Harley Benton Custom Line CLA-15MCE

246

Steel-String Guitar with Pickup

  • Design: Auditorium 000-14 with cutaway
  • Top: Gabon mahogany top (Aucoumea klaineana)
  • Scalloped X-bracing
  • Body: Gabon mahogany (Aucoumea klaineana)
  • Neck: Gabon mahogany (Aucoumea klaineana)
  • Fretboard: Ovangkol
  • Snowflake inlays
  • Dovetail construction
  • Neck profile: Modified oval C
  • Body binding: Wooden
  • Scale: 643 mm
  • Nut width: 43 mm
  • 20 Frets
  • Nut: Bone
  • Compensated nut
  • Pau Ferro bridge
  • Machine heads: DLX diecast chrome
  • Fishman Presys-II preamp system with built-in tuner
  • D'Addario XTAPB1253 Light strings, .012 - .053 (Article Nr 471307)
  • Colour: Natural matt
  • Optional case: Dimensions 103 x 38 x 10 cm available under Article Nr. 208576 (not included)
available since July 2014
Item number 333967
sales unit 1 piece(s)
Model 000
Top Solid Mahogany
Back and Sides Mahogany
Cutaway Yes
Fretboard Pau Ferro
Nut width in mm 43,00 mm
Frets 20
Pickup Yes
Colour Natural
Incl. Case No
Incl. Gigbag No
$199
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A successful crossover

The Harley Benton Custom Line CLA-15MCE is an auditorium guitar, a body shape that represents decades of tradition and was initially developed in the first third of the twentieth century. This tradition is combined here with modern features like a cutaway and a pickup. The result: A guitar that is comfortable to play, delivers a vivid sound and, above all, boasts an eye-catching natural wood finish. The latter is thanks to the fact that this guitar is made completely from Gabon mahogany. All of this makes it the perfect choice for players looking for something special that still comes at a budget-friendly price.

Mahogany for a precise, mid-rich sound

The Harley Benton Custom Line CLA-15MCE is constructed entirely of Gabon mahogany and also features a solid wood top. Gabon mahogany, also known as okoumé, has been used here in order to ensure that the instrument conforms to the regulations of the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). The combination of this wood and a relatively shallow auditorium-style body gives the guitar a precise and balanced sound with excellent emphasis on the mid frequencies, which in turn allows it to cut through the mix effectively, while the cutaway gives the player access to the upper register without spraining their hand in the process. Finally, the on-board Fishman pickup system ensures that this impressive instrument can be amplified appropriately. The CLA-15MCE’s Gabon mahogany neck features a glued-on ovangkol fingerboard and a comfortably slim taper with a moderate nut width of 43mm. Together with the guitar’s smaller, lighter body shape, this means that it is not only ideal for musicians with smaller hands but also sits perfectly against the player’s body.

Great for all ages

The Harley Benton Custom Line CLA-15MCE offers guitarists unrivalled playing comfort, making it perfect for young beginners and adults with smaller hands. What is more, this guitar offers a generous wealth of features at a budget-friendly price. The CLA-15MCE thus also has a lot to offer more advanced performing musicians, and it can definitely hold its own against more expensive competitors. Guitarists who mainly play electric will also be particularly attracted by this guitar’s pickup system, shallow body, and slim neck profile. And as if that were not enough, the guitar’s output socket is located in the same position as that of a Les Paul, so electric players couldn’t feel more at home on an acoustic than here.

About Harley Benton

Since 1998, the Harley Benton brand has been catering for the needs of numerous guitarists and bassists. In addition to an extensive range of stringed instruments, Thomann's house brand also offers a wide choice of amplifiers, speakers, effect pedals, and other accessories. In total, the range includes over 1,500 products. Built by established names in the industry, all Harley Benton products combine quality and reliability at attractive and affordable prices. The continuous expansion of the range ensures that Harley Benton always provides new, exciting, and innovative products that keep players perfectly in tune with the musical world, day after day.

Perfect handling for the stage

As already mentioned, the CLA-15MCE is perfect for any on-stage performance, thanks in particular to its Fishman pickup system and built-in tuner, though of course it is already loud to begin with. With the guitar’s light weight and excellent playing comfort, even gigs that go on for several hours are no problem – and these same virtues also make it very easy to transport, so spontaneous chances to delight the audience around the campfire or on the street need never be missed.

b
Hard to believe...
buddhuu 10.05.2017
This is very much a first impression as the guitar only arrived today, but I am blown away. It is great.

I've been playing since 1972. My last full-size acoustic was a Taylor, and I've been doing instrument repairs and setups for years - so I have a little knowledge of guitars.

Recently I bought another HB guitar: a cheap short scale thing called a Custom Line CLGS-10S Travel. I got it as a travel/beater/campfire guitar and I was surprised how good it was for a cheap guitar. So, when I found I needed a decent, but inexpensive, electro-acoustic for my band I thought I'd try a slightly higher-level HB.

