Harley Benton SC-550 Black Cherry Flame

Electric Guitar

  • Flame Deluxe Series
  • Weight relief chambered mahogany body
  • Arched AAAA flamed maple top
  • Set-in mahogany neck
  • Fretboard: Roasted jatoba
  • Fretboard inlays: Pearloid trapezoids
  • '60s neck profile
  • Fretboard radius: 350 mm
  • Scale: 628 mm
  • Nut width: 43 mm
  • Bone nut
  • 22 Frets
  • Pickup: 2 Roswell LAF AlNiCo-5 humbuckers
  • 2 Volume controls and 2 tone controls
  • 3-Way pickup selector switch
  • Gold-plated DLX hardware
  • DLX Tune-O-Matic bridge
  • DLX Wilkinson machine heads
  • Ex-factory stringing: D'Addario EXL .010 - .046
  • Colour: Black Cherry Flame
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Further Information

Colour Cherry
Body Mahogany
Top Maple
Neck Mahogany
Fretboard Jatoba
Frets 22
Scale 628 mm
Pickups HH
Tremolo None
Incl. Case No
Incl. Gigbag No

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27 Customer Ratings:
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4.7 /5
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A red beauty with more than just the looks!
zwerko, 17.11.2019
I decided to spend a few days with my newly acquired SC-550 as my prime practicing instrument so that I can give it as fair assessments as possible for people who are confused by those hundreds of videos where some rate it better than many times more expensive guitars while others claim that it's a cheap crap made to look good to fool you into buying it...

TL;DR: A beautiful, very playable guitar with sub-par pickups and some QC issues, mostly in the visual department. Is it better than the 'authentic' brand? Not even close. Can it be compared to more expensive guitars? In some aspects, yes. Is it worth its price? I'd say definitely yes.

I'm reviewing it before I do any modifications (apart from changing the strings to brand new NYXLs), which I plan to do in the near future (especially the pickups and the tuners) so this is basically out-of-the-box experience. With no further ado—

The good

The bone nut is very well cut and fitted, in fact I'd say that the nut is better than on my Epiphone LP Standard Plus Pro which is almost double in price, and on par with some of my 1k guitars.
The fretwork is excellent, I've seen worse fretwork jobs on guitars many times more expensive. Yes, you can see some tool marks and the edges are not filed evenly but they won't grab onto or scratch your fingers. There is a dead-fret (16th fret on 5th and 6th strings) but that can be easily filed down and it's not too much of an issue to begin with (just slight buzz).
The setup is really good—the intonation is almost perfect (very slightly off on the 2nd string), the action is excellent, there's no need for truss rod adjustment—I suspect that the setup was done recently at Thomann's HQ which are not that far away from me so no seasonal changes that would affect it, or I just might be lucky :)
Despite the body being made from two pieces of wood and having a scarf neck, it resonates really well and gives a ton of sustain (which the Rosewell pickups are not doing justice).
While I'll probably end up replacing the tuners at one point (I'm spoiled by locking tuners plus I don't like the look of the stock ones) they are very decent and usable—something I didn't expect on a guitar of this price.
The flaming top veneer is stunning, on par with my most expensive guitar (sure, it has a full flamed top and not just a veneer like Harley Benton but visually they are very similar).
The color is considerably different than what can be assumed from the pictures—and for the better! The red color is actually much more cherry than red as it is on the pictures and the freboard is completely different without even a hint of orange. I'd say that the fretboard color is very dark brown, something between rosewood and ebony, which makes it look much nicer in person than on the picture.


The weird

The neck is weird in lack of better terms—it's not a '60s neck for sure, it's considerably thinner but it's not as thin as what you'd expect from a shredding machine either. The shape is also confusing, something between C and D. It throws off my thumb placement so much that it will take some getting used to.
I've heard people complaining on the weight, I didn't weigh mine but I certainly have heavier guitars. There is no mention of weight reduction in the specs but if you knock around the guitar you'll definitely notice that some areas are more resonating than others so I'm not sure... Either way, as I mentioned before, it still has a ton of sustain.


