Tracking down a Belew

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mmmguitar
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Tracking down a Belew

Post by mmmguitar » Wed May 20, 2020 1:23 am

Hi, all. I’ve been kicking tires on Reverb and eBay Fly listings for a few months, now. What I’ve come to realize is that nothing will scratch the itch like finding my white whale: An Adrian Belew sig. I’ve lusted for one ever since first seeing Adrian with a prototype, but was never able to justify dumping the money for four or five great guitars into the cost of one. The closest I’ve come was owning a tangerine Mojo with Sustainiac and GK3 (which I regret selling while thinning my collection several years ago). Owning more recent Variaxes and other 13 pin-Flys has, unfortunately, never filled the void.

If I recall, only a handful were ever produced. And I don’t recall EVER seeing a DF842AB outside the Parker site. Sadly, all I’ve been able to turn up, as far as leads, are some years-old Reverb listings.

Please, use this thread to discuss memories and insights to do with the Belew model and its history (Still miss Axel Rudich and all his helpfulness on the old forum).

For example: I recall Dennis Anesi confirming that the AB’s Variax components could actually still interface with the Line6 dongle and Monkey/Workbench software, so long as you plugged a female Ethernet jack Into the Variax board donated by Line 6 (a deal that I fear would never have been allowed following their acquisition by Yamaha).

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Re: Tracking down a Belew

Post by vjmanzo » Wed May 20, 2020 9:30 am

Hey @mmmguitar; my friend @Vince Genella has both versions of the Belew models that Parker made. They’re very cool! The Belewberry DF842 is a very comfortable guitar with very unique features, but, if I recall correctly, Vince spoke a few times with the technician at Parker who worked on these and, long story short: there were only a few of the Belew DF842 guitars produced...possibly even single digits.

On the original Belew signature Deluxe, the wiring configuration appears to be designed to meet the specific needs of Belew, so, while that configuration was cool, it was not something I’d want to use. The manual is in the manuals section.

Having said that, if you’re interest in entering the Halls of Mod-hallah, I can tell you that I have had Sustainiacs installed in three of my Flys, and I recall at least one forum member @dayn who experimented to some degree with transplanting Variax components from one guitar to another. Could be a cool project!
Fly Mojo '05, Fly Deluxe '07 w/Sustainiac, Fly Mojo '08 w/Sustainiac, Fly Concert '97, Fly Classic '03, Fly Deluxe '97, Fly Artist '10, Fly Deluxe Redwood '93, Fly Bass FB-4 '03, NiteFly NFV3 '97, Fly Mojo 12-string ‘11, Fly Concert ' 98, Fly Maple Custom '01, Fly Nylon '99, Fly Stealth '00 info

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Re: Tracking down a Belew

Post by mmmguitar » Wed May 20, 2020 5:30 pm

No doubt it would be quite the undertaking - Certainly more than I’d be willing to brave (I’d personally just build a guitar from scratch, at that point). I do recall Variax components being fit into a Nitefly (but not if it was Dayn), and I’m afraid my own past experience with Alan Hoover was unpleasant enough that I’d only ever buy another Sustainiac secondhand (whether in kit form or preinstalled in an axe).

I’m certain I’ll buy and sell other guitars in the meantime, but I’d still appreciate anyone with a lead on a Belew remembering me. A man can dream.

Another bit of trivia: Does anyone know if Hoover personally installed every Belew’s Sustainiac, or if Dennis or the boys at Buffalo Grove took over that part of the Frankensteining, at a point? I ask because both rear and front/direct-mounted Sustainiacs were clearly tried over the years, and I always wondered if it was strictly a consideration of drilling through the CF and 1/4” of wood in the neck pickup route.

