Price paid: € 79
Purchased from: Thomann Cyberstore (www.thomann.de)
Sound — 7
Okay, we're getting down to what really matters when you get a guitar: the sound. For me as a friend of classic rock, 77'Punk and Indie the Harley Benton MS15BK has fullfilled the sound requirements entirely. I mostly play it with the bridge and middle pickup selected, giving it a nice and warm crunchy sound. But this selection is also being used for most of the clean sounds I need when recording. The only thing with the Harley Benton MS15BK is that you need the right amp and the right settings to really make it shine. I'm using it with a Line6 Spider III 15 and with this one it really sounds good. One thing I have to say goes out to the metal players. Save the money and get a guitar with humbuckers from a little higher price segment. You will not regret it because the single coil sound on this particular guitar becomes really muddy and unusable on high gain settings.
Overall Impression — 9
My overall impression of this guitar is very very positive. If it got stolen/lost, I'd probably buy it again because I love the fact that this one has a character. I've been playing a lot of original Gibsons and Fenders that my friends own and they all sounded perfectly sterile. This one hums a little bit here and there but I love it. To me it's a great beginners and practicing guitar.
Reliability & Durability — 9
This guitar definately is durable. It got dropped various times, it got stored in an ice cold cellar all winter long, we accidently dropped a full bottle of coke on it and it still works. I would say as long as you don't smash it on stage, it won't break. The hardware also seems quite durable. As I said in the beginnig, our band has been playing this guitar for almost 6 years now and be assured, we haven't treated it very well. The tremolo still works like a charm and the single coils sound like they did on the day we got it. I probably would have a backup guitar with me if I played live because you never know what could happen, though I guess it would withstand any gig without problems.
Action, Fit & Finish — 8
The finish was all good, no scratches and things. I only discovered 3 minor problems. The fretwire from 3rd to 5th fret was not filed that well, so I fixed that. The middle and neck pickups sounded a little too bassy for me so I lowered them a little bit, which fixed that problem and the third thing was the strings being set up a little too high for my playing style but again: no problem, just lowered them a bit on the bridge and everything was fine. Oh, before I forget, and this is IMPORTANT: DO NOT use the factory strings as they are crap. Better invest a tiny amount of money to get Ernie Ball Super Slinky strings or something like that. You will notice that better strings get you a better sound. And as a recommendation do not use any.10's or.11's on this guitar because I can guarantee you that the sound becomes too bassy very easy then.
Features — 8
First of all I want to start off by saying that I have heard a lot of negative comments about the Harley Benton guitars from a lot of guitar players all around the world but we have been playing this guitar in our band for almost 6 years now and never had any major problems with it. This particular guitar features a bolt-on maple neck with a rosewood fretboard holding the 22 medium sized frets. The body itself has the typical Strat style looks and is probably made out of plywood, no solid wood, which in this particular price category is understandable. The bridge is string through body with a Vintage style tremolo system which actually holds the tune pretty well if you do not overuse the tremolo. The tremolo itself is of pretty good quality for an instrument this cheap but again: do not overuse it. You most likely should not try anything even close to a divebomb because that would kill the tremolo (and the tremolo arm too). On the Harley Benton MS15BK we find 3 passive single coil pickups, which again are pretty good for a beginners guitar. We have 1 volume and 2 tone controls and a 5-way selector switch, which is pretty good because in position 2 and 4 the single coils act reverse wound, meaning that most of the single coil typical hum is eliminated to you get a mostly hum-free Strat sound. Again, for this price category, do not expect any high-end pickups, though Harley Benton produces their budget single-coils and humbuckers in cooperation with Shadow Electronics.