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  1. #1
    Demoted to Low-Fi Carl Reid's Avatar
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    Recommended Budget Components

    It’s almost a new year and it seems like a good time to recommend the best budget components you’ve encountered in your quest for Audio Nirvana.

    “Budget” is very subjective… so I won’t impose any limits in terms of dollar amounts…

    But I will try and define a budget component as being: An item that costs significantly less than other comparable items but offers a similar/better level of performance.


    So my top pick is:

    The Marantz 5001 CD player

    Cost: $330 Canadian (so probably a little less than $300US)…

    This one was a shocker for me…. I previously owned a NAD C521Bee CD player costing around $500 CDN… which I sold a few weeks ago, partially because I found little difference in sound quality between it and my MAC sound card…

    So when I finally decided to get a new CD player, I figured I would have to get at least a $1000 player to hear any significant improvement in sound quality… so I was checking out Rotel and Arcam and my heart was set on a Rotel … though my wallet, due to Christmas expenditures, was not at all thrilled at the price of the Rotel….

    Anyway, I went to audition some Monitor Audio Gold RG6 Speakers and asked the sales guy what CD players he recommended in the $1K price range… of which he Said Marantz 8001 (interestingly he didn’t fancy the Rega Apollo that he also had for sale in the store)… So I went home and checked the stats for the Marantz online… and saw that it was a SACD player as well… and that they had a CD Player with the same DAC for a quarter of the price (with no SACD playback and an inferior build quality of course)… So anyway, I figured what the hell…. And took the plunge… $300 for an ‘audiophile’ CD player… I had little to lose… worse case it would sound no worse than my MAC…

    So I took the little critter home and plugged it into my Rotel Pre-amp and tossed on some Jackson 5…. DAMN! The little monster sounded better than the NAD…. The vocals were clearer and the bass was more defined… even on some of my more questionable CDs, the drums finally sounded like drums and not just low frequency noise….

    So anyway, let’s just say that I’m happy with this budget purchase… so I’ll put this little Gem at the top of my list of Highly Recommended Budget Components….


    So what’s your pick?
    Last edited by Carl Reid; 12-27-2006 at 04:21 PM.

  2. #2
    Audiophile Wireworm5's Avatar
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    My story is somewhat similar. I got a cheap Magnasonic DVD816-4 for $40 (they were selling for $30 bucks last week) for my other tv as the remote on my old model Panasonic is lousy. I initially had it hooked to my stereo to compare to my $500 Sony. Using an optical cable there is only a marginal difference in sound quality, nothing to be concerned about. Which I think is pretty darn good for $40. However the build quality is obviously inferior and it does skip on some cds that wouldn't on my Sony.
    I might buy another one as a spare for my HT and put less wear on my Sony.

  3. #3
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    I'll have to go with...

    Quote Originally Posted by Carl Reid
    It’s almost a new year and it seems like a good time to recommend the best budget components you’ve encountered in your quest for Audio Nirvana.

    “Budget” is very subjective… so I won’t impose any limits in terms of dollar amounts…

    But I will try and define a budget component as being: An item that costs significantly less than other comparable items but offers a similar/better level of performance.


    So my top pick is:

    The Marantz 5001 CD player

    Cost: $330 Canadian (so probably a little less than $300US)…

    This one was a shocker for me…. I previously owned a NAD C521Bee CD player costing around $500 CDN… which I sold a few weeks ago, partially because I found little difference in sound quality between it and my MAC sound card…

    So when I finally decided to get a new CD player, I figured I would have to get at least a $1000 player to hear any significant improvement in sound quality… so I was checking out Rotel and Arcam and my heart was set on a Rotel … though my wallet, due to Christmas expenditures, was not at all thrilled at the price of the Rotel….

    Anyway, I went to audition some Monitor Audio Gold RG6 Speakers and asked the sales guy what CD players he recommended in the $1K price range… of which he Said Marantz 7001 (interestingly he didn’t fancy the Rega Apollo that he also had for sale in the store)… So I went home and checked the stats for the Marantz online… and saw that it was a SACD player as well… and that they had a CD Player with the same DAC for a quarter of the price (with no SACD playback and an inferior build quality of course)… So anyway, I figured what the hell…. And took the plunge… $300 for an ‘audiophile’ CD player… I had little to lose… worse case it would sound no worse than my MAC…

    So I took the little critter home and plugged it into my Rotel Pre-amp and tossed on some Jackson 5…. DAMN! The little monster sounded better than the NAD…. The vocals were clearer and the bass was more defined… even on some of my more questionable CDs, the drums finally sounded like drums and not just low frequency noise….

