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Do you wish your guitar had more tuning stability?
Would you love to be able to put new strings on your guitar without having to add multiple wraps to the string posts?
There are certain advantages to locking tuners, and many guitarists have found them helpful in ensuring consistency with their instrument.
In this guide, we’ll look at the best locking tuners for your guitar.
Table of Contents
Schaller Machine Heads – Original F Series Locking Tuner Chrome
Schaller is a known and trusted name in the machine head world, but to be fair, you could end up paying a little more for the brand as well.
Per manufacturer, these string tighteners should work on most if not all Fender guitars. Made in Germany, these chrome tuners have a got a gear ratio of 1:18.
Buyers were mostly enthusiastic about the Schallers, stating that they found the best results with these tuners over any others. Negative reviews were few and far between, so assuming these babies fit your guitar, you should be quite happy with them.
Item weight: 13.4 ounces
Package dimensions: 6.3 x 4.72 x 2.44 inches
Gotoh Magnum Lock-Trad 6 Inline Guitar Tuners, Gold
Gotoh is another well-recognized, well-regarded brand in the guitar parts space.
These tuners come with traditional thumbscrew style locking functionality, have a 16:1 gear ratio, and are sure to improve your guitar’s overall tuning stability. Manufacturer claims you won’t need string trees if you use these machine heads.
Customers liked the gear ratio as well as the quality of the Magnums. Negative reviews? We don’t see any.
Item weight: 1 lbs.
Package dimensions: 6 x 2 x 2 inches
Grover Roto-Grip Tuners (502G), A Great Tuning Machine
Buyers loved the quality of these machine heads, and many found they worked as drop-in replacements on their guitars. Some said they had to modify the drill holes on their headstock for these to work, but even then, ended up loving the tuners.
Some reviewers said they preferred other brands, and that’s certainly going to come down to experience and preference.
Item weight: 9.6 ounces
Package dimensions: 9 x 5 x 2 inches
Grover 106BC Locking Rotomatic Guitar Tuner
Here we’ve got some sleek, black Grover 106BC locking Rotomatic guitar tuners. These quality tuners come with a 18:1 gear ratio and are U.S. made.
Most buyers liked that the tuners were smooth, and the fact that they offered solid tuning stability. Apparently they are intended for Les Paul style headstocks, so that’s a good thing to keep in mind if you’re shopping for an axe with a different kind of headstock.
Item weight: 10.4 ounces
Package dimensions: 9 x 1 x 1 inches
Sperzel 3×3 TL Locking Guitar Tuners Chrome
So, how do these U.S.-made chrome tuners fare?
Most users loved them – even those who said they had to make small modifications to their guitar to be able to use them.
Item weight: 8.8 ounces
Package dimensions: 7 x 5 x 2 inches
Sperzel 6 Inline Locking Tuners Black
Here’s another Sperzel entry. And this time, they’re black.
The Sperzel inline locking tuners come with staggered tuning post height, which eliminate the need for string retainers. Manufacturer claims the hardware also improves tonal response.
Some users went so far as to say these are the best replacement locking tuners available. Many more were impressed with how their guitars stayed in tune after switching over to these.
Item weight: 5.6 ounces
Package dimensions: 5.9 x 4.8 x 1.8 inches
Hipshot Grip-Lock Vintage 6 Inline Staggered Closed 8.5mm Tuners With Universal Mounting Plate
We’ve still got a brand or two to explore in this guide, and first up is Hipshot.
The Hipshot grip-lock vintage tuners come with a universal mount plate for installation, which should eliminate any need for modifications to your guitar headstock.
These Korean-made string clamps come with 15:1 tuning ratio and sport a vintage look.
Users loved the quality of the tuners as well as their smooth operation.
Others found their guitar didn’t stay in tune with the Hipshots, but as we’ll explore a little later, your tuners aren’t necessarily to blame. And it depends on how much you’re expecting your locking tuners to do for you as well.
