Good tuning machines are expected to run smoothly without interruptions or other irregularities, without backlash, no reverse movement and no "dead" spots in the transition area between turning up and down. The mechanical structure should also be as stable as possible. Concerning the influence of the tuners on the sound of the guitar one may assume that the latter is hardly affected. Theoretically there could be a certain influence because the machines are adding mass to the neck of the guitar, but it is rather doubtful that this effect would be audible.

The worm posts

There are various techniques to mount the worm on the base plate

stemmechaniek type 1

1. the cheapest and least reliable construction method consists of bending some parts of the base plate to form hooks in order to clamp the worms. With this construction method, close tolerances are not possible. Moreover, the base plate, usually made of brass, and brass is less durable than e.g. bronze.

 

stemmechaniek type 2

2. the cheapest and least reliable construction method consists of bending some parts of the base plate to form hooks in order to clamp the worms. With this construction method, close tolerances are not possible. Moreover, the base plate is usually made of brass, and brass is less durable than e.g. bronze.

 

 

 stemmechaniek irving sloane3. Base plate and worm posts can also be manufactured from one piece of metal. In this case, base plate and worm posts are milled from one block of metal (usually bronze). This is normally done on a CNC machine. This results in a very solid construction that allows for very tight tolerances. Moreover, a bearing steel (of the worm) in bronze is superior to steel in brass. This construction has the absolute preference and these mechanisms can be found in the higher price range. A variant of this are the machines where bearings of worm and worm wheel form one integral part but are separate from the base plate. An example are the self-aligning Graf machines.

Smooth operation

For smooth operation, it must be ensured that there is minimal friction. Friction can be reduced by using Delrin / Teflon bearings for the worm and the worm wheel. In some case, even ball bearings are used (Klaus Scheller). Friction can further be minimized by mounting a bearing on the end of string rollers, thus eliminating the friction of the string rollers on wood. Also, one should not lose out of sight of that poor alignment of the machines on the guitar head is a serious source of friction. There are also self-aligning mechanisms (Graf) where the worm / worm wheel assembly has a little slack in the longitudinal direction of the base plate so that small errors in the alignment can be captured.

No reverse mouvement

Reverse mouvement should not be a problem since most tuners have a gear ratio around 17:1. In this case, the force exercised by the string rollers is insufficient for the worm to be driven by the worm wheel.

No dead spots between turning up and down

Dead spots between turning up and down are caused by a combination of backlash and friction in the mechanism, and can make the guitar very difficult to tune. A well-constructed mechanism should minimize any play, however it is not excluded that a mechanism with some play between worm and worm wheel still works fine, provided, that there is little friction and that worm and worm wheel stay in close contact because of the pulling of the string. Unfortunately it is true that poorly constructed mechanics often score poorly in terms of friction and thus function poorly.

Prices

Some prices are mentioned for information only in the suppliers list. The prices are in no way binding and may have been changed in the meantime. It is a fact that for a better mechanical construction of tuners also a higher price is to be paid. However it should also be noted that most vendors in the middle and upper price class use the same construction techniques for all their tuners. There may nevertheless be big price differences within the same brand depending on the finish of the product.

BRANDS

Alessi, Italy. Alessi tuning machines are completely made by hand and are usually beautifully finished. The choice of models, engravings, axes and buttons is actually quite extensive. Base plates are hand engraved. Worms are in stainless steel (or Ergal, a lightweight aluminium alloy) and worm wheels in bronze. String rollers in Delrin are standard. String roller bearings for less friction and greater precision are a possible option. Also offers tuning machines that differ from the standard 3 on 1 base plate, for example 4 on one base plate or also individual tuners. On request, any combination can be produced for guitars with more than 6 strings. A 15:1 gear ratio is standard but on request 7.5:1 is possible. With the latter ratio the 6th string can be tuned from E to D by about 1 turn. Price: The simplest model in copper with round buttons in ebony costs about $ 500. Depending on the model, the price may increase to above 1000 €. (zie)

Baljak Marinko & Filip Baljak. Hand crafted fine tuning machines, being used by Hauser and Greg Smallman amongst others. Worm made of special machine steel and worm wheels in bronze. All brass parts are finished with a 18kt gold coating.

There are 3 basic models:

  • 6x1 6 individual base plates
  • 2x3 straight base plates
  • 2x3 shaped base plates.

Prices starting from 200 € (Bella with ebony or rosewood finish) to 290 € (Inga with bone finish)

Der Jung Enterprise Co. Ltd. Taiwan, R.O.C. Industrially produced tuners found on many cheap guitars. Prices start at $ 5.65. The most expensive model only available with dragon and phoenix motif costs $ 17.65 Minimum quantity 100 pieces. Gear ratio 18:1 - 14:1 Tuners can also be purchased online in low quantities through several online stores. The cheapest models are offered online for $ 35 and for the more expensive models, one pays about $ 70.

Freewheel Tuning Machines Gitarrenwerkstatt Knut Welsch Germany. Freewheel design is a registered trademark of Gitarrenwerkstatt Knut Welsch. After 2 year interruption, these tuners are back and the prices went down by more than 50%. Freewheel tuners are very accurate and well finished with a contemporary engraving. The base plate is milled from one block of metal. Worm wheels in bronze and stainless steel worms. Bearings are mounted at the ends of the string rollers to eliminate friction with wood. The worm wheel and the axis of the rollers are made out of one piece for better alignment. Besides the usual presentation as 2x3 tuners individual mechanisms can be supplied also. Gear ratio 17:1 Price starting from 449 €.

