Review: Roadie 2 motorized guitar tuner works alone
Chromatic, clip-on, pedal, polyphonic, pipe and fork ... if you want to tune up your guitar, you have plenty of helpful options to choose from. A little over 4 years ago something a little different muscled its way into the highly strung world of the pitch perfect. The Roadie was essentially a motorized peg turner made smart with the help of a paired smartphone or tablet. And it rocked. We loved it. Until we got to meet the second generation robotic tuning machine – smarter, faster and able to work without a smartphone. This really is tuning made easy.
Unlike the original Roadie that we reviewed back in early 2015, the Roadie 2 doesn't need to be paired over Bluetooth to a smartphone or tablet running a companion app. Out of the box, it can be used on its own. The companion app is now an optional extra, adding more alternative tunings to those already cooked in and allowing users to get under the hood for more control. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, the Android app wasn't available. We'll add an update as soon as we get the chance to try out the app.
Band Industries has liberated the second generation robot tuner from smart device microphone dependence by making use of vibration sensing technology in the Roadie 2 itself. And it works really well. We tried a few retunes in noisy environments and the background caterwaul didn't affect its tuning abilities at all.
Like version one, the Roadie 2 is powered on using a button sat opposite the peg gripper. But this time it's not flush with the casing and is part of a bi-directional scroll wheel. The wheel is used for scrolling through menu items to select instruments, tunings and functions displayed on a three-line OLED screen to the top (four lines if you include the battery status symbol above the main text options). The power button is also used for option confirmation and as a visual aid during tuning (the backlight changes from light blue to bright green when at pitch).
Tuning made easy, really easy
And so to our first tune up. We added a six string electric guitar from a selection of instrument profiles that included ukulele, mandolin and banjo. Instruments can be given a name too, to differentiate between models, for example, or specific setups. Then we chose our newly setup guitar from the list and the Roadie 2 entered tuning mode, starting with the bottom E string in standard tuning.
Standard tuning is selected by default, but another nine alternative tunings are available from the menu – including drop D, open G and half step down. We placed the gripper on the bottom E string, plucked a string and the vibration technology registered the current pitch.
The 300:1 gear ratio motor whirred into action and turned the tuning peg until the string was brought into tune. The display then moved to A2 and the process repeated on the second string, and so on until all six strings were at pitch. Usually only one pluck of each string was all it took, but sometimes two or three were needed. The Roadie confirms the successful tuning with both haptic and audio feedback – the former being most useful in a noisy environment.
The whole process took less than 20 seconds from a starting point that was roughly one and a half steps down or up from standard tuning. We selected open G from the menu and hit the strings again. A retune to an alternate tuning in about 30 seconds. Pretty impressive.
Band Industries says that the device has a detection range of A1 (55 Hz) to A5 (880 Hz), and detection accuracy is quoted as less than ±1 cent. Tuning accuracy of up to ±2 cents is on offer, and the reference 440 Hz A setting can be customized in 0.1 Hz increments from 420 Hz to 460 Hz. We found the Roadie 2 to hold its own in the accuracy department when going head to head with the Pitchblack Poly on the pedalboard, and you can't ask for more than that.
Usefully, Band Industries has added an LED light to the front of the device, which can be activated during low light tunings so that players aren't stabbing in the dark. The Roadie 2's Li-ion battery is charged using a modern-feeling USB-C cable, and it should be good for a month of regular tune ups, retunes and restrings. On the latter, string replacement becomes much less of a chore with the Roadie 2, and three motor speeds for unwinding and winding are available, topping out at 60 rpm.
Keen to see what a professional would make of the Roadie 2, we shoved an out of tune guitar and the 3.4 x 3 x 1 inch (86 x 76 x 25.4 mm), 3.2 oz (90 g) robotuner into the hands of talented guitar tutor Darryl Syms.
"I was immediately impressed with the speed and response of the Roadie 2, and I was very glad to see that it offers a range of different common tuning combinations," he told us. "These are key things that I feel most tuners lack, which is why I personally prefer the more 'do it myself' manual approach and the freedom from quality chromatic tuners. For many years I've used chromatic tuners on my pedalboard or the ones that clip on to the headstock. I like to think that I have a very good ear and can tune up my guitar quicker than most of the modern gadgets that I've tried over the years. At least until I discovered the Roadie 2!
"I can tell that the designers have really thought through every aspect of their product, so I really can't pick fault with any of its functions. The only thing I find displeasing is the price. The only way I would consider getting one of these myself is if the price were more competitive with the leading pedalboard tuners. If I did own this product then I would probably find it most useful whilst on the move and in the studio."
The bottom line
The original Roadie has been a gig bag regular since early 2015, but needing a smart device to work has not always been ideal. And the noise filtering didn't always manage to ignore what was going on in the background. The Roadie 2 breaks the smart device dependency and goes it alone.
The size and weight are about the same, with the Roadie 2's main matte black plastic body being a little thinner than its predecessor. The text on the OLED display up top is nice and sharp and the menu system intuitive, and the clicky wheel is a tactile joy. But, most importantly, the robotuner is quick and accurate – three times more accurate than the human ear, according to Band Industries.
The Roadie 2 is compatible with a host of stringed instruments – from guitar to mandolin to banjo – so long as they have T-shaped tuning pegs (though it's not suitable for use with wooden pegs).
After shipping units out to Kickstarter backers last month, the Roadie 2 is now on general sale. It is quite expensive though, carrying a ticket price of US$129 – which is more than Korg's excellent Pitchblack Poly, and over four times the price of a Boss TU-10 clip-on.
That said, it's a solid performer, makes tuning so much easier than manually turning pegs to meet the pitch demands of a standalone tuner, and has a certain wow factor that's sure to turn heads. Highly recommended.
And Band Industries hasn't forgotten thunder thumpers either, a separate bass guitar version is also available.
Product page: Roadie 2