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Re: Tracking down a Belew

Post by vjmanzo » Wed May 20, 2020 7:16 pm

@mmmguitar, I'll keep an eye out for one, but, of course, I'm sure I'd be wrestling it away from the very same folks on this forum! :lol:

FWIW--Alan Hoover installed two of my Sustainiacs and, while the work is good, I had a third installed by Patrick Cummings of iGuitarWorkshop who has been doing this installation for years without having to drill through the neck of the guitar. It's a very light route under the neck pickup cavity and then he sticks it there with heavy-duty 3M tape. Great reversible/non-destructive mod! Feel free to mention my name if you (or anyone) goes down this road. Patrick is a great guy and has all sorts of stories from his years as a tech at Gibson and with Brian Moore Guitars.

I wish I knew more about what the process was like working with Adrian on his signature model. I tried to arrange for him to come to our campus and give a lecture/concert when he toured the northeast a short while, but it didn't work out; definitely want to keep trying for that!
Fly Mojo '05, Fly Deluxe '07 w/Sustainiac, Fly Mojo '08 w/Sustainiac, Fly Concert '97, Fly Classic '03, Fly Deluxe '97, Fly Artist '10, Fly Deluxe Redwood '93, Fly Bass FB-4 '03, NiteFly NFV3 '97, Fly Mojo 12-string ‘11, Fly Concert ' 98, Fly Maple Custom '01, Fly Nylon '99, Fly Stealth '00 info

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Re: Tracking down a Belew

Post by jb63 » Mon May 25, 2020 9:58 pm

Probably won’t get you one, but:

http://www.instrumentpro.com/P-PARDFAB842.html
just plain lost

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Re: Tracking down a Belew

Post by jb63 » Mon May 25, 2020 10:15 pm

just plain lost

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Re: Tracking down a Belew

Post by vjmanzo » Tue May 26, 2020 1:06 am

jb63 wrote:
Mon May 25, 2020 9:58 pm
Probably won’t get you one, but:
http://www.instrumentpro.com/P-PARDFAB842.html
Hmmm...the footer caption “Copyright © 2003-2011” isn’t very comforting, but what the hay: take my credit info, old website! :lol:
Fly Mojo '05, Fly Deluxe '07 w/Sustainiac, Fly Mojo '08 w/Sustainiac, Fly Concert '97, Fly Classic '03, Fly Deluxe '97, Fly Artist '10, Fly Deluxe Redwood '93, Fly Bass FB-4 '03, NiteFly NFV3 '97, Fly Mojo 12-string ‘11, Fly Concert ' 98, Fly Maple Custom '01, Fly Nylon '99, Fly Stealth '00 info

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Re: Tracking down a Belew

Post by mmmguitar » Tue May 26, 2020 4:28 am

Thanks for the leads :lol:

I'm not holding my breath on one of these showing up for sale before a custom build I just started with another brand wraps up. At the very least, thinking about it took my black '96 with graphtech ghost kit off its dusty spot on the rack and put it back into my hands, again.

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Re: Tracking down a Belew

Post by jb63 » Tue May 26, 2020 11:34 am

I've spent a considerable amount of time attempting to scheme out building one, and the key components seem to be:

Minimal controls

Everything working going into the 13-pin out.

That last one's the kicker. But then the Variax stuff was just 1/4 out, so there's that.

Really, you just have to decide what you need, because I'm sure we've never needed ALL that stuff in the Belew model.

Plus, the fewer thing crammed INTO the guitar, the fewer things to break and leave you in a lurch. For me, as long as you can process the signal into the 13pin, then you can make patches with your V-guitar rig that will sound like anything. Alternately, DON'T use a 13-pin device and stick to the Variax stuff and most of the problems go away, leaving you with a lot of sounds.

