Harley Benton SC-500: Key Takeaways
- 🎸 Solid Feel: The guitar feels robust and well-built, defying its budget-friendly price.
- 🌟 Aesthetic Appeal: It sports a sleek glossy finish and quality craftsmanship that shines through.
- 🔊 Surprisingly Versatile Tones: From rock to blues, the dual Roswell P90-style humbuckers deliver.
- 🎛️ Volume Knob Dynamics: Rolling back the volume unveils a spectrum of sounds, adding to its versatility.
- 🖐️ Comfortable Neck: The C-shaped neck and smooth fretwork make for a comfortable playing experience.
- 🛠️ Sturdy Construction: The double-action truss rod keeps the neck stable and well-adjusted.
- 💷 Exceeds Price Expectations: For less than £150, it offers features and sound quality of more expensive models.
- 🎁 Free Extras: Comes with a free software download and a reassuring 3-year warranty.
- 🛑 Durability Concerns: The basswood body may be prone to dings and wear over time.
- 🔧 Hardware Quality: Some components may require upgrading for serious players.
- 🎓 Beginners: An excellent starter guitar that’s easy to play and sounds great.
- 💸 Budget-Conscious Players: Offers a lot of guitar for a modest investment.
Not Ideal For:
- 🚐 Touring Musicians: May not withstand the rigors of constant gigging.
- 🎨 Tone Aficionados: Those seeking specific tonal characteristics might find the pickups lacking.
- 👍 Highly Recommended for Newbies and Budget Players: It’s a fantastic choice for those starting out or with limited funds.
- 🤔 Consider Upgrades for Serious Use: While great out of the box, some may want to invest in better hardware down the line.
As an avid guitarist with a penchant for vintage designs, I’m always on the lookout for affordable axes that can deliver that classic tone and feel without breaking the bank.
So when I first laid eyes on the Harley Benton SC-500 BK Vintage Series, I knew it was a guitar I had to try out. Long time readers will already know we’re big fans of Harley Benton here at ELECTRIKJAM.
After taking it for a test drive over the past few weeks, I’m ready to give my comprehensive take on whether this budget-friendly beauty is worth your hard-earned cash.
Right off the bat, the SC-500 caught my eye with its slick black high-gloss finish and classy cream bindings that just scream vintage appeal.
It definitely nails that timeless vibe that takes me back to the early days of rock n’ roll when guitars were as much about look as sound.
And with its price tag ringing in at just £148, I realized this axe could be a steal if it could deliver on performance. So I decided to take a closer look at what exactly you get for such an affordable price point.
Punching Above its Price Point
As I unboxed the SC-500 and held it in my hands for the first time, I was impressed by how solid it felt. The basswood body and bolt-on maple neck didn’t feel cheap or flimsy despite the low cost.
And visually, it looks just as good in person as it does online, with a smooth glossy finish, tidy fretwork, and quality hardware.
Plugging it in, I was skeptical at first that the dual Roswell P90-style humbuckers could deliver versatile tones, but I was pleasantly surprised.
From searing classic rock leads to growling metal riffs, this thing can shred with the best of them. And when I rolled back the volume knob for some bluesy licks, I was able to get pretty convincing neck pickup tones.
Are the pickups as nuanced and expressive as my more expensive guitars? Definitely not. But for an axe less than £150, the SC-500 pickups exceeded my expectations. And they’re damn-near perfect for beginner players.
The playability is also impressive for the price point. The C-shaped neck is comfortable and smooth, allowing for fast runs up and down the fretboard. And the double-action truss rod held the neck relief perfectly during my testing.
Intonation right out of the box was spot on, and the 22 medium jumbo frets are finished nicely with no sharp edges to snag on bends which, given its pricing, was very surprising. I’ve lost count of the number of Squier guitars I’ve owned over the years that cost more AND had this issue.
After a few jam sessions with the SC-500, I realized Harley Benton had achieved something special – a budget guitar that feels and plays like a $399+ guitar. The tone may not blow guitar snobs away, but for beginners or those on a tight budget, the SC-500 BK Vintage packs a serious punch.
