Harley Benton Guitars has a massive selection, and we are going to break down every aspect of the company for you, so you can make an informed purchase.
Harley Benton Guitars: What You NEED To Know
Harley Benton Guitars are extremely popular right now, and for a really good reason! Harley Benton is known for being a budget brand, and low-cost guitars have never been more popular. Harley Benton started as the “house brand” for Musikhaus Thomann, but has really became its own brand over the recent years.
Most Harley Benton guitars will look very familiar to anyone that is familiar with popular guitar styles. Harley Benton models are styled like many different types of guitars. Just about every shape has been done before, and some shapes just “work”.
Harley Benton Guitars is known for providing higher ended features at lower price points than the major brands. This means that you get upgrades like Roasted Maple necks, Wilkinson hardware, great pickups, and nice finishes. These guitars usually look and play much better than comparable instruments in the same price point.
The main companies that Harley Benton Guitars are in competition with are most of the beginner brands. When it comes to beginner guitars, most will come in under the $500 price point. Epiphone and Squier are the best comparisons when it comes to price.
Harley Benton has several price tiers, like any other guitar company. The higher you go, the better the quality becomes and the more options you have to choose from. This means more elaborate finishes, better pickups, locking tuners, and name brand hardware.
All Harley Benton Guitars are import models, either from Indonesia or China depending on the model type. But the guitars are then shipped to Thomann Music and looked over for a final quality control check. The QC department looks at every guitar before it leaves the shop.
The guitars then ship worldwide from the German online store. Shipping costs are free in a lot of Europe, and can get up to about $60 shipping to the USA. No matter where you are, you get a 30 day money-back warranty with every guitar. If there are any issues, you can send it back, no questions asked.
Types Of Guitars
Harley Benton makes all kinds of guitars in many shapes and sizes. Most of the brand is composed of guitars that are “inspired by” legendary models. That being said, these are not direct copies of a Fender or Gibson, for example. The Harley Benton guitars take some of the aesthetics, but change the design and specs.
A great example would be some of the models that look like a typical Stratocaster. These may have the same look, but the neck carve, radius, and components are usually very different from a Fender guitar. The same can be said for the guitars that look like a Les Paul or any other popular guitar type.
These may look like classics, but the features are more modern. This makes the guitars easier to play for beginners, and more comfortable for experienced guitarists.
Harley Benton organizes the guitars by price and features. But on the official site the models are all organized by shape as well. So you can easily navigate by price, series, shape, and features. We are going to break it down for you right here, starting with the price/series going lowest to highest:
Harley Benton Series Types:
- DIY Kit Series
- Standard Series/Student Series
- Classic/Vintage Series
- Rock Series/Hot Rod
- Progressive Series
- Deluxe Series
- Pro Series
- Signature/Tribute Series
Most of the Standard and Student series guitars are going to be “bare bones” takes on very iconic guitars. As we move up the list, you get more and more features added.
You also get more name-brand hardware and pickups past the Hot Rod Series. Harley Benton is unique in the fact that almost every model comes in a left handed version.
The other way that Harley Benton organizes the collection of guitars is by the shape of the guitar. These shapes are familiar to most experienced guitarists. A couple like the Fusion III or Amarok are unique to Harley Benton and have become some of the most popular guitars in the collection. The shapes:
Harley Benton Guitars By Shape
- ST-Style (Stratocaster)
- TE-Style (Telecaster)
- Single Cut (Les Paul)
- Double Cut (SG)
- CST (PRS Style)
- Progressive (Modern Guitars Like Schecter Or Ibanez)
- Offset (Flying V, Explorer, Jazzmaster)
- Fusion (Modern, Charvel)
- Amarok (Harley Benton Design)
- Tribute (Famous Artist Models)
- Headless (No Headstock)
- Hollow Body (Hollow and Semi-Hollow)
All Harley Benton types are constantly being updated, with new models being introduced. Some types of guitar are only available for a limited time, and these limited runs are highly sought after.
Harley Benton Guitars also does a few “one off” models like the EX-84, which is the tribute to Metallica and has EMG pickups.
Are Harley Benton Guitars Any Good?
Like most guitar brands/companies, the quality of Harley Benton is going to vary depending on the price range. Although Thomann Music does have a fantastic team that adheres to a strict QC process, sometimes a “lemon” can slip through the cracks.
