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K1000 Mega Meet In San Francisco -- 5/26/07 - Page 2

post #16 of 93

300 + 1000 = ???

First, a big "thank you" to Al for hosting such a great meet, doing all the logistics, bringing equipment on loan and just being so gamed for experimentation with his and loaner audio jewelry...
The equipment was first-rate. The EMM source works smoothly (if you don't hit the mute button by accident...) and it sounds great. The scary thing is that it's supposed to improve in a few hundred hours... We split the signal 3-way with a quick switch box project that I finished just the morning of the meeting (12:30 at night, that's officially the morning...) and equal interconnects to three amps of main interest. The Aleph 30 was the only amp fed directly from the EMM via the balanced output, using similar interconnects to the other three. Volume control for the Aleph was provided by the EMM and all other amps had integrated volume controls.
The planning was absolutely superb. The amps were running all the time and in close proximity, so we added three separate passive AC line filters to the mix. I usually like amps to run directly off the wall and plug all the digital source to a passive line filter, but this was a unique setup, so isolating the amps was a better way to go. I should note that there was no major sonic effect (that I could hear) due to these filters and they did their job quietly. In fact, given the big rack and all the headphone cables and interconnects, the setup worked very well with only minor glitches here and there. It's a dream rack, with plenty of access space on the back, and that cool Mega Max on the wall keeps an eye on what's going on in there...
The shootout idea started as the "clash of the 300B-based K-1000 amps". The representatives of the genre were the Moth Audio and Woo amps. There was space on the rack for Min's Zanden, which was sadly missed... Some "sad excuse" about a long weekend... One more amp didn't make it due to lack of wheels (or will, or both) but what we had on the rack was more than any audio fan's heart can take in a short one day span... You might see more gear at the big meets but you don't get the same listening environment and instant switching of headphones, which only a small local meet can provide.
The glass amps were joined by the popular Aleph 30, the Red Wine and two Dussun amps. The Red Wine 30 joined the party first. It's a cute little package compared to the glass amps and the Dussun brutes, but it weighs a ton! This digital amp is battery powered and these ain't no AA batteries... It was very quiet, but frankly it's hard to tell 60 Hz noise on the K1000. Perhaps other phones with a lot greater sensitivity might.
In any case, the batteries let this amp sing with pretty good dynamics and it had good resolution, which enabled up to tell differences between headphone wiring and cables. It is a good amp, but it was in the company of tough fellas. The neighbors above (Moth and Woo) edged it in smoothness and the Aleph and Dussun amps were more dynamic. The Red Wine was slightly more extended in the treble region than the Dussuns, but gave up a few points to the Aleph in that area. Comparing from (vague) memory, it's smoother than a Panasonic XR receiver (also a digital amp) and way more refined than the $29 T-amp... Tonal character is very similar to the 20W Tripath eval board with battery power: a tiny bit dry and no particular high bass impact. I prefer its more relaxed sound to the NuForce but it's slightly less dynamic and I heard it on K-1000 only, so all these impressions are just "thinking out loud". I sometimes think I shouldn't do that, but then I'll end up writing one line which won't be much fun reading...
Bob was more interested in trying the different headphone cables with his RW30, and you can sense the sad impression from Al's pic. This was a moment of truth, as the world started collapsing and despite all the people around, Bob found himself all alone (see pic), deserted by not only by his friends but also by virtual dollar bills flying out of his pocket... Left at the far away sunset were Bob, the K-1000 with SAA hard-wired cables and the trusty RW30. But here is the beauty of the RW30. If you are left out there in a desert scene with the sunset and all that and you have a K-1000, then the only thing that would power it is the RW30. No batteries - no fun!
So the bottom line for the Red Wine's Signature 30 is that it a fine amp for those with a compact K-1000 setup. It would fit right where most "real" headphone amps do on a desk or a (large) nightstand and it would drive these headphones with ease with sound quality that's not far behind the best of the best. Something you can't do with the Aleph or the Dussun...