Item weight: 9.2 ounces
Package dimensions: 8.6 x 1 x 2.7 inches
Hipshot Grip-Lock 6 Inline 21mm Locking Tuners Universal Mounting Plate UMP Included – Chrome
These stainless steel Hipshot grip-lock inline locking tuners sport a modern, sleek look. These tuners come with a Universal Mounting Plate and a 18:1 tuning ratio.
Users were pleasantly surprised by these locking tuners, and loved that they were 18:1, staggered, and locking.
Meanwhile, some weren’t crazy about the quality, while others somehow ended up with the wrong tuners. If that happens, be sure to send them back for replacements.
Item weight: 9.6 ounces
Package dimensions: 8.5 x 2.7 x 1.2 inches
Planet Waves Auto-Trim Tuning Machines, 6 In-Line Setup, Black
Planet Waves is owned by D’Addario, and D’Addario, as you may know, is one of the main brands representing guitar accessories.
Here we have the black auto-trim tuning machines, which are perfect for tremolo use, and have a 18:1 gearing ratio as well as a limited lifetime warranty. You can find these in black, chrome, or gold, and they even clip the excess off your strings for you.
The good – users found these babies improved their axe’s tuning stability. They liked their overall bang for buck value, as well as their secure lock.
The bad – apparently, the tuners are good, but the included hardware is somewhat questionable. You may need to buy other parts separately for optimal performance.
Item weight: 10.6 ounces
Package dimensions: 4 x 2 x 6 inches
Grover 406C6 Rotomatic Mini 6 Inline Self-Locking Machine Heads
The shiny Grover 406C6 Rotomatic self-locking machine heads come with mini-buttons and a smooth gear ratio of 18:1.
Users liked the tuning stability, gear ratio, and design of these tuners. Some didn’t like the design of the locks though.
Item weight: 7 ounces
Package dimensions: 9 x 4.8 x 1.8 inches
Fender Locking Tuners
Fender makes everything guitar. And for those who just can’t settle on anything else, we have the Fender locking tuners, which are used on American Deluxe and American Elite Series guitars.
It seems Fender was prepared for all occasions, because these come in polished chrome, black, brushed chrome, and gold. You can also get standard or vintage style tuners for left- or right-handed guitars.
These babies feature an efficient 18:1 gear ratio, dual guide pin mounting, and mounting hardware.
Customers liked that these tuners helped their guitars stay in tune better, and said they were easy to install too.
Item weight: 10.4 ounces
Package dimensions: 1.7 x 10 x 4.5 inches
Guyker Guitar Locking Tuners
The Guyker guitar locking tuners come in black, chrome, and gold. These easy to install machine heads come with a 1:21 gear ratio.
The good – reviewers loved the look, feel, and functionality of these babies.
The bad – some buyers (although they were in the minority) said they experienced some string slippage with the Guykers.
Item weight: 8.8 ounces
Package dimensions: 6.2 x 2.3 x 1.3 inches
KAISH 18:1 Gear Ratio Guitar Locking Tuners Machine Heads
The KAISH 18:1 guitar locking tuners are available in black, chrome, and gold.
They claim to fit most acoustic and electric guitars, are easy to use, and durable.
Enthusiastic buyers liked the quality and value of these affordable tuners. Some said they were “decent” at best though.
Item weight: 8 ounces
Package dimensions: 6.1 x 2.4 x 1.3 inches
Musiclily Pro 3L3R Guitar Locking Tuners
Now we’re starting to get into budget options, which some users have still found a lot of value in. But as they say, you often get what you pay for.
The Musiclily Pro guitar locking tuners come in black and gold and are designed for Les Paul style electric or acoustic guitars (they will not work on Strats or Teles).
These tuners come with a Schaller style button and 1:15 gear ratio.
It would seem a lot of buyers liked the Musiclily machine heads, especially on acoustic guitars. Some said they were only good enough for lower end beginner guitars though.
Item weight: 9.6 ounces
Package dimensions: 6.4 x 4.6 x 0.05 inches
Musiclily Pro 6 Inline 2-Pin Full Metal Guitar Locking Tuners
These Musiclily Pro full metal guitar locking tuners are basically the same as the ones just covered, except that they are designed specifically for Strat and Tele style guitars (instead of Les Paul style guitars).
