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7.2.4 Home Theater first time build advice

AudfoxBlack

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I've been doing research to learn the in's and out's of picking a good setup. That being said, I'm reaching a point where I'm hitting a lot of questions that don't have straight forward answers and is leaving me in hellish indecision loops of trying to find the best bang-for-buck on my budget. I found some good sales this week that seemed to fit my needs and I've made some orders (and thus I'm within the return time if needed). However I'm nervous that I've overlooked something or gotten ineffective choices for the cost.

The setup:
7.2.4 surround
$6000-ish budget
Primarily home theater use, secondarily for music
12 x 16 x 8 carpeted room
2 rows of listeners
AVR: Denon x4700h ($1500)
L/R Fronts: HECO Aurora 1000 x2 ($594x2 = $1188 total) (Audioholics review)
Center: HECO Aurora Center 30 ($258)
Sides, Rears, and 4 Ceiling: HECO Ambient 22F x8 ($230x8=$1840)
Speaker Wire: 12AWG Speaker Wire 200ft ($42)
Subwoofer: ??? (x2)
Power Amp (for last 2 heights since the x4700h only powers 9 channels): ???

I found specific reviews for the fronts being excellent quality for value HECO Aurora 1000 x2 ($594x2 = $1188 total) here, and that's before finding them on a good sale. The rest were chosen based on the advice of trying to keep the speakers in the same brand / line where possible.

Questions I'd love any sort of guidance on:

1) Does this seem like good speaker configuration for the budget? My immediate worrycome from the fact that I only see thorough analysis of the Aurora 1000's, and that the Ambients I bough to try to find the best match to them are still from a different HECO line than the Aurora's (with no thorough breakdowns I can find). But I'm also more broadly worried that I did something else dumb in my ignorance.

2) What's the best way to match subwoofers to the rest of this?

3) What constitutes picking a viable power amp for just 2 of the 11 channels? This seems uncommon, so I can't find good breakdowns of what you need to consider when buying an amp for just partial channel coverage (and heights no less).

4) The x4700h's non-front channels are all 125W. The recommend range on the HECO Ambient 22f's going up to 120W. Am I playing with fire by being 5W over, or is this not a serious concern?
 
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sweetchaos

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stop the FOMO. ;)

Pick the most capable in terms of CEA 2010 subs you have available in your area. See my subwoofer comparison thread for that.

Unfortunately, we don’t have CEA 2034 spinorama data for Heco speakers yet, so all we have is community feedback.

I would be buying a Hypex Ncore amp if you’re on a budget. Or Purifi amp for end-game performance with no budget in mind. See Matias amplifier spreadsheet for recommendations. A good 2-3 channel amp mentioned paired with 4700h should be plenty of power.
 

TheBatsEar

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My take is that of a layman, i don't even have a cinema setup. But maybe i can add something to the discussion anyway.

L/R Fronts: HECO Aurora 1000 x2 ($594x2 = $1188 total) (Audioholics review)
Center: HECO Aurora Center 30 ($258)
It's my understanding that a center like that has problems with sound dispersion to the sides, which means you may have a tight sweet spot in the center, but everyone off center is getting a lower grade experience. Check this out:

So instead of buying the center speaker, maybe it makes more sense to buy a Aurora 300 instead? Or maybe you can find another center that offers better dispersion, because it seems there are some that do.

Me? I would buy three Kef R3 and declare the dispersion crisis to be averted! Not sure if they are able to deliver the oomph needed however. My doctor says i'm a frail man, i rarely should listen that loud, so it wouldn't be a problem for me. That would, here, cost 1500€.

Subwoofer: ??? (x2)
SVS PB1000 could be what you are looking for.

Power Amp (for last 2 heights since the x4700h only powers 9 channels): ???
A used Yamaha A-S300 or something like it. Should cost about 100€ with some patience.

1) Does this seem like good speaker configuration for the budget?
Except for the center dispersion thing, that would bug me for years. The rest looks competent.
In the end you will, even with slighly less than stellar speakers, still have a good experience. If the aliens attack and the bombs drop, the fidelity of the rear channel becomes less important.