Speaking of the Aleph, it is also rated at 30 watts but for some reason it felt a bit more extended and dynamic than the RW30. You can definitely tell it's a solid-state amp and you expect all the time to hear that treble extension turn into that harsh distortion - but it never does. This beast handles voltage clipping just like any good tube amp, and in many senses it's more like a tube amp than a solid-state. Its 30 watts may not be sufficient for some speakers, but it's a perfect match for the K-1000. The Aleph had a better bass than any other amp in the mix. The mids are not the glassy-smooth tube mids of the Moth and just a tad less "there" than the Woo, but the overall sound is quite impressive. Now we are scoring points - either way. If you like extreme clarity and detail and you play lots of rock and metal you may like the Aleph a lot. But like any scoring on points, the judging is very subjective and sometimes a bit odd. For me, with all that extension and detail - and I value both highly - the overall character of the Aleph's sound was not "relaxed". This is an exciting amp that will kick butt, just that after and hour I might be totally spent. You don't get the same feel on the Woo and you definitely can listen to the Moth forever. In this shootout, it became quite apparent to me. The glass amps just sound easier on the ears. The Woo amp is quite extended and in many respects was very close to the Aleph's sound, depending on which output tubes you use. Despite that, it was easy to listen through it for some time and I imagine (cause I haven't done it) that it would be the easier for a long listening session. Well, that just about covered the Woo amp in very few words... Just that words don't tell you much about how great it looks and feels. This was by far the most handsome amp on the rack. It's audio jewelry at its best, executed well in a two-chassis design and tastefully presented with all-aluminum panels and machined transformer covers. This is the seductive femme fatale of the meet... On the other side of the rack lied in great contrast an industrial piece of machinery in the form of the Moth amp. Al laughed at the term "industrial" and lifted the top cover, exposing the innards. It's actually a cleaner looking amp with an open chassis. Perhaps not as safe, but not an eye sore either!
But all that is only the visible tip of this iceberg. The Moth amp starts with a visual boredom, which transforms into a "cool" open-chassis, but all this goes away when you close your eyes and just listen. This is one hot amp!
It has a bigger although less detailed bass than the Woo and a tad less treble extension. It takes over an hour to warm up when the Woo takes way less time. It doesn't strike you as anything great at the first listen and it might take half a day to come to the conclusion that the Moth is not about a "wow factor" at all. If that's the only criteria then the Moth is a bad choice for any shootout. This amp is about taking your time to enjoy the music - all sorts of music. We started the day with the "usual" audiophile tracks, easy listening at best. At some point I asked for some rock or metal and I knew I could count on Neil or Leeav to produce something... And that was the real surprise of the amp shootout. The Moth amp, with what we assumed is an old-fashioned long beard granpa look, metamorphosed into a Dimebag-lookalike street-fight-ready brute with these magic musical traits! Whether it was the easier listening or rolling off what studio compressors could not, the Moth had the most "complete" rock sound of the bunch and it's hard to imagine how you'd top that with any other headphone setup. The big "rounder" bass was just perfect for meshing the bass notes and drum kicks with the howling guitars and raspy over-processed male vocals, definitely not what you'd expect from your typical 300B amp!!! Gloves were off and chairs were flying all over the bar...
I took a moment of rest and went back to the Woo. It was in the fight and it was doing a brilliant job at portraying details and clean tone. The Aleph was in support of the Woo, fighting for the same "cause"... Clearly two amps of very different philosophy but very similar sonic realities. They both leave a great impression. They are the Van Gogh and Cezane of the shootout, battling the enigmatic lizard-like Moth amp, which might look like a Sistine chapel heavenly but mighty boring picture, but in a split second it sheds off its dark clothing and metamorphoses into a mighty Dali monster.
