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NBD: Harley Benton MB-5 SBK (5 string Stingray style) - Finally a 5 string bass I gel with.

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Not exactly NBD since I had it for a couple of weeks now or so.

This is the black satin 'stealth' finish. They seemed to be on the light weight side, and mine didn't disappoint at 8.6 lbs. 

The set up was poor to start, far too much relief and very high saddles, but a few minutes spent reducing the neck curvature and adjusting the saddles brought it to a very comfortable action. The nut slots are well contoured but a bit too high, which makes me think that somebody tried to adjust the action by playing with the truss rod and saddles, failing, and then going the other way... I haven't adjusted the nut yet because it plays well enough already, but I'll have to do that to make the top positions a bit more comfy to play.

I really like it. The neck is wider than a SR5 (so the G string doesn't fall off! ;) ) but not excessively chunky. I find it quite comfortable. Not as nice as the Lakland 5502, but still very comfortable. The narrower string spacing (compared to my 4 strings) and the additional string means I was a little clumsy to start, but I've been playing this bass exclussively since I got it and I'm getting there now.

In fact, I'm starting to really like this 5 string thing.

I owned 5 string basses before but I never really got along with any. The closest ones were the Lakland 5502 and the old made in USA EBMM SUB 5. The Lakland had the wider string spacing that I prefer, but I didn't get the Stingray-like sound I prefer. The SUB5 had the sound, but I felt the neck was a bit too narrow and it was a very heavy bass. A Squier Jazz V came and went too, and over the years so did a Peavey Millenium, a Washburn Bantam (that one was pretty good too), a Crafter something or another, a G&L L2500, and maybe something else too. Nothing really stuck. And here comes the Harley Benton. I didn't need a new bass, certainly not a 5-string (by now I had accepted 5 strings are not for me and I no longer wanted to own one)... but these satin black ones looked so good, were so cheap, and the reviews were so positive... that it tempted me. Before I pressed the button, my girlfriend went and ordered one for me, just before they sold out in November.

If I had to give it a one word review it would be 'wow'.

This is a very decent bass, regardless of price, but when you consider the price... yeah, wow.

It has that Stingray vibe and the passive electronics are just fine. Sure, not as versatile as having an onboard preamp, but I actually love passive tone controls, so I'm happy with it as it is.

For some reason this bass feels and sounds nicer than any of my previous 5 string basses, and because of that playing it exclusively for the past 2 weeks was not a chore. Yeah, it was frustrating at first, but as I adjust to the different layout it becomes more fun... and I feel like something clicked. I'm enjoying immensely how I can move across strings and reduce the movement up/down the neck that way. I don't use the additional lower notes that much, but I use a lot of the notes I would often play on the E string on the B string now, just moving across with fewer jumps to different hand positions on the neck which also means I look at the neck a lot less. And having the option to play those notes between the low E and A on the E string for more definition or on the B string for additional girth is really useful too.

This may be the bass that makes me finally 'get' 5 string basses. How much does it cost? Crazy. I would have paid quite a bit more for a bass that I can enjoy as much as this one.

IMG_20210107_123759188.jpg?dl=1

IMG_20210107_123701471.jpg?dl=1

 The pickguard will be replaced 'though. Not a fan of tortoiseshell, I think it's screaming for a black one.

IMG_20210106_100809831.jpg?dl=1

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You've pretty much described my journey with 5ers - had a few - didn't gel with any of them so moved them on. Since getting my Lakland 55-01 I've enjoyed the experience a lot more - even though it meant re-learning a lot of techniques - that "Floating thumb" thing was so frustrating initially but now seems like second nature. Also fitting in notes on the low B can be like a little puzzle but I'm enjoying playing octaves "the wrong way" - e.g. finishing on an E on the third (A) string and flicking to the E at the fifth on the B.

Your point about the HB being lightweight is very interesting - I assumed that most 5ers would be heavier than the typical 4 string but at less than 9lbs I can see they will probably get quite a following.

I'm also not a fan of Tort guards - in fact I think I only have one, maybe 2 basses with guards at all. Agree that yours would look much better with a black plate, maybe Carbon fibre effect?

Had a quick look online and seen prices (none in stock at Thomman surprisingly). 

And it's only £118/€132 for the MB-4 and £128/€142 for the MB-5.

https://www.musicradar.com/news/harley-benton-gets-sleek-with-its-new-mb-4-and-mb-5-sbk-deluxe-series-basses

 
Edited by TheGreek
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11 minutes ago, TheGreek said:

And it's only £118/€132 for the MB-4 and £128/€142 for the MB-5.

Those prices are borderline insane Mick ... the basses are inevitably 'no longer available' and it's really not clear if those were the pre-import costs prices (not that it matters, of course).

 

 

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A quick afterthought....

Many basses using the Ray design suffer with a weak G string - any issues with this?

BTW, as Jack suggested, I'm struggling to find anywhere that has these in stock.

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2 minutes ago, TheGreek said:

BTW, as Jack suggested, I'm struggling to find anywhere that has these in stock.

Aren`t HB exclusive to Thomann?

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13 hours ago, TheGreek said:

A quick afterthought....

Many basses using the Ray design suffer with a weak G string - any issues with this?

BTW, as Jack suggested, I'm struggling to find anywhere that has these in stock.

 

I think only Thomann sells those. Last I looked they were not expected back for 12-14 weeks. Even if they end up costing a bit more, they're completely worth it I think. 

I can't comment on the G string (which is only a 4-string issue as far as I understand, when it happens). 

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14 hours ago, TheGreek said:

You've pretty much described my journey with 5ers - had a few - didn't gel with any of them so moved them on. Since getting my Lakland 55-01 I've enjoyed the experience a lot more - even though it meant re-learning a lot of techniques - that "Floating thumb" thing was so frustrating initially but now seems like second nature. Also fitting in notes on the low B can be like a little puzzle but I'm enjoying playing octaves "the wrong way" - e.g. finishing on an E on the third (A) string and flicking to the E at the fifth on the B.

Your point about the HB being lightweight is very interesting - I assumed that most 5ers would be heavier than the typical 4 string but at less than 9lbs I can see they will probably get quite a following.

I'm also not a fan of Tort guards - in fact I think I only have one, maybe 2 basses with guards at all. Agree that yours would look much better with a black plate, maybe Carbon fibre effect?

Had a quick look online and seen prices (none in stock at Thomman surprisingly). 

And it's only £118/€132 for the MB-4 and £128/€142 for the MB-5.

https://www.musicradar.com/news/harley-benton-gets-sleek-with-its-new-mb-4-and-mb-5-sbk-deluxe-series-basses

 

 

The weight surprised me a lot too. My girlfriend has the Precision and is also very light, it looks like it's a general feature of these black satin (SBK) models.

I've got some adhesive vinyl sheets that I can try for the pickguard, I have some brushed metallic copper effect that could be interesting, as well as black matt. One day that I feel handy with a scalpel I'll try.

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I've managed to find a MM Sub 5er - I must be honest I don't like the scratchplate - anybody know if this can be removed?

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51 minutes ago, TheGreek said:

I've managed to find a MM Sub 5er - I must be honest I don't like the scratchplate - anybody know if this can be removed?

 

The USA ones? Yes, they can be removed just like on the others. I dislike their metallic pickguards too.

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