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Review: Harley Benton MR-Classic – Is It Good?

*Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.*

As an experienced guitarist who has played more guitars than I can count, it’s not every day that I come across a guitar that truly makes me sit up and take notice. The Harley Benton MR-Classic is one such guitar. It’s a part of their Vintage Series and it’s a stunner in both looks and performance, especially when you consider the price point. Let’s dive in and find out why this guitar might just be your next purchase.

Key Takeaways:

  • Exceptional Value: The MR-Classic is a prime example of getting more than what you pay for.
  • Vintage Aesthetics: Its 3-Tone Sunburst Gloss finish and classic design is a nod to the golden era of guitars.
  • P-90 Pickups: Equipped with Artec P-90 Alnico-5 Vintage single coils for that classic sound.

About Harley Benton MR-Classic

Harley Benton, a brand that’s been on the rise, really hits the sweet spot with the MR-Classic. This model is part of their Vintage Series, aimed at players who love that classic vibe without breaking the bank. From my experience, it’s a guitar that offers much more than its modest price tag suggests.

harley benton mr-classic closeup on grey background

Specs

SpecificationDetails
SeriesVintage Series
Body MaterialBasswood
Neck ConstructionBolt-on
Neck MaterialCanadian A-grade Maple
Fingerboard MaterialRoasted Jatoba
Fingerboard InlaysDot
Neck FinishMatte
HeadstockMatching Body Colour
Truss RodDouble Action
Neck Profile“C” Shape
Fretboard Radius305 mm (12″)
Nut Width42 mm
Scale Length648 mm
Nut MaterialGraphite
Number of Frets22
Pickups2 Artec P-90 Alnico-5 Vintage Single Coils
Controls1 Volume, 1 Tone
Switch3-Way
Bridge TypeFixed
TunersKluson Style Wilkinson
Hardware FinishDeluxe Chrome
Factory StringingD’Addario EXL110 .010 – .046
Colour3-Tone Sunburst Gloss

Here’s a really good sound demo.


Body & Neck

Design and Comfort

The MR-Classic features a basswood body with a bolt-on neck made of Canadian A-grade maple, topped with a roasted jatoba fingerboard. This combination not only gives it a timeless look but also a comfortable playing feel. The C-shaped neck profile and smooth matte neck finish make it a joy to play, especially for those long jam sessions.

Finish and Aesthetics

Finished in a beautiful 3-Tone Sunburst Gloss, the guitar has a vintage charm that’s hard to resist. The dot fretboard inlays and headstock in body color add to its classic appeal.

key features of mr-classic

Hardware

Tuners and Bridge

With Kluson style Wilkinson tuners and a fixed bridge, the MR-Classic maintains tuning stability, a feature I always look out for. This reliability is a boon, especially for gigging musicians.

Nut and Fretwork

The graphite nut and well-executed 22 frets mean you’re getting a guitar that feels more expensive than it is. The fretwork is impressive, with no sharp edges, which is often a complaint with budget guitars.


Electronics

Pickups and Sound

The real star of the show here are the two Artec P-90 Alnico-5 Vintage single coils. These pickups offer a warm, yet crisp sound that’s versatile enough to handle anything from blues to rock.

Controls

It comes with a 1 Volume and 1 Tone control, along with a 3-Way switch. This setup offers enough versatility without overcomplicating things.


Sound

Tonal Range

The MR-Classic shines in its tonal versatility. The P-90s offer a distinct sound that’s punchy and clear, perfect for players who dabble in multiple genres.

Sound Quality

The sound quality is where this guitar punches above its weight. It’s rich, articulate, and has a character that’s often missing in guitars at this price point.

Playing Experience

As a guitarist, I can confidently say that playing the Harley Benton MR-Classic is a delightfully rewarding experience. Here’s a deep dive into what makes this guitar a joy to play:

  • Neck Profile and Comfort: The MR-Classic features a “C” shaped neck which is a staple in the guitar world. This shape fits comfortably in the hand, making it easier to form chords and navigate the fretboard. For players who are used to this traditional neck profile, the transition to the MR-Classic will feel seamless.
  • String Action and Playability: Out of the box, the action on this guitar is set at a comfortable height. Not too high that it hinders fast playing, nor too low to cause fret buzz. This middle ground is perfect for a variety of playing styles, from rhythmic strumming to fast-paced solos.
  • Fretboard Feel: The roasted jatoba fingerboard is a standout feature. It offers a smooth playing surface, similar to more premium woods like rosewood. This results in a slick, fast feel under the fingers, which is a boon for players who enjoy quick fret transitions and bends.
  • Balanced Weight and Body Comfort: The basswood body ensures that the guitar is not overly heavy, making it comfortable for long playing sessions. Whether you’re standing on stage or practicing at home, the guitar’s weight distribution feels balanced and easy on the shoulders.