But for the most part, Harley Benton offers a lot of value for the money. The lower end and higher end models are all made with CNC machines, so there is little room for error. The “human detail” comes from the finishing process where the frets are filed, and the guitar gets a whole “once over” before it leaves the factory.
The biggest draw is that Harley Benton offers some features that you only see in high end guitars. Once you get to the Deluxe Series you start to see name brand hardware and some very nice pickup options. Harley Benton has a deal with Wilkinson Hardware, which is highly regarded in the guitar community. The higher priced models also use EMG Active Pickups.
My personal experience with Harley Benton guitars has been overwhelmingly positive. Most arrived to me in “playable condition” at the very least. The ones that needed a little bit of work were simple guitar setup procedures like tweaking the truss rod, or setting the action a bit lower.
Most reviews that are professional also seem to be overwhelmingly positive for the brand, and a quick search on YouTube will show you hundreds of opinions. The most popular models are not just the higher priced guitars, as you would think. Some of the lower priced guitars have seen glowing reviews.
Some of the Harley Benton reviews, as well as my own, have mentioned small flaws. I have often found some paint imperfections, or cosmetic binding pieces that do not affect the playability in any way. Most of these imperfections are just aesthetic problems. Then again, the very cheap Harley Benton ST Active was flawless when we reviewed it and it is from the Standard Series.
Most reviews of the brand have been very solid, with professionals saying that Harley Benton Guitars play “as good as guitars that are 3 times the price”. Even some of the YouTube reviewers known to be “hard” on budget brands have been mostly impressed with the quality. Someone like “Arnold Plays Guitar” is always very in depth, and gives every guitar he reviews a fair shake.
It is important to know how to do the basic parts of a guitar setup if you want to be a guitar player. Even very expensive guitars will come in a condition where you need to do a setup.
Harley Benton is no different, and sometimes you will have to perform some basic setup. Guitars with a floating bridge will need more attention from the consumer.
Harley Benton guitars are very good for the most part, even if a few bad guitars do slip through QC. Bad guitars or “lemons” can come from any company at any price tier.
Harley Benton offers some fantastic quality for a budget price, in a way that you do not see from many brands. I think they are very good guitars, and a great deal. Which brings us to…
Are Harley Benton Guitars Affordable?
Harley Benton guitars are known for being low cost, affordable guitars. The lower end of the entire collection is under $100 for a full-size, adult guitar. But the brand does meander into higher prices with the original models like the Amarok. Even at the highest prices, and the highest tiers, Harley Benton beats the competition.
How affordable a Harley Benton model costs depends on the Series that the guitar is from. The prices are also reflected in the features. Different models have either basic features, or brand-name features and hardware. For example; the guitars with EMG pickups are going to cost more.
But when we are talking about “bang for your buck” it is almost impossible to find another brand that offers the same features for the price. Almost all budget brand guitars have to cut corners somewhere to present a guitar that is feature-packed at a low price.
For Harley Benton, there are not any corners cut per se. One of the things that make it easy to build a guitar for such a low price is the technology we have today. Harley Benton came around right at the time that CNC machines became more efficient. This means almost every wooden component of the guitar is made/carved by machine.
Harley Benton as a brand also does not advertise like a bigger company like Gibson. The big guitar brands pay for ads, and even pay for wall space in a guitar store. Have you ever went to a guitar store that had mostly Fender?
That is a result of the store making a deal with Fender that states a certain percentage of the store must be Fender products.
There are also distribution deals that add to the cost of your guitar. Big brands will pay stores like Guitar Center or Sweetwater to carry the brand. This adds to the cost of the instrument. Having signature artists also adds to a brand’s overhead, since they have to pay the artists to play the brand exclusively.
Harley Benton Guitars is the “house brand” made exclusively by Thomann, and can only be purchased at Thomann Music. This means that Harley Benton guitars doesn’t have to add to the price of products to be distributed. There are no “official” Harley Benton Guitars Signature Artists, however there have been some limited runs for YouTubers that appreciate the brand.
This is why Harley Benton guitars are so affordable. The brand is linked directly to the retailer, so there is no distribution deal. There are no artists to pay when it comes to exclusive players. On top of all of this, Harley Benton Guitars are all made in Indonesia (Sometimes Vietnam) and China, which also brings the cost down.