You can get these machine heads in black, chrome, and gold, and they have a gear ratio of 1:16.
Users liked them for their smooth turning and their price.
Some were disappointed with these machine heads, but surprisingly, they were in the minority.
Item weight: 9.5 ounces
Package dimensions: 6.81 x 5.04 x 1.42 inches
What Should I Look For In Locking Tuners?
Locking tuners are relatively simple devices. Unlike standard tuners, they “lock” the strings in place and don’t require many wraps around the string post during tuning. That makes replacing strings a much easier job than it would otherwise be.
Sometimes, locking tuners will eliminate the need for string trees as well.
Comparison shopping will yield some results. You’ll find locking tuners made of different materials, stylized with various designs, and equipped with different gear ratios.
Beyond that, there isn’t a whole lot of difference between each, though quality and build are a factor depending on how much you’re willing or able to spend.
In this section, we’ll examine several factors that will aid your buying decision. They are:
There isn’t that much to talk about here, but here we’ve addressed the main concerns as applied to these criteria.
In some cases, users have reported that they had to modify their guitar (e.g. drill holes) to be able to use their new locking tuners.
Although drop-in replacements do exist for most guitars, if you buy a set that wasn’t intended for your guitar, or if you have an off brand/unusual brand guitar, then your axe might be the exception.
But if you do buy locking tuners that can’t be dropped in, the choice is yours. You can send them back and find another set. You can install them yourself. Or you can do as I did and have a guitar tech install them for you.
Guitar techs do cost some money, but generally they aren’t exorbitant.
Fit is important to the extent that you’re aware of what you’re buying but assuming you know what to expect going in, you can purchase whichever tuners you want.
There isn’t a whole lot to say about functionality. Locking tuners basically all do the same thing. They lock the headstock end of the string in place, which gives you tuning stability, and allows you to benefit from it without having to wrap your strings around the posts, multiple times.
With that in mind, as with any other piece of gear, the quality of the product does make a difference. In general, you get what you paid for, which isn’t to say there aren’t some solid low-priced options, as the ones shown above.
So, it’s worth combing through your options instead of impulse buying.
The design of the locking tuner is going to make a difference in terms of esthetics, which might seem like a superficial consideration.
In a way it is, but if your guitar is equipped with chrome tuners, then you might want to stick with chrome tuners.
There are certainly some situations where you might switch from black tuners to gold tuners, for instance, but hopefully that’s conscious choice rather than an accidental one.
So, make sure to get what you want in terms of design.
The price of tuners varies a bit, from about $20 to $110 or more. Certainly, you can probably find cheaper and more expensive tuners if you go looking for them.
Although we don’t think buying tuners will break the bank, we always like to warn against overextending yourself, as it’s mostly pointless at this price point.
Unless you’re in immediate need of tuner replacements, you can always save up for whichever product you like best. So, take your time, choose well, spend responsibly, and you should be happy with your selection.
What Are The Best Guitar Tuner Brands?
There are many brands that make guitar tuners and guitar pots, some of which weren’t covered here. But some of the best ones are certainly represented. Let’s take a quick look at the best brands.
If you know what aftermarket locking tuners are, then there’s no way you don’t know about Schaller.
They make machine heads, bridges, tremolos, S-locks, megaswitches, preamps, pickups, and other guitar parts and accessories.
Gotoh is another well-recognized brand in guitar hardware and accessories. This Japanese company has been around since 1960.
They make tuners for guitar, mandolin, banjo, and ukulele. They also manufacture tremolo units, guitar and bass bridges, and other accessories.
Grover claims to offer the “world’s finest machine head” and was founded in 1922.
They make tuning keys, accessories (like strap buttons, strap locks, capos, nuts, humidifiers, truss rod wrenches), and more.
Sperzel USA was created by Ron and Bob Sperzel. They have a factory in Cleveland, OH.
