Advice needed:buying a 200€~ electric guitar

#1
Hello everyone,

So, started learning guitar around 4 months ago via Rocksmith, and so far Im having a blast.
I had one old Harley Benton from Thomann (their own brand) sitting around, the cheapest kind, around 80$ guitar+amp pack, so go figure. Got it a few years ago but never got to play it much until now. It has served me well, but the quality is questionable at best and once I lower the action to a reasonable point my 3rd string goes all out sitar-mode.

So now that Im picking it up almost every day I feel comfortable shelling out a little bit more, my budget is limited though (title).
Looking at getting a 200€ guitar, also would take 250€ packs (guitar+bag+strap and such, don't need an amp).

I think the most important feature Im looking for is the quality of the fret job and neck overall, since all the rest I can do myself, set the action, truss rod, intonation etc. In a stretch I also could learn to change the pickups or tuners.

I've set my eyes on the Epiphone Special-II AFD, for no particular reason, not a Guns-n-Roses fan but the guitar looks fantastic to me.

Taking suggestions, thanks a lot!
 

Magnus Pym

Grudges rot the soul
#2
Hi, I had a Special-II. I'm not sure it would be a big step up from your Harley Benton mine was fine quality wise but you can get unlucky with these things. The problem with low end big name guitars is not bad quality but variable quality. For 200€ you could get a Epiphone Studio I think which might be worth looking at. However in the end I think the best advise is get the guitar that makes you want to pick it up and play it.
 
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#3
First of all, I would look into improving your existing guitar. Sitar-like sounds usually indicate a problem with the nut, which should be easy to solve. It's probably also worth looking at the frets, to see if they are nicely level etc. If you can, I would take it to a local guitar shop and see if they can help you out with a quick setup for not too much money. Even if you eventually decide to buy a second guitar, it's worth making sure that the Harley Benton is well set up.

You don't say where you are located, which will affect the availability of different brands, especially at the lower end of the market. For example, Andertons do the Eastcoast guitars which they reckon are very good at that level, although I've never tried one myself so I can't comment. Thomann doesn't sell them, probably because they are happy with Harley Benton for their budget range (i.e. they make more money selling their own brand than someone else's gear in that price band). If you are specifically looking for a Les Paul style guitar, their bottom end (price-wise) is ruled by Harley Benton and Epiphone; HB is probably more "bang for your buck" but Epiphone probably has a higher average quality. Around the €200 mark you also get some of the cheapest models of other brands (ESP, Jackson...) but they are all going to be pretty much the same thing - they will all be made in cheap Chinese factories, they all have very cheap hardware and the quality will be variable.

At that price, ignoring the fact that you already have one, personally I'd probably look for a nice Harley Benton but be ruthless about sending it back if it has any quality issues. If you get a good one - which most of them should be - then the HB is probably the best price-quality ratio, but in any case you must be realistic about the limitations of your budget - €200 is barely enough to get a decent guitar.

That said, my first choice would be to spend a little bit on getting your existing guitar set up better, and maybe wait a bit longer before buying a second guitar so that perhaps you will have a bigger budget and can get something better. If you can wait and get your budget to €400, for example, it's a different story and you shouldn't need to worry so much about quality problems.

PS Rocksmith is great - I've been playing it ever since it first came out! :)
 

mirage2101

Well-Known Member
#4
I'm going to agree with Gloopy.
A good setup for your guitar will really do a lot. I wouldn't buy a $200 guitar now because the step up in quality isn't huge. Thomann did a great job with those harley bentons and I'm not sure you'll be able to buy something within that budget you'll be happy with for years and years.
For $400 you'd get stuff like a used made in mexico strat that to me are the benchmark of great guitars for your money. You could grow old with one of those. I'm sure the LP lovers here know of something comparable in that shape.

If you're set on spending money, consider a couple of regular lessons to prevent picking up bad habits.
 
#5
Alright, based on the advice I got here and another forum I arrived at this decission:

I'll find a guitar tech and have him look my HB and have his opinion on if it can be made into a superb player or I'd be better off upgrading and then handing him that one.

Thanks very much for your input!
 

Tankman

Subtly not giving a F*ck
#6
I disagree with the above. An €80 guitar pack that also included an amp, means a €50 guitar. I would not invest a dime in upgrading that guitar in any way possible. For €200-€250 you can buy a decent starter guitar that IS worth upgrading in the future. I would also suggest checking out used guitars. With your budget you can actually get a pretty decent guitar.
 

Magnus Pym

Grudges rot the soul
#7
First of all well done on starting your guitar playing journey. The most important thing of all is to enjoy it and it sounds like you are.

