1995 Parker Fly Deluxe - A Technical Analysis

Last Updated 4/17/11
By Paul J. Marossy


I recently bought this guitar on ebay. I have wanted a Fly for many years now, and I saw one that I would kick myself for later if I didn't buy it. From the first time that I played the Parker Fly in 1998 at a local music store, I wanted to buy it immediately (but I had some self-control and didn't want to go into debt to get one). Now that I actually own one, after playing it for a few days, I have come to really appreciate the design of this guitar and all of the technological improvements of this guitar over the conventional electric guitars like the Stratocaster, Les Paul and other well known instruments. And that is what led me to write this article - I thought it deserved some closer attention from a technological standpoint.

Most of the history of the Parker Fly has been told, but what most people don't know is that the basic design of the guitar had been kicked around from the early 1980s, and hasn't changed too much from
the original prototype made around 1985 and its introduction to the world in 1993. Of course, like every other guitar manufacturer, Parker Guitars has been striving to improve its current offerings as well as introducing new models. I totally agree with the Parker Guitars design philosophy, but as of late, I haven't been very excited to see the changes made since US Music Corp acquired the company in 2004. Time will tell if the company will last or not.

The first thing that strikes you about the guitar is the radical design, originally protected by no less than four different patents. It's kind of like a space age Stratocaster, in a cool way. This particular model is a 1995 Parker Fly Deluxe, with a one piece poplar body and carbon fiber covered 24 fret basswood neck. It only weighs about 4-1/2 lbs. The frets are stainless steel and are glued to the composite fretboard, resulting in an unparalleled action.
The body is much more scuplted than my Mojo Nitefly. A friend of mine said it was like playing a spaceship! I guess it is kind of like that in comparison when you play a clunky archtop a lot. The back of the body and neck are covered with a carbon fiber composite, the whole idea being inspired by Ken Parker's study of the lute.
Here is one of the really radical features of this guitar. It utililizes a unique finger jointed neck joint which results in unparalled access to the frets at the neck joint. The body of the guitar also hugs your body. I find it to be a very ergonomic design also for this reason.

Click Here to see the neck before attaching to the body. I believe in this picture there is a poplar body with a basswood neck.

Click Here to see the neck joint after it is attached to the body and shaped to its final form. At this point, the composite would be attached to the back of the body and neck. The neck joint is much stronger than it looks because the fingers give it much more surface area, and that the area is in shear not tension. Ingenious!
This is the back of the headstock, which is another very distinctive feature of the original Parker design.
The truss rod adjustment is made where the hole is. It requires a T20 Torx wrench. This is the only special tool that this guitar needs.
Just behind the bridge is the "balance wheel" which protrudes through both sides of the guitar body. This is used for when you want to use the bridge in balanced mode, like the familiar Floyd Rose "floating bridge". Here you can also see the battery compartment with the cover removed.
In this picture you can see the red mono/stereo button and the output jack. Pickup switching is much the same as my Mojo Nitefly except that this guitar does not have "coil tapping". One thing this guitar has that later "refined" Flys don't have is a master volume control that controls the volume for all pickups and a tone control for the piezo pickups, which I really like having.
This is the now familiar Parker bridge with the 1st generation piezo saddles which look like large "BBs". The 2nd generation piezo saddles look like a dogbone. This bridge can be used in a fixed mode, bend down only mode and a balanced or "floating" mode. The pickups were made by DiMarzio especially for the Fly guitar. I think they sound really good, I was surprised that I liked them as a lot of the time I don't like OEM pickips in guitars.
Here is another unique feature of the Parker Fly - the trem spring. This is a flat spring which efficiently counteracts the tension of the strings. The idea behind this system is to keep the body very thin and to have a noiseless system.
Finally, here is the electronics as originally designed. These original Fly models utilized a ribbon cable system which made for a very neat control cavity. There is also an LED which tells you that the circuit is getting power and also serves as a warning for when your battery needs to be replaced.

I thought that the piezos on my Mojo Nitefly sounded good, but these piezo pickups on the Fly Deluxe sound even sweeter. Newer Flys (refined models) and the Nitefly use the one-size-fits-all Fishman "Powerchip" and dispensed with the master volume and piezo tone control.
Here is the underside of the PCB. It's physically a lot larger than what is in the late model "refined" Flys, probably because at the time some of the active components were not available in an SMD package.
Here is a picture of the magnetic pickup selector switch. A lot of wires attach to this switch! The ribbon cables, while an interesting idea, have not proven to be 100% failsafe. Some people have had to rewire their Flys point-to-point to get rid of intermittent problems. The vast majority of the 1st generation Flys are still going strong, however.

As Parker Guitars claims, I have to agree that this really is the most advanced electric guitars ever put out into the market. They are built with amazing precision and the quality of the finish is impeccable. Unfortunately, the Parker Fly is really not as appreciated as it should be because people think it "looks funny" or ask "why does it have to be so weird looking?" I suppose when cars were first invented people asked the same sorts of questions, but I never hear people talking like that about cars these days (but I personally think a lot of cars are weird looking these days). As far as I am concerned, Ken Parker is correct in stating that guitar players are ridiculously traditional when it comes to guitars and prefer to play 50+ year old designs which are hard to play, unreliable and very imprecisely manufactured. And it's still an uphill battle for the Parker Fly to be accepted even nearly 20 years after its introduction into the guitar world. In any case, I'm glad that I finally got my own Fly to play - no regrets whatsoever!

Pre-Refined Parker Fly PCB Layout

Parker Guitars Website

Parker Fly Patent Filed 1990

Parker Fly Patent Filed 1995

Parker Fly Deluxe Manual

Original Parker Fly Wiring Diagram

Parker Fly Flat Spring Specs

Original Parker Fly Ribbon Cable Diagram

Parker Fly Factory Video

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