Munich High-End 2023 Impressions Thread (May 18-21)
May 23, 2023 at 8:59 AM Post #31 of 61
This was a fun way to end the show! Vid coming soon.....


That first photo is disturbing. Did they clean the headphone thoroughly of hair product / oils before the next wearer? Not a hypochondriac at all, but I did not need this imagine in my head before my first CanJam. :)
May 23, 2023 at 11:44 AM Post #32 of 61
I went to HighEnd as well on Saturday and Sunday and listened to some gear that I was interested in. The exhibition halls were unfortunately loud enough to make critical listening almost impossible. But still some general ideas could be gleaned and at the very least I could decide what items I would like to listen to again.

Not having taken any notes I'll just go though the equipment as I remember.

dCS full stack
I tried the dCS full stack both with the HEDD and the Susvara in a little cabin they had setup. Owning an Abyss 1266TC it was really hard to judge the stack. I thought the HEDD was a bit too elevated in the bass and low mids for my personal taste. Trying the Susvara I was positively surprised since when I listened to the Susvara at home with my Linn Selekt DSM streamer and Niimbus US5 Pro I thought it was a bit too much in the lower mids. People call it lush but it doesn't do it for me. With the dCS stack in still fairly noisy environment I thought the Susvara was more enjoyable.

Raal CA-1A
I tried the CA-1A with the fully closed earpads and I thought they had way more bass than I was expecting. Definitely more than enough for me. It sounded fine to me otherwise but that booth was among the loudest in the entire exhibition.

Sennheiser HE-1
If nothing else the HE-1 is a great showpiece with the marble amp and the moving lid, tubes and knobs. Unfortunately Sennheiser had set it up in a way that two headphones were being fed by the same amp. That is not an issue in itself but the listening volume was way higher than my comfort level. Even under show conditions it was too high for me. Given the circumstances I still thought it sounded great. Definitely worth a listen.

This was a big surprise for me at the show. Tom from Audioessence whom I met on Saturday to test some IEMs made this recommendation to me to check out this planar for myself. The booth itself was from Kallyste which was an unknown brand to me that was showing off their amps. As far as understood Tom creator of the Camerton is an Ukrainian that lives in Berlin and worked for a long time to create a full size planar headphone. I tested it directly out of my SP3000 and it managed to be loud enough but I am confident that it would sound better with proper amplification. Even with the noise and the suboptimal source I thought it sounded great. It made enough of an impression that I'm planing to visit the company the next time I'm in Berlin and I'll even bring my Audeze and Niimbus to properly compare.

DCA Corina
Having no experience with estats and reading the general impressions of people of estats vs planars vs dynamics I wasn't quite sure what I was expecting. Being someone that listens closer to reference I thought it was great. Nice bass, not to much but also not too little. And all through the frequency range it was just pleasant. I thought it was working just fine with some Hard Rock and Metal just as it was working fine with an orchestral piece and pop. But again without A/B comparison and the showroom noise I think it's hard to say exactly how good it is for me personally. But worth checking out further.

Abyss Diana MR
It was fine but without a use case for me to fit it and the noise floor being so loud I really wasn't very impressed.

Abyss Diana TC
This one I wanted to hear before I bought the 1266 TC but couldn't manage. Under the circumstances of the show room floor even in a booth it sounded fine but soundstage wasn't as impressive as the 1266 TC. I think this one could be interesting for me if I could listen to it in peace and compare it to the 1266.

Audeze LCD-5
I didn't think this was fit my preferences but I was surprised how right I was with that. Owning an original LCD-2 I had an idea what to expect from the Audeze house sound but this was different than what I expected. With the noise what was most apparent to me was that it was flatter than other Audeze that I heard but still emphasized. What ended up being a no go for me was that the soundstage was very small and it sounded compressed. Also there was something tinny about the sound. Certainly not for me.

Audeze Maxwell
I hadn't really thought about the Maxwell for a while since the main use case that I would have for it is as a work headset and that would only fly with our corporate IT if the Maxwell had Teams certification. Surprisingly I was informed that the Maxwell does have Teams certification now and that this is in fact the only way that Audeze managed to get it to even work with Teams. As such I'm considering as an option. For music it would be too bass heavy for my taste but for telephone conferences and use with a PS5 and Xbox I think it would do just fine. I was invited to check out their Atmos demo with it and it was fine enough. For the intended use case it's better than anything my corporation offers but it's obviously no challenge for a proper full size headphone.