I disagree with the above. An €80 guitar pack that also included an amp, means a €50 guitar. I would not invest a dime in upgrading that guitar in any way possible. For €200-€250 you can buy a decent starter guitar that IS worth upgrading in the future. I would also suggest checking out used guitars. With your budget you can actually get a pretty decent guitar.
True. And I'm pretty sure a tech will say that too. The material and fittings on the Harley Benton are probably pretty poor. My point was a Epi Special II may not be much better. Epiphone usually represent pretty good quality for the money and they hold resale value well. I thought Epiphone Special-II AFD probably represented a cosmetic wash-over of a special-II with some of the extra cost going to Slash for licencing - so not good value. I would advise. If you want a LP shape around that price and second hand is difficult then look for the highest cost / lowest show Epi you can get for your money. For 200 € the Studio range looked pretty good to me.

If you're set on spending money, consider a couple of regular lessons to prevent picking up bad habits.
Good call. It's easy to fall into bad habits especially when your guitar is working against you. You might also get some good local guitar buying advice.
 
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#8
I still think that €200 is going to be a poor investment in a new guitar because of the inherent quality limitations at that price. If you really can't spend more then sure, it should be better than the current bottom-of-the-range guitar, but here are a couple of handy justifications for a higher budget - apart from the obvious points of higher overall quality, looking nicer etc.

Firstly, if you buy a guitar for €400 and later you decide to sell it, you should be able to get at least half of your money back. Hence the net investment is still only €200, so technically you would still be within your budget.

Next, we have to broach the subject of GAS - Gear Acquisition Syndrome. You are at the start of a very slippery slope that almost all guitarists inhabit. We all start with just one guitar, usually a cheap one, and then we want another, better one, which is probably going to be a more expensive version of the same thing. Then we see that there are different styles of guitars and want to try the other one - if the first was a Fender style, we'll want a Les Paul, or vice versa. After that, we might decide that we want to have a different type of bridge / trem system, or another guitar for different tunings, or different pickups, or a bass guitar to try that out, or an acoustic / electric acoustic / acoustic electric, or a headless guitar, or....whatever justification we can find for buying another guitar. In many cases, the progression is up the quality and price chain, so if the first guitar was €100, we'll want a €200 guitar, then a €400 guitar, then a €800 guitar etc. Therefore, if you go straight from your starter guitar to a €400 guitar, you skip the €200 guitar and so you've actually saved yourself that €200 (which is handy because you'll want to put it towards the €800 guitar)!

The only known antidote for this type of progressive GAS is a wife, but those come with a whole host of problems of their own, and will cost a lot more than all of the guitars you would ever buy!
 

mirage2101

Well-Known Member
#9
The only known antidote for this type of progressive GAS is a wife, but those come with a whole host of problems of their own, and will cost a lot more than all of the guitars you would ever buy!
I don't have GA.... hmm I wonder what that new amp does.. My wife is out next weekend so I'll be able to smuggle it in!
 

mirage2101

Well-Known Member
#11
I disagree with the above. An €80 guitar pack that also included an amp, means a €50 guitar. I would not invest a dime in upgrading that guitar in any way possible. For €200-€250 you can buy a decent starter guitar that IS worth upgrading in the future. I would also suggest checking out used guitars. With your budget you can actually get a pretty decent guitar.
To get back on track. I'm not sure I agree with this.
Reviews of those Harley Bentons are good, especially for the money. And at 200 you still need shortcuts to build a guitar. If you go to 400 used, sure upgrade it. But in the 200 range.. meh.. You might get lucky and run into a nice one though.
So I'm on board with @GloopyJon but @Tankman did work in a store for a while and has seen more guitars pass by then I have.
 

Tankman

Subtly not giving a F*ck
#12
To get back on track. I'm not sure I agree with this.
Reviews of those Harley Bentons are good, especially for the money. And at 200 you still need shortcuts to build a guitar. If you go to 400 used, sure upgrade it. But in the 200 range.. meh.. You might get lucky and run into a nice one though.
So I'm on board with @GloopyJon but @Tankman did work in a store for a while and has seen more guitars pass by then I have.
I did sell a lot of cheap guitars in the stores around the €200 mark. Some will really surprise you. Of course, it's ncie if you can stretch your budget up to €250 or maybe even a bit more. Some models that come to mind are the Yamaha Pacifica, Squier Affinity series, Ibanez GIO series. Any decent store who receives these guitars will give them a proper setup and turn them into a guitar you can play for years to come. It's what we did.

Yes of course the average guitar player on this forum is not a beginner and most of us are spoiled with higher end guitars. So when we grab one of these cheap models, we may not like them. When working in a store, you have to put yourself in the shoes of your customer so you look at these cheaper models differently. Would I buy them? No. Would a beginner enjoy it? Probably, yes!

