Sunday, June 30, 2013

Harley Benton S-580 WR review - Part 1: first impression

17.5.2014 Important update! 
I've been having some problems with the low neck angle (=high action) of this guitar and while the neck adjustments made the playability better they didn't completely solve the problem. So here's what I did: Harley Benton S-580 WR Mod - Part 1: Fixing the low neck angle

“The sleek body, the slender neck profile, the sharp cutaways - aesthetically and functionally the SG is perfect. Conventional wisdom says the SG has the fastest neck in the world, and based on my research, it’s absolutely true. And, relative to its size, there’s nothing out there with greater warmth and bite. But where does all that power come from?”- Dr. Ricky Fromus
The Gibson SG was first introduced in 1961 and it has been in production ever since. The radical double cutaway design has proven to be timeless: it still looks fresh and exciting after 52 years! The Gibson SG has been the weapon of choice for many great guitar players: Frank Zappa, Eric Clapton (The Fool), Angus Young, Pete Townshend and Jerry Garcia to name a few. According to Gibson website the SG Standard is their best selling guitar model ever.

There is a huge amount of different SG-style guitars available today and almost every other brand offers their own version of this iconic guitar. I've been curious about the low budjet brands like Harley Benton (Musikhaus Thomann) and Jack and Danny (Music Store) because their instruments are probably manufactured by the same companies that make guitars for Epiphone and other more reputable brands. I really don't care what name is in the headstock if the instrument sounds and feels good. Obviously I'm not expecting to get Gibson (or even Epiphone) quality with these prices but I'm excited to see what kind of instument one can buy well under 150€.

After careful thinking I decided to go with a Harley Benton S-580 WR Vintage Series guitar. The price was only 111 € (about 145 $) including shipping.

Harley Benton is a brand created by German retailer Musikhaus Thomann. According to Thomann website ( they order products directly from original equipment manufacturers and sell them under their own brand names (Harley Benton, Millenium, T.Bone etc.). Apparently Harley Benton guitars are manufactured in Korea/China by Saein that also makes guitars for Ibanez, Epiphone and Peavey, but I haven't found any reliable source to confirm this rumour.

I know that Harley Benton guitars and gear have a pretty bad reputation among guitar players and people tend to joke about them quite a lot, but I have played some Harley Bentons before and they have all been good guitars. I own few Epiphones (ES-335 & Les Paul Traditional Pro) and an early 1980's Japanese Fender Squier Stratocaster, so I'm comparing the quality and feel of the Harley Benton S-580 to those guitars.

Because I'm staying in Berlin for the summer and I don't have my regular amp/recording setup with me, the first part of the review will concentrate only on the visual build quality, playability and feel of the guitar. I will do the second part with proper sound demos when I get back to Finland in September.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Madbean Cupcake (DIY Orange Squeezer clone)

My DIY Orange Squeezer project started when I ordered a pcb from Good prices, good service and the pcb's are top quality! All the electronic parts are from

  • Metal film resistors (0,6 W, 1%)
  • Wima Film capacitors (for the mojo!)
  • Elna electrolytic capacitors
  • Burr Brown OPA2134 precision JFET op-amp
  • One sweet lookin' arrow knob (I'm building the one-knob version with a pcb mount 10k 'set-and-forget' trimpot for the bias adjustment.)

The original Dan Armstrong Orange Squeezer design uses the good ol' 4558 op-amp, but I'm upgrading it with a Burr Brown OPA2134. Generally compressors tend to bring up some additional noise and I tried to avoid this by using metal film resistors and high quality caps.