Who Manufactures Harley Benton Guitars?
Well, technically this is a one sentence answer when you break it down. Thomann Music manufactures Harley Benton Guitars, and distributes the brand exclusively. But we already know that, what about the factories where they are actually crafted?
Harley Benton guitars are mainly manufactured in over 20 factories in China, Indonesia and Vietnam. The guitars are produced in the Far East factories and shipped to Thomann warehouses in Germany where the final QC process is completed, and then the orders are shipped to you.
The early models were made in South Korea, much like ESP and Schecter guitars. The problem with the Korean factory options is now cost. Korean guitars are right behind Japanese guitars when it comes to quality of workmanship. So Harley Benton Guitars moved to China, Vietnam, and primarily Indonesia.
Anyone who has played a higher-end Indonesian guitar knows that the quality is getting close to South Korea. There are some major players in Indonesia, and Haley Benton uses over 20 different factories to manufacture guitars. It can be hard to pull up records for where a guitar is made, exactly.
Furthermore, Harley Benton guitars work in “batches” when it comes to production. This means that 500 of the same model may be ordered at a time from one particular factory, and the next 500 of the same guitar could be made in another similar factory. There are a few major players in Indonesia when it comes to guitars, and I am sure Harley Benton has used these factories recently, or in the last year:
- OZ Guitars (Fender D’Angelico, Squier)
- Samick Musical Instruments (Too many brands are made here to list!)
- Cort COR-TEK (Cort Guitars, Fender, many other brands)
- Wildwood Instrument Company (Schecter, Yamaha, Jackson, ESP, Dean)
So you can see that the Indonesian-made Harley Benton Guitars are definitely in good hands, and are comparable to all of these other brands. I own 2 Indonesian-made guitars and they are great quality for a guitar that is under $1000. Almost all of the Indonesian companies work on budget guitars that fall into that lower price bracket.
When it comes to the models that are made in China or Vietnam, I had a hard time tracing shipments of Harley Benton guitars. This can be one of a couple reasons, but the main one is going to be that Thomann does not use China very often anymore. Almost all of the Harley Benton models are Indonesian that I have reviewed, with the exception of the CST-24, which was made in Vietnam.
Guitar production first left the USA on a mass scale in the 70’s when it comes to electric models. At the time, Japan was the lower cost option. Now, the lower cost option is either China or Indonesia. When it comes to the reasons, it can get complicated. But the biggest factors are labor and rent costs.
If you worry about the ethics of Harley Benton guitars being made in Indonesia, the company has posted many videos about the topic. Indonesia has good worker’s rights, and has climate controlled work environments. So you can rest at ease, knowing this is not a ‘sweat shop” guitar.
History Of Harley Benton Guitars
Harley Benton is a relatively new brand in the guitar world, and was developed by Thomann Music in Germany. It is the official brand of Thomann Music which is based in Bavaria, and is the largest retailer of music gear in Europe. Harley Benton makes more than just guitars, and features amps, basses, acoustics, and all kinds of accessories. We have reviewed the brand’s effects before, and we were impressed.
Han Thomann opened the store in 1954, and Thomann has been ran by the family the entire time. His son is currently the CEO, and a musician himself! Hans Jr. started the Harley Benton Guitars brand in 1997 and has stated:
“The products are made by various well-known manufacturers, who also produce equipment for many other famous brands. As a result of importing these directly, without middlemen, we can offer you brand quality at very low prices.”
Harley Benton started by making mostly 1:1 copies of popular instruments. The designs were much lower quality in the beginning, and were relegated as “beginners only” guitars. Harley Benton Guitars mostly made Stratocaster copies at this point, and quite a few accessories like cables and picks. You certainly did not see glowing reviews from this period, and the brand was stagnant.
Around 2012, Thomann reached out to several people in the industry to make the brand better. Harley Benton Guitars found Lassiter Knut from Denmark to lead the team, and do a redesign from the ground up. Knut had quite a few connections in the guitar industry, and knew that Harley Benton Guitars could be a more quality brand, that does more than just make 1:1 copies.