Meanwhile, Instagram seems to believe that there are at least 20 different Belew Parkers out there, most in the hands of collectors that will never play them. Or at least not REALLY work ou what they can do.
just plain lost

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Re: Tracking down a Belew

Post by vjmanzo » Tue May 26, 2020 11:41 am

jb63 wrote:
Tue May 26, 2020 11:34 am
...most in the hands of collectors that will never play them.
Ugh!! I think this is true. :|
Fly Mojo '05, Fly Deluxe '07 w/Sustainiac, Fly Mojo '08 w/Sustainiac, Fly Concert '97, Fly Classic '03, Fly Deluxe '97, Fly Artist '10, Fly Deluxe Redwood '93, Fly Bass FB-4 '03, NiteFly NFV3 '97, Fly Mojo 12-string ‘11, Fly Concert ' 98, Fly Maple Custom '01, Fly Nylon '99, Fly Stealth '00 info

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Re: Tracking down a Belew

Post by rsdio » Tue May 26, 2020 3:03 pm

I nurtured an eBay search for the better part of a decade for every variation of spelling on the Adrian Belew Signature Fly name and model number. I never found one (or, if I did, I didn't have the money and conveniently put the painful memory out of my mind). It seems impossible, like you say.

In fact, the reason I now finally own my first (and second) Parker Fly is that I realized I would probably be waiting forever for that one specific guitar model. This shelter-in-place situation had me rethink the logic of going for all in one. I decided to let go of my usual "must have" requirements for a new guitar, and realized that just owning one of Ken Parker's designs was enough in itself. There is so much about a Parker Fly that makes it an exceptional guitar - even without the AB customizations.

I'm fascinated with 13-pin; have written some of my own hexaphonic synthesis plugin code (CoreAudio AudioUnit); and designed my own rack-mount 13-pin preamps (one with individual 1/4" output jacks and another with a DB25 TASCAM 8-channel connector). I really only want the Sustainiac on a guitar with a hexaphonic pickup. I hope to find a Parker Fly that has the Sustainiac and piezo bridge, or at least one that I wouldn't feel bad about modifying to add the Sustainiac. All I own now are pre-refined Parker Fly (Deluxe and Supreme), so I don't want to modify their bodies at all.

I'm thinking of buying some of the Cycfi Research products and attempting to design my own hex-sustainer. I might even design some on-board electronics to facilitate that. The next bit of research involves how to mount the Cycfi pickups without any permanent modifications to the Parker guitar. I'd probably want to replace the battery cover with a 13-pin jack - if there's room. That would remove the need for a battery and allow lots of interfacing options to external electronics (for the non-sustain aspects).

I personally see no need to have the Variax installed in the guitar. So, I agree with jb63. It seems like the same sound can be obtained with an external effect. The 13-pin wiring has enough signals for Up, Down, and CV (a voltage from a pot) - there's even a spare wire that gets used for different extensions. Seems like anyone who's a fan of the Variax could still have on-board control without on-board electronics. The preamp boards that I designed have these non-audio signals on jacks so I can patch them as needed. Personally, I'm not interested in digital modeling, but I can understand why it could be desired.

I guess you need to decide whether you want the full Adrian Belew model, or if a subset of features are all you really want.
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Re: Tracking down a Belew

Post by mmmguitar » Wed May 27, 2020 5:15 am

I'm glad to see this thread sparked some discussion. Being as the "kitchen sink" sentiments have come up:

I actually discussed the "what were you thinking?" aspects of the sig Fly with Adrian, in person, several years ago, following his surprise appearance at the Digitech/Harman room at the 2013 winter NAMM. The short version is that the brainstorming got a little out-of-hand, then had to be reined in with the final product and DF842AB.

Here's a longer version:

After having come around to the realization that he disliked putting the Fly down to play his customized Stratocasters, Adrian reached out about getting a custom Fly built with his preferred Strat mods (Sustainiac and GK-2A/13 pin-out). Parker Artist Relations replied that they'd love to make it the brand's first signature model. This led to Adrian (at the time also in love with the promise of the newly-released Line 6 Variax) asking if all three circuits could somehow be implemented into the typical Parker magnetic/piezo system.


