Harley Benton DC – Junior Guitar Review

Credit: Harley Benton

Cost: $184.00, from Thomannmusic.com

Overview and Final Score: 8.0

If you grew up a fan of The Clash like I did than a Les Paul Doublecut Junior with one dog ear P90 is like the holy grail of guitars. I even tried to turn my very nice, double P90 Les Paul Special into one with a decent amount of success (I always missed the double horn look though).

So needless to say, I was pretty pumped when Harley Benton announced they would be releasing a super affordable, sub-$200 version of the classic guitar model. The Mahogany body is paired with a set-in Mahogany neck and Amaranth fretboard that feels slim and comfortable. A single Roswell P90D Alnico-5 dog ear provides that classic, single pickup appearance that many have come to know and love. One important caveat though, the TV Yellow they advertise is almost more of a mustard color, which looks great, but simply isn’t that same, classic Gibson yellow you may be looking for.

Other great features on the Harley Benton DC-Junior include 22 medium-jumbo frets, simple volume and tone knobs, and the classic wrap-around style bridge. The C-shaped neck profile features simple dot inlays and the whole thing comes strung with some quality D’Addario EXL110’s.

There she is, in all her dirty mustard glory…

Sound: 7.5

Right off the bat one weird thing stuck out to me: this guitar sounds great but it sounds a lot like the bridge pickup of a Fender Telecaster. Now, that’s certainly a compliment as it sounded like a really nice Fender Telecaster, but the P90 has a surprising amount of slap and spank, making it excellent for chick-n-picking and country music. Even better, you could really shape the sound with the volume and tone pots, which had shockingly good sweep for such an affordable guitar.

While I was overall super impressed with the tones and sounds of the Harley Benton DC-Junior, I was also a bit disappointed that it didn’t really sound like that mid-heavy tone that made Les Paul Juniors so popular. The tones became a lot more rounder once I layered on the right amounts of distortion and overdrive and rolled the tone knob down. It just took some finding to get a real “authentic” DC Junior tone. However, did the guitar sound great? Hell yes and it’s a joy to play, so I can’t really knock it too much, just don’t expect this to replace a real deal Gibson.

Playability: 8

The slim Mahogany neck on this DC Junior is crazy comfortable and really fast. Those medium jumbo frets feel great, and the setup and action was great right out of the box. Overall, the playability is top shelf, only held back a little by the okay tuners. The tuning stability was by no means bad, but I have the say the tuners are probably the only weak spot in my mind. If you were to upgrade these to some type of locking tuners or more traditional Grovers, you’d have one hell of a guitar that sounds way closer to being $500+ than $100+. But, the DC-Junior has a fast, slim neck and the wrap around tail piece gives the strings a distinctly different feel, almost slinkier, than my Gibson Les Paul with the stop bar tailpiece set up.

Finish & Construction: 8

I had to take a few points off here mainly for false advertising. It’s not TV Yellow, it’s Dirty Mustard (which they even say once you read the guitar’s specs). Really it’s not a big deal, and I mostly knocked a little something off for the lower quality tuners used to cut costs. But overall, this guitar is about $180 and feels great, don’t over think it. Pretty much all the construction and wiring seems to be in great shape. Another obvious issue is that like with many big single coils/P90’s, this guitar has a ton of buzz. It’s not a deal breaker, and it’s even common on many Gibson’s with P90s, but it is something to consider.

Value: 8.5

For just under $200 the Harley Benton DC-Junior is a steal. This guitar is comfortable, fun, and looks great. Even better, it’s so lightweight I can’t wait to use it in a live setting. While the sounds may stray a bit from the traditional Les Paul DC-JR expectations, it still sounds like a well above average guitar for barely more than a Squier Affinity Series model. I’m very pleased to be adding this to my collection, and I would argue that upgraded tuners and maybe a Seymour Duncan P90 would have this rivaling a newer Gibson Les Paul DC (just not a vintage one). I love this guitar, plain and simple.

Check Out This Awesome New Finish On The Framus Idolmaker!

How can you not like that?

Framus got the news day started early today with the announcement that they will now be making their D-Series Idolmaker available in this stunning, Burgundy Blackburst finish.

The Framus Idolmaker debuted as a master built guitar from their custom shop but was so popular that they’ve made it a permanent part of their offerings going forward.

