Cheap Guitar Mod Project 2: Harley Benton TE-20HH SBK

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I was sitting on the couch, my hand hovering over the package I received that afternoon.  Time for a cheap guitar mod. I needed new tuners for my Harley Benton TE-20HH SBK. I had been looking at them online for days, and now the order had arrived. I upgraded to locking tuners because they were easier to tune and less likely to fall out when playing with my trademark extremely aggressive style.

I had just replaced the third tuner when an eerie, high-pitched wail seemed to emerge from everywhere in the house at once. Then I was plunged into darkness as all of the lights went out. All except one. A single lamp in my studio was flickering, but still illuminated the room enough to see some slight movement.

How could this be happening? I just wanted to install LEDs under the Seymour Duncan Seth Lover pickup I purchased. If there was an intruder, how had they bypassed my network of alarms? 

I had a bad feeling about it, but got up and walked towards the studio. I knew that if this wasn’t going to go well for me then there was no point in delaying the inevitable any longer than necessary. 

Using the flashlight on my phone, I could see the objects on my desk had been thrown around. There was no one in the studio, but something had been tied to the ceiling fan. I turned the fan off and discovered a dismantled Dimarzio PAF bridge pickup. It was a warning against completing the cheap guitar mod.

I knew it had to be the ghost. The hauntings had been getting worse. I had enough of this bullshit, I was going to confront the source of my troubles and make her go away so that I could finally be done with it. My blog readers were clamoring to see the results of my Harley Benton modifications! 

Wow, that’s exciting. I hope my fiction brings-in more readers.

Anyway, this guitar is another impressive offering from Harley Benton. The main reason I chose this model is the matte black finish. I also like the HH Telecaster-style guitars I’ve seen. 

The guitar looked great as soon as I unboxed it. I performed a setup right away. It was fine considering the price point. I had to file a few frets and oil the neck, but I didn’t need to adjust the truss rod. The action was set well, and I only had to make minor intonation adjustments. 

I decided to put locking tuners on this guitar because I like them and because reviews said the tuners are a weak point on this instrument. Instead of the Gotoh tuners I used for Mod Project 1, I bought Harley Benton locking tuners. They’re about half the cost of the Gotoh’s, so I’m going to make a quality comparison. 

I did not replace the bridge. It’s solid and good quality. 

The switch and pots needed to be replaced. They’re the same low quality parts used in all budget guitars. 

I’m not impressed by the pickups. Narrow dynamic range and kind of muddy. The only tone I really liked was distorted bridge pickup. I’ll be posting audio from before and after sound tests. 

I cannot recommend this pickup combination enough. Dimarzio PAF 59 Neck, Seymour Duncan Seth Lover Bridge. Both pickups sound amazing, and the three positions are perfect. The Seth Lover is brighter, the PAF 59 is mellower, and the middle position is a perfect combination of the two, like that trespassing flange Goldilocks and her porridge.

The tone is just incredible. A fun thing that is new to me is how microphonic these vintage replica pickups can be. I’m getting more pick and string noise than I’m used to, but I think it sounds great in this instance.  

Dimarzio Clip-Lock strap ends, the switch, the 500k pots, and cloth push-back wire. This wire is great when you’re placing too much crap in a confined space. It’s very annoying to deal with shorts because you need to pull out the multimeter and do some testing. This still happened to me even with the cloth wire, but it greatly reduced the number of possible problem areas I had to check. 

The last picture shows the LEDs. It seems it’s only possible purchase large quantities, and I got 100 in different colors. This ensures there are many cheap guitar mod projects to come. I also purchased a switch connected to a 9V battery terminal.

The only real risk is connecting the LEDs incorrectly and frying them with too much voltage. Below you can see the shielded cavities and the new wiring, pots, and switch. 

The first picture shows the new wiring. You can see the vintage-style PAF braided wire. The remaining two pictures show the LED install. Apparently many science fair projects utilize LEDs, so I found plenty of middle school-level instructions. This worked for me and my level of electronics knowledge. 

I’m basically holding the lights down with shielding tape and soldering the edges of the tape together. The red wires get soldered and taped together, and same for the black wires. The two main wires connect to the battery box. 

Here is the completed guitar. I am really happy with how this one turned out. The first two pictures show the LEDs in action under pickups. This looks ridiculous and I love it! Totally unnecessary. You can see the battery box peeking over the cutaway. The switch is on the right next to the neck pickup. It’s that white blob. 


Yes, that’s a fake Telecaster decal. I bought it from some character on eBay. Before you berate me for this, remember: I don’t play by the rules. 

Check out the before/after audio examples below. I’m running a line direct out of my Boss Katana II into Cakewalk. All effects are from the amp. 


Clean Position 3

Clean Position 2

Clean Position 1

Distortion Position 3

Distortion Position 2

Distortion Position 1


Clean Position 3

Clean Position 2

Clean Position 1

Distortion Position 3

Distortion Position 2

Distortion Position 1