Harley Benton TE-20 HH SBK Upgrades

Steve Mavronis

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I recently got this TE-20 HH SBK (satin black) from Harley Benton as an upgrade and mod project. It's my first Tele style guitar. The body is basswood and neck is maple with roseacer fretboard. I already replaced the tuners with all black Guyker locking tuners. I do think HB has the best looking T-style headstock shape next to Fender. Next upgrade is the pickups. BTW, found out the OEM pickups here have fake pole adjustment screws LOL. I'm also looking to replace the pots, and maybe add a coil split mini toggle.
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So I'm looking at either the Tonerider Birmingham set or Generator set. Both are Alnico V sets. Here are the specs. But I'm having a hard time deciding if I want the hotter bridge set or not. Of course the Generator set would fit in with the aesthetics as a stealthy metal guitar. Based on output I guess you could somewhat compare the Generator set to the better (and more expensive) SD JB/Jazz Hotrodded Humbucker set, while the Birmingham set is more 70s vintage voiced and can be coil spilt to toggle between classic British crunch to southern rock. I do play all styles of music from 70s classic rock to 80s metal so I'm leaning towards Birmingham but others say a hotter bridge pickup is better. What do you think?
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TX_Slinger

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I had the Birminham set in a Tele and they were very good, but a little hot for what I was looking for so I sold them. They are very good when split. They sound more like P90's in full mode.
 

Steve Mavronis

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Birmingham’s output are just slightly above vintage humbuckers. I was worried about being too hot if I got the Generator set instead! I'm thinking I can get all the 70s British hard rock sounds and 80s metal boosted with pedals if need be.
 
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Steve Mavronis

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Geeze, now I see a 2018 video demo of the Octane (Alnico 8) bridge humbucker by Jay Parmar. Tonerider recommends pairing with a Generator (Alnico 5) neck humbucker. That would probably sound awesome. Should I go for high gain or vintage vibes?
 
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Tim S

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Congrats on the guitar. It is a looker.

I bought the same model for use as a communal guitar for my office. (a few of us play and it’s a great $85 beater guitar…. once I filed down the fret ends… yikes!)

Heres’s a small tip: Check the upper strap button to see if it’s loosening. I had to throw a toothpick into its screw hole after a few weeks to ensure the screw wouldn’t let go on mine.
 

Steve Mavronis

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Thanks, mine feels pretty solid. It seems like it's been quality checked. The action and intonation was good, and no sharp frets. Everything looks perfect except the pickups should be replaced with anything better.

I'm still thinking of buying the Birmingham 50/52mm set by tomorrow afternoon before their Sunday at midnight UK 15% off sale ends. But I have been checking all their Alnico 5 humbuckers. The Generator set seems pretty popular but it's been out longer. A couple demos with the Birmingham sound really good for my tastes. I image the Generator would be equally good but with more bridge pickup attack and presence. It's kinda a toss up though.

Once ordered, I have to look for the proper CTS volume and tone pots and if I want the tone pot to be push/pull for coil split Strat tones as well.
 
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Steve Mavronis

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The Birmingham 50/52mm humbucker set has been ordered! My total was $83 shipped after 15% holiday discount. In some comments I've seen about this pickup set compares it to the SD set called Whole Lotta Humbucker since it's slightly hotter than a vintage set. I think this will breath new life into this budget HB guitar like a Resurrection.

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Steve Mavronis

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Probably think more British Invasion Rock from the 70s and 80s like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, etc. Split coil mode supposed to invoke a Southern Rock sound like a Strat. I’ll probably be mostly in regular humbucker mode.
 

Steve Mavronis

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In retrospect I think just regular humbucker mode will be best and foolproof. I’ll get mini 500k pots with split shafts. I guess both audio log would be good. I know some mix audio and linear pots. Originally I was thinking about adding a small toggle switch but not sure.
 

Jim85IROC

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That Birmingham set looks really nice. A nice, bright low output neck and a bridge that's just a little hotter than a typical PAF. I'll need to keep those in mind for a future build.
 

