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Thread: Quality of Harley Benton vs Eastwood/Revelation?

  1. #1

    Default Quality of Harley Benton vs Eastwood/Revelation?

    I know that there are a list of mandocaster brands coming out of almost certainly one factory in China - including Eastwood, Alden, Clearwater, Morgan Monroe, Revelation and now Harley Benton.

    I was told by one of the members here that the quality varied between brands, and that Eastwood and Revelation were the best-made ones in his (qualified) opinion.

    Now I see that Harley Benton is widely available in Europe (I'll be back there in a couple of months), priced very cheaply.

    Does anyone know if Harley Benton branded mandocasters compare well in terms of quality with Eastwood and Revelation models? The Harley Bentons are so cheap that I could get one of them, upgrade the pick-ups with replacements from Almuse, and still be around the shop price of a Revelation, and much cheaper than an Eastwood.

    I know the sums of money involved are small, but this purchase is a real indulgence, so I'm not going to pay big bucks until I find out if I really have a place for an electric 8-string. And if I do, then maybe it would be time for a custom order. Hmmmmmmm

  2. #2
    Créateur des e-mandos Soundfarmer Pete's Avatar
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    Default Re: Quality of Harley Benton vs Eastwood/Revelation?

    Yikes!!!!! Just looked up the HBMA500 and Thomann are now shifting them for £80.00 ($124).....I should be buying them in and upgrading them myself .....and I notice they`re not just sunburst any more!
    As for quality, not sure but I notice they`re shown with the old style pickup and compensated bridge combo (having said that, contrary to what is often posted here, a few minutes work and a decent set of strings will result in absolutely perfect intonation)!
    Eastwoods and Revelations are built to a similar standard and have individual bridge saddles...haven`t seen any of the others apart from the Clearwater, a quilted maple veneer finished example and the finish was pretty shoddy (and yet again, the old style hardware).
    Hope this helps your decision.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Quality of Harley Benton vs Eastwood/Revelation?

    Quote Originally Posted by Soundfarmer Pete View Post
    Yikes!!!!! Just looked up the HBMA500 and Thomann are now shifting them for £80.00 ($124).....I should be buying them in and upgrading them myself .....and I notice they`re not just sunburst any more!
    As for quality, not sure but I notice they`re shown with the old style pickup and compensated bridge combo (having said that, contrary to what is often posted here, a few minutes work and a decent set of strings will result in absolutely perfect intonation)!
    Eastwoods and Revelations are built to a similar standard and have individual bridge saddles...haven`t seen any of the others apart from the Clearwater, a quilted maple veneer finished example and the finish was pretty shoddy (and yet again, the old style hardware).
    Hope this helps your decision.
    Thanks, Pete. I was pretty astonished by that price, too, though it's a shame to hear it means a lower quality bridge. Still, a very economical starting out point, eh?

    ron

  4. #4

    Default Re: Quality of Harley Benton vs Eastwood/Revelation?

    I've had a couple of those through my hands, and I'd say that they are the better of the import emandos in that price range. Their construction is much better than the mandobirds. I designed a bridge for Eastwood but they decided not to use it due to cost. Its available through moongazer music. It drops right in to the existing holes.

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  6. #5

    Default Re: Quality of Harley Benton vs Eastwood/Revelation?

    I ordered an HB-MA 500. I have a 4-string Kentucky that I really like, but to practice silently, I wanted an electric eight-string, so I tried the MA 500. When it arrived, I had to do some set-up work, adjusting the action at the bridge and the intonation. The saddle is still a tad too high, but I don't want to mess with it, so I bought a set od Pyramid extra light strings. Now it plays OK.
    The two strings of a pair are a little closer together than those on an acoustic mandolin.
    As I said, I use this mandolin predominantly to practice at night without any amplification, but today I wanted to hear its electric sound. Somewhere on the Thomann website, the mandolin is listed a a "Bluegrass Series"-mandolin, so I recorded the chord changes of the tune "Going down the Road feelin' bad" and tried to come up with a solo that is as close to BG as I'm able to create and play one.
    Amplified, the 4 additional strings don't make that much of a difference, to my ears it still sounds like a little guitar.
    It has two pickups, but they are not too far away from each other, so the difference between the two is audible, but not that big,
    Overall it sounds and plays quite nice and for 111€ is a nice entry into the world of electric mandolins, if you are not detered by the need to do some setup work.

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  8. #6
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    Default Re: Quality of Harley Benton vs Eastwood/Revelation?