Budget Blemishes to Consider
Of course, with such a low price tag, there have to be some tradeoffs. While the SC-500 exceeded expectations in playability and sound, there are a few budget drawbacks to consider.
The basswood body, while a common choice in affordable guitars, does raise some durability concerns. I noticed a few minor dings after just light use, indicating the soft basswood may be prone to nicks and wear.
I definitely wouldn’t trust this body wood to withstand the rigors of nightly gigging or touring.
There are also some questions around the longevity of the hardware. While visually impressive in a sparkling gold finish, the quality of the tune-o-matic bridge and tailpiece is hard to gauge.
The tuners feel lower grade as well, and I did have to do some tweaking to eliminate looseness and tuning instability. Serious players may want to consider upgraded hardware.
It’s also good to keep in mind that while the £148 sticker price seems almost unbelievable, Harley Benton does tack on an additional £10 shipping fee. So that already budget-friendly price creeps closer to £160 delivered.
Still an incredible value, but it’s worth factoring that extra cost in.
For me, the biggest limitation of the SC-500 is its lack of tonal variety. The pickups, while impressive for the price, still have some limitations. Players demanding specific Strat-like spank or Les Paul-esque fatness may need to look elsewhere.
But for a basic dual humbucker setup with classic rock and metal tones, the SC-500 gets the job done remarkably well.
Extras that Enhance the Value
While the SC-500 throws in premium playability and sound at an entry-level price, Harley Benton sweetens the deal even more with some free extras.
Right in the box, you get a free download code for Native Instruments Guitar Rig 7 LE software.
Having tested out Guitar Rig before, I can say it’s a robust amp/effects simulator that normally carries a $29 price tag. For new players especially, having this free recording and practice software right away can be a huge bonus.
Harley Benton also backs the SC-500 with a 3-year warranty. I don’t anticipate needing repairs given the guitar’s solid construction, but it’s nice having that safety net. And the company also offers a 30-day money back guarantee just in case the guitar doesn’t live up to expectations right out of the box.
These extras add even more value, especially for less experienced players. Having pro-level software for recording plus the peace of mind of a long warranty and satisfaction guarantee make the SC-500 an even safer purchase.
Weighing the Potential Deal-Breakers
While I was thoroughly impressed by the Harley Benton SC-500 for the money, it ain’t perfect. There are a few potential issues to consider before you pull the trigger on one of these.
Here’s my chief complaints after using this guitar for a month or two:
- For players with smaller hands, the 43mm nut width may pose some challenges with comfort and playability. Personally, I found the neck a tad chunky compared to some of my other guitars. Not a deal-breaker for me, but something to keep in mind if you prefer slim, fast necks.
- The 22-fret neck may also limit players looking for extended upper fret access. It wasn’t an issue for my playing style, but those who rely on solos up past the 22nd fret may want to look at a 24-fret model.
- And as mentioned before, while the pickups sound great for rock and metal, more nuanced tones are hard to dial in.
So if you need specific Strat-like twang or buttery Les Paul tones, these pickups may leave you wanting more. For one-sound rock machines, no problem. But musical chameleons may need more tonal variety.
And if that sounds like you, I’d definitely check out some of Harley Benton’s slightly more expensive models. They’re still excellent value for money but they’re packing things like EMG pickups (and this makes A LOT of difference).
For me personally, the biggest drawback is the less than premium hardware. Tuning stability was finicky until I locked the nut and bridge down tight. And I just don’t trust the long-term durability of the bridge and tuners with heavy use. Upgrading may be required down the road.
Who Should Grab the Harley Benton SC-500?
Even with a few minor shortcomings, the SC-500 shaped up to be an incredible value purchase that I’d recommend to certain players in a heartbeat.
- Beginners – Whether it’s your very first axe or a step-up guitar for newer players, the SC-500 is a perfect choice. The playability exceeds what you’d expect in this price range, allowing newbies to hone their skills on a quality instrument. And the classic styling and rock-ready pickups make diving into timeless guitar tones a breeze.
