Mechanical disc strobe tuners are expensive, bulky, delicate, and require periodic maintenance (keeping the motor that spins the disc at the correct speed, replacing the strobing LED backlight, etc.).
For many, a mechanical strobe tuner is simply not practical for one or all of the above reasons. To address these issues, in 2001 Peterson Tuners added a line of non-mechanical electronic strobe tuners that have LCD dot-matrix displays mimicking a mechanical strobe disc display, giving a stroboscopic effect. In 2004 Peterson made a model of LCD strobe in a sturdy floor based "stomp box" for live on-stage use.
Virtual strobe tuners are as accurate as standard mechanical disc strobe tuners. However, there are limitations to the virtual system compared to the disc strobes. The virtual strobes display fewer bands to read note information and they do not pick up harmonic partials like a disc strobe. Rather, each band on a virtual strobe represents octaves of the fundamental being played. On a disc strobe there is "one band correspondence", where each band displays a particular frequency of the note being played. On the virtual strobe system, each band has a few close frequencies combined for ease of reading from an LCD display. This is still accurate for tuning and intonating most instruments, but for instruments where more information on partials is required, like idiophones, there is not a clear separation of the partials.
Sonic Research and Planet Waves both released a true-strobe with a bank of LEDs arranged in a circle that gives a strobing effect based upon the frequency of the input note.
Both LCD and LED display true strobes do not require mechanical servicing and are much cheaper than the mechanical types. As such, they are a popular option for musicians who want the accuracy of a strobe without the high cost and maintenance schedule. However, LED strobe displays offer no information about the harmonic structure of a note, unlike LCD types which do offer four bands of consolidated information.
Peterson released a PC-based virtual strobe tuner in 2008 called "StroboSoft". This computer software package has all the features of a virtual strobe, such as user-programmable temperaments and tunings. To use this tuner, a musician must have a computer in the same location that they wish to tune an instrument. Another alternative is also PC-based strobe tuner TB Strobe Tuner with fewer functions.
In 2009 Peterson Tuners released a VirtualStrobe tuner as an end-user application add-on for Apple's iPhone and iPod Touch where the application is bought cheaply as a download and installed onto the unit. There's a special 1/4" TRS jack adapter for connecting an electric instrument to the iPhone. This is a very notable achievement in strobe tuner technology, making such tuning widely available to many. However, a compatible iPod or iPhone must already be owned to utilize this application.
As both mechanical and electronic strobes are still more expensive, and arguably more difficult to use to achieve desired results, than regular tuners their use is usually limited to people who tune pianos, harps, and early instruments (e.g., harpsichords) or accurately intonate instruments on a regular basis, such as luthiers, instrument restorers and technicians and enthusiasts. These tuners make the intonation process more precise, which is important for the correct set-up of an instrument. Low cost tuners with an accuracy of at least 1 cent do not work well for guitar intonation tuning.
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