The bad

Despite what you might expect by watching the reviews, the pickups are leaving a lot to be desired. I did not expect a Seymour Duncan set at this price point but I did expect something more vibrant and balanced. They might sound better when you put them through some 3k+ amps but I couldn't get them to sound satisfactory on a Boss Katana-100 for the life of me (I'd argue that the humbuckers on my super-strat RG550 produce more LP-ey tone than the Roswell pickups on the SC-550). Replacing the pickups with anything passable will easily cost half of the guitar's price which throws the value proposition of the SC-550 out of whack.
The 'perloid' inlays are not the best fit (they are not sticking out but the fretboard cutouts are too tolerant) and the largest one has a very visible crack across it.
There are various paint blemishes everywhere most in the form of small droplets and a some thin scratches, both which are not all that visible unless you're looking really close (to admire the gorgeous flamed top veneer for example) so nothing major, just annoying.
There is a deep paint crack around the 3rd tuner (I suspect it was due to over-tightening it to the headstock)
There is a visible chip of the 'gold' finish on one of the stopbar screws and a noticeable scratch on the stopbar itself.
The tone knobs are badly set in (almost placed at random turns)—given that they are numbered I would expect that they would correctly and consistently point their values. It's an easy 'fix' if it weren't for another problem—one of the knobs looks hastily forced in which caused it to crack a bit (the knobs are translucent so it's easily noticeable) and I'm afraid it could break if I pull it out for repositioning. These are 2.5€ a pop on the website so I'll just add a set to my next order and replace them with new ones which I'll carefully place in.
The truss rod cover screw is not screwed in straight but at an angle which is surprisingly quite noticeable (probably due to the gold color on black surroundings).


Conclusion

I don't have any other guitar in the sub-300€ range (in fact, my cheapest guitar is the aforementioned Epiphone) so I can only compare the value from what I would expect of a product at that price point (269€ at the time of writing). In that sense, I think it's quite a bang for the buck—the guitar is instantly playable, it looks gorgeous, there are no big tuning stability issues (for a single-cut of this style, that is)... basically, there are no glaring issues that will frustrate you to no end. The biggest beef I have with it are its pickups, which can be replaced (hopefully you could reuse the gold-colored covers as I don't know many good pickups that come with the gold cover option) but then you have to judge the guitar as if it was at the 400€+ range and that would probably not work as much in Harley Benton's favor.

What I respect is that while most other manufacturers focus first on the looks & finish of their low end products leaving the 'playability' to suffer, Harley Benton (or Thomann to be precise) didn't forget that this is still supposed to be a music instrument and that people are supposed to play it instead of just to look at it. Mind you, it still is gorgeous to look at (I wouldn't mind even turning down the looks a notch for a better set of pickups or tuners) but it's also fully usable once you put it in your hands without any excessive work needed. My first guitar was considerably worse to play while it was probably more expensive, and it didn't look nearly as good.

That being said, some of the visual issues (like the inlay and paint cracks, chips and scratches) is something I would not expect from a guitar that's not a B-Stock, even at this price point, and Thomann should definitely consider upping their QC game. Given that it's quite playable and given the price, these issues are not enough for me to go through the hassle of returning it, but if it were more expensive guitar (say 500€+) I'd return it in a heartbeat.
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Great guitar for the price! Could have done with better QA.
Chronis, 17.12.2019
I received the guitar in almost great condition. One of the cables that I ordered and where included in the packaging, had pierced through the guitar box and dented the neck pickup cover.

There were a few dark blemishes on the binding of the fretboard, that were gone with a little light scrapping with a razor blade, and a tiny pinhole chip on the neck finish. Seems like a grain of sand or dust was lacquered over and broke off. Nothing too serious and it doesn't affect playability. I'm sure it will smooth out with a few weeks of playing. I reached out to Thomann and they offered a replacement or a discount, which I took, because the instrument was so great I didn't want to part ways with it and wait for another one.

Other than that, the flamed maple top looks absolutely stunning! The body is a 3 piece but the grain is really carefully matched and you can barely spot the joints. The neck is also a 3 piece neck. They seem to have avoided a scarf joint with the headstock by cutting the neck in 3 pieces across and joining them. It is not easily visible and the neck feels great so I can't complain.

The jatoba fretboard is flawless. The binding on the sides is nicely rounded and this is one of the most comfortable necks I've ever experienced!

The tuners are good and precise.

The bone nut is well cut and had been lubricated with a pencil. I guess someone actually got in the trouble of setting it up.

Action and intonation was spot on out of the box.

Pickups sound amazing. They are on par with my SDs or my Burstbuckers, driven through my Kustom tube amp and 12 inch Celestion.

