Is the Harley Benton DC-Junior FAT the ultimate no-frills, budget electric guitar? In this review article, we’ll tear apart this affordable electric guitar to see if it lives up to the hype!
Harley Benton is one of those brands that I am regularly asked about by readers. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the few guitar brands that I’ve never managed to try out.
So, recently, when I started looking for a new axe that I could use as a dedicated slide guitar I felt it was a great opportunity to finally try out one of Harley Benton’s many, many lefty instruments.
The Harley Benton DC-Junior FAT is a great-looking, simple single pickup guitar, with a low price point, that is perfect for modding. For those reasons, and as a complete newbie to the world of slide guitar, I felt it would make the ideal instrument for me to explore the genre with.
Let’s see how it got on!
I should probably preface this review by saying that although I intend to use this guitar exclusively for slide playing, I did spend a week with it in its stock configuration before making any modifications.
Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. If you decide to purchase one of these guitars for yourself I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you!
I have included links for both the left and right-handed versions of the Harley Benton DC-Junior FAT where you will be able to find current pricing information.
Harley Benton DC Junior FAT Review
What Is Harley Benton?
Harley Benton is a guitar brand owned by Musikhaus Thomann, a large musical instrument retailer based in Germany. Literally, hundreds of different styles of guitars and basses are available to suit all musical tastes.
The majority of Harley Benton instruments sit at the more affordable end of the guitar market, with prices starting from around €75 (roughly $80 USD) at the time of writing.
Find out more about the brand and the full range of instruments on offer by checking out my guide to the left handed Harley Benton guitars and basses currently available.
The Guitar In A Nutshell
Clearly, the DC Junior FAT is modeled after the iconic Gibson Les Paul Junior Double Cut. At present, a bona fide Gibson will set you back thousands of dollars, so this more affordable tribute is potentially a great alternative for those without deep pockets (like me!).
You can see in the image below that the ‘TV Yellow’ finish on the Harley Benton is much warmer when compared to the Gibson. Aside from that, plus the scratchplate material and bridge design, the two are virtually identical as far as looks are concerned.
Main features include a solid mahogany body and neck, a 22-fret ebony fingerboard, a single Roswell P90 stacked pickup, a wrap-around bridge, and a single volume and tone.
A great feature is the ability to pull up on the tone knob to switch between single coil and humbucker tones.
And why is it called a DC Junior FAT? Well, the neck on this bad boy is a rather chunky FAT ’59 profile. If you love that classic baseball bat-style neck feel you’ll most likely feel right at home with this model.
And that’s all she wrote! The Harley Benton DC-Junior FAT is a simple guitar with a ton of retro charm, but it also manages to inject a little modern tech through the push/pull ability. The best of both worlds!
DC-Junior vs. DC-Junior FAT
It is probably also worth mentioning that this guitar is available as an even cheaper version if you don’t mind losing the coil-tapping ability. I have linked to both models in the links you’ll find peppered throughout this article.
In addition, the lower-priced model also features a slimmer 60s C neck profile.
So, you’ll have to weigh up whether or not the ability to switch between P90 and humbucker sounds is important to you. Alternatively, it could come down to whether or not you prefer a chunky neck.
Main Specifications Of The Guitar
- Body: Mahogany
- Neck: Mahogany (Fat ’59 Profile)
- Fretboard: Ebony (22 Medium Jumbo Frets)
- Fretboard Radius: 12″
- Bridge: WSC Wrap Around
- Pickups: Roswell P90D Stack STK4P Alnico-5 Dog Ear
- Controls: Volume, Tone (Push/Pull)
- Tuners: Wilkinson Deluxe Vintage 15:1
- Case/Gig Bag: Optional
- Scale Length: 24.75″
- Weight: 3.0kg (6.6lbs)
As well as TV Yellow, the Harley Benton DC Junior FAT is also available in Faded Cherry and Pelham Blue at the time of writing. Unfortunately, we lefties only get the TV Yellow for the moment. I think it’s the best color though…
Shipping Times From Germany
For those who have never ordered from Thomann before, here is a breakdown of the shipping times I experienced (from Germany to the UK).
- Placed Order: Thursday April 27th
- Order Shipped: Friday April 28th
- Cleared UK Customs: Tuesday May 2nd
- Delivered: Wednesday May 3rd
I ordered late on the 27th, so it was essentially same-day dispatch. The 28th was a Friday, plus the following Monday was a Bank Holiday here in the UK (no mail). So, shipping was overall very fast with the only hold-up being a few days spent clearing UK Customs.
There was also no import duty or additional courier forwarding charges to pay, so that was a plus!
Unboxing The Guitar – First Impressions
The DC Junior FAT is shipped in your standard cardboard shipping box, as you’d expect from a budget guitar brand. Mine arrived in the UK from Germany in pristine condition, so there are no complaints from me about the packaging.
As an affordable, no-frills guitar, this model doesn’t include a gig bag or any other accessories. So, inside the box you’ll simply find the guitar, plus the obligatory truss-rod adjustment Allen key that goes straight into the bin.
Thomann does offer bundles that include a gig bag if you would prefer a little extra protection during shipping.
Going over the guitar with a fine-toothed comb, I definitely seem to have gotten a great example.
There is literally nothing wrong with it in terms of fit and finish, and aesthetics-wise, it looks exactly the same as the photo on the Harley Benton website. We’re off to a good start!
Is The Harley Benton DC-Junior FAT A Good Guitar?