47adelynn47

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i bought a te-62 and a set of fender original vintage pickups to put in it on the same day...that was several months ago and i don't think i'll put them in...i like the way these sound thru my amp and the occassional trem pedal...low watt amp
 

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Steve Mavronis

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That Birmingham set looks really nice. A nice, bright low output neck and a bridge that's just a little hotter than a typical PAF. I'll need to keep those in mind for a future build.
I like that the Birminghams are a little hotter than PAF’s without going overboard. I think the stock pickups are 10k/11k based on a short guitar test cable measurement. If only HB would have used pole magnet plugs instead of fake adjustment screw poles, then maybe I would keep them. They do drive my tube amps very well.
 

Jim85IROC

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I like that the Birminghams are a little hotter than PAF’s without going overboard. I think the stock pickups are 10k/11k based on a short guitar test cable measurement. If only HB would have used pole magnet plugs instead of fake adjustment screw poles, then maybe I would keep them. They do drive my tube amps very well.
I like a bridge pickup in the 10k range, but definitely not a neck. Neck pickups on cheap guitars tend to get even darker because the cheap pickup covers kill the resonant peak of the pickup. Even a cheap set of Ebay pickups is a huge improvement as long as you get a set with nickel silver covers.
 

Steve Mavronis

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So far here's what I invested towards this guitar (not counting shipping/taxes) with improvements when done:

- Harley Benton TE-20 HH SBK ($82)
- Guyker Guitar Locking Tuners (6 for Right) - 1:18 String Locks ($30.99) * Installed
- Tonerider Birmingham Humbucker Set - Neck 7.2k / Bridge 8.7k, Alnico V ($80)
- CTS 500K Mini Audio Taper Pots (x2) Allparts EP-5486-000 ($20.00)
- .022 uf/400 v Orange Drop Capacitor ($3.55)
- Graph Tech TUSQ XL Guitar String Trees Sleek Qty 2 PT-7004-00 ($16.39)
- Graph Tech Black TUSQ XL Flat Bottom Slot Nut PT-5010-00 ($12.77)
- CRL 3-Way Pickup Selector Blade Switch for Tele Style Electric Guitar w/Tips ($25.26)
- SIT Strings PS946 Stainless Steel Electric Guitar Strings, Rock-N-Roll ($7.19)

Total Value: $278.15

Note: not sure about the use of stainless steel strings on nickel frets or vice versa. They're just the electric guitar strings that I've been using. Eventually, a re-fret to stainless steel frets might make sense, I dunno.
 
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NHFlyCaster

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Thanks for the nut part info. I was wondering if the HBs had a flat or radiused nut slot.
 

Steve Mavronis

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Thanks for the nut part info. I was wondering if the HBs had a flat or radiused nut slot.
That's the part number PT-5010-00 with the correct string spacing. I'll be replacing it this coming week since I was waiting for the mechanical 3-way switch to come in as my last upgrade part. I'm assuming it's a flat slot because others have used the same one for HB T-style guitars. I also accidentally had gotten the Strat style nut that came with a pair of string trees but the string spacing is wider. If it is curved no biggie I can shape it.

I examined the nut slot area with watch repair magnifier glasses. Good news it appears I see a thin gap between the nut and wood on both sides. It looks tight on the headstock side only between the E and B strings. Maybe I’ll make a thin score mark there with an Exacto blade to make sure that’s not glue or finish. It might just be crud or something but I’ll be watchful in that area. Not removing anything yet, just making detailed examinations. Saw a video where a guitar tech used a wood block against each side of the nut and “gently tapped” it to loosen any seal before tapping it out from the side. Will also try a hair dryer on low heat to soften glue first. Some have used the brute force approach and actually cracked the backside of the nut slot. That would be devastating if I did that too. I have replaced a nut before but on a Fender Standard Strat with no issues. Keeping my fingers crossed!
 




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