VE/AK Aura
This might have been the first IEM that I tested at HighEnd. It sounds fine but the bass was way too much for my taste so I didn't need to listen much longer than a few dozen seconds. It looks great and if you like elevated bass this might be worth checking out. Unfortunately not for me.

CFA Trifecta
This is the first time I've come into contact with CFA IEMs so I really had very little idea what to expect. I had talked with Tom the day before about CFA and he wasn't a fan. Honestly I agree with him on the Trifecta. It was a bloated mess IMHO. Now the noise floor outside didn't help especially with foam tips but this one is not for me. Someone said they wouldn't pay 300$ for this. Not to mention the 3000$ asking price.

CFA Supermoon
After the hype on Head-Fi I was wondering if this one might have been way overhyped. But I have to admit it's a fine IEM. I liked the entire presentation. I'm assuming the bass is still elevated but under the circumstances it sounded great. Considering this is a 1000$ IEM it's punching way above its weight.

Tom was nice enough to bring some equipment with him for testing so we met in the Ameron Motorhome or whatever it's called on the other side of the street and I got to check out the Cayin N7, Brise Audio Tsuranagi, UM Multiverse Mentor, Oriolus Traillii, Noble Ronin and Ragnar.

Cayin N7
Can't really say much except it isn't really for me. It had more power than my SP3000 but also not the same black background. Also to me it sounded like it wasn't really transparent. Definitely dark sounding.

Brise Audio Tsuranagi
Sounds great, plenty of power, elevates the sound of IEMs and gives them everything to sound their best. I'm considering it but I don't know if I have a use case for it. Maybe using it at work when I'm in the office but I'm not sure if I listen to enough music there to justify it. If I had a use case I would probably buy it.

UM Multiverse Mentor
Too elevated both in bass and even more egregiously the lower mids for my taste. Also I didn't like the soundstage and imaging. I prefer my Jewel tbh.

Oriolus Traillii
Great IEM. I understand why it is so well beloved. Fantastic balance, nice staging, even thought it had unexpected good bass for a BA bass. I still prefered the Jewel because it's DD bass a bit better note weight IMHO.

Noble Ronin
Also a great IEM with a nice tonal balance. My issues with this one were the huge size which made it not a great fit for my ears and something about the soundstage that didn't quite do it for me. Comfort is the primary issue here. I do understand why people love it.

Noble Ragnar
This one was a little bit too light on the bass for me. It got better when I ramped up volume but while the bass was fine then it was above my comfortable listening level. So in order to have sound that I like I would have to live with head and ear aches. That really doesn't work for me. Also while this IEM is less large than the Ronin it has a bump towards the stem that made it uncomfortable to wear. Again not bad and I understand why people love it but not for me.

While chatting with Tom he mentioned that the Subtonic Storm might be a bit too bass heavy for my taste according to what he has heard how it sounds. He was anticipating the EE Raven and the Traillii 2 though. His concern seemed to be that EE might emphasise the bass too much in the Raven and that the Traillii 2 might have so much expectations on it that it might not be able to hit that expectation. I'm still excited at the prospect of new TOTL IEMs that might just fit a bit better to my taste and comfort. I guess we'll see. I hope that Oriolius manages to hit it out of the park and doesn't bungle the DD implementation or the price. It should definitely be lower than the what 7k + taxes that the Traillii currently costs.
May 23, 2023 at 3:54 PM Post #34 of 61
I went to HighEnd as well on Saturday and Sunday...
To each their own, but your comments really make me wonder if your ideal headphone rolls off under 2k. And how exactly did Senneheiser set up the HE-1 so that the same amp fed two headphones? Not intended for this system and not something i would expect the Sennheiser guys to try. Are you sure you aren't mixing this up with sth else?
May 23, 2023 at 5:45 PM Post #35 of 61
And how exactly did Senneheiser set up the HE-1 so that the same amp fed two headphones? Not intended for this system and not something i would expect the Sennheiser guys to try. Are you sure you aren't mixing this up with sth else?
I don't know what they exactly did. The second cable did run behind the amp so maybe plugged it into the back of the amp? Both headphones were definitely connected to the same amp since another guy and I both had to adjust volume for both headphones with the same volume knob.

