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Harley Benton JB-75MN NA Vintage and RB-414KB Classic review

Budget basses with classic aesthetics and packing a rich tone

Harley Benton JB-75MN NA Vintage and RB-414KB Classic
(Image: © Harley Benton)

Our Verdict

Useful debut or backup basses at a great price.

For

  • Affordable.
  • Decent tones.

Against

  • Some build issues on the RB.

Guitar World Verdict

Useful debut or backup basses at a great price.

Pros

  • + Affordable.
  • + Decent tones.

Cons

  • - Some build issues on the RB.

Harley Benton’s sales appeal is simple but effective. The company offers instruments with a decent spectrum of tones, while making them as playable and affordable as possible.

The two HB basses we’re reviewing here are typical examples of the range, with the JB-75 a Jazz copy and the RB-414BK evidently a Rickenbacker-alike instrument. They’re remarkably cheap, but are they any good?  

Build Quality

Harley Benton JB-75MN NA Vintage and RB-414KB Classic

(Image credit: Harley Benton)

When something seems a little too good to be true, surprise, surprise, it usually turns out that way. Just how do you take a ’75 Jazz Bass that packs a maple neck and fretboard, plus an ash body with all the natural trimmings, and sell it for the cost of two new tires for your van? There’s got to be a catch somewhere.

That said, the more we’ve gotten to know the JB-75, the more that old-school wisdom comes into question. Sure, it’s a little on the heavy side – but we’re confident that’s not going to put off many players.

Nor does the lack of authentic inlays really bother us, as your fingers won’t know the difference. Handling better than a four-by-four over a rocky back road, the maple fretboard makes your fingers feel right at home, giving you a smooth, clear ride no matter where you’re playing. We barely touched the machine heads, which is always a plus, especially as the bass arrived in tune.

Harley Benton JB-75MN NA Vintage and RB-414KB Classic

(Image credit: Harley Benton)

With its mahogany body and neck, as well as a rather slick amaranth fingerboard, the RB-414 is a much lighter instrument than it looks. At first glance, it looks like a Rickenbacker for a fraction of the usual price: however, on closer inspection, there are some issues here and there that diminish its quality.

Most noticeably, a sharp protrusion from the nut that could peel a potato is worrying, especially when you’re sliding around the frets. Smoothing off the frets and pickguard edges might not be a bad idea either, but despite these setbacks, none of this will reduce your enjoyment of this bass too much.

Sounds and Playability

The RB’s humbucker delivers a punch that far exceeds expectations, delivering a satisfying richness that will have you belting out riffs for hours on end. If playing at 11 all day isn’t your thing, thanks to the toggle switch you have access to the other side of the tonal spectrum, where the single coil comes into its own.

Giving you access to crisp trebles and smooth warm middles is all well and good, we’re not denying that. However, it’s bit unfortunate that the switch is something of a double-edged sword. Switching from neck to bridge, there’s a big dip in volume that’ll require a tedious amount of knob-dialing to equal out.

Leaving it centered, the bass is pushed to its limit, voiding the volume controls almost completely. It’s an uphill battle at times, although the view from the top is worth it. The easily-accessible action gauge on the bridge is a useful extra feature that you can adjust at a moment’s notice.

On the other hand, the JB-75 doesn’t mess about – we were reluctant to put it down. By no means is it a show-stopper, but it certainly knows what it can deliver in terms of tonality and playability. It’s practical, easy to navigate and solid – a great starting point for beginners who might feel a little out of their depth with the amount of choice on the market.

Harley Benton JB-75MN NA Vintage and RB-414KB Classic

(Image credit: Harley Benton)

Conclusion

Both of these basses have a serious ‘pick up and play’ appeal going for them. As a Rickenbacker-inspired replica, the RB will enable players on a budget to emulate Lemmy without bringing their wallets to tears. 

For a more practical bass that gives you tones, comfort and playability for less, the JB-75 has got you covered. The value of these basses cannot be denied, either. Ultimately, the JB-75 is a great, affordable bass, while the RB-414 might be a tad ambitious with what it’s trying to go for – but it gets the job done.

Harley Benton JB-75MN NA Vintage and RB-414KB Classic

(Image credit: Harley Benton)

Specs

Harley Benton JB-75MN NA Vintage

  • PRICE: $166
  • MADE IN: China
  • BODY: American ash
  • NECK: Maple
  • NECK JOINT: Bolt-on
  • FINGERBOARD: Maple, 20 frets
  • PICKUPS:  2 x Roswell JBA Alnico-5 single-coils
  • CONTROLS: 2 x volume, tone
  • HARDWARE: Chrome
  • CASE/GIG-BAG INCLUDED: No
  • LEFT-HANDED OPTION: Yes

Specs

Harley Benton RB-414BK Classic

  • PRICE: $217
  • MADE IN: China
  • BODY: Mahogany
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • NECK JOINT: Set neck
  • FINGERBOARD: Amaranth, 22 frets
  • PICKUPS: Mini-humbucker (neck) and single coil (bridge)
  • CONTROLS: 2 x volume, 2 x tone, 3-way pickup selector
  • HARDWARE: Chrome
  • CASE/GIG-BAG INCLUDED: No
  • LEFT-HANDED OPTION: Yes
  • CONTACT: Harley Benton