Harley Benton JA-25TH Firemist: What is it?
The market for bargain guitars is ubiquitous, and in the UK and Europe, Thomann’s brand Harley Benton has been spearheading the movement of quality spec guitars for bargain basement prices.
Part of the 25th-anniversary salutation of the brand, the Harley Benton JA-25TH Firemist celebrates the company’s ethos by providing offset lovers with a premium spec for a more than reasonable price tag.
Having worked in music retail I’ve had my hands on more than a few bargain guitars that claimed to offer professional-level specs over the years, and not all of them have managed to match their big talk.
So it’s with some scepticism that I received the JA-25TH for this review. Can it match the expectations that come with its impressive spec list? Let’s find out.
Upon unboxing the JA-25TH the Firemist finish immediately caught my attention and upon closer inspection, I found it to be flawless all across the body. The neck binding has been laid exquisitely, and the block fingerboard inlays sit perfectly on a bed of dark laurel, with a matching headstock that adds the final touch of class.
It’s a combo of American Alder body with a roasted maple neck, which is a pretty incredible spec to see on a guitar that sits well below the $300/£300 mark.
In terms of electrics, you’ve got two Roswell Alnico 5 pickups, a three-way pickup selector, a master volume, and a tone knob.
The hardware consists of a tune-o-matic bridge, a set of Harley Benton branded locking tuners, stainless steel frets, and a graphite nut.
It’s a great set of features for the money, and it’s incredibly well put together too, with the switches and knobs feeling solid, and no blemishes and defects that I can see or feel. You also get a deluxe Harley Benton-branded gig bag in black with some orange accents.
Harley Benton JA-25TH Firemist: Performance and verdict
The spec sheet proclaims the neck is a ‘D’ profile, but it feels more ‘C’ shaped in my hand. It certainly doesn’t have that slim and slinky feel of my Ibanez, but that’s no bad thing as this isn’t exactly a shredder’s guitar. The roasted maple has a satin feel that matches the visual of the guitar’s finish, and there’s a nice heft to it that makes all but the most fleet-fingered playing feel instantly attainable.
The flat fretboard doesn’t have that dry feel you typically associate with budget guitars, feeling nice and slippery straight out of the box. I tried a huge variety of licks on it from big blues bends to alt-rock-inspired chord work, and the neck and fretboard combo offered a comfortable playing experience all over, with no hint of sharp fret edges or imperfections. An intonation adjustment was needed though, as I found my licks going a little out of tune higher up the neck.
I have several guitars with locking tuners, and although the ones here do a solid job, there is a bit of slip under heavy riffing and bending. This could be set up related, a result of my at times overzealous right hand, or perhaps they need stringing with the 123345 method. Whichever it is, I can’t be too churlish about their performance when you take into account the price of the guitar.
The pickups deliver a perfect tone for blues, rock, and alt styles. I tried out various types of riffing and lead work and they responded admirably, with that cutting bridge tone and dark sound in the neck position that’s characteristic of this particular subset of offset. It makes it an extremely versatile instrument that won’t quite do death metal chugs but should cover you for pretty much anything else.
They respond beautifully to picking dynamics and the volume knob provides a very usable range to get you from clean to dirty without having to resort to stomping on your pedalboard. I loved using these pickups with heavy effects, and they provided excellent clarity when picking arpeggios, even under a swampy mix of vibrato and chorus.
Of course, if you’re a vintage offset tone hound, they probably won’t cut it for you. But with the cost of this guitar, it’s quite a viable strategy to buy one and upgrade the pickups, giving you something that would be just as good as if you spent mid-level guitar money. There are none of the QC issues that have been plaguing certain manufacturers either, making it a perfect candidate for a reliable gig-worthy guitar with a few modifications.
MusicRadar Verdict: A stunning-looking guitar that packs a hefty spec into a featherweight price point. Despite a couple of niggles, it succeeds in its celebration of offering guitarists phenomenal value for their hard-earned cash.
Harley Benton JA-25TH Firemist: Hands-on demos
Jon is just TOO LouD!!
Harley Benton JA-25TH Firemist: Specifications
- Body: American Alder
- Neck: Canadian roasted flamed maple
- Fingerboard: Dark Laurel
- Fingerboard Radius: 12" (305mm)
- Pickups: Roswell JM-N-ADIV alnico-5 vintage (bridge), Roswell JM-N-ADIV alnico-5 vintage (neck)
- Tuners: Harley Benton engraved locking tuners
- Scale Length: 25.5" (648mm)
- Nut Width: 41.9mm
- Neck Width: 42.1mm (nut), 51.8mm (12th fret)
- Neck Depth: 22.5mm (1st fret), 23mm (12th fret)
- String Spacing: 33.6mm (nut), 51.3mm (bridge)
- Contact: Harley Benton