Pre Refined Parker Fly

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Parker Fly Deluxe

US Music took over production of the Parker Fly in 2003-04 from Ken Parker (creator) who was coming off a defunct relationship with Korg USA.

The guitar was “refined” at this time and although the PR indicated that all the changes to the guitar were enhancements, even the casual observer could read between the lines. The moves were largely made to make the Parker Fly more production friendly. Or, in non-industry speak… less expensive to build. The simple fact that it cost more to build the Pre-Refined Fly leads many to the rather logical assumption that the Pre-Refined Fly is better. So, without further ado…

The Pre-Refined Fly vs. the Refined Fly


The Fly Deluxe has Dimarzio Gen2 HBs that are built especially for the Fly. These pickups come on both the original and refined Fly. The oldest Parkers (mid-90s or earlier) came with Dimarzio Gen1 HBs (no longer in production). Many prefer the Gen1s but they are getting somewhat hard to find.

With the Pre-Refined Fly and the and even the Refined Fly Deluxe/Classic (still in production) you are more or less stuck with the pickups you’ve got. You can find a boutique pickup builder or swap Gen1 to Gen2 if you like. Trying to get Dimarzio to build you a Fly pickup besides the Gen2 these days is basically impossible (we’ve tried).


Numerous cost-cutting measures (refinements) were applied to Fly construction in 2003. These include: smaller tension wheel (doesn’t show through body), removal of stereo/mono switch, removal of piezo tone knob, lighter weight trem parts and changed battery location. There are those who despise the Refined Fly and will give you a longer list. These are the main differences we have personally observed. • Piezo Tone Nob - This was a nice feature. It is usually pretty easy to EQ piezo tones off-board so it’s not a real game changer. Verdict: Pre-Refined Fly Wins. 

• Trem - Although the patented Parker trem system is used on Refined Fly guitars, some of the trem parts have changed OEMs since the brand was sold. Also the original hex trem arm was replaced with Fender style arm. We have tested both extensively and although Refined Fly trem is quite competitive the Pre-Refined Fly trem is clearly superior. Verdict: Pre-Refined Fly Wins. 

• Smaller Tension Wheel (doesn’t show through body) - This was not an altogether bad move. Using the original tension wheel to bring the guitar back to tune after releasing the trem lock never works as well as KP seemed to want it to. Even with dialed intonation you are left to spot tune with the pegs. Still better than using a tool right? Well, the good thing about not having a big strange wheel poking through the body of your guitar behind your bridge… random people are not compelled to play with it. 

• Stereo Switch - Replaced with “smart” stereo jack that senses signal. This has always worked fine for us. 

• Truss Rod - The Refined Fly has what most would refer to as a conventional truss rod. The Pre-Refined Fly uses heavy gauge Piano Wire. This makes it a tad lighter but (call us old fashion) we prefer the conventional truss rod. Ever heard the piano wire twang when adjusting the rod on a Pre-Refined Fly? It’s kinda scary. Verdict: Refined Fly Wins 

• Battery Location - The Refined Fly has the battery compartment (for Fishman preamp) built into the backplate. This means that the backplate has wires that are soldered to the electronics. This makes taking off the backplate a somewhat delicate procedure. There is a mod for this… but still. The Pre-Refined Fly has a seperate cavity for the battery. This is way better. Verdict: Pre-Refined Fly Wins 


OK so they made the Fly cheaper in 2003. The electronics obviously suffered right? Not so fast. 

• Fishman Preamp - There are many that agree that the original preamp clearly sounds best. We are not among the believers. There is a subtle difference perhaps but it is not night and day. At any rate, the preamp in the Refined Fly benefits mightily from being in current production and therefore available for quick, easy replacement if it fails. Verdict: Refined Fly Wins 

• Wiring - We strongly prefer the point-to-point wiring in the Refined Fly. Much more mod friendly guitars. Verdict: Refined Fly Wins 

• Pots and Switches - The pots and switches were better in the Pre-Refined Fly. It is as simple as that. This is a source of much complaint from Parker customers. The bright side: Pots and switches are cheap to replace. They also have been known to break on other guitars. Verdict: Pre-Refined Fly Wins.

Neck and frets

Some of the newer guitars being built USM using the Fly name are using traditional fretboards as opposed to the composite fiber boards that Parker is famous for. The base Fly line still has outstanding necks today, same boards, same stainless steel frets, just like they always have. If you’re buying a bolt-on DragonFly (er, MaxxFly) then it might be a different story. If you want an original Parker neck be sure to check this detail before purchasing a new Fly. Verdict: Tie


Parkers have always had cool finishes. In an effort to increase the popularity of the Fly US Music has offered a huge array of finish options (and body woods) that were simply not available before. Many of these are limited runs (Koa, Silverburst, 4 Seasons) and others have stayed in production (Tangerine, Lime Gold, Figured Maple). We like almost all Fly finishes, new and old. However, based on the awesome variety of new finishes available in recent years… Verdict: Refined Fly Wins

Vintage Value

Since the Fly debuted in 1993, there is no real vintage market for these instruments yet. However (as history has taught us) that market will exist eventually. We doubt it will be much like the “Golden Age” of Fender and Gibson but there will come a time when a original, Pre-Refined Fly starts to acquire some vintage value. As we all know, in the vintage market older/original is pretty much always better. Verdict: Pre-Refined Fly Wins

Serial No. 086048 BP USA



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