From 2012 to 2017 Harley Benton spent a lot of time working out the kinks when it comes to guitars. Factories were changed several times, and designs were shelved from the past. Slowly but surely, the brand moved away for the “beginner only” status. As Knut himself said, there was a lot to “clean up” and it would take a few years to revive the neglected brand.
With a Danish mastermind behind the wheel, the Harley Benton brand started sourcing high-quality parts in bulk. Things like Wilkinson Bridges, Gotoh Hardware, EMG pickups, quality woods, and stainless steel frets were all part of the revamp, but it would take years for these features to finally be available. Left-handed guitars also became a priority, since it is often an overlooked demographic.
This also created the new quality control department located at the Thomann site consisting of 54 trained staff members. You have 6 people on electric guitars, and 7 people on the acoustic side. Each guitar gets a final quality check by a real person, and they spend up to 15 minutes on each instrument before it is “ready to sell”. When you take into consideration that Thomann has over 1000 guitars in stock, that’s a lot of work!
In 2018, Harley Benton Guitars took a huge risk with the new Pro Series lineup. These guitars featured the best features so far, and even featured real maple tops and Floyd Rose 1000 bridges. This spawned a whole new imagine for Harley Benton Guitars, and this was about the time that the brand started getting a lot of heavy attention. These were no longer just “beginner” instruments.
Currently, Harley Benton Guitars features several original models like the Amarok. The most popular series is the Progressive lineup in fact, and the addition of the Fusion Series. All of the Fusion Series guitars have upgraded features that professional guitarists seek, with familiar body shapes and sleek neck profiles.
As of 2021, Harley Benton has added some very high-end features to the Pro Series and Progressive Series. The addition of name brand hardware, EMG and Wilkinson pickups, as well as stainless steel frets take Harley Benton out of the “exclusively beginner” category. Though they are still great for anyone starting out!
- The Harley Benton Standard Series Guitar Reviews
- Harley Benton Amarok Review
- Harley Benton Fusion 3 Review
Are Harley Benton Guitars Good For Beginners?
I think when anyone talks about Harley Benton Guitars these days, the first thing that you think about is the low-priced “beginner” models. Considering the budget price point of almost every Harley Benton model, you can easily try out playing guitar without breaking the bank.
We have already talked about the rigid quality control procedures that all Harley Benton Guitars go through before they ship out to the customer. This means that the guitar usually arrives to you in a condition that is “ready to play out of the box”.
The Harley Benton guitars that we have tried have all been completely playable out of the box. Most required little things that only experienced players would notice.
For example some of the guitars we tried needed a slight tweak on the truss rod, or the action slightly lowered. But unlike most budget guitar brands, the guitars we have tried did not need a “complete setup” to be playable.
That being said, some of the Harley Benton Guitars would not be good for a new beginner. There are some features that I think every beginner should probably avoid. Some features would only frustrate a beginner, or stunt your progress. Features such as Floyd Rose Bridges, and floating bridges in general should probably be avoided.
Floating and locking tremolo bridges like the Wilkinson models, or Floyd Rose may arrive to you set up and ready to play, but they require specific maintenance. We go over how to properly set up a Floyd Rose Bridge System in this article, and you can tell the whole process is quite involved. Even guitarists that have years of experience avoid floating bridges because they seem like a hassle.
Luckily, almost every price tier of Harley Benton Guitars offers a fixed bridge option. This means that you never have to fiddle with a floating bridge. If you want to use a guitar with a whammy bar down the road, that’s fine. But when you are just starting out, the last thing you want is to fight your guitar.
Harley Benton guitars also offer very different necks than you would usually find on a beginner guitar. Even the cheapest Standard Series models offer comfortable necks with a flat radius, making barre chords easy to play. The slightly more expensive models also offer flat, comfortable necks that only get better as you go up in the price tier.
So I would certainly say that Harley Benton Guitars offer some features and specs that most other budget brands do not. You get a lot for your money, and the flatter radius necks are perfect for beginner guitarists. Most guitars come ready to play right out of the box, all you need to do is tune it up and play!
- 3 BEST Harley Benton Guitars For Metal Reviewed: INSANE Deals For Chugging!
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Electric Or Acoustic?
Harley Benton Guitars actually offers both Electric and Acoustic Series. The acoustic guitars fall into the same type of price brackets as the electrics. The price tiers work much the same, with better woods and hardware being more expensive.