2) What's the best way to match subwoofers to the rest of this?
Using some kind of measurement microphone (UMIK1) and a DSP (it's bass, old MiniDSP 2x4 would suffice). Most likely there is some kind of DSP in the AV amp already, so you might read the manual for that first.

3) What constitutes picking a viable power amp for just 2 of the 11 channels? This seems uncommon, so I can't find good breakdowns of what you need to consider when buying an amp for just partial channel coverage (and heights no less).
A competent transistor amp that isn't particularly pricey should do the trick. I don't think there are any demands of note regarding output power either, there should be nothing below 200Hz or so anyway.

4) The x4700h's non-front channels are all 125W. The recommend range on the HECO Ambient 22f's going up to 120W. Am I playing with fire by being 5W over, or is this not a serious concern?
Nope. Just don't turn to max volume while listening to 1khz sine waves. ;)
It should be noted that most people don't listen at earsplitting levels because they like their ears.
 

TheBatsEar

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The KEF Q650c or Q250c should be able to fix the dispersion problem while looking roughly the same as the Heco center.
 
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Steve Dallas

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Questions I'd love any sort of guidance on:

1) Does this seem like good speaker configuration for the budget? My immediate worrycome from the fact that I only see thorough analysis of the Aurora 1000's, and that the Ambients I bough to try to find the best match to them are still from a different HECO line than the Aurora's (with no thorough breakdowns I can find). But I'm also more broadly worried that I did something else dumb in my ignorance.

2) What's the best way to match subwoofers to the rest of this?

3) What constitutes picking a viable power amp for just 2 of the 11 channels? This seems uncommon, so I can't find good breakdowns of what you need to consider when buying an amp for just partial channel coverage (and heights no less).

4) The x4700h's non-front channels are all 125W. The recommend range on the HECO Ambient 22f's going up to 120W. Am I playing with fire by being 5W over, or is this not a serious concern?

Knowing where you live (country) is helpful in making recommendations.

1. The surrounds are basically noisemakers. I stopped spending a lot of money on surrounds a long time ago. I use relatively inexpensive Polk in-wall and in-ceiling speakers with great success. I think I purchased them on sale for < $100 each. The exception to this is if you are into multichannel music, in which you need surrounds near or equal to the quality of your mains. Your choice of surrounds is fine for movies / TV and stereo music.

The center is a classic 2 way MTM design, and they all fail at their main mission, which is anchoring all seats to the screen due to phase cancellation between the midwoofers. A single bookshelf speaker is almost always a better choice, if you can fit it under the screen. (Although... How bad are they in practice?) I also like @TheBatsEar 's idea of using a single KEF Q350 on its side instead of the HECO center if a bookshelf is too tall, assuming your room is small enough for it.

2. There are some go-to subs on the market, such as SVS SB-2000 or PB-2000 or Rhythmic or Monolith. From personal experience, I can cay SVS has excellent customer service. As previously mentioned, @sweetchaos has created a great guide. Denon and Audyssey go a great job of integrating them once installed, although you will want to read up on sub placement to provide those tools with the best chance for success.

3. You actually want to amplify the front pair with external power, as you can run the 4700 in preamp mode on those outputs, although it is not documented in the manual. This puts your premium amplification on those speakers for stereo listening instead of the manual's silly suggestion of amplifying a pair of the heights with an external amp. Any Hypex or Purifi or IcePower based amplifier of similar power to the receiver will be a worthy upgrade, but you want one that can be driven unbalanced with a sensitivity suitable for less than 1.5 volts to match well with the 4700. Monolith and Emotiva also offer competent amplifiers for home theater use at lower cost.

