In short - some very minor finish imperfections on a decent sounding, playing and looking guitar that beats any other brand spec at or near this price.
Having played acoustic guitars for 15 years I felt like a change and dabbling with electrics. I did not want to invest too much money in an electric in case it was just a passing fad, however I did not want something unplayable that would be doomed to being given up on, and I needed something that looked good enough for my wife to approve it hanging on the wall since that's the only space left for more guitars. Fortunately she plays guitars too but there is still interior design to think about...
I love the single cutaway look but hate pickguards and am not keen on exaggerated burst finishes. So the SC-Custom Lemon Flame fits the bill well. I prefer the more LP style shape on the SC-550 but was not keen on the tiger-stripe appearance of the Amber Flame model, nor paying ~£60 more for what seemed to be almost the same hardware (the SC-550 Lemon Drop might have been better for me but appeared and disappeared from the Thomann site just as quickly).
On unboxing I was amazed by the quality of the finish. Having since joined the HB forums I now realise this is more the norm for HB rather than the exception, however this was my first HB so I wasn't accustomed to this level of value for money before. Before discovering HB I thought I had to spend in the region of £300 new or £200 used to get something equivalent.
After letting it acclimatise indoors for a couple of hours, the strings were roughly in relative tune just all approx a quarter tone flat, not bad for an international delivery in freezing winter weather!
Intonation was ok - not spot on but only requiring a little tweaking - quite reasonable given the change of environment.
The action is fine for me - it's lower than on my acoustics - but probably still a bit high for many electric players. I may adjust it down in future if/when I get around to attempting faster lead playing, but being accustomed to thicker strings and higher action on acoustic means it already seems a treat to me.
No problem with the frets. No buzzing, and the neck looks straight to me, so I haven't touched the truss rod. Tuners seem fine and the guitar stays in tune well for weeks despite spending most of its time on a wall hanger not in a case. Decent strings out of the box is also a bonus. I have 'dry' hands so my strings tend to last a long time, so it's nice not to have to decide between spending on replacements vs getting my money's worth out of strings I don't like.
I originally thought there was a wiring problem causing fuzzy noise when the tone control was turned up. It turns out that this was actually caused by my guitar lead - the same lead+amp is fine on my electro acoustic guitars and basses, but guaranteed noise on the SC-Custom. Swapping the lead for another solved that issue.
Fretboard seems rather dry to me - but I don't know whether that is expected for the ebonol fingerboard or not, either way it's just an observation and not actually giving me a problem.
Upon closer scrutiny I noticed a few imperfections in the finish:
1) There are three small flecks of dark brown on the top of the body, over the flame but under the lacquer, between the pickup selector switch and the fingerboard, presumably some sort of overspray or drip as it looks to match the brown of the back. These are tiny dots though - less than 1mm diameter, I didn't even notice for days.
2) There is a short imperfection in the binding around the 12th fret marker dots - the lacquer feels smooth so I think it is either a hairline split in the binding, or a stray hair got in under the lacquer! Again barely noticeable and quite acceptable at this price point.
3) The finish in the recesses under the volume and tone knobs is sloppy. Now I wouldn't expect lots of time to have been spent perfecting cosmetics that cannot be seen, however you can see that an attempt has been made to splash some colour in here so that from a distance the surface of the recesses match the lemon top.
- The problem is that a lazy job has been done and there is some white basecoat (/filler?) showing through that can be seen from some angles even with the knobs on! This is a shame given the level of attention to detail given to the rest of the instrument, and is the only real disappointment for me. But at least it is something I can fix easily enough myself, and doesn't affect sound or playability.
So one quality star lost for that, but overall excellent and a happy customer, and I already have several other Harley Benton instruments queued up in my wishlist for when space and funds allow :-)
Guitar out of the box, set is good enough for a comfortable play. The truss rod has been completely weakened, but the neck was still quite flat, and after tightening, it was possible to set a very low action. Neck is very convenient, the frets are flat and smooth, with no sharp edges. Machine heads do their work, although they have a clearance of the rod, turning tightly and smoothly. Pulls the strings gently, but when weakens, some jerks sometimes occur. All this is not significant and does not prevent the tune a guitar. All electrical part works as it should. Wiring items done well and carefully. Notches for electronics as well milled very accurately and painted. About the sound I can not say a lot, I like it. A nice deep sound of neck pickup and clearer, and the sharp bridge pickup. All hardware looks good and high quality. I liked strap locks, comfortable and look good. Finish of guitar is excellent, there are a few not significant defects on the lacquer, but they can be seen only at very close range. The guitar is very comfortable and beautiful, beautiful all the elements, headstock, guitar shape, pearl inlay, hardware. All very harmoniously. Beige edging along the contour adds to the charm. Lemon Top looks much better live than on the photo. Buying a guitar did not think that I have it is delayed for a long time, it seems I was wrong. This is a great tool for beginners and for amateurs for a very good price.
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