The new Harley Benton Amarok Series is an attempt at high-end features on a budget shredder. But can Harley Benton pull it off? Today we take a look at the Amarok Series and break down the new features.
Harley Benton Amarok Series: Filling a Gap?
An Amarok, or Amaroq, is a gigantic wolf in Inuit religion, said to stalk and devour any person foolish enough to hunt alone at night. Unlike wolves who hunt in packs, amaroks hunt alone...
Thomann has been absolutely knocking it out of the park with Harley Benton gear. No matter what you are looking for, there is a Harley Benton product out there, waiting for you. Harley benton makes guitars, basses, amps, cables, and just about everything else under the sun when it comes to cheap music gear. That’s exactly why the Harley Benton Amarok seems to be an outlier and possibly filling a gap.
While all of the budget stuff that Harley benton makes is “a good deal for the money”…the guitars are usually bare bones when it comes to features. The hardware for example, is usually pretty standard. The pickups are often Harley Benton “in house” pickups that are made in the same factories as the guitars themselves. This is not to say that they are bad by any means, just very… standard.
But that is the whole appeal of Harley Benton guitars. They are really cheap, and can be used as a platform for modding, or they seem to work just fine out of the box. This is the best time to be a beginner player, as there are hundreds of great deals on quality products for people on a budget. But Harley Benton has left out the intermediate players and experienced players with most of the current lineup of products. Until now!
What we seem to have with the Harley Benton Amarok Series is a big step up in quality and features, while still remaining in the budget territory when it comes to price. The features you get on the Amarok Series are usually only seen on much more expensive guitars. So how do the Amarok guitars compare? Let’s take a look!
Harley Benton Amarok: Features And Specs
The Harley Benton Amarok has some impressive, almost unbelievable high end features for the price. You rarely see the materials that are being used, and these construction methods on such a budget guitar. There is a lot to talk about, but let’s look at the specs that each model shares first. From Harley Benton Official:
“Built to deliver both fluid leads and crushing riffs, the Amarok-6 is all about performance playing. Every detail of this guitar is designed to delight players of hard and heavy genres. Seen from the front, the pleasing, fluid contours of the mahogany body are highlighted by the Black Natural Flame Burst transparent satin finish over the subtle ripples of a flame maple veneer.
A luxurious ebony fretboard with stylish dot markers meets a black reverse headstock loaded with black locking Grover tuners. Turn this beast over to reveal the elegant neck-through construction, with a 5-ply neck crafted from mahogany and maple. Get ready to unleash the power of the active EMG hot 70 humbuckers via the stripped-back set of tone and volume controls. This animal will obey your every command…“
- Comes In Baritone, 6, And 7 String Models
- Mahogany Body
- 5 Piece Maple/ Mahogany Neck
- Ebony Fretboard
- Natural Wood Binding
- Pearloid Inlays
- Glow In The Dark Side Dots
- Carved top
- Graph Tech Tusq Nut
- Grover Locking Tuners
- 24 Jumbo Stainless Steel Frets
- 14” Radius
- 25.5 Scale Length
- EMG Hot 70’s Pickups
- Neck Through Construction
- Made In Indonesia
There is a lot to go over here, but let’s start with the obvious, the appearance. It’s no secret that this is basically a Schecter guitar, a C1/C7 model at that. Schecter is not the only company that makes a body style like this, but the horn cutouts, and control layout looks a lot like a Schecter. Nothing is wrong with the body shape, I am just pointing out what the body looks like.
Starting from the top, we have Grover locking tuners and a Graph Tech nut. The nut’s slots on the two models I got to check out, were cut perfectly and the tuners are awesome. Locking tuners can really save time when it comes to string changes. Tuning stability relies on the nut, and Graph Tech is the industry standard. Already, we have some awesome features just on the headstock! The headstock is painted to match the body.
The neck is a 5 piece maple and mahogany design that looks like an Ibanez from the back. I was really surprised with the fretwork on the Harley Benton Amarok. You do not have premium rolled edges, but all of the frets were level and there were no sharp fret ends up and down the fretboard. I’m totally surprised that these are stainless steel, since this is a feature you usually see on $1200 and up guitars! Stainless never tarnishes, and these frets might even outlive you!
The neck feels like a Schecter/ESP neck, meaning it is a “Modern C Shape”. The fretboard is nice and flat, but the back of the neck has some meat on it. So if you like the Ibanez D-shape necks with the big shoulders, this may not be for you. This is like a Stratocaster on Slim Fast! Since it is neck through construction, there is no neck heel to get in the way of getting to the highest frets.
The body is almost identical to a Schecter C1 in shape and size. There is the illusion of the guitar having a Flame Maple cap, but the top is just a veneer. Now I have talked about veneers before with Cort guitars as well as Harley Benton. A veneer is never going to look as nice as a AAA Flame maple top, but it certainly doesn’t look bad. The binding is natural wood, where the guitar was taped off during the paint process, and there are a few smudges and inconsistencies along the body. But not an issue that I would send the guitar back for, just tiny imperfections. You have a spoke wheel truss rod adjustment at the base of the neck.
The hardware is all top-notch as well. You have a Wilkinson hardtail bridge that looks identical to a Hipshot bridge. Like a Hipshot, it is very low profile, and doesn’t get in the way of palm muting. It’s easy to intonate and set string height. The volume and tone knobs are pretty smooth, except the volume knob was set too low and scraping the wood. This was an easy fix, and I just took the knob off and adjusted it.
