For those who are knowledgable about such things, it will be obvious that this guitar is a shameless clone of a Martin D-41.
The specs: Dreadnought, Dovetail Construction , Solid Sitka Spruce Top, Rosewood Body, Abalone Body Binding, White Fingerboard & Headstock Binding, Mahagony Neck, Indian Rosewood Fingerboard, Modified Oval C-Shape Neck, Abalone Hexagon Inlays, 643mm Scale, 43mm Nut Width, 20 Frets, Bone Nut, Compensated Bone Saddle, Rosewood Bridge, Scalloped X-Bracing, DLX Gold Diecast Tuners, Daddario EXP-16 Strings, Natural Satin Finish.
As a kind of disclaimer, I'd like to say that though I have played Martins, I don't own one, or any other really nice steel string acoustic guitar for that matter. I do have an old Ibanez Performance series acoustic that I keep laying around, which is pretty much a piece of junk. So while I'm admittedly not an expert on the subject of acoustic guitars, and have no fine instrument in my possession as a basis for comparison, I do reserve to right to my opinion regarding what sounds good to my own ears. So, that being said, for what it's worth here's my review of the Harley Benton Custom Line CLD-41S.
Being an acoustic, I was particularly worried about shipping damage on this one. It came boxed together with the L-450Plus Vintage burst I had order it with, the two guitars individually boxed inside one larger box. The outer box didn't look bad, so I had no serious cause for anxiety as I opened it up.
My first impression of the CLD-41S is that it was overwhelmingly pleasing to the eye, a thing of breathtaking beauty. To say that it exceeded my expectations is an understatement. Out of the box it was flawless. I cannot find a single blemish on this instrument. The wood, binding, inlays, and fretwork are all immaculate. The rich dark chocolate colored sides are particularly attractive, contrasting smartly with the light honey colored top. The photos pretty much speak for themselves. It's quite simply perfect.
The set up was spot on out of the box. The action is very low with no buzzing. The guitar stays perfectly in tune and the intonation is excellent.
When I sat with it and strummed that first open G chord I was shocked and amazed. I'm not really sure what I was anticipating. Yeah, I had positive expectations, but nowhere near as good as what I heard from that first chord. I have a friend who owns a 1972 Martin, I think its a D-35, and I've played other models over the years, and I remember well what a Martin sounds like. They generally have that unmistakable sound that superior instruments have. This Harley Benton Custom Line CLD-41S closely resembles that sound. But why mince words; I'll just make it simple and go ahead and say it: "This $225 Harley Benton sounds like a Martin."
The CLD-41S has a warm, rich, round, balanced, "3-dimensional" sound. It has lots of depth and bottom, while remaining tight and focused, and is crisp and airy on the top. It is vibrant, dynamic, and extraordinarily musical, feeling almost like its alive. It is loud and clear, with extra emphasis on "loud." That's one of the things Martins are supposed to be known for, right, being loud? The low E sting plucked just by itself thunders and resonates.
It plays fantastic, almost effortlessly. For my personal preference I would say that this has got to be the ideal neck carve for an acoustic. Chord changes are an absolute breeze and quick scale runs and leads can be performed with extreme fluency. Its playability is such that I even managed, despite not having played the piece for years, to convincingly muddle through some of the passages of EVH's "Spanish Fly," which to me has always been something of a benchmark for acoustic guitar prowess (yeah, I know who Al Dimeola, Paco De Lucia, and John McLaughlin are, but I'm basically a rock guy). The grain on the back of the neck is very pretty too.
The Harley Benton Custom Line CLD-41S looks phenomenal, plays superb, and sounds outstanding. Factor in the price of only $225, and it is truly is what I would call a dream guitar.
My philosophy towards purchasing these Harley Benton brand guitars essentially goes like this: "Go for their top tier instruments." The reason I say this is because even the top of the line Harley Benton guitars are, relatively speaking, inexpensive. You're not going to go broke "skimming the cream" off of the top with the Harley Benton brand, and the cream in this instance is very, very good.
I bought this to get a cheap but great acoustic for blues/jazz jam sessions I have with my friends. Great Sounding, Great Feeling and Beautiful Aesthetics.
The woods and other materials are high quality and feel solid and well built. Definitely a much higher quality and sounding guitar than the price would suggest, this isn't just good for the price, it is good full stop.
It arrived with a good setup and just needed tuning up. Action is low and the neck profile comfortable, no sharp frets and they are even polished to a shine.
Flawless finish in the binding, inlays and Will definitely be considering Harley Bentons for future purchases and the logo snobs can just go shove it.