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.

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!

Vox MV-50 AC 50-Watt Tube Head Review

The MV 50 packs a lot of AC30 tone into a small amp head!

Cost: $219.99, new but look for a deal on a new or used one on Reverb.com HERE.

How it Works and Final Score: 7.8

The Vox MV50 is an interesting and unique take on the classic Vox AC30’s chime and jangle. The 50 watt head fits in the palm of your head, but provides maximum volume thanks to the use of a Nutube in the preamp that emulates that classic tube performance. On the AC version of the MV50 you’ll find gain, master volume, and tone controls all on the front panel.

The back gets a bit more interesting, an “eco” mode switch sets the amp to automatically turn off when not used for 15 minutes. A normal standby switch is next to an interesting EQ control that has two settings, deep and flat. Deep lets you get a little extra low end when played through a smaller cabinet while flat is a more traditional signal path. You can also alternate between 50, 25, and 12.5 watts thanks to an attenuator switch on the back. Tones are in no shortage here on this solid state meets Nutube hybrid amp, plus the power supply is included! Also, there is a very convenient headphone/line jack on the back as well.

Sound: 7.5

Right off the bat, I’m surprised at how nice it sounds for such a small, almost toy-like amplifier. It does a really nice job getting that classic AC30 chime and harmonic richness, especially with the gain and volume around the 12 o’clock. This is a really good emulation of the sound for a real fraction of the price. Single coils and P90s definitely sound the best through this head, no matter what cab I used, as they really bring out the top end and brightness that the MV50 AC sets out to achieve.

Humbuckers pushed the clean tone into a pretty nicely overdriven, crunchy sound that I really liked. However, with these high output pickups I felt like the MV50 AC lost some of the chime and note to note definition you want from a Vox AC30. Regardless of pickup choice, the gain produced by that Nutube simulation just doesn’t quite get the touch sensitivity and fizzle that I love from my Vox AC15. It’s not a bad tone at all, in fact it comes far closer to tube driven crunch than most solid state amps do, it’s just not quite at the level of the Vox AC30. Therefore, I recommend it to players who absolutely can’t afford to go out and get a real deal AC15 or AC30.

Durability: 9

This is always hard to judge in the short time frame that I have gear for review, but I can’t find any type flaw or construction issue so far. The wiring seems good and the mirrored front plate material seems to be sturdy itself. However, I’m not overly familiar with Korg’s Nutube and how it holds up over time or on the road. It certainly sounds good, but Korg is known for producing pretty tough stuff, so I’m not too worried about taking this 50 watt head out on the road so far.

Value: 7

In terms of the $200 or so price tag, it’s definitely a great value. The MV50 AC sounds great, seems built to last, and supplies a ton of sound and tone in a micro package. With any head though, you have to spend money on a decent set of cabinets so you want to factor those expenses into the equation. Part of the reason I can’t give it a higher score is that I feel it really only emulates the cleaner Vox tones well, not so much the dirty, overdriven tones. And I know they make an MV50 that’s specifically for crunchier tones that is labeled the “Rock” model, but you want versatility in any amp that you’re going to rely on for live use. If this is limited to your practice amp then you might as well spend the same money and get a nice little combo like the Orange Crush 20W. Overall, the MV50 AC sounds great and costs next to nothing, but you’ll be boxed into clean chime and extra expenditures for the cabs.

Mooer Acoustikar Acoustic Simulator Pedal Review

Small size and price define the Mooer Acoustikar’s appeal for many pedal heads.

Cost: $88.00 new but search HERE for a deal on Reverb.com

How it Works and Final Score: 8.2

The Mooer Acoustikar is a fun pedal that’s small in both size and price. Sure to please most pedal heads, an acoustic simulator is far from a pedalboard staple, but provides some unexpected tonal fun. The Acoustikar has three modes, Piezo, Standard, and Jumbo, which model three common acoustic sounds. Jumbo has the louder, fuller Gibson Jumbo acoustic guitar while Standard is a fairly straightforward Dreadnought sound. The true bypass Acoustikar gives you three controllable parameters, including the “Top” knob which gives you supreme control over the high frequencies in your tone. The “Level” setting pretty obviously cover the output, and the “Body” control gives nice control over the resonance of the simulated acoustic tone.

Sound: 8.5

The Acoustikar is a really fun pedal to mess around with, especially because it gives your electric a very clean and snappy tone even when it doesn’t quite get that acoustic tone you may want. I felt the Jumbo setting with the “Top” rolled all the way up gave the most rich, realistic acoustic tone. All three settings felt closer to a true acoustic tone when played fingerstyle, it really amplifies that percussive, bass response well. At some points it did make the guitar’s tone sound too thin or organic to really replicate the sound, and I would generally avoid the “Standard” setting if you’re trying to sound like an acoustic. What the “Standard” setting can do though is provide really interesting texture to your tone, that sounds really good mixed into backing tracks as a rhythm tone. The “Piezo” setting is the most responsive to mixing and matching the parameter settings, and to be fair does an excellent job of getting to that bright, metallic piezo tone.