I know what the HE-1 looks like not to mention the Sennheiser guys explicitely said it was the HE-1.

I'd reckon the other guys that heard the HE-1 can confirm the setup.
May 23, 2023 at 7:15 PM Post #36 of 61
ThanatosVIs Munich High End Impressions:

This year I spontaneously decided to visit the Munich high end with my brother. Knowing this would be my first hifi show ever, I was pretty excited to audition all that new gear and finally meet some of the cool guys, that put their sould and heart into developing all these headphones, amplifiers and DACs.
General thoughts:
The Munich High end setup was huge. 4 halls and at least as many atriums on top, all full with gear. There was an expected noise floor, but not as bad as I initially thought. It was still easy to talk to each other. For the auditions there also were several rooms that provided a semi-silent environment that actually enabled one to audition gear and get something out of it. It certainly seemed better in that regard, than I expected from all the CanJam show impressions I read.
It still was overall rather loud, which means that I auditioned gear way louder than I normally would listen to. This also showed me that I'm apparently not that hard of a basshead than I initially expected. Usually I apply a hefty bass EQ on my gear (~10db) at the show I needed no bass EQ at all and was impressed by how much bass I heard, to the point where I checked the players if there wasn't any activated EQ on several occasions.
Usually the listening time with a single item wasn't longer than 5 minutes, so my impressions can't go into much detail in most cases. Show conditions aren't ideal so if some of my impressions sound harsh, I apologize.

So here my impressions of the different gear:

