There are two types of guitarists: Fender fans and Gibson heads. I’m firmly in the former camp when it comes to electrics but I wanted to try out a Les Paul-style guitar and didn’t want to spend a lot of money. I decided to pick up a Harley Benton SC-550 II Gotoh AFB, basically an LP tribute with a pair of Tesla Opus-1 humbuckers and some bog standard electronics.
I was, in a word, unimpressed.
I don’t want to trash this brand or this guitar. At $226 it’s very affordable and looks great. As an LP tribute, you’re basically getting the full package, from dual humbuckers to a nice bridge to “classic” style tuners. That said, all of those parts don’t add up to a compelling whole.
The biggest problem is playability. Through my Apollo Solo audio interface I got some acceptable sound but running it through any of my amps – tube or solid state – led to a muddy, jangly sound that was a mockery of the classic LP sound. Honestly blame a few things but I’d primarily say the electronics were sub-par and the tuners, as you can see in my video, were awful. It couldn’t stay in tune for more than a few minutes.
Further, I found some messiness on the finish, especially at the joints. This meant there was a little extra paint or varnish with took away from the entire package.
I’m not an American guitar snob by any measure. I have a great Indonesia-made guild and a Mexican-made Jaguar and I also have a few 1960s-era Gibsons that are just great. Heck, I even have a wild Korean-made Corona Stratocaster clone that I modded to sound like a ratty old relic. I love messing with guitars and replacing stock parts.
That said, I will probably do very little or simply return this guitar. It’s not worth upgrading and baring the quality of the finish I can’t even say “Well, I’ll just keep the wood and swap out the electronics.”
I’m disappointed that this happened and I’m honestly upset. I love entry-level guitars and I think they’re vital to musical growth. You need a guitar that sounds good and plays well as your first guitar and many frustrated players have been stymied by guitars like this one. When a guitar can barely hold tune for more than a few minutes, you’ve got something wrong in quality control and manufacturing.
If you can’t afford anything else, the HB SC-550 II Gotoh AFB might be a good purchase. If you can, then look elsewhere.