Durability: 9

The all metal case seems incredibly sturdy, and the small size makes it incredibly easy to pack and travel without worrying about damage. While the Boss Acoustic Simulator may have the brand name and legacy of rugged performance, this Mooer pedal seems well constructed and gig ready. One issue for me was the amount of noise produced by the pedal, which was far and away worse with my single coil Telecaster than with my humbucker laden guitars. For me, that’s not a durability concern, but for some players it may require them to have some sort of noise reduction pedal on their board.

Value: 7

The Boss Acoustic Simulator is probably the biggest competition here, and the Acoustikar is a good bit cheaper. However, in my opinion it doesn’t quite provide the same level of acoustic simulation as the Boss alternative. While I don’t have a review up of the AC-3, I have used it extensively and really enjoy it. The Acoustikar’s Jumbo and Piezo settings get really close to a nice, acoustic simulation, but just not close enough to justify purchase over the AC-3. It’s a phenomenal little pedal, but it is more fun if you’re just looking for a cool pedal to use live. It’ll add some snappy, percussive textures, and as long as you aren’t expecting pristine acoustic tone, it may make you re-think taking an acoustic on stage.

Fender Ultra Stratocaster Review

Credit: Fender.com

Cost: $1999.99 new, find your own on Reverb.com

Huge thanks to Heather from Fender for sending this over for review!

Overview and Final Score: 9.5

Fender’s new Ultra Stratocaster right out of the box.

Sound: 9.5

The addition of the S1 switch adds a ton of versatility to the Ultra Stratocaster, as it cuts some of the highs on the 1 and 2 positions. You end up with a warm, more rounded tone that sounded great for rhythm sections or bluesy lead lines. The only complaint was that I felt a minor drop off in volume when switching between these two settings. Otherwise the Ultra Stratocaster went from blues to rock to country with ease and it was pretty inspiring to have those classic Strat tones in a more playable, comfortable package.

The tone and volume knobs were also super sensitive, providing another easy way to tweak tone here and there. I went from John Mayer’s tone to Buddy Holly sounds in no time. I feel like the real sweet spot on this Ultra Stratocaster is the classic Strat in-between sounds, the 2nd and 4th positions. Which for me is perfect because if I’m going to spend a lot of money on a premium Strat with “modern” features, I still want that classic Stratocaster tone, I’m not buying a Suhr or Ibanez for a reason.

Playability: 10

As expected, the action and set up was perfect out of the box, which it should be at this price point. The guitar is also well balanced between the neck and body, and very comfortable thanks to the classic body contour. It’s just as comfortable and familiar as any classic Fender Strat, which should put some skeptics at ease. The neck is slim for a Strat and comfortable, both thanks to the satin finish and rounded fingerboard. As someone who plays with their thumb, access to the low E string was noticeably easier and more comfortable. It’s a lot of fun moving up and down the fretboard, and the Ultra Stratocaster makes you want to play it. 

Finish & Construction: 10

The Red Plasma Burst finish was stunning and was a nice change up from the classic Strat colors I usually go for like Sunburst or Candy Apple Red. Better yet, the finish seemed really strong and they were absolutely no flaws evident on the guitar, indicating good quality control and fit. It’s hard to find any flaws on this guitar and I wouldn’t hesitate to take it out on the road.

The neck is incredibly comfortable, especially with that new neck contour making higher fret reach a bit easier on the hands and wrists. Tuning stability was superb as well, as the locking tuners and 2-point synchronized trem system work well together. Even after a whammy bar bends, the tuning didn’t seem to move much, it at all. In fact, the guitar came out of the box, after travelling cross country, in perfect tune. The included hard case is about as sturdy and protective as they come and certainly makes the $2000 price tag a bit more appealing.

Value: 8.5

At first glance, I wanted to give this a lower score in the value department because I usually find guitars in the $400-$700 range to be the best bang for your buck. But after playing this premium Strat, I think the Ultra Stratocaster is one of the few high priced guitars worth it. It’s definitely a perfect fit for players who can only afford to own one premium guitar. It’s incredibly versatile in terms of how many tones it can provide, plus it’s a classic guitar design and brand that you can rely on. It still may be a bit too overpriced, you have to pay for that Fender brand name, but it’s a hell of a guitar to play and I’m really not excited to give it back to Fender. Overall, Fender’s Ultra Stratocaster is worth the hype to me, don’t let the negative YouTubers and journalists tell you otherwise, this is a fantastic Strat!

