TC Electronic’s PolyTune polyphonic tuner is, in my opinion, one of the coolest tools out there for guitarists and bassists. Getting a good pedal tuner should take precedence over buying any other stompbox, and the PolyTune’s amazing accuracy, bright readout, and super-handy—and truly revolutionary—polyphonic tuning capabilities make it one of the clear winners in the pedal-tuner arena. But TC Electronic isn’t content to rest on their laurels, as evidenced by the company’s new PolyTune Mini—essentially a standard PolyTune model that’s shrunken for the space-conscious player.
Make no mistake: The PolyTune Mini is freaking tiny. Not so tiny that it’s difficult to see or use, but enough to turn a few heads when you break it out. It’s a hair shy of 4" long—noticeably smaller than the original PolyTune. Like its big brother, the Mini offers true bypass switching, but the switch has a smoother feel—gone is the clicking sound and feel of the switch in the first PolyTune.
The pedal packs in many of the same features as the bigger model, such as chromatic tuning with 0.5 cent accuracy, five semi-tone flat tunings, a bright and legible LED display, and, of course, the famed polyphonic tuning mode.
In addition to its super-small footprint, the pedal features the new version of the PolyTune software with Capo Tuning and a massively requested Drop-D mode. As I write this, the software update hasn’t been released for users of the larger PolyTune. All of the tuning modes can be accessed from a small grey button on the top right side of the pedal.
Since the pedal’s mass has been greatly reduced, TC Electronic had to forgo some features from the original PolyTune model. The first and most significant difference is that the Mini requires a 9V power supply at all times, so leave your batteries at home. Second, the extra jack for powering a daisy chain has been removed, so you can’t use the Mini to feed juice to your other pedals the way you can with the original. Also curiously absent is a micro USB port that allows you to update the bigger PolyTune’s software. This makes it impossible to upgrade the Mini to newer software revs.
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The PolyTune’s polyphonic tuning modes were pretty remarkable when the pedal first hit the scene, but the new Mini steals some of its thunder with more accurate software and a noticeably smaller footprint. That said, there are some considerations to take into account if you find yourself trying to choose between the Mini and its bigger brother.
Wielding a 2011 Gibson SG Classic, I purposefully tightened and loosened the tuning pegs in a random fashion, engaged the PolyTune Mini, and hit all the strings at once to activate its polyphonic mode. The screen readout was bright and legible with a distinct clarity I wasn’t expecting from such a tiny screen. It was really easy to make out each of the string’s readouts while I was standing up, and watch how they smoothly moved up and down as I began to tune the SG to standard pitch. Compared to my original PolyTune, the newest software was even more accurate. That’s saying a lot—one of the biggest strengths of the big PolyTune is its pitch-perfect tuning ability. With the new software, however, the accuracy has improved—not dramatically, but enough to prevent the “swaying” of the note readout when the strings are tuned directly on pitch.
The Mini’s range is designed to handle polyphonic modes all the way down to B, but it also works pretty well in single-note mode for tunings that go even lower. With a 2011 Gibson Les Paul Baritone already set to C standard, I was able to accurately tune the low string down to G before the tuner’s readout started to quiver with uncertainty. It took a bit longer for me to allow the string to vibrate open before the pedal could register, but after a few tries I was up and running with a bowel-shaking tuning.
The tuner’s new modes are really handy too. The Drop-D mode worked great for adjusting my SG to this heavier, more drone-friendly tuning, and the Capo tuning modes were as effective as I’d hoped.
The new pint-sized PolyTune does have some tradeoffs. Most players who gig frequently use power supplies, but some pack batteries for those shows where power outlets aren’t readily available, like on a larger stage. The PolyTune Mini requires a 9V wall-wart to function, simply because there isn’t any room to stuff a cell inside. I can forego that convenience, but I was disappointed to see the second power jack from the bigger PolyTune disappear. I’ve found it extremely handy to power other pedals from the PolyTune itself. If you already use a separate power supply, such as a Voodoo Labs Pedal Power, you needn’t worry, but if you rely on that secondary output jack to power your board, you’re out of luck with the PolyTune Mini.
TC Electronic has managed to improve on the already impressive PolyTune formula with this diminutive iteration, complete with their newest software all of us have been waiting for. To put it simply, the PolyTune Mini is one of the best tuners on the market, period. Its accuracy and readout are just as great as its big brother, which costs $10 more. But for the extra bucks, you can run on a 9V battery, and you get the ability to power your other pedals and update the software via USB. However, if pedalboard real estate is scarce, the PolyTune Mini is one of the best options out there.