The paper presents a time domain model of a heaving buoy wave-energy converter and investigates the tuning problem in irregular seas. The tuning issue is addressed by employing both fixed (passive) and adaptive (active) power-take-off settings. The fixed power-take-off tuning approach includes models based on tuning the device natural frequency to either the energy frequency or peak frequency of the sea-state or a weighted average of several peak frequencies. The adaptive tuning approaches employ a sliding discrete Fourier transform frequency analysis, or a time-series analysis of the measured wave elevation and device velocity to estimate a localized dominant wave frequency and hence calculate power-take-off settings. The paper presents details of these tuning techniques by discussing issues related to the modelling, simulation, and predicted power captures for each method. A comparative study of each method along with practical implications of the results and recommendations are also presented. © IMechE 2007.