The reviews of the Harley Benton Custom Line CLA-15MCE were excellent, and the few YouTube videos also looked great. The guitar is pretty low-priced, so I went for it. Thomann are always great about returns, so I had little to lose.

Forget that. No way am I returning this thing.

I think the body is a little shallower than the Martin model that obviously inspired this guitar and the unplugged volume is a little lower - but not much. This is an average volume acoustic guitar. That is the only average thing about it.

The fit and finish are, as far as I can see, absolutely excellent. The neck relief and action have been set up perfectly and there is even a battery installed in the preamp/tuner. The tuners are of very good quality: smooth and stable. Intonation seems spot on right up the neck.

The fret job is neat and well finished, without sharp ends. This is the first acoustic guitar I've had that I have not felt the urge to improve the string height at the nut. Whoever set this guitar up obviously checked and adjusted the nut slots to perfection. Thank you, Thomann setup person, whoever you are - I hope they're paying you enough because you've done a great job. I've had guitars with setups as good as this but I don't recall any better. I'm delighted.

The frets are smooth, not raspy like on many inexpensive guitars. I will polish them a little more, but only because I like a real, glassy mirror finish on my frets and these are just a tiny bit below that level of polish.
The fretboard is not actually dry, but it looks as if it will benefit from a light oiling, which I will do tomorrow.

Plugged in, the Fishman pickup and tuner work great. The sound is standard undersaddle piezo. I'm a bit odd because I prefer magnetic soundhole pickups rather than piezos, but this one sounds a lot better than many of its species. Perfectly acceptable and I'll be happy enough to gig it.

Visually, this is a beautiful guitar. The solid mahogany is made from a nice piece of wood. Actually, it looks like it may be a two piece top, but that's no problem. I've seen very high end guitars deliberately made with two piece tops for the book-matching effect they allow.

The acoustic tone is very nice. The strings are still a bit fresh and metallic yet for me to fully hear what it will sound like when they settle down, but it sounds fine already and the tone will get even better when that new-string bright twang wears off.

So, absolutely full marks, Thomann. This is extraordinary value for money. I couldn't be happier.


EDIT: I've now had the guitar for a few days. The strings have settled and I've had a chance to use the HB at a pub gig.

A bandmate who plays a Martin 000-15 is staggered by the quality and volume of the Harley Benton. I didn't think it was that loud, but comparing side-by-side it is as loud as his Martin.

I already gave this guitar top marks. If I could give it more stars I would.

I'm going to buy the dreadnought version as soon as it's back in stock next month. If you're not a logo snob then these guitars are just too good to miss.
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This is a lovely sweet wee guitar, well set up out of the box
Eugene M. 29.01.2019
I have several acoustics, mostly Canadian like Seagull, Simon & Patrick, La Patrie, Faith, Wasburn but have had many more including Martins, Taylors etc. I think right out of the box and tuned up this is a beaut.
I nearly bought the guitar it is a copy of a few years ago while working in a music shop but can't remember why I didn't so when I saw the HB one I decided to give it a try with the intention of stringing it for Nashville tuning, but after my initial test I may leave the tuning as is and even get another one of these for nashville tuning as it is a lovely player and I can see myself gigging it a lot.

I had no doubt the quality would be good as I bought a Harley Benton PRS 24 electric copy in green a while back and though it need fret dressing and setup it plays as good if not better than some of my more expensive guitars (lovely neck which allows lower action when setting it up than some).

This is a great acoustic guitar for fingerstyle (thumb pick or thumb) cause it's more middy than a dreadnought, projects more mids with less low end and not as jingly / toppy as some due to the woods used if you get me, it's nice and mellow. Strummed it is the same, more focused. I imagine while recording with a nice condenser like a Rode NT5 or 55 or a stereo pair it would record really well on account of it's nice focused projection. It would be a great wee guitar if you play in a band and you need a guitar to sit nice in the mix without competing with some of the bass guitar's area of the frequency spectrum but you could stand up solo and gig with it no bother, it won't be as full sounding as a jumbo or dreadnought for strumming (it is a different sound) but will be better for finger picking. If you play with a person who plays a jumbo or dreadnought in an acoustic band one of these for your end of things would be a good option, good for acoustic lead.

I used the built in tuner and checked it against the one I use in studio and live a lot and it is spot on. Didn't record with the fishman pickup or run through a PA yet but I'd say it will be grand, I will know soon and will add that end of my findings.

The way I look at HB instruments is they are good value. If there is a very obvious problem send it back and try another. You WILL get a good one. I had a Gibson here that was the worst instrument I ever had (from another online supplier) so all companies get it wrong sometimes or let one slip through the net.

