Harley Benton DC FAT Guitars Review: Single P90 Greatness!

Harley Benton DC Fat

The Harley Benton DC FAT guitars have a feature that a lot of guitarists are looking for, a fat ’59 neck! But the stacked pickups also have a few tricks to pull. So what makes these so awesome?



Disclaimer/Note

Editor’s Note: We just noticed as we published this article that some of these Harley Benton DC FAT and Junior Models are limited edition. Some colors are limited to 250 models being made, in total. So grab one if you want it!


Harley Benton DC Fat Models: Blast From The Past...

I have often been the guy that says ” Ugh, can’t we go forward with guitar design instead of always looking towards the past for influence?”. We have come a long way with guitar designs, but I always look to the future. I stand by that sentiment almost all the time, except when it comes down to one, small, very important detail…

I love the Gibson ’58-’59 neck shape with all of my heart. Which I know goes against every single rule of “shredding” or modern guitar design in general. But there is something about the thicker neck that makes you “fight” with the guitar a little bit. I also have big hands, so that could also be a factor?

Since 2005, I have always had at least one or two guitars in my collection with a fat-style neck. In some cases, it was actually a Gibson Les Paul, which I used a lot on stage. Currently, it is my Schecter E1 Koa that has that fat neck profile, and I play it a LOT.

So the newer run of the Harley Benton DC FAT guitars definitely fill a niche for players that like that baseball bat neck feel. These axes offer the same feel that a much more expensive Gibson models have, at a fraction of the price. But these DC Junior models also fill another gap.

The Gibson “Junior” was originally designed to be an inexpensive version of the flagship models. Gibson wanted to break into the department store sales model, so the Junior models were made to be spartan and most importantly, cheap. Unfortunately, they sell now for thousands brand new.

But the Junior design became a favorite for studio musicians, as well as big stars like Joan Jett. The smaller, lighter body and single P90 pickup was preferred by tons of guitarists. One of the most famous fans of the “single pickup” design is Phil X, and he thinks it has a scientific reason!

Phil X from Bon Jovi seems to think that only having one pickup changes the sound of a guitar! In fact, the DC Junior with a single P90 is his favorite type of guitar. He also likes having a super-low action on his guitar.

In the link, Phil explains that the neck pickup has an impact on the overall sound, since the neck pickup draws magnetic vibration, even when it is disengaged. The magnets still have pull, even if the pickup is not being used. Is this just a myth, or does the argument hold water?

Like “tone wood” and pickup debates, it is really up to the guitarist. The Harley Benton DC FAT does offer something for players that like a guitar with a single P90, as well as fans of the smaller, lighter shape. Harley Benton also makes plenty of Juniors without the FAT neck, and we will list those as well.

You get a big, fat neck and a single pickup that might seem very simple upon first glance. Today we go over the details, and talk about how these can actually be very versatile rock machines! Let’s take a look!


Features & Specs

Harley Benton DC FAT

I know what you’re thinking; there really isn’t a lot to go over with the Harley Benton DC FAT Models, right? I can certainly understand that, but these aren’t for the people that want a ton of options. The whole appeal is the simnplicity.

That being said, Harley Benton still managed to slip a couple of surprises in these guitars. One of them, is the “stacked” P90 pickups. These Roswell P90 pickups are dual function, so you get the thicker single coil tones that you expect from P90 pickups, but you can also make them stacked/humbucker with the push-pull knob.

So if the 60 cycle hum is getting too much for you with a high gain amp, you can dial that out and keep the P90 sound. Add to this the FAT neck, and you have a “modern meets vintage” feel. The Harley Benton DC FAT Series has a lot to offer:

  • Body: Mahogany
  • Set-in Mahogany neck
  • Fretboard: Ebony
  • Fretboard Inlays: Dots
  • Neck profile: FAT ’59
  • Scale: 628 mm (24.72″)
  • Fretboard radius: 305 mm (12.01″)
  • Nut width: 43 mm (1.69″)
  • Graphite Nut
  • 22 Medium jumbo frets
  • Roswell P90D Stack STK4P Alnico-5 Dog Ear humbucker
  • Volume knob
  • Tone control with push/pull function for single coil/humbucker
  • WSC Wrap Around bridge
  • 3-Ply black pickguard
  • Chrome hardware
  • Wilkinson vintage-style machine heads with 15:1 gear ratio
  • Ex-factory stringing: .010 – .046

So looking at the features, you have some components that you will not even find on a $2000 Gibson. There are two features that stick out immediately to me, and those are the fret size, and the adjustable bridge.

The traditional Gibson versions have a wrap-around bridge, that is pre-intonated and not adjustable. This always bothered me, since intonation is so important in the studio. The Harley Benton DC FAT bridge has individual saddle adjustment, as well as height.

The medium jumbo frets are also something I wish were featured on more vintage-inspired guitars. Gibson frets have always felt incredibly small to me. This can have a serious detriment to slides and bends, especially the higher up the neck you go!

But none of that matters if the guitar doesn’t play well, and sound great. If you don’t love thick necks, then this may not be the guitar for you! We got to check one out, right out of the box as usual.


Review: Out Of The Box

Harley Benton DC Fat

If you aren’t used to the way that we do things, we always review guitars right out of the box. We make note of any tweaks we need to make to get the guitar playable, but we never skip a detail. The Harley Benton DC FAT we tried was the Faded Cherry model.

Condition

The first thing that I noticed, is just how nice this finish looks! This transparent red is a classic color, but it is definitely a little darker than it looks in the photos. The entire guitar is satin, and it will probably wear naturally over time.

