Update (07 Nov 2016): SNARK Tuner ST-2 is the newer replacement model of SN-8, featuring a brighter display and faster tuning, both welcomed new features. All other features remain the same, so this review is still valid for both SN-8 (and ST-2) SNARK Tuner.
Being a mandolin and guitar player for almost 37 years, I got used to mainly use my ear to tune my mandolins and guitars. Nevertheless, there are some occasions where a digital tuner can be very useful, as for example when playing with a band or during a concert.
After a thorough research, I decided to buy the SNARK Tuner SN-8, and then post a review for my readers at theMandolinTuner.
My experience from using Snark SN-8(B) Super Tight All Instrument Tuner has been so far excellent. It allows me to tune my mandolin both at quiet and noisy environments very easily and has nice clear displays and excellent battery.
- Very accurate chromatic tuner
- Suitable for many instruments, including Guitar, Bass, Banjo and of course the mandolin
- Bright Display
- Rotating display, very flexible
- Metronome function not really useful, no problem if you are looking only for tuner
If you want a mandolin tuner always available wherever you are, look no further than the Snark SN-8. At first glance you will think that this miniature, light-weight tuner is only a toy for kids, but this handy tool is the perfect companion for guitarists and mandolinists alike.
I was really pleased with the accuracy, speed and user friendliness of this tiny SNARK Tuner, that you can use to tune not only at home but also at noisy environments, including gigs and concerts.
We assess “Packaging and contents” by checking the user manual completeness, whether batteries are included and any other including item.
- The tuner
- A battery (CR2032, 3 volt)
- A pouch, to store the tuner when not in use
- Booklet with clear, well-written instructions to use
I believe that using the pouch is a very good idea that will help you keep the SNARK tuner in good condition for many years.
We assess “Ease of Use” by testing how easy it is to switch-on/off the SNARK tuner, set it up, place it on the instrument and access its features.
- Setup is very simple.
- The User Interface is uncluttered, just one on/off button
- Advanced settings are done via hidden buttons at the back of the device
- On reset, settings return to default
- A coloured needle is lit to indicate the note played and how close to pitch you are.
As the SNARK Tuner SN-8 is chromatic, you can easily deal with non-standard tunings, as the Snark will read any note you play.
The instrument clamp is strong enough to secure the tuner on the instrument, but at the same time easy enough to use without any problem.
On the down-side, the needle sometimes moves too fast and does not remain stable, therefore it may prove difficult to understand whether to tune up or down. This may require some practice to do it properly.
We assess “Visibility” by testing to see if we can place the tuner so we can view its indications in variant conditions.
The SNARk Tuner SN-8 visibility is excellent, as it uses a very bright full colour display.
It also includes a “banana” shaped arm that connects the tuner to the clamp, for optimum viewing of the tuner display. Additionally, the tuner body rotates 360 degrees so the display can be placed right where you want it.
The problem with the method used to show that the string is in tune, i.e. by changing the colour of the needle, is that people with colour vision deficiency, i.e. inability or decreased ability to see colour, or perceive color differences, may have issues understanding if the string is in tune. If you do not have colour vision deficiency, this will not be any problem, but if you have, you may better select a tuner that lights the whole display instead of only the needle when the string is in tune.
We assess “Design”, by subjectively deciding if we like the looks of the tuner so much that we can leave it on the instrument while performing.
The SNARK Tuner SN-8 is a discrete tuner, that can be left on the mandolin during a concert or gig. The black colour and the simple and modern design enables it to blend in and disappear.
Caution is needed though, as leaving the tuner attached permanently to the instrument for a long time period could cause marring of the finish. The SNARK tuner is recommended to be removed from the instrument after you finish playing.
With the SNARK Tuner SN-8, things are looking good, since the power save feature conserves battery power.
- The tuner display will dim after approximately 5 seconds of no sound detected by the tuner
- The display will return to normal brightness when a note is detected
- If no notes are detected for 2 minutes, the tuner will shut off
I tested that feature and found out that in practice you never have to switch off the tuner, as it automatically switches off. Also, after almost 3 months of operation, there is no sign that the battery needs replacement.
The result: there is low probability that you will not have enough battery for your nice tuner when you need it!
We assess “Versatility” by checking to see if the tuner can be used in quiet as well as noisy environments
- a mic-based tuner
- a tuner that senses the vibrations of the instrument it is attached to
So, this tuner is a valuable tool for quiet environments, but is also the prefered solution for tuning in noisy environments (yes I consider a gig to be noisy!).
You will find the tuner to be extremely versatile, as it can be set for standard tuning, all notes, common alternate tunings or any custom tuning that you set. You can even set the reference pitch. The default reference pitch is A=440.0 Hz tuning, but pro musicians, especially classical musicians, can set the reference pitch from 415Hz to 466Hz. This capability can not match a mobile app tuner such as iPhone GuitarTuner, reviewed here, that can reach 392.0 Hz (French Baroque) or go all the way up to 528.0 Hz (DNA Repair). But, if you are not a classical mandolinist, this will not bother you.
Very interesting is the transpose feature, that can prove useful if you use a capo. Then you can push the “b” on the back of the SNARK and the front display will indicate a single “b”, which corresponds to having a capo on the first fret of your mandolin. In this setting,the 1st open string becomes “F”, but the SNARK will read it as a standard “E”, making tuning appear to be standard. Additional pushes of the “b” button will give you up to four flats, corresponding to putting the capo on the fourth fret.
Simply turning the tuner off returns to the standard tuning.
The SNARK has a built-in metronome, which is activated by a switch on the side of the tuner. One tap activates the metronome to a default setting of 100bpm, indicated by a flashing red heart on the front panel display. The tempo can be adjusted either by tapping the switch at the side of the tuner, or with up/down buttons at the back of the tuner.
Again, simply pressing the power switch at the front of the tuner, will force the tuner to exit the metronome function.
I found that the metronome feature is not really useful, as you need a metronome that uses sound in order to practice. You can not look at both your sheet or tab and the metronome at the same time, right?
Also, when compared to a mobile app tuner such as iPhone GuitarTuner, reviewed here, you find that the mobile apps provide additional features such as chord and scale charts which are very useful. You don’t expect that from a tiny digital tuner, I know, but still, having a complete chords database with you is a nice feature.