Parker Guitars P8E and P8E

Fresh designs from radical axe maker
Fresh designs from radical axe maker

A Parker acoustic? And a cyber-age single-cutaway? Yes, folks, it’s the 21st century, and the Parker guitar company is responding with new designs for a new era.

Of the two, the P8E steel-string acoustic will elicit the most “whoa” from the guitar public. Its shape is daring and distinctive – long a Parker hallmark. More than that, this acoustic has a simply stunning design – modern, yet balanced. This is definitely the kind of guitar Picasso would have grooved on.

The P8E has a solid Canadian cedar top with rosewood binding, and a solid flame-maple back and sides, again with rosewood binding. The P8E’s neck is mahogany (251/2″ scale) with a micro-dot inlaid, 19-fret ebony fingerboard and rosewood-capped headstock (the machine heads are Grover Sta-Tite 97 Series). Its neck is fast, and the generous cutaway allows for excellent access to the upper frets. The bridge is Parker’s “bass balanced” ebony with a bone saddle and, overall, the guitar weighs 4.5 pounds. You’ll also notice a zero fret, which Parker feels improves intonation and creates a more uniform tone between open and fretted notes.

For electronics, the guitar uses a combination of a Fishman hum-canceling magnetic pickup and an Acoustic Matrix piezo pickup under the saddle. A control knob allows the player to blend the two pickup systems together for the preferred tone. Other controls include active bass and treble boost/cut and a master volume on the face of the guitar. The small, grooved plastic knobs are easy to grab and adjust. Jacks include standard 1/4″ and XLR outs. Interestingly, you can run these outputs simultaneously to send your guitar signal to two different destinations, such as a P.A. and an acoustic amp. Cool idea.

Performance-wise, the P8E’s destiny is primarily as a live guitar, since its killer looks and electronic pickups seem geared for the stage. The unamplified output of the guitar isn’t incredibly loud, again reinforcing the notion that this acoustic is meant to be plugged in and used onstage. Still, the sound is very good for a “plug-in” acoustic (though for studio work, nothing still beats a mic’ed acoustic). If I could suggest any electronics to add on a future model, it’d be a mini-condenser mic mounted on the interior, which you could blend with the other pickups, which could add a more natural sound to the amplified signal.

While the P8E’s price is higher than what most of us expect from a Chinese-assembled guitar, it’s made at a factory known for turning out high-end acoustics and, indeed, the workmanship is stellar. The corners are clean, the abalone is exquisite, and the fingerboard and frets are nicely dressed. The guitar-buying public might simply need to adjust to a new reality that says, “Yes, you can get high-end axes from China.” Twenty-five years ago, a similar revelation transpired when guitarists realized that many axes from Japan (such as late-’70s Ibanez and early-’80s Tokai) were better than many U.S.-made guitars of the same era. Now China is stepping up to the plate, and you can see that quality in this Parker axe.

‘Nuf said. Now go check a P8E out for yourself. It’s another radical turn from a manufacturer from whom we expect to set the pace in guitar design.

PM-20 Pro
Yes, you might think of Parker’s PM-20 Pro solidbody as a “Les Parker,” at least in the looks department. Like the P8E, the PM-20 Pro electric has a very elegant, attractive body styling. Indeed, Parker seems to have a gift for finding the middle ground between radical design and ergonomic balance.

Otherwise, this Korea-made electric is as straightforward a guitar as Parker has ever created; it has a mahogany body, set neck (251/2″ scale) with an ebony fingerboard with 22 frets. Tuning machines are locking Sperzels, the nut is graphite, and the bridge is a TonePros through-the-body type. For humbuckers, there’s a Seymour Duncan Jazz in the neck and JB in the bridge, both with pull-out coil taps on the volume and tone knobs. Playing through both a Mesa/Boogie Rectifier tube preamp and Line 6 POD yielded excellent tones in both clean and crunchy situations. You won’t be disappointed.

The flamey, arched maple top again suggests a vintage Gibson, so the player who grabs this axe probably wants the best of both worlds – vintage style with a modern Parker vibe. I’d love to see a model with a whammy bar, but that’s just me.

Again, if you want a good-looking guitar with a solid rockin’ tone, the PM-20 is a contender for your chopsmanship. It’s a modern rethinking of the classic single-cutaway design and, in its class, achieves that goal. More than anything, though, it’s the guitar’s clean, classy appearance that most sways the heart. It’s a looker!

Parker P8E and PM-20 Pro
Price $1,999/$1,198.
Contact Parker Guitars, 444 E. Courtland Street, Mundelein, IL 60060, 800-877-6863;

This article originally appeared in VG‘s Oct. ’06 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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