The neck is definitely fat, but not quite the “baseball bat” that you would imagine. It definitely has a “thick C” profile, but it isn’t quite as wide as a Gibson. The back of the neck has a satin finish, and other models have a glossy finish/neck currently on Thomann’s website. This is why I chose this Cherry color to review, since I like satin necks.

There were no high frets, checking with a fret rocker. There was a little bit of fret sprout on the bass side of the neck, which is an easy fix. There was one sticky fret on the treble side, but it was barely noticeable. The frets can also use a polish, which was expected since they are not stainless steel.

Otherwise, everything was in perfect condition considering it came to the USA all the way from Germany. Shipping took about 5 days in total. The shipping was a little less than usual from Thomann, which is new, and it might be because the company has a new warehouse? I’m not sure, but it is a welcome change.

Setup

The setup out of the box for the Harley Benton DC FAT was not bad at all. The neck had a bit of a back-bow, so it took a few turns of the truss rod to get the neck dead-straight. The fretboard radius allows you to get really low action if you get the neck straight.

After tuning the guitar up, it was surprisingly intonated! I checked on the tuner twice, and the low E string was just slightly sharp by a few cents. The adjustable bridge comes in handy for this! If this bridge was the wrap-around style with no adjustments, this would be a problem.

The string height was right at 2mm, which is acceptable for most players. I like to try and get the action down just a little more, even on vintage-style guitars. I was able to get the Harley Benton DC FAT down to 1.5mm with no problems or buzzing issues.

The nut is an in-house brand meant to replicate the function of a TUSQ nut, and it was cut properly with good clearance on the first fret. The tuners are very responsive for being generic, and feel solid. After a string stretch, there were no tuning issues.

So other than a slight truss rod tweak, everything was pretty much ready to go right out of the box. I have found that Harley Benton can be hit or miss when it comes to this kind of stuff, but the QC department seems to be getting better and better.


Playing

Anytime I see a single pickup guitar, I immediately start thinking about how I am going to use the knobs to manipulate the tone. This was once a lost art, but I see more and more young players starting to use the controls on their guitars these days, even Metal players!

You do have a push-pull option on the tone knob to make the pickup a humbucker. However, I wanted the full-on P90 experience. I own a good noise gate, so I am not too worried about hum. A P90 has a fantastic, wild tone, and I certainly don’t want to tame it in any way!

The Roswell Stacked P90s are BRIGHT. In fact, they almost have that “ice pick” quality with the tone knob turned all the way up. But I see this as a good thing-I would rather have more clarity on tap than I need, than to have to make up for it with EQ somewhere in the chain.

The controls are very responsive, which means that you have a lot more tones at your disposal than you think! I plugged directly into my Mesa Dual Rec, with just a noise gate applied. With the gain about noon, you have all kinds of options using just the knobs.

Rolling back the tone knob gives you a thicker sound that is perfect for solos. P90s have a really unique quality in the midrange that makes the guitar signal really cut through in a mix. Dialing the tone back gives you a syrupy lead tone.

You can also use the volume knob like a “channel switcher”. If you turn the volume down about half way, you get an almost clean tone, even through the Mesa. Turn it up all the way and you have a delicious crunch tone that sounds huge. EVH was a master of this single volume technique.

All together, the Harley Benton DC FAT is capable of a ton of different tones if you just work with it. It may seem simple at first, but there are a wealth of tonal options at your fingertips. It takes some experimenting to get great tones out of a single pickup guitar.

The neck lives up to the FAT name, but not quite as much as its Gibson counterpart. This is a thicker neck than you would find on most production guitars, and I find it to be a nice middle ground between a Fender Strat “C “carve and a ’59 Gibson neck carve.

I do have one issue, and it was something I originally praised. The bridge is a little sharp, physically. This can be a problem if you like to palm mute at the bridge. It won’t actually cut you, but it is definitely a “give and take” situation.

I like that the bridge is adjustable on the Harley Benton DC FAT, but it can also be a little uncomfortable. I think it might be worth it, though. I would rather be able to adjust the intonation, especially each individual string.

All together, this guitar has a lot to offer. I would love to have one for the studio, since there is something about the P90 sound that makes a mix feel “thicker” when tracking guitars. The bright tones sound amazing with big chords, and even better when playing solos. A P90 just has something that traditional single coils doesn’t.

Overall, I am impressed, and I wish guitars like this were available when I was just starting to play! Back in the 90’s you got what you paid for, and anything under $500 was usually terrible. Harley Benton continuously knocks it out of the park for budget prices..


Harley Benton DC FAT & DC60 Prices

Again, some of these models like the “Pelham Blue” variants may be limited runs of 250. So if you want one, scoop it up now. They may, or may not be produced again. Many special models are never produced again.


Harley Benton DC FAT: Wrapping Up…

The Harley Benton DC FAT is everything I would want for a single P90 guitar. Would I stack it up next to an Epiphone? Yes, I would.

When it comes to Gibson, I think anything over $1000 is just too much for the Junior models. These were made to be stripped-down models, and cheaper for the customer. But talking about how Gibson has lost sight would take an entire novel, and something I am not going to get into.

The Harley Benton offers better features in my opinion. You have a fully adjustable bridge, and much larger frets that feel great when you go for a big bend. The guitar is lightweight, and with locking tuners, it could be a great stage guitar.

If you have always wanted to try a single pickup, total rock machine, then the Harley Benton DC FAT might be right up your alley. The bigger neck and single P90 is an amazing combo that just asks to be plugged into a loud amp. For under $300, it is a no-brainer when it comes to picking one of these up!

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