Sure, we spend a lot of time looking at far-out gear and high technology, but you have to tip your hat to practicality. Tascam’s TC-1S is a compact, portable tuner that you can take anywhere. Solar and USB power mean you never have to worry about powering it, either.

Features:

  • 12-tone equal-tempered chromatic tuner.
  • Input via 1/4″ jack or mic
  • Note/sharp-flat/bargraph pitch indication readout on the LCD. Display via “bar,” “fine,” “strobe animation,” or “needle.”
  • Protective silicone case included
  • 51 grams.

Shipping this month, street price “under US$40.”

It’s a cute little design, and with the economic squeeze continuing, I think smart design wins out. Tascam is being a little loose with the term “environmentally-friendly,” however. The press release I received called this “planet-friendly tuning” and claimed “every planet-conscious musician” will need one.

I can’t verify whether this is indeed the “world’s first solar-powered tuner” – if anyone knows for sure, let us know. But nothing about this design suggests that it’s especially ecological, beyond the solar panel. Avoiding battery waste is a very good thing, so in that sense, sure, this is environmentally friendly. But you have to then weigh that against power draw from conventional tuners and the impact of manufacturing the panel.

More info: Solar panels are definitely nothing to sneeze at. Check out this 2007 report comparing rechargeable to disposable alkalines — and alkaline batteries are far less harmful than the kinds of batteries found in, say, your laptop.

Presumably, the major environmental impact of all the gadgets we love has to do with their materials. The silicone in the case may well be low-impact, but it depends on the particular silicone Tascam used, to say nothing of the other ingredients of this device.

On the other hand, good design means you consume less, save longer, and get more use out of a device. So in the long run, it could be the practicality of a device like this tuner that helps the planet – because you love and use it for a long time.

I’m hardly an expert in environmental design; I’m just pointing out the obvious. But since Tascam raised the issue, let us know what you think. A discussion of what music gear really is planet-friendly is an important one for another day. And as for the tuner, let us know if it’ll go in your bag.

  • Jeff kausler

    They use the word environmental so that they can get away with 40 bucks.

    20 years ago when the flinstones were still alive, I used to have an "environmental" casio calculator it had more than 30 buttons a super-advanced-environmental-energy-source and over 200 functions and it cost around $8.

  • Jeff kausler

    oh, I forgot to mention, it also came with a hard case…

  • Vehicle Driver

    To be fair, 99% of the shit people claim is "for the environment" doesn't have any positive effect whatsoever. Tascam isn't doing anything that any other big corporation or government isn't doing by greenwashing its products/policies.

  • Typo

    silicone != silicon

  • Dustinw

    The catch with environmental/green products is that they are only green when compared to the buying the same type of product, they always lose out when compared to keeping your existing product or doing without that kind of product. They are lower impact alternatives, not actually environmentally friendly.

    Think reduce/reuse/recycle, in order of environmentally friendliness:

    Reduce: go without an electronic Tuner

    Reuse: keep using your existing electronic Tuner if you have one

    Recycle:

    Buy Green: Go with a "Green" lower impact option (like the Tascam)

    I'm sure the Tascam is lower impact then a regular tuner: solar cell reduces battery disposal, low shipping weight saves energy, the fact that it's small means there is less waste product.

    Having said all that, it looks like an excellent product, but I already have 3 tuners.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Well, I don't think Tascam is generally concerned with greenwashing. I think they just didn't know how to say "hey, this is a solar tuner."

    Having owned one of those Casio calculators, I will say this — it was very practical. You never had to worry about replacing the batteries. It lasted forever. And that meant I wasn't out buying new batteries and their associated packaging, which is a good thing. But, as I said, it's really the longevity and usefulness of the thing that was a big win, and that's what's often lost in discussions of ecology and consumerism. The most fundamental problem is buying lots of crap we don't need. So what was great about the solar Casio was, the thing was something you did need, and once you had it, you didn't need anything else. This could easily fall in that category.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    @Dustinw: well said.

