Intelli IMT-500 Clip-on Digital Chromatic guitar tuner review

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Back in the stone age when I was learning to play guitar, there were only two ways to tune an instrument. By pitch pipe, or by ear. I wasn’t good at either method and was always frustrated that my guitar sounded ‘funky’ when I would play it. Years later, when the first electronic tuners were introduced, I was over joyed. Finally an easy way to keep my instrument in tune. They only problems with those tuners were the fact that they were somewhat bulky and required either a quiet room or a patch cable to connect to the instrument’s pickup. Things have changed since those days. Now we have nifty strobe type tuners like the Waves Strobe-On-String tuner that I reviewed not long ago and the Intelli IMT-500 Digital Chromatic Tuner that I’m going to show you today.

intelli imt-500 tuner

Hardware Specifications

Tuning range: 12-note full range chromatic, A2-B7
“A” Calibration: 430-449 Hz in 1 Hz steps
Tolerance: +/- 0.5 cents, uses quartz crystal
Power source: 3V CR2032 coin cell battery
Dimensions: 1.8 x 1.8 x 2.2 inches
Weight: 1.2 oz

The IMT-500 is chromatic tuner. That means you can use it to tune a guitar, banjo, mandolin, ukulele or any other stringed instrument.

intelli imt-500 tuner

It is wonderfully compact, so you should have no problems whatsoever finding room for it in your instrument case.

The front of the tuner has a diamond shaped LCD display and three buttons. The power button is in the center, with the flat and calibration buttons on either side.

intelli imt-500 tuner

On the back of the IMT-500, is a plastic squeeze clip.

intelli imt-500 tuner

The jaws of the clip have soft rubber pads to protect the finish of your instrument. What would you want to clip this tuner to your instrument? Well, because that’s the way it will detect the tuning… The IMT-500 does not have a built in microphone or a connection for a patch cable. It relies on vibration to detect string tuning.

intelli imt-500 tuner

When it is clipped to the headstock of your guitar, banjo or in my case, a ukulele, you can swivel the display to provide the best viewing angle. The Intelli IMT-500 was included with my uke when I bought it and I have been using it for over a month now and don’t even remove it from the headstock. When I am ready to put the instrument back in its case, I just swivel the display and fold it down so that I can close the case. It works great and is always there when I need to check the tuning.

intelli imt-500 tuner

Unlike tuners that use a built in microphone, this tuner doesn’t have any problems with interference from ambient noise.

When you pluck a string, a simulated needle will appear on the display to show if the current string tuning is flat, sharp or just right. When the needle stops right in the middle, that particular string is in tune. There is no need to tell the tuner which string you’re trying it tune. Everything is automatic. As you can see from the image above, the LCD is large and bright. It’s very easy to see
in any lighting conditions.

The calibrate button is used to tune an instrument to a pitch other than A=440 Hz. 440 Hz is the default pitch which equals C with no flat.

The IMT-500 also has a “Quadra flat tuning” feature that allows you to tune your guitar / banjo without removing a capo. Just press the Flat button 1 to 4 times depending on the capo’s position and then tune like normal.

I really love this little tuner. It’s small, so simple to use and can be found for less than $25. The only thing that would make it even better would be a battery level check on the display. That’s just a very minor gripe though… I actually plan to buy a second one to have on hand just in case the one I use every day happens to break. If you play any  stringed instrument, you need to try the Intelli IMT-500 Digital Chromatic tuner. Trust me, once you use one, you’ll probably never use anything else.

Updates 04/02/15

I continue to use this tuner, but only when I pick up one of my instruments that don’t already have a D’Addario NS Micro Clip-On Tuner clipped on the headstock. I switched to the NS Micro a couple years ago and love the tiny size which allows me to just leave attached to my ukueles. The Intelli IMT-500 Digital Chromatic tuner may have a brighter display and works a little better than the NS Micro tuner, but the convenience of always having the tuner on the headstock sold me.


Product Information

  • Small
  • Simple to use
  • Doesn't require a quiet environment to work
  • No battery level status

31 thoughts on “Intelli IMT-500 Clip-on Digital Chromatic guitar tuner review”

  1. Gadgeteer Comment Policy - Please read before commenting
  2. I’ve used this tuner and several clip on tuners that were similar and I’ve always had the same problem where they don’t work well in noisy situations like when other loud instruments are playing or there’s loud music in the background. The good news is for most people who just play at home or as a solo act, this shouldn’t be a problem.

  3. Peter:
    You had problems with this particular tuner in a noisy environment? It must have been VERY noisy then to disrupt the vibration sensor.

    What is your favorite tuner to use?