    So anyway, let’s just say that I’m happy with this budget purchase… so I’ll put this little Gem at the top of my list of Highly Recommended Budget Components….


    So what’s your pick?
    ...the Onix x-ls at www.av123.com.

    They are coherent, balanced, quite resolving, with decent (if not earth-shaking) bass. Subtleties within a recording can be easily heard. A soft-dome tweeter is used, they won't beat you up - sometimes cheap metal tweeters can send you running outta the room.

    OK, they sound pretty good, but another aspect I like is all the matching pieces are available to do 5.1 (including a sub) whenever funds permit. I believe there is now a floor-stander version available for another $100ish.

    Thirdly, the finish is VERY nice. The cabinet wouldn't be out of place in a $1000 speaker. There are even threaded metal inserts for adhering to a stand. Binding posts are OK, terminal cup a bit small.

    Good sound, upscale finsh... $219.

  4. #4
    Do What? jrhymeammo's Avatar
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    Marantz SA8001

    Probably the greatest thing I`ve done for my CDs. Of course SACD is nice, but RBCD sounds great to these ears. I dont regret playing a CD after a long session of wax. For me, that`s saying alot.

    JRA

  5. #5
    Demoted to Low-Fi Carl Reid's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wireworm5
    My story is somewhat similar. I got a cheap Magnasonic DVD816-4 for $40 (they were selling for $30 bucks last week) for my other tv as the remote on my old model Panasonic is lousy. I initially had it hooked to my stereo to compare to my $500 Sony. Using an optical cable there is only a marginal difference in sound quality, nothing to be concerned about. Which I think is pretty darn good for $40. However the build quality is obviously inferior and it does skip on some cds that wouldn't on my Sony.
    I might buy another one as a spare for my HT and put less wear on my Sony.

    Ok, that's the general idea of this thread... one quick suggestion though...

    If you really want to take your testing of sound quality to another level.... Try comparing the Magnasonic to the Sony by using standard RCA cables instead of optical...

    Using Optical essentially means that the DVD player is just sending raw data to your stereo and your stereo does all the real work of converting data into music... so in theory (ignoring the concept of jitter) the sound of either player should be essentially the same...

    On the other hand, by using analog (RCA cables), you force the Magna and the Sony to do the actual processing and send "music" (an analog signal) to your stereo...


    Note: To the more Technical Members on this site, please don't rip me a new one for refering to an analog signal as music

  6. #6
    Demoted to Low-Fi Carl Reid's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jrhymeammo
    Marantz SA8001

    Probably the greatest thing I`ve done for my CDs. Of course SACD is nice, but RBCD sounds great to these ears. I dont regret playing a CD after a long session of wax. For me, that`s saying alot.

    JRA

    SA8001!!!!

    I so hate you!!! LOL

    If I had the extra cash lying around I'd probably trade in the CD5001 for the SA8001 and buy a few SACDs...

    Quick Question: What setup are you using the 8001 with? Receiver? Speakers? etc...

  7. #7
    Can a crooner get a gig? dean_martin's Avatar
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    I'd say the Bellari VP129 phono/headphone amp at its orginal price of $199. It provides a cost effective yet quality way of adding a phono section to the many integrated amps and preamps of today that don't have phono sections. The only comparisons I've done is with the phono sections of an older NAD receiver and a Parasound stereo preamp. The Bellari is smoother with less grain and noise compared to the NAD and more lively than the rather flat/dull Parasound. The Bellari has only one tube, but you can tailor your sound through tube rolling. I think the changes are subtle but noticeable. I've found that with my Jolida 202, the best 12AX7 in the Bellari is dependent on which 12AX7s I'm running in the preamp section of the Jolida. I've also made use of the Bellari's headphone section. It's very clean from top to bottom. I don't think the Bellari's single tube is in the headphone circuit, but it really lets you hear what your cartridge can do. It drives my new Grado SR80s (Christmas present) just fine.