I'm going to forego the bulk of the proper R&D history and instead focus on the narrowest aspects of how form dictated function: Due to the space constraints and "cluttered" look of the switch and knob-covered Mojo MIDI, an aesthetically clean, streamlined implementation (with those great automotive finishes) was decided upon as an eye-friendly alternative:

- Adrian personally didn't use the guitar-mounted pot or switches in the Roland GK kits (instead controlling each branching signal path of his rig with Roland volume pedals); so they were omitted. Forgoing the hex pickup in favor of utilizing the Fly's distinctive piezo bridge in feeding the Variax and 13 pin board was another purely-cosmetic consideration (For the unfamiliar: hexaphonic piezo setups necessarily exhibit crosstalk artifacts, versus the generally preferred and relatively stable performance of potted magnetic pickups such as the Roland GK and Fishman TriplePlay).

The choice to go all-in on the piezos ultimately led to RMC's elements and PolyDrive board being chosen over Fishman, following Adrian being advised that RMC had the least-troublesome crosstalk issues of the brands available at the time. An even greater reason was to do with the PolyDrive board pulling MVP duties with incorporating the combination of active and passive pickups, putting them in parallel with the EQ'd piezo signal, and separately bringing the piezo signals up to snuff in driving both the Variax circuitry and the outboard 13-pin synthesizer.

When I brought up Graphtech (which, by 2013, was clearly in line to be adopted as the go-to piezo and 13-pin tech for Parker, and had coincidentally just been adopted by the newly Yamaha-purchased Line 6 for use in the JTV-89F), Adrian was unacquainted with the brand. Sadly, we'll never know if or how subsequent Belew model revisions might have incorporated the Ghost system.

Something I never see noted is that, as of 2003, Roland synthesizers (which Adrian has used from 1979 to the present) began utilizing the previously-unused pin #9 in the cable to transmit mag/mix/synth selection commands. Had this functionality been implemented (rather than conspicuously omitted), the Variax component would have required either an addtional cable or battery for power. In fact, the proprietary breakout-box required for the guitar to work as intended necessarily outputs a 12-pin signal, for this reason.

- The software component of editing Variax sounds and tunings hadn't been released when Adrian was first sold on the tech; so the Variax RJ45 interface was omitted in lieu of the option of a TRS-carried external power source (required to isolate it from the Sustainiac's onboard 9-volt battery and the typical outboard-powered RMC hex board). In order to limit the amount of required cables connecting the guitar to outboard gear, a proprietary 13-pin-to-12-pin DC power supply brick adapted from the contemporary Line 6 TRS version that transmits power via the typically unused pin #9 was settled upon. This means that the guitar's Variax component only functions when two 13 pin cables and the powered breakout box are used in conjunction with a 13 pin-receiving device with an option to output the "direct"/magnetic guitar signal transmitted... but that doesn't depend upon pin #9 to do so. I didn't bother reviewing this bit of trivia with Adrian, as he'd glossed over the matter with "Axel found the ways to make it all work - The Parker guys just said 'You'll need these, too'."

As stated in a previous post, Dennis Anesi confirmed that the RJ45 connector was the only component required to restore full editing functionality to the guitar's Variax 1.0 tech. Furthermore, a dual-gang magnetic/Variax approach to the pots and selector switch (which would become standard in subsequent Variax iterations) was chosen, to minimize redundant or circuit-specific controls (such as the Variax on/off/bank knob). This meant that the Fly's magnetic and piezo pickup controls were necessarily constrained to the Variax 1.0 functionality of Master Volume, Master Tone, and 5-way pickup selection. As a consequence, the magnetic/piezo circuit sounds are limited to what Adrian deemed the five essential Fly sounds he sought to retain:
1. Sustainiac functioning as active neck single coil
2. neck+piezo RMC Polydrive preamp mono-output (with balance between the two only able to be affected via internal trim-pots)
3. piezo solo (interesting to note that the only way to hear the mono-output of the RMC PolyDrive's non-"13 pin waveform-optimized" EQ functionality on its own requires no fewer than two cables and a guitar synthesizer, in addition to switch position 3).
4. Dimarzio bridge humbucker+piezo
5. Dimarzio humbucker on its own, wired in parallel to 1/4" output jack and input of RMC PolyDrive preamp.