The D-Series Idolmaker features Seymour Duncan’s SH-1 and SH-4 pickups, 22 nickel silver jumbo frets, and an AAAA-flamed Maple top. That’s a just a few of the premium features loaded onto this guitar making it a must-try for anyone who appreciates a hand crafted guitar.

Check out their website for more great news and great gear from the Framus and Warwick brands.

2019 Electric Guitar Roundup: Ranking Every Electric We’ve Reviewed

It’s finally here, a complete ranking of everything we’ve been sent for review!

With the holidays just around the corner hopefully you’re getting a new guitar, or at least getting one for someone you care about. After the first full year of Guitars For Idiots, we’ve cycled through quite a few reviews. We’ve tried out big names like Fender or Yamaha, boutique offerings from CMG Guitars, and vintage reissues from Eastwood and Guild. Let’s take a look at the ratings, cost, and purchase options for each guitar!

If you need a refresher, here is how we rate and review guitars! New guitars will be added as they are reviewed before the end of 2019 so check back to see where they fit in!

The Rules: Only guitars that you can purchase new from the manufacturer or retailers are ranked here. Click on each guitar to get to the original review article. Also, any guitars reviewed starting Jan 1 2020 will be included in next years list.

And remember, each one of these reviews was hands on! Unlike a lot of sites who skim through other writer’s reviews and compile the scores, these are my scores after playing the guitars through my amp and pedals in my house.

Superlatives

Best Overall: Guild Jetstar in Seafoam Green Buy Here

Best $500 and Under Option: Chapman ML1 Modern V2 in Lunar Buy Here

Best $1000 and Over Option: Fender Ultra Stratocaster SSS in Red Plasma Burst Buy Here

Best Guitar to Use for a Mod Project: Squier Affinity Telecaster in Black Buy Here

Worst Overall: Glarry GST3 in Blue Buy Here

OVERALL RANKINGS

ModelRatingCostFind Your Own
Guild Jetstar
9.7$599.00From Reverb.com
Fender Ultra Stratocaster
9.5$1999.99From Reverb.com
Chapman ML1 Modern V2
9.4$499.00From Reverb.com
CMG Guitars Ashlee
9.2$1149.99From Reverb.com
Yamaha Revstar RS420
9.2$499.99From Reverb.com
DeMont Guitars Goldfinch
8.9$999.00From DeMontGuitars.com
Aria Retro-1532
8.3$299.00From AriaGuitarsGlobal.com
Eastwood Sidejack Pro JM
8.2$1099.00From Reverb.com
Xaviere PRO845
8.1$229.00From GFS.com
Harley Benton DC-Junior
8.0$184.00From Thomman
Dean Modern 24
7.8$649.00From Reverb.com
Aria DM-01
7.1$329.00From Reverb.com
Epiphone SG Special
6.4$179.99From Reverb.com
Squier 2019 Affinity Telecaster
6.0$199.99From Reverb.com
Donner DST-100W
5.4$129.00From Amazon.com
Glarry GST3
3.9$56.99From Glarry.com
A graphic showing the ratings for each guitar versus the price of each guitar, there is a noticeably large clump in the $500-$1000 area that represent great value!

What other guitars do you want to see us review?

What was your favorite guitar we reviewed this year?

Disagree on a score? Let me know in the comments.

DeMont Gold Finch Electric Guitar Review

Courtesy of DeMontGuitars.com

Cost: $999.00 for this model, but check out options on their site or find one on Reverb.com!

Overview and Final Score: 8.9

The DeMont Goldfinch caught my eye the minute it popped up on my screen. The distinctive finch pickguard, offset body, and gold foil pickups make it one of the most unique guitars I’ve reviewed all year. The Goldfinch is made of Silver Poplar with a Walnut top paired to a Quarter Sewn Rock Maple neck. The Walnut fretboard holds 22 frets on a 25.5″ scale length build. All lumber is milled, dried, and cut by the crew over at DeMont, giving you a truly American-made boutique guitar for a surprisingly not-boutique price. The two pickups are controlled by a blend knob, which takes the place of a traditional 3-way selector switch, by letting you roll on different mixes of the two pickups’ signal in addition to just neck, bridge, or an even split. The two gold foil pickups are microphonic to mimic the classic, vintage guitars produced in Chicago in the ’60s. Lastly, volume and tone controls round out this inspiring take on the electric guitar.

A close up with the stunning Goldfinch I was sent!

