Parker Fly de Luxe

In 1997 I bought my Parker Fly(1995) and it made me crazy with excitement! These guitars are very expensive, but I had a nice second hand deal. The Parker is extremely light and delivers very airy tones. I tried many amps (e.g. Mesa Boogie) and stomp boxes (like the Tube Screamer 10) to get a good lead sound. I even had two pick up replacements and now I’m quite satisfied using a Fulltone Fulldrive2 on both a solid state home made amp and my Carvin Legacy tube amp. I was looking for a lead sound with elements of my all time heroes Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix or Allan Holdsworth and the Parker will actually provide some of that and a little more on the side.

Parkers are great rhythm guitars and when I do solo’s it is the breathing sound I aim at or the crazy vibrato bends guys like Adrian Belew (he’s got one too) might produce. Below I put some examples, both lead and rhythm.

Within the loudness of a live band the Parker distinguishes itself with its highs and not with sharp cutting lows and mids such as a mahogany guitar would. The people of Dimarzio who designed a ‘special’ pickup for this Parker made a big mistake by just adapting their stock Tone Zone© and Air Zone© models to fit in the thin Parker body. Within a year or so they had a ‘replacement model’ on offer! I bought those PHWP1 and PHWP2 pickups (see below for the original Dimarzio declaration on these) which were indeed a lot louder but still disappointing within the setting of a loud band in a big venue. At the time I was using a combination of a 100 W solid state amp and a disturbingly loud Mesa Boogie Mk2c, so it could hardly have been my amplification. Finally I turned to Seymour Duncan and they did a custom shop rewind of the original pick ups. The specs were: TB-4 (bridge) and SH-2N (neck). Then the guitar finally came alive. The biggest surprise was an  enormous boost of what might best be described as ‘definition’. This doesn’t mean louder, but a more distinctive presence, all on the same amplifiers as before.


As it seems Ken Parker got quite a few suggestions from pro players to make the guitar even better and offers a choice of Seymour Duncans on his new models. On the Parker forum there are both firm believers of the first generation Dimarzios as well as wandering souls discussing pick up replacements. Turns out quite a few shredders are playing Parkers and maybe they’re a lot happier with Dimarzio. Could I be quite mistaken myself trying to squeeze the more feminine sounds out of this axe? But then: heavy metal isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when I hear the piezos produce those fine airy highs....


Parker or whoever was in charge at the time decided that all Fly Deluxe models would carry the upgrades PHWP1 and 2 after 1999 (I believe - I could be mistaken what year exactly, but I’m not mistaken about the pick ups.) Check www.parkerguitars.com for the latest model specs. Read more about the Dimarzios on this same page.

Note: Dimarzio probably intended to keep the right balance between their humbuckers and the piezo pick ups of the Parker. Therefore their humbuckers couldn’t be too loud so they have a lower magnetic pull than usual. Indeed my Duncan replacements don’t have these characteristics. They seem to cover so many frequencies that in certain circumstances they almost render the piezos obsolete. But the sound they get from the Parker is so much better!


CONSTRUCTION

The body of the Parker Fly de Luxe is made of poplar and the neck is basswood. Covering these relatively soft woods is an ultra thin layer of carbon and glass fiber which acts as an exoskeleton (like with shellfish: soft on the inside and a hard shell to give it strength).   The frets are glued in and are made of stainless steel. The fingerboard is phenolic.


Strange stuff for wood loving guitar heads, but it plays nicely and -probably as a side effect- leaves my hands dry and therefore seems to prolong string life. Its hardness must be part of the Parkers snappy sound. Isn’t this whole concept a strange combination of tradition and modern technique!


Scale length is the familiar Fender type of 25 1/2 inches or 651 mm.


Most guitarists have ignored the Parker maybe due to it’s futuristic design. Like I said it is also rather expensive (it used to cost around $2800 new). The idea of Ken Parker was actually to harness the resonant qualities of natural wood. Poplar has always been famous for those qualities, but it is rather soft - hence the exoskeleton. The basswood neck is fixed to the body by what Parker describes as an ‘interlacing finger joint’ which serves to make the guitar vibrate as a coherent whole.


The picture on the right shows, or actually does not show, how the neck joins the body. But vibrating it does!

Piezo pickups by Fishman are set into the bridge system and give some sort of acoustic sound. Talking ‘bout the bridge: there’s a great tremolo design, derived from that of a Strat, and combined with a friction reducing nut and Sperzel locking tuners.