Interesting Fact: Did you know that basswood, the material used for the body, is known for its excellent tonal qualities? It’s a popular choice in guitar manufacturing for its ability to produce a balanced sound, with enough warmth and clarity to suit various playing styles.

In conclusion, the Harley Benton MR-Classic offers a playing experience that rivals many higher-priced guitars. Its comfortable neck, player-friendly action, and high-quality fretboard material make it an excellent choice for both practice and performance. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned player, this guitar will likely exceed your expectations in terms of playability.

Build Quality & Factory Setup

Construction

The build quality is solid, with attention to detail that’s commendable. It feels sturdy and well-constructed, suggesting it can handle the rigors of regular use.

Factory Setup

Out of the box, the factory setup is decent, with a comfortable action and minimal fret buzz. However, a professional setup could elevate its playability further.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Affordable Price: Incredible value for money.
  • Versatile Sound: Suited for a wide range of music styles.
  • Comfortable Playability: Easy on the hands, great for beginners and seasoned players alike.
  • Solid Build Quality: Feels robust and well-made.

Cons

  • Factory Setup: Sometimes it might require some tweaks for personal preferences. Not always though.
  • Usually comes wihout a case

Maintenance Tips

maintenance tips

Proper care and maintenance of your Harley Benton guitar are crucial for preserving its quality and ensuring a long life. Here’s a comprehensive guide to keeping this instrument in top condition:

Regular Cleaning: Regular cleaning is vital. Use a soft, lint-free cloth to wipe down the instrument’s body and neck after each use, removing fingerprints and grime. For the fretboard, made of roasted jatoba, occasional cleaning with a slightly damp cloth followed by a dry one is recommended. Always avoid harsh chemicals and opt for mild guitar polish for the body.

String Maintenance: The instrument arrives equipped with D’Addario EXL110 strings (.010 – .046), but string replacement is necessary periodically. The frequency depends on how often you play. New strings not only enhance the sound but also protect the fretboard and hardware. Changing strings is also an ideal time to give the fretboard a thorough cleaning, particularly around the headstock area.

Hardware Check: The Wilkinson tuners and fixed bridge require occasional checks to ensure they remain tight and functional. Loose hardware can affect tuning stability and overall playability.

Environmental Factors: Be mindful of where you store this guitar. Avoid extreme temperatures and humidity, as they can warp the wood and damage the electronics. A consistent, moderate environment is best, and using a case or guitar stand is recommended for storage.

Truss Rod Adjustments: The double-action truss rod might require adjustments over time, especially with changes in temperature and humidity. If you’re not experienced with this, it’s wise to have a professional do it to maintain optimal neck relief and action.

By following these maintenance steps, your Harley Benton instrument will not only look great but also continue to deliver the quality sound and playability it’s known for.


Other Guitars To Consider

epiphone es-335 cherry red

While the Harley Benton MR-Classic is a steal, there are a few other guitars that deserve a shout-out if you’re hunting for budget-friendly alternatives. Here’s a quick rundown:

  • Fender Stratocaster:
    • Known for its iconic shape and sound.
    • Features a versatile pickup configuration.
    • Ideal for genres ranging from blues to rock.
    • Offers a comfortable neck profile for beginners.
  • Harley Benton TE Series (Telecaster Style):
    • Captures the classic Telecaster design.
    • Typically comes with two single-coil pickups, great for crisp, clean tones.
    • Solid choice for country, blues, and rock.
    • Known for its durable build and straightforward electronics.
  • Squier Jaguar:
    • A more unique and offset body design.
    • Often features a shorter scale length, which can be great for players with smaller hands.
    • Versatile sound, suitable for indie rock, surf music, and even punk.
    • Comes with a distinctive switching system for tone versatility.
  • Epiphone ES-335:
    • A budget-friendly version of the legendary Gibson ES-335.
    • Known for its warm, rich tones thanks to its semi-hollow body.
    • Works well for jazz, blues, and rock.
    • Offers a more premium look and feel within the budget segment.

