I bought this guitar exactly month ago. Did not have any special expectations beside one - it will be a good base for modifications. Yes, I will pimp the guitar, and will complete this review after a while.
Once the guitar arrived, I unpacked it, tuned and simply plugged in. And there was the first surprise. I was able to play it without any additional set up. It was in-tune (someone set the intonation up it in the factory, or I was lucky to get one with bridge saddles in the right positions - I hope the first one). Anyway - it was feeling well, with no buzzing and with proper intonation. Nice.
The oryginal sound
The guitar sounds pretty well "from the wood" - before plugging in, and the sound is pretty balanced "horizontally and vertically" - across the strings and positions. The sustain thou could be better (I compared it to my old Ibanez AR300, as I do not own real Gibson).
While plugged in - it is nicely playable, with well balanced sound, but a bit "too dry" for me. That said - I am simply stating I do not like the Tesla pickups. As for budget guitar I will go rather for Toneriders (Thomann would probably easily make a proper deal with Tonerider to keep the cost down).
That is a killer! This damn guitar looks like one that you spent five times more money on it.
On the one I have I spotted no finishing flaws.
Surprisingly good, I love the steel frets and the way they are finished and polished. That is something you will get only in expensive guitars. No glue traces or gaps around the binding. Very well!
But there are three minuses I must point out:
- the biggest - a 3 millimetres gap between the neck and body (visible only after you remove the neck pickup). I filled it with epoxy, as I believe any gap there is reducing sustain),
- small scratches on the 20th, 21st and 22nd frets (like scratched with file). Thankfully only under E6 and A4 strings, so I am not really playing there,
- dirt dust in the cavities (not really visible, as those are covered with plastic plates
Summary (unmodified guitar)
If you want a Gibson, but cannot afford or won't buy original, SC-550 is really great starting guitar. Good sounding from wood, very acceptable factory setup, fantastically looking baby. I highly doubt you can buy anything better for less than 600 Euro. Especially with steel frets.
I will pimp my copy and complete this review in two weeks (still waiting for parts).
UPDATE 07.09.2021 - SC-550 pimping
As I planned, I pimped it, and will keep this guitar. I have fabulously sounding instrument, with great sustain, tuning stability and great playability. Well, and good look too ;-)
I started with changing the bridge, by replacing the original one with TonePros LPCM02 C Tuneomatic Set Chrome (bought at Thomann). I replaced the bridge completely, with bushings. A magic happened. This bridge looks and weights basically the same as the original Harley Benton, but there was immediate sustain improvement. Plus the locking screws that keep the bridge and tailpiece in place, when you’re changing strings is great enhancement.
Having that, I decided to replace the whole electronics.
I put DiMarzio PAF 36 Anniversary set (in creme). Replaced pots with DiMarzio custom tapper pots for volume and DiMarzio push/pull pots for tone. Orange Sprague capacitors (well, I personally like them) and treble bleeds.
I also replaced the toggle switch - for Switchcraft one, and the jack socket for Pure Tone multi contact output jack.
The push/pull on tone potentiometers work as series/parallel switch. In total I have 8 different pickup combinations, all hum cancelling. Truly versatile guitar!
The last thing I replaced were the tuners. I managed to buy for good price a set of GOTOH SD90MG-T-SL looking tuners. They also fit perfectly the SC-550 II.
I also made, printed out and put *ugly* sticker on the headstock saying “Gibby” and replaced the cavity covers with ones in creme colour. Because of grip (the push/pull pots require good grip) I replaced the potentiometer knobs with Strat-like ones.
In total (the guitar + new parts) it was around 630 Euro, but there is no way you will buy that sounding guitar, with this quality hardware, and additionally steel frets for under 1000 Euro. Simply not possible. And then still, most probably you will want to change pickups at least (I do that on all my guitars always).
And - you do not have to spend the whole sum at once, you may do upgrades gradually.
Here are some pics:
time - the HB SC-550 II is great guitar to start (playing, learning to play, gigging). It is also fantastic base for upgrades.
If Thomann will have different product manager in the guitar department, they have the capacity to produce outstanding guitars, that can compete with the big brands. Some small details here and there only to change.
Well, maybe that person is just great product manager, but not musician ;-)
Anyway - go and buy one, if you want/need affordable, but very good Les Paul copy.