Pots feel great quality. So does the selector.

Bridge saddles are well cut.

There is one high fret that needs levelling.
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Beautiful Single Cut Guitar That Plays Great
Dann The Unknown, 20.04.2020
This is a beautiful and well made guitar, especially for this price point. A few tiny minor flaws that are barely noticeable. I wouldn't even put them as a con at this price. Pros: Guitar was almost perfectly set up & in tune when I got it. It is a beautiful looking guitar. Pickups sound pretty good. Very comfortable to play. Not one sharp fret edge. This may be a pro or con depending on your tastes but the neck is fairly thin which I like. The cons: The pickups can be wired for splitting coil but aren't unlike the SC-450 Plus, it came with 10's but I prefer 9's for strings, and I am not crazy about the knobs that came with it. So over all I love the guitar but I will be replacing some of the pots with push/pull to split the coils and also replacing the bridge pick up as it's not quite what I want. Think I'm keeping the neck pickup as it sounds really good. I like this much better than other single cut guitars I've tried in the $200-$450 price range. No regrets here!!!!
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Surpassed expectation
Laypreacher, 21.01.2020
Having seen and read the reviews, I expected the guitar to be presentable and playable. I was pleasantly surprised by the actual quality of the instrument: pretty much in tune straight out of the box. A single string needed (slight) intonation. Pretty to look at. Nice action, no buzzing. I like the neck profile a lot!
(Very) slight niggles for the record: Fretboard was in need of a light oiling and a single tuner is ever so slightly misaligned. It is heavy - some might say "properly heavy" for this kind of guitar...
It stays in tune as well as any of my other (some high end) guitars.
I bought it as a modding platform but there isn't really a huge scope for improvement!
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Colour: Cherry
Harley Benton SC-550 Black Cherry Flame
(27)
Harley Benton SC-550 Black Cherry Flame

Electric Guitar Flame Deluxe Series, Weight relief chambered mahogany body, Arched AAAA flamed maple top, Set-in mahogany neck, Fretboard: Roasted jatoba, Fretboard inlays: Pearloid trapezoids,...

  • Colour: Cherry
  • Body: Mahogany
  • Top: Maple
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Fretboard: Jatoba
  • Frets: 22
  • Scale: 628 mm
  • Pickups: HH
  • Tremolo: None
  • Incl. Case: No
  • Incl. Gigbag: No
Harley Benton SC-550 Paradise Amber Flame
(232)
Harley Benton SC-550 Paradise Amber Flame

Electric Guitar Flame Deluxe Series, Weight relief chambered body: Mahogany, Arched top: AAAA flamed maple, Set-in neck: Mahogany, Fretboard: Roasted jatoba, Neck profile: '60s, Radius: 350 mm,...

  • Colour: Amber
  • Body: Mahogany
  • Top: Maple
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Fretboard: Jatoba
  • Frets: 22
  • Scale: 628 mm
  • Pickups: HH
  • Tremolo: None
  • Incl. Case: No
  • Incl. Gigbag: No
Harley Benton SC-550 Faded Tobacco Flame
(258)
Harley Benton SC-550 Faded Tobacco Flame

Electric Guitar Deluxe series, Weight relief chambered body: Mahogany, Arched top: AAAA flamed maple, Set-in neck: Mahogany, Fretboard: Roasted jatoba, Neck profile: '60s, Fretboard radius: 350 mm,...

  • Colour: Sunburst
  • Body: Mahogany
  • Top: Maple
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Fretboard: Jatoba
  • Frets: 22
  • Scale: 628 mm
  • Pickups: HH
  • Tremolo: None
  • Incl. Case: No
  • Incl. Gigbag: No
Harley Benton SC-550 Desert Flame Burst
(36)
Harley Benton SC-550 Desert Flame Burst

Electric Guitar Weight relief chambered mahogany body, Arched AAAA flamed maple top, Set-in mahogany neck, Fretboard: Roasted jatoba, Fretboard inlays: Pearloid trapezoids, '60s neck profile,...

  • Colour: Burst
  • Body: Mahogany
  • Top: Maple
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Fretboard: Jatoba
  • Frets: 22
  • Scale: 628 mm
  • Pickups: HH
  • Tremolo: None
  • Incl. Case: No
  • Incl. Gigbag: No
$255 €225.86
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