  8. #8
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Magneplanar MMG

    Quote Originally Posted by Carl Reid
    ...
    So what’s your pick?
    At US$550 plus delivery, these speakers can't be beat at under a grand provided you have a little space and aren't a bass-banger.

  9. #9
    test the blind blindly emorphien's Avatar
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    I have listened to one of the Marantz CD players recently (may be the one you mentioned) and it was quite nice. I agree it was at least as good as the NAD 521BEE, however I find my 542 has a better sense of drive with a fuller, richer sound at the expense of some accuracy. The 521 to me was very straightforward but clear.

    I'd say the Focal Chorus 706 V is a killer deal considering even the 806 V which is essentially identical is still a good deal at $200 more. The Magnepan MMG as well, a monstrous deal with great performance. I'd also recommend the PSB Image B25.

    I'm also more than impressed with the performance of the NAD PP-2 for about $110. It lacks some of the richness of the Bellari but is very detailed, moreso than anything else i've heard at near or below its price. (never heard the PP-1).

  10. #10
    Demoted to Low-Fi Carl Reid's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Feanor
    At US$550 plus delivery, these speakers can't be beat at under a grand provided you have a little space and aren't a bass-banger.

    How much space do they need? Cuz I'm seriously tempted to try a pair.... Since (A) I haven't been able to find any tradtional (non-planar) speakers that I like substantially more than my existing Missions for less than $3.5K.... And I have no desire to spend that much on speakers anytime soon (if ever).... (B) I'm not a bass-banger....

  11. #11
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Not all that much

    Quote Originally Posted by Carl Reid
    How much space do they need? Cuz I'm seriously tempted to try a pair.... Since (A) I haven't been able to find any tradtional (non-planar) speakers that I like substantially more than my existing Missions for less than $3.5K.... And I have no desire to spend that much on speakers anytime soon (if ever).... (B) I'm not a bass-banger....
    MMGs need to be placed at least 2.5 feet out from the wall; at little more is better. And ideally they should be 2 feet from the side walls. This is due to the dipolar design.

    The MMGs have a limited ability to play loud regardless of amplfier power because of the limited area of the planar panels. However they are sufficient thoroughy enjoy chamber music or jazz in small to medium room. Then again significantly more loudness and stronger bass can be achieved with a subwoofer, driving the MMGs themselves through a high-pass filter at 80 Hz.

  12. #12
    RGA
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    I'll choose the Audio Note AX Two standmount speaker at $600.00US In the under $2000.00 price range it would be my choice for loudspeakers. I would have the PMC TB2, Magnepan 1.6, and Dynaudio Audio 52SE in consideration but all are at least double the price and the AX Two is superior on acoustic materials such as Piano. Some of these do certain things better mind you but the overall balance is what I am after rather than just certain attributes like bass impact or imaging. The higher efficiency also makes them open for the buyer to purchase superior SET and low powered amplfiers.

    The Rotel RA-02 integrated punches well above its weight as does the Antique Sound Labs AQ1003 DT integrated tube amp.

    I also enjoyed the sound of the Project Debut II turntable rig which is inexpensive and better than my own more expensive turntable rig or a Rega P2.

    I recently purchased AKG 26p headphones which are very good for around $40.00US. Surprisingly good really since the last pair I had were complete rubbish for the same price.

  13. #13
    I took a headstart... basite's Avatar
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    so much...
    my denon integrated (PMA-700AE) but it isn't available in the US of A, so that doesn't count i guess,
    the Magnepan MMG, but it isn't available here in the EU (at least not in Belgium)
    the wharfedale diamond 9 series, the monitor audio bronze series.

    (there is alot more, but these are some things that i first thought of...)
    Life is music!

    Mcintosh MA6400 Integrated
    Double Advent speakers
    Thiel CS2.3's
    *DIY Lenco L75 TT
    * SME 3012 S2
    * Rega RB-301
    *Denon DL-103 in midas body
    *Denon DL-304
    *Graham slee elevator EXP & revelation
    *Lehmann audio black cube SE
    Marantz CD5001 OSE
    MIT AVt 2 IC's
    Sonic link Black earth IC's
    Siltech MXT New york IC's
    Kimber 4VS speakercable
    Furutech powercord and plugs.