Now you might ask, what's all that amp talk. What about the K-1000 cables? Ideally we should separate the two threads of this shootout and indeed that was possible. The impressions above take into consideration the different K-1000, which kept "moving" between amps. I think the only stock cables around were tried once in the Woo amp, which has several headphone jacks, including a 4-pin XLR. I listened too briefly to this one to tell.
The main interest in cable comparisons in this meet was the two hard-wired cables. Stefan's Audio Art has a great reputation. It is stiff, somewhat complicating the installation. No wonder not many offer that service and the manufacturer doesn't either. Not only that, but they are on a 3-month waiting list. So, are they worth the wait?
Moon's cables seem a lot more flexible where they enter the cans, but that's not a concern with them either. Moon will install them for you. A big advantage. No waiting (as of now, but they are new) - an even bigger advantage. They're rumored to incorporate silver wires and I believe the set we tried had silver or silver-plated termination as well. Silvery sound? Not at all.
In a basic quick listen to the Moon, brand new and only mildly burned-in, you could not detect any metallic sheen. These are not your typical silver cables. If I had to bet which is silver, I would have put money on the Stefan cables, not Moon's. Both cables produced a very respectable bass from the K-1000. Maybe that was the biggest highlight of the shootout. Nobody complained about bass-shy cans and not because there was no bass. All the amps in this shootout delivered what I believe is a decent bass level with recordings I know very well. Unless you are a Bassmania freak or one with hearing 10 dB down at one kilohertz, you should be happy with the bass response of either setup.
To me, the Moon sounded at first like the sonic clone of the Moth: slightly rounder, with more bass than treble. Based on that, you'd think that it would pair well with the brighter Woo or Pass amps and complement them quite well. Stefan's cables seem more extended and slightly leaner. I like that tonal balance, which is closer to what I call neutral. Logic says this cable would work well with the Moth.
Going back and forth between all these setups, it became more and more apparent that so many people waiting 3 months for the SAA cables can't be too wrong. Stefan's cables are just meant to be. They are the ideal soul mate of these brute cans. They are impossible to install and you lose a heartbeat or two in that procedure, but you gain all that back in the excitement when listening. If you're looking for a natural, extended and ruthlessly revealing tone, SAA has them for you, well, in 3 months... Nothing is perfect, you know...
Now, if you have a "real" solid-state amp, you know, one that goes slightly harsh here and there... And if you just started thinking that you don't need cables but more a leash to tame that beast... Aha! Here it is! The Moon cables are probably what you'd pick in that case.
Well, this was first and foremost a "300B driving K-1000" shootout, so does the logic about cable/amp matching above hold in regard to the Moth and Woo amps? Not really. I felt that the SAA cables produced a more natural balance with both 300B amps and with all types of music. I'd give them two thumbs up but darn, my thumbs would get really tired in a month or two - or three...
And the winners are... Frankly, any of these amps and cables sounded really great by itself. It comes to show the greatness of the K-1000. It might be very picky but it sure can shine with the right setup. It doesn't mean that you need an EMM source, but it helps... The amps and cables in this shootout represent a range of prices. They start at a notch above the typical headamp setup and range up to what many would consider a hefty budget for a speaker system. But if you are reading this and you are a true K-1000 groupie then you are already beyond "repair"... The damage was done already and you succumbed to the luxuries of headphone life and accepted the weakness of your wallet and the abuse your spouse may impose on you over your second (maybe first) love... For those who have seen the light but it was far away, this shootout lays it out clearly. Heaven is here, today. It has a price tag, but it won't take a second mortgage to acquire... And heaven is real sweet whichever way you look, even if your thing is Death Metal...
Yesterday's heaven was just that. Actually better than heaven: I don't think they serve that chicken pesto pizza with corn crust in the real place... So you knew you're not exactly there. That and the summer afternoon San Francisco "mist" that hits you in the face as you leave all that fun behind...
Thanks Al for a great day!
post #17 of 93
Darn!! sounded like a fun meet to have missed. Sorry folks, would have loved to have brought the zanden to add to the mix, but family calls and I had to be in LA this weekend.

