This is very much a first impression as the guitar only arrived today, but I am blown away. It is great.
I've been playing since 1972. My last full-size acoustic was a Taylor, and I've been doing instrument repairs and setups for years - so I have a little knowledge of guitars.
Recently I bought another HB guitar: a cheap short scale thing called a Custom Line CLGS-10S Travel. I got it as a travel/beater/campfire guitar and I was surprised how good it was for a cheap guitar. So, when I found I needed a decent, but inexpensive, electro-acoustic for my band I thought I'd try a slightly higher-level HB.
The reviews of the Harley Benton Custom Line CLA-15MCE were excellent, and the few YouTube videos also looked great. The guitar is pretty low-priced, so I went for it. Thomann are always great about returns, so I had little to lose.
Forget that. No way am I returning this thing.
I think the body is a little shallower than the Martin model that obviously inspired this guitar and the unplugged volume is a little lower - but not much. This is an average volume acoustic guitar. That is the only average thing about it.
The fit and finish are, as far as I can see, absolutely excellent. The neck relief and action have been set up perfectly and there is even a battery installed in the preamp/tuner. The tuners are of very good quality: smooth and stable. Intonation seems spot on right up the neck.
The fret job is neat and well finished, without sharp ends. This is the first acoustic guitar I've had that I have not felt the urge to improve the string height at the nut. Whoever set this guitar up obviously checked and adjusted the nut slots to perfection. Thank you, Thomann setup person, whoever you are - I hope they're paying you enough because you've done a great job. I've had guitars with setups as good as this but I don't recall any better. I'm delighted.
The frets are smooth, not raspy like on many inexpensive guitars. I will polish them a little more, but only because I like a real, glassy mirror finish on my frets and these are just a tiny bit below that level of polish.
The fretboard is not actually dry, but it looks as if it will benefit from a light oiling, which I will do tomorrow.
Plugged in, the Fishman pickup and tuner work great. The sound is standard undersaddle piezo. I'm a bit odd because I prefer magnetic soundhole pickups rather than piezos, but this one sounds a lot better than many of its species. Perfectly acceptable and I'll be happy enough to gig it.
Visually, this is a beautiful guitar. The solid mahogany is made from a nice piece of wood. Actually, it looks like it may be a two piece top, but that's no problem. I've seen very high end guitars deliberately made with two piece tops for the book-matching effect they allow.
The acoustic tone is very nice. The strings are still a bit fresh and metallic yet for me to fully hear what it will sound like when they settle down, but it sounds fine already and the tone will get even better when that new-string bright twang wears off.
So, absolutely full marks, Thomann. This is extraordinary value for money. I couldn't be happier.
EDIT: I've now had the guitar for a few days. The strings have settled and I've had a chance to use the HB at a pub gig.
A bandmate who plays a Martin 000-15 is staggered by the quality and volume of the Harley Benton. I didn't think it was that loud, but comparing side-by-side it is as loud as his Martin.
I already gave this guitar top marks. If I could give it more stars I would.
I'm going to buy the dreadnought version as soon as it's back in stock next month. If you're not a logo snob then these guitars are just too good to miss.