You’ve probably heard of locking tuners, and wondered if they are actually any good? If they are worth the upgrade or if they’re a waste of money? In this post, I’ll go through all the pros and cons of locking tuners to see if they are the best option for you. So let’s get started.
The Quick Answer
Locking tuners are worth it if your guitar has a tremolo or you are using thinner gauge strings which means you are struggling to keep it in tune. If your guitar does not suffer from tuning instability then it may be better to stick with standard tuners.
- Much faster to change strings
- Neater looking headstock
- Better tuning stablity
- More expensive
- Heavier than standard tuners
- Difficult installation
Pros: Faster String Changes
The most notable advantage of locking tuners, is that it’s a lot quicker to change the strings than with standard tuners.
This is really handy if you either hate changing strings, or need to change them rapidly, for example, if you’re playing a gig.
With standard tuners, it can be a lengthy process to change the strings. First you’ll need to thread each string through the tuner peg and the bridge and then wrap the string around the peg and crimp it. After the string is in place in the tuning peg, you’ll have to turn the tuner to tighten all the strings, then trim off the excess wire.
This can be a pretty length process and takes most professionals around 20 minutes in total which can be pretty annoying if you constantly are changing strings as often as you should be (every 100 hours of playing).
But with locking tuners, this process takes only a few minutes. You just need to pass the string through the bridge, wrap a few times and cut the excess.
You don’t need to waste time wrapping the strings and crimping them to secure them to the peg which can be pretty fiddly and annoying.
Pros: Better Tuning Stability
One of the main reasons why people look to locking tuners, is because they are designed to help your guitar stay in tune longer. So how does this work?
Locking tuners clamp the string down when it’s wrapped around the peg during restringing. This is really helpful because it strings the string slipping off the peg. This is known as string slippage.
String slippage doesn’t always occur with traditional tuners, but it is more likely to happen than with locking tuners.
String slippage causes the guitar string to lose tension which means it goes out of tune a little bit and go flatter. This is usually caused when you bend a string. So if you use this technique often and see it causing your guitar to go out of string quickly, then locking tuners could really help you with that.
It’s worth noting though, that locking tuners do not prevent the strings going out of tune completely. They just prevent string slippage, which is only one cause of going out of tune. More on that later.
Pros: Headstock Looks Neater
Another pretty decent advantage of locking tuners, is that they make the headstock look neater. Due to the way that the string is wrapped around the peg, it can look less tidy to have traditional tuners, than locking tuners.
This isn’t the biggest advantage, but I though it was worth mentioning as it might be important to some guitarists. For me, it’s not a huge advantage, as it’s outweighted by some of the negatives of locking tuners, as they are a bit heavier and bulkier. So it’s kind of swings and roundabouts with this one.
One of the main issues with locking tuners, is that they are more expensive than traditional tuners. That’s why most guitars, and pretty much all mid-low range guitars, don’t come with them as standard. So if you want locking tuners, then you’ll have to splash out to get them changed.
If you want to purchase some locking tuners, expect a full set to cost around $50 and upwards. You can get them for a bit cheaper, but they’re likely to not be as high quality.
However, if you simply need some new machine heads, then it might be worth paying a bit extra for locking tuners instead of traditional ones. Normal tuners cost around $25. So which one you get mainly depends on if the better tuning stability and quicker string changes are worth the extra money.
Cons: They Can Be Heavy
Another disadvantage of locking tuners, is that they are a bit heavier than traditional tuners. The weight difference isn’t huge though. Locking tuners are usually 0.5-1.0 ounces (15-30 grams) heavier than traditional tuners.
however it can affect the balance of your guitar as the headstock weight increases. This is more of an issue if you’re used to playing stood up. However, it’s not a huge disadvantage, as you’ll probably get used to the weight difference very quickly, or sometimes not even notice it at all.
Cons: Some Guitars Need Modifications
Another disadvantage of locking tuners, is that they require installation, which on some guitars can require some modification to the headstock, if you don’t purchase ones that are completely compatible. In some cases you’ll need to drill holes in the headstock and make additional adjustments to properly install them.
This is really important, because if they are installed incorrectly, then you’ll get even more issues with tuning stability etc. than you had with traditional tuners.
Unless you know what you’re doing, then you’ll need to get a professional to install the locking tuners for you. This increases the cost even more.
Cons: They Don't Stop your Guitar Going out of Tune
This isn’t a disadvantage of locking tuners compared to traditional tuners, but it’s worth mentioning that locking tuners don’t prevent your guitar going out of tune.
There are many different factors that make your guitar go out of tune like:
- The way the string is sat in the nut
- The intonation of the guitar
- If the strings are worn out
- Poor capo placement
- Humidity and temperature changes
- The tuning peg
The Best Locking Tuners
Now if you’ve decided that you want to go ahead and make the upgrade to locking tuners, then you’re probably wondering what the best ones actually are. So here’s a quick rundown of the best locking tuners. You’ll need to make sure you purchase locking tuners that are compatible with your guitar’s headstock, unless you want to make some modifications.
Fender Locking Tuners
If you own a Fender made guitar, then you can’t really go wrong with the Fender Locking Tuners. They are designed to fit most Stratocasters, Telecasters, Jazz and Jaguar models and come in at a very reasonable price. They are only meant for an inline 6 headstock configuration, so they won’t work with a 3×3 headstock.
hipshot grip locking tuners
The Hipshot Grip Locking Tuners are another great option. They have a chrome finish and the heads fit most electric guitars. They’re easy to work and really great value for money.
schaller locking tuning machine heads
This is a great option if you have a 3×3 headstock configuration. They’re clean looking and great value. They are premium locking tuners, so expect to pay a bit more, but I was surprised at how cheap I could find them on Guitar Center.
So there you go! That’s how to decide if locking tuners are actually worth it for you! I hope you’ve found this article helpful, thanks for reading. Here are some other posts you might find useful: