Review: Harley Benton ST-25th Firemist – golden finish, silver tone?
Harley Benton’s Firemist series comes with a whole range of new models in a Firemist finish – it’s HB’s anniversary gift. We were able to take a close look at a pre-release of the new Harley Benton ST-25th Firemist. In this review, we check out all the bells and whistles of this budget guitar.
Originally published on Gearnews.de by Claudius Grieger.
- Firemist finish for Harley Benton’s 25th anniversary
- Matching headstock
- Single coil Humbucker on bridge position
- Locking tuners
Harley Benton Firemist – 25th-anniversary gift
Harley Benton turns 25 and for this occasion, they’ve created the Anniversary series. What’s special about the guitars in this series is the Firemist finish. It’s a dark golden finish with a slightly red shimmer. They’ve also added a matching headstock.
Part of the gang: a Strat aka the ST-25th, a Tele aka the TE-25th, a Jazzmaster aka the JA-25th, a Jazz Bass aka the JB-25th, a Single Cut Les Paul aka the SC-25th and much to my surprise a Fusion-III 25th, a Fusion-T 25th and an Enhanced 25th Bass as modernized versions of the classics. Some models also received a PU upgrade. More on this later.
Harley Benton ST-25th Firemist is Strat style guitar with a special finish
The main attraction of the Harley Benton ST-25th Firemist is the new finish. Underneath it’s mainly the same ST model as before. The specs remain largely the same and even the slightly differently shaped body compared to Fender’s version is there again. Unlike the new Fusion model, the neck transition is not flat, but traditional. It’s the same blocky shape that Fender players know already, like me. So, this works for me.
I’m a big fan of the new finish. It’s golden, but not too in-your-face with its red shimmer. Combined with the roasted maple neck that almost looks 3D (I assume through special oilings) this guitar is just beautiful. If this was not a review unit, but actually one I bought, I would probably replace the mint-colored pickguard and the white pickup caps with something more aged and yellowed.
The pickup selection is interesting here. The Humbucker in single coil style gives it a classic look, which I much prefer to the HSS looks with the bigger Humbucker. In addition, the locking tuners just work well with the strings from Elixir that are included in the bundle. The tuners keep the strings perfectly in tune even when I’m moving the 2-point vibrato a bit more. The knobs are a bit too easy-going for my taste – and their position on the body took a bit of getting used as a Jazzmaster player. The matte “color” of the tailpiece is lovely, I would have loved to see all the Harley Benton ST-25th Firemist’s hardware in that look.
ST-25th Firemist – how good is the build?
I really went looking for errors. The build is close to perfect. The paint job is spotless, the frets have been set up cleanly and rounded to the sides and the fretboard’s wood just looks great. The paint job on the headstock is clean and the dark maple neck fits in seamlessly in the neck pocket. The tuners don’t move, and the plastic knobs and pickup cabs are spotless. What’s not to like?!
Had anyone told me 25 years ago that one day we’d have guitars in the budget sector that could surpass 800-euro models from back then, I would have told them they were crazy to think that! The amount of junk I have played even from big-name companies (they might have an “F” or a “G” in their names)… Of course, I’m not in the know about the quality dispersion of the Harley Benton ST-25th Firemist or any other models from the series.
I can only talk about this review model. According to Harley Benton, it’s not a special review unit but they randomly took it from their stockpile. Maybe your experience with the quality of Harley Benton models has been different? Let me know in the comments! All I can say from personal experience and judging from what I read online, HB’s quality is top-notch. I can wholeheartedly confirm that for this model.
What does the Harley Benton ST-25th Firemist sound like?
If I ignore the less-than-stellar setup and if I readjust the neck’s curvature a bit, then the Harley Benton ST-25th Firemist is a great guitar. At least when it comes to individual pickup positions, not so much for the combined settings.
The bridge’s Humbucker is loads of fun and just rocks your socks off. Its sound is well-defined, a bit on the brighter side due to its position and you get to whole range from creamy crunch to biting high gain. If I put the switch into the mid position, however, the sound not only loses grid and distortion (which is to be expected) but also volume. In fact, the difference is big enough that it’s a bit too unpredictable to be used in a single song.
The neck’s single coil is rather bass-heavy and tends to muddy up the sound a bit. At least, if you use the same EQ settings as with the bridge pickup. But if you run your signal through a Tube Screamer and then a Big Muff and tame the bass frequencies a bit, you can do quite some heavy riffing. Its strength, however, is with clean sounds, which is what makes Stratocasters so versatile. I would describe it as “HiFi” even considering the two extended polepieces for the two strings in the middle.
And then there is the third single coil in the middle. Allegedly a very underappreciated pickup not only for Jazz and Funk but also for connecting both worlds of sound from neck and bridge. This pickup of the Harley Benton ST-25th Firemist is like the little brother of the neck PU, I just find it a little flat sounding. It’s a Roswell model as well, so I’m afraid it has to be this way. I would use this one for clean sounds as well. When it comes to the switch positions of two pickups together, it’s always on the HiFi side of things. Which is a good thing for “bonfire chords”.
All three pickups are very sensitive to pick noises: when I accidentally hit the pickguard with a pick, it is very audible in recordings. That’s why I would probably switch the single coils for something more robust in the long run. Maybe a complete Fender TexMex-Set* and then I’ll just switch the bridge pickup with the humbucker used here. The guitar generally does not tend to create unruly feedback beeps when used with an amp, by the way.
Would I buy the Harley Benton ST-25th Firemist for myself? Probably not. I’m just not a Strat player. But if I was looking for an inexpensive Strat (copy), I would definitely put Harley Benton on the list after this review. Probably on even on top.
You can’t really go wrong with 299€ in my view. The build is close to perfect, the sound is good enough – if you add a couple of new pickups you can probably get yourself a great guitar for very little money. Thumbs up from me.
Prices and availabilities of the Harley Benton ST-25th Firemist and the other Firemist models
The prices for the models* range from 269€ for TE-25th, to 289€ for the JA-25th to 299€ for the SC-25th and the JB-25th. The Harley Benton ST-25th Firemist is priced at 299€ at Thomann* as well. The Fusion-III 25th and the Fusion-T 25th both come in ar 449€. And the Enhanced Bass 25th is going for 499€.
Kudos to Harley Bent0n not only because there is a left-hand version for EVERY model, but they also don’t cost extra. In times of CNC programming that should be a given, but it’s not, so thanks!
Harley Benton TE-25TH Firemist
Harley Benton SC-25TH Firemist
Pros and Cons
- Spotless classy finish
- Matching headstock
- sound of individual pickups is great
- great build for the price
- Mixed pickups a little muddy
- Color of pick guard and knobs a bit too clean
More on the Harley Benton ST-25th Firemist
- All about Harley Benton
- More on Stratocasters
- Website of the 25th anniversaries series at Harley Benton
Videos on the Harley Benton Firemist series
* This post contains affiliate links and/or widgets. When you buy a product via our affiliate partner, we receive a small commission that helps support what we do. Don’t worry, you pay the same price. Thanks for your support!
- Harley Benton ST-25th Firemist Body: Claudius Grieger
- Neck transition of the ST-25th: Claudius Grieger
- Harley Benton ST-25th Firemist neck: Claudius Grieger
- Matching Headstock : Claudius Grieger
- Humbucker good, Single coils not so much: Claudius Grieger
- Harley Benton ST-25TH Firemist : Harley Benton
- Harley Benton TE-25TH Firemist : Harley Benton
- Harley Benton SC-25TH Firemist : Harley Benton
More than the firemist finish, IMHO I would say that this ST anniversary outperform the former ST model with 2 huge improvements:
1-The mix of american alder body+roasted canadian maple neck (in the former ST, roasted neck were only mixed with basswood bodies and alder bodies ST (like the tributes) had non roasted necks).
2-STAINLESS STEEL frets!!! (To be honest I was hoping for a ST with SS frets since they did SC versions with them).
My only regret is that Harley Benton has not upgraded their ST-90SA model with SS frets and roasted neck which would have gave us the option of Naturally finished American swamp ash body+SS frets+roasted neck.
Other than that, thanks for the review (and for giving an honest appreciation of the pickups).
Well, it’s not surprising but the Strat is already sold out. Gorgeous guitar.