HIFIMAN ANANDA

General Information

Efficient Planar Performance.

Ananda is the culmination of years of development, lightweight, ultra-fine planar drivers at their heart sing with unmatched agility and power sensitivity.

High sensitivity.
Allows use with virtually any smartphone or portable audio device. Low distortion and amazing sound quality.

NEO "supernano" Diaphragm (NsD).
"Hear what you have been missing".
The all new NsD is 80% thinner than previous designs resulting in a faster more detailed response while retaining lush musicality never before possible. At between 1 to 2 microns thick, the NsD diaphragm sets all be standards.

HiFiMan has advanced its manufacturing processes to create this all new planar driver at unheard of prices. The Ananda at $999 retail, HiFiMan has again set a all new bar for performance/value ratio that the rest of the industry will have a very hard following.

Window shade grill design.
Greatly reduces sonic reflections for clearer sound.

Asymmetrical ear cups.
Follows the natural shape of the human ear.

Hybrid headband design.
Ananda has a carefully designed weight dispersing strap allowing the headband to afford outstanding levels of long-term comfort. The sleek and sumptuous matte black finish is combined with a metal construction for maximum durability.

Making connections.
Ananda comes with our updated 3.5mm headphone connectors. This offers users the most robust headphone connector we have ever used giving both maximum survivability and enhanced longevity.

Unparalleled portable audio performance.
Ananda is the perfect companion for the portable devices, a sonic match made in heaven allowing you to experience sonic bliss wherever you may be.

Specifications.

Frequency response: 8 Hz - 55 kHz

Sensitivity: 103 dB

Impedance: 25 ohms

Weight: 14.07 ounces (399g)

Latest reviews

Pros: Lighter weight than some large planar headphones, comfortable for long listening sessions, large planar driver equates to large (tall) stage and almost electrostatic like presentation of sound (speed/size), fairly balanced presentation of sound, does scale with better gear, extends well, different than other similarly priced planars at this price point.
Cons: The worst stock cables of all time, does tend to sound overly compressed on lower quality gear, headband adjustment is useless unless you have a VERY large sized head, not as well extended on the top as others at this price.
I first would like to thank Hifiman for sending out this unit as part of the loaner tour program. I have had the pleasure of participating in a few of these types of programs with Hifiman, and prefer these types of programs to just sending out models to popular reviewers on YouTube.

I will be sharing my review as more of a first impression (3 days in) and will commit to changing any information below if warranted after my full time with the Ananda.

Packaging/Build
Well, Hifiman is still using the leatherette presentation box... which I guess is Ok. I don’t really have anything to add here other than the presentation box does a great job of keeping the headphones safe during transport. This is not something that I would ever use beyond shipping, but hey... you get something.

The Ananda is built about as well as any other Hifiman I have ever owned/used. It’s the same as the Sundara and the Jade II. I will say that this particular unit seems to be less squeaky than the Jade II that I used while on that loaner tour. I will add that I am not a huge fan of the new style of headband. The lack of swivel adjustment is not ideal, and while this has not been an issue for me, nor do I imagine that with drivers as large as the Ananda it being an issue for most people, it would be nice to have that as an option. I can say that the change on the yoke system from plastic to metal is a nice, as this should help to solve the issue of shattering plastics. I do wish that the support strap was made of a softer material, as I can imagine that people without hair on top of their heads would prefer something more comfortable on their head than a stiff band. The vertical adjustment for me was totally useless, as the headphone sat well on my head without any vertical adjustment, so if you are someone with a slightly smaller head... you may want to look elsewhere for your headphones. That’s a bit of a shame, as the sound these provide is quite special (more on this later). This was the same issue I had with the v2 version of Hifiman popular Edition X line. I don’t know who they are measuring for their headphones adjustments, but they must have truly massive heads.

The catheter tube cables are the absolute worst cables I have ever seen provided from any company. They feel cheaper than a $15 Amazon cable, and I do not understand who made the decision over at Hifiman to include these... that person needs to be removed from the QA/design team. I cannot express to you enough that the price of this headphone needs to be adjusted as you will most certainly be looking for another cable to use. I would recommend going to Heart Audio and spending your hard earned money with them for their interchanging system.

Initial Listening Gear
I used a variety of gear with the Ananda in the first 3 days, and Tidal as my streaming platform.