The EMG Hot 70’s pickups are active pickups that are trying their best NOT to sound active (These are also made specifically for Harley Benton Amarok). To my ears they sound like a hot rod PAF, like the Duncan Pearly Gates. The EMG Hot 70’s are ceramic for the bridge, and Alnico for the neck. This is a pretty customary magnet setup and you see Fishman Fluence do this all the time.
The bridge pickup with the ceramic magnet has a lot of mid-range boost and bite. This pickup is designed to handle high gain, and it definitely does. The string separation is very clear, and you can get some really great tones. The bridge pickup also cleans up nicely, but like most EMG bridge models, it sounds a little anemic. However the dynamics and response under high gain is undeniable. This thing shreds. Pinch harmonic squeals are easy to grab and bend.
The neck pickup gets the better clean tones for sure. But it also handles gain really well, and you can get some smooth lead tones that cut through the mix with this pickup. If you roll the tone knob down a little bit, it can even give you that classic Les Paul creaminess that you would not expect from an active pickup. Again, the dynamics really shine while clean or under high gain with effects.
Now active pickups sometimes have a problem with sustain, but these EMG RetroActives have some amazing sustain! They even get close to getting solid feedback if you add enough gain, which is rare for an active pickup set. But the sustain had to be mentioned, since it was such a standout feature.
Harley Benton Amarok Series: So What Is The Downside?
Look, I went over this thing with a very critical eye. I have owned 100s of guitars, and I like to think that I know a good one from a bad one. There really isn’t a downside to these models. I’m actually surprised that Harley benton managed to get so many features packed into these guitars while staying under $600 for any model. At the core, these are on par with the Damien Series by Schecter, but the Harley Benton Amarok actually outclasses the Schecter when it comes to features.
I don’t want to give them back, but I have to. I have enough guitars, for now.
The Harley Benton Amarok comes in 3 different colors, and all of them look nice with a matte flame finish. You can choose between baritone, 6, and 7 string models without changing any of the features. Each model also has a lefty version available. This is great news for lefties all over the world!
The Harley Benton Amarok is obviously competing with budget guitars that Schecter, Solar, and ESP are offering. If I am being completely honest, the Harley Benton Amarok beats all three companies with the stainless steel frets, and EMG Pickups that come stock on this model. The guitars were even nicely set up out of the box. They just needed a little bit of adjustment to be perfect with intonation.
The first batch of these apparently had input jack issues. Harley Benton has reached out, and clarified that these new models do not have this issue and it was fixed at the factory level. They even offered refunds for the first batch of Harley Benton Amarok guitars that had this problem.
The Harley Benton Amarok 7 string is a 25.5 scale down tune beast! You get EMG Pickups specifically designed for this model, as well as Grover locking tuners and stainless steel frets! This is a great addition to anyone's 7 string arsenal.
Harley Benton Amarok: The Verdict
If you are looking for your first “shred” guitar, or you play Metal and you are looking for an upgrade…this guitar is a lot for the money. Sure, the bigger brands have a better reputation, and this is the first time Harley Benton has really offered anything like this kind of quality. So I can understand if some people are hesitant to buy these “sight unseen”. But honestly, this is a fully upgraded guitar that is ready for just about anything.
Let’s be hypercritical: The guitar does have some neck-dive issues, but the strap button placement evens that out really well. The paint job is not perfect on either of the models I got to check out. There was some overspray on the body, as well as the matching headstock. The matte finish feels pretty thin, and may wear over time, revealing the bare wood ( I actually think this is cool).
That’s it. I cannot fault these guitars for anything else. The Harley Benton Amarok seems like a great guitar for learning, gigging, and recording. It has every feature you would want in a professional guitar. I would like to see Harley Benton give this treatment to some of the other models offered, and have them fully upgraded. I play Schecter exclusively, but I would absolutely play this guitar live and in the studio. In fact, I am very interested in the baritone model.
I don’t know what else to say, I expected all kinds of flaws and imperfections going into this review. But the Harley Benton Amarok is a great instrument not only in the budget price range, but a great instrument period! This may be a contender for the best budget guitar of 2021!
Buy Yours while Thomann has them in stock! I’m Sure these will go fast!
Does The Harley Benton Amarok Come With A Case/ Gig Bag
They do not, but the Harley Benton gig bags and cases are very affordable. The Amarok will also fit in most generic Roadrunner cases for “Strat-Style” guitars.
Is The Harley Benton Amarok Any Good?
In my opinion, the features you get for such a low budget price, make the Harley benton Amarok series a no brainer. You get name brand hardware, EMG Pickups, and Stainless frets all for under $500. Thomann also offers a baritone model, and a 7 string for about $50 more.
Can I buy The Harley Benton Amarok If I Live In America?
Harley Benton may ship from Germany, but Thomann Music does ship internationally for affordable rates. You can buy Harley Benton guitars from anywhere in the world. Ship time is usually 14 days at the most, if the item is in stock.
Do Harley Benton Guitars Come “Set Up” From The Factory?
Most models come to you, ready to play. More experienced players will probably want to make a few adjustments, but the Harley Benton guitars usually come ready to play right out of the box.
Christoper HortonChristopher has been playing guitar and piano for 27 years. He has been active in the professional music industry for over two decades. He has toured for years with several bands and music projects. He worked in LA as a studio musician and engineer working with bands like IAMSOUND, Baroness, Kylesa, Black Tusk, Reflux, and Tripping Daisy. In between giving private lessons, he is recording a solo album for 2022-2023. Christopher plays Schecter guitars, BOSS amplifiers, and uses STL Tones in the studio.
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