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How Phono Cartridges Work

watchnerd

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#81
Used a RB300 for decades, and have had a few others Rega models grace my system over the years. While I liked all, they wouldn't be my first choice at their respected price ranges. Not a fan of dynamically balanced arms (or linear arms for that matter), or any arm using springs. Unless the spring(s) is damped, somehow, they can certainly introduce resonance. Put a stethoscope to a Rega, tap it even slightly, and you can hear the spring ring like a bell for quite some time. The old trick of setting the VTF gauge to 0 and using the counter weight for balance didn't work either, all that did was change the springs resonance characteristics. Minute magnetic anti-skate adjustment is finicky at best. Nor could I get any of 'em to measure as accurately as my Alpha does currently.
So this would seem to exclude any of the SME arms, as they either have springs for VTF & anti-skate, and/or removable headshells. My Jeclo would also be out for the same reason, same with Ortofon arms.

Amongst current production arms, what meets your criteria?

The only ones I can think of are the Pro-Ject carbon fibre arms with anti skate on a string.
 
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watchnerd

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#82
Thanks for the replies. So do you guys have an opinion on which turntables perform best/are designed best at each price point?
In which country?

I'm not being flippant, but a lot of the best-buy UK based tables aren't such bargains outside the UK. Conversely, VPI tables, while not exactly a bargain in the USA, are solidly built andeingeered for the price, but they're a lot more expensive in Europe.

But I would say this: $2k-$4k for table + arm gets you solidly high end that is a big improvement upon entry level tables in the $300 range. By the same token, going much above $4k gets pretty serious diminishing returns.

Carts have even worse diminishing returns.

FWIW, I have in the past owned a Pro-Ject Debut Carbon, a Music Hall MMF 7, a vintage Thorens. Currently I'm using a restored / upgraded Michell Gyro SE with a Jelco SA-750D.


I would also add this:

Entry level tables aren't really made to be upgraded easily, especially where the arm is concerned. $2k-$4k is the price point where multi arm choices come into the picture, which is highly important given the necessary synergy between arm and cart.
 
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Frank Dernie

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#83
Thanks for the replies. So do you guys have an opinion on which turntables perform best/are designed best at each price point?
The problem is that the "experts" are not, in general, and there are no hard and fast simple rules.
In order to know what the design actually does a distributed mass vibration analysis is worth doing to have a first look, then build a prototype and then measure its response.
When I was doing R&D on this afaik nobody else was doing it and subsequently the only other manufacturers I know of using real dynamic engineering, rather than "hairy arsed engineering" to use a motor racing phrase, to design record players were Roksan and Continuum, though there could be others.
I am quite sure that nobody can look at a turntable, or read about its features, and judge how well it behaves dynamically. As an example one inexpensive deck I studied had a vibration mode of the top plate with an antinode at the arm mount at a low enough frequency for the vibration to be transmitted along the arm to the headshell. A carefully positioned small slot in the top plate changed its mode shape sufficiently for the arm mount no longer to be at an antinode and the arm behaviour was then fine, manufacturing cost, pennies.
There is not a snowball's hope in hell that anybody could do that by inspection or guesswork.
Isolation is another case of record player fashion not being in step with proper engineering. It is necessary for accurate transduction, but there are 6 degrees of freedom and the fashion is to isolate in just one of them, vertically, which is the difference output in a stereo cartridge. It is extremely difficult to isolate over the full audible frequency range in all 6 degrees of freedom, and certainly the rocking modes need the flexible elements to be quite close together (like the Villchur AR design which spawned many others) not in towers far apart, like they are in my Goldmund Reference for example.
It may be simpler not to bother with isolation and put a non-suspended TT to a wall shelf, but even then small details can make a big difference.

You can't tell by listening whether a TT is accurate or just euphonic, though one could argue that doesn't matter if you like the sound since there isn't much about record production or record playes which are accurate to the original recording anyway.
If I was going to buy another TT I would go and listen to Rega models and the new Technics SL1200 mk2 but it is a minefield...
 

Frank Dernie

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#84
So this would seem to exclude any of the SME arms, as they either have springs for VTF & anti-skate, and/or removable headshells. My Jeclo would also be out for the same reason, same with Ortofon arms.

Amongst current production arms, what meets your criteria?