You get a spare tremolo spring for a heavier string gauge (0.10). In the first models (like mine) there’s a tension adjustment wheel for the tremolo. In later models this was skipped because morons testing the Fly in shops would often turn this wheel too far and render the guitar unplayable for the next guy. Hence the guitars often didn’t sell and Parker decided to build their newer model without the tension adjustment wheel. I hardly ever touch it, so maybe it is of little importance anyway. Some find it looks rather obscene when the guitar is upright.

The nut is of some special material. (what special material? I dunno)





On the picture to the right you see a red knob, this is for mono-stereo switching. Stereo means the sound of the humbuckers is separated from that of the piezos. There are two regular switches, one to switch between neck and bridge pickups and the other between humbuckers and piezo. There are separate volume pots for all pickups and a combined tone pot for the humbuckers. The piezo volume and tone are adjusted with a combined knob (the volume on top and the tone underneath). Under the hood one can adjust the master volume of the piezo system.


Whatever you say about these guitars, there is always one thing that stands out: they play really well (as long as you don’t sit down - the upper horn hurts your rib cage).

At the end of 2009 I traded my Parker for a Haar Custom Made guitar, very similar to a Music Man Axis Sport. I was ready for some new sounds.


(for this description I used some of Paul Trynka’s phrases in his wonderful book The electric guitar. Please check Sources page)


APPENDIX: ORIGINAL DIMARZIO DECLARATION (as found on http://www.guitar.com.au/pickups/dimarzio/humbukers/parker_f_b.html and http://www.guitar.com.au/pickups/dimarzio/humbukers/parker_f_n.html


(I would like to ask: Doesn’t Dimarzio state with this declaration that they were actually WRONG when they developed the first generation Fly pick ups?)

QUOTE

Custom for Parker Fly Neck PHWP1

 

The original Parker Fly neck pickup was based on the Air NortonTM. The new P1 neck model is one of the first generation of pickups designed from the ground up specifically for the Fly. It is based on new research and technology, as well as extensive feedback from players in live and studio environments. The result is a pickup that combines low magnetic pull with outstanding dynamics and wide tonal range. Performance in every area is enhanced. The overall sound is warm and clean enough for jazz, but response to pick attack is powerful and immediate enough (for) rock and blues soloing.

Recommended For:

Neck position on all Parker Fly models. May also be used in bridge position for bright, open sound.

Tech Talk:

One of the aims of the P1 was to give the Fly a classic neck humbucker sound. Traditionally, this requires a fixed-bridge guitar with a 22-fret neck (and 2 or 3 more pounds of wood!). The P1 comes remarkably close to this sound by using a soft magnetic field that extends further along the string length and a ceramic magnet in a patent-applied-for structure that has as much warmth as Alnico 5, but with a quicker attack and presence similar to Alnico 2. This also results in a hotter, more open "notch sound" in the Fly center pickup selector position, especially when paired with a bridge pickup with similar capabilities like the P2.

Specifications:

Wiring Standard 4-conductor
Magnet Ceramic
Output 300mV
DC Resistance 15.98K
Year of introduction 1999
Patent # 5,399,802 & Patent applied for

Custom for Parker Fly Bridge PHWP2

 

The original Parker Fly bridge pickup was based on the Tone Zone®. The new P2 bridge model is one of the first generation of pickups designed from the ground up specifically for the Fly. It is based on new research and technology, as well as extensive feedback from players in live and studio environments. The result is a pickup that combines low magnetic pull with outstanding dynamics and wide tonal range. Performance in every area is enhanced. Bass and midrange response is very full and solid, and treble response takes full advantage of the Fly's extended range of highs and harmonic overtones.

Recommended For:

Bridge position for all Fly models.

Tech Talk:

Like the P1, the P2 has a soft magnetic field that extends along the string length and a ceramic magnet in a patent-applied-for structure that has as much warmth as Alnico 5, but with a quicker attack and presence similar to Alnico 2. The P2's magnetic field is about 15% stronger than the P1 to balance bridge position output. The increased magnetic "reach" along the string length results in a hotter, more open "notch sound" in the Fly center pickup selector position.

Specifications:

Wiring Standard 4-conductor
Magnet Ceramic
Output 334mV
DC Resistance 17.51K
Year of introduction 1999
Patent # 5,399,802 & Patent applied for



Fender, Stratocaster, Strat, Telecaster, Tele, Precision Bass, P-Bass, Jazz Bass and J-Bass are registered trademarks of Fender Musical Instrument Corp., with which DiMarzio, Inc. is not affiliated. Les Paul and Les Paul Junior are registered trademarks of Gibson Guitars.UNQUOTE


Sound examples