Sound: 9.5

The pickups are probably the best feature on the Goldfinch, giving you crazy fun sounds to mess around with. First off, the two gold foil pickups are warm, buzzy, and pretty quiet even though they are microphonic. The hand wound DeMont pickups provide a lot of sustain and chime, but really shine with a distortion or fuzz pedal cranked up. Don’t get me wrong, the clean sounds are great, clear and rich, with note to note clarity ringing out in chords. But with fuzz, this instantly takes you to the Black Keys/White Stripes world. Even better, you can get some of those delta blues tones that inspired those two bands with ease. The pickups sing and snarl and hiss with aggression but complete clarity.

The blend knob deserves a particular shout out too. You can mix and match so many tones that are not available on other guitars by controlling the signal blend between the two pickups. Of course you can get the 3 classic sounds, neck, bridge, and both together. But you can really dial in everything from warm, chime with heightened bass response to straight up round, neck tones. Using the other two knobs make it borderline limitless when it comes to tone shaping and a lot of fun to play. Fans of simplicity shouldn’t be scared either, pretty much everything sounds good if you don’t want to go searching for tones.

Playability: 8.5

The tuning stability on the Goldfinch seems phenomenal so far, with note bends and hard picking attack doing little to throw it out of pitch. The neck looks and feels great, but I have to say the gloss finish felt a little sticky, even though it seems nicely applied and thin. Perhaps it just needs to be worn in a bit, but it wasn’t a huge deal and more personal preference. I love the look of the vintage, covered bridge, but it does add a few seconds to string changing, so if you’re really picky about that take notice. Otherwise, there are no really playability flaws, the neck is smooth and fast, and I really love how easy it is to access the higher frets.

Finish & Construction: 9

The clear finish they put on these guitars is perfect because the wood they use is just naturally gorgeous. The Silver Poplar and Walnut top have this beautiful, natural grain that just looks super unique, and gives the guitar a rustic look. It’s definitely a really cool looking guitar to have on your wall or in your studio that even non-musician’s would appreciate. Besides the good looks, the guitar is just built well. It’s incredibly small and light, really deceptively small from the images. But that makes it incredibly comfortable to play sitting down or standing up. The hot pickups and light weight make it especially interesting to me for live rock shows and I would love to take this on the road for a nice Black Keys cover or two. The finish looks good, everything is screwed or wired in well, and the guitar doesn’t have a ton of buzz like I thought it would.

Value: 8.5

One of the best things about this guitar is that it mixes boutique quality and really stunning design together, all without having a really inflated price tag. Most American-made guitars are thousands of dollars while most boutique American-made guitars can be $4000-$10,000 for something that’s fairly comparable to a standard Gibson or Fender. Not the Goldfinch, it is its own beast, with a unique, “pawnshop” guitar inspired sound and artistic aesthetic. This specific model is going for $999 and will be available for purchase, but others seem to range from $750 to $1000. It’s a hell of a guitar for that price, and it’s one I certainly would want to add to my collection!

Turning a Squier Affinity Stratocaster Into a Garage Rock Beast

Not only is the Fender Stratocaster my favorite guitar, but it was also my first electric guitar. Crazy how that works…However, in recent years I’ve found a new love of Strats, be it Fender or knock offs, because of how easy they are to modify and customize.

The beauty of Leo Fender’s design and construction of Strats and Teles is that they can be easily fixed, modified, or stripped with just a soldering iron and screwdriver. The flood of cheap Squier (or other knock off) Strats that are constantly available also makes it super affordable to mess around with one. You can find a ton to use as a project guitar for live usage or to practice technical skills on without risking your cherished instruments.

Purchase your own for a project HERE to help support this site!

To that point, I picked up this cheap, beat up Squier Affinity Strat from my local music store. It was made sometime in the early 2000’s and was well worn in by now. Surprisingly, the neck feels great. It’s far thinner than most Strat necks I’ve played before and for whatever reason, it just felt comfortable and fun for me to play.

That left just two quick upgrades for me to do to turn this old guitar into a really fun, garage rock guitar.

When I think of garage rock, I think of old Gretsch guitar with filtertron pickups or outlandish pawn shop guitars with some combo of P90’s or huge single coils. Trying to be cost effective, I decided to use Guitar Fetish’s “Retrotron” pickups to get that classic chime, jangle, and fuzzed out madness that old Gretsch guitars make in the hands of Jack White and Dan Auerbach. Plus, for a few extra bucks, GFS will include a pre-wired harness that connects to the pickup without any soldering.

