The SC-550 Faded Tobacco Flame is my second Harley Benton guitar (my first was the SC-Custom Honey Flame purchased from Thomann last year). I play at home or with friends now, but have been playing off and on for 40 years. I was so pleased with my SC-Custom that I decided to get the flagship model, the SC-550 Faded Tobacco Flame.
Out of the box the guitar is stunning. The Faded Tobacco Flame finish was excellent, without mars, dents or cracks. The flamed maple top is centered well and book-matched. Absolutely beautiful.
I was pleased to find the D'Addario EXL .010-.046 strings had been loosened and the double-action truss rod tension had been relaxed to a neutral position. I have seen so many reviews where the new owner is disappointed that the guitar wasn't in-tune right out of the box. Loosened string and truss rod tension eliminates the risk of bowing the neck or snapping off the headstock if bumped. A little neck relief, string stretching and tuning as a part of a normal setup brought it to life.
The vintage-look Wilkinson tuners are geared to 15:1 and they are rock solid stable. They don't have that annoying tendency to slip out of tune or have dead spots. The body is mahogany with a AAAA flame maple cap (not a Photoshop veneer) and the neck is mahogany as well with a jatoba (AKA Brazilian cherry) wood fretboard (yes, it is CITES compliant). Jatoba wood has one of the highest Janka scale ratings and is well-suited as a fretboard. Most important, it has a great feel. The 22 medium-jumbo frets have been smoothed and polished, with the fret ends nicely rounded and smoothed. The 43mm bone nut (yes it is real bone) has been well cut so there is no catching or pinching of the strings. The neck has a "60's vintage profile" which is often referred to as a "D" profile. For medium-to large-size hands this neck feels great. The neck has a 350 mm (13.78") radius that is well suited to rhythm or lead play. The pearloid trapezoid inlays are perfectly fitted with no gaps or raised points. It has a 628 mm (24.75 inch) scale length.
The body is full-sized and is a full 49.21 mm (1.97 inches) thick. There is binding on the body top and the neck, but not the headstock. In my opinion, the headstock is just right without the binding and highlights the deluxe emblem in the center.
Tune-o-matic bridge and chrome tailpiece complete the "sustain chain". And this machine has sustain. Smooth operating pots and solid pickup selector switch give you precise control of your tone. And the Roswell LAF AlNiCo-5 humbuckers give you lots of tone to work with. The control cavity is spacious and has been coated with shielding paint. The cavity cover has foil coating as well. No 60-cycle hum to be heard.
A basic guitar setup gave me an instrument with a low, fast string action that requires only the lightest touch to riff, chord, or djent until you need some sleep. But you will want to play some more. Basic strap pegs were traded out for strap locks and the guitar is complete. I mean ready to gig complete. And for one-tenth of the cost of "some other brands".
However, the best part of this instrument is Thomann. The Harley Benton instrument line is a private-labeled or "in-house brand" exclusively offered by Thomann. The factory for most of the HB line is in Vietnam (see the RoHS label on the back of the headstock). The instrument is built there, then shipped to Thomann for final checks and prepped for shipping to you. It is reassuring knowing that Thomann has the best customer service available. Look into their 30-day money back guarantee and 3-year Thomann warranty and see for yourself. If there is a problem they do everything possible to take care of it. Period. No other online seller I know of provides this level of quality and service at the lowest possible prices. They even discount your shipping ($35 to most anywhere in the world).
I live in America, but this is where I buy my guitars. I trust Thomann with my business and my musical instrument needs because they have earned that trust. They provide me high-quality musical instruments at the lowest possible price with the best possible service. I couldn't ask for anything more. I give them my business because they earned it. Thank you, Thomann!