Audeze LCD-5
I could audition the LCD-5 at the full Holo chain. Holo May + Holo Bliss.
It sounded rather thin to my ears, with closed in stage and didn't captivate me at all. It was pretty sad to see how far it is from the old Audeze house sound.
Certainly not my taste.
Audeze LCD-2F
Right beneath the LCD-5 there was also a 2F, this one has the classic sound signature. Solid, smooth, engaging. Great headphones.
Certainly among the best at their price point, and absolutely enjoyable no matter the price. I'd pick these over the LCD-5 any day of the week, even if the price tags were swapped.
Final D8k Pro
Having read so much good about the Finals, and even a few users switching from the Elite to the D8k Pro I had quite the expecations. However they didn't fullfill those high expectations. While they were certainly good sounding. Crisp, good bass, very detailed. They didn't seem to do anything better than the Elite at all. Imo a clear notch below the Elite. Both sonically as well as in terms of comfort.
Warwick Bravura & Arperio
At the Warwick room they had 2 setups of the Arperios and 2 of the Bravura. The guys were very kind and nice to talk to, while I was waiting for the setups to be free.
They offer good comfort, amazing detail, clarity, soundstage and speed, but like moset estats they are light on the Bass which removes them from my "list of interests".
They might be a great endgame for someone listening only to bass light music, that requires amazing detail retrieval capabilities, but they are not for me.
Abyss 1266TC
Near the end of the show I also found a room with the Abyss 1266TC. Many recommended these to me, stating that they are sure I'd like the sound. I always expected them to have too much treble energy.
When I could audition them now, hold them in my hands and put them in my head. It confirmed that their comfort is trash, fit is horrible, the stock cable is utter garbage, very stiff with cable memory. I hated everything about them except for one thing .... the sound. These do sound incredible and I loved the sound.
I heard them of a weird protoype amplifier that looked like a solid block of aluminium with a volume control.
Abyss Diana (MR?)
The new Diana was an utter dissappointment. Build looks cheap especially the headband. They have a fixed very thin cable. Build looks extraordinarily cheap when in hand, especially when you can compare it to so many others right beneath them. Comfort is okayish at best. And the sound is very boring and soulless.
After the 1266TC I was hoping that they could fit that sound in a more comfortable chassis, but this certainly isn't it.
Stax X9000
This one was surprisingly hard to audition. I've seen only one unit at the show and it was nearly always in use. It's very detailed, spacious, bright and thin.
Absolutely not my taste, but at least I can see why someone else might like them. Comfort was good. They ran off the Staxx SRM-T8000 amplifier
DCA Corina
Directly after the Stax I tried the Corina off of a Mal Valve amplifier. They seem incredibly hard to drive, I have to put the amplifier to a very high setting to get some volume.
Tonality wise they are the second best estat I have heard. Bass was actually quite nice, but still noteably below most planars.
They have incredible detail, a great mid section, smooth treble that's never harsh and also not overemphasized like on the Stax models.
I'm looking forward to my unit, to test it in depth at home. It left the best impression of the attainable estats at the show (putting it above the Warwicks and Stax models)
DCA Stealth
In the DCA room I also could finally audition the Stealth. These are rock solid headphones. Amazing tonality, bass, detail, smooth treble, everything there. Especially after hearing so many headphones they really did stick out in a positive way. While I love my Liric as a fun closed back, imo it's safe to say that the Stealth is the best closed back currently on the market.
The setup was with an Enleum 23R, that amplifier has a cool feature which makes it turn the volume down to zero when you unplug the headphones.
The Expanse also felt very impressive, I didn't listen much to it, since I already own it, but wanted to use if for comparative reasons. Again one of the most impressive headphones at the show a notch above most others.
Spirit Torino Centauri
Build wise they are not on the level of their top offerings or the likes of Meze, DCA and ZMF.
Sound wise they are very open and were affected a lot by the noise on the floor.
They did sound promising and I need another audition in a quiet environment.
Cayin Ha-300
The Cayin booth was a very welcoming place. @Andykong is an amazing company rep here on the forums and it was nice to see that the Cayin guys at the show were also great to talk to.
Now that I own the Envy I was very interested in a comparison to the Cayin Ha-300. Their setup was off of their DAC (forgot the model atm) and with the headphones I know best - the Meze Elite. To my ears it sounded like the Cayin was even more spacious and ethereal than the Envy, but with weaker bass quantity and softer impact. Not sure about treble extension since the loud volumes at the show have an impact on treble perception.
Apart from their sound I feel the need to talk about the build of Cayin amplifiers. In person they feel much more substantial than on pictures. All of them look a lot better in person than on the marketing shots. From the small Ha-3a to the Ha-300 and their speaker models. Build and haptics are great. I also really love the power button.
Cayin Ru7
At the booth they also had both of their USB dongles. I used them with my Galaxy S10 and Meze Rai Penta, using UAPP on bit perfect setting.