4. Those channels are 125W with only the front pair driven. AVRs are power supply limited, and each channel that is driven reduces the power of all others. With all 9 channels driven as you propose, they are probably closer to 70 or 80W. Also, there is almost no such thing as over-powering speakers in a domestic environment. Your tolerance for loudness will keep you from blowing the speakers. Most applications use less than 10W continuously to fill the room with higher peaks on demand. Everything above that ~10W is reserve power to provide the upper SPL of high dynamic range. Also, DRC such as Audyssey in the 4700 reduce gain by the amount of any EQ boost to prevent clipping (up to -10 or -12dB gain), so more power is better. I use IcePower amps rated for 300W into 8 Ohms and 500W into 4 Ohms without issue with my 4700 on speakers rated for 200W at 8 Ohms nominal impedance. So, you don't need to worry about question 4.

Configuring the system to use pre-outs on the front pair for an external amplifier while using all 9 internal amps for all other speakers. Under layout, choose your combination of top / height speakers and set Pre-out to Front:

20230122_193418.jpg


You are not using the front speaker terminals here, as they are now disconnected. You are using all the height channel terminals:
20230122_193435.jpg
 
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HooStat

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In a home theater, I would focus on 3 things.
  1. Room correction/DSP
  2. Subwoofer(s)
  3. Center channel
Spend what you need to spend to do a great job with those. Everything else is less important.

I am looking at doing something similar on a much smaller scale. I am actually looking at Kali IN5 or IN8v2 speakers. They are <$400 each and are powered. And they play loud (more than most of the KEFs). And they have concentric drivers which means that you can use them as center channel too (on its side). It is basically a poor man's KEF R3 with power, and it is quite excellent for the money, particularly with some DSP and some subs. Plus they have some 2-way speakers that are less expensive that are great for surrounds. I am not saying that this is the right solution for you -- it is just an example of how you can be creative in keeping to your budget.
 

TheBatsEar

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@Steve Dallas: The idea to buy a proper amp for front left/right makes more sense indeed. It's the way to go.
Hypex NC252MP should do, just make sure to get one with trigger connection or you have to run it on/off manually, the Denon has trigger out. Cost should be below 500€.

@HooStat: Putting money into the Kef R3 would also yield a very good experience if listening to music, not sure if the Kali speakers would compare favorably.
I also think ultra high volume capability is vastly overrated. You will probably not listen to eardrum piercing volumes much, if at all. I know i don't and it's not because of the neighbors. I like a good beat, but my ears seem to show compression effects sooner than regular sized speakers.
 

Dj7675

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2 Cents FWIW...
-I don't know anything about the Hecco speakers so cannot provide any help there
-The center channel is critical and can limit your theater if not chosen well. You are dedicating a space and a good budget for this, I would rethink the center. The center is a 2 way MTM with dual 5 inch woofers. Dispersion will be poor and output will not be up to the L/R you have chosen. Maybe consider a bookshelf speaker that can handle high output or a 3 way center, or matching floor standing speaker
-Or see if it is possible to use an acoustically transparent screen with 3 floor standing speakers behind it, or 3 matching in wall speakers.
-For subs, go with a minimum of a couple of 12 inch ported subs
-The better the speaker you can put at each location the better the experience will be. In modern multichannel based systems all speakers can get called upon to be full range and full output. Gone are the days where movies put a few ambient sounds in them.
-Surround and atmos speakers... just like a left/right in a stereo setup, speakers should be pointed at the main listening position or at least within the speakers dispersion. With Atmos speakers this can be tricky. Here is a thread on AVS with quite a few options LINK
Take your time in planning the speaker purchase and layout.
 

HooStat

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not sure if the Kali speakers would compare favorably
As I said, I am not recommending Kali. I am recommending that the OP set some priorities and make decisions based on those. Not on whether people think that this speaker or that speaker is somehow "better" for the OP's situation, which is primarily home theater.

I personally find that most speakers are not "magical", mostly because a lot of music just isn't recorded well enough to be magical. I also mentioned them because they are an incredible value for money and the OP needs to buy 11 monitors and 2 subs for 7.2.4. I think, for home theater, a great center and high quality subs are a better point of focus. With proper DSP and a proper subwoofer, many speakers with good directivity can be improved substantially.

But it is really up to the OP what their priorities are based on budget.
 