Otherwise, believe me, I'd love any chance to spend more time with Al's emm labs.

Hmm...so, did the black dragons really sound that good?
Wondering whether I should just get my k1000s rewired now with them instead of waiting for the SAA cables to arrive?
post #18 of 93
Originally Posted by Ori View Post
This was a moment of truth, as the world started collapsing and despite all the people around, Bob found himself all alone (see pic), deserted by not only his friends but also by virtual dollar bills flying out of his pocket... Left at the far away sunset were Bob, the K-1000 with [TBD] hard-wired cables and the trusty RW30. But here is the beauty of the RW30. If you are left out there in a desert scene with the sunset and all that and you have a K-1000, then the only thing that would power it is the RW30. No batteries - no fun!
Wow! Ori's not just an engineer but a poet as well!

Nice write up.

Since Al is insisting that I write something about my impressions of the Sig 30 I'll just say Ori pretty much nailed it. The Sig 30 sits right in the middle of the amplifier continuum. Right between the glass and the transistors. Not a bad place to be.
post #19 of 93
Dude, Ori, would you mind going back to your post and breaking them into small paragraphs? I'd like to read what you said a little easier..

All right, I read it with my post-LASIK weary eyes

Ori, it seems to me K1000 with hard-wired Oritek X-2 cabling can't be too far away
post #20 of 93
Great to hear impressions from folks who know good gear, and have a variety of great gear on hand to compare in one controlled setting. Tough to duplicate for us mere mortals.

Al, I will gladly take my K's back -- I'm now in a small rental home waiting on my new house to be built, so it's tough to do any speaker listening when my wife's at home.

Reading between the lines (and a few not so subtle PMs) makes me realize I now need to budget for a set of X-2s. Damn, I just don't have extra cash in a wife approved budget for this cable -- yet how can I ever go forward without it? [Maybe I can drop the refrigerator or washer and dryer from the new house budget, huh???]

Al and Ori also indicate the bass with either hardwire was great. Hummmm, I just ordered an ACI Force XL because I was so spoiled by having the Vandersteen 2W sub. Only this time the ACI has adjustable frequency cut off, adjustable phase, and does not require a crossover for the K1000s (or my Hemps), so I am hoping to gain seemless integration and a more solid foundation for piano, acoustic bass, and the reverb that makes live recordings sound so real. Give me a week or two to get the sub -- and my K1000s back -- and I'll post more impression.

Thanks again guys. This is good s*#t!
post #21 of 93
Thanks to our gracious host Al for providing the venue and managing to assemble such an impressive collection of equipment focussed on the task at hand.

It is always fun to hang with such an enthusiastic and knowledgeable crowd.

Some additional photo's.

Al rockin' out

Bob and a hidden Al

Not just K1000's

On non K1000 related issues.
Thanks for the truly orgasmic pizza

Memorable meeting quote. The delicious irony of the quest for the perfect reproduction of ..... distortion when some "metal" was requested as the source track. Later qualified as "ah yes, but Only the original distortion, no more no less". indeed.

The external linear power supply for the SB3 was neat, and may indeed have been responsible for the improved bandwidth ... literally.

I was very impressed with the throughput of the AirPort Extreme - it is an 802.11n device that allowed us to effectively max out the network test plugin via the built in 802.11g wireless in the SB3's. Not just one, but two, simultaneously. I've read about other people reporting improved wireless coverage/performance/throughput when using 802.11g clients with 802.11n equipment - and here was demonstrable proof. This together with removing the bandwidth limiting on the client settings means you should be able to enjoy the SB3's to their fullest potential.

Once again thanks for hosting a great meet.
post #22 of 93
Originally Posted by Jon L View Post
Ori, it seems to me K1000 with hard-wired Oritek X-2 cabling can't be too far away
Ain't gonna happen, Jon... I already exceeded my cursing budget for the year installing one of the cables mentioned...
Sorry about the long write up. What can I say? The meet was just outrageous and Al's great pics just inspire poetry...
post #23 of 93
Those racks of gear look awesome. Great impressions too.
Glad to hear everyone enjoyed themselves.

btw. What did you guys feed to Ori? His impressions are kinda not very
Ori-like !!

Who brought the external linear power supply? I love mine!
Originally Posted by Grahame View Post
The external linear power supply for the SB3 was neat, and may indeed have been responsible for the improved bandwidth ... literally.
post #24 of 93
Looks awesome.
A whole meeting based around one headphone model (the K1000). Thats something special...
post #25 of 93
Originally Posted by bobcn View Post
The huge improvement Ori's interconnects bring to my Sig 30 setup was completely unexpected. Once again there goes my budget (Oritech X-2s aren't cheap). Also, I've decided to bite the bullet and go Equinox hardwired (with all of the cost, delays, and risk that involves). My earlier concerns about the performance of Equinox hardwire (from an experience at another meet) seem to have been misplaced....
I have been looking for the "right" IC for some time. Thanks for your impressions. I just ordered a pair of X2s interconnects from Ori to marry my EMM Labs and my Sig 30.
post #26 of 93
Originally Posted by tmarshl View Post
I have been looking for the "right" IC for some time. Thanks for your impressions. I just ordered a pair of X2s interconnects from Ori to marry my EMM Labs and my Sig 30.
I ordered X2 as well. Reports were too compelling to pass up.
post #27 of 93
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by utep10 View Post
Those racks of gear look awesome. Great impressions too.
Glad to hear everyone enjoyed themselves.

btw. What did you guys feed to Ori? His impressions are kinda not very
Ori-like !!