  • ifi micro iDSD (non-black version)
  • AudioQuest Dragonfly Black v1.5
  • Little Bear B4-X
  • AudioGD R-28
  • Bottlehead Crack (non-speedball w/upgraded caps and output stage)
  • Jolida Glass FX Tube DAC DSD
  • Aune x7s
  • Emotiva A-100
  • Apple lightning to 3.5mm dongle adapter
  • Earstudio es100


Gear Comparisons
I must preface this with the understanding that all of my listening impressions were done with the stock 3.5mm cable (un-balanced) that was provided, as I had long since sold my other headphones that have been terminated in dual 3.5mm connectors. I also listen at much lower listening volume than most. I average around 60db for listening with peaks hitting at 64db. I use dB Meter for iOS to measure these volumes. It’s probably not the most accurate way of measuring dB, but it’s used as a volume reference point for me.

I first started with the Ananda with the Apple 3.5mm adapter and quickly decided that this was not a good solution for these. The Ananda is rated at 25ohm with a sensitivity of 103dB/mW. While you can get these loud on the adapter... it’s not a pleasant sound. It was horribly narrow and flat sounding. It also had a strange way of sounding very harsh in the upper mids and treble.

After testing several different ‘portable’ solutions I landed on really liking the presentation of the AudioQuest v1.5 black in to the Little Bear B4-X. This setup provided ample stage, detail and dynamics. The ifi was a close second, and far more ‘portable’ of a solution, but lacked that extra texture that was provided by the Little Bear. I did try the ifi feeding the B4-X at one point, and while that sounded fantastic, it was a bit ridiculous of a setup for ‘portable’ or even as a ‘transportable’ setup. I have really enjoyed being able to take this setup to the office and using it throughout my day at work. Thankfully I work alone in my office, as the Ananda is in no way a closed, or even semi-closed headphone.

What I did notice quite well was that as I went up in my chain of gear... the Ananda responded by presenting more. The change from the Apple dongle to the es100 showed more detail and a wider presentation with greater dynamics. Similarly, the change from the es100 to the ifi micro iDSD was just more of everything.

The biggest difference in the jump came when I was able to run the Ananda on my modified Bottlehead Crack fed by the R-28 dac. That was a blissful combination. Spacious sound with amazing detail and extension.

The Ananda did a great job of being a transportable headphone along with a headphone that I could sit down with in my listening room for more long-term listening sessions.

Sound
Again, I must preference this part with an understanding that I am evaluating the Ananda on the way that it presents music to my ears for enjoyment. I don’t care about the accuracy, frequency response or other measurements... I listen to music for the enjoyment of the sound, and to me that comes down to how does the headphone make me feel when listening to the music. I will also provide my impressions based on the song and my preferred gear used for transportable and listening room (v1.5 DFB -> B4-X for transportable and R-28 -> Bottlehead Crack for listening room)

Dominique Fils-Aime - Feeling Good
Dominique has such a natural and textured voice that it’s easy to lose her sense of texture when a headphone struggles to reproduce a natural voice. The good news here is that the Ananda does an excellent job of delivering quality vocals for Dominique. There are stark differences in presentation for this track between the transportable rig vs. my listening room setup.

  • Transportable - Strong and close center image for her voice without a lot of reverberation or decay in her textured tones. Slightly thin sounding without a lot of body in the lower mid range. Excellent staging, if a little narrow, with the supporting vocals in the track.
  • Listening Room - Much wider presentation with plenty of air separating the main vocal track and the supporting vocals. Thick body in her voice with plenty of texture. This sounds glorious.

Cassandra Wilson - Strange Fruit
I absolutely love the way this track starts out with a solid bass line. the texture of that bass has to be reproduced correctly as the bass player pulls off the note and you can hear the player slap the finger board before starting the lick again. At the :13 mark the trumpet player quietly sneaks in to the mix far back on the left with a sustained note.Then at :18 there is some strange percussion hit that almost sounds like a random thin piece of metal, it‘s the guitar, but it’s strange. Cassandra comes in at :52 with her raspy, textured voice. Again, quite a difference between the two setups.

