This is my third Harley Benton guitar. After I bought the first one, I knew I had to have more. It makes it possible to fill out your collection with models that you normally couldn't afford, and now have.
First and foremost, review after review out on You Tube etc. the number one comment is that it plays and sounds better than any other guitar in my collection. This is met with several comments that they thought the pickups were a little dark, and wanted to swap them out. That's the irony of the situation. You can either get low output pickups which are very bright, but lack some extra depth, or you can get full humbuckers and then add the coil split option which gives you the best of both worlds.
I play this guitar through a Blues Deluxe 40-watt tube amp with a single twelve, and the tone is beautiful. I crank the treble back some and actually prefer the sound coming from the split coil option. It is like having an ultimate Strat but with just the right depth of tone. Then when I want to achieve that magic tone that I have long been looking for, I go full humbucker with just the right pedal settings.
What took me over the top was hearing this on You Tube by Jonathan Koh titled, "Harley Benton CST24T Black Flame with Helix LT" Listen to that. Turn it up. Notice he has the same setting, and only adjusts the volume level.
So now onto the guitar. This guitar was setup beautifully right out of the box. I think they take the extra 70 dollars or so and put every dime in the guitar.
The fit, the finish was all beautiful. If I had to get critical it would be that I wish the flame maple was done in such a way that it would shout from the rooftops, rather than being a transparent blue. I love the color, have been longing for a blue guitar, and I stared at the photos for a couple of weeks waiting for it to come back in stock.
This guitar has the HAF pickups which are high gain. If you want a guitar with the old PAF sound then the LAF pickup models are for you. I love them both. It's not yey this and boo that, but rather yey this and yey that. I’m staring at the LAF pickup models now ready to make a choice.
Now here is the crazy thing. This guitar not only stays in tune, it does so with a tremolo bar as long as it is setup correctly. In the past I skipped the tremolo feature on my other guitars because they would not stay in tune. When I saw so many reviews saying this one stayed in tune, I decided to dig in, and go for it.
It stays in tune even under the precision of a Peterson Stroboscopic tuner which is accurate to within a tenth of a cent, which is equivalent to a thousand segments between frets, and accurate to within one of those segments.
Okay so here is the key. You have to tweak the tremolo bar in the back of the guitar until it is just right. After getting the guitar in perfect tune, use the tremolo bar, and if it comes out a little sharp afterwards, the tremolo bar is tightened up too much, if it comes out a little flat it is not tight enough. So, go through the motions to get it just right. You know you are close when for example the first three strings are spot on, but the top three are a little flat or sharp; then snug up that sides adjusting screw accordingly, and get ready to experience a guitar you can do dive bombs with, and it comes out perfectly in tune. Nothing is more important than maintaining perfect tuning. It's like listening to a singer who sings off pitch. On the other hand, having something in pitch so well it sounds like an orchestra. Be sure to set the intonation perfectly as well.
I go up to beyond the 12th fret, and play a cowboy A chord leaving the 5th and 6th string open, fret the chord, and top it off with the high A fretted on the first string. Listen to it carefully, and experience an orchestra like experience as it fades out; this guitar is totally capable of that.
It's lighter than a Les Paul, and heavier than a Tele. The tuners work well, although they are not an 18-gear ratio. You may need to do a little tweaking when tuning with these, but no need for replacement, they hold tune impeccably, mostly due in part to the fact that the strings go straight through the nut, instead of veering off to the sides which causes binding. I don't even use Nut Sauce, which I used to use, and is a great product, I only now use a little dab of Vaseline on the nut, and bridge contact points using a toothpick.
I'm building my You Tube channel, have a studio with an RME Fireface UFX interface and Pro Tools, and plan on doing a You Tube presentation of this magnificent instrument. I really do love it. It's up there with the best in my collection. The mahogany grain on the back reminds me that this thing is built for tone, and performance. No messing around.