Who brought the external linear power supply? I love mine!

Corn meal crust pizza from Pizza Orgasmica, man. I think he was still feeling it when he wrote up his impressions.

Actually, Ori did such a great job that others are holding off. Leeav and Neil are still noticably absent, and I passed out last night so mine are on hold.

Plus, I'm sure more will be forthcoming after you come over this afternoon . . .

As for the Sigma 11 power supply, that is a gorgeous N_Maher creation that he made me for the cost of parts and shipping. Nice favor after I was drooling over the one he sent with Gene for the International Meet. Anyway, I have to make sure Nate pays attention to this because I was sure it was making a difference in the albeit too-short amount of listening time I had, but Saturday drove home a major benefit. Here's the story that Grahame mentioned above.

Grahame and Ric were troubleshooting my Squeeze network because certain songs wouldn't play and there was no obvious reason with an Airport Exteme network, etc. Anyway, Grahame figured out that bitrate limiting was set on the Squeezeboxes themselves (a holdover that I forgot from earlier wireless issues) so he reset both of my SB3s properly. He ran the network test plugin and the Extreme was pumping out the max bandwidth of 99-100% with the N_Maher PS in place. Then, with one on the linear PS and one on the crap switching "PS", Grahame ran the test for both simultaneously. Amazingly, both were way high but the linear PS signal was rock solid with a steady 98-99% while the other one was wavering up and down and always lower. We even switched the PS on the SB3s and the same result appeared.

Bottom line: the linear PS allows a cleaner digital signal without unnecessary dropping of bits (even though the lowest level was still way over the minimum for lossless files). Good to know, and thanks Nate!
post #28 of 93
Originally Posted by Voltron View Post
Have no fear, Kent, your new cable will rock your world! Is it a clear step up from stock? Funny question because yesterday the question was whether the SDv2 hardwire was the best they had heard the K1000 sound or whether the Equinox edged it on some setups. I am not trying to put words in peoples' mouths, especially because I hope they post plenty of impressions of their own, but I just want to assure you that it is a spectacular cable!

There certainly are differences, and I hope to shed more light on that when I finally get some more impressions into this thread, but there may be some areas where the SDv2 excels and some where the Equinox excels but they both cream any tail to stock combination out there. Including the tails made by SAA and Moon, which are very fine upgrades in themselves. The hardwire makes the most intense, most immediate difference to the K1000, and both of these (as well as the Mogami hardwire of JP#s that was at the Int'l) make the cans much more cohesive, balanced and natural sounding. Open cans become more open. Congestion that can impede those beautiful drivers is flushed away. The BASS enters the image in a big way.

OK, so I am slipping into impressions in what was intended to be my "thank-you" post, so I have to finish expressing my sincere gratitude for the many people who contributed to this epic K1000 event.

I am going to start with Jack Wu and Woo Audio because his long-term loaner of his WA-5 prototype loaner was the catalyst for this whole meet (as well as the stealth all-300B meet with foo_me's Zanden and my Moth a couple weeks ago -- more on that later). Jack's loan has made me doubt other purchases and wish that I could go back on others, but it certainly has allowed a lot of great comparisons in the Bay Area Head-Fi community. Finally, and assuming I can give it up, the WA-5 is heading next to Florida for the upcoming meet there. It will be good to get more detailed thoughts, also assuming some of the Floridians are sober (we're counting on you, Saint V!). Thanks Jack, it's been a blast to borrow your beauty.

Kent and Drew from Moon Audio are next for their very generous joint effort to get Kent's cans rewired and get them directly to me for the meet. That was above and beyond for the community and I know you are desparate to get them yourself and give them a listen. How many compulsive Head-Fiers out there would delay their satisfaction of a new item that was much-anticipated so that other Head-Fiers could paw them and listen before you ever even see them?! This effort provided a great opportunity to get head-to-head comparisons in a very controlled environment. So thank you Kent for volunteering and thank you Drew for making it possible by working your butt off to build the cable, hardwire it up, and burn it in all in a very short time span.

