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Review: Harley Benton PB-20 – Is It The Best Budget Bass?

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A good and reliable copy of Precision Bass doesn’t have to be expensive – and Harley Benton PB-20 is a great example of that. I recently bought that bass and although I was pretty sceptical at first, it turned out to be great!

The PB-20 has pretty much everything that you need from a bass at that level – it’s well made, it sounds pretty good and it’s easy to play. It’s not on the same level as Fender Precision Bass, but come on – the price of that HB is ridiculously low!

It’s been only a couple of days but it quickly became one of my favorite cheap bass guitars of all time. I’ll try to make this post unbiased as possible (and no, this is not a sponsored review). All photos and sound demos below are mine so you can be sure that this bass was tested by an actual human.

Let’s start with a quick sound sample!

harley benton pb-20 bass body photo

About Harley Benton PB-20

This is actually one of the cheapest bass guitars that you can currently buy on Thomann. And if you somehow manage to find it on the second hand market, it will be even cheaper.

The price difference between Bentons and Fenders is MASSIVE. The PB-20 is around six or seven times more affordable than the cheapest Mexican-made Fender. And out of my experience, these Fenders aren’t ideal either.

harley benton pb-20 on guitar stand

So it’s not surprising that this Harley Benton model is extremely popular all around the world. It seems like a perfect guitar for anyone who wants to enter the world of bass.

Body & Neck

As you can see on the photos, this bass looks pretty much the same as a real Fender. Of course, it’s a little bit different, but the pickguard and the whole aesthetic is very similar.

This is a pretty heavy bass. I had a few of them in the past and this is probably one of the heaviest ones. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but you have to be aware of that.

headstock closeup photo

The body of PB-20 is made of poplar, which is a pretty common material used in guitars at that price level. There’s also a comfortable modern-C shaped maple neck with an amaranth fingerboard. And honestly, that satin finish feels great!

Hardware

Now I have to admit that I’m not a huge fan of hardware used in that model. It’s not bad, but since it’s a budget guitar, it feels a little bit cheap. The tuners could definitely be better, so it may be a good idea to replace them in the future (if you decide to get it).

pb-style tuners

But apart from that, there’s not too much complain about when it comes to hardware. The knobs are working properly and the bridge isn’t that bad either, so I guess that you get what you pay for.

bridge closeup

Pickups

Harley Benton equipped this model with one PB-style pickup which sounds pretty good, but it’s far from being perfect. Just like tuners, this component could definitely use some improvement.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m still a huge fan of that guitar. But if you’d compare the pickups of HBs and Fenders, the gap would definitely be noticeable.

Obviously, it doesn’t mean that PB-20 sounds like crap. Definitely not! The tone of that model is actually not bad at all and it can be used in a lot of different styles of music.

pb-20 body and pickup

Precision Basses are generally very versatile, so you can use that guitar for pretty much anything you like. Are you into indie and alternative rock? Great! Blues, country or jazz? Sure, it will work. Metal? Hell yeah, why not?

But just try to lower your expectations a bit and don’t think that it will be an amazing sound. It’s a good tone, but it’s not ideal. I hope that you know what I mean!

Build Quality

I’d give this bass a solid 9 out of 10 for the overall build quality.

I have to admit that it looks beautiful in real life and I didn’t experience any issues with the factory setup. The fretwork is great too and the edges aren’t sharp at all, so that’s a very good thing.

fretwork closeup

If I had to say something bad about it, I’d say that the string action could be a little bit lower, but it’s only my preference. This bass was definitely playable straight after unboxing, so that’s pretty amazing (it doesn’t happen that often in cheap guitars).

Keep in mind that this is a cheap Chinese-made bass. So considering that, I’m actually thinking about changing my 9/10 to 10/10 instead. Well done Harley Benton, your quality control is really on point!

pickguard and volume tone controls

Sound Demo

Now it’s time for something really cool – a quick sound demo! I recorded a few samples for you to check out. Playing bass isn’t my thing, so it all will be really basic, but you should get the idea of how it sounds like.

Sample 1 – Clean (Tone 0%)

Sample 2 – Clean (Tone 100%)

Sample 3 – Strumming

Sample 4 – Crunchy Tone

Sample 5 – Chorus

Specifications

If you’re one of these guys who want to know absolutely everything before the purchase (don’t worry, I’m like that too), here’s a list of full specs.

BodyPoplar
NeckMaple
FingerboardAmaranth
Neck ProfileModern C
Scale864 mm (34″)
Nut Width42 mm
HardwareChrome
TunersClassic PB-Style
Pickupsone PB-Style pickup
Case Included?No
Truss RodDual Action
Made inChina

Maintenance

Here’s the truth – if you want your guitar to last you for years to come, you need to put at least some effort to maintain it.

