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NGD: Harley Benton Variety Pack

Discussion in 'Other Guitars, other instruments' started by Drew617, Feb 24, 2021.

  1. Drew617

    Drew617 Tele-Meister Silver Supporter

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    North Shore, Mass.
    Say hey,

    I'll try to add to the existing HB experience here. Got two in today from Thomann, the SC Special in white and Custom 24 with P90s in black flame.

    Background: I've been looking for an inexpensive, set neck LP Special copy for a while. I keep a good one with all the rest of my gear upstairs, but find that I play different music different ways on different guitars, so it's useful to have a "like" copy downstairs by the couch, something that I can let kids knock around. I found that a lot of the set neck Asian copies I could find (Hamer, Vintage, Quality Epi reissues) are selling around $400-500 which felt too close to used Gibson money to me. Guys are scalping the recent TVY Epiphone Special with bound fingerboard on Reverb right now, which is ridiculous. I waited for a rare-ish Agile AD-2300, bought it, just to have it damaged/totaled in shipment to me.

    So all that led me to the $244 Harley Benton. While I was there I found a B-stock PRS copy with P-90s for $188 and bought that too. I've owned a couple real PRS but never really bonded with either, even though they're a useful and comfortable format. At $1500 I traded those for other stuff eventually, at $188 I can see keeping a decent imitation around.

    Placed the order on 21 Feb and received it in Boston 24 Feb. $101 total shipping for both guitars. The UPS label was generated in Germany but the shipment originated in Philly. Both are only half dialed in right now, "minimum viable" adjustments and fresh strings and that stuff, with little playing time on either. So, quick impressions:

    The Special: Made in Indonesia. Well-finished in matte white, obviously sealed, smooth and opaque. No flaws, but the top surface feels more "coarse" than the back or sides. I thought it might be shop dust but it persists after cleaning the whole thing. Nice baseball bat neck. Frets are actually pretty good: Look hand-filed, no sprout and level enough not to interfere with hastily adjusted med-low action. The fingerboard is almost certainly dyed and I expect it to come off on my fingers. Tuners are hot garbage, but all Deluxe tuners are and the buttons are right, so they'll stay unless they actually start slipping. Pickups are fairly bright and fantastic, although I'll say that I've liked some trashy ceramic P-90s better than the Duncans I just pulled out of another guitar. I didn't think to check whether these are Artec or something else. The bridge is a Wilkinson wraparound unit or copy, quality enough. I haven't looked at the electronics but the pots are smooth and silent. The nut is not installed in a routed channel, just sat against the end of the fingerboard on a pile of saw dust? bone dust? Can't remember if that's a real Junior/Special thing or if it's just cost saving on the HB. The nut sucks though and I'll end up replacing it. Slots are cut to the right depth, but it's soft plastic that doesn't cut cleanly and burs, and far too narrow for the low E string that came installed on the guitar. It's 6.6 pounds, super resonant and ringy plugged or unplugged. In hand it gives roughly the same impression as a real Junior or Special, and balances like one.

    The fake PRS: Made in Vietnam. Looks very nice, even up close. Nice finish with one flaw in the top, a bubble or tiny piece of debris in the poly. Just enough to distort a reflection, definitely not a dealbreaker at $188. Not a ton of depth to the flame veneer, because it's veneer, but it's a good flame and matched well. It's not super apparent either because the black burst is dark. In interior lighting it really just looks like a black guitar. The P90s in this sound good, but a little thinner than those in the Special. Might be down to the scale, maple veneer, and tremolo on this guitar. I didn't actually verify that the same pickups are in both guitars. The tuners on this one are visibly cheap, look like normal Gotoh copies but actually felt like plastic. I put on a spare set of Grovers as soon as I turned them. Trem is a really nice Wilkinson unit with nicely-machined stainless saddles. I sorta wish this was a 2-point trem, since there's nothing otherwise traditional about the trem or guitar, oh well. Frets are finished nicely and there's no sprout. The guitar came with a ton of neck relief so didn't get to assess their levelness right away. This nut is better and cut cleaner than on the white guitar, feels more like Tusq than soft plastic.

    Both of them: Hooray for volutes! I put straplok buttons and numbered (speed or Strat) knobs on everything just because. The pickup covers - is Roswell a real brand in Europe? Is this Amazon-style branding of generic OEM things? The cheesy label makes the product less credible, why not leave it blank? This all made me remember that the acetone I used to remove the printing also eats ABS pickup covers. I put on black spares (both 50mm) that I had on hand.

    Both guitars are at least competent out of the box, with some expected cheesy bits, and one or two that were shockingly cheap. I don't see anything fundamental right away that would prevent either from being a good player, probably better with some minor upgrades. I'm especially pleased with the Special, although that's a little just because they make a set neck P90 Special at all. "You get what you pay for" seems to hold here but they're definitely not a ripoff.

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    Authentisch Thomann promotional materials.

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    FenderGyrl, Dereksys38 and Dan German like this.
  2. Dan German

    Dan German Doctor of Teleocity

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    Well, for that kind of money, those look like a nice place to start! I especially like the PRS/P90 one, even though that’s usually not my thing (of course, those style guitars rarely have P90s). And yes, Roswell pickups are a thing. UK, I think, but I could be wrong.
     
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