Dal1as

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I have to ask. How are you going to fit 2 rows of listeners in that room? Rear row on the back wall? Are you using a riser? The difference in sound between the 2 rows will be an issue. Other than that I agree with the others. That center channel is junk, get at least 2 12" ported subs, but plan on spending some time on room treatment and bass management.
 
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A

AudfoxBlack

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Wow, I'm really floored by all the responses. I wasn't expecting this level feedback. Especially the feedback on the centers, that was a huge thing to miss (not the least of which for trying to have two rows with viable listening experience). Thank you!

I've been reading everyone's suggestions and doing some extra reading to understand things I didn't know about. I have a few responses and a couple more honed questions.

stop the FOMO. ;)

Pick the most capable in terms of CEA 2010 subs you have available in your area. See my subwoofer comparison thread for that.

Unfortunately, we don’t have CEA 2034 spinorama data for Heco speakers yet, so all we have is community feedback.

I would be buying a Hypex Ncore amp if you’re on a budget. Or Purifi amp for end-game performance with no budget in mind. See Matias amplifier spreadsheet for recommendations. A good 2-3 channel amp mentioned paired with 4700h should be plenty of power.

Ah interesting, I've seen these measurements before on some speakers but hadn't seem them categorized with that name. Now I know what to look for in my searching henceforth. At yours and other member's suggestion I'm definitely digging into your subwoofer thread. Thanks!

My take is that of a layman, i don't even have a cinema setup. But maybe i can add something to the discussion anyway.


It's my understanding that a center like that has problems with sound dispersion to the sides, which means you may have a tight sweet spot in the center, but everyone off center is getting a lower grade experience. Check this out:

So instead of buying the center speaker, maybe it makes more sense to buy a Aurora 300 instead? Or maybe you can find another center that offers better dispersion, because it seems there are some that do.

Me? I would buy three Kef R3 and declare the dispersion crisis to be averted! Not sure if they are able to deliver the oomph needed however. My doctor says i'm a frail man, i rarely should listen that loud, so it wouldn't be a problem for me. That would, here, cost 1500€.


SVS PB1000 could be what you are looking for.


A used Yamaha A-S300 or something like it. Should cost about 100€ with some patience.


Except for the center dispersion thing, that would bug me for years. The rest looks competent.
In the end you will, even with slighly less than stellar speakers, still have a good experience. If the aliens attack and the bombs drop, the fidelity of the rear channel becomes less important.


Using some kind of measurement microphone (UMIK1) and a DSP (it's bass, old MiniDSP 2x4 would suffice). Most likely there is some kind of DSP in the AV amp already, so you might read the manual for that first.


A competent transistor amp that isn't particularly pricey should do the trick. I don't think there are any demands of note regarding output power either, there should be nothing below 200Hz or so anyway.


Nope. Just don't turn to max volume while listening to 1khz sine waves. ;)
It should be noted that most people don't listen at earsplitting levels because they like their ears.

This was a huge oversight on my part, especially considering I'm trying to squeeze in two rows with an at least "passable" listening experience in each seat. Thank you so much, especially for the video link so I could understand the nuances of what you and later others were suggesting, and why!

Knowing where you live (country) is helpful in making recommendations.

1. The surrounds are basically noisemakers. I stopped spending a lot of money on surrounds a long time ago. I use relatively inexpensive Polk in-wall and in-ceiling speakers with great success. I think I purchased them on sale for < $100 each. The exception to this is if you are into multichannel music, in which you need surrounds near or equal to the quality of your mains. Your choice of surrounds is fine for movies / TV and stereo music.

The center is a classic 2 way MTM design, and they all fail at their main mission, which is anchoring all seats to the screen due to phase cancellation between the midwoofers. A single bookshelf speaker is almost always a better choice, if you can fit it under the screen. (Although... How bad are they in practice?) I also like @TheBatsEar 's idea of using a single KEF Q350 on its side instead of the HECO center if a bookshelf is too tall, assuming your room is small enough for it.