  • Transportable - impressive imaging and depth on this track. The trumpet sounds a good deal behind the main sounds in this track. The bass is slightly lacking in a full tone for a standing bass. Cassandra‘s voice is displayed well here with great texture and definition. I will say that the depth of her texture is slightly thin in the lower registers of what she’s hitting in this track.
  • Listening Room - Everything that the transportable setup was is just so much more here. The staging and depth is more, the standing bass is now full and impactful and her voice has been rounded out with the addition of that lower mid range that was slightly lacking. This track sounds massive and alive.

Melody Gardot - Amalia
This song starts out with a fun, if not Jack Johnson style, guitar line. The rest of the group comes in after a round and Melody starts in with some vocal work. This is a very relaxing song, but can become very muddy sounding if the headphone is not capable of staging the different elements well. The good news is that the Ananda again performs well at reproducing the correct instruments in their respective places.

  • Transportable - Slightly leaning towards a lean sound reproduction with speed in the bass (lacking a bit of impact on those sustained low notes). Melody’s voice is textured and breathy, the way it should be... but again, slightly lacking in the lower mid range to fill out her voice.
  • Listening Room - There it is. Ok, I am beginning to sense a trend here. The Ananda really likes to have power in reserves to be able to reproduce the dynamics to fill in the gaps where other gear may be lacking.

Overall, for my listening preferences (which is textured vocals) the Ananda performs extremely well at it’s price point. I find myself reaching for the Ananda far more in my listening room than other options I have available to me. Now, that could be down to the fact that I am on this loaner tour and find myself compelled to spend as much time as possible with it, but I would like to think that I would happily remove some of my current lineup for these. I have previously owned both the v1 and v2 version of the Edition X, and based on memory I can say that I prefer the Ananda for my listening preferences.

Now, if you’re wanting big and impactful bass I would recommend looking elsewhere. The Ananda reproduces what the is on the track and does not provide more than what is there. The Ananda is also slightly rolled off on the top, but in the best way possible. There was never a time in my initial listening that Ananda ever presented anything that was sibilant to me.

If these initial impressions are anything similar to what I will find over the coming week, then I am more than happy to recommend the Ananda for anyone looking for a large sounding, open and fast headphone at this price point. Is it perfect, no... but isn’t that a dumb question to be asking? If you’re in to the enjoyment of music reproduction... this is a good one depending on your use case. it shines with vocals and instruments, but if you’re wanting electronic reproduction look elsewhere.
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ppcx2
Isn't an OTL amplifier not recommended for planars because it can't provide a lot of current at low impedance? Does the upgraded caps and output stage help here?

I want to buy a tube amp but I don't think I would be too happy with hybrids, that of course don't have issues with planars. I was considering the little dot 1+ or the little bear b4-x because as hybrids they match well with Ananda, but if you got her to shine with the OTL crack I am interested how! Thanks for your review!
Olumm
Olumm
It's all about what your ears hear when you are listening. I couldn't care less about how something measures, I care about how it sounds when I play music. The crack I had was probably a horribly measuring amp with the Ananda, but to my ears it sounded wonderful.
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Pros: Neutral sound, bass extends fairly low, cohesiveness between the bass-mids-treble, really good detail retrieval, wonderful treble without ever becoming sibilant, plush angled pads providing nice comfort, lighter than most planars, sounds great on modest gear
Cons: Compression in the dynamics for certain songs, soundstage not as wide nor exhibiting similar depth as some of its competitors, headband adjustment being rather limited

First off, I have to give thanks to Hifiman for setting up this loaner tour for the Ananda. The only thing Hifiman requested from me, and from every other loanee, was an honest impression/review of this can. (EDIT: I wrote this review prior to purchasing a modded prototype HE-6, which unsurprisingly excels in almost every category over the Ananda.)

Packaging/Build Quality
:
The cans come in a nice sturdy box (leatherette?) befitting their price point. I am bit disappointed that there wasn't a balanced cable, but these cans are really efficient at 25 Ohms and 103dB/mW (more on that later). As for the cans themselves, the metal gimbals and the metal headband are sturdy and do the job. Like others stated elsewhere, I thought I was going to be concerned with the lack of swivel from the newest Hifiman headband, but the cans ended up fitting my head just fine due to the stock angled hybrid pads. The weight and the clamp force are just about perfect in my book.