Harley Benton Guitars also offers some acoustic models with a built in preamp, and these are known as “Electro-acoustic” and can be plugged into an amp or interface. There are options for exotic woods, and different finishes as well, and these features all affect the price.
Today we are focusing mainly on electric guitars, but the acoustic lineup from Harley Benton is very nice. They are extremely affordable for solid-top acoustics, but we have not tried them yet. It seems like the acoustic lineup offers the same quality and design options for a great price!
Harley Benton Body Shapes
Most of the Harley Benton Guitars are very familiar shapes. There are only so many ways you can make a guitar, and some of the classic ones for 60 years ago are still great options! Companies like Fender and Gibson clearly got it right the first time, and those companies still make guitars the same way they were made 60-70 years ago.
That being said, even the models that Harley Benton have made that are “originals” will be similar to some of the big name brands. The shape of a Stratocaster is the benchmark for hundreds of guitars that are made to this day. The same can be said for the Les Paul “Single cut” shape.
Harley Benton guitars offers a lot of different shapes that are both familiar and new/original. Just about any style you want, Harley Benton offers the shape that you are seeking. Every shape also has different tiers of features!
All of the shapes are exactly what you think they are, but there are a few outliers in the lineup. One of them is the Community shapes. These are guitars that are designed by a few popular YouTube artists that worked with Harley Benton Guitars to make some fun designs.
The Tribute Series are very popular guitars as well, and they are all based on some very famous models. You have some great looking guitars inspired by big names like Prince and David Gilmour. We have talked about them before when we went over all of the types of Harley Benton Guitars in another article.
So not only does Harley Benton offer some classic designs that everyone will recognise, but also some more extreme designs for metal players and everything in between! There are so many options available, that there is something for everyone.
Pickups And Hardware
Harley Benton offers a lot of different options when it comes to the features. In the beginning Thomann used mostly OEM parts from the Far East. These generic parts were one of the things that kept the costs so low. However, Harley Benton has since moved on to having deals with other companies.
Currently, Harley Benton uses mostly Roswell Pickups, as well as EMG Retro-Active Pickups. The lower end models still use some generic pickups, but most of the guitars have Wilkinson and Roswell pickups, which are very good products. The higher end guitars and the Amarok Series use EMG active pickups.
Those who are not familiar with Roswell Pickups, have still probably played them before. The company was WSC Pickups up until 2014, and supplied many big companies with “stock” pickups. In 2014, the company became Roswell, and has since offered just about every type of pickup at a reasonable price.
On the side of hardware a lot of the Harley Benton models feature Wilkinson bridges. The Wilkinson WVS 50IIK Tremolo bridge is widely regarded as being fantastic. Some models even feature a proper Floyd Rose 1000 bridge. The Fusion Series features these versatile trem systems, and even a Wilkinson fixed bridge.
Most of the tuners are either Harley Benton branded, Wilkinson, or Gotoh. The lower priced models will usually feature standard unbranded tuners. The locking tuners that Harley Benton offers are really good, and can save you time on string changes! This year, some models started coming with Gotoh hardware.
The lower priced models still feature some Far East parts that are probably made by the Indonesian factory that produced the guitar. That being said, most of these parts are pretty high quality, if not basic. The good thing is that the cheaper hardware used is an industry standard size, so it is easy to upgrade to something better if you want.
So it can be hard to explain exactly what hardware Harley Benton Guitars uses, since it depends on the “run” of guitars. It can also depend on the model and series. But these are the companies that are used in general, and Harley Benton has exclusive deals with Wilkinson and Roswell! This all helps to keep costs down, and pass the savings on to the customer.
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Harley Benton Guitars: Wood Types And Materials
Just like any company, Harley Benton has sourced the woods that come from each factory that we have listed above. The Official Harley Benton Site lists what each model is made of, and it comes down mostly to plain woods, and some Far East versions of Mahogany. Woods will depend on the batch, and the model.
Harley Benton Guitars is unique as a brand since the woods can come from different places with each “batch” of guitars. You could buy a Fusion III model this year, and next year the same guitar may be made at a different factory (to the same specs). That is why there are so many guitar woods available, in fact, practically all of them.