Of course you can start modifying everything as well, but as a beginner, you shouldn't let yourself get distracted by modding and by GAS. Just get something you can learn to play on. When you're a few years on, go higher end, go modding, go buy pickups and tuners and all kinds of toys.
 

everfreetree

I... I like trees.
#13
As someone who's upgraded the living crap out of MANY cheap guitars, for myself and others, I`'ve cut into cheap guitars and found solid maple/alder/mahogany/whatever, and I've cut into cheap guitars and found fiberboard that shreds like paper... the solid wood ones that aren't soft and miserable are worth upgrading, to a point, and the fiberboard ones are worth playing until they break, then hanging on a wall as decoration, not much more.
My Squire Affinity was a great little guitar for all of $100 USD (used, from a pack), once I got the fret ends smoothed out and a new nut and string trees, I spent about $30 in upgrades, and enjoyed the guitar for a couple years, before selling it for $125 to a nice lady who wanted to learn to play on it. But... it was also soft wood that didn't like my strap buttons, and kept rejecting them, until I used the toothpick and wood glue trick, and then it held up, but that didn't speak well for future upgrades. It sounded good, played alright, and I didn't hate it, for a couple years or so.

For perspective... I also basically learned from Rocksmith, heh. You basically just need an okay-playing guitar, with a decent bridge pickup, preferably a humbucker, to make Rocksmith easy to play and enjoy, and get the most out of your actual learning.
I found my cheap little Epiphone SG Special for all of $80, used and neglected, and cleaned it up, got the wiring sorted out, and it worked great for learning on, and now... 4 years(ish) later, I have MUCH nicer, MUCH more expensive guitars... and still pick up my little SG to play on, both in Rocksmith, and to record with my setup.
Would I recommend slapping $300 in Bare Knuckle pickups and $50 in rewiring/pots/etc, and $70 tuners (oh, wait, I did that... frick. Never mind) on it? Probably not. But I would recommend taking what you have and asking a tech if he thinks it's worth a good setup, and maybe a new (reasonably-priced Duncan/DiMarzio) pickup in it, and you might spend around $60 USD on the pickup and around $50 USD on the setup, and have a great little instrument for years to come... or he might recommend going for something with better bones, depending on the quality of the guitar.
I can't say, I'm not that tech, I don't have the instrument in my hands, and I can't make a judgement call that will affect you for the next year or more without that info, so if you trust the tech you take it to, listen to the options they provide, and don't get caught up in wanting the world out of a cheap instrument, or wanting every instrument in the world, heh.

Good luck to ya.
 

johnniegoat

Stop, don’t, come back.
#14
harley benton have a great reputation for low cost quality guitars - the SC550 is a fraction over €200; if you can stretch to it the CST24 is meant to be very good

https://www.thomann.de/gb/harley_benton_cst_24t_emerald_flame.htm

either will be better than the epiphone you have your eye on

if i had a basic set up - with the many years of stupid i have indulged in to look back on - i'd look at an amp

an average guitar through a good amp = good

a great guitar through a bobbins amp = dreadful

Boss Katana 50. all the way

https://www.thomann.de/gb/boss_katana_50.htm
 

Wuzza

long time lurker
#15
Ignore all the above about upgrading, go 2nd hand if possible (especially if you have a friend that can guide you), either way, take a serious look at the LTD line by ESP. I've had two entry level guitars from them and they've both punched well above their weight.
You've been playing for 4 months, honestly, you aren't going to benefit from pickup upgrades etc.. You need something that plays well and stays in tune.
Take advantage of distance selling. You have 28 days to return.
Just my opinion. :)
 

Magnus Pym

Grudges rot the soul
#16
I agree with almost all that is being said here but if the only criteria the OP has is that it should cost no more than €200 it's no good proposing €300 guitars unless you are willing to chip in the missing €100.
 

mirage2101

Well-Known Member
#17
I agree with almost all that is being said here but if the only criteria the OP has is that it should cost no more than €200 it's no good proposing €300 guitars unless you are willing to chip in the missing €100.
That's not completely true.
The first part of the answer would be "I don't think a €200 guitar would be an improvement". But to leave it at that even with a reasoning is only half the answer. Elaborating and explaining a €300 guitar would be a step forward is the second part.

Sometimes within the constraints given people won't be able to get what'll make them happy. Giving that opinion and explaining what will make them happy is constructive. That is, within certain limits. And I haven't seen anyone say guy a les paul standard for €2400 because that would be an unreasonable difference.
 

Wuzza

long time lurker
#18
That's not completely true.
The first part of the answer would be "I don't think a €200 guitar would be an improvement".
We really don't know, as we don't really have an idea of the OP's current axe. :)
"80 euro pack" would be 60 euro guitar at a guess. Even a 150 euro guitar, in theory, should be an upgrade.
 

mirage2101

Well-Known Member
#19
We really don't know, as we don't really have an idea of the OP's current axe. :)
"80 euro pack" would be 60 euro guitar at a guess. Even a 150 euro guitar, in theory, should be an upgrade.
I should’ve said “could be”, you’re right.
My point was broader then just OP but you’re still right ;)
 

Wuzza

long time lurker
#20
I should’ve said “could be”, you’re right.
My point was broader then just OP but you’re still right ;)
I can see I may have come across as a bit arsy. But I think a lot of us forget when we started learning.

My first was a Strat copy who's trem was missing a spring (Bigsby style) and buzzed pretty much every where. I didn't even know that you were allowed to change hardware. :p
 
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