They make tuning machines for guitars and basses, as well as accessories and replacement parts.
Hipshot Products was founded by inventor Dave Borisoff in 1982 in California.
Hipshot makes bass and guitar hardware, including bridges, tuning machines, saddle sets, and a great deal more.
D’Addario and Planet Waves are both well-known brands in the guitar space. This relationship is easier to understand now that D’Addario owns Planet Waves.
D’Addario is a big player in this space, and they make parts and accessories for guitar, percussion, orchestral, woodwinds, and more. They are most known for their strings.
It’s quite unlikely that you don’t know Fender, but they are the makers of the legendary Stratocaster and Telecaster guitars, as well as the Twin Reverb, Bassman, and others.
Fender makes guitars, basses, amps, effects pedals, audio systems, parts, accessories, clothing and more.
Is It Worth Replacing Standard Tuners With Locking Tuners?
If you have a double-locking tremolo system (i.e. Floyd Rose), then the answer is basically “no.” I wouldn’t say the locking nut renders the locking tuners useless, but that’s close to accurate, as the Floyd Rose system is designed to help you keep your guitar in tune, even if you make extreme use of the whammy bar.
Meanwhile, a lot of guitarists with non-locking tremolo guitars love using locking tuners. Locking tuners can provide additional tuning stability. They can also make changing strings much easier since you don’t need extra string wraps around the posts.
How about non-tremolo systems? Even here, locking tuners can be of some benefit and provide additional tuning support. We all know that guitars don’t keep perfect tune, so any device that helps you achieve this end is considered valuable by some.
Some guitars come with locking tuners. It’s always worth checking because it’s entirely possible your guitar is already equipped with them.
There are some perceived downsides to installing locking tuners on your guitar. I say “perceived” because not everyone encounters the same issues or agrees on them. But I’ll summarize the issues here:
- Locking tuners don’t solve tuning issues. A locking tuner is not a locking bridge. So, while it may help with tuning stability overall, and reduce string slippage, it certainly won’t solve any other issues your guitar might have. The nut, bridge, and headstock can all be culprits of tuning problems.
- They’re unneeded. Some guitarists basically argue that locking tuners are just overkill. If you know how to restring your guitar properly and get the right number of wraps around the posts, you shouldn’t experience any issues overall. Basically, the argument here is that less is more, though I don’t agree 100% with that assessment.
- It can make your headstock heavier. I think we’re splitting hairs at this point, because the amount of weight locking tuners could possibly add to your headstock could surely be measured in ounces, and even micro-ounces at that!
- You may need to modify your guitar. Not all locking tuners fit all guitars. So, you may need to make changes to your guitar (e.g. drill holes) to be able to install your chosen tuners. Okay, but most of the time, you should be able to find tuners that work as drop-in replacements. If you’re set on using a specific set of tuners that don’t fit your guitar, that’s basically the only time you’d need to make changes to your axe (and that's a choice only you can make).
Do Locking Tuners Make That Much Of A Difference?
Although I’ve already answered this question indirectly, I thought it might be worth addressing head on.
Overall, locking tuners do not make much of a difference.
The two main benefits are that they should improve your guitar’s tuning stability and make it easier for you to restring your guitar.
Some locking tuners will clip the excess off your strings, which can be an added benefit depending on the product.
Ultimately, I feel the benefits of locking tuners outweigh their shortcomings. And I honestly don’t feel there are many downsides if any at all.
If you were to ask whether they make $20 to $110 worth of difference, I would basically say “yes, but no more.”
So, if you want to address your guitar’s tuning issues, and want to improve the consistency of your tremolo-equipped guitar, you should enjoy the benefits of locking tuners.
Best Tuning Machines, Final Thoughts
Who knew there would be so much to know about locking tuners?
If you were looking for more information regarding locking tuners, so you could figure out whether they were right for you, we hope you found the information you were looking for.
And, if you were shopping for locking tuners, we hope you found a product that’s right for you.
If you’re still looking, then as always, we wish you happy shopping!
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