...and the hype is definitely warranted! I'd been hearing about Harley Benton guitars for a while and had been ignoring the hype. I've heard people rant and rave before about how amazing something is only to be disappointed by the reality so I was rather sceptical.
To be honest, I wanted to hold off before reviewing -- firstly because I really wanted to give myself time to play the guitar but also due to some shipping issues which meant I did not receive the guitar before Christmas -- I didn't want my irritation at the delivery issues (UPS) to cloud my judgement of the product, the brand or Thomann. However, in fairness (and humble apologies) to Thomann, this wasn't really their fault.
That aside the guitar exceeded my expectations. I have a Fender MiM stratocaster and I'm not going to lie and say this rivals it in terms of sound or quality, but the HB is definitely worth shouting about and not far behind. I'd compare the build quality to that of the Epiphone Les Paul and SG guitars which I've owned and played a few of. Anyone familiar with Epiphone will truly appreciate that compliment -- the feel and finish of this guitar really blew me away, my dad was very impressed, too.
As is tradition, here's a list of some pros and cons:
1. Neck feels really nice, not too chunky but not too thin, either. Frets are well fitted, absolutely no sprouting.
2. The selector swith and pots actually feel better than I'd expected. I've seen a few budget tele's where these looked and felt really cheap but these have a bit of heft to them, pretty nice.
3. I really like the bridge, it feels more comfortable to mute the strings than on my Fender strat. My plan was to eventually replace this, I might not.
4. The paint job was better than expected, it has a slight metalic sheen to it that isn't too garish but looks really nice.
5. Amazingly, the action and intonation were almost spot on, if this thing had been tuned I could have played it right out of the box and it would have sounded fine.
1. Tuners aren't the best, more than expected at this price point. They're still more than adequate, don't get me wrong, they hold tune perfectly well for me. It's a hard-tail bridge, anyway, so if you string it properly you'll have no problems with them. I will probably upgrade these at some point but it's not a pressing matter.
2. The pickups are good, and you can get a nice twang, that spanky sound you want from a tele, but they're not amazing. I'll probaby change these at some point but they're still great and I'm having lot's of fun with them.
3. Not sure it's even really a con, but frets needed a good polish as there as a bit of drag/scratching, nothing major at all and something I'd fully expect. Once I'd polished them this thing was an absolute pleasure to play.
4. Another one I'm not sure is a con, but strings weren't too great. Personally I never expect a new guitar to have the best strings and in fairness the supplied strings were actually better than most, they weren't rusted or tarnished and fairly playable...I just like a different gauge!
Lastly - I've seen/read many reviews claiming these guitars are particularly heavy but this is about the same weight as the Fender strat, perhaps even a bit lighter.
So, in summary; I decided to take a chance and spent £79 on a Telecaster copy and I honestly wasn't expecting what I got. Looking at this, holding it, my dad, not knowing the price, guessed it was a £200-300 guitar -- when I told him the price he was gobsmacked.
So, yeah...I'll probably be buying more Harley Bentons, I did also receive one of their acoustic guitars, the D-120CE VS, which was also fantastic value for the money and I'll be writing an epic review for it.
Yeah, I think it's safe to say I'm pretty much on the Harley Benton hype train, these guitars are honestly quite splendid for the price.