The ratcheting adjustment system for the loaner unit was a little hit or miss. For example, the right side slides up and down fairly straightforwardly with the required amount of force for adjustment being just about right. The left side, however, was more difficult to slide due to the larger amount of force (far more than the right side) needed for adjustment. I don't know if this issue is simply isolated to the loaner unit, but it is rather annoying. As reported elsewhere, the paint of the inner sides of the arms of the earcups are stripped from previous adjustments.

Also in the loaner unit, I noticed a looser fitting of the left 3.5mm jack than the right 3.5mm jack into their respective connectors. This can lead to some static during playback if one gently swivels the left 3.5mm jack about for a bit. Left alone, thankfully I didn't notice any static in the left earcup during playback. After two weeks with these cans, my opinion of the sturdiness of the metal headband or the comfort of its swivel-less design has not changed all that much. There was a period of time where I wished that the cans did swivel about as I had to spend a little bit of extra time to find the right fit and comfort. Thankfully, the pads are soft and plush, and any comfort niggles fell by the wayside.

As for the included Neutrik-terminated 1/4" TRS cable, to be slightly charitable, I must say that I do not rate it too highly. Intertwined silver and copper wire strands are visible through the transparent tubing, with the tubing itself looking like it came from a hospital. Overall, the tubing is a bit stiff and is prone to flopping and twisting about. I saw elsewhere that it appears to be prone to kinks, but that hasn't happened to the one provided with the loaner unit. External microphonics appear to be on the negligible side since I did not notice much of any while using the stock cable for most of the loan period. Bottomline, they do the job despite being unwieldy to handle.

Sound:

Equipment:
Work: FLAC > Musicbee > Modi 3 > Magni 3
Home: FLAC > Musicbee > SDAC-B > THX AAA 789*
*I didn't find much difference when running the Ananda balanced (Gain 1) or single-ended (Gain 2) on the THX AAA 789.

One word popped in my mind when I first listened to these cans through my Schitt stack at work: neutrality. My opinion didn't change when I listened to these cans at home. As a testament to their efficiency, my volume knobs are about 10 o'clock on low gain (Magni 3) and 8 o'clock on higher gain (Magni 3; THX AAA 789 - second gain) using the stock TRS cable. Having just listened to the AKG K501 and its concert hall soundstage before the Ananda arrived, the soundstage of the Ananda was less wide in comparison upon initial listen and the sound didn't swirl around my head as much as they did in the AKG K501 (Shoji Yamashiro's "Kaneda" from Akira [Symphony Suite] - VDR-1532). Still, I am enjoying the Ananda so far and it has many things going for it over more specialist cans like the AKG K501. A further breakdown of the sound follows.

Bass

The planar bass of the Ananda is tight exhibiting little to no bloom and extends fairly low. While not as low as Hifiman's HE-500 and Audeze's LCD-2 rev. 1 (LCD2.1) (nor as texturized as the latter), the bass of the Ananda certainly extends far lower than the rolled-off bass of Sennheiser's HD6XX and AKG's K501. Still, the Ananda certainly does not exhibit the slam of the HE-500 and the LCD2.1, as Ananda's presentation is a bit softer than the latter two.

Mids

They are slightly more dipped in 1-2k than the HE500 and HD6XX (by ~2dB according to InnerFidelity and solderdude's measurements) but are still enjoyable the same, as the Ananda's mids tends to veer closer to a softer, more neutral presentation.

Treble

Probably my favorite part of the Ananda. The treble appears to be well-extended with a bit of air surrounding the instruments, not as much air as provided by the AKG K501 though. Thankfully, the Ananda avoids the nastiness of a 7k peak, which to my ears permits its treble to extend quite nicely without experiencing any overbearing sibilance. With respect to timbre, pianos can sound a bit hot with the Ananda. Detail retrieval definitely is better on the Ananda than on any other can that I own (EDIT: except for my recent purchase of an HE-6), sometimes to its own detriment (see below).

