I first learned about Tronical automatic tuning systems at a NAMM show many years ago. The inventor, Chris Adams, not only struck me as a brilliant guy with an amazing product, but he introduced me to Uli Jon Roth in his booth, thereby achieving permanent cool dude status in my eyes. What I saw was a motorized tuning system that would, at the touch of a button, spin the machine heads and tune the guitar to any one of several tuning presets. It was really impressive, but at the time, required a fairly serious modification to the instrument.
For many, their first glimpse of the Tronical system was in 2007, on the Gibson Robot Les Paul, a guitar that generated a tremendous amount of buzz in the industry. Since then, Adams has been refining and improving his system, which brings us to the TronicalTune ($299 direct) reviewed here. This system has everything players loved about the original with none of the things that made them hesitant. In short, it is totally unobtrusive, installs in less than 20 minutes, and requires no modifications whatsoever to most guitars. I was intrigued, so I decided to put one on my favorite Strat.
I had Gary Brawer perform the install, which required removing the tuners from my ’50s reissue Strat neck and drilling the holes out to accommodate the Tronical tuning machines. (It’s important to note that this step is only necessary on Strats with the small ’50s-sized tuners. The Tronical tuners are a direct retrofit for any modern tuning machines.) Once the old tuners were off, Gary placed the brain of the system, the contacting PCB, on the back of the headstock. He then placed the tuners or Roboheads through the headstock, gently tightened them, inserted the lithium ion battery in its slot, and that was it. Then it was time to string the guitar and put the system through its paces.
The TronicalTune comes with special locking tuners, and there is a method to proper stringing. Essentially you need to pull the string on the lower half of the post, guide it through the notch or “recess” on the middle of the post, and then wrap it on the top half of the post where you can lock it by turning the lock nut with a penny. You’ll want to consult the manual initially, but after the first time it’s very simple.
Once we got the strings on, we engaged the String Up Mode, which got the Roboheads spinning to bring the strings into the ballpark of standard tuning. If you haven’t seen this system in action, it’s a real mind-blower, and our initial experiments elicited shouts of “Whoa!” from even the most jaded, grizzled onlookers. Getting in tune and switching between different tunings is super-easy. Hit the power button and the system comes on with the last tuning selected. Strum the strings and let Tronical work its magic. The four lowest string tune up the fastest, generally, so then you mute those and hit the E and B strings. When it flashes green you’re good to go. The whole process takes just a few seconds most of the time.
Selecting other tunings is simple once you learn a couple of moves. Power it on, hit the power button again, and one of the E, A, D, G, B, E LEDs will light up to show which tuning is currently selected. Use the left/right buttons to scroll to other tunings. You’ll need to memorize what they are—A is DADGAD, B is Eb, etc.—but I found it easy to remember my favorites and get to them quickly. It comes loaded with 12 tunings and you can store six additional custom tunings as well.
None of this would matter if the TronicalTune didn’t get your guitar perfectly and consistently in tune, and it absolutely does. A proper setup, with a well-slotted nut and great intonation is key—and I found that some pencil lead in the nut slots made everything work better—but this system totally performs as advertised. If a string is occasionally a little off, like a floppy low-E string tuned down to D, it’s easy to adjust manually.
All in all, this is a brilliant, elegant solution for any player who wants to explore altered tunings quickly and easily, lugs multiple guitars to gigs to accommodate multiple tunings, or just plain hates to tune up. It looks great, works great, is a breeze to install, and is a great conversation piece to boot. Color me impressed.
KUDOS Brilliantly simple installation. Top quality. Amazing creative tool.