Tuesday, June 8, 2010


My blog post about boutique harp amps as investments has created quite a firestorm out there in the online blues harp community. Gary Onofrio of Sonny Jr amps has this blurb on the front page of his website:

Sonny Jr. Harp Amps are an investment that retain their value year after year

As I pointed out in the previous blog post, Gary’s claim is not supported by any data I can find. In fact, it is clearly contradicted by a quick look at eBay transactions.

When I published this observation the reaction was funny. Owners of “Sonny Jr.” amps rose up with one voice and attacked me for having a bias or motive or agenda behind this. It was one of the clearest examples of the
ad hominem fallacy that I have seen.

“Arguments of this kind focus not on the evidence for a view but on the character of the person advancing it; they seek to discredit positions by discrediting those who hold them. It is always important to attack arguments, rather than arguers, and this is where arguments that commit the ad hominem fallacy fall down.”
It’s the kind of argument you get from 12-year olds or drunk sports fans. It is a dodge to avoid being forced to defend a clearly false statement, so they change the subject by attacking the messenger. It is weak.

I got a hilarious email from a guy who is very well known in the amped blues harp community whose argument was ENTIRELY based on my alleged bias or motive. Another person yawped that other boutique amps decrease in value, seemingly missing the main point that none of those other amp makers claim their products retain their value. Not a single person has tried to persuade me that Gary's claim is true, they just attack me for having questioned it.

I am not attacking Gary Onofrio’s amps (they are very good), nor am I attacking Gary. I am presenting an argument that his claim is false.
Here is an open letter to Gary Onofrio:


Several times you have contacted me and asked me to take down things on this blog which you thought were untrue or unfair, or which you simply disliked. I complied with your requests every time.

Now I am asking you to take down your claim that your amps are investments that retain their value year after year. It is demonstrably untrue and false. If you have any sense of duty to the truth, you will delete it. It reminds me of the worst kinds of phony ad hype, and it besmirches your fine amps with a cheap hucksterism not necessary to sell them.


-Rick Davis


Big Ernie Fuller said...

Unfortunately, Rick, this is the kind of stuff that happens, especially now that you've given your endorsement to Mission's new harp amp. Other amp makers will accuse you of knocking their amp's investment potential as a way of subtly promoting a new product. However, minimal research will indicate that your conclusions about the value of boutique amps (as well as standard production amps) is pretty much right.

I agree whole heartedly, primarily as a result of experience, that there is little that can be purchased brand new that will not depreciate to some degree. That's one reason why I, like so many other musicians of modest means, have to look past the the new harp-centric amps now on the market (as great sounding as they are) and look for a deal on a used one.

Rick Davis said...

Ernie, I'm not knocking the investment potential of any amp. Heck, the value of a Mission Chicago amp will likely fall as soon as you buy it, just like any other.

What I did was question the veracity of claims that any new amp will retain its value. None will, unless it is a collectible old vintage amp.

And about the Mission Chicago amp... yes, I am very enthusiastic about it. I don't just endorse it, I had a lot to do with designing it and engineering its particular tone. It sounds great.

Sonny Jr amps sound great too! So do Brian Purdy's amps at Harpgear and Scooters amps from Meteor. The list goes on: Victoria amps, Tungsten amps, Fat Dog amps, etc; they all sound good.

Big Ernie Fuller said...

Don't get me wrong, I appreciate that you weren't trying to put down anyone else's amps as potential investments or otherwise. And it's great that you have an amp you love in the Mission Chicago. I'm merely pointing out that much of the ad hominem attacks you've received from your last post could be the result of your endorsement of a "new kid on the block" in the harp amp market.

One of the cool things you do on this blog is show us what's new in the amplified harp world. Questioning the investment possibilities of boutique amps shouldn't be cause for makers or owners of those amps to go on the defensive.