Peterson StroboClip

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

I've been using a Peterson VS-II strobe tuner for years and have recommended Peterson tuners to my friends and readers as among the few things in (guitar) life that fit squarely into the "must have" category. They are accurate enough for intonation work and they provide 'sweetened' tunings that compensate for the inherent flaws of 12 tone equal temperament (12 TET).

Even if you own one of the larger Peterson tuners like the now-discontinued VS-II or its replacement, the V-SAM, the StroboClip is still worth owning since it is battery operated, very easy to operate, extremely convenient, is used without cables, can be clamped onto whatever instrument you're playing at the moment, you can leave it attached while you play, and it provides accuracy that is just as good as its more expensive siblings.

Still, the StroboClip is relatively expensive for a Chinese-made clip-on tuner (nearly $70 street) and is partially constructed of flimsy plastic. Further, the clip spring is made from thin coiled metal (considerably thinner than the spring found on a common clothes pin) and, as a result, the tuner can slip around on the headstock, though, it will not fall off. A case could be made that the Peterson is simply out of bounds, after all, you could pick up other brands and models (all made out of flimsy materials in Slumsonesia) for less than half, right? True, but if you've seen any of the various clip-on tuner comparisons (here's just one example) you undoubtedly know that performance for this format is all over the place. What the other guys cannot give you is reference accuracy.

Update: it appears that some users with experience with both the Strobo Clip and the Snark are finding the latter to be a better deal.

In short, I have mixed feelings about this tuner: the upside is the tuning performance the downsides include the price, some of the materials, and gulag/police state manufacturing. Whether or not the StroboClip will hold up over time remains to be seen. (By the way, perform a Google search for 'stroboclip broke' and you'll see that, indeed, these tuners break. The company claims at one online forum that only the first batches were susceptible to falling apart but it's not at all clear that this is the case).

You might give the Snark a spin before you spend large on the Strobo Clip. Looks good for $15

Update: I was contacted by a representative of Peterson who took exception to my review. Here is his note and my reply:

While its always good to see a review of one of our products, and its certainly appreciated, let me put your mind to rest. I'll be brief, the StroboClip's display comprises of a high definition LCD screen, the tuner enclosure was constructed from aluminium (early versions), the  current  version is constructed from stainless steel,  and the rest is constructed from carbon fibre, hardly flimsy or cheap. As for sweatshops, have you ever been to China? I have. The majority of factories are new, often with much better conditions, better equipped and run than in the West.  I myself was made overseas and I feel fine at 50!  I'm not expecting you to change anything, but please check your facts before putting stuff on the web, people tend to believe anything these days, especially if its negative or anonymous. 
Best regards, John Norris Peterson Electro-Musical Products, Inc.

Hi John,
Thanks for contacting me....
My review was not "negative" but critical. Peterson gets props for what it does right. But this is not Guitar Player magazine where we just print what you tell us to.
1. The 'arm' that connects the tuner to the clamp is neither metal nor carbon fiber; it is simply molded plastic and the 'weak spot' in the design. It's standard disposability engineering.... A key component is made with cheap plastic...   
2. Whether or not workers in China "sweat" in the "shop" is missing the point entirely. I'm not arguing actual working conditions (in the factory that you use).... ...But shipping manufacturing to China not only deprives Americans of jobs but supports authoritarian regimes 'over there' and, in turn, supports authoritarianism 'over here.' .... Further, if you think China is a workers' paradise then I suggest you read the news a little more carefully. Currently, China is roiling in "guest worker" riots and police/security crackdowns against these workers. Peterson money is literally assisting the Chinese regime to brutalize Chinese and "guest" workers. I'm sure the factory where Peterson tuners are manufactured is a veritable paradise (and a lot better than the factory I used to work in) but it is nonetheless part of a manufacturing [and consumption] system ...  that is pathological. The only way you (or your competitors who also manufacture goods overseas) could deny this is by simply ignoring it... 
By the way, I'm not anonymous, I'm an institution.

Cheer up, depressed America! Peterson is creating wonderful manufacturing China. Wow, nothing quite as arrogant as bragging about the working conditions in your Chinese factory to your unemployed, underemployed, and underpaid consumer base in the States.

What really kills me is the notion of how great the working conditions are in Chinese factories, as if Americans have been saved from crummy, hot, terrible conditions by the forward-thinking Chinese and those warm-hearted capitalists in the US. You just gotta see those factories! Yeah, now that all our manufacturing jobs have been transferred to Asia and elsewhere Americans have more time to do things like stand around the unemployment line or enlist the military and enjoy the amenities that accompany life in a Middle Eastern combat zone. In short, no, I haven't been to China and taken the grand tour of the fabulous StroboMill, but I have been to the site of many abandoned and ruined American factories and the towns they used to support. (By the way, a major manufacturing plant here in town is closing, dealing another devastating blow to the regional economy while making some top executives filthy rich. When some of these former employees of our local plant show up in my neighborhood looking for work as "landscape design specialists", aka, lawn guys, or I run into them stocking shelves or cleaning floors at Target I'll be sure to ask them if they've been to China and seen any of those spiffy factories).

We'll see how enthusiastic John is about Chinese manufacturing when they outsource his job (searching Google for "stroboclip review") to China....Oh, wait, searching Google in a police state...looks like John has job security after all.

Anyway, the this tuner will get your instrument in tune probably better than the competition if you're willing to shell out $70 and are willing to accept the possibility that the low quality plastic stem (that connects the two high quality components) will break leaving you high and dry.

Again, try the Snark first and see if that doesn't get the job done before you step up in price.