    Quote Originally Posted by thistle3585 View Post
    I designed a bridge for Eastwood but they decided not to use it due to cost. Its available through moongazer music. It drops right in to the existing holes.
    I`ve made my first foray into electrics with one of these.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Which has a relatively simple bridge. Your design (which I take to be this):

    Click image for larger version. 

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    is more complex. Can you explain why it`s superior? What problem is the stock bridge likely to cause, and how does an upgrade fix it?
    And now there was no doubt that the trees were really moving - moving in and out through one another as if in a complicated country dance. ('And I suppose,' thought Lucy, 'when trees dance, it must be a very, very country dance indeed.')

    C.S. Lewis

  9. #7
    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Quality of Harley Benton vs Eastwood/Revelation?

    The advantage of the improved bridge is that the intonation of each course can be adjusted individually. On the original bridge you can only adjust the "slant" of the saddle. My Mandobird VIII came with the same type of original bridge and I could not get all strings intonation correct. Got the upgrade from Tom at Moongazer and now the intonation is perfect.

  10. #8

    Default Re: Quality of Harley Benton vs Eastwood/Revelation?

    I have the Morgan Monroe version of this mandolin and I'm thinking of replacing the pickups. Any suggestions?? I had DiMarzio twin blade humbuckers in a Mann SEM-5 and liked them a lot. What else?

    Len B.
    Clearwater, FL

  11. #9
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    Default Re: Quality of Harley Benton vs Eastwood/Revelation?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandobart View Post
    The advantage of the improved bridge is that the intonation of each course can be adjusted individually.
    How much does this matter if I rarely stray above the seventh fret?
    And now there was no doubt that the trees were really moving - moving in and out through one another as if in a complicated country dance. ('And I suppose,' thought Lucy, 'when trees dance, it must be a very, very country dance indeed.')

    C.S. Lewis

  12. #10
    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Quality of Harley Benton vs Eastwood/Revelation?

    Quote Originally Posted by s1m0n View Post
    How much does this matter if I rarely stray above the seventh fret?
    If the intonation is good for all open strings and every fretted note up to the 7th with the original bridge, in theory you're fine. Because you're never going to want to progress to playing above the 7th fret, and $45 is a princely sum compared to the cost of the instrument, or a boutique pick, or a set of flatwound strings, or a mandolin lesson, ......

  13. #11

    Default Re: Quality of Harley Benton vs Eastwood/Revelation?

    Here's a pic of the bridge on my Morgan Monroe. Intonation problems don't exist. The saddle on the OP's bridge is compensated and the fret board is flat so if the first 7 frets are good, I strongly suspect the next 13 frets are good as well. It's nice to have individual saddles for each course of strings but probably not so critical in s1m0n's case.

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    Len B.
    Clearwater, FL

  14. #12

    Default Re: Quality of Harley Benton vs Eastwood/Revelation?

    Quote Originally Posted by s1m0n View Post
    I`ve made my first foray into electrics with one of these.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Which has a relatively simple bridge. Your design (which I take to be this):

    Click image for larger version. 

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    is more complex. Can you explain why it`s superior? What problem is the stock bridge likely to cause, and how does an upgrade fix it?
    Yes, that's my design. The reason I believe it is better than the stock design is that it allows for better intonation and height adjustment than the stock one piece bridge. Also, there is more adjustment in the intonation than the stock bridge which means you can experiment with different gauges including going to a lighter set. The only thing I don't like about my bridge is the saddles. Several years ago, the company that makes the saddle went to a "finer" thread so the larger strings don't sit in the grooves well and require additional slotting. I like Len B.'s saddle design but don't like that the paired strings come through the same hole in the bridge which I believe allows the bridge to be pushed to one side when playing. I don't really build bridges anymore other than my own personal use. I may have some remaining stock if anyone wants one. They may not be plated. Tom at moongazer may have some too.

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  16. #13

    Default Re: Quality of Harley Benton vs Eastwood/Revelation?

    "I like Len B.'s saddle design but don't like that the paired strings come through the same hole in the bridge which I believe allows the bridge to be pushed to one side when playing."

    Hi Andrew, I hear ya, a string thru body with ferrules, like a real Tele, would seem to work just fine. But honestly, the saddles being pushed to the side hasn't been a big issue for me. The saddles are still pretty well aligned in the pic I posted above imho, in spite of the strings being on the left side of the adjusting screws. It's very stable and I play with a "light" picking hand so, maybe not the best design but a good, inexpensive compromise.

    Len B.
    Clearwater, FL
    Last edited by lenf12; Jun-27-2016 at 5:30pm.