These Mahogany Analogs can be used for bodies and necks during the manufacturing process. Some other woods like Nato are great as well, because they are lighter than Mahogany. So if you see a funny wood on the official Harley Benton site, you can easily look it up. They even tell you what genus the tree was!
- Body Wood Types: Okoume, Nyatoh, Mahogany, Poplar, Basswood, Sungkai
- Necks: Mahogany, Canadian Maple, Roasted Maple
- Fretboard Materials: Macassar Ebony, Maple, Roasted Maple, Amaranth, Pau Ferro, Indian Laurel
- Tops/Caps: Flamed Maple Veneer, Full Size AAA Flamed Maple Caps (Archtops), Plain Maple
When it comes to the overall materials it really depends on the Series that we listed above, as well where the guitar was manufactured. Different guitars from Harley Benton come from different factories, and that is why the list of woods is so vast. Each factory has different materials. So different “runs” of the same guitar model might be slightly different depending on when it was made.
When it comes to the overall construction, Harley Benton Guitars usually knock it out of the park compared to other guitars in the price point. One of the most unique things that Harley Benton offers is stainless steel frets on many models! Combined with the quality woods like roasted maple, there is a lot here to offer.
Why Haven’t I Heard Of Harley Benton Guitars Before?
If you would have asked this question 5 years ago, I would understand. But Harley Benton has been all over the place during the last two years. Budget guitars have become a huge topic, and almost every popular reviewer has done a few videos on Harley Benton Guitars.
But if for some reason you have not heard of the brand then it may be due to your geographic location. Thomann Music is located in Europe, so you may not be familiar if you live in another part of the world. However, Harley Benton guitars have definitely made all of the rounds on YouTube with popular reviewers. Especially in America!
So don’t feel too bad if you have not heard of Harley Benton Guitars before. Not every guitarist spends a lot of time on the internet, and if you are not in Europe then these are easy to miss! So if you have not seen the raving reviews, then there are tons of resources out there.
The Harley Benton Amarok 6
The Harley Benton Amarok Series is probably the best quality guitar that the company has to offer. These guitars have some amazing features that no other brand can compete with, when it comes to a Metal guitar. This is a lean, mean, distortion machine and it has every upgrade you can imagine. Some highlights, since we already did a review:
- EMG Retro Active Hot 70’s Set
- 24 Stainless Steel Frets
- Ebony Fretboard
- Neck Thru Construction
- 5 Piece Neck With Mahogany Wings
- TUSQ Nut
- Grover Locking Tuners
We have reviewed a lot of Harley Benton Guitars over the last two years, but the Amarok 6 is by far the best that we have come across. I have searched for comparable brands that offer these features for this price point, and I have come up empty handed. Epiphone and Squier do not even come close. Schecter comes close, but is still off by a hundred dollars (C1 Platinum Models).
These are made in Indonesia, and the finishing and materials suggest that these are made in the same factory that makes SOLAR Guitars, but I could be wrong. This guitar has everything the modern Metal player would be looking for, and the guitars that compare are twice the price. The neck thru construction alone is astonishing at this price point.
Harley Benton Guitars basically made a Schecter C1 model, for half the price. The Amarok shows just how far Harley Benton can go when it comes to features and specs. These are amazing guitars that you cannot find from another brand at this price point. This is the absolute best that Harley Benton has to offer, so far.
- Harley Benton Amarok Review: Amazing Features
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Harley Benton Guitars Considerations (CONS)
We have spent a lot of time throwing praises at Harley Benton Guitars, so far. This is because we have had a mostly positive experience with the models that we have tried out. So far, Every Harley Benton we have tried have come at least “playable” out of the box.
However, almost every Harley Benton that we received for review has needed some simple work to get the guitar into “optimal” condition. For most beginners, these are small things that would probably not be noticeable. However, if you have some experience playing guitar, almost every Harley Benton has needed:
- Truss Rod Adjustment (Usually Slight)
- Slight Intonation Adjustments
- Setting String Height (Action)
- Pickup Height
- Fret Polishing
- Moisturizing The Neck (Ships Dry)
- Trem Setup
These are all easy things and when combined it is called a “Full Guitar Setup”. Experienced guitarists can usually do this themselves at home with basic tools. Harley Benton guitars come with tools that you need. If you are brand new, it is always a good idea to take your guitar to a technician to get a “Full Setup”.