- Budget-Conscious Musicians – Experienced guitarists who need quality but are strapped for cash can’t go wrong with the SC-500. No, it may not stand up to years of touring abuse. But for home recording, practice, and the occasional gig, this guitar belies its budget price tag.
- Versatile Players – If you need one guitar that can cover classic rock, blues, metal, and hard rock tones, the SC-500 has you covered. The pickups may not offer endless nuance, but there’s enough variety here for multi-genre players on a tight budget.
Who Might Want to Look Elsewhere?
As much as I love the SC-500 for what it is, a budget guitar built overseas, it may not be the best fit for some guitarists.
- Touring Professionals – If you make your living on the road playing nightly gigs, you need maximum durability and reliability. The basswood body and budget hardware may not withstand the rigors of professional touring at your own risk.
- Tone Purists – Players obsessed with explicit wood tones, premium electronics, and top-shelf hardware probably won’t be wowed. You can find better pure tone if money is no object. But for the price, the SC-500 over-delivers on sound.
For most beginners or budget-focused players, the SC-500 will likely exceed expectations. As a first-time, beginner’s guitar it is a brilliant option. I’d take one of these over a Squier Tele / Strat Bullet any day of the week.
But hard touring professionals or tone fanatics may want to consider saving up for a more premium instrument. At the end of the day, you get what you pay for. And for £148, this guitar gives you a whole lotta bang for your buck.
SC-500 Reviews: What The People Say…
Looking at reviews and customer feedback, it’s clear I’m not alone in my praise for the Harley Benton SC-500. Owners far and wide are raving about this budget beauty. You can check out hundreds of reviews for the SC-500 here.
- The playability in particular receives rave reviews. Players say the neck feels smooth and inviting, allowing you to ‘just wail away.’ Comfort and construction quality also get consistently high marks, defying the ultra-low price tag.
- When it comes to sound, customers praise the surprising punch and warmth through the Roswell humbuckers. Beginners love having rock-ready tones right out of the box. And experienced players say it holds its own with far more expensive guitars.
- Satisfaction is also evident in the common purchase of cases and gig bags for the SC-500. If owners were planning to let these languish as bedroom shredders, they’d skip the accessories. But the fact that they’re buying hardshell cases and bags shows buyers are taking these axes out on the road.
- The icing on the cake is Harley Benton’s warranty and satisfaction guarantee. Owners say they provide huge peace of mind that you can try out the guitar with zero long-term risk. And reviews back up the solid quality, with minimal issues reported even with heavy use.
Is The Harley Benton SC-500 BK Vintage Worth It?
The combination of vintage vibe, impressive playability and surprisingly versatile tone add up to a package that seems impossible for the sub-£150 price point. If you’re a beginner and you like the style and cut of Les Paul guitars, the SC-500 is well worth a look.
Yes, you can find guitars with better woods, hardware and electronics. But you’ll pay way more for them. Harley Benton found the ‘sweet spot’ – sacrificing some premium features to hit an extremely wallet-friendly price without completely sacrificing quality.
For beginners or budget-focused players, I wholeheartedly recommend the SC-500. Its classic styling, rock-ready pickups and easy-to-play neck make it an easy recommendation for anyone looking for a solid, reliable first guitar that won’t break the bank.
Bottom line? If killer looks, great playability and shockingly good tone matter more to you than big name prestige, this one’s hard to beat.
- Looks amazing, plays brilliantly (for its price), ideal for rock and metal, comes with free recording software (Native Instruments Guitar Rig 7 LE)
- Neck might be a bit chunky for some, pickups lack range/clarity of more expensive models, cheap tuning pegs
RichardRichard has been playing guitar for over a decade and is a huge fan of metal, doom, sludge, and rock music in general – though mostly metal. Having played in bands and worked in studios since the early 2000s, Richard is a massive music production geek, a fan of minimalist recording techniques, and he really likes old-school guitars.
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