  4. Hi Julie! I play in clubs where you can really “feel” the music. The band or the DJ is usually loud enough that the music vibrates my guitar more than the strings but using similar tuners to the Intelli, I’ve had problems when other instruments were playing near me at even medium volumes. Currently I use a Korg DT-7 but the best “portable” tuner I’ve used lately is a Peterson Strobo-Flip. The accuracy of the Strobo-Flip is .1 cent which is far above many tuners that have an accuracy rate of +-1 cent (the human ear can usually hear a difference of +- 2 cents). The casual user probably would love the Intelli tuner for its looks and ease of use but I’m super-picky! 🙂

  5. I think I’ve seen that tuner in various catalogs. It’s very expensive isn’t it? As a professional, I can totally understand that you’re ‘picky’. :o)

  6. I’ve used other acoustic tuners of this ype and have had the same result as Peter: if there’s a loud band or orchestra playing, the sympathetic vibrations from your instrument will be stronger than what your plucking of a single string will produce. But if you’re in anything resembling a quiet environment, or there is no other music (noises like A/C, screaming kids or traffic, etc.), there is usually no problem.

    Julie, where did you find it for $25? Mine got broken, so is slowly getting harder to trust, and I’m going to need a replacement. It was $60 a few years back, so this model is appealing because of it’s smaller size and smaller price.

  7. I actually got this tuner free with the ukulele that I recently bought. But, you can buy it for $16.50 from the same store on eBay that I bought the instrument from. Check here.
    I highly recommend this store, so don’t be afraid to order one.

    1. @Matt: Have you turned it on? Does it light up? It should at least show 440 at the top and be backlit in green. When you pluck a string, the ‘needle’ should start moving and it should show the note in the center of the display. Are you using this with an acoustic instrument?

  8. I’ve used this tuner for over a year now. ‘Had no problems whatsoever – even in on stage in noisy environment, which stands to reason since it depends on vibrations, not mic input. ‘Can’t say I’ve ever played a venue in which someone else’s instrument caused mine to vibrate enough to effect the tuner. Wow! Anyway – nice little item. I got mine on eBay (Quality store) for a total price with shipping of $20.90. ‘Works great om my old Tele and Martin acoustic.

  9. It says tuning range: 12-note ull range chromatic, A2 – B7. Does this mean it cannot tune bass guitar strings lower than the A – open? Meaning the E & B open.

  10. would someone explain how to use the imt 500 tuner. i tried tuning my 6 string acoustic. i thought each time you pluck a string the string letter would appear in the tuner. help please

  11. @Anne Is the tuner lighting up when you turn it on? I’m assuming that you have it clipped to the headstock of your guitar? If you’ve just put on brand new strings, you will need to tighten them enough so that they will produce a note when you pluck one.

  12. Hey everyone i have just discovered this tuer an it sounds awesome! Would you advise me to but that one or the upgraded one, intelli 600?

    @julie, which store on ebay did you talk about? (the link is dead.


  13. I just got my intelli imt 500 from but I can’t figure out how to use it, I got new strings. I thought that when I pluck a string the intelli would tell me what string it is and to tighten it or loosen it. I have tightened it while I pluck it to see if it’ll end up saying the right letter for the string but it doesn’t and my strings end up getting really tight and and I don’t want to break them. Its somewhat tuned and I play it so I got the strings a little used to the playing but I still can’t figure it out….someone please tell me everthing about how to tune with it

    1. @angel The tuner won’t tell you which string number that you’re plucking, but it will tell you the note that the string emits when you pluck it. Are you using it with a guitar? You’ll want to tighten the new string close to the right note and then hone it in with the tuner.

  14. I love the Intelli IMT-500 works amazing and love the fact that I can be anywhere (noisy environment or not) and still be able to tune my guitar. It was recommended by a music shop here where I live and it was only $24.99. It is also easy to tune…definitely recommended…

  15. the tuner is great and works with my acoustic, classical and electric guitar fine I have recently bought an acoustic bass and will be starting to learn that however the tuner isn’t picking up the notes because I think it maybe to low what do I press for it to be able to pick up bass notes?

  16. Janet Cloninger

    @don stewart You’ll need to contact the manufacturer. The Gadgeteer is a product review site. We don’t sell or support products.

  17. I have two of these great little tuners but they have both broken from the clip. Is it possible to get replacement clips? I have tried superglueing which works for a while but….

  18. I have had my tuner for years and it’s always worked great. However, I haven’t used it in a couple of years. When I turn the power on it shows “CHROM” at the bottom of the diamond and “CAL” at the top of the diamond, followed by 440 and the note of C with one flat symbol showing. The backlight has not came on. I have changed the battery with a brand new one.
    Is my tuner now broken for some reason, or is there a way to reset this tuner? Any help would be appreciated very much… cannot even find a manual for it yet online. 08/26/2015

  19. I came across this review when searching for information on my old tuner. I too started with a pitch pipe, then a Traynor Metronome Tuner before getting this one when clip-on tuners became popular. I just got my grand-kids a guitar and ukulele for Christmas and they came with clip-on tuners that showed the string number and changed from blue to green when in tune, in addition to the needle indication. This was amazing and I just bought one for myself for less than what I paid for my IMT-500 years ago. I love it. I’m sure these would be great for players with little money in a noisy venue with the colour change.

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