Since the introduction of its revolutionary
Fly guitar in the ’90s, Parker Guitars
has proven its desire to deliver instruments
that are both practical and forward thinking.
By using composite materials, lighter
woods, and components that yield a lot of
sonic versatility, Parker has gone from having
a cult following in their early days to
a more mainstream presence today, with
scores of big-name guitarists using their
instruments. They’re mostly known for
their 6-string offerings, but they do also
offer a bass line. Here we take a look at the
new MaxxFly PB12 4-string.
Totally Fly Looks
Visually, the PB12’s striking features and
smooth lines are reminiscent of a luxury
automobile—it’s clearly well designed,
sleek, and expensive. When I picked it up
for the first time, I was shocked: Weighing
in at an incredibly light 6.5 pounds, it
made my shoulder very happy. The swamp
ash body and poplar neck are triplereinforced
with a carbon-glass-epoxy wrap,
which, according to Parker, makes the bass
impervious to temperature changes and
maintains neck consistency.
In blending the traditional with the
contemporary, Parker has created a design
that definitely stands apart. With the
Hipshot lollipop tuners, squared horns,
and the dash markers on the side of the
neck, the MaxxFly is definitely ready for
the next bass era. The handsome 3-tone
sunburst finish—which is echoed on the
headstock—keeps one hand in the conventional
pool, but not in a way that panders
to the old guard. For the more adventurous,
dusty black and candy lemon yellow
finishes are also available.
Of course, the heart of the MaxxFly
is how it sounds and plays. Loaded with
an active EMG P pickup in the neck and
an EMGMM in the bridge, the bass also
features a Graph Tech Ghost piezo saddle
pickups housed in the Parker-designed
Hipshot tailpiece—and these have a dedicated
volume control, too.
A car that looks good in the showroom
is one thing. The car that can do that and
handle well on the road gets my vote. But
before I put it through an amp, I put it
through my standard unplugged test. To be
honest, I was expecting a mousy tone with
such a light instrument, but I was pleasantly
surprised. The unplugged tone was
clear and thick—always a good sign before
an amp is added.
Giving the bass some time through both
an Eden CXC-300 combo and a Gallien-
Krueger MB800 head powering an Ampeg
B-18 cab, I started things out by soloing all
three pickups. The neck’s P-style pickup did
exactly what it’s supposed to do, pumping
out a tight, fat tone that did the bass justice
right away. Using only the neck pickup, I
A/B’d the PB12 with a ’78 Fender P bass
(which weighed almost twice as much).
The Parker only lacked a little bit of the P’s
mass, which, of course, is to be expected
with the weight difference. Otherwise, the
classic tone from the MaxxFly was not that
far off—close enough to probably sway
The bridge pickup sort of baffled me.
I had fully expected to hear my best Flea
licks rage out of the Music Man-style EMG
MM, but with no such luck. Rolling the
EQ all the way up did help the tone somewhat,
but with the EQ set flat, the sound
was a bit thinner than I would like. That
said, don’t let the lack of stand-alone power
from the MM pickup throw you: I got to
the most useful tones with both pickups
cranked, but rolling off the neck pickup
just a touch also got me closer to the big,
Music Man-esque sound I was pining for.
The piezo pickup system is a very
nice feature, adding a subtle, compressed
delicacy to the tonal possibilities. When
blending the piezo with the neck pickup, it
softened the notes ever so slightly, creating
a smoother output. Though the PB12 won’t
necessarily get you an upright sound, the
nuance with the piezo is a nice touch for
the most discerning of studio players.
Whether I played hard or soft—with
a pick, fingerstyle, or slapping—the
MaxxFly handled it all with flying colors.
It impressed me with its near-perfect union
of tone and playability. The 24-fret neck is
fast, the smooth heel is welcome, and the
thickness of the neck is, well, just right.
Again, like a fine car, it seemed that nothing
was overlooked in the design of this
bass. Tone, however, is the reason we play—
and this bass has it.
With our economy showing signs of life, I
can understand why Parker would roll out
an instrument with such a hefty price tag.
But just like a Jaguar or Mercedes, it was
not built for everyone. This MaxxFly PB12
has captured all that Parker is famous for,
from its in-house-designed bridge all the
way up to the signature headstock. The
forward design of the bass is intriguing and
downright fun to play. This willowy, bodyhugging
bass will not give you fits during a
marathon gig, and the tonal range is wide
enough to please just about everyone. The
MaxxFly really is a blend of modern and
vintage, making it quite a useful instrument.
But for the money, you had better be
sure this bass is for you.