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Harley Benton SC-550 review

Take a ride on a Harley that's got classic single-cut looks and tone and a price that's friendly to all budgets

  • £229
  • €269
  • $293.61
Harley Benton SC-550 review
(Image: © Future / Phil Barker)

Our Verdict

A budget single-cut with big, box office tone and great feel, the Harley Benton SC-550 could well leave the competition eating dust

Pros

  • Great vintage looks.
  • Unbeatable classic rock tones at this price.
  • Oh, yeah, the price is right.

Cons

  • A few finish niggles such the machinehead alignment, nothing major.

What is it?

Who is the real Harley Benton? No one knows. But whoever it is they've been busy populating German retail powerhouse Thomann with a veritable cornucopia of products. And not just guitars.

There are Harley Benton capos, Harley Benton power supplies. Need a double-neck electric because you are playing Marcy and Paul's wedding reception and they just love November Rain? Well, Harley Benton has you covered, and not only that, the quality is pretty darn hard to beat at this price. 

Take the SC-550. It could be more evocatively named but let's not split hairs. Besides, the SC is a bit of a tell; this is a single-cut electric inspired by the single-cut of single-cuts, the holiest of holies, the Gibson Les Paul. It shoots for that vintage Les Paul look, too, with snot-green tuners and a AAAA flame maple top.

If you're looking for that vibe but have more lint in your pockets than coins, the SC-500 is a more than decent option that was built in Vietnam and retails for a smidge over £200.

Whether you are a Page, Perry or Slash-style player, these humbuckers will scratch your classic rock itch

The SC-550 is no straight-up LP knock-off, either. The cutaway is different. The neck heel is more contoured, more modern, while no one is going to be fooled by the headstock and inlays. What might bamboozle people is when they reckon with the tone, feel and that price....

The neck heel is contoured at an angle for enhanced upper-fret access.

The neck heel is contoured at an angle for enhanced upper-fret access. (Image credit: Thomann)

Performance and verdict

The SC-550 has a jatoba fretboard, and while this looks ebony-esque it feels a little more like rosewood. It's soft, familiar. Combine this with the SC-550's D-profile neck, the 24.72" scale and the body's balance, it makes for a classic single-cut feel. The SC-550 ships with a set of 0.010 D'Addario XL strings that really get the best out of the single-cut robustness. 

As for the Roswell humbuckers, these are pitched somewhere between mid- and high-output, and while they take gain well they are not so super-hot that they would alienate vintage-tone hounds. Indeed, no matter whether you are a Page, Perry or Slash-style player, these humbuckers will scratch your classic rock itch.

Also consider...

(Image credit: Future)

Vintage Icon V100

Epiphone Les Paul Ultra III

There is plenty of brightness that helps the SC-550's neck 'bucker avoid some of that claggy muddiness that you can sometimes find there, while the middle position offers a best of both worlds option – if you're of a mind to dial up the compressor and play some sixth chords, you could play some funk on this. The snarl and the meanness is reserved for the bridge pickup, which is voiced perfectly for working the perimeter between blues and rock.

We've seen a lot of solid electrics at this price but with some smart design features, excellent pickups, and Thomann's attention to detail, the SC-550 might just be a cut above – a single-cut above, if you will.

MusicRadar verdict: A budget single-cut with big, box office tone and great feel, the Harley Benton SC-550 could well leave the competition eating dust.

Hands-on demos

Harley Benton

The Guitar Pit

Specifications

  • BODY: Mahogany with arched AAAA maple top
  • NECK: Mahogany
  • SCALE: 628mm (24.72”)
  • FINGERBOARD: Jatoba
  • FRETS: 22
  • PICKUPS: 2x Roswell LAF Alnico-5 humbuckers
  • CONTROLS: 2x volume, 2x tone, 3-way pickup selector
  • HARDWARE: DLX tune-o-matic bridge, Wilkinson tuners
  • LEFT-HANDED: Yes
  • FINISH: Faded Tobacco Flame, Paradise Amber Flame, Black Cherry Flame, Desert Flame Burst (reviewed)
  • CASE: Not included
  • CONTACT: Thomann