2. There are some go-to subs on the market, such as SVS SB-2000 or PB-2000 or Rhythmic or Monolith. From personal experience, I can cay SVS has excellent customer service. As previously mentioned, @sweetchaos has created a great guide. Denon and Audyssey go a great job of integrating them once installed, although you will want to read up on sub placement to provide those tools with the best chance for success.

3. You actually want to amplify the front pair with external power, as you can run the 4700 in preamp mode on those outputs, although it is not documented in the manual. This puts your premium amplification on those speakers for stereo listening instead of the manual's silly suggestion of amplifying a pair of the heights with an external amp. Any Hypex or Purifi or IcePower based amplifier of similar power to the receiver will be a worthy upgrade, but you want one that can be driven unbalanced with a sensitivity suitable for less than 1.5 volts to match well with the 4700. Monolith and Emotiva also offer competent amplifiers for home theater use at lower cost.

4. Those channels are 125W with only the front pair driven. AVRs are power supply limited, and each channel that is driven reduces the power of all others. With all 9 channels driven as you propose, they are probably closer to 70 or 80W. Also, there is almost no such thing as over-powering speakers in a domestic environment. Your tolerance for loudness will keep you from blowing the speakers. Most applications use less than 10W continuously to fill the room with higher peaks on demand. Everything above that ~10W is reserve power to provide the upper SPL of high dynamic range. Also, DRC such as Audyssey in the 4700 reduce gain by the amount of any EQ boost to prevent clipping (up to -10 or -12dB gain), so more power is better. I use IcePower amps rated for 300W into 8 Ohms and 500W into 4 Ohms without issue with my 4700 on speakers rated for 200W at 8 Ohms nominal impedance. So, you don't need to worry about question 4.

Configuring the system to use pre-outs on the front pair for an external amplifier while using all 9 internal amps for all other speakers. Under layout, choose your combination of top / height speakers and set Pre-out to Front:

View attachment 259216

You are not using the front speaker terminals here, as they are now disconnected. You are using all the height channel terminals:
View attachment 259217

I'm in the US. Getting that level of fidelity with the surrounds would be great, but I'm not ready for that level of an investment yet. The 22f's are at least a little more beefed up than the 11f's from the same line, and supposdely use the same tweeters as all the Aurora and Ambient line speakres, so hopefully they'll match somewhat well and maybe pull off a passable mutlichannel music experience. And if not, the Aurora 1000's are supposed to be very nice at stereo music.

That's great to know about the power draw. And a double extra thank you for the screenshots showing how to do it! It's great to hear from someone who is using the same hardware. My one question / concern would be if I redirect the internal amps, looking at the specs on Denon's website I think that means Height 1 / Height 2 become 165W like the fronts were (before the other considerations you pointed out, that is). From how you explained it, I still wouldn't get close to the 22f's 120W limit, but I wanted to verify before doing that.

In a home theater, I would focus on 3 things.
  1. Room correction/DSP
  2. Subwoofer(s)
  3. Center channel
Spend what you need to spend to do a great job with those. Everything else is less important.

I am looking at doing something similar on a much smaller scale. I am actually looking at Kali IN5 or IN8v2 speakers. They are <$400 each and are powered. And they play loud (more than most of the KEFs). And they have concentric drivers which means that you can use them as center channel too (on its side). It is basically a poor man's KEF R3 with power, and it is quite excellent for the money, particularly with some DSP and some subs. Plus they have some 2-way speakers that are less expensive that are great for surrounds. I am not saying that this is the right solution for you -- it is just an example of how you can be creative in keeping to your budget.

From the feedback on this thread I'm already planning on revisiting with a better center and a solid subwoofer, so hopefully good there! I'm hoping the DSP in the x4700h will up to the job for room correction. Unless you were referring to having an external DSP? I haven't diven too deep into DSP yet beyond just making sure I had something for it.