This usually cost about $40 or so, depending on your location.
I did some digging and I found a lot of great reviews that reflect our experience with Harley Benton Guitars. I also found some people that had some serious issues. No company in the guitar business is perfect, and plenty of issues slip past the QC department.
This can result in you potentially getting what we call a “lemon”. These are guitars that have some problems that would be too expensive to fix, too difficult to fix, or even impossible to fix. This just happens sometimes, but Thomann Music have a great return policy that gives you 30 days to decide if you are satisfied.
These Are Beautiful Guitars, But There Are Some Issues…
Harley Benton Guitars have had a few QC problems with the latest lineup, and past lineups. In the past, the quality was not as good as today. But lately, the QC department is much better, and there are only a few complaints that I have found from customers:
- Grounding Issues (Not properly grounded wires)
- Cavity Shielding (Missing, or not enough shielding)
- High Frets/Sharp fret Ends
- Bad Soldering Work/Sloppy
- Hardware On The Cheapest Models
- Heavy Guitars (Heavy weight, heavy woods)
Some of these things can be fixed by more experienced guitarists. I have no issues with fixing most of these things, like fixing the fret ends or leveling frets. I can also fix any soldering/ground issues and shield the cavity while I am in there. But no beginner would have access to those kinds of tools. These problems would have to be taken to a tech.
The reason the guitars are heavy, is because the wood that Harley Benton Guitars uses is usually pretty good quality. Most Harley Benton Guitars are also made of multiple pieces of wood glued together, and this can cause the guitars to be on the heavier side. ” One piece bodies” are usually reserved for much more expensive guitars.
Finally, the hardware on the Standard Series can definitely be a little rough. If I owned one of these models, I would eventually buy and upgrade the parts. For example, some new tuners, and a name brand bridge. The hardware that comes with the lower end models is “fine”. But if you like the guitar, Harley Benton uses standardized parts that can be easily replaced.
So there are definitely some issues with the lowest tier of the Harley Benton Guitars lineup. When you get into the higher end Harley Benton Guitars, these problems are much less frequent. You definitely get what you pay for, and that should be taken into account. The guitars that we have reviewed did not have these issues. But “lemons” do exist, with every brand!
That being said, the cheaper Harley Benton guitars are great for experienced guitarists, because we can fix any issues that the guitar may have. However, beginners may not have the tools or knowledge to fix issues that may pop up. This should be taken into account before purchase.
Older Models Might Not Be As Good?
As we mentioned at the beginning of the article, Harley Benton Guitars have been around since the late 90’s. This was when the brand was in its infancy, and only offered a few models back then. In the History Of Harley Benton Guitars section of this article we go over how the brand started making changes in 2012.
But there were some missteps along the way, and if you go back 5 years or so, you can see that the Chinese-made Harley Benton models were VERY hit or miss when it comes to quality. There were some great models back then, and some that had some issues.
Since 2020, Harley Benton Guitars have changed factories and sourced much better materials. The 2021 lineup saw the addition of Gotoh Hardware, Roswell Pickups, and Wilkinson Bridges. We also saw the high end models start to feature stainless steel frets.
So it has really only been the last two years or so that Harley Benton Guitars have been considered “good quality”. The older models used parts that were lesser quality, along with some factories that had a bad reputation. Thomann Music also used to just ship straight form the dealer, with no QC department.
The newer models have been made in better, Indonesian factories that have a great reputation. On top of that, Thomann Music has hired a great QC team that gives every guitar a “final once-over” before your guitar ships out now. This was not the case with older models.
This means that the newer guitars are not only made better, with quality parts, but they also get some attention before leaving the warehouse. The new Harley Benton Guitars have been getting so much attention because of these changes. The last two years have been a real overhaul for the company.
The Alternatives: Squier, Epiphone, Yamaha, ETC…
It is hard to compare Harley Benton Guitars to most of the competition. Almost all of the Harley Benton models, even up to the Pro Series, is under $500 including shipping. The only outlier in the collection is the Amarok Series, and those can be over $500.
So the alternatives to Harley Benton Guitars that offer similar features are going to be few and far between. But there are some great guitars in the same price tier from other brands. Keep in mind, that these alternatives do not offer the same features or specs. Harley Benton is in a league of its own in that department.