  17. #14

    Default Re: Quality of Harley Benton vs Eastwood/Revelation?

    If it works then that is great. I used to build a single bridge that used an offset slot but had problems with it moving. It seems to work on guitars. Maybe it's the short scale. Did you make your saddle?

  18. #15

    Default Re: Quality of Harley Benton vs Eastwood/Revelation?

    Quote Originally Posted by lenf12 View Post
    I have the Morgan Monroe version of this mandolin and I'm thinking of replacing the pickups. Any suggestions?? I had DiMarzio twin blade humbuckers in a Mann SEM-5 and liked them a lot. What else?

    Len B.
    Clearwater, FL
    If you don't mind using 6-string pickups, there are a ton of choices. I used a couple of Allparts strat-style blades in my Fender FM60E and quite like how they sound. From what I could gather, they're made by Artec [Korea] with Alnico magnets and are wound fairly hot. They come with 4 conductors so I've wired mine for out-of-phase and single/humbucker selections providing quite a nice range of tones.
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  19. #16

    Default Re: Quality of Harley Benton vs Eastwood/Revelation?

    Hi Verne,

    That's about what I want to do with my MM electric. I like the idea of having as much tonal variation as possible on such a short scaled instrument. On my Mann SEM-5, the DiMarzio pickups were wired for single/humbucker selections through push/pull potentiometers. It didn't have out of phase however but the range of tones was pretty good. With the Morgan Monroe, the pickups have a relatively low output (weak magnets?) so I usually run a pre-amp or a boost pedal. I'd like to upgrade to hotter pickups since the stock pickups are the major downfall of this mandolin. Thanks for your input!!

    Len B.
    Clearwater, FL

  20. #17

    Default Re: Quality of Harley Benton vs Eastwood/Revelation?

    Quote Originally Posted by lenf12 View Post
    Hi Verne,

    That's about what I want to do with my MM electric. I like the idea of having as much tonal variation as possible on such a short scaled instrument. On my Mann SEM-5, the DiMarzio pickups were wired for single/humbucker selections through push/pull potentiometers. It didn't have out of phase however but the range of tones was pretty good. With the Morgan Monroe, the pickups have a relatively low output (weak magnets?) so I usually run a pre-amp or a boost pedal. I'd like to upgrade to hotter pickups since the stock pickups are the major downfall of this mandolin. Thanks for your input!!

    Len B.
    Clearwater, FL
    No worries. Here's the quasi-build thread if you want some of the nitty-gritty:

    http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/sh...ktop-make-over
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  22. #18

    Default Re: Quality of Harley Benton vs Eastwood/Revelation?

    Thanks again Verne!! Looks like I complimented you (post #4) when you first posted that thread. Still very impressive imo.

    Len B.
    Clearwater, FL

  23. #19

    Default Re: Quality of Harley Benton vs Eastwood/Revelation?

    Quote Originally Posted by lenf12 View Post
    Thanks again Verne!! Looks like I complimented you (post #4) when you first posted that thread. Still very impressive imo.

    Len B.
    Clearwater, FL
    Right you are! Sorry for not noticing.

    The one thing I'd change on that wiring would be to try and find a way to change the tone cap when switching from humbucker to single-coil. At present, there isn't much tonal variation between those two modes, and changing the caps would make all the difference. To do that requires a triple-pole-double-throw push-pull [which I don't think anyone makes], so the only solution would be to move that functionality to a separate TPDT switch [which are made], but that gets into real-estate issues.
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  24. #20

    Default Re: Quality of Harley Benton vs Eastwood/Revelation?

    I have the switch to do single coil/humbucker /out of phase. Its an on/on/on switch. That is the standard wiring scheme that I use on my instruments and have posted the diagram on this site in the past. If you can't find a switch then let me know and I can send you one.

  25. #21

    Default Re: Quality of Harley Benton vs Eastwood/Revelation?

    Thanks Andrew. All the wiring diagrams and switches you'll find do as you say - split the humbucker to a single-coil. What they don't do is change the tone capacitor at the same time. This is necessary to get the proper impedance between the two modes and makes a world of difference in the tone between them. In most wiring diagrams, you're stuck with choosing a single tone cap for either humbucker or single-coil, which compromises one of the modes sound.

    I can do it on a DPDT push-pull as long as it's switching one pickup. In that case it's easy to put pickup splitting on one set of poles and capacitor switching on the other. In this case I'm switching two pickups on one DPDT push-pull at once, so I need both poles for humbucker/single-coil splitting. One more set of poles - Triple-Pole-Double-Throw - would do the trick, but I don't know of anyone making TPDT in a push-pull. Lots of stomp and toggle switches, just no push-pulls.