The Ru7 sounded very impressive. Wide, spacious, detailed, smooth - it was a very noteable notch above the Smartphone out. I did briefly consider getting one right at the show, but unfortunately they had only demo units and no stock there.
Cayin Ru6
The "older" R2R dongle was also impressive. Less spacious and smooth but with stronger bass and treble, it offers its very own sound signature. My brother preferred the Ru6 over Ru7 while it was the other way round for me. Both of them would receive a price/performance winner badge from me
Cayin N7
The N7 unfortunately had no internet access and not the best music selection. While it did sound impressive it's hard to say something comparative, since I couldn't use the same music on this unit, as I used on the others. I'm looking forward to my loaner tour review unit, the short taste was igniting a thirst for more.
ZMF Atrium open and closed
Zach was personally at the show, for the first time at a show outside of the US and also on the public days. This was cool to see. There were a lot of ZMF headphones at the show. I focused on the Atriums and Caldera.
All three look and feel very well made. Top build quality, excellent comfort and the aesthetics speak for themselfes. It's easy to see why they have so many fans.
I did like the Atriums, the open one more so than the new closed one. They have a sound that goes into the musical niche and not the analytical as most other high end offerings try to. Very pleasing but at the same time they didn't ignite a feeling of "I need them".
For both technicalities like detail but also for musicality that sucks you into the music I consider them a noth below the Meze offerings.
ZMF Caldera
I gave the Caldera an extra whirl on the Feliks Envy that was inside the Feliks room. Hooked up to a dCS Lina DAC (w/o clock) and equipped with Elrog tubes.
Regarding technicalities they are easily the best ZMF offering. They also retain that musical ZMF house sound. They are very enjoyable but in a head to head comparison with the Elite, I preferred the Elite in all aspects especially detail retrieval and soundstage.
Hifiman Susvara
At the same Setup I also auditioned the Susvara. While this wasn't my first time, it was the first in a few years. Show conditions might be harsh on their strengths, but they sounded very unimpressive and thin. I preferred the Caldera with everything.
Guess their technical strengths didn't come through well due to the noise floor at the show - or maybe they aren't that special compared to newer offerings anymore.
Erzetich Charybdis
Erzetich being such an unknown brand, I was very interested in hearing them. Unfortunately at their booth you couldn't choose the music at all, you could just listen to whatever they were playing at their setup at the time. The music was absolutely not my taste which made it impossible for me to get anything meaningfull on their sonics.
I hope I can audition them at a future show. The build and comfort are only okayish, which means they need to kill it on the sonic front if they want to have a chance.
Sennheiser HE-1
I've been quite lucky and could audition the Marble stone gem for 10-15 minutes straight. It was mighty impressive. Aesthethics and haptics are in a league of their own with the marblestone and lifting tubes. Sound wise this was quite the experience, it certainly seemed a notch above most other headphones at the show. I didn't miss anything.
It proves that electrostats can have amazing Bass, it has by far the best bass of all electrostats at the show. It felt a little heavy on the treble for my taste, but this could also be due to the loud volumes I used.
Unfortunately they want to increase the price to even more ridiculous levels ... which forces me pass on them even in the future.
Raal CA-1A
The Raal Ca-1a I auditioned had the open pads, someone told me they also had some with closed pads at the show but unfortunately I didn't try them.
Detail and soundstage are top notch at the Raal, but for my taste they were too thin. Comfort was very unsuited for show conditions, since you can't quickly adjust the heaband to your head size. I crossed them off my list, it didn't seem like they are worth an addition to my collection
Woo Wa23 + Rockna Wavedream
In the Meze room, which was also a semi-silent listening room I found this nice stack of Woo Wa23 + Rockna Wavedream DAC.
As headphones the Elite with angled Alcantara pads and the 109 Pro.
The stack had good dynamics. Soundstage was on the smaller side or in other words more closed in. The Envy + Chord setup that was directly beneath was absolutely superior imo.
Feliks Euforia Evo + Meze Elite
At the Feliks booth I tried the Euforia Evo with my daily driver the Elite. The pairing is great, the amp sounds amazing and has great build quality. If I didn't have the Envy already this would be my choice for headphones like the Elite.
dCS Lina full stack
In the Meze room there was also the full dCS Lina stack with DAC+clock+Amplifier. Using the Elite I was very curious what this mighty setup might sound like, and to my surprise it was very dissappointing. Sort of flat and unengaging. The WooWa23+Rockna Wavedream was clearly superior and the Envy + Chord setup another notch above that.
dCS Lina + Feliks Envy
Luckily the issue seems to be only with the amplifier. Since dCS Lina DAC + Feliks Envy is another top notch setup (even without clock)
Not sure if the DAC is better than some of the cheaper options, but it certianly is a good sounding DAC.
Meze 109 Pro
The Meze 109 Pro sound amazing, have great comfort and also score aesthetically. They were my show highlight and I ordered one of them right away.
To me they sounded better than the ZMF offerings and most other headphones at the show. Price is really no indicator of how good they really are. YMMV, but for me they are hitting it straight home.

