The Harley Benton Fusion 3 is a monster of a guitar. Today we check out all of the features, and take a look at what might be the best budget guitar in the world!
Harley Benton Fusion 3: A Budget Masterpiece
Harley Benton has been a popular topic these last few years. When these guitars first hit the scene, they were obviously budget copies of bigger brands. Usually this is a warning sign when it comes to buying a new guitar. Copies of bigger brands like Fender, or Gibson usually turn out to be poorly made and unplayable.
But Harley Benton started getting a reputation for being well made instruments. Suddenly the internet was populated with positive reviews of the brand, despite being cheap guitars that mimic bigger brands. Harley Benton guitars are designed in Germany, and made overseas. Like other Far-East brands these days, quality has gone up quite a bit.
This opens up a whole new realm of guitars for beginners or guitarists on a tight budget. For beginners, these are well made and easy to play and maintain. For an experienced guitarist on a budget, this could be a great option when something like Gibson is out of reach. Harley Benton even beats Epiphone with it’s prices!
But how? How can these guitars be such good quality for such a low price? The answer is pretty easy…
CNC machines are more accurate and precise than ever. When it comes to making guitars these days, machines do most of the heavy lifting. This is exactly the case when it comes to Harley Benton guitars. There is a smaller margin for error since human contact is pretty limited. Gone are the days of carving a guitar neck by hand.
Harley Benton benefits greatly from these machines since they provide consistency. Almost every guitar comes out identical to the next. This also brings labor costs down, which in turn provides savings to you as a consumer. The CNC machine doesn’t need a paycheck every week.
The final advantage that Harley Benton has, is it is designed and commissioned by Thomann Music. This means that there is no middle man between you and the dealer. Harley Benton is sold direct, and this brings down the cost yet again, and the savings go straight to the consumer. There is no distributor for Harley Benton guitars, you buy them directly from the source.
So when we factor in all of this info, it’s a little easier to see why these guitars are so affordable. Hopefully, this info also gives you a little bit of comfort as a buyer if you are interested in getting a Harley Benton. Yes, the price is cheap. But that does not mean that the product itself is cheap.
So let’s take a look at the new Harley Benton Fusion 3 lineup, and see what it has to offer! To avoid any preconceived bias towards the value of these guitars, I am not going to discuss price until the end of the review. So let’s do a deep dive on the features, then we will talk about money.
Harley Benton Fusion 3: Modern Meets Traditional
The Fusion Series has been through a few different iterations now, and I think Harley Benton is finally finding it’s groove with the new lineup. The Fusion series has always been a retake on more traditional instruments, adding more modern appointments and aesthetics. At first glance, these look suspiciously like the Charvel DK24 guitars. I think that is exactly what Harley Benton was going for.
In fact, the Harley Benton Fusion 3 shares a ton of features with modern Charvel guitars, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. Is Harley Benton an outright copy? No, it is not a total copy, but the similarity can’t be denied. There are a lot of variants of the Fusion Lineup, but they all share similar features:
- Roasted Maple Neck
- 24 Frets
- Stainless Steel Frets
- Wilkinson Locking Tuners
- Wilkinson Bridge
- Roswell Pickups
- 12” Radius Fretboard
- Bolt On Construction
- Modern C Shape Necks
Harley Benton Fusion 3: Features And Specs
There is a lot to talk about here, and a ton of models to look at. I got to try out the Harley Benton Fusion 3 HSH Purple Flame Top seen above. But there are a truck load of different body shapes, and pickup configurations. These all have a significant amount of individual features on top of the shared ones, and this purposeful diversity has something to offer for every type of player.
But the feature I wanted to start with, is the stainless steel frets. It’s crazy to think that you get such an upscale feature on an affordable guitar, but you do! Stainless frets should last you a lifetime, and never need maintenance. Gone are the days of leveling, polishing, and adjusting frets. You see, most guitar frets are nickel and they wear down, stainless on the other hand, is such a hard metal that it may outlive you. This is a feature you usually only see on much more expensive guitars.
The fret ends are also finished nicely. The edges are not sharp or protruding anywhere on the neck, so no sharp fret ends in sight! The frets were also finished well, and they were all leveled nicely. I broke out some tools to check, and there was one fret that was a little high. But we are talking a miniscule measurement, and it did not affect the playing at all. It is very surprising to see such well finished frets on a budget guitar.
The neck on all of the models is the same, and it can best be described as a more sleek Fender neck. The flatter radius makes it easier to play fast, and the shape of the neck is just a little thinner than the modern C shape we see on a Fender. Roasted Maple is a strong wood, and that means less adjusting over time. The important part, is it is very comfortable to play. The truss rod is a spoke wheel style, at the heel of the neck.
The finish looks nice, but it is obviously just a veneer. I’m not complaining at all, as most budget guitars that have a flame top are going to be a veneer. I would prefer a solid color, I think. The paint job is even, and still looks great for what it is. I checked over the guitar for overspray or finish blemishes and I couldn’t find anything!
The hardware is all Wilkinson and I have to admit, before the Harley Benton Fusion 3 I did not have much experience with the company. I have tried out the Wilkinson Trem on some Charvel guitars before, but after getting to spend some real time with it…I am a big fan! Usually, I am a die-hard Floyd Rose player. But the Wilkinson can do most of what a Floyd can do when it comes to bends and flutters.
