REVIEW: Parker Maxx Fly DF524

There’s a perception that Parker’s designs have always been divisive: either you love them or you hate them. That’s not surprising, since they’re very futuristic and ergonomic – not traits you usually associate with a type of instrument whose most popular variants are still models designed almost 60 years ago. But there are plenty of players who sit on the fence when it comes to Parker too. The MaxxFly series is for them: futuristic enough to express the adventurous Parker spirit, but with plenty of concessions for those who prefer a more traditional feel too.

The MaxxFly DF824 is made of a solid alder body with a polyurethane finish, and the upper horn is more traditional compared to the radical Parker Fly design – although I kind of miss having the upper horn echo the curve of the headstock, to be honest. I dig the original Fly. The bridge is Parker’s own tremolo design, which pivots on ball bearings and has a removable but comfortable-feeling spongey bar tip. The bar itself extends a little bit further than most other guitars, and the extra pivot power helps to maintain a smooth feel in operation. It also positions the bar for some interesting effects such as tapping while operating the bar.
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The neck is maple, with a unique Radial Neck Joint which maintains its radius all the way into the body, meaning there are no flat surfaces between the neck and body and therefore better stability and energy transfer. Or to put it another way, the itself never flattens out into a block where it joins the body like other bolt-on guitar designs. Instead it maintains its roundness all the way, with the body’s neck pocket curving to match the shape of the neck, rather than having the neck flatten out to match the pocket.

The fretboard is rosewood with no front position markers whatsoever (although the side markers are quite sufficient, as far as I’m concerned), and it features 22 jumbo stainless steel frets. The Sperzel Trim-Lok tuners are designed for maximum stability and tidiness, and they maintain a bit of the futuristic Parker feel too.

Electronics include a trio of Seymour Duncan pickups (a TB-14 Custom 5 humbucker and two SSL-6 Custom Flat single coils) with five-way position switch, volume knob and push-pull tone pot which doubles as a coil split for the humbucker; and six Fishman acoustic piezo saddles which pair up with a Fishman Powerchip preamp with dedicated volume control. There’s also a three-way toggle switch for selecting between magnetic, piezo or both pickup systems, while the output jack can tell whether you’re plugging in a mono or stereo cable, and will split or mix the signal accordingly.

The playability is incredibly effortless and buttery, aided no doubt by the comfortably flattish neck profile and the smooth movement of the bridge, and the body feels very ergonomic too. It seems to just insinuate itself against your body and is very comfortable. By the way, ever notice how Parkers are one of the few guitars that don’t look weird when you wear them really high?

The Seymour Duncan TB-14 Custom 5 has plenty of bite and chunk, making it a great all-round rock and metal humbucker. Bend a note and it screams with rich harmonic overtones (especially if you execute a double bend by striking and bending two strings at once), while palm-muted low notes have an addictively percussive thud. The single coils (and the coil-split setting for the TB-14) are surprisingly vintage-sounding for such a futuristic-looking guitar, and I really expected them to be a little more flat and characterless compared to how they actually sound. It’s a little jarring to get such authentically old-school tones out of such an undeniably forward-looking axe, but there it is! By contrast the acoustic sound is a little sterile but that makes it an ideal candidate for external processing while keeping costs down compared to if there was a full-featured inbuilt acoustic preamp. You can achieve some pretty interesting sounds by blending the two pickup systems too, either through separate amps for a more realistic electric/acoustic duet sound or through an electric amp for more edge and attack.

The DF524 strikes a nice balance between futurism (electronics, bridge, body shape, neck joint) and traditionalism (tone, body woods). Although some might still be freaked out by its uniqueness, that’s their loss: this is a very easy-to-get-along-with guitar that rewards rampant daring experimentalism but also gives you a wide range of traditional sounds to play with as well.

LINK: Parker Guitars

[geo-in country=”Australia” note=””]This is an extended, alternate version of a review I originally wrote for Mixdown magazine.[/geo-in]