The “butterbean”-style tuners are smooth and solid, and a carefully shaped bone nut guides the strings over a zero fret, which was chosen to both provide ideal string height over the first fret, and deliver a consistent sound between open and fretted notes. The guitar plays superbly, thanks to its low action and polished frets, and the intonation is tuneful over the entire span of the neck. The P8E’s body shape is interesting. The upper bout looks like a Breedlove’s, the oval soundhole is reminiscent of a Selmer’s, and the cutaway’s angled horn has an aura of B.C. Rich. It all works, though, and while the P8E doesn’t look particularly Parker-like, it definitely exudes a similarly strong visual identity.
Acoustically, the P8E sounds rich and balanced, offering taut lows, woody mids, and a sweet top end. It sustains well, too, and lends a singing quality to notes and chords. This is a fun guitar to play, and it sounds bigger and more three-dimensional than you might expect. Volume-wise, I’d put it somewhere between an OM and a dreadnought, and therefore well suited to situations where plugging in isn’t an option.
The Fishman electronics are well implemented and very easy to use. The Blend control is a key function, as it allows you to adjust the mix between the warmer magnetic and brighter piezo pickups. I tended to favor the mag pickup, as it doesn’t produce any harsh artifacts, and it sounded consistently good though Fishman and Genz-Benz acoustic amps, as well as a Fender Super Reverb and Blues Junior. The active Bass and Treble controls are very effective for dialing in everything from burnished jazz textures to lively fingerpicking tones to zingy rhythm sounds that can slice like a ginsu knife through the din of a band. The absence of a midrange control might seem odd to players used to typical acoustic-electrics (Taylor’s Expression System-equipped models notwithstanding), but you’re unlikely to need it, because the P8E is so evenly voiced. Seeking to nudge the guitar in a more electric direction, and make it a little easier to solo on, I replaced the factory’s phosphor bronze strings with a set of light-gauge flatwounds. This configuration—which yielded a tone that emphasized the upper mids while making the bottom a little lighter—worked well on a jazz-oriented gig, where the P8E exhibited excellent overall presence, minimal compression, and plenty of cutting power for rhythm and lead. The lightweight P8E tended to feedback pretty easily at modest volumes, however, and in higher dB applications you’d most certainly have to deploy some form of feedback suppression to keep the sound under control.
Overall, the P8E gets high marks for build quality, tone, and user friendliness. Its slim, fast neck is something electric players will certainly appreciate, and its compact body and generous cutaway make for a playing experience that’s as close to effortless as it gets. This is an instrument that could find a niche in many different stylistic scenarios, and it’s particularly well suited for live performance, courtesy of its dual-source pickup system and dedicated D.I. out—which makes it possible to connect simultaneously to your stage amp and the P.A.
Parker obviously put a lot of thought and care into designing a guitar that sounds equally great acoustically or amplified and has what it takes to satisfy hardcore acoustic cats and crossover types alike. All considered, the P8E is an impressive opening shot—one that will hopefully lead to more fine acoustic instruments from this forward-thinking company.
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