Harley Benton TE-90QM HH Review

A very budget friendly offering that packs more looks and feel than tone

Credit: Thomann & Harley Benton

Cost: $171.00 new, from thomannmusic.com or find one used on Reverb.com!

Check out my UG shot for a quick demo of the TE-90QM HH!

Overview and Final Score: 6.3

For a guitar that’s under $200, the TE-QM90 HH’s features are actually too good to believe. I mean it looks great, plays even better, it has it all. First off, the chambered mahogany body is paired with a flame maple top and two f-holes. I can’t believe this body isn’t made of basswood, that’s like cheap guitar manufacturing 101. A Roseacer fretboard with mother of peal inlays and 22 frets sits on top of a Maple, bolt-on neck. Seriously, this thing should already sound closer to a top shelf Squier or MIM Fender in price than it is…

2 Roswell HAF Alnico-5 pickups, that are hotter than your average cheap humbucker, are controlled by a volume and tone knob as well as a 3-way selector switch. The DLX chrome hard tail bridge and die-cast tuners keeps tuning stable while the transparent blue color really shines through high gloss finish. I mean, you even get nice cream binding, I love this thing!

Sound: 5

Objectively, the Harley Benton TE-90QM HH edition doesn’t sound bad, it just is unremarkably average in humbucker tones. The highs can get a little too trebly if you don’t roll off tone and the lows can get really muddy, especially on the neck pickup. However, once properly dialed into your rig, the TE-90QM HH is a completely respectable semi-hollow Tele. The pickups are a bit more modern voiced than your average HH Tele, which are usually vintage influenced. Volume and tone controls were surprisingly responsive, with good sweep, which really made dialing in better tones a far easier task than I first expected.

To be honest, this is really an excellent beginner or new player guitar. I could genuinely see myself playing this at open mic nights when I was 16 and using it to great success. It’s affordable, fairly versatile, and it doesn’t sound “bad”.

While it took a bit of time, once I got the treble in line, the TE-90QM HH proved to go from rock to blues to shoegaze with a decent amount of ease. The pickups are a bit hot, making this a solid option for some heavier genres as well. This guitar is an excellent candidate for some new pickups or electrical mods, but certainly shouldn’t be looked down on as it isn’t a poor sounding guitar, just fairly unremarkable.

Playability: 7

I was very pleasantly surprised at the feel of Harley Benton’s TE-90QM HH. Only rough fret edges really stuck out to me as a point where they could have improved. The overall neck shape was pleasant and I was surprised at how nice the strings are that came on this and the DC Junior that also came from Harley Benton. There is also minimal fret buzz and while the frets aren’t the highest quality I’ve played, there is no complaints about the fretboard aside from the edge issue. The tuning stability also gets a huge thumbs up from me, I think Harley Benton really killed it when it comes to some of the essential features like neck feel and tuning. Overall, these feelings make me feel comfortable recommending this as a beginner guitar, because students likely won’t get frustrated by the feel or tuning.

Finish & Construction: 6.5

The TE-90QM is more of a mixed bag when it comes to build quality but let me start with this. There are no major build or quality control issues with this guitar. Nothing that would warrant major concern or interfere with your playing. There are some minor cosmetic issues that aren’t a huge deal however. Some tooling or pencil marks appeared on the side of the neck and headstock, but the Flame Maple top came out flawless! The binding showed no tooling marks or signs of poor cutting, and the Maple neck had a smooth but light finish. All the hardware was in snug and the guitar has an overwhelming feel of solid reliability. Harley Benton’s are certainly fit for gigging musicians if you like the tone.

Value: 7

Harley Benton did a solid job with this one, especially when you factor in the price of $170-180 (changes with Euro conversion). It feels great, stays in tune, and the sounds are not far off from the affordable but reliable humbuckers you’d find in any Epiphone or Squier. It gets some extra points because in my eyes, there isn’t anything that plays or looks this good out there for under $200. While I’m a huge fan of Squier’s thinline Tele’s, this has a distinctly modern edge with upgraded looks. If you want something more vintage, you can certainly look elsewhere. I have to emphasize, this is a solid beginner option thanks to the comfort and reliability, but more tone savvy pros may want to install some new pickups. I’m very intrigued by the partscaster potential here, maybe some new humbuckers and a coil split? It’s a really solid guitar that is close to being rated much higher!

Good for: Beginners, Players Looking For A Modern Thinline, Higher Gain Players, Telecaster Fans, DIY Modders

Published by Matt Dunn

Guitar and music journalist for Ultimate-Guitar.com and Guitarsforidiots.com as well as a contributor for Guitarniche.com and Stringjoy.com. Reach out to talk about guitars, commission a partscaster, or ask for a review.

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