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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 some traditionalists.
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.