Fast becoming the place to find a bargain, Harley Benton – a house brand of online giant Thomann – seems to release new models on a monthly basis. The latest electric guitar is a dual-level MR (as in Mosrite) range with hardtail ‘Classic’ models at $231/£209 and this rather more pimped ‘Modern’ version at a lofty $324/£295.
And when we say pimped, we get jumbo stainless-steel frets on a Macassar ebony fingerboard, a Wilkinson VS-50 II vibrato, Graph Tech nut, rear locking tuners, and a pair of coil-splittable Artec humbucking soapbars.
We’re probably not alone in saying we’ve only played an original Mosrite for moments. To be honest, it’s likely the same for Harley Benton’s designers.
Yes, the MR-Modern sort of apes the reverse body style, but it’s noticeably more bulky – not least the over-large treble horn – than this writer’s Eastwood Sidejack.
As a result, this chunky chap weighs in a 4.01kg (8.8lb), the 45mm thick alder body completely hidden by the well-applied and very glossy Candy Apple Red finish, one of five offered.
The neck feels pretty generic, the colour-matched headstock is spliced under the 2nd fret, and the neck back is a pretty smooth-feeling satin. But the craft is tidy, those big, tall stainless-steel frets are well installed, and the ebony is a deep chocolate colour.
Barring a slight setup tweak, it plays well. The neck actually feels a bit bigger in your hand than its more Fender-like dimensions suggest, but it’s a big ringing sound, particularly with a little waggle from the excellent Wilkinson VS50, which needs little introduction.
While the ‘Classic’ model uses standard single-coil soapbars, these Artec pickups retain the footprint but are conventional humbuckers. They certainly support the punk/surf lineage of the original brand, although the bridge pickup actually seems a little under-powered and could do with a firmer foam support to allow you to raise it closer to the strings.
But kick in some dirt and the voicing isn’t bad, retaining a little more ‘single coil’ than ballsy humbucker. The neck voice is fuller with a little woody chop, while the coil-splits get you into surf territory, especially with some dollops of reverb and slapback echo.
This is quite a Fender-rooted instrument that’s very tidy for the money, even though that shape does seem a little bulky. An affordable offset with a difference and plenty of modding potential.
- PRICE: $359 / £295
- ORIGIN: Indonesia
- TYPE: Offset double-cutaway solidbody electric
- BODY: Alder
- NECK: Maple, ‘C’ profile, bolt-on
- SCALE LENGTH: 648mm (25.5”)
- NUT/WIDTH: Graph Tech Tusq/42.1mm
- FINGERBOARD: Macassar ebony, pearloid dot inlays, 305mm (12”) radius
- FRETS: 22, medium/jumbo Blacksmith stainless steel
- HARDWARE: Wilkinson VS-50 II vibrato, Kluson-style Wilkinson locking tuners – chrome-plating
- STRING SPACING, BRIDGE: 52.5mm
- ELECTRICS: 2x Artec AHC-90 soapbar-sized Alnico-5 humbuckers, 3-way toggle pickup selector, master volume and tone (w/ pull‑switch coil-split) controls
- WEIGHT (kg/lb): 4.01/8.8
- OPTIONS: Not this model
- RANGE OPTIONS: MR-Classic (£209) has standard frets, hardtail wrapover bridge, 2x P-90 style single coils, basswood body, roasted jatoba ’board; the baritone version (£295) has a 686mm (27”) scale length
- LEFT-HANDERS: Yes, in both the MR-Classic (£209) and MR-Modern spec (£295)
- FINISH: Candy Apple Red (as reviewed), Black, 3-Tone Sunburst, Pearl White and Metallic Blue – colour matched headstock with satin natural neck back
- CONTACT: Harley Benton