Harley Benton JB-75 and RB-414BK: What is it?
Harley Benton’s stock-in-trade is in making the unaffordable affordable. Sometimes this means taking an all-original pass at a new electric guitar or amplifier design. At others, it finds a classic and finds a way of making it for a price amendable to the beginner or student.
The JB-75 and the RB-414BK – are case in point. Let’s take the JB-75 first. This is a riff on the Jazz Bass archetype and is one of thousands in the genre. We have seen them produced for the beginner market, and done reasonably well, too. This is is child’s play for Harley Benton, and the JB-75 is part of a Classic Series that comprises Hohner-alikes and P-style basses, too.
It has a solid ash body with a bolt-on maple neck, which in this Natural finish model has a maple fingerboard with black block inlays. The Sunburst model has a pau ferro fingerboard but shares the same Roswell JBA Alnico 5 Vintage JB-Style single-coil pickups and passive (vol/vol/tone) control setup. It sure looks the part.
At first blush, the RB-414BK seems a little more ambitious, with a body shape, pickguard, controls and silhouette that immediately brings to mind a Rickenbacker 4001. Nowadays, these are somewhat lesser-spotted as Harley Benton reminds us it, was a bass guitar that sat at the nexus of pop and rock in the ‘60s, even going so far as to reference Mike Rutherford and Chris Squire in its promotional sizzle for the instrument.
Harley Benton raise an interesting point, with Mike Rutherford a public endorser of entry-level Squier Strats, perhaps he, too, would be interested in a super affordable bass such as this.
The RB-414BK has a mahogany body, a glued-in mahogany neck with an amaranth fingerboard. You might know amaranth by a number of names, most commonly purpleheart, but in the post-CITES era of guitar and bass production it proved a more than passable rosewood stand-in.
Both neck and body are bound, and with that white pickguard against the black body, the RB-414BK is a classy piece of work. It has one Artec mini-humbucker at the neck position and a single-coil at the bridge, with two volume and two tone controls, and a three-way pickup selector controlling them. The single-coil is covered with a chrome handrest – not chrome-covered plastic as per original vintage Rickys but it looks authentic – while the sturdy looking bridge is easily adjustable.
Harley Benton JB-75 and RB-414BK: Performance and verdict
The JB-75 and RB-414BK nail the vibe. The JB-75 is on-the-money as a Jazz-inspired four-string. It might be a beefy lunker of an instrument, its big-boned American ash chassis requiring a decent padded strap for maximum comfort, navigating the fingerboard is as easy as pie.
It’s fun, too, as the best Jazz Basses are, daring you to play more, and the tones are on point. The JB-75 will handle all kinds of styles, which is what you want from a bass priced for beginners. When you are just starting out on your career with the bass, you need an instrument that’s going to keep your options open.
• Squier Classic Vibe ’60s Jazz Bass
Unbeatable value and awesome retro feel and tone make this one of the finest basses in recent years – headstock snobs be damned!
• Epiphone EB-3
We’re pleasantly surprised by the calibre of the EB-3, and amazed at what a proficient bass Epiphone has delivered at this pocket-friendly price point. For any player starting out, or for fans of this era, you really can’t go wrong at this price. Just remember to wear it low!
The fuss-free control set delivers sounds that can be used for pop, rock, blues, and as the style might suggest, jazz, or just throw them altogether in the fusion pot and create your own.
The RB-414BK, meanwhile, is a real tone monster, particularly on that neck-position mini ‘bucker. It’s got that thick ’n’ plummy rumble that made the Rickenbacker a natural ally of the nascent rock scene. If that’s a little overbearing – and on occasion, it might – the single-coil brings forward more definition in the upper-mids and treble. You lose a little in volume when switching to it, so do be mindful of this with your controls.
Alternatively, position that selector in the middle position, plug into an overdrive bass amp or through a fuzz pedal, and you will unlock animal beast mode. It’s a fun sound to conjure with on a Saturday night when the guitar player needs some extra oomph under their chords.
Sitting side by side, it strikes us that these would make an excellent couple for the budding Geddy Lee in your life. Grab the RB-414BK for the early years up until Grace Under Pressure, swap for the JB-75 for latter period Rush. Build-wise, these are impressive.
There might be the odd finish niggle, particularly on the RB-414BK, but perhaps this is to be expected at the price. For entry-level instruments, they’ve got everything else you’d need.
MusicRadar verdict: Two classic designs remixed and served up fresh for the beginner market, it’s hard not to warm to the JB-75 and the RB-414BK. The former will handle anything, while the latter is a rock beast that will level everything in front of it if your amp is up for it.
Harley Benton JB-75 and RB-414BK: The web says
“The RB’s humbucker delivers a punch that far exceeds expectations, delivering a satisfying richness that will have you belting out riffs for hours on end… The JB-75 doesn’t mess about – we were reluctant to put it down. By no means is it a show-stopper, but it certainly knows what it can deliver in terms of tonality and playability. It’s practical, easy to navigate and solid”
Bass Player Magazine (opens in new tab)
Harley Benton JB-75 and RB-414BK: Hands-on demos
Harley Benton JB-75 and RB-414BK: Specifications
Harley Benton JB-75MN NA Vintage
- PRICE: €168 / $188
- MADE IN: China
- BODY: American ash
- NECK: Maple
- NECK JOINT: Bolt-on
- FINGERBOARD: Maple, 20 frets
- PICKUPS: 2 x Roswell JBA Alnico-5 single-coils
- CONTROLS: 2 x volume, tone
- HARDWARE: Chrome
- CASE/GIG-BAG INCLUDED: No, but Thomann offers a range of starter packs containing a practice bass amp, lead, strap, tuner and gig-bag from £222 / €268 / $300
- LEFT-HANDED OPTION: Yes
Harley Benton RB-414BK Classic
- PRICE: £189 / €229 / $256
- MADE IN: China
- BODY: Mahogany
- NECK: Mahogany
- NECK JOINT: Set neck
- FINGERBOARD: Amaranth, 22 frets
- PICKUPS: Mini-humbucker (neck) and single coil (bridge)
- CONTROLS: 2 x volume, 2 x tone, 3-way pickup selector
- HARDWARE: Chrome
- CASE/GIG-BAG INCLUDED: No
- LEFT-HANDED OPTION: Yes
- CONTACT: Harley Benton (opens in new tab)