If you’ve had the chance to sit down and tap into your inner Southern blues icon on a cheap resonator guitar, you’ll know their shonky charms cannot be replicated. As such, the announcement that Harley Benton is debuting a new acoustic-electric resonator – the Custom Line N-150CE NT, priced at $199 at that – seems like good news.
This is all in keeping with what we’ve come to expect from Harley Benton – the firm is the affordable in-house brand of European mega-retailer Thomann – but it also has a reputation for punching above its price point.
Certainly, on paper, the specs look decent enough: it’s a mini Jumbo body format, with a sapele body and Okoume neck. Both of those tonewoods are common affordable substitutes for mahogany in lower-end guitar builds and are generally accepted to achieve a similar warmth and resonance to the real thing.
Then there’s a purple heart fingerboard, which has a rosewood-like look but is similar to hard maple in its tonal characteristics, plus 20 medium jumbo frets and a 43mm bone nut.
Cast your eyes around the shoulders and there are some subtle f-holes cut into the singlecut body, alongside a Rising P3004 mini humbucker, should you want to augment the sound from the JM-02 cone with some plugged-in tones.
The chrome hardware, including some tastefully minimal volume and tone control knobs, plus DLX die-cast tuners, sets off brilliantly against the shining cone and the chocolate tones of the wood grain – and it’s all given a smart outline thanks to the ABS binding.
We can’t tell you what it sounds like, yet, but it’s a promising spec for such a low price point, and it looks like it’s put the budget where it counts, i.e. the resonance – and with the bone nut and smart tonewood choices it's looking good on that front.
Either way, in the era of $1,500 Epiphones, $200 is a crazy price and, frankly, even if it’s poorly finished, there is certainly room for a bit of imperfection when it comes to making rough-edged blues, country and folk – all of the places in which a resonator typically finds its feet.
Even taking into account the EU to US postage costs, we think this could win a few hearts. The price point (with postage) almost halves that of the current go-to entry level resonator, the Epiphone Dobro Hound Dog – and, as such, could prove a huge temptation for anyone taking their first steps to dobro-style prowess.
If you want more information on the Custom Line N-150CE NT, head to Harley Benton.