The only ones I can think of are the Pro-Ject carbon fibre arms with anti skate on a string.
I wouldn't worry too much about springs in arms. They are light and have low damping and whilst they will be excited by tapping the arm they are most unlikely to be whilst playing music.
It is a bit like suspension systems. The sort of suspension that isolates well over the full range of audio frequencies will be very effective whilst playing music but a pita in handling and footfall on flexible floors. Making it more convenient for handling will make it less effective listening to music.
OTOH, particularly with fine line type styluses azimuth and VTA need to be right, it is better for warped records for the bearings to be at the height of the disc surface. Whether a stiffer arm would be better or worse is entirely dependant on the installation itself. A stiffer arm continues coupling to the headshell up to higher frequencies, obviously, but whether this creates a problem depends on installation.
 

Wombat

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#85
I can't help feeling that tweaking phono replay equipment is like trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear(Vinyl).
shrug.gif
 

Frank Dernie

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#86
I can't help feeling that tweaking phono replay equipment is like trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear(Vinyl). View attachment 15203
Yes and no.
I have a lot of old LPs which I wish to play so I might as well have a good record player, otoh the various compromises needed even to cut a disc means that the result can not be an accurate representation of the original microphone signal, even if you spend gazzillions on the replay system.
Does it matter? Not if you just like the sound it is making and the inaccuracies are euphonic (to you).
Also pop music listeners are badly served by digital mixes these days it seems they are adjusted for listening on the move in cars and walking about, so since the SQ of the recording makes more difference than the hifi kit then LP may well be nicer, despite its shortcomings
IMHO
 

watchnerd

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#87
I can't help feeling that tweaking phono replay equipment is like trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear(Vinyl). View attachment 15203
Perhaps, but unlike digital tweaks, there are limitless vinyl setup tweaks that really do affect the sound and make a real difference.

But it can be maddening because there are so many variables.
 

watchnerd

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#88
Yes and no.
I have a lot of old LPs which I wish to play so I might as well have a good record player, otoh the various compromises needed even to cut a disc means that the result can not be an accurate representation of the original microphone signal, even if you spend gazzillions on the replay system.
Does it matter? Not if you just like the sound it is making and the inaccuracies are euphonic (to you).
Also pop music listeners are badly served by digital mixes these days it seems they are adjusted for listening on the move in cars and walking about, so since the SQ of the recording makes more difference than the hifi kit then LP may well be nicer, despite its shortcomings
IMHO
While true, I wouldn't restrict bad pop mixes to the modern age. I've heard plenty 1970s pop / rock LPs that were just a "wall of sound", with lots of analog compression.

I generally find, subjectively, that my fancy line styli don't serve these records well. They seem to sound better with simpler stylus shapes (conical, elliptical), which is probably what they were EQ'd for.

The exact opposite is true with my expensive audiophile classic jazz reissues from Speaker's Corner, Music Matters, etc, which sound great with fancy styli....and were probably remastered with that in mind.

BTW, this gets on the major reason I prefer detachable headshells: yes, they may be less rigid and introduce a contact break, but the ability to radically change the sound via a cartridge change, or to use a mono cart, is a feature I love. And I'm not shooting for perfection in vinyl, anyway....I have digital for that.
 

Frank Dernie

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#89
Removable headshells can reduce rigidity and add resonance to the cartridge output. The "SME" type is very sensitive to how tight the collar is from my old measurements. I would guess the EMT is too because it is similar. There are SME shells now with two draw-pins which should be better if accurately enough made.
Whether reduced rigidity is a problem depends on the modal behaviour of the whole thing which is generally an unknown. It may or may not be...
 

TBone

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#90
Thanks for the replies. So do you guys have an opinion on which turntables perform best/are designed best at each price point?
Without risking it reading borderline Stereophile'ish?

I wouldn't worry too much about springs in arms. They are light and have low damping and whilst they will be excited by tapping the arm they are most unlikely to be whilst playing music.
Totally disagree, they will, to one degree or another, get excited when playing music.

The problem is that the "experts" are not, in general, and there are no hard and fast simple rules.
Expert bias has become all too common online, near meaningless.

I live in a large audiophile friendly city, where hi-end turntables outsell hi-end digital in spades, where brick & mortar stores still exist and do well, because they continue to sell turntables, from cheap to ultra expensive units. Where SACD and hi-rez never really caught on, where major LP factories are now being built (and supplying many jobs) within 2 hours drive. Analog availability, in these here hills, isn't going away anytime soon. The luxury of hearing near any turntable here, is as easy as contacting the appropriate dealer, and arranging a demo.

However, that in-itself, is rendered near meaningless when attempting to offer subjective advice online, either in a positive or a negative fashion. It would be nice to have the ability to acquire rips from dealers and/or expert worldwide, that information is far more relative, meaningful and sharable. How meaningful it maybe to you is based on your own sensibilities; but certainly a rip provides farrrrrrr more meaningful insight sonically than all the positive fluff and/or negative whine you'll read online.