Soundstage

The soundstage is wider than the HD6XX but less so than the HE-500 and AKG K501. The Ananda's soundstage is definitely taller than the HE-500's. However, I have an issue when it comes to soundstage depth with regards to how "compressed" certain orchestral tracks, particularly older recordings, can sound. For example, in the opening measures of the third movement (Presto) of Beethoven's 7th Symphony conducted by Karajan (recorded in 1962), it seems that the strings and timpani are smushed together into a blob. My AKG K501 separates things out a little better in this regard, but it isn't a night and day difference with this old recording. Since the Ananda seems to push detail to the fore, it sometimes sounds like instruments in the mix for older or poorer recordings are pushed closer towards the ear thereby reducing any sense of soundstage depth. Still, I prefer the Ananda for classical music far more than the HD6XX, HE-500, and the LCD2.1. The Ananda, however, cannot unseat my can of choice for classical music: AKG K501 with its concert hall soundstage.

Overall

To me, the Ananda is a well-balanced headphone that can be the only one a person needs, as it handles most genres well. Despite it being more resolving than any headphone that I currently own (HE-6 coming in shortly however), the Ananda has a musical sound signature that isn't sterile or dry as other more technical cans. At $850, I believe it is a fair price for a highly efficient can that still sounds good on modest setups.
Pros: easy to drive, clean, spacious, detailed, very technical, well-extended presentation, also ticks a lot of other boxes like gaming and movies due to its staging qualities, sharp imaging, no basshead phone but no limpish pound and slam character either
Cons: dry, lacks a bit emotion, very stoic/"technical". cables don't reflect their MSRP 1000 Dollars really well
This review is a bit older (a few months) and at that time I owned the Gungnir Multibit B. The Edition X V2 was a friendly loaner.

The Hifiman Ananda is Hifiman’s entry model into their high end lineup sporting the NEO supernano diaphragm which supposedly is 80% thinner than the previous generation. Those who know and adore the very first generation might shudder in fear now as the thinner diaphragms which came by over time and replaced the old world also meant less tactility, physicality in transients and impact/slam. The first of the new generation were indeed softer in attacks, transients and didn't slam as well. They improved in other areas like microdetail retrieval, headstaging, especially tallness but they were also mellower, less direct. Like a change of character or philosophy actually.

A few entries later the softness and roundness became less and less and with the Susvara almost reaches HE-6 levels of slam and tactility now (while beating it in every other area). The Susvara is my favorite headphone out of all headphones but unfortunately out of my reach budget-wise.


This little review highlights the differences to the Edition X V2 and is not a roundup comparison with all the gear I have. I would have loved to give detailled comparisons to the HD-650, HD 800 but I'm short on time nfortunately and not used to write reviews.

COMPARISON TO THE HEX V2:

TL;DR

Choose Ananda for technical superiority (microdetails, driver control, speed (attack, decay), better clarity, sharper staging, imaging) and leaner sounding more "linear" character, but accept a slight peak in the treble around 8khz which might irritate a few people.

Generally Ananda bests the Edition X V2 in technicalities but is drier and more stoic. The Edition X V2 counters with romanticism and character.

Choose HEX V2 for an "easier to handle" default tuning with overall more warmth, more low end presence, slightly thicker mids and smoother, mellower treble while being technically similarly competent, but definitely not equal. It's more "romantic" (the combination of above) than the Ananda and that is its big counter.

Hex V2 doesn't handle louder volumes as well as the Ananda though but don't expect Ananda to let you crank it up like a HE series oldschool Hifiman, which not only sustain much more power but are more dynamic as well and therefore also give you a better reason to crank it up. Ananda and Hex V2's compressed dynamics don't allow for the "startling effect" anyway. This startling effect describes the explosive power of the HE-6 to fire at you from total darkness, nothingness with a hail of supernovae. I'm exaggerating here but you might understand what I mean.



THE LONGER VERSION:

The Ananda is a bit different from the Edition X V2, sharing a new generation driver design called NEO supernano diaphragm which indeed brings a few improvements but comes in a slightly questionable housing/design.

I personally don't have any problem with the comfort or how they fit on my large head. Some might however as the cups actually don't move at all. I personally believe the lack of swivel isn't such a big deal as the pads rest easy. If your head is tiny there are Dekoni Nuggets which you can use on the headband to make your head appear taller. People did with the HEX V2.

SOUND:

The Ananda is more controlled, tighter, cleaner/clearer (more clarity), overall more linear sounding and slightly more detailed whereas the HEX v2 is "thicker" overall (also in the mids), has more low end (in volume, not in extension, Ananda goes as deep) but less in detail and control.

