A cat stares at a large box with Thomann - music is our passion printed on  it which has just arrived by post

Harley Benton guitars came to my notice a while back and like many experienced guitarists, I ignored them. I wrote them off as cheap as chips beginner’s instruments.  Not the sort of thing that I the owner of Gibsons and Fenders would spare a second glance. If I was in the market for another guitar and didn’t want to spend premium money on the big names, I’d look at the second division: Epiphone, Squier, Yamaha, Ibanez etc. In the last couple of months though I’ve bought two Harley benton guitars. So what’s the deal?

Harley Benton the brand, is owned by German musical instrument retailers Thomann. They make guitars, amps and various accessories and sell them online  at very cheap prices. As far as the guitars go they are marketed at beginners looking for a first guitar and experienced guitarists looking for a project guitar to customise. They actually sell guitar and bass kits that you can build yourself (even cheaper) So why did I reconsider when looking for a semi hollow body guitar for my collection?

Why I Bought Two Harley Bentons Picture of the Harley Benton HB 35vPlus in vintage sunburst lying in its opened box just after I recieved it

Well, two reasons. First the many positive reviews I saw on Youtube. Not just for the specific Harley Benton guitar I was looking at, but for the brand in general. Secondly of course, the price. The HB 35 Plus – a copy of the famous Gibson 335 – that I bought cost £169. That includes VAT and delivery from Germany. The Fender Jazz style Bass that I later bought was £113.  To put that in perspective Thomann, who also sell other brands, have a 1961 Gibson 335 reissue for sale at £4777.  An Epiphone or Ibanez 335 style axe will set you back around £400-£500. 

Clearly you don’t get a Gibson quality guitar for peanuts but trust me, you do get a very good guitar. Most reviewers – and I agree – reckon the HB35 Plus is easily as good if not better than similar offerings at 3 times the price. So again – What’s the deal?

Harley Benton guitars, unlike “licensed by” guitars by Squier and Epiphone for example, are owned by Thomann. This means they aren’t paying Gibson or Fender a chunk of the profits. They are made in China using cheaper hardware. This is actually a selling point for half of their market – the guitarists who will upgrade pickups, machine heads and other parts over time. But it doesn’t mean you’re getting a crappy, sub standard piece of junk.

Quality Control Issues

Image of the Harley Benton Jazz bass  I bought

I have read and watched reviews where people complain about little details on these guitars. These include, poor finish, rough or even sharp frets and bad intonation. For this money none of these are actually a big deal and can be easily fixed. 

Mine arrived in perfect condition and was almost in tune. The action was slightly high for my own taste but 5 minutes work with the included Allen keys fixed that. The frets are a tiny bit rough but playing the guitar will smooth them out. When I change strings I might give them a light sand. It sounds really good both acoustically and plugged into an amp. I’m very happy with it. Have hardly put it down in fact since I t arrived. 

The bass I bought – a JB 20 BM standard series in beautiful light metallic blue – is again incredible for the money. It actually cost £103. Thomann charge £10 delivery on orders under £149.  I’m not a bass player but my partner is and we wanted another bass for recording that wouldn’t break the bank. 

The Real Deal With Harley Benton Guitars

There are a couple of little blemishes on the plastic scratch plate but I think they are remnants of the clear protective coating that was on it and on the pickups for shipping. No big deal. It’s a little buzzy and will need a little tweak on the truss rod but other than that no issues. It looks great, plays nicely and with a little help from Logic Pro’s bass amp plugin, sounds fine. Easily as good as the Squier P bass we also have.   

You’ll find a lot of positive reviews about Harley Benton Guitars online (I’ve also heard that their valve amps are pretty damn good BTW).  Inevitably you’ll also find some bad ones. That can be said for any brand though. Personally I bought these to fill gaps in my collection. I wanted to try out the semi hollow body sound and we needed another bass. Both will be used purely for home recording and practice. 

I think this is the real deal with Harley Benton guitars: If you are an experienced guitarist they let you add a different sound to your spectrum for not a lot of money. I may actually get one of their Telecasters too for that reason. As a big plus you get a surprisingly good instrument and if you feel the need, a great base to upgrade. If you are a beginner you’ll get a guitar that will last you a good long time and will inspire you. Hats off to you HB. 


I'm Dave Menzies a digital entrepreneur, photographer and guitarist. I live on the Argyll coast of Scotland. My partner and I write, record and produce our own music and videos in our home studio. I love to help individuals discover the lifestyle freedom offered by the digital world and guitarists to develop their own style.