This acoustic is fine as it is but I will probably lemoil the fingerboard and smooth the fret edges a wee bit when I do first string change but I do these things - setups etc on a very regular basis and have the tools to do so, but believe me it's fine as it is, I could take it to a gig right now (I only took it out of the box 3 hours ago) . I only intend doing a wee bit of work on it as I have the means at my disposal and would tweak a big brand a bit to for my liking the same way. The reason I say this is if you did happen to get one with the odd sharp fret etc, but otherwise the guitar is great it is worth taking it to a local repair guy or some person guy who plays in a band etc you know who can do it for you.... you will end up with an even nicer playing experience.........but........I would be very happy to take this one out and gig it right now if a gig came in.... it's ready to play like........ Try one!
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Outstanding for the price. Needed some setup.
Snoozeboy 04.05.2022
I'm primarily an electric guitar player so this was my first acoustic. Hence I'm not absolutely qualified to judge it. I have 3 other HB electrics, I'm very happy with them and I have a lot of love for the brand.

The Good

- packaging was good and undamaged.

- The guitar looks really nice in a dark, understated way. This is a budget guitar and in my opinion, the flashier the budget guitar, the cheaper it looks. I paired it with the cheap, leather HB strap, which is also chocolate brown and looks great. The HB logo looks cool and minimalist on the headstock, better than the full name logo. I don't really like the name, but I love the guitars.

- The guitar sounds great to me. Really loud, vibrant and clear. The body vibrates like crazy and really lives.

- The tuners are really nice and this surprised me as it's often a weakness of HB's cheaper guitars. They're solid, chunky and kidney bean shaped, like the Grovers on my Epi SG. They're really smooth and precise, and the guitar is easy to tune. They feel much higher quality than the price.

- the guitar stays in tune really well, much better than my other guitars, which are generally more expensive. I don't know if this is a peculiarity of acoustics vs electrics.

- The nut is bone and perfectly cut. The guitar arrived very clean - no fretboard gunk, over-glue or wood shavings in the cavity. The bridge is also bone and compensated. The guitar intonates near perfectly.

- the Fishman Presys II works well and sounds great through the acoustic channel of my Boss Katana. I'm no expert, but I'm happy with it.

- the supplied strings seem reasonable quality, but I got rid of them immediately as, being an electric guitar pussy, I hated the relatively heavy gauge, but this is a personal thing.


The (not very) Bad if I'm being really picky...

- The fret ends are very crudely finished and not rounded at all. Fortunately there's no fret sprout at all so this doesn't really bother me. They were also quite scratchy so I gave them a polish.

- Frets 3 and 6 are a little high in places, but only noticeable with a fret rocker. There's no perception when playing.

- The action was very high at 3mm+ on the low E at the 12th. There was a QC ticket with the guitar which was very comprehensive and gave the height at 2.5mm. but I didn't believe this. I lowered the bridge which was really no hassle and took some relief out of the neck.

- there is only one strap button on the bottom of the guitar. It's plastic and I think glued in. The guitar is very light so it's not too much of a worry. I installed a metal strap button on the heel of the neck.

- The battery cover despite being branded Fishmann, is very cheap looking and feeling, but it's hidden at least.

The Neutral

- There was slightly excessive neck relief, but again it was no hassle to tighten the truss rod with the tool provided. The truss nut is a bit tucked away so the tool is indispensable.

- I changed the strings for 10s. Apparently this is detrimental to the tone on acoustics, but it still sounds fine to me. Ok, maybe there's some depth and resonance lost, but it still sounds better than my not being able to play the 12s supplied.

In conclusion...
- a great guitar for the price. It needed some setup, which I was ok with, but beginners might prefer to add 50 bucks to the price to get a pro set up.

I'd give it 4.9 out of 5, but this rating system doesn't cater for pedants like me.
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A great guitar for the money!
Achilleas Moraitis 03.03.2017
I am a gigging musician and during the winter months I work mostly at bars with small or no stage in place. I, therefore, needed a guitar that would be smaller and lighter than my main guitar for ease of transport and that could take some abuse without me worrying too much about scratching the finish etc. I decided the Harley Benton CLA-15MCE was the right guitar for me: priced competitively and low enough that should anything irreparable happen to it (there are loads of drunk people stumbling around a musician's gear at bars after all) I wouldn't lose an expensive instrument. I did not expect anything spectacular when played unamplified but I was very wrong, I have in fact used this guitar to record with in a couple of albums where the tone and projection of a rosewood B/S dreadnought was not appropriate. As far as the build quality goes I found no flaws whatsoever, it is very clear to me that the people at Thomann take their job very seriously, as a matter of fact the guitar was tuned one step down when it arrived, a very safe practice to insure the neck is not strained during transport. The onboard Fishman pickup/preamp deliver a very useable and pleasant sound that can be used equally well when gigging solo or with a band.

Pros:
- Price
- Build quality
- Onboard pickup/preamp system by Fishman

Cons:
Didn't really find any, for this kind of money you can do much worse. You'll be hard pressed to find more guitar for your money.

Update: After approximately 2 years of regular use the Fishman preamp started acting up. I narrowed it down to the tuner button, it was staying engaged and thus the sound was cutting in and out. I contacted Thomann about it, they sent me a replacement unit right away free of charge (the guitar was still under warranty). A year and a half later the new preamp is going strong, I probably just had a defective unit.
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