Further inspired by my love of Gibson Les Paul Juniors (shoutout Mick Jones of The Clash), I thought it would be cool to make a one pickup Strat. Like a Stratocaster Junior.

Next, I knew I had to change out the cheap, low-mass bridge block in this Squier Strat for a better, but not necessarily expensive option. Changing the bridge or trem-block to a heavier and larger option not only improves tuning stability, but can also lead to increased sustain and allows for lower tension on the strings, making bending easier. For more on how that’s noticeable, check out this awesome demo of two blocks from Brent Hutchinson!

Check out this video to see the difference in size between a “cheap” bridge and a higher mass option.

I ended up finding a used Fender Hi-Mass Big Block, from a Mexican Strat, for $23.56 in total on Reverb. You can find them for anywhere from $20-40 with ease and noticeably upgrade your Strat. Lastly, I ordered a single humbucker cutout pickguard from Guitar Fetish for a whopping $6.00, and it took about 20 minutes to get everything put together. All I had to wire was the ground wire from the guitar to the new volume pot, screw in the pickguard and new bridge, and off I was.

This is an incredibly easy way to mod a cheap Strat that you either learned on and need to upgrade, or found at a yard sale or music store for a hundred bucks. I spent under $200 total on the guitar and parts. Now, I have a fun, unique looking Stratocaster. Want to see me try some more of these builds with different body shapes or parts? Let me know in the comments, I’m also thinking about building a bunch of these cheap partscasters to sell cheap online via our Reverb page, let me know if you would buy one!

Can We Build A Better Guitar Than Fender? Finishing Up and Adding the Pick Guard

Our new, modern voiced Thinline is ready for action!

After getting the body, finish, and neck all sorted out, the time has come to finish our attempt to assemble a better guitar than Fender for less money. We bought a genuine Fender neck with a modern C shape and med-jumbo frets. Installed were classic Fender Tele tuning machines, common on most, if not all, Mexican-made Teles. We outfitted an awesome guitar body from a Fret Wire kit, which we rated really highly in our rundown of four guitar kits.

Now, we’re on to adding this custom wired, modern voiced 920D Custom Pick guard that’s loaded with Righteous Sounds Tiburon humbuckers.

Find your perfect 920D Pre-Wired Harness HERE or order your own custom set from their website where the code “NEWGEAR” will take 20% off any 920D gear!

This custom pick guard will set you back about $350 or so but comes loaded with these boutique humbuckers and custom wiring. On this Thinline we put together, the volume knob is a push-pull to switch the pickup wiring between parallel and series. This totally expands the sonic footprint and tonal diversity, and makes the guitar a real joy to take up on stage.

These Tiburon humbuckers come with a ton of awesome cover options, like the black set in chrome covers on mine. They are voiced for modern performance with thick, punchy tones, tight low end, and harmonically rich highs. With a little gain, these things sing.

So, what would you rather have? A $1000+ Fender with vintage specs but the same Mexican-made parts you find on a $500 guitar or this modern voiced, revamped Thinline with premium humbuckers, push-pull wiring, and a Modern C Fender Tele neck? Let me know what you thought of this build project and if you want to see us tackle other fun builds or guitar designs!

Check how much we spent in total below, I’m actually pretty surprised it was that low!

Total spent on this build: $719.97

(may change depending on taxes/shipping in your area)

Godin Announces Re-issue of the Radiator Model

Credit: Godin Guitars

Godin has just announced the reissue of its classic, short-scale Radiator guitar model. This unique looking and sounding guitar is made of a chambered, Silver-Leaf Maple body paired with a Silver-Leaf Maple neck and Rosewood fretboard.

Two custom made Godin humbuckers are controlled via standard LP-style controls including dedicated tone and volume knobs and a three way selector switch. The LP Junior wrap around style bridge gives the guitar a simple, stripped down look and feel. The 24.75″ scale length and chambered body make it sound like a comfortable guitar ready for long nights in the studio or on the stage.

With three unique finishes, including Trans Cream, Bourbon Burst, and Matte Black, the Radiator is one of the more eye catching Les Paul alternatives out there. Retailing for around $699.00 and coming with a gig bag, the Radiator is an accessible and exceptional looking guitar, check out the video from Godin for more!