Review: D'Addario NS Micro Soundhole Tuner

Tuning technology has been one of the most exciting developments in modern guitar-gear history.
Image placeholder title

Tuning technology has been one of the most exciting developments in modern guitar-gear history. It must have seemed unimaginable to early folkies that some magic electronic device could tell if a string was in or out of tune. Similarly, it’s hard to imagine a modern tuner providing an accurate digital readout in a more stealth package than D’Addario’s new soundhole device, the NS Micro Soundhole Tuner.

In my experience with the D’Addario NS Micro Headstock Tuner the main issue has been that—even though it fastens pretty darn securely behind the headstock—I sometimes wind up knocking it off putting a guitar in and out of its gig bag. The NS Micro Soundhole Tuner is a natural progression. It clips snugly onto the wood around the south side of the soundhole and stays there. Unlike the Headstock Tuner, which is completely plastic and fastens via an adjustable clamp, the Micro Soundhole Tuner utilizes a flexible metal strip on the other side of its non-marring, overmolded lip to ensure a tight grip. Might the metal wear the wood? It didn’t when tested on a nice Taylor, although the jury is still out as to whether or not that would hold true over an extended period of time. I’d say be careful, and don’t mess with it too much.

The NS Micro Soundhole Tuner is super discreet, a snap to operate, and is readily viewable only to the player. Ingeniously, the sightline to the display lies under the strings, and that’s perfectly natural to a player in either a seated or standing position. The device achieves chromatic tuning via a piezo transducer that picks up soundboard vibrations and translates them into musical notes. The transducer must be ultra sensitive because accurate readouts appear in nanoseconds. The luminous display indicates the nearest true note stoplight-style—yellow means you’re almost there, red means you’re sharp, and green indicates you’re good to go. I tried a variety of tunings from standard to open G, open A, and open C, and the Micro Soundhole Tuner tackled them all equally well.

Two easily accessible buttons are the only controls. The + button on the right of the display facilitates calibration from 435Hz to 455Hz. The On/Off button is located to the left. I wound up leaving it on continuously, because it’s so cool to get constant note readouts—especially in open tunings when the whole fretboard can become mysterious. I found myself learning notes for songs I’d been playing blindly for years. In fact, using the Micro Soundhole Tuner in conjunction with an NS Micro Headstock Tuner is extra fantastic for note recognition, because they provide a steady stream of accessible information whether you’re focused on your strumming hand, or glancing at the fretboard. Both devices operate on 3-volt lithium batteries, and both automatically power off after ten minutes of use in order to extend battery life. D’Addario claims a battery should last about 25 hours.

The Micro Soundhole Tuner works beyond traditional 6-string applications. Testing it on a Taylor 562ce 12-string was interesting. Carefully isolating each string, the Soundhole Tuner helped me whip it in tune swiftly. Curious, I explored other techniques. When I plucked the paired strings together, the tuner focused on whichever I plucked first—the higher octave string on downstrokes, or the lower octave string on upstrokes. If the strings were too far out of tune from one another, it threw the tuner off, and it would either give no reading, or bounce from note to note trying to make sense of the dissonant information. Bottom line: pluck the strings individually!

I tried to fit the Micro Soundhole Tuner into the f-hole of a Godin Montreal Supreme semi-hollowbody. It didn’t quite fit, but it will fit in larger f-holes, and, of course, on ukuleles and other acoustic instruments. D’Addario has also just released the NS Micro Banjo Tuner, designed similarly to stay affixed to the rim of a banjo behind the heel of its neck.

The “NS” designation stands for Ned Steinberger, who collaborated with D’Addario on its NS Micro Tuners. Steinberger has multiple revolutionary guitar and bass designs to his credit, and now he’s got another innovative accomplishment. The NS Micro Soundhole Tuner is practically perfection.

KUDOS Swift and accurate. Ultimate acoustic stealth.
CONCERNS Potential soundhole marring over time if installed and re-installed continuously.