Fustero For decades Fustero has dominated the Spanish market. These tuners are made by hand and score very good from a visual point of view but opinions on the mechanical qualities are divided. Fusteros are often surpassed in the middle class by Schaller or Gotoh from a mechanical aspect. In the higher price class they seem to be good. The Fustero workshop was closed July 2010 but apparently someone has reopened Fustero's shop and continues the production. Prices 300 to 400 € at La Sonanta. € 38 at Madinter

Gilbert USA. Gilbert tuners are uncompromisingly constructed tuners with a very accurate transmission. Worm gears are phosphor bronze, stainless steel worms. The worm post is made of a Teflon and polyphenylene sulfide blend allowing for tight tolerances and lubrication. Worm gear and shaft of the string rollers are made of 1 piece. String rollers in Delrin. Besides the 2x3 combinations, also individual mechanisms, and mechanisms for guitars with more than 6 strings are supplied. Price $ 258 to $ 283

Gotoh  Japan. GOTOH GUT Co. started manufacturing stringed instrument parts in 1960 and is the only machine head manufacturer in Japan. Sales is exclusively via Hosco, Gotoh's distributor. This large-scale produced low-priced tuners are qualitatively comparable with Schaller. As an option string rollers with a bearing at the end for less friction and smoother operation can be supplied. 16:1 Gear ratio Price from approximately $ 25 to $ 500 (zie)

Grover USA. Limited supply of machine heads for classic guitar. Grover is better known for its mechanisms for steelstring guitars Price about 40 € (zie)

Graf Jorg Canada. Particularly well finished hand-crafted tuners. Specific of these tuners is the separated assembly in aluminium bronze in which the worm and the worm wheel fit. This assembly may move slightly in the longitudinal direction of the base plate to compensate for any small alignment errors, also minimizing friction. The worm and worm wheel shaft are fitted with Delrin bearings for smooth operation. Worm wheel is pressed on the shaft instead of being screwed on, as usual in most of the tuners from competitors. There is also a bearing at the end of the string rollers to minimize friction with the wood. Gear ratio 16:1 Price $ 500 to $ 1.500 (Classic Rococo with standard buttons) (zie)

Irving Sloane Made by Waverly Manufacturing Company, a division of Stewart-MacDonald, USA. Reputed handmade tuners, the first choice of numerous guitar builders. Bronze worm wheels and bronze base plate with integral worm posts guarantee a precise operation. Worms in stainless steel. Actually this is the cheaper version of the Waverly tuners but mechanically they are just as good. 16:1 Gear ratio Price about 240 €  (see website stewmac)

Pegheds are planetary-geared mechanical pegs. A 4:1 gear reduction allows strings to be tuned more easily and accurately than traditional wood pegs. They have a brake mechanism with variable friction; push in to increase resistance, pull out to decrease; exactly like a traditional wood peg. 169€ (3 right and 3 left) with ebony grip and inlay, available from La Sonanta.

Reischl / Landstorfer Duitsland. Klaus Reichl used to work as an engraver for Landstorfer and after the death of the latter in1976, he bought the business from the widow. These mechanisms are known for their precise functioning and beautiful finish. Many details on these mechanisms are not available and Reischl has no website. Price from 425 to 590 € (zie)

Robson United Kingdom. Sober but elegant design. Bronze base plate, worm wheel and worm bearings. Robson also supplies tuners that differ from the standard 2x3, including individual tuners and even tuners for lute. Price £ 350 for the standard version.

Rodgers United Kingdom. Handmade tuners. Base plate and worm bearings in bronze or nickel silver. Worm in bronze. Worm posts are riveted to the base plate. On request, almost any different design will be produced. Rodgers also provides mechanisms with reversed worm / worm wheel position as usual in the 19th century and early 20th century. Price from 337 £

Rubner Germany. The mechanical construction of these tuners looks good and the price / performance ratio look also favourable. In all versions, the same mechanism is used for both the simplest and the more expensive tuners. Bronze base plate. Teflon bearings. Provides also individual tuners and different combinations on request. Gear ratio 16:1 Price from € 15.09 to about 200 €.

Schaller Germany. These industrially produced tuners are only available through retail. Excellent price/performance ratio, Schaller is hard to beat from an aesthetic and price point of view. 16:1 Gear ration Price from 56 € / 88 € (zie)

Scheller Klaus Germany. Precise and elegant tuners. Worm, worm wheel and string rollers with ball bearings. All parts are screwed, no riveted parts. Also makes individual tuners and special designs according to customer requirement. Same price class as Alessi and Graf

Schertler Switzerland. Individual tuners. Excellent workmanship, very accurately working tuners. Compact base plate in cast aluminium.With 3 tuners on one plate there is always a risk that one of the mechanisms is poorly aligned because the distance between the boreholes is not perfect. When using individual tuners we avoid this problem. 18:1 gear ratio (3 left + 3 right): approx 120 € (zie)

Waverley Waverly Manufacturing Company is a division of Stewart-MacDonald, USA Tuners of superior quality. The base plate and the worm posts are milled out of one block of bronze on a CNC machine, which results in a very stable structure, and close tolerances. Bronze worm wheel and stainless steel worms. Base plate finished with gold leaf. 16:1 gear ratio. Price from $ 425 to $ 475