Maintanance of that bass is pretty much the same as with any other guitar of this type. That includes:

  • cleaning it from time to time
  • replacing the strings every couple of months
  • adjusting the string action (based on your preference)
  • fixing all potential issues that could occur in later future

So as you can imagine, it’s nothing extraordinary. Just make sure to wash your hands before playing and get a new set of strings every 3-4 months and you should be fine. Some people are crazy and they will tell you to replace strings every 4-5 weeks but it’s completely unnecessary.

Disadvantages

It would be impossible to talk about a $100 bass and not say anything about its flaws. As I said before, the PB-20 is far from being ideal.

In my opinion, this bass has two main issues:

  • cheap hardware (especially tuners)
  • basic pickup

These things could definitely be improved. If you decide to replace that stuff, I’m sure that it will make your bass much better. But don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that this bass sucks. I’m just trying to be as objective as possible.

On the other hand, when you think about how affordable this bass really is, all of that stuff doesn’t matter. I mean come on, how can you expect flawless quality from a bass at that level?

harley benton pb-20 laying on carpet

Despite of these cons, I’m sure that this HB is definitely worth the money. And once you lower your expectations a bit and you keep in mind that it’s a budget model, this bass seems to have an exceptional value for the money.

Who should get it?

I’m convinced that Harley Benton PB-20 is suitable for everyone – it doesn’t really matter if you’re skilled or not.

As an example, I’m quite experienced guitarist, but I don’t usually play on bass. I like to practice some bass lines for fun, but it’s not my main thing. In that case, getting a bass like that is an excellent option. It’s cheap and it’s functional, so what’s there not to like?

Another case study – let’s say that you’re a complete noob and you want to get your first bass. Getting PB-20 will be an amazing option for you! I highly recommend this model to everyone who’s just starting out. It’s probably one of the best basses that you can find at this price level.

If you’re intermediate and you had a few basses before, this model may not be the best for you. You’ll most likely complain about the hardware and the pickup. But these things can easily be upgraded. And considering the fact that the neck of PB-20 is VERY comfortable, it can be a great foundation for modifications. So if you’re willing to spend some extra money on upgrades, go for it too.

And since Precision Basses are generally extremely versatile, it doesn’t matter what kind of music you want to play. So your genre preference isn’t as relevant as you may think.

PB-20 vs Fender Precision Bass

As you’re already aware, the PB-20 is a very cheap version of a famous Precision Bass by Fender. But what are the actual differences between these guitars?

Well, it seems clear for me that Fenders are generally way better. The cheapest ones (from the Player Series) are made in Mexico and they’re made of slightly better materials. That means better hardware and better electronics. American-made Fenders are even better.

In terms of playability and functionality, the difference isn’t that huge. You can practice on both of these guitars, so for amateurs the HBs will probably make more sense.

Additionally, Fenders are WAY MORE expensive. This is probably one of the most important differences. Some Precision Basses can cost even 10 or 20 times more! That’s A LOT.

So if you’re not sure whether you should get a Fender or a Harley Benton, you ask yourself this question: do you want a high-quality, respected instrument made by one of the most famous guitar brands of all time? Or can you live with playing on a cheaper replica which is actually not that bad?

Once you answer that question, it will all be clear.

Alternative Options

Everyone has a different taste, so there’s also a high chance that you have a feeling that PB-20 is not for you. That’s totally fine, I don’t blame you.

However, I can definitely recommend checking out the Harley Benton JB-20 which is an another cheap bass made by the same brand. It’s basically a budget copy of a Jazz Bass. I had it a couple of months ago and it was awesome!

harley benton jb-20

Jazz Basses are a bit different than Precision Basses – they have different bodies and two pickups instead of one. Some may say that they’re actually a bit more versatile.

I’d say that the tone of JB-20 is a bit more complex. It’s hard to explain that, so if you’re interested, you can check out my in-depth review of Harley Benton JB-20. Of course, the sound demos are included in there too!

When it comes to prices, JB-20 costs pretty much the same as PB-20. It’s a fantastic alternative option for those who don’t want to spend too much money on new gear. Also, that blue high gloss finish looks incredible in real life.

Of course, you should also check out the Squier Sonic Precision Bass, which became incredibly popular in 2023. This is a pretty new model, but it seems to be a hit right now.

Which one would I get? Well, that’s a tough one. Again, it’s all up to you and your own preferences. Some people prefer PBs while the others like JBs more – and that’s totally normal.

Final Thoughts

Summing up, Harley Benton did a fantastic job and they managed to create and affordable and functional copy of the famous Fender Precision Bass.

It’s definitely not the greatest bass in the world, but once you think about how cheap it is, it’s actually quite impressive. That’s why I’m really happy that I added it to my collection and I highly encourage you to do the same!

Thanks for checking out this review, hopefully it was helpful and you found out something new. I wrote a lot of other posts about the gear that I had throughout the years, so if you want to check it out, it’s all available in Gear Reviews Category.

If you end up with getting the PB-20, please leave a comment under this post – I’m interested to hear what you think about it. And I’m sure that other readers of my blog will be glad to hear your thoughts too!