    I'm a happy 20 year old...

  14. #14
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    I'll put my vote in for the Cambridge Soundworks Newton M80 speakers ($499). They are built well and sound good IMO. I bought these after a long search for a pair of bookshelf speakers and haven't looked back since.

  15. #15
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Amplifiers

    Quote Originally Posted by Carl Reid
    It’s almost a new year and it seems like a good time to recommend the best budget components you’ve encountered in your quest for Audio Nirvana.

    “Budget” is very subjective… so I won’t impose any limits in terms of dollar amounts…
    ...
    So what’s your pick?
    Based on reputation and my own, somewhat limited experience, I suspect that most of the product lines of NAD, Rotel, Cambridge, and Arcam, while compeditive in their price ranges, don't really reach beyond mid-fi. In general you have to go over US$1k, (new), to move into true hi-fi.

    Personally, I have no issue with digital amps in general, though most are on the "cool" side of the spectrum. However they tend to have detail, transparency, and power in abundance. The following manufacturers make integrates in the US$1500 range:
    • PS Audio
    • Bel Canto
    • NuForce
    There are compromises involved, but many people prefer the "warmth" of tube sound. The compromises, (though some might dispute), are low power, the need to eventually change tubes, the need in some designs to adjust bias, some loss of detail vs. the best solid state designs. Sub-$1500 models are available from the likes of:
    • Antique Sound Lab
    • Prima Luna
    Tube/solid state hybrids combine the benefits (and some disadvantages) of tubes with the higher power of solid state; some under the $1.5k mark come from:
    • Jolida
    • Pathos, (I think; might be a bit more expensive)
    My own setup was great value that can be had for $1.5k if bought used:
    • Arcam GFP-750 passive/active preamp with balanced outputs and full remote control; (top of the Arcam line; class 'A', designed by Nelson Pass) -- around $700;
    • Monarchy SM-70 Pro, pair: 140 wt/ch into 4 ohms mono; high-bias, low feedback design that combines the power, detail, low maintenance of s/s and the warmth of tubes -- $700.

  16. #16
    Forum Regular Rick684's Avatar
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    What!??! Where did you find TWO Sm-70's for $700 used??!! They're a kilobuck apiece new. There's a pair on Audiogon for $980 right now...
    HT:
    Samsung HLN437W
    Denon AVR-3805
    Denon DVD-5900
    Sony DVP-NC685V
    Paradigm Atoms
    Paradigm CC-170
    Paradigm UltraCube 10

    2 CH:
    Parasound Halo P3
    Parasound Halo A23
    McIntosh MR7083
    Marantz 6170
    Onkyo DV-CP802
    Monster Power HTS-5100
    Paradigm Monitor 5
    Miller & Kreisel V-76

  17. #17
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Yeah, but note this

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick684
    What!??! Where did you find TWO Sm-70's for $700 used??!! They're a kilobuck apiece new. There's a pair on Audiogon for $980 right now...
    The pair there for $980 are directly from Monarchy Audio. They are rated as 9/10 but are possibly brand new in fact; I bet if you asked them, they would give you 6 months warranty on them. I bought a NEW pair from them at that price a just few months ago. Every now and then Monarchy releases a pair for 1/2 the retail price. I don't know why: possibly they are overstocks, i.e. units not taken up by dealers, or in this case maybe a unit refused by a dealer's customer and returned to Monarchy by the dealer.


    In any case a heck of a bargain. I have seen actual used ones in the $700 - 750 range.

  18. #18
    Forum Regular blackraven's Avatar
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    I consider budget under $1,000. Therefore I'd go with the MMG speakers-$550
    Sunfire Sub advertised online for $500, Yamaha HTR 6090 or Onkyo SR 804 receivers for $699 and any number of mid priced CDP- Marantz,NAD, Azure , Music Hall, Rega Apollo.

