Harley Benton PB-20 BK Standard Series

Electric Bass

  • Body: Poplar
  • Bolt-on neck: Maple
  • Fretboard: Amaranth
  • Dot-inlays
  • Neck profile: Modern C
  • 20 Frets
  • Scale: 864 mm
  • Nut width: 42 mm
  • Dual action truss rod
  • 1 PB style pickup
  • 1 Volume knob and 1 tone knob
  • Hardware: Chrome
  • Classic PB-Style machine heads
  • String thickness: 045 - 105
  • Colour: Black high gloss
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  • Jazz
  • Rock
  • Rhythm & Blues

Further Information

Colour Black
Soundboard Basswood
Neck Maple
Fretboard Amaranth
Frets 20
Scale Long Scale
Pickup System P
Elektronic Passive
Incl. Case No
Incl. Gigbag No

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Decent but problematic
Antonis Y., 22.11.2019
Let me preface the whole review by saying that, unless you can do a few jobs/repairs on the instrument yourself, get something that might have better quality control. I've been playing and setting up instruments for some odd 20 years now and I can certainly do most repairs and boy, this instrument needed quite a lot.

Starting off, the bass isn't bad. Right off the bat I checked if the truss rod was working and the truss rod nut was ok and not stripped, since I had that happen and you're going to have a bad day with that!
Everything seemed fine as far as first impressions go.

Now the cons/bad stuff/repairs that needed to be done, and let's start from the easier stuff.

First off, the strings that come stock are just plain horrible and don't do justice to the instrument. Better strings right away will definitely help.

Second, the pickup. This a ceramic split coil, not wound too hot but is quite harsh and very modern sounding. Bad thing is, it is too mid scooped and won't get the traditional P tone. However, that said, the bass is controlled and doesn't muddy up the sound and, while the treble is really harsh, it can be tamed to a beautiful result. Still, with the mids virtually non-existent, I will be changing the pickup as soon as possible. It's certainly not bad but it's not the classic P tone.

Another problem with the pickup is that it's completely anemic. Even when put the closest it can get to the strings, it's still very, very weak. And if you get it too close to the strings you get spikes/artifacts on every attack, which isn't really usable. To remedy that, until I can change it, I added ceramic bar magnets underneath the pickups. That, at least, gave it the much needed volume. But I will certainly be changing the pickup in the future.

As a little note, the pickup's screwed very wonky in there and the holes are kinda misaligned.

While speaking of the pickup, the cavity seems to be painted with some black paint. At first I thought it was conductive but, after checking with a multimeter for continuity, it is not. Which is weird, because there is a screw under there that's grounded to the back of a pot. Apparently they thought it was conductive but it certainly doesn't give any continuity readings whatsoever, I checked every spot in there.

I also found a few dents and chips on the bass.

A small detail. The fretboard was very dry. It immediately needed some lemon oil, which it soaked up very fast. Keep that in mind.

For the more bad stuff now. When trying to set it up, I found the neck pocket's too deep and needed a shim. When I removed the neck to install a shim, I found a small shim already there and a spot in the neck pocket where it was over-routed. You could clearly even make out the size of the router head used. That was certainly bad.

The neck screws were also misaligned but thankfully, this doesn't seem to affect anything and the neck and bridge are all aligned fine. No need to fill and redrill, thankfully.

The nut also was very crudely cut and the slots needed to be rounded with a small file and some graphite put in there for the strings not to bind.

Apart from that, the pickguard and the neck pocket were too tight towards the top, which made deep indentations in the neck, right below the fretboard. This is just bad quality control, instruments with flaws like that shouldn't make it out of the factory, considering there are people who can't do these jobs themselves and they can get costly, or even worse, they won't be ever discovered and you'll be playing a very badly set up instrument.

Now for the pros.

I got this bass expecting to have to do a fretjob. Thankfully, that wasn't the case. After going at it with a straight edge and a fret rocker, there are no high frets. They frets aren't crowned that well but they're ok. There was also no fret sprout.

The finish, apart from some paint chipping and dents under the pickguard and around the neck pocket was fine.

The fretboard, while very dry, has a very nice grain on it. After oiling, it shows a lot better and it's quite beautiful. I don't know what kind of amaranth wood this is (amaranth is purpleheart but this was too dark) but it's nice.

The tuners work fine, although they had some kind of plastic residue stuck and I had to disassemble them and grease them for them not to bind.
The nut, while badly cut, was at least cut with the right height. Although this, after putting a shim in the neck pocket.

All in all, it's the cheapest instrument you can get and if you can do these repairs (if they are indeed reparable) then you get a nice enough instrument. If I was buying again, I'd wait until I had more money and buy something better myself.
After repairing all the aforementioned, the bass does play really well but again, it needed a lot of work to get there and, considering the price, I doubt many newbies can do these repairs.
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BANG for the buck!
21.02.2017
Little did I expect perfection from a bass guitar of this price!

I'm almost done with recording my upcoming album and the sound this bass makes, really sings!!

I must admit, I was indeed sceptical of how this would sound but now I realise for such a low price, this bass guitar is truly ahead of it's time - and that's all thanks to the legendary Musikhaus Thomann efficiency and quality!

At the risk of annoying customers: HOW CAN YOU SELL THIS FOR SUCH A GREAT PRICE?! It's worth more than I could put into words - and the bassist in my live touring band agrees!