You will not be dive-bombing with this thing, but it holds tune well during normal use. This has a lot to do with the Graphtech Nut and Wilkinson locking tuners as well. Tuning is as stable as it can get without a locking nut. Setting the intonation is pretty easy, and it works a lot like a Fender. I still prefer a Floyd Rose, but this bridge was a very unexpected surprise!
The pickups are Roswell, which is the in house brand for Harley Benton. Now I knew going in that these would not compare to the EMG or Seymour Duncan pups that I use on my Schecter guitars. But I gave them an unbiased shot, and I tried them through my amp, and the amp sims I have on my computer. So I feel like I gave them a fair shake, and used my presets that I record with.
The Roswell Humbuckers are Alnico 5 magnets, and they actually sound really great! Both the bridge and the neck are “medium hot” like a PAF style humbucker. They sound great with high gain, and can certainly handle some chugging. On the clean settings, I felt like they were lacking bass and sounded a little brittle. Both pickups can be coil split, to get a single coil tone.
The Split coil modes also lacked a lot of bass and warmth that you would usually find on a Strat-style guitar. But the tones were definitely usable, I just had to EQ some bass into the mix and it sounded great. The middle single coil sounds ok, but it’s probably the least used pickup for me. With the 5 way switch, and the split modes, you have a huge palette of tones to play with.
Playing back to back with my EMG equipped guitars, there is no comparison. The EMG pickups blow the Roswell pups out of the water. But let’s be fair here…the EMG set that I use costs $200. And when you see the price of the Harley Benton Fusion, you will see why I am not hypercritical with the pickups.
The electronics could definitely be better. I opened up the back, and the pots and wiring look… fine… but they are all pretty cheap. These are not name brand electronics, and you can tell when you dial down the volume or tone. You just don’t get the response that you would with more expensive electronics. But this is something that can be replaced down the road for $20, if it bothers you.
Harley Benton Fusion 3: Verdict
All in all, the Harley Benton Fusion 3 was a joy to play. This is a perfect blend of vintage and modern features that gives the player a lot of options when it comes to style and tone. The look is definitely vintage and classic since the body shapes are all very familiar. But the features make it modern, especially the flatter neck radius and pickup switching options.
This is the perfect guitar for someone like me. I play Metal nine times out of ten. I almost always play heavy music when I pick up the guitar, so most of my guitars are made for Metal. But I also need a Strat style guitar for when I want to play Blues or record clean parts. I might love heavy music, but like most guitarists…I play a little bit of everything.
So having a guitar that can do it all, is pretty cool. Lots of companies have tried this and have had tons of success, especially Charvel. The Harley Benton Fusion 3 can do a little bit of everything, and it is almost a hybrid of several guitars. It is like a chimera of modern guitars rolled up into a classic visage.
For a little more money, I would upgrade this guitar by changing out the pickups and electronics. But beyond that…I can’t really find anything else that I would change out. This guitar is SOLID.
But this is just the one that I got to try out. Across the lineup you have all kinds of variants:
- Dual Humbucker
- HSS Configuration
- HSH Configuration
- Plain Top, Sparkle Finish, or Flame Maple Veneer
- Strat and Tele Body Shapes
- Fixed Bridge, Floyd Rose, or Wilkinson Trem
- Rosewood or Roasted Maple Fretboard
Harley Benton Fusion 3: The Price, and Wrapping up…
Let’s talk about the price. As you can see from the link to buy above, these guitars are $379.00. This is an absolutely insane price for so many high end features. Harley Benton manufactures these guitars in different “runs” or batches. This means they make a limited amount of each style and change the finish options each run. The current run features the new pastel finishes.
Look, I was doubtful going into this. I knew Harley Benton has a reputation for being a good value for the money, but this is a crazy good deal for any guitarist, not just beginner guitarists. I would proudly record with the Harley Benton Fusion 3 “as is”. However, it would be an absolute beast of a guitar with just a couple of upgrades.
This is also a risk free buy, since Thomann Music has such a great return policy. If you find something wrong with your guitar, they will replace it. So if there is anything wrong at all, there is no need to worry. Thomann will even pay for return shipping should you have an issue. Thomann has superior customer service, no matter what country you are in.
We are truly living in the “Golden Age” of guitar. 20 years ago there is no way in hell you would be able to get this kind of quality for such a low price. But as I explained in the beginning of the article, technology has made guitar production so much easier and efficient.
I don’t often endorse many brands beyond Schecter and Epiphone. I have a lot of experience with those two brands and I will stand behind those guitars any day of the week. That being said, I highly recommend Harley Benton. This is a great guitar for a beginner or intermediate. But even an experienced guitarist can find some value in the Fusion 3, especially with some upgrades.
Are Harley Benton Guitars Any Good?
For a budget brand, Harley Benton really knocks it out of the park. These may be classic designs, but they are built solid and have a variety of models to choose from that suits any genre of music you can think of.
Do Harley Benton guitars Come With A Case/Gig bag?
Not usually, but Thomann offers gig bags and cases for a low price. Every Harley Benton model has case or gig bag available for order.
Do Harley Benton Guitars Really Have Stainless Steel Frets?
Yes! Some select models have stainless steel frets. These models are usually a little more expensive, but the upgrade is totally worth it. Harley Benton uses quality Stainless steel that does not tarnish or wear down.