Amazingly, the DC-Junior FAT didn’t require any type of major guitar setup adjustments out of the box. Thomann claims to quality-check all guitars before shipping, but there’s no mention of whether or not this inspection includes any type of basic setup.
So, either I got lucky, or some basic adjustments had already been made.
Unlike the Gibson Les Paul Junior Double Cut it is modeled after, the Harley Benton DC-Junior FAT ships with an adjustable wraparound bridge. So, if the intonation was off (it wasn’t!), it would have been very easy to set things straight.
Unlike the bridge, the P90 pickup isn’t adjustable, however. This could be a potential issue for me after I raise the string height on my new slide guitar. I may have to add some shims to raise the pickup later on depending on how the sound is affected.
The only area where I felt the guitar was let down was the nut, which looks a little cheap. The edges are quite sharp, and the slots are very grabby. The tight slots make it a little more difficult to tune as the strings don’t pass through the nut smoothly.
It does the job, but replacing the nut will be the first upgrade that I intend to make going forward.
The nut also isn’t quite the advertised 43mm width, instead measuring 42.5mm. A small but noticeable difference.
Playability and Feel
After a quick tune-up, the Harley Benton DC Junior FAT played great straight out of the box. It has a nice low action (string height), no fret buzz whatsoever, and is relatively well-balanced with no neck dive at all.
The flatter 12″ radius fingerboard makes bending and vibrato super-easy, and also allows for a nice and low action if that is your preference. The frets are also nicely polished and the edges are flawless.
Having tried many guitars during my tenure in the guitar retail industry I would definitely say that the neck isn’t quite what you would refer to as a ‘baseball bat‘ profile. It’s certainly meaty, but not massively so.
At 3kg (6.6lbs) it is also at the lighter end of the spectrum when it comes to electric guitars, so playing with this beauty around your neck should also be a little kinder on the old back.
As far as niggles are concerned, the only place I would mark down playability would be the push/pull tone knob. Although it does feel premium, this particular ‘top-hat’ knob design makes it very hard to physically grab and pull up.
As a result, it’s a little difficult to use the switch on the fly unless you have some longer nails to dig in underneath. Again, this is a very minor issue that is easily solved with a more appropriate knob if it bothers you.
I’m also not a massive fan of gloss-finish necks, instead preferring the smooth feel of a satin finish. Again, easily fixed with some steel wool later on.
The Roswell P90D is from Harley Benton’s own brand of pickups and can actually clean up really nicely considering how much growl it has. It is a powerful and bright-sounding pickup that is capable of a ton of varied tones from hard rock to shimmering cleans.
Although there is no neck pickup, you can still dial in a fairly decent impression of one if needed. Simply crank your amp, roll off the gain using the guitar’s volume knob, and then tweak your sound with the tone knob.
Unfortunately, precisely controlling tones via the knobs isn’t quite as easy for us lefties. This is because (as is often the case) this guitar, in its left-handed guise, features regular pots wired backward in order to maintain the correct rotational direction.
When pots are wired this way they lose their smooth audio taper, making it much harder to dial in fine adjustments.
On other guitars, this may not be a huge issue, but with its single pickup, the Harley Benton DC-Junior FAT is designed to have its sound manipulated via the volume and tone pots. You’re definitely missing out with the stock wiring configuration.
The solution here is to either rewire them correctly and operate the knobs in the opposite direction to usual, or replace them with left-handed pots. Check out my guide to soldering irons for guitar if you’d like to attempt this simple mod yourself.
The ability to switch between the regular P90 sound and humbucker tones is also super handy. Firstly, because of the additional sounds we have available in each configuration. Secondly, the ability to cut out the pickup hum is a lifesaver when playing using high-gain settings.
Unfortunately, I can’t comment on how these sound compared to the Gibsons they are modeled after. Being a lefty I have yet to come across one!
Check out Harley Benton’s video below for a few sound samples from this classic rock machine.
What I Like/Dislike About The DC-Junior FAT
- Low price without sacrificing quality.
- Excellent sound and playability for the money.
- 3-year warranty.
- Has the look of a guitar that is much more expensive than it is.
- An ideal base for modding.
- Also a good option for more advanced players after something less pricey that they don’t have to baby.
- Brand snobs may not approve.
- Cheap nut.
- Non-adjustable pickup height.
- Push/pull tone knob is difficult to pull up.
- Gloss neck finish is a little sticky.
- The fat neck profile may not be for everyone.
Conclusions & Summary
For a budget guitar, I really didn’t expect a whole lot from the Harley Benton DC-Junior FAT. However, this affordable beauty has really won me over.
It looks fantastic, plays great (for the money), and is cheap enough that you can really go to town modding it without worrying about ruining an expensive instrument. With its simple build and quality parts it must be one of the best-value electric guitars currently available.
I do have a few small niggles such as the nut and the reverse wired pots, but these are minor and easily solvable. If you’re not a fan of chunky necks consider the non-FAT version, and save yourself some money.
All in, this no-nonsense rock machine is one fantastic guitar, especially at such a low price point. It’s genuinely a guitar that would be ideal for beginners, but can also have a well-earned place in a more experienced player’s rig at the same time.
I have no doubt that once I’ve corrected a few of these small issues the Harley Benton DC-Junior FAT will become a rock-solid slide machine for me to hone my skills on.
I also feel that my first dive into the wide-ranging world of Harley Benton definitely won’t be my last! My only issue is that the range is so wide-ranging – where do I start?!
Hit up the link below to see all of the different Harley Benton DC-Junior models currently available.
Make sure to also check out my Harley Benton guide to see what other interesting guitars and basses the brand offers.