Is One of the Biggest Names in Affordable Instruments Still Getting It Done?

 

Four Harley Benton Guitars We Dig…

… and One We’re Not Sure About

It’s no longer a secret that Harley Benton, the house brand of European music retailer Thomann is a global leader in offering instruments and gear that delivers unparalleled value for the price. It is a ton of fun for pretty much any musician to hit up the Thomann website and just browse Harley Benton‘s offerings; no matter what style of music play or what your taste in features or aesthetics are, chances are there are several Harley Benton that will scratch your itech for an amazing price.
 
More than a few Harley Benton’s have made their way through TheToneKing.com world headquarters and more still have stopped or mouse clicks dead in their tracks, so we decided to highlight a few of our favorites here…with a twist. We’re also going to include one Harley Benton model that we actually didn’t have much luck with. However, given the evolution of the brand since the time we bought it and some changes Harley Benton has made to it, we’re still going to highlight it here.
So, without further adieu, let’s dive in!
 
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HB-35Plus 

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Some of the more iconic semi-hollow guitars can be tough to get into for many players due to price. The HB-35 Plus lets the rest of play in the semi-hollow sandbox without shelling out a ship’s worth of sheckels. The reviews for this guitar compare it favorably to a wide range of instruments from a variety of builders.
The thinline semi-hollow is pretty much a must-have for any guitar collection; in fact, none other than Joe Bonamassa has noted that some semi-hollows can tonally wipe the floor with their famous singlecut siblings. The Harley Benton HB-35Plus makes it easy to bring pop one of these archtop arrows into your tonal quiver.
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Fusion III

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Stainless steel frets and roasted woods are popping up as standard features in more guitars by the day, but they still mostly live on the option menus of boutique and premium-tier guitars. Harley Benton has naturally disrupted that practice by offering these higher-end features within their affordable family of instruments, and we love the Fusion III not only because it includes those, it has premium looks as well.
There are probably more than a few similar guitars out there that literally cost ten times the price of the Fusion III, but Harley Benton still brings the heat with this feature-packed stunner.
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Custom Plus EMG

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If there’s something that warms this writer’s heart, it’s a locking trem on an LP-style single cut. Def Leppard’s Steve Clark was one of my earliest guitar inspirations and he rocked trem-equipped single-cuts as hard as the next rocker. The Harley Benton Custom Plus puts that classic-yet-under-the-radar combo together, but cranks up the firepower with a set of EMG active pickups for the ultimate modern rock instrument.
For lots of folks, anything other than a Bigsby on a single-cut might evoke some strong responses, but the Custom Plus EMG will probably change many minds.
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Bigtone

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Another tough nut to crack for many guitarists that aren’t sporting rockstar finances are hollowbody electrics. Once again, Harley Benton drops its own spin on a silhouette that harkens back to the early days of electrified popular music but still finds its way into a wide range of musical styles via the talented talons of Brian Setzer, Billy Duffy (The Cult), Neil Young, Tim Armstrong (Rancid) and Richard Fortus (Guns ‘n Roses).
If you’re used to playing a regular solidbody a full hollow electric can be a bit too wrangle, so a Harley Benton Bigtone is a great way to get acquainted with these sneakily versatile axes.
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We’re not entirely sure about this one, but…

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This writer actually owns a Harley Benton TE-80 NT Deluxe, a sexy T-style guitar that pays tribute to a guitar closely associated with Paisley Park’s purple purveyor of funky pop Prince. It’s a good-looking guitar for sure, but I found it to be a little underwhelming in terms of, well…a lot of things. The sound is merely OK, more “S” than “T” given the S-style pickups, it’s pretty damn heavy and it doesn’t feel like there was much attention paid to the neck, nut or frets. Given the price there are no deal breakers, but it doesn’t feel like an instrument that performs light years beyond its price point, a feat Harley Benton is famous for regularly achieving.
However, I bought my particular specimen several years and the TE-80 I stumbled upon while browsing Thomann’s site indicates some changes have been made. First of all, it’s under $200 U.S. as of this article, which is less than I recall paying. It now sports a sweet-looking bound neck and the reviews are overwhelmingly positive. Even though my experience with the guitar has been so-so, I still own it and really have no plans to sell it; it’s still a great instrument for the money. It does look like Thomann has upped some of the spec, so this may still be one to check out if you’re looking for a classy spin on a T-style guitar.

The Verdict

Yeah, it’s fair to say Thomann/Harley Benton is still going to treat you right when it comes to value-centric gear. And on the off-chance you do get a guitar that doesn’t quite meet your expectations, their customer service is impeccable; they’ll make it right. So if you haven’t checked out the Harley Benton scene in a while, now is as good a time as any. We’re also proud to be a Thomann affiliate. If you click through to Thomann on any of the links in this article and make a purchase, we’ll get a small percentage of the purchase that will go right towards supporting TheToneKing.com website and YouTube content. Go ahead and get on it!

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