2 Cents FWIW...
-I don't know anything about the Hecco speakers so cannot provide any help there
-The center channel is critical and can limit your theater if not chosen well. You are dedicating a space and a good budget for this, I would rethink the center. The center is a 2 way MTM with dual 5 inch woofers. Dispersion will be poor and output will not be up to the L/R you have chosen. Maybe consider a bookshelf speaker that can handle high output or a 3 way center, or matching floor standing speaker
-Or see if it is possible to use an acoustically transparent screen with 3 floor standing speakers behind it, or 3 matching in wall speakers.
-For subs, go with a minimum of a couple of 12 inch ported subs
-The better the speaker you can put at each location the better the experience will be. In modern multichannel based systems all speakers can get called upon to be full range and full output. Gone are the days where movies put a few ambient sounds in them.
-Surround and atmos speakers... just like a left/right in a stereo setup, speakers should be pointed at the main listening position or at least within the speakers dispersion. With Atmos speakers this can be tricky. Here is a thread on AVS with quite a few options LINK
Take your time in planning the speaker purchase and layout.

I'm setup with a 77'' TV, so an audibly transparent screen sadly isn't an option here. But the rest of your thoughts I can act on to good effect. Though I'm not certain how to determine the dispersion of the ones I've already picked, as I'm mounting them to the ceiling to use as heights. Your advice about trying to match quality of heights and surrounds I was already trying to do that when I splurged for the 22Fs instead of the 11Fs for surrounds and heights, so hopefully that will pay some divedends.

I have to ask. How are you going to fit 2 rows of listeners in that room? Rear row on the back wall? Are you using a riser? The difference in sound between the 2 rows will be an issue. Other than that I agree with the others. That center channel is junk, get at least 2 12" ported subs, but plan on spending some time on room treatment and bass management.

It's going to be tight squeeze for sure, and is one of my worries. From what I've dug into I think I can pull off a solid experience for all seats, if just barely. But finding concrete information on this topic has proven undoable for me, there's just too may variables. So even though it makes me cringe (I'm very measure thrice, cut once, personality wise), I think I'm going to have to just try it and see if it works. This is the layout and positioning I'm planning on using, minus the caveat that I think I cam comfortably scoot the back row and exta foot or so closer: Room layout and speaker positioning here . I -think- that extra 1+ ft won't create a physical uncomfy situation (and avoids any near-field challenges with other speakers and stay mostly in the good portions of the good listening window width). I'm very happy to be shown that assumption isn't right, if you or anyone has further insights or opinions on this layout.



So, aside from specific feedback by immediate todo takeaways from the feedback are needing to get a new center A, decide on my subwoofers B, and a good amp to power my fronts (provided the redirected 165W internal amps from fronts to the heights doesn't safely exceed the limits of the 120W max peak height speakers).

A) For the center, I could potentially make the Aurora 300 bookshelf work, though it's going to involve a bit of work and non-speaker expenses. So not ideal, but doable. Alternatively I'm open to investing more in the other suggested replacements too (KEF Q650c, Q350c, or Q250c). Especially since I doubt I'd be able to sell the matching Aurora 300 pair for a reasonable price, so that's money just mostly gone. But I'm looking to make the best decision I can within my budget, so I'm open to either approach. On the merits of their qualities, I'm just not sure what their tradeoffs are. Is one or any of the KEF's going to have some better sound properties that offset the Aurora 300's benefit of timbre match (primary home theater, though multichannel music is an interest)? Or is the Aurora 300 generally the way to go if I put in the extra effort to make it fit? And as an additional note, is there a good way to tell if this is one of the speakers that will perform well on it's side (or even another Aurora 1000 on it's side, at the price point this approaches anyway)?

B) Using @sweetchaos's excellent thread I dug into subwoofers more dedicatedly, additionally guided by everyone's suggestions here. I think I'm aligning on either going with a PB1000 or PB2000. The PB2000 looks a bit overdone for my room vs the 1000, but I can't quite tell for sure from the threads I'm reading. The back of the room does open up to more of the house, but I'm not concerned with the sound out there obviously (unless that opening affects the needs of having a 2000 in the theater room itself).

C) From reading Matias's sheet and speedrunning my understanding of amplifiers today, I think I'm looking at a Hypex Ncore NC502MP 2 channel. Not ideal for my original budget, but it seems like the sensible choice for value and performance for my equipment, from what I'm reading.
 
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