Harmony Rebel Double Cutaway Electric Guitar
By Chris Loeffler |
Is this an "underrated gem"?
Harmony Music Company began as a US-based Ukulele manufacturer in 1892 and rose to prominence in the 1920’s after its transfer to Sears and Roebuck in 1916 as a play to get into the music instrument world. Thanks to this distribution Harmony (and its Sears brand Silvertone) became one of the most widely sold stringed instrument brands in the US through the mid-70’s. Equally famous for their nostalgic vibe as they are for having spotty quality control, Harmony is a brand that was due to be revived with the White Stripes/Black Keys radio overtake of the late ‘00s and Boomers looking to relive their youth beyond expensive Custom shop models.
When Band Lab acquired Harmony a few years ago and announced their intention to relaunch the brand, there was palpable excitement (and a bit of skepticism) on the NAMM show floor, culminating in a full-force Winter NAMM 2019 showing with three different USA-made series guitars featuring body styles that held true to the brand with modern appointments. Fast-forward nine months, and Harmony sent me a Harmony Rebel to spend a week or two reviewing.
What You Need to Know
The Harmony Rebel model ships with custom gold foil humbuckers with master controls for Volume and Tone and a three-way pickup selector to choose Neck, Bridge, or a blended position. I’m not sure how close the relationship is, but the pickups are a clear nod to the Harmony heritage and classic Dearmond design and sound. They came across to me as a bit lo-fi without losing highs or getting too muddy in the mids. More generally, I’d say they have more character (in a good way) than a lot of overly pristine modern pickups.
In comparison to several guitars I had for comparison, the Harmony humbuckers sounded and felt closest to the set of ’57 Classic, with beefy mids, tight bass anchoring the lower mids, and a clear top end. They held a reasonable amount of heft in output and quickly pushed a 5 watt Champ clone I own into overdrive.
The Harmony Rebel certainly flirts with the double cutaway stylings of classic Gibson guitars while establishing its own identity (and holding true to the originals) with a slightly offset horn on the high E-string side that has a wider scoop for greater fret accessibility. The body of the Harmony Rebel is a historically accurate Mahogany with Nitrocellulose finish over Champagne Gold, with a custom half-bridge and compensated chrome saddles and custom cupcake knobs. I dug the color, as the depth and hue leaned more toward “classic” than “glitzy”.
The 25” neck, too, is 1-11/16th C-style Mahogany with an Ebony fretboard (12” radius) with Medium Jumbo frets and dot inlays capped with locking tuning machines and triple-bolted to the body.
The Rebel I played arrived well set up, with properly dressed frets. It’s not the lightest guitar on the block, but for a slab of Mahogany it weighed less than many similarly appoint guitars I’ve played. The tuning machines and controls all felt incredibly solid and didn’t give any play during the two weeks I ran the Rebel through the motions.
I found it an odd manufacturer callout that the guitar was built and assembled to be maintenance, but true to their word, removing the pickguard revealed straightforward wiring and a couple of mojo parts, like an Orange drop capacitor. I found the values of the pots to be spot on, so I didn’t see the need to want to swap parts, but at least it is easy if someone chose to.
MONO is a part of the Band Lab family of brands, and the Harmony Rebel ships with a MONO Vertigo Electric Guitar Case, which adds a LOT of value to the package (not to knock on the shoddy cases some of the mid-tier guitars I have reviewed ship in).
This isn’t a fault of the new Harmony, but there is a stigma to the quality of last century Harmony guitars that would have reduced the likelihood of picking one off the wall to give a shot. It’s a fantastic guitar, and I wonder how many people might miss it because of this legacy.
The Harmony Rebel is a fine reclamation of a cherished but spotty legacy. The design and quality are superb and check all the boxes for me of being familiar enough to be comfortable but different enough to stand out. Having played hundreds of variations of the most common pickup types, I dug the unique vibe the Rebel spits out. It would almost be a shame to see the Harmony Rebel become as well adopted as it deserves, because it screams “underrated gem”.
Buy Harmony Rebel at Musician's Friend (Street $1,299.99)
Chris Loeffler is a multi-instrumentalist and the Content Strategist of Harmony Central. In addition to his ten years experience as an online guitar merchandiser, marketing strategist, and community director he has worked as an international exporter, website consultant and brand manager. When he’s not working he can be found playing music, geeking out on guitar pedals and amps, and brewing tasty beer.