Drew gets another big thanks for the continued loan of numerous tail ends that were at the Int'l Meet. I listed them earlier but each of the Moon Audio cables were in use at this meet in numerous setups. After comparing them with the straight stock plugged into the Woo's K1000 jack, I have to say that they are all a big step up from stock -- duh! -- but the Black Dragon really had me. I think it was with the Aleph 30, which sounded better than I have ever heard it in this setup, but there was one time listening with the Black Dragon tail that made me really want a BD hardwire. Icarium had the same thought, and I will bet he will have one before the end of summer! Oops, impressions sneaking in again.

More thanks to another vendor who sent gear on his own initiative for the meet. My man Ping Gong of AAA Audio sent two very nice Dussun integrateds for the meet. They did not get the same level of attention as the other more popular K1000 options, but the DS99 is a very nice little amp and sounded very good with the K1000 and it is only $600. In K1000 terms that is a pretty budget solution, plus it will easily power speakers. The bigger V6i was maxxed out at about 2 on the volume, so it didn't allow a lot of room for listening. It is a very nice and very clean amp, but it doesn't seem like a real option for K1000s. Thanks Ping, and I will be sending back your amps as soon as I give the DS99 some more listening time!

Another quick thanks to Rob Fritz of Audio Art Cables. Rob sent me three pairs of his fine IC-3 interconnects for a trial use and for use at this meet. I really like these cables a lot and their budget pricing is amazing. $99 cables have no business sounding this good. I cannot wait to hear the IC-3 Special Edition that Rob is working on -- the pictures had me drooling so I hope the sound rivals the looks! Thanks Rob.

Ori of Oritek went out of his way to help out with this meet too. He provided four single-ended pairs of his great X-2 cables, and neilvg also brought the balanced X-2 that Ori recently spent 12 hours making. These cables were used much of the time, but the Audio Art cables also were used and compared to the X-2s. I have managed to hold onto one of Ori's X-2s for a little more comparing, but the impressions will be forthcoming from many in the thread. Ori also built the great little switchbox that even has a volume control limited to one of the three outputs for the Aleph 30. It seemed transparent and really allowed us to minimize outside influences. The ability to play the line-out from the EMM Labs gear simultaneously to all amps at once was great stuff. Ori even picked up utep10's K1000s and brought along a couple of power conditioners to maximize the clean setup.

Obviously, all of the members who broke up their precious setups and brought along their gear deserve some thanks as well. This would have been much less useful without the range of gear we had.

If I have forgotten anybody, I am sure I will remember while posting more and then I will just edit a bit here. It was a great community event and I hope the bigger community gets something out of it. So, have I mentioned that people need to post detailed impressions enough yet?! Get to posting and the rest of you K1000 devotees should ask questions to spur the discussion too!

So you guys moved K1000 room from Radisson to Voltrol's house. A fun move. Now I am reading Head-Fi more, try to get a pair of K1000.

Voltron, he is my man, who tells what ever he hears and feels.

Cheers… Ping
post #29 of 93
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by tyrion View Post
Very interested in hearing what you guys have to say. Now get to the post office.
Originally Posted by agile_one View Post
Al, Dan, Ori, Neil, Leav, Graham, and others .... what a great day you must have had. Thanks for the excellent pics and posts. Looking at them was almost like hanging with you guys again - good times.

Nice to see the Woo, and new AAA Audio gear, and nice to see Ori's X2's getting some props. I remember when I first got mine, and had the biggest (and honestly, only) WOW moment from changing IC's ever. They really are great cables.

WIll be tuned in here to hear the rest of the impressions from this amazing collection of gear.

A Tale of Two Floridas. The man from Miami, crass and self-centered. The man from Sarasota, a gentleman, friendly and supportive, and an afficianado of fine photography and fine gear. Truly sad that more Gene hasn't rubbed off on Mike in all their meets and pub crawls. Sad.

Yes, Mike I will be heading to the post office early in the week to assure that you get your time with My Precious, er, I mean, Jack's beautiful amp. I will not be sending my WE 300Bs but I know you folks have some options over there.

Thanks for checking in Gene. I know I will be watching the train wreck of the Tampa meet and will feel like I was hurtling toward the abyss with the rest of you.
post #30 of 93
My first double post...how weird.
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