But alas, few experts provide rips, and all too often when asked, the same excuses follow. Hells bells; near a decade ago we shared rips over the net, even an online internet publication participated, and it helped everyone involved in terms of gained insight regarding all our systems capabilities, expectations and preferences. Take a rip over a demo any day of the week. All dealers, especially those selling expensive 'tables, should provide samples/rips. Even Fremer provides rips. Hopefully more internet "experts" follow suit ...

The simple fact is, without any ripping capability, without the ability to test the accuracy of your system's current setup; either with actual music and/or test records, without such data, you might as well just be gilding the lily. You're guessing, and hence, any advice offered follows suit. Despite my decades of experience, my understanding of analog as a whole has improved by leaps & bounds solely because of digital intervention. Certainly not because of most "experts" advice online, most of which can't even get the basics correct. Even the application of an old Galaxy S3, as a measuring tool, has provided me more insight, and avoids much of the guess work held prior.

So you can write all day long about the advantages / disadvantages of resonance, removable headshells vs rigidness, about all your experiences and theories, about how other people are not really experts, scuff that soapbox, it only puts further into question your "ability" to put pen to paper relative to actually making your very own analog rig work optimally.

So this would seem to exclude any of the SME arms, as they either have springs for VTF & anti-skate, and/or removable headshells. My Jeclo would also be out for the same reason, same with Ortofon arms.
What criteria?

It should be noted that for quite some time, I've strongly considered buying a Jelco. I like 'em very much. I probably would have purchased 1 already if I had given up hope of finding certain other arms, available relatively cheap, in the used market. That said, I would not use the Jelco on my ripping/achiving 'table ... rather it would be mounted on my everyday listening "just for pleasure" TT.

I'm not always looking for perfection either ...
 

Frank Dernie

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#91
Without risking it reading borderline Stereophile'ish?



Totally disagree, they will, to one degree or another, get excited when playing music.



Expert bias has become all too common online, near meaningless.

I live in a large audiophile friendly city, where hi-end turntables outsell hi-end digital in spades, where brick & mortar stores still exist and do well, because they continue to sell turntables, from cheap to ultra expensive units. Where SACD and hi-rez never really caught on, where major LP factories are now being built (and supplying many jobs) within 2 hours drive. Analog availability, in these here hills, isn't going away anytime soon. The luxury of hearing near any turntable here, is as easy as contacting the appropriate dealer, and arranging a demo.

However, that in-itself, is rendered near meaningless when attempting to offer subjective advice online, either in a positive or a negative fashion. It would be nice to have the ability to acquire rips from dealers and/or expert worldwide, that information is far more relative, meaningful and sharable. How meaningful it maybe to you is based on your own sensibilities; but certainly a rip provides farrrrrrr more meaningful insight sonically than all the positive fluff and/or negative whine you'll read online.

But alas, few experts provide rips, and all too often when asked, the same excuses follow. Hells bells; near a decade ago we shared rips over the net, even an online internet publication participated, and it helped everyone involved in terms of gained insight regarding all our systems capabilities, expectations and preferences. Take a rip over a demo any day of the week. All dealers, especially those selling expensive 'tables, should provide samples/rips. Even Fremer provides rips. Hopefully more internet "experts" follow suit ...

The simple fact is, without any ripping capability, without the ability to test the accuracy of your system's current setup; either with actual music and/or test records, without such data, you might as well just be gilding the lily. You're guessing, and hence, any advice offered follows suit. Despite my decades of experience, my understanding of analog as a whole has improved by leaps & bounds solely because of digital intervention. Certainly not because of most "experts" advice online, most of which can't even get the basics correct. Even the application of an old Galaxy S3, as a measuring tool, has provided me more insight, and avoids much of the guess work held prior.

So you can write all day long about the advantages / disadvantages of resonance, removable headshells vs rigidness, about all your experiences and theories, about how other people are not really experts, scuff that soapbox, it only puts further into question your "ability" to put pen to paper relative to actually making your very own analog rig work optimally.



What criteria?

It should be noted that for quite some time, I've strongly considered buying a Jelco. I like 'em very much. I probably would have purchased 1 already if I had given up hope of finding certain other arms, available relatively cheap, in the used market. That said, I would not use the Jelco on my ripping/achiving 'table ... rather it would be mounted on my everyday listening "just for pleasure" TT.

