the gear ratio is 15:1. Also, they support a 3+3 headstock configuration. Considering everything, if you’re a PRS owner, this set would be an excellent choice that will not set you back a whole lot.
More about Locking Tuners
The locking tuner is a tuner with an added security clamp to tighten the strings and ensure they are in place longer than on the standard tuner. Because playing of guitar means that you are constantly plucking the strings, they are naturally being unwound from the tuner. But, if you use a locking tuner, you have an additional screw or clamp ensuring your string stays put where you tuned it.
Using the locking tuner has brought up a heated debate since its introduction to the market. On the plus side, they are meant to hold the strings better and improve tuning stability. On the negative side, people complain that they can make the head of the guitar too heavy because of the added nuts and bolts used in them.
Tuning stability is comprised of many different things with tuners being just one of them. For instance, if you choose to use cheap low-end strings with high-end locking tuners, you’re still going to get unstable tuning. Using the locking tuners can improve your tuning stability indeed, but only if you match it with all other parts of the guitar. Also, “added weight” from a couple of bolts is nonsense.
One great thing about locking tuners is the ease with which you can change your strings. There is no need to wrap all the strings slowly and painstakingly around each tuner and then turn them for ages until you get the strings where you want them.
With locking tuners, you just tighten the string as you need, pull it all the way through and just tighten the locking mechanism. After that, you just need to tune your string and you’re done in 10 seconds. Also, some of the locking tuners come with an in-built auto-trim mechanism, so you don’t even need to trim the strings after you put them in place.
Traditional tunes are still a lot cheaper than the locking tuners. Even though the high-end traditional tuners can fetch a big price, all in all, traditional tuners are cheaper. But, the price of the locking tuners is not that high, so that shouldn’t deter you from buying and using them.
I hope that this article has helped you with making a choice when it comes to locking guitar tuners. Even if they are a bit of a niche market, there is still a big choice, and you should consider the things I have mentioned in this article before buying them. But, there is no doubt that you will not go wrong with choosing any option mentioned on this list.
My top pick is the Fender Locking Tuners, a quality-made set with a modest price tag from a renowned manufacturer.
My budget pick is the D’Addario Auto-Trim PWAT-332L, a budget-friendly set with an auto-trim mechanism for accurate tuning.