I have been a fan of "Bass VI" instruments since the 90's when I first tried out a Japanese "F" brand reissue at a local shop (still kicking myself for not buying it). A few years ago I indulged myself and bought the "S" brand "vintage modified" version, and aside from a couple VERY minor complaints it is damned near perfect. When I saw Harley Benton did their own take on this unique, inspiring instrument, I had to try it. And I am glad I did!
Aside from a slightly trimmed-down body, this is very close to my "S" branded VI. The neck, while a thicker profile on the HB, is visually similar, and insets into the body at the same place as my Bass VI. The inlays look nice, and mine came with well-finished frets and binding. The pickups sound good, and are in fact fiber-base AlNiCo pickups, not cheapo bar-magnet bottom-of-the-heap pickups. The only complaint I have is I do kind of miss the individual on/off switches for the pickups, and the "strangle" switch like my real VI has. The hardware is solid, and again, if I were to complain about anything, it would be the lack of a vibrato/vibrola/tremolo (some may actually prefer this hard-tail/stopbar configuration though).
So when I got my HB, I started by adding a tiny shim to the neck to even out the action a bit, and it plays like a dream now. I then decided on two other mods to make this my go-to gigging Bass VI (I've preferred to leave my "real" one in my studio). First I added a VibraMate V5 and a Bigsby B5 vibrato so that I get my wiggle-stick action going on this one like on my other one. Secondly, I replaced the volume pot with a 1M pot, and the tone control with a push-pull pot wired as a traditional tone pot, but with the push-pull function to act as a "strangle" switch (high-pass), similar to the original design. Now this HB is every bit as versatile as my "real" Bass VI, and it really makes me want to write more songs to perform on it instead of standard guitar.
- Excellent bang for the buck
- Nice build quality
- Sounds great
- Good hardware overall
- Fit/finish is awesome
- No vibrato/vibrola/tremolo
- No "strangle" switch
- Neck is a tad too "beefy" for smaller hands
- Pickguard is a little plain without the metal control plates of the original design
- Only one finish option
Overall, this was a terrific first instrument purchase for me from Thomann/Harley Benton, and I really recommend it for guitarists and bassists looking to inspire some "outside the box" playing/writing. You won't be disappointed!