Each of these guitars brings something different to the table, be it in terms of design, sound, or playability. While they may not match the MR-Classic spec-for-spec, they are excellent choices in their own right, offering great value for those on a tighter budget. Remember, the best guitar for you is one that feels right in your hands and resonates with your musical style!

Harley Benton MR-Classic vs MR-Modern

When comparing the Harley Benton MR-Classic and the Harley Benton MR-Modern, both part of the Vintage Series, there are notable differences that cater to diverse player preferences and styles.

Here are the most important differences:

SpecificationHarley Benton MR-ClassicHarley Benton MR-Modern
Body MaterialBasswoodAlder
Fingerboard MaterialRoasted JatobaMacassar Ebony
Nut MaterialGraphiteGraphtech TUSQ
Frets22 Frets22 Blacksmith Stainless Steel Frets
Pickups2 Artec P-90 Alnico-5 Vintage Single Coils2 Artec AHC-90 Soapbar Alnico-5 Humbuckers
Controls1 Volume, 1 Tone1 Volume, 1 Tone (with Push-Pull Coil Split)
Bridge TypeFixedWilkinson VS-50 II Precision Tremolo
TunersKluson Style WilkinsonKluson Style Wilkinson Locking Machine Heads
Colour3-Tone Sunburst GlossCandy Apple Red Gloss

The MR-Classic features a basswood body and roasted jatoba fingerboard, giving it a classic feel and tone, while the MR-Modern opts for an alder body and Macassar ebony fretboard, offering a slightly different tonal character and a more modern feel. The pickup configuration also differs, with the MR-Classic using single coils for a vintage sound, and the MR-Modern employing humbuckers with coil-splitting capabilities for more versatility.

The MR-Modern’s use of stainless steel frets and a precision tremolo bridge leans towards players who might prefer a more contemporary playstyle, offering enhanced durability and versatility. In contrast, the MR-Classic’s fixed bridge and standard frets cater to traditionalists seeking stability and classic tones.

In summary, the MR-Classic is geared towards players who love classic tones and a straightforward setup, while the MR-Modern caters to those seeking more versatility and modern features in their play. Both guitars, however, maintain the high-quality build and affordability that Harley Benton is known for.

Community Feedback

Upon scouring through the pool of reviews for the Harley Benton MR-Classic, the guitar has been receiving quite the round of applause from its users.

Guitar enthusiasts have noted its exceptional playability, with one user, GTARZAN, expressing immense satisfaction, stating, “Having played & instructed professionally for 65 years and having owned all the major guitar brands, I am extremely pleased and impressed with the HB MR Classic“​​. This is a strong testament to the instrument’s quality coming from a seasoned player.

Have a look at this another fantastic review on Thomann.

screenshot of review of harley benton mr-classic

The consensus in the reviews suggests that while the MR-Classic is well-received straight out of the box, a professional setup might be necessary to fine-tune it to individual preferences. A common theme across user feedback is the notion that with a little adjustment, the guitar’s playability and comfort can be greatly enhanced, making it a worthwhile investment for both beginners and seasoned players alike.

Final Thoughts

In wrapping up this review, it’s clear that the Harley Benton MR-Classic stands as a remarkable instrument in its category. Balancing affordability with quality, it offers an exceptional choice for both beginners and experienced guitarists. Its vintage aesthetics, coupled with the versatile sound of the P-90 pickups, make it suitable for a wide array of musical genres. The guitar’s solid construction, comfortable playability, and the option for personalized modifications further enhance its appeal.

For those looking for alternatives, options like the Fender Stratocaster (Squier Affinity Series), Harley Benton TE Series, Squier Jaguar, or the Epiphone ES-335 are worth considering, each bringing its own unique flavor to the table.

Ultimately, whether you’re a beginner stepping into the world of guitar playing or a seasoned player looking for a reliable yet budget-friendly option, the Harley Benton MR-Classic stands out as a compelling choice. Its blend of classic design, versatile sound, and quality craftsmanship at an affordable price point makes it a guitar that’s hard to overlook. Keep in mind, the right guitar is the one that resonates with you both in sound and feel. Happy strumming!