    @Typo: the "silicon" I actually inadvertently copied from their press release, so they (and I, copying it) got it wrong. ;) You're right.

  • http://www.suecae.com Suecae

    "The catch with environmental/green products is that they are only green when compared to the buying the same type of product, they always lose out when compared to keeping your existing product or doing without that kind of product. They are lower impact alternatives, not actually environmentally friendly."

    You nailed that one perfectly Dustin.

  • enrico

    Yo, I wouldn't want to break the eggs in the basket but…how many guitarists have you seen playing in the open air under the sun? 5%? This thing can definitely endorse woodstock and Wacken but, for the rest, it's useless.

    They could have used the money to genetically modify the musicians in order to have the perfect pitch built in!

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    @enrico: It may not work well during an Icelandic winter or for vampires, but the solar cell is presumably storing up power. It also charges via USB, which may actually be even more useful — I got a USB charger even on my recent Swiss Air flight.

  • synthetic

    Isn't a product's lifetime of batteries bad for the environment? There aren't any rechargeable 9V batteries that I know about, and the mercury in those batteries aren't good for the soil/water table/etc. All things equal this seems like an ecological design, no? Just because it's not made of hemp doesn't make it unhealthy. ;)

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    @synthetic: no, absolutely, and I just dug up a report from 2007 that suggests just that.
    http://www.springerlink.com/content/r104g3640u736

    Solar is good, even only on a tuner.

  • 4lefts

    ahem. tuning fork?

  • Polite

    There is also the concern of the materials used to make the solar panels. Is the offset of the materials used and the process used to make them enough to offset the batteries you would otherwise be using. I have a tuner i've had for 10+ years and have only changed batteries in them once, or possibly never.

  • 8===D

    tuning fork ftw! of iphone app. nobody is going to save the planet by buying one of these little gadgets.

  • eatyone

    don't know if it's the first solar tuning, but what i thinking, is that i have built the first and only one Shruti-1 DIY synth solar Edition, with a chocolate box enclosure (Ferrero Roche d'Or) some month ago…

    http://mutable-instruments.net/forum/comments.php

    :)

  • http://karlsadler.com formatk

    Yea, I think reducing and reusing and hacking old or existing gear is really interesting way to go.

    My friend has just set up a new recording studio and we had a conversation yesterday about how and where we could look to try and reduce the studios impact on the environment. All that gear must use up so much power, so what's the answer there? It's own off grid power generation? Not sure where to start. I'm keen to find out with Cradle to Cradle type business solutions can relate to smaller creative industries like musicians

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    I should add, too, I don't really fault Tascam — someone had to write a press release, so they worked on an angle. I think it's really our responsibility to do the homework, and since we're not in the business of selling lots of hardware, we as consumers and musicians can look at these issues more freely.

    Good points here, all, so we should definitely look at some of the fundamental issues here.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    @eatyone — I love that solar panel. What did you use to source the part?

    Solar could be very, very useful… having just accidentally fried an incompatible power adapter in Sweden. (Yes, I understand 220V. Sometimes I make mistakes.)

  • Damon

    Totally silly practical fun idea. "Pet Solar Powered Tuner." Even non musicians will find this charming.

  • enrico

    I love the idea of the tuning fork…@4left

  • Gary Gore

    using tuner software on your phone would be much more environmentally friendly, because you already have the phone and it can be used for many purposes. I have it on an iPhone, but I would think there must be tuners for other phones too. all phones have a capable mic built in to them.

  • http://www.musicwords.net Jim AIkin

    I still have the tuning fork I was given in high school, and I'm old enough to collect social security. No batteries, no plastic, no moving parts to break. Of course, it only makes an A-440, so a certain level of (cough) musicianship is required in order to use it.

    OTOH, I find the Korg Chromatic Tuner a very useful device for teaching my cello students. They get immediate visual feedback on fine gradations in pitch — much better than having the teacher say, "You're still a little flat."