Apart from headphones I spent also a lot of time in several speaker rooms. My clear favourite were the T+A S540 speakers, an absoulute top notch setup and luckily with 45k so far out of my budget that it's of no threat to my wallet.
Due to a nice coincidence I could also talk to Siegfried Amft (founder of T+A) in person. That was a great experience. Fun fact: he uses the exakt same gear at home that I do. This year I can also upgrade my MP2000R MkII with a new streaming board at a reasonable price. Certainly gives me a lot of faith in the company!

Closing thoughts:
The event was an amazing experience. With that much unknown gear the 2 days have been barely enough.
It was so nice to talk to all the people that create the gear that provides me with so much joy. T+A, Cayin,, Warwick acoustics ... so many had really nice people to talk to at the show.
By now I am at home again at my own setup. Turned out, I really have the best stuff already for my taste and can rest easy that I'm not missing out on anything. My own setup is still the best sound experience I ever had, being able to say that after a show like the High end, is mighty reassuring.

You really don't seem to have liked any of the top tier offerings everyone else raves about. Bizarre...
May 24, 2023 at 2:59 AM Post #38 of 61
You really don't seem to have liked any of the top tier offerings everyone else raves about. Bizarre...
And that's why auditioning for yourself is the only foolproof way to find out wether you like something or not.
To each their own, but your comments really make me wonder if your ideal headphone rolls off under 2k. And how exactly did Senneheiser set up the HE-1 so that the same amp fed two headphones? Not intended for this system and not something i would expect the Sennheiser guys to try. Are you sure you aren't mixing this up with sth else?
The HeV-1000 (the amplifier) has a 2nd output for He1 headphones at the back.
This is intended to listen together with your wife/friends
May 24, 2023 at 5:14 AM Post #39 of 61
And that's why auditioning for yourself is the only foolproof way to find out wether you like something or not.

The HeV-1000 (the amplifier) has a 2nd output for He1 headphones at the back.
This is intended to listen together with your wife/friends

How much does a second HE-1 headphone unit cost (just the headphone, for this paired listening)? :)
May 24, 2023 at 5:24 AM Post #40 of 61
How much does a second HE-1 headphone unit cost (just the headphone, for this paired listening)? :)
The headphone itself is 20k euros. I have asked this question when I tested it.
Also a little known fact is that the ceramic used for the transducer has been “end of life”’d, therefore the HE-1 is going to be a very limited release (not to worry as they have plenty of spare parts for warranty/assistance).


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May 24, 2023 at 7:04 AM Post #41 of 61
Nice how he highlighted some of the more obscure brands.

May 24, 2023 at 7:28 AM Post #42 of 61
And that's why auditioning for yourself is the only foolproof way to find out wether you like something or not.

The HeV-1000 (the amplifier) has a 2nd output for He1 headphones at the back.
This is intended to listen together with your wife/friends
Interesting and rather surprising, but one would assume that they are at least very much making sure that this doesn't hamper performance with such an uber-expensive product. Otherwise not a very smart move. But maybe i'm expecting to much.
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May 26, 2023 at 9:33 AM Post #43 of 61
The Cen.Grand Silver Fox was a nice surprise. It delivers enough current to make the Stealth (my preferred headphone) sing. The source was a Rose streamer and it is inferior to the dCS DACs I own. The amp was brand new when the distributor unboxed it for the show. So I have to speculate a bit about its potential. What it did do is enable me to imagine Georg Solti conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra performing Beethoven’s symphonies. It even gave me a taste of what Beethoven intended. That is not so easy to achieve. What it didn’t let me do is follow the individual and intertwined strands of the music. Maybe that becomes possible with the Bartók. It also felt somewhat uptight, but this is something which goes away after burn in with well-built components. The stunner was how the amp delivered the emotional content – both of the symphonies and the album Science Fiction by Brand New. The opener is spooky and that is exactly how it felt.

It’s a robust sounding piece as opposed to the finer, more ethereal tube amps. But I like that and will probably get one for my Bartók.

As for the dCS stack. They are not doing themselves a favor with the amp. It does not deliver enough current for headphones like the Stealth and it sounds too perfect, lifeless almost.

If one is used to or likes R2R DACs, the dCS approach is very different. I have been living with Bartók and Vivaldi for quite some time now. What they do is not-in-your-face. It’s all about the subtleties, the delicacy and inner meaning of the music. And yes, if the meaning is ‘crunch’, that too.

The Riviera amp is a worthy companion for the dCS DACs (which I listen with). Based on the Munich visit the Cayin and Cen.Grand could be good companions too. The dCS DACs benefit from an amp which emphasizes emotion and color. Cables are crucial too.

Went to a number of 2-channel demos too and the deVORE O/baby system was easily the most colorful and musical. John himself DJed.



...the unfortunate consequence of a show visit. 🤭
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May 27, 2023 at 12:46 PM Post #44 of 61
Did anyone who went here got a chance to listen to the new Grimm MU2? Grimm MU1 + Tambaqui are two of the best products I have spent money on individually, so very curious to see how the MU2 with the included DAC performs.
May 27, 2023 at 3:34 PM Post #45 of 61
Did anyone who went here got a chance to listen to the new Grimm MU2? Grimm MU1 + Tambaqui are two of the best products I have spent money on individually, so very curious to see how the MU2 with the included DAC performs.
Interesting. I wonder how many kidneys they want for that? And 'discrete' = R2R?

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