Tuners

When I built my first guitar in1974 which, incidentally, I still have, I was under no illusions as to the quality of the finished product. In fact, I used an old set of Kluson tuners salvaged from a Gibson I had owned, thinking that I wanted to improve my skills before spending hard earned money on new machine heads.

Those Kluson tuners were not particularly good but still found their way onto some quality instruments of the time. This would probably not happen today, at least not on a hand built guitar. Interestingly, our choices are better now than they were 20 years ago. Back then, if looking for a high quality tuner, the choice was either Grover or Schaller (if you could find them). Things have certainly changed! Gotoh has become a big player and of course Waverly now practically owns the market for high end vintage style tuners. The following are my thoughts on these products based on my experience with them.

grover tuners

Grover

This company completely dominated the luxury tuner market before the 1980's. Unfortunately, quality control started to slip and consequently, so did their reputation. As a result, I rarely use them now except when requested specifically. I’ve always liked the style of the Grover Rotomatic and the new ones are nicely finished. Time will tell if they can recapture their place in the market.

Schaller

A fine if somewhat conservative company making quality products. The M6 enclosed tuner has been a mainstay on quality instruments for years and I have used them with great success. In addition to a well deserved reputation for solid construction, they are also very nicely finished.

Gotoh

I like Gotoh tuners and have used them for a long time. Though the finish quality in the past has not matched that of Schaller, the latest ones seem to have improved in this respect. Other than that, there’s nothing to fault here. Unfortunately they don’t seem to carry as good a reputation, especially in the US, which is a shame since they do make a very good head. The 510 series, in particular, is a beautiful tuner in style, finish and overall quality.

Waverly

Here’s a success story! Talk about filling a much needed gap in the market. These are beautiful, vintage style tuners that not only look gorgeous, but are made to the highest exacting standards. The whole package! To my mind, the best thing about Waverlys is their vintage look. For example, on my slotted head models (00012 and 0012), this is the exact look I want. Before Waverlys came along, the choices for this style of instrument were extremely limited. The downside for some people is the price. They are expensive but many others feel that when buying a handbuilt instrument, the extra cost of Waverly heads is worthwhile.

Waverly Copies

It’s worth mentioning two new players in this field. Both Schaller and Gotoh have  introduced Waverly style tuners in answer to this hot new market. I’ve just received a set of the Schallers and they’ve done a good job. Mechanically, they are not in the same league as the Waverly but should provide dependable performance for much less cost.

The Gotohs are very interesting from a couple of standpoints. Their mechanics are very good with no perceptible backlash. In this they fall somewhere between Schaller and Waverly. The other point of interest is that, unlike Schaller, they’ve chosen to keep the dimensions almost the same as the Waverlys. One could always start off with Gotohs and, if desired, could switch to Waverlys later on. A neat marketing move, I must say. The only difference is the location of one of the screw mounting holes, and this could be dealt with easily.

The Schallers and Gotohs are both priced much lower than Waverly and, as such, should have no problem capturing a place in the "vintage look" market.

There are, of course many other tuners on the market including some ultra high end ones but I’ve limited my discussion to products I’ve personally had experience with. Happy tuning!.

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