The clarity and dynamics of every note is unbelievable and it's as if this beast of a bass is permanently EQ'd to perfection; there's the lows that can cause an earthquake, the mids that'll tear right through you and the high-end spank that you can slap with; oh and I forgot to mention, the setup of the Harley Benton PB-20 BK Standard Series is something I am in awe of!

Please, Thomann, PLEASE KEEP THE PRODUCTION OF THIS BASS GOING! :D

As a guitar player, I know what I'm looking at and through experience; I find that my eye is subconsciously trained to notice quality control, imperfections & shortcuts and yet, Musikhaus Thomann have perfected a wonderful instrument that is both versatile and incredibly musical, without ANY problems!

I promise you will not be disappointed in the slightest with this fine art of a bass guitar; you would be WRONG not to want one!!

By all means, test out and trial any bass guitar, and somehow you will find yourself running back to THIS bass guitar - it's truly a masterpiece!

Thank you, for such a wonderful instrument!!
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Cheap but very poor quality and horribly set up.
TrEr, 20.09.2019
I got this bass mostly out of curiosity. I mean, how is it even possible to sell a decent bass at this price? I wasn't expecting much to be honest.

First impressions were poor. The bass was extremely poorly set up. It had by far the worst setup I have ever encountered in my 25 years as a bass player. The action was sky high (over 1cm at the 12th fret) even though the truss rod was tightened too hard, creating a slight back bow.

Both pots were completely loose. When I turned the knobs the pots followed, obviously at the risk of breaking connections/wires inside the bass. The jack input was also loose. After a relatively short period of use one of the pots even failed completely and had to be replaced.

The pickup height was set incorrectly. Both coils were set completely flat rather than angled to follow the fretboard radius as they should on a P-bass. The routing for the pickup is also slightly too deep, making it difficult to raise the pickup to a normal height because the screws aren't long enough (and they are actually standard Fender size, unlike practically anything else on this bass).

The stock strings are the worst bass strings I've ever tried. And this is not just a matter of personal preference. These strings do not have the magnetic properties to create an acceptable output signal. I changed to a set of cheap Rotosound Rotobass and the output got about ten times louder. If you get this bass, get rid of the stock strings ASAP. They are complete and utter garbage! They shouldn't even be called strings but pieces of scrap metal. How Thomann can sell this junk is beyond me.

The tuning machines feel like they've got gravel in them. One of them had so much play in the mechanism that if I tuned down and then back up again I had to do 2-3 turns before it starts responding. It more or less failed shortly after. Currently the bass is not functional because of this and it doesn't seem worth the cost to buy new tuners for this cheap, poor quality instrument.

The pickguard is not precisely cut. It is too tight around the neck heel and because of this it's bulging slightly upwards. It has cut into the finish on the side of the neck and the black layer of the pickguard has also discolored the finish there. The pickguard is also very thin, cheap quality that bulges outwards when unplugging the jack. When it eventually breaks (and it will) you can't even use a standard Fender replacement because they are not the same size.

The screws securing the bridge weren't tightened properly. This caused a very tiny gap between the bridge and the body. Hardly noticable if it hadn't created a weird sympathetic ringing at some notes. Fastening the screws solved this problem but the screws were the cheapest kind, made of soft metal. I just barely managed to fasten then without stripping the heads. I hope I will never need to touch these screws again because that will be the end of them.

I really tried to make this bass work. I changed the strings, loosened the truss rod (almost half a turn), lowered the bridge saddles, adjusted the intonation, fastened the pots, adjusted the pickup height, replaced the faulty pot. The action still wasn't nearly as low as I'd like though and the saddles couldn't go any lower.

I ended up having to shim the neck a LOT to get acceptable action (it's still not as low as Fender spec though). The poorly cut pickguard turned out to be a problem when removing the neck to shim it. The finish around the neck pocket chipped because of this.

After all this work the bass still had some fretbuzz so I had to do some minor fret levelling to make it ok. Now the bass plays ok but all the low quality part still lets it down.

Also be aware that the neck is extremely chunky. It's no wider than a standard "modern" P-bass but a LOT thicker front to back. The fingerboard profile is quite flat. I'm guessing around 12". I'm not a big fan of flatter fingerboards on chunky necks but that's just my personal preference. Still, I think it's a bit strange that Thomann choose such a chunky neck for an instrument in this price range. It's not suitable for small hands so not a great choice for children.

The pickup is just a cheap ceramic type. It's not particularly great but it does the job. Practically anything would be an upgrade.

I honestly can not recommend this bass for anyone (except possibly if you're just looking for a cheap piece of junk to practise fret jobs, etc.). The craftsmanship and setup is horrible. The quality of the parts is very poor and the parts aren't even standard Fender sizes so modding/upgrading will require a lot more effort than it's worth.

I would rather throw my money out the window than buy this bass again. If they had at least used standard Fender dimensions I might have given it two stars as an ultra cheap mod project but this is just a complete waste of time and money.
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Can't go wrong
Waggs, 06.07.2019
I bought this bass as I used to own a Squier P bass, sold it and regretted it. I had little money at the time so opted to give this bass a try. At the price I thought what the heck.
When it arrived Three days later, well packaged, I opened it to fine a fine bass indeed, in tune and well set up. Every bit as good as the squier for less than half the price. can't recommend enough if you're looking for a second bass or want a cheap instrument to learn on.
Well done Thomann.
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