I always found it fascinating that the guitar has an output jack that essentially only exists to be used in the event that either every active component of the guitar fails, or that one has only a 1/4" cable and amp for equipment (in which the guitar volume cannot be affected, except by turning down the amp).

All this extra R&D, due to wanting the Variax included! And that's without even touching on the logistics of Parker and Line 6 arriving at such an arrangement (Adrian putting it succinctly: "I asked Line 6 for a huge favor, and they said 'Okay'").

- Adrian only engages the Sustainiac in an on/off capacity; at full "intensity." Hence, a single push/pull tone pot for engaging the Sustainer, combined with an ingenious end-of-travel detent to engage the octave-up mode, eliminated an additional switch or two from the face of the guitar. A 9-volt battery and on/off switch on the backplate were elegant ways of isolating the Sustainiac circuitry and minimizing the chance of squeals and other issues one risks encountering when running separate active circuits in the same guitar (something I've had first-hand experience contending with).

So when the guitar, for all its R&D hurdles, was finally and officially debuted as a purchasable product at the '09 winter NAMM... to say that it was a hard sell was an understatement: In addition to the lack of ease-of-use, mandatory outboard gear (of which only the proprietary component was included), and costing as much as 8 or 10 used Flys, Line 6 had already failed in marketing the original Variax line in the years between pitch and production of the Belew Fly; making its inclusion a source of puzzlement for many, rather than excitement. This was addressed when Parker attempted to course-correct the brand with the Dragon/MaXXFly:

The DF842AB was the bulk of Fly-related conversation I had with Adrian, that day: The takeaway was that he didn't care for it. By this time, the original Belew model had been quietly discontinued. This replacement - The flagship of the new line and shape- dropped the Variax component, while retaining the control scheme mandated by the Variax: Three knobs and a 5-way blade selector switch. The Variax on/off/bank knob had been replaced with a dedicated piezo volume, yet the guitar had fewer onboard switching options than the mainline Fly or DF842, due to the absence of the Magnetic/Mix/Piezo switch. Rather, the previous Belew signature's pickup selections remained; with the third knob essentially putting the previous iteration's trim pot functionality on the front of the guitar. This meant that, with the third knob turned to 0, position 3 on the selector switch would be silent and 2 and 4 redundant to 1 and 5. Additionally, the guitar now required two 9-volt batteries - Presumably due to the 1/4"-out allowing mag and piezo tones, I suppose? I was polite in not asking Adrian what the point of such a switching scheme was, but couldn't resist asking about the removal of the Variax functionality. He responded to several questions with one statement: "At the time, I wanted the Variax in the guitar because it was state-of-the-art; and I really wanted people to feel they had access to everything when they had that guitar. But I ended up never really using it, and I just play one of the new [JTV line] Variaxes when I want those sounds."

I also teased him somewhat by pointing out that I hadn't seen him leave his Arctic Silver prototype #3 at home in favor of touring the "new and improved" model - To which he just laughed, raised the Parker gigbag containing his prized #1 (kept on his back or at his side at all times following his demo of the Impossible Pedal a few minutes before), and replied "Parker already built me the perfect guitar. I do have a few new ones in a fretless version, that I'll be touring with Nine Inch Nails, though [His role in the tour sadly never came to fruition]."

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Re: Tracking down a Belew

Post by mmmguitar » Wed May 27, 2020 5:19 am

Oh, yeah - There was a guy making "RackVax" units prior to Line 6 discontinuing the 1.0 line. They were outboard Variax units that 13 pin-capable guitars could run through on their way into or in parallel with synths. Clunky as it was, it was still miles simpler than fitting a Variax-lite in parallel with the other gizmos under the hood of a Fly Deluxe.