Ranking Four DIY Telecaster Kits From Best to Worst

3 of these awesome kits mid-build!

I love guitar kits, they are pretty much the primary way I learned how to assemble, build, and modify guitars. Kits give you a low-risk way of developing your finishing, wiring, and modification skills without having to rip apart the gear you rely on or spent your money on. Even the highest quality kits are far and away so much cheaper than a pre-assembled guitar. Usually, you can spend around $150 to get a pretty decent kit that you can turn into a unique, customized guitar or bass.

For those who are looking for their first kit or just another fun project for the winter, here are four kits I put together myself. I’ve ranked them 1-4 and while all of them left me a very satisfied customer, there are a few differences in price, labor, and options to note.

Get 10% off your first purchase when you join The Fret Wire’s Mailing List!

# 1: The Fret Wire TL Thinline Style Kit $165.00

Get the kit for yourself HERE!

Full disclosure, I do have an affiliate relationship with The Fret Wire, but I do not promote their shop because of it. I promote their shop because this is my second kit from them and each time they have provided not only a great product but great customer service. I got both of my kits off of Reverb.com and can’t recommend them enough.

This kit was great for a few major reasons: it was affordable, it was easy to put together, and it creates a great base for a fun mod project. I loved this kit so much it’s the only one of the four that I kept, as I gifted the other three Telecaster’s away to my family members who play guitar.

It’s even the body used for my current project on building a superior Thinline Tele than Fender. The Mahogany body comes with a Maple top, two tonewoods I wasn’t expecting at this price, and the two humbuckers that came with the kit were surprisingly rich and loud.

Even better, every hole comes pre-drilled for you, meaning for true beginners you can just screw parts in and go. For more adventurous modders, feel free to swap out parts like I am and create a truly unique guitar.

Pros: Affordable, Easy To Assemble, Solid Tonewoods, Nice Humbuckers

Cons: Cheap Tuners, Need To Carve Headstock

# 2: StewMac T Style Kit $149.99

Get the kit HERE!

This kit is usually a lot more expensive, coming in at $259.99 but it seems to be on sale, making it a great deal right now! This kit was the most expensive of the bunch, and I felt you really saw that extra value in the quality of the pickups. They had much more of a Mexican-Fender feel than a Squier feel, despite still being a sub-$300 guitar.

Not every screw hole is pre-drilled for you, which may be a pro or a con depending on how you view guitar kits. Some people buy them with the intention of assembling them with very little labor so they can get a cheap guitar quickly, some really like to work through piece by piece and enjoy the process.

Overall, I really like this kit as I felt the Mahogany body was really comfortable and the finish came out great.

Pros: Great Tonewood, Twangy Tele Pickups, Comes With Detailed Instructions

Cons: Usually More Expensive, Need To Carve Headstock

# 3: Solo TCK-1 DIY Kit $119.99

Find the right Solo kit for you HERE!

One of the most affordable Telecaster kits on the market, the Solo TCK-1 is no slouch despite coming in third. All holes come pre-drilled, except for the string tree, which isn’t a big deal at all but like, c’mon…why not just drill that one too?

This Tele kit does have beautiful black binding around the surprisingly heavy Basswood body. The Maple neck comes with a Blackwood fingerboard, and for those that want a quick, easy Tele build, the headstock comes pre-shaped. If you’re looking to do your own customized, headstock carve, look elsewhere, but I appreciated this feature myself.

The TCK-1 pickups are a bit noisy if we’re being honest, but they also had the most sustain out of the bunch, and I did really enjoy playing this guitar. It was also the heaviest by weight of the four I assembled.

Pros: Pre-Carved Headstock, Good Sustain, Easy To Assemble, Affordable

Cons: Noisy Single Coils, Lesser Tonewood, Heavy

# 4: Bargain Musician GK-002 DIY Kit $129.99

Shop the kit HERE!

Another incredibly affordable offering, Bargain Musician’s Tele kit for sure requires the use of a drill. This one required the most labor to put together, as you’ll have to drill in guide holes for the pickguard, control cavity, bridge, and neck. Again, not a huge deal for most people, but in case it is, now you know.

This Ash body comes with a Maple neck and fretboard, and is incredibly light and comfortable. These single coil pickups were also a bit noisy as well, but I have to say they did a really good job of imitating that Tele twang and slap for such an affordable price.

They do offer a very helpful support network to new builders and they have worked with some great programs that focus on having high school student’s build their own guitars. It’s a great company, an affordable kit that won’t disappoint, it just may be for the more handy kit assemblers out there.

Pros: Affordable, Pre-Carved Headstock, Great Tonewood

Cons: Cheap Tuners, Noisy Pickups, Absolutely Need An Electric Drill