I'm not always looking for perfection either ...
Listening to rips is subjective, not objective.
I have measured extensively the influence of various parameters on the output of a cartridge. That is objective.
I have also designed and calibrated other vibration transducers, record decks are vibration transducers.
If all you write is personal opinion based on listening to rips and recording a bit of output of a record you have little basis for your opinion to be any more expert than anybody else's, however wide your experience. The basic engineering dynamics is important.
I have been dicking with record players for 50 years now and the more I learn the more I realise how complicated it is and how most of it will always be wild stabs in the dark.
Even if springs are excited playing music there is no obvious mechanism for the vibration to get either as far as the cartridge body or the stylus, so it won't produce any output. It may be your opinion but it is not supported by physics I am afraid.
 

TBone

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#92
Listening to rips is subjective, not objective.
I have measured extensively the influence of various parameters on the output of a cartridge. That is objective.
I have also designed and calibrated other vibration transducers, record decks are vibration transducers.
If all you write is personal opinion based on listening to rips and recording a bit of output of a record you have little basis for your opinion to be any more expert than anybody else's, however wide your experience. The basic engineering dynamics is important.
I have been dicking with record players for 50 years now and the more I learn the more I realise how complicated it is and how most of it will always be wild stabs in the dark.
Even if springs are excited playing music there is no obvious mechanism for the vibration to get either as far as the cartridge body or the stylus, so it won't produce any output. It may be your opinion but it is not supported by physics I am afraid.
So terribly misguided; any resonance within the entire turntable structure (which is a resonant reproducing beast as a whole) has the potential to reach the stylus, and vise versa; the very act of playing a stylus in a groove will excite the rest of the arm and turntable.

And, as made plainly clear, not only am I listening to rips, I'm measuring them against suitable digital alternatives, therefore, relating accuracy and tonality objectively. I've done lots of homework, and I've shared that here, and will continue to do so. Rather that then preach only theory while citing the foggy vail of many past experiences as my only proof of knowledge.
 

Wombat

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#93
Perhaps, but unlike digital tweaks, there are limitless vinyl setup tweaks that really do affect the sound and make a real difference.

But it can be maddening because there are so many variables.
The phonograph could be perfect but it is still playing a flawed recorded signal medium(vinyl). In this case the flaws of the disks, in general, would be more noticeable thus rendering other improvements moot, surely.
 
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Sal1950

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#94
Without risking it reading borderline Stereophile'ish?
So you can write all day long about the advantages / disadvantages of resonance, removable headshells vs rigidness, about all your experiences and theories, about how other people are not really experts, scuff that soapbox, it only puts further into question your "ability" to put pen to paper relative to actually making your very own analog rig work optimally.
ROTFLMAO.
That was perfect TBone, I loved it!
You guys here are really getting into a great writing style.
Maybe a award or two in the near future. :p
 

watchnerd

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#95
The phonograph could be perfect but it is still playing a flawed recorded signal medium(vinyl). In this case the flaws of the disks, in general, would be more noticeable thus rendering other improvements moot, surely.
Sure, there comes a point where you run into the limitations of LP itself.

But I think everyone knows that, so not quite sure what the point is that you're making?

If the point is, "it's silly to bother with LP because the limitations of the medium will never objectively match what digital can do", I would say, at least for me, maximum fidelity isn't the point of vinyl.

In a similar vein, I have a collection of mechanical watches, which are objectively inferior time keeping devices compared to quartz watches or my cell phone.

But I like them anyway.
 

Wombat

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#96
Sure, there comes a point where you run into the limitations of LP itself.

But I think everyone knows that, so not quite sure what the point is that you're making?

If the point is, "it's silly to bother with LP because the limitations of the medium will never objectively match what digital can do", I would say, at least for me, maximum fidelity isn't the point of vinyl.

In a similar vein, I have a collection of mechanical watches, which are objectively inferior time keeping devices compared to quartz watches or my cell phone.

But I like them anyway.
I agree but many vinyl proponents only put forward improvement in vinyl reproduction as the player is improved. Maybe they develop an enhanced 'hear-thru-the-noise' capability.

As one who notices the deficiencies of vinyl I can't see much point in high-end players that better reproduce the deficiencies. I have many vinyl records to enjoy but digital disc media is obviously better than the vinyl disk media re flaws, to me. I don't want to get into any recorded content comparisons.
 
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watchnerd

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#97
I agree but many vinyl proponents only put forward improvement in vinyl reproduction as the player is improved. Maybe they develop an enhanced 'hear-thru-the-noise' capability.

As one who notices the deficiencies of vinyl I can't see much point in high-end players that better reproduce the deficiencies. I have many vinyl records to enjoy but digital disc media is obviously better than the vinyl disk media re flaws, to me. I don't want to get into any recorded content comparisons.
Hmmmm...this raises an interesting point....at what point is investing in a better tt / arm / cart moot?