Bass

Don't expect the bass to rumble down low like a AH-D7000 or the TH-900, the character and tuning goes past the expectations of bassheads. It goes for accuracy, linearity over wow factor. Make no mistake though, it's not like the bass of the TH-900 isn't accurate in context. Not at all actually. The tuning is simply different. The TH-900 grows a lot in presence and rumble the lower you go, the Ananda goes for linearity and does extend pretty well but never goes for the thunder or the furious slam of the TH-900. It does not take away, it does not give but is still leaner in character. it maintains excellent control and details stand out. More so than the Hex V2 which brings us more volume down low and a tiny bit less control, adding to the overall warmer character but also adding to the bass presence.

The Edition X V2 is the more playful headphone here thanks to more low end. It doesn't impact harder though, the Ananda is slightly less soft here, is tighter and better controlled.

Mids of the Ananda are slightly forward just like the HEX V2 but due to its less thick overall (not thin) presentation and the superior cleanliness/clarity they have a more direct tone about them at times but the technical qualities actually rub voices a bit dry. This is where the Edition X V2 counters with more lushness and character, yet the emotion of voices which a HE-500 or HD 650 deliver should not be expected here either. Personally I love the HE-500's voices the most out of all headphones. Such a dreamy, emotional character which ascends above the technical superiority of other headphones.

The treble is less smooth with a peak around the 8Khz area and this might irritate a few people over time. Not in the same vein as the HD800 stock though (far from it). Extension itself is very good and goes very high. Air superiority is on the Ananda's side and certainly fits its overall character.

I'd like to consider the Ananda as the more tonally "correct" headphone in most areas but the compulsive striving for "correctness" and linearity makes it a bit too stoic at times. It's as if it wants to take control at all times and not let go and sharpens up top to emphasize its own character even more, it's actually overshooting. This sharpening stands out as this very peak I mentioned. That's where the Ananda's "in control" slightly loses its grip and its overall character certainly makes this peak stand out more. The Edition X V2 would definitely let this peak go more unnoticed if it had it.

We're not talking about Beyer, Ultrasone peak levels of course. I'm simply magnifying this part a lot to contrast the slight differences better.

Ananda does staging and imaging better than the Hex V2, cues in the "3D space" are easier to make out, traced and sharper drawn. It's certainly not due to its tuning alone but more founded in the improved drivers and how they maintain better control of the diaphragm.

I personally prefer these over the HeX V2 though as I'm not that sensitive towards the peak, meaning I'm ok with technical superiority and the leaner (but better controlled and detailed) low end, more "neutral" approach over the more agreeable treble tuning of the Hex V2 and its overall noticable drift towards warmth. A good sacrifice for me. If I want smoother and more warm, bloomy, dreamy I have the HE-500.

In the context of the philosophy of complementary headphones aka insanity such a verdict is easily spoken out of course. What if I only had to choose between the two and wasn't allowed any other headphone at all? I would go for long time listening, lushness and probably chose the Edition X V2.

Such a world doesn't exist for me though so I''d realistically be going for technicalities and a better fit in my collection.

All in all:

The Ananda improves upon the already improved Hex V2 in terms of overall technicalities. The HEX V1 had what many people called plasticky timbre and a certain softness in its attacks. The Ananda is still there somewhere or let's say not where I'd like it to be but trickle down is a thing so sooner or later we might enjoy a bit of Susvaras qualities in a similar design and price point. Give it a few years, maybe a hundred.

The Ananda is thus no total or absolute replacement for the oldschool HE series which have a certain "realness" in their tonality: harder transients and attacks, more "tactility" and especially macrodynamics.

Yet out of the box aka no modding and with not a lot of power to spare the Ananda reclaims space with great imaging, staging, details and genre, application compatibility.



setup: TIDAL -> Lynx AES -> Gungnir Multibit -> V281 (balanced out), Forza Audioworks Claire HPC MK II cable for each headphone
SilverEars
SilverEars
Spot on review, totally agree. If anybody is wondering what the differences are between the two. This review should give you a good idea.
bagwell359
bagwell359
Good review, lots of detail. IMO: Ananda lacks body, is bright, lacks harmonics, seems Solid State, appeals to people used to recorded music, I keep turning it down. HEX v2 has body, has lushness/harmonics, seems more tube like and organic, though it does lack dynamics and some details.

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