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Re: Tracking down a Belew

Post by rsdio » Wed May 27, 2020 2:52 pm

Thank you!

Those are excellent notes.

I'll be back for further conversation, but just want some time to ingest all of the above...
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Re: Tracking down a Belew

Post by mmmguitar » Wed May 27, 2020 8:28 pm

I probably misremembered some details about the tech - After all, the 2013 NAMM was the last time I was that close to a DF842AB (I remember they had two, in Tangerine and Belewberry), and they weren’t letting anyone try out the Parkers.

Also, I’ve seen four original Belews (Tangerine, Arctic Silver, Lime Gold, and Dusty Black) and two Belewberry 842s come and go from eBay and Reverb, in the intervening years. My plan to scoop one up in the resale market dip when the brand went under was foiled by not being able to pass up my two current modded ‘96 and ‘97 Fly Deluxes that I scored for under a grand, each. When I consider that I’ve probably bought 10 grand in guitars and gear since 2015, it really fuels the sense that I’ve let the whale slip through my fingers. At least I’ve got plenty of other toys!

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Re: Tracking down a Belew

Post by vjmanzo » Wed May 27, 2020 9:34 pm

Great information, @mmmguitar! Thanks for sharing all of this.

I'll just share (somewhat unceremoniously) that one of my personal goals with the Fly Clone Project is for our lab to make Fly "shells": assembled but unfinished bodies with composite fretted-fretboards and exoskeleton attached and electronics cavities routed, but no potentiometer holes drilled or pickup cavities routed. I want to make those shells available for any of us that want to, then, have them finished however they want and wired up with whatever electronics they want...instead of us all hoping that a DF842 will miraculously surface on Reverb.

FYI: we are making great strides in creating/recreating the tooling and approaches needed to do this (despite COVID-19 limiting our efforts)! I’ll give a more detailed update at some point, but I’ll just say, briefly, now: to make Flys the way they were made in Wilmington is, to say the least, very challenging and very expensive. The Electric Guitar Innovation Lab is a research lab, so it doesn’t need to earn a profit in order for us to continue, for example, identifying the right epoxy to use for something, but, wow: I couldn’t imagine a business trying to sell Flys to turn a profit. This is not at all like building any other kind of instrument, and it’s not at all just a matter of having accurate CNC models. A year or so into this with some really smart folks around and Ken as a resource (he’s now an EGIL affiliate): I, personally, have a much better understanding of why no one else makes guitars like this.

Anyhow, sorry for the minor “thread hijack”!
Fly Mojo '05, Fly Deluxe '07 w/Sustainiac, Fly Mojo '08 w/Sustainiac, Fly Concert '97, Fly Classic '03, Fly Deluxe '97, Fly Artist '10, Fly Deluxe Redwood '93, Fly Bass FB-4 '03, NiteFly NFV3 '97, Fly Mojo 12-string ‘11, Fly Concert ' 98, Fly Maple Custom '01, Fly Nylon '99, Fly Stealth '00 info

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Re: Tracking down a Belew

Post by mmmguitar » Thu May 28, 2020 12:11 am

No worries. Being a small community, discussions will naturally digress in all sorts of friendly and helpful directions. I certainly didn’t intend to type a mini novel when I posted a thread about still wanting a Belew after all these years.

I echo your sentiments regarding the soundness of the past business model: The retreat from an economy-of-scale philosophy into essentially building Flys-to-order (while simultaneously trying to crack the budget-import market), combined with desperate price-hikes, didn’t exactly make the folding of the brand a surprise for those of us who’d watched USM and JAM flail in the course of failing to market the wacky guitar shape they’d bought to a public more-or-less content with ‘50s technology.

The ambition to demonstrate a lesson learned from the “Selling $10k guitars for $2k” problem is precisely why I’m enthusiastic about any degree to which the spirit of the Fly guitar can be resurrected by and made available to its biggest fans.

...

And...still no Belew listings on the usual sites!

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