Well, here are the specs for my first turntable:

Pro-Ject Debut Carbon (with Speedbox):

SNR (manufacturer spec): 68 dB
Wow & Flutter (measured on mine, using Platterspeed): .08%
Low-Pass Speed Variation (using Platterspeed): .02%

Here are the specs for my current turntable:

Michell Gyro SE:

SNR (manufacturer spec): 77 dB
Wow & Flutter (measured on mine, using Platterspeed): .04%
Low-Pass Speed Variation (using Platterspeed): .06%

So the Michell beats the Debut Carbon on SNR and wow/flutter, but loses out a bit on speed stability.

Does the Gyro SE sound better? IMHO, without a doubt...but it also has a much more sophisticated cartridge (Ortofon 2M Red vs Nagaoka MP-500), plus a much more adjustable arm (Jelco SA-750D with easy VTA, azimuth, and fluid damping, vs the much simpler 9CC carbon fiber arm).

It might be fun to put the 9CC carbon arm + Ortofon 2M Red on the Gyro SE to see how similar it sounds to the Debut Carbon, but this highlights one of the problems with people comparing expensive turntables to cheaper ones, namely that what is being compared are usually whole systems (TT / arm / cart), rather than individual elements.

What could I buy that beats the specs of the Gyro SE? Well, the new Technics does in most areas, by a hair:

Technics SL-1200GR
SNR (manufacturer spec): 78 dB
Wow & Flutter (manufacturer spec): .025%
Low-Pass Speed Variation (manufacturer spec): .01%

I suspect it is really hard to do objectively better for the basic functions of the TT itself (steady speed, low SNR, low wow & flutter, good isolation) than the new SL-1200GR/G/GAE models without getting to insane prices. Yes, you can choose a different set of compromises, but that's probably just different, not better.

(It's a shame I don't like the DJ looks).

Which leaves the arm / cart as the remaining X factor and, IMHO, it's that transducer that is the biggest determinant of sonic character. The difference on my TT, with the same arm, between a Denon DL-103 and Nagaoka MP-500 is as big as changing a set of speakers.

Which then brings up the real philosophical dilemma:

Like microphones and speakers, there is no such thing as a perfectly neutral, uncolored cartridge, regardless of price.
 

Frank Dernie

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#98
So terribly misguided; any resonance within the entire turntable structure (which is a resonant reproducing beast as a whole) has the potential to reach the stylus, and vise versa; the very act of playing a stylus in a groove will excite the rest of the arm and turntable.

And, as made plainly clear, not only am I listening to rips, I'm measuring them against suitable digital alternatives, therefore, relating accuracy and tonality objectively. I've done lots of homework, and I've shared that here, and will continue to do so. Rather that then preach only theory while citing the foggy vail of many past experiences as my only proof of knowledge.
You have a confidence in your understanding of how they work which is misplaced.
I am not going to discuss further with you, your confidence is completely out of proportion with your competance, sorry you don't understand dynamics but the record player world is full to the gunnels of people who do not. I am surprised to find one here.
 

Sal1950

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#99
Sure, there comes a point where you run into the limitations of LP itself.

But I think everyone knows that, so not quite sure what the point is that you're making?
Yep, if you enjoy the whole ritual of playing vinyl it can offer very good SQ.
It was just for me I found the whole business of playing records drudgery. CD's were a huge step forward but then later computer based playback blew the whole business of hard media out of the water. I now have my entire life collection of music, LP and CD alike, on the hard drive of my computer. Now today next to that, is my Spotify subscription with just about everything else I could ever want. All this is available in an instant from my listening chair via a remote app on my tablet.
I can't imagine going back to the restrictions of playing vinyl irrespective of how they sound.
For those that do, God Bless and enjoy.
 

watchnerd

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Yep, if you enjoy the whole ritual of playing vinyl it can offer very good SQ.
It was just for me I found the whole business of playing records drudgery. CD's were a huge step forward but then later computer based playback blew the whole business of hard media out of the water. I now have my entire life collection of music, LP and CD alike, on the hard drive of my computer. Now today next to that, is my Spotify subscription with just about everything else I could ever want. All this is available in an instant from my listening chair via a remote app on my tablet.
I can't imagine going back to the restrictions of playing vinyl irrespective of how they sound.
For those that do, God Bless and enjoy.
I love my streaming (both from NAS and from the internet).

If I was *forced* to listen to LP, because I had no other option, as opposed to listening to it when I'm in the mood or the situation is right, I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be so charming.

It's like having a motocycle for those times when you want to go on a nice ride, which is great, as opposed to having it as a sole means of transportation (groceries, bad weather, going to Home Depot, going to the airport, etc.), which would be a PITA.
 
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