Some of the mainstream brands that offer beginner-priced guitars come close to the quality of Harley Benton. In fact, since Harley Benton has become so popular with guitarists, the main brands have taken notice and upped the quality. Some guitars that would be a good option as an alternative:
- Squier Classic Vibe Series
- Squier Contemporary Series
- Epiphone Special Series
- Epiphone Standard
- Yamaha Pacifica
- Yamaha Revstar Series
All of these guitars will come in right at, or under $500. These mainstream brands have a lot to offer when it comes to the classic designs that we all know and love. Many guitarists would rather take a chance with a major brand when it comes to budget guitars.
That’s very understandable, and it is much easier to get ahold of these guitars and try them in person. With Harley Benton Guitars you are taking a chance and need to rely on reviews. This is a bit of a conundrum since Harley Benton offers so much more feature-wise.
Out of all of the alternatives, Yamaha Pacifica probably offers the best bang for your buck. These days there are so many guitars in the budget guitar range, from every company in the business. We are truly living in the “Golden Age” of affordable guitars.
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Buying Advice: The Best Harley Benton Guitars
When it comes to the best Harley Benton Guitars that you can buy, we have tried out most of them! We have been lucky enough to check out the best of the best, so we have some great suggestions for you. These all come in at different price points, but they are all affordable.
What Harley Benton Guitar Should You Buy?
1. Harley Benton SC-1000
This single cut best comes in both aged white, and aged black finish. These guitars are part of the Progressive Series and come in at under $200! They feature active pickups, a slim neck, and controls that are out of your way when playing.
This is like a Les Paul at first glance, but it has been modified to be much more “shred friendly”. It has 24 jumbo frets and a slim neck that plays extremely fast. The active HBZ Pickups are made for high gain riffage, and the set neck design with cream binding adds a classy touch to these guitars.
2. Harley Benton Amarok Series
We have already talked these in great detail, but this is the best that Harley Benton Guitars has to offer. You get so many amazing features that you usually only see on much more expensive guitars. The stainless steel frets on the amazing neck will last a lifetime.
On top of the build quality of the Amarok Series, you get some great hardware. The Hipshot style bridge is low profile for palm mutes, and the Grover locking tuners make string changes fast and easy. To top it all off, you get some amazing EMG pickups.
The Amarok guitars come in a regular 6 string model, a baritone 6 string model, and even a 7 string! There are also two different finish options that offer a Flame Maple veneer, or a Quilted Maple veneer. These Harley Benton Guitars are really in a league of their own.
3. Harley Benton Fusion III Series
Next to the Amarok models, the Fusion II Series are next in line for high quality. These guitars come in a Start shape, or Tele shape and offer all kinds of finishes. But the features that matter are the slim, Roasted Maple necks with stainless steel frets! This is insane for a guitar that only costs $400!
You also get some great pickups from Roswell, that offer full humbuckers and single coil options. The new models even feature locking tuners, a TUSQ nut, and a Wilkinson Trem. You stack all of these features together and you have a guitar that can cover every genre.
These have been getting a lot of attention lately, from some pretty big name players. The Fusion III Series has a lot to offer in the Pro Series. These guitars are ready to hit the stage, or the studio. No matter what kind of music you play, there is a guitar for you in the Fusion II lineup.
Harley Benton Guitars: Wrapping Up
Harley Benton Guitars have a lot to offer both beginners and professionals alike. The last two years have seen a huge uptick in quality, and 2022 might be the best year yet. There are options for all type of players in every price tier, and all of these guitars are in budget territory.
It can be scary to order a guitar from overseas if you are not in Europe. But Thomann Music offers a 30 day warranty on every guitar that goes out the door. No questions asked, you can return an instrument you are unhappy with. Shipping is safe, and all guitars arrive double boxed and secure.
Christoper HortonChristopher has been playing guitar, bass, and piano for 28 years. He has been active in the professional music industry for over two decades. Chris has toured for years with several bands and music projects across the United States. He worked in Los Angeles as a studio musician and engineer working with many genres, but mainly Pop, Rock, and Metal. In between giving private lessons, he is usually recording under his various projects. Christopher plays Schecter Guitars, BOSS Amplifiers, and uses STL Tones in the studio.
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