Harley Benton HBMA-100 VS

Mandolin

  • Bluegrass series
  • Body shape: Florentine style
  • Spruce top
  • Body: Basswood
  • Neck: Teak
  • Fretboard: Blackwood (Pinus radiata)
  • Dot inlays
  • Scale: 350 mm
  • Nut width: 30 mm
  • 20 Frets
  • Blackwood bridge
  • Cream binding
  • Hardware: Gold
  • D'Addario strings
  • Colour: Vintage sunburst
  • Finish: High-gloss
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  • Folk
  • Strumming
  • Traditional

Further information

Shape F Mandoline
Colour Sunburst
Body Basswood
Top Spruce
Neck Teak
Pickup System No
Incl. Case No
Incl. Gigbag No

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Harley Benton HBMA-100 VS + Gator GL-Mandolin Light Case +
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27 written ratings Read all reviews
Total
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Great mandolin for the price

JohnnyGuitar, 10.06.2017
Mandolins aren't very popular here in Europe. Thankfully there are some cheap mandolins available, one of which is this Harley Benton mandolin. I assume they are ordered from the same factories in Asia where other brands get their cheaper models from. There are not many reviews of this model so hopefully this helps someone.

For an instrument with this price it is very good. You need to be aware that most mandolins require additional set-up as they come pretty much straight from the factory. Some simple sanding or filing, or adjusting the truss rod may be necessary. Most of those things are pretty easy if you are patient and use google. I play guitar for 10+ years so it is nothing new to me.

Out of the box:

The instrument looks great. The top is nicely arched and has a better paint job than a much more expensive mandolin I've tried, which had thick dabs of paint over the body. After cleaning the random factory things, this instrument looks very nice! The inside of the F-scroll is poorly painted/finished, but that is impossible to see unless you are examining the instrument up close. Inlays and hardware look good.

The fretboard looks surprisingly good, the frets are even and there are no edges sticking out from the fretboard. The action (string height) was quite low. The nut slots are just deep enough for good playability at the first frets. No maintenance required there. The strings are fine but for all I know they could be 2 years old. The tuners are okay. They do not all turn very smoothly, but they do their job fine. An upgrade could be worth it.

As another review mentioned, the instrument is shipped with tension on the strings and the bridge in place. It would be great if this could be changed because it increases the chance of the instrument being damaged during shipment.

After checking for damages and tuning up, a little problem revealed itself: the bridge shape did not match the arched top. The bottom of the bridge did not make contact with the body - there was a significant gap between the legs. This lowers the mandolin's volume and sustain.

Simple fix: Place sandpaper on the body where the bridge should be (near the middle of the F-holes) with the grit facing up. You can attach it with paper masking tape. Take care not to damage the top. Then you hold the bridge in its position and start sanding from side to side (that is, from the one F hole to the other). Do this until the bridge is shaped accordingly to the curvature of the top. Look on google or youtube for more tips about this method.

After performing this, the bridge fits the body nicely and the tone is much more resonant.

With new strings and careful intonation the mandolin is louder and sounds just like a mandolin should. I am no expert in mandolin tone but all strings sound fine. Chop chords sound nice and percussive. Recorded with an SM57 it all sounds great.

The action can go surprisingly low without buzz. The higher frets (above 12) sound good, but a bit muted/staccato. It could be because of the low action, or, it may just be this particular instrument or the mandolin in general - I don't know. Many mandolin players seem to never play that high.

The 12th fret has a slight bend in it at the edge of the fretboard on the E side. This is purely cosmetic because it does not affect the instrument's playability at all. The second E-string touches the fret where it is still straight.

The neck curvature was perfect in this case. No adjustment needed.

So, after a little maintenance this harley benton mandolin is a really amazing first mandolin. It sounds and plays great. I would definitely recommend it. For the price it is a steal!
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Total
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Wonderful but not out of the box

Kornflakes, 21.08.2013
This is a beautiful instrument to behold and constructed to be a sturdy instrument. Upon receiving my Harley Benton mandolin I expected the usual quality I receive from Thomann. I have some minor criticisms about the mandolin, the strings are very high gauge and the action impossible to adjust as the bridge adjusters can not work as there is no where for them to move. I had to take my very pretty Harley Benton mandolin to a repair shop and ask for help. The shop said the mandolin was set up very badly but was easy enough to fix. They removed the strings and replaced with some 9-32 gauge strings, they had to drill holes through the bridge in order for the floating bridge to work correctly and then adjust the action accordingly.

After the repair work my Harley Benton mandolin works/plays fantastic. I should add this cost me an additional £25 so to any other people looking at this mandolin I will say yes it is a great instrument but expect to pay an additional cost because the instrument IS NOT set up to work very well out of the box. Yes it can be played out of the box but it will be very difficult to play because the strings are very hard gauge and the floating bridge is not correct.

I think Thomann may need to address this issue with the mandolin and with their supplier. Overall you have a fantastic product but I did not expect to have to pay £25 in repair work!

Best wishes,

Andrew Kerensky LLCM
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