If you’re into hard rock and metal, fasten your seatbelt, because today’s review of Harley Benton Extreme-76 and 84 is going to really change your point of view on cheap axes!
I recently bought the famous HB Extreme-76 BK Classic Series and it made a stunning impression on me. It’s far from being ideal, but it’s surprisingly good for the money.
All photos and sound demos included below are mine, so you can be sure that this guitar was tested by a real human. The post will focus mainly on the 76 version, but we’ll also have a look at the 84 as well.
Let’s start with a quick sound demo (if you want to see the full video, it’s available on my YouTube channel).
About Harley Benton Extreme-76
As you can probably tell by looking at the photos, this model looks almost the same as the legendary Gibson Explorer. That’s pretty obvious – it’s a very famous guitar used by such legends as James Hetfield from Metallica or Dave Grohl from Foo Fighters.
You may think that the budget Chinese copy will never be as good as the Gibson… and you’re right. It’s not on the same level. But you have to remember that Extreme-76 is around TWENTY times cheaper. So that’s a pretty solid argument to give this axe a chance.
Here’s a quick overview of all the things that make this guitar so cool. And of course, we’ll also cover the potential flaws as well.
The first thing that I noticed after unboxing is that it’s a pretty heavy and well-made guitar. That body shape isn’t comfortable though, especially if you’re sitting down. But it’s not the fault of HB – these guitars are generally like that.
I’d give this axe a solid 8 out of 10 for the quality control. There were no sharp frets, but the string action was a bit too high for me. It’s not a big deal though. You get what you pay for!
For sure I wouldn’t say that the build quality sucks in this case. Everything is made with thorough precision, but obviously – since it’s a cheap guitar – Harley Benton used mostly cheap materials.
Extreme-76 is equipped with chrome hardware and a Tune-O-Matic bridge. The tuners are VERY basic so they could use a replacement, but the tuning stability isn’t that bad. I’m assuming that it would be far worse with the tremolo or Floyd Rose installed with it.
What’s interesting, the guitar also has two independent volume controls for each pickup and one tone control. That’s very useful! There’s also a 3-way switch which can be obviously used for switching the pickup positions.
Harley Benton decided to put two HB Classic Ceramic humbuckers into that axe. They’re quite okay. Definitely not the best. But they will definitely get you going and if you really want, you can always put some nicer humbuckers inside of it.
This guitar is ideal for overdrive and distortion, but it sounds good on the clean channel too. It also takes pedals very well (I’m actually using a few effects in my video review so make sure to check it out too!).
Let’s be honest, the factory setup wasn’t perfect either. No buzzing and no problems with intonation, but the string action was way too high. It’s not a huge problem if you just want to play chords, but playing fast solos is extremely uncomfortable with high string action. It definitely needs some work!
I recorded a few sound samples for you so grab your headphones and hear them out – you know the drill!
Sound demo #1 – Clean
This demo presents the tone in three different settings: firstly the neck humbucker, then both humbuckers and the last one is just the bridge humbucker.
Sound demo #2 – Distortion
Sounds pretty good, right? For more tones, make sure to check out my video review below.
Hold on, guitar nerds! This section is designed specifically for those who want to know the boring details like the fretboard radius or fingerboard material. If you’re a guitar noob, it won’t make a difference to you. But if you’ve been playing for a while, you may want to have a look at this.
|Number of frets||22|
|Pickups||2x HB Classic Ceramic humbuckers|
In my opinion, Harley Benton Extreme-76 has two important disadvantages:
- tuners are basic
- factory setup could be better
These two things shouldn’t discourage you from getting it, but you just have to be aware that these things may cause some trouble. But once you sort these things out, this axe has a potential to become an absolute beast.
So personally, I wouldn’t worry too much about it. In the end, it’s a budget-friendly model. And of course, in comparison with Gibson it’s ridiculously cheap.
Is Extreme-76 worth the money?
You probably won’t believe me, but I actually think that this guitar is a bit underpriced. I would be happy to spend even 50 EUR more to get this exact model – even though it’s far from being perfect.
The reason is simple – the only alternative from Gibson Explorer is the Epiphone Explorer, which is still four or five times more expensive than HB. That’s a pretty significant difference. Especially if you don’t want to pay too much!
So IMO this guitar is worth every cent. Oh, and remember that due to this weird shape, EX-76 won’t fit into all guitar cases. I’ve seen that Thomann offers a bundle with a case, so it may be a really good idea to take it (if you decide to actually get it).
How about Harley Benton Extreme-84?
The Extreme-84 is very similar to Extreme-76, but it’s all-black (without the white pickguard) and it has different pickups. This one has a set of active humbuckers, which sound a bit different than ceramic pickups in the 76.
Which one is better? Well, that’s a tough choice. I think that it depends on what kind of music you want to play. If you don’t necessarily need active pickups, grab the Extreme-76. But if you want to shred, the 84 will probably be better for you.
The prices of these axes are pretty similar (the one with active pups is a bit more expensive), so you shouldn’t really base your choice on prices. Just figure out if you need active pickups or not. If so – you know what to do!
Which one would I buy?
I would probably choose the one that I had in my hands – the Extreme-76. The reason is simple – I don’t really play metal and I’m not a shredder, so I don’t need active pickups. I’m actually a Jazzmaster fanboy, so getting this cheap Explorer is more like a fun project for me.
So that’s a totally subjective statement – you don’t have to agree with me. I personally think that the Extreme-76 looks cooler with the white pickguard, but I’m sure that some of you will hate me for that.
Where can you buy these guitars?
Harley Benton brand belongs to a music store Thomann, so it’s pretty much the only place where you can find these guitars. You can try music stores or facebook groups, but you won’t find these guitars on Amazon.
I can 100% recommend buying guitars from Thomann though. Their customer service is awesome and even if something is not right, they will sort it out for you right away. You also get a 3-year guarantee and their guitars are always shipped in two boxes (there’s a box with guitar inside of a larger box), so it’s pretty much impossible for their gear to get damaged during transportation.
So let’s say that you’re a complete amateur and you want to get this guitar for yourself as your first one. If I were you, I’d visit Thomann and get not only this guitar but also Blackstar Fly 3 Mini Amp. This cheap amp will work very well with that model – especially if you’re a noob!
Summing up, Harley Benton did a fantasic job with both Extreme-76 and Extreme-84 models. No matter which one you decide to get, you will most likely be very happy. It’s crazy that you can get such nice guitars for such small amount of money these days!
Thanks for checking out this review, hopefully it was helpful! For more reviews of gear, make sure to visit the Gear Reviews category or my YouTube channel.