I was recently looking for an inexpensive and good sounding Gibson ES-335 copy and I stumbled upon the Harley Benton HB-35. It’s a very cheap guitar, especially when you compare it with the Gibson, so I immediately decided to add it to my own collection.
It turns out that the HB-35 model is one of the best cheap semi-hollow body guitars that I ever bought! This guitar has everything you need – the looks, the feel and the surprisingly good tone.
That’s why I decided to use my experience and share some of my thoughts about that guitar with you. Who knows, maybe this short review will help you figure out whether you should get it for yourself or not?
My Video Review
Before I start, I highly encourage you to check out my video review that I recorded for my own YouTube channel. You’ll be able to see the unboxing and a brief sound demo. I’m sure that it will be really helpful resource if you’re thinking about getting that axe!
Here’s my video.
If you watched the video shared above, you probably noticed that the guitar arrived in a pretty solid box. It was really well protected, so it proves that Thomann really knows how to do the international shipping.
The first impression was great and I couldn’t believe that this guitar was so cheap! At first glance, it seemed like a true Gibson. The F-Holes are placed a little bit differently, but it’s not a huge deal – the HB-35 still looks great.
I bought the Vintage Burst version and it looks very classy and even a little bit vintage. It’s also a pretty heavy guitar, which is also a surprise – usually guitars of this type are a little bit lighter. However, it’s not a bad thing though!
Overall, I was extremely excited when I was taking it out of the box, so I’m sure that if you’ll decide to get it for yourself, you’ll be able to feel that too.
I don’t want to bore you with listing all of the details and specifications of that model – you can easily check it out on Thomann. But you should be aware that this model has a maple body with a mahogany sustain block and a comfortable C-shaped maple neck.
Of course, just like the original Gibson ES-335, the HB-35 is also equipped with a pair of pretty good sounding humbuckers. They sound really warm and although they’re not ideal, they definitely do the job.
If you’d like to check out the full details about that model (and all of the stuff for guitar nerds like me), feel free to check it out on Thomann.
Made in China? Really?
It is also worth mentioning that Harley Benton HB-35 is a Chinese-made guitar, but it certainly doesn’t look or feel like a cheap guitar. I have no idea where exactly are they making these guitars, but it seems that the quality control in that place is on a very high level.
Normally, cheap guitars usually come with a lot of issues – sometimes there’s buzzing and sometimes you have to polish the sharp frets. But it didn’t occur in my case – the guitar was ready to go straight after unboxing.
On the other hand, the string action was a little bit too high for me, but it wasn’t extremely high – I’ve seen worse guitars. Maybe I was just lucky, but I was really impressed about the overall setup of that guitar.
It’s crazy to think that guitars from China can be that good! In the past, instruments from that region were considered as really bad. And today, they can easily compete with Indonesian, Korean or even Japanese-made guitars.
Nice Unplugged Tone
What’s important, the HB-35 model sounds pretty good too even when it’s unplugged. This is a pretty relevant thing, especially for those who can’t afford getting an amp. It allows you to practice without any problems even when you have no access to power!
Of course, playing unplugged will never be as cool as playing with a high quality tube amp. However, the HB-35 can get pretty loud and resonant even without the amplifier.
I included the unplugged sound demo in the video mentioned earlier, so if you skipped that part, I highly encourage you to take some time to check it out. You’ll definitely notice that this guitar is actually pretty good!
Great For Blues, Jazz and Rock
Just like any other semi-hollow body guitar, the HB-35 model is a perfect fit for all lovers of blues, jazz and rock music. But to be honest, this is a very versatile guitar, so I’m sure that enthusiasts of other genres will be really satisfied with it as well.
Additionally, I’m sure that this model will also be a good choice for all indie and alternative rock lovers. I recently took that axe to a few of the rehearsals with my band (we play indie and post punk music) and it worked pretty well.
That being said, I’m positive that Harley Benton HB-35 is one of the most versatile and inexpensive guitars that you can potentially find in the offer of that brand. I probably said ti before, but it blows my mind that this guitar is so cheap!
So now you’re probably wondering – where’s the catch? Why is that guitar so inexpensive in comparison with the Gibson? Well, as I mentioned before, it’s not an ideal instrument and it has its own flaws.
I think that the main problem of that model are the tuners and the pickups. They’re pretty basic and although they’re not terrible, it may be a really good idea to upgrade them in the future.
In my opinion, the HB-35 with better pickups and tuners could easily compete with some of the most expensive Epiphone guitars. Replacing these parts is an easy way to turn that good guitar into an absolutely killer axe!
What About The HB-35Plus model?
A lot of guitarists wonder whether they should get the HB-35 or HB-35Plus model, which is slightly more expensive. Based on my experience with the cheaper one, I can only say that it all depends on your budget.
The main difference between the HB-35 and the HB-35Plus models is the fact that these guitars have different pickups. The more expensive model has a set of Roswell humbuckers which in theory should sound much better.
However, I’m really satisfied with the quality of the HB-35 humbuckers, so even though the HB-35Plus pickups could potentially sound better, it doesn’t mean that the pickups in HB-35 are bad.
The price difference isn’t that huge, but in the end, the HB-35Plus is a more expensive guitar. So if you’re not sure which model should you get, you should definitely think about your budget. I’m sure that no matter which one you decide to choose, you won’t be disappointed at all!
Was It A Good Choice?
Absolutely! However, let’s be honest – a budget ES-335 copy will never replace a real and American-made Gibson ES-335. But if you want to find a good sounding and inexpensive semi-hollow body guitar, you should definitely give this guitar a chance.
As I mentioned before, I’m positive that this guitar has everything you need – no matter how advanced you are. It makes a stunning impression right from the start and it gets a lot of compliments from people.
I have no hesitation in recommending Harley Benton HB-35 for all amateur and aspiring musicians who are looking for a budget semi-hollow body guitar. There’s an extremely high chance that you’re going to love it!
If you’re still not satisfied with the overall quality of Harley Benton HB-35 or HB-35Plus, you can also consider getting one of the Ibanez Artcore guitars. They’re a bit more expensive, but they still offer an amazing quality.
The cheapest Ibanez Artcore model is the Ibanez AS53 which costs a similar amount of money as the HB-35Plus. I own that guitar and I can totally confirm that it’s an absolutely unique instrument. If you’d like to check it out, the review of that model is available on my YouTube channel.
If your budget is not limited, make sure to check out some of the guitars made by D’Angelico or Gretsch. These brands manufacture stunning semi-hollow and hollow body guitars, so there’s a high chance that you’ll love at least one of their models!
Undoubtedly, Harley Benton HB-35 is a fantastic electric guitar and it definitely deserves a lot of recognition. I’m really proud that I decided to get it to my own collection and although some people say that the HB-35Plus is better, I’m still very satisfied with the regular version.
Whether you’re looking for your first semi-hollow body electric guitar or you just don’t want to pay thousands of dollars for a new Gibson ES-335, choosing the Harley Benton HB-35 may be potentially a fantastic choice.
Thanks for checking out today’s review, hopefully it was helpful! Make sure to check out my YouTube channel, especially if you’re interested in learning more about cheap and great sounding guitars. I have a lot of Harley Benton guitars out there!
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