Monday, April 20, 2009

The Sonny Boy Amp

Suitcase amps for guitar and blues harp are not new. Back in the golden age of Chicago Blues there were a few examples of cool amps like this. The new Sonny Boy amp made by Chris Null here in Denver is not a toy, nor is it a nostalgic trinket. The Sonny Boy amp is the real deal with some mojo goin’ on.

Inside, the Sonny Boy amp is hand wired, point-to-point, with good quality components. The tubes are JJ Tesla, the speaker is an 8-inch Jensen. The circuit is a clone of a tweed Champ, creating about 5 watts of barky tone into a 4 ohm load.

The exterior is excellent quality. In these pictures I’ve placed my Fender Mississippi Saxophone case next to the Sonny Boy for reference. They appear to be exactly the same, perhaps built by the same manufacturer. The amp case is sturdy and very cool. The tweed on the case is not lacquered, a look I actually prefer.

How does it sound? In a word, Great! It’s a Champ clone, baby… If you like the sound of blues harp through a Champ (as I do) you’re gonna love the Sonny Boy.
Click here for a brief sound clip.

In the sound clip I’m playing the amp in Chris’ store, Gravity Music Gear, just as you see it in these pictures. I recorded it with a Zoom H4, playing a stock Hohner Special 20 harp through my bullet mic with a Shure CM element.

The speaker in the amp I played was a Jensen Mod, which sounded surprisingly good but just a tad bright. I suggested to Chris that harp players might prefer the smooth-coned Weber Signature ceramic 8, and he agreed to offer that option. The amp had a JJ Tesla ECC81 preamp tube, a 12AT7 variant, and it sounded good. I don’t generally care for the AT7 as a preamp tube, but it was a good match in the Sonny Boy. It was not peaky or shrill or overly prone to feedback.

While playing I did not hear any noise or buzzing from the hardware on the amp, such as the handle or clasps.

This amp is cool. In looks and tone it is pure vintage. You can wow ‘em with the look and style of this amp without sacrificing tone. And get this… The price point for the Sonny Boy amp is less than $600.00.

Here is the website for
Blues Luggage, the maker of the Sonny Boy Amp.


Blue said...

Very very very cool. If I had a random six hundred dollars lying around my home I would most definitely order one. Thanks for the post.

Anonymous said...

Interesting, I guess. Not sure why I wouldn't put the $600 or so into a Brian Purdy's Harpgear, a proven winner, with deeper cabinet fro better projection and tone, and every bit as "portable", incredibly deep and loud for its size, and dedicated line-out....but each to his own.

Rick Davis said...


The Harpgear HG2 is a very fine amp, one that I reccommend to all new players.

The Sonny Boy Amp is different, and it is not a dedicated harp amp such as the Harpgear. It's retro design and pure Champ heart make it worth a serious look by both harp players and guitarists.

Thanks for your comment.

Anonymous said...

Cool looking rig Rick!
Pretty nice sound too. I deal for jams and rehearsals, maybe even small gigs too.

Although I still prefer a HarpGear 5F1 myself.


Anonymous said...

How is your amp project with Bruce from Mission Amps coming along?
any news?

JasonRicci said...

Wow that thing rules!

JasonRicci said...

That thing rules!

JasonRicci said...

That Thing Rules!

JasonRicci said...

That thing rules!!

AirMojo said...

You know the lid in both this Sonny Boy amp and the Fender harp case serve no other function than to be just a lid...

So how cool would it be to be both an amp and a harmonica carrying case... and if only you could squeeze some room for a delay pedal too !

Sounds like a job for Hal Iwan, master of custom harmonica cases !!!

hawk said... looking to buy sonnyboy suitcase amp.