HBL400 review by Harley Benton

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  • Sound: 7
  • Overall Impression: 8
  • Reliability & Durability: 8
  • Action, Fit & Finish: 6
  • Features: 8
  • Reviewer's score: 7.4 Good
  • Users' score: 7.7 (36 votes)
Harley Benton: HBL400

Price paid: € 80

Purchased from: second hand

Sound — 7
For a beginner, this guitar is ok, especially for its price.I can't really make a comparison between it and other entry-level guitars, but the original no-name pickups sounded muddy and undefined, especially on overdrive. The clean sound was clear and somewhat bluesy. But nothing special here. There was an annoying noise coming from the amp, but the problem weren' t the pickups, I think, but the crappy electronics. It seemed like it was made by an retarded 8-year old. The pots are weedy, and you really have to rotate them to head a change of the volume or tone. If the volume is down, when you hit a power chord, and you roll it up, the distortion comes up suddenly. That's why I changed them for some Epiphone G-400 pickups, which sound great (compared to the originals, of course). I hear no buzzing or noise at all. Now the distortion is crispier, the clean sound... Finally sounds clean and bright, overall, a big improvement. Long live Epiphone! Oh, and the Switch seems somewhat loose. Meh meh. I mainly play hard/heavy rock, and it sounds acceptable. I play it through a no-name amp (whigh sounds lame) and a Boss DS-1 Distortion pedal, and a Zoom 505 II processor (ocasionally), but at rehearsals, I mainly plug it through the pedals, then a mixer then 2 200 w speakers, which sound great. I will rate the guitar with the original pickups and configuration.

Overall Impression — 8
For hard rock, county and blues, it's ok. For heavier styles of music, not really. I play guitar for 3 years now, and it is my second electric guitar. If it were stolen, or lost, I'd save some money, and buy an Epiphone, or a Hamer, or something more expensive. Don't get me wrong, the guitar ain't crap, but for the money, it is a steal! If you have 100+ spare euros, you should try it. Favorite feature? The weight... Although this guitar is made of alder, the body is somewhat heavy. I use it for exercising in the morning. Very useful indeed!

Reliability & Durability — 8
I played this guitar live 2 times, and at every rehearsal with the band, and it seems very sturdy. Although the hardware seems cheap, the strap buttons seem pretty solid. Since it is my only electric guitar, I use it without a backup, but I am not worried that it will let me down (only the tuning pegs are causing me troubles, I have to re-tune it every 2 hours (or 10-15 minutes of soloing) The finish is nice, although it has some micro-scratches on the top, but they'll go away, after some buffing. I chipped the headstock a little, banging it on the walls, but it's unnoticeable.

Action, Fit & Finish — 6
Even if I bought it second hand, the previous owner didn't set it up. Neither did the guys from Thomann, I realise. Shame on them, I had to to all the work. Flaws? A small drip of paint on the neck, unnoticeable though; bad action, overall cheap hardware, loose tuning pegs and pickup selector, loose jack, nothing serious though (except the tuning pegs, they are driving me nuts). The real fun came when I adjusted the truss rod. When I tried to loosen it, the end, which fits an allen wrench, falled off. I mean it "screwed itself" off the end of the truss rod. Imagine that, if you can, I dare you. Now, I have fretbuzz and high action. Imagine that too. It feels a bit uncomfortable, but if I use it as a study guitar, on a better guitar, my hands will fly on the fretboard!

Features — 8
I don't have an idea when it's made, but it seems pretty new. It was made in Korea, and it was originally bought from Thomann, in Germany. I got it from a friend, in mint condition, for only 80 euros. This is the left-handed model, HBL400BKL. Classical Les Paul copy, bolt-on maple neck, rosewood fretboard, 22 jumbo frets (I guess), alder body, carved top. The finish is glossy black, the bridge is Tune-o-matic, stopbar tailpiece; It has 2 passive humbuckers, 2x volume and tone controls, 3-way switch. It comes with an amplifier, headphones, gigbag, tuner, picks and a strap. I only bought the guitar with the gigbag.

2 comments sorted by best / new / date

    You could buy 10 of these, melt/chop them up, make a guitar better than a Gibson, all for less than a Gibson!
    What do you see "classical" into this guitar? It's not even a good OUTER copy of a Les Paul: it has open-coil pickups instead of PAFs (and it's better not to mention their quality...), no cream binding, no ugly but athentic pickguard, wood isn't the right one (that's mahogany for the neck and mahogany plus flame maple for the body)... It can be accepted, eventually, as a copy of the ridiculous Epiphone LP Special, which is already the shame of the Gibson group. Let's not speak about features: this guitar is unplayable in normal gig or studio conditions (I hope you've noticed that I avoided the word "professional"), which is a minimum for any object pretending to be a guitar. It sounds like grinding sand into a coffee machine, controls are there for nothing, humbuckers produce a huge hum etc. etc. Before judging it, you should at least play once on a real Les Paul. Then you'll notice you cannot find marks for this odd piece of firewood. Not above zero. Try under it.