    There might be a way to do it by stacking capacitors on the DPDT switch, but I've not put time in perusing that. Capacitors connected in parallel are summed :: total capacitance = the sum of the individual capacitors. Theoretically I could use a .022 cap as the base and when the PP is set to humbucker, switch in a .025 [or another .022] in parallel, which should double the capacitance close to .047 needed for that mode. I'll try that next time I pull the mando apart.

    The other issue is the difference in potentiometer values - humbuckers use 500K pots with .047 mfd caps, and single-coils 250K pots and .022 mfd caps. Still haven't figured a work-around for that short.
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  26. #22
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Quality of Harley Benton vs Eastwood/Revelation?

    Quote Originally Posted by s1m0n View Post
    How much does this matter if I rarely stray above the seventh fret?


    Touché.
    Indulge responsibly!

    The entire staff
    funny....

  27. #23

    Default Re: Quality of Harley Benton vs Eastwood/Revelation?

    Quote Originally Posted by Verne Andru View Post
    Thanks Andrew. All the wiring diagrams and switches you'll find do as you say - split the humbucker to a single-coil. What they don't do is change the tone capacitor at the same time. This is necessary to get the proper impedance between the two modes and makes a world of difference in the tone between them. In most wiring diagrams, you're stuck with choosing a single tone cap for either humbucker or single-coil, which compromises one of the modes sound.

    I can do it on a DPDT push-pull as long as it's switching one pickup. In that case it's easy to put pickup splitting on one set of poles and capacitor switching on the other. In this case I'm switching two pickups on one DPDT push-pull at once, so I need both poles for humbucker/single-coil splitting. One more set of poles - Triple-Pole-Double-Throw - would do the trick, but I don't know of anyone making TPDT in a push-pull. Lots of stomp and toggle switches, just no push-pulls.

    There might be a way to do it by stacking capacitors on the DPDT switch, but I've not put time in perusing that. Capacitors connected in parallel are summed :: total capacitance = the sum of the individual capacitors. Theoretically I could use a .022 cap as the base and when the PP is set to humbucker, switch in a .025 [or another .022] in parallel, which should double the capacitance close to .047 needed for that mode. I'll try that next time I pull the mando apart.

    The other issue is the difference in potentiometer values - humbuckers use 500K pots with .047 mfd caps, and single-coils 250K pots and .022 mfd caps. Still haven't figured a work-around for that short.
    Its only a compromise if you believe it is a compromise. There are so many ways to create different tones with an electric and I don't think its fair to say that a certain capacitor or a certain potentiometer must be used in a specific way. Years ago, I sat down with an instrument and swapped out capacitors then did it again with different volume and tone pots and in many cases there were very minimal differences between some of the caps. At least, not enough difference that a guy with a $150 emando could distinguish. I think part of that is because of the short scale and limited voice of an emando compared to a longer scaled instrument like a guitar.

  28. #24

    Default Re: Quality of Harley Benton vs Eastwood/Revelation?

    Quote Originally Posted by thistle3585 View Post
    Its only a compromise if you believe it is a compromise. There are so many ways to create different tones with an electric and I don't think its fair to say that a certain capacitor or a certain potentiometer must be used in a specific way. Years ago, I sat down with an instrument and swapped out capacitors then did it again with different volume and tone pots and in many cases there were very minimal differences between some of the caps. At least, not enough difference that a guy with a $150 emando could distinguish. I think part of that is because of the short scale and limited voice of an emando compared to a longer scaled instrument like a guitar.
    Not sure I agree with this. I wired a guitar so that it switched caps when the pup's split and it made a world of difference.
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  29. #25

    Default Re: Quality of Harley Benton vs Eastwood/Revelation?

    Quote Originally Posted by thistle3585 View Post
    in many cases there were very minimal differences between some of the caps. At least, not enough difference that a guy with a $150 emando could distinguish. I think part of that is because of the short scale and limited voice of an emando compared to a longer scaled instrument like a guitar.
    The short scale AND the distance between the coils reading the string signal. I think it's especially true with the blade type humbuckers made to fit in a single coil space i.e. strat style humbuckers. The individual coils are so close together that they're reading essentially the same signal off the strings. Switching between single coil and humbucking modes won't yield much tonal variation from an individual pickup. That's where your middle position, running two pickups, comes into play.

    Len B.
    Clearwater, FL

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