    For under $2,000 I would go with an Outlaw 7125 amp and 990 pre amp for $1699 and the MagnepanQ1.6's, REL Strata II sub and possibly the Azure 840CDP
    Pass Labs X250 amp, BAT Vk-51se Preamp,
    Thorens TD-145 TT, Bellari phono preamp, Nagaoka MP-200 Cartridge
    Magnepan QR1.6 speakers
    Luxman DA-06 DAC
    Van Alstine Ultra Plus Hybrid Tube DAC
    Dual Martin Logan Original Dynamo Subs
    Parasound A21 amp
    Vintage Luxman T-110 tuner
    Magnepan MMG's, Grant Fidelity DAC-11, Class D CDA254 amp
    Monitor Audio S1 speakers, PSB B6 speakers
    Vintage Technic's Integrated amp
    Music Hall 25.2 CDP
    Adcom GFR 700 AVR
    Cables- Cardas, Silnote, BJC
    Velodyne CHT 8 sub

  19. #19
    Forum Regular JDaniel's Avatar
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    I've found that the best bang for the buck is in quality vintage audio. I now own several vintage amps/receivers. They can be had for very little. I send mine to a very respected audio tech who can do everything from simple checking, to recapping, tuner alignment etc. I still come out way ahead in price from new components. Case in point is the main receiver in my analog system - a Sansui 9090db. It is both beautiful sounding and beautiful to look at. I got it for under $50, and had a $60 refurb performed on it.

    I also own vintage Marantz, Technics, Sansui, and Hitachi gear.

    JD
    Tu le ton son temp..... That's what we'd say ... (Lucinda Williams)

  20. #20
    Forum Regular blackraven's Avatar
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    Yes, I still love my vintage technics 50wpc integrated amp with my Hitachi Tuner. It still brings sweet music to my ears!
    Pass Labs X250 amp, BAT Vk-51se Preamp,
    Thorens TD-145 TT, Bellari phono preamp, Nagaoka MP-200 Cartridge
    Magnepan QR1.6 speakers
    Luxman DA-06 DAC
    Van Alstine Ultra Plus Hybrid Tube DAC
    Dual Martin Logan Original Dynamo Subs
    Parasound A21 amp
    Vintage Luxman T-110 tuner
    Magnepan MMG's, Grant Fidelity DAC-11, Class D CDA254 amp
    Monitor Audio S1 speakers, PSB B6 speakers
    Vintage Technic's Integrated amp
    Music Hall 25.2 CDP
    Adcom GFR 700 AVR
    Cables- Cardas, Silnote, BJC
    Velodyne CHT 8 sub

  21. #21
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Congrats on the Sansui

    Quote Originally Posted by JDaniel
    ... Case in point is the main receiver in my analog system - a Sansui 9090db. It is both beautiful sounding and beautiful to look at. I got it for under $50, and had a $60 refurb performed on it.
    ...
    JD
    A Sansui 909DB can go for over $300 -- $50 is real coup. The guy selling this one, with a channel blown and baffed cosmetic condition is hoping for $250 ...
    Here's another. At this moment, 6 days to go and already $180:

  22. #22
    Forum Regular JDaniel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Feanor
    A Sansui 909DB can go for over $300 -- $50 is real coup. The guy selling this one, with a channel blown and baffed cosmetic condition is hoping for $250 ...Here's another. At this moment, 6 days to go and already $180:
    Yes, I know what they are worth on ebay. And that's what makes vintage a possible good value. You often find good vintage equipment at yard sales, thrift stores, local classified, estate sales. And usually they are reasonably priced.

    In the case of my 9090db, it is a piece I've always wanted to own. I would have gladly spent the $150-$200 to recap and bring to orig. or better specs. Fortunately, my unit didn't need much work at all.

    JD
    Tu le ton son temp..... That's what we'd say ... (Lucinda Williams)

  23. #23
    Super Moderator Site Moderator JohnMichael's Avatar
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    Very good choice with the Marantz CD5001. It is such a great player for the money.
    JohnMichael
    Vinyl Rega Planar 2, Incognito rewire, Deepgroove subplatter, ceramic bearing, Michell Technoweight, Rega 24V motor, TTPSU, FunkFirm Achroplat platter, Michael Lim top and bottom braces, 2 Rega feet and one RDC cones. Grado Sonata, Moon 110 LP phono.
    Digital
    Sony SCD-XA5400ES SACD/cd SID mat, Marantz SA 8001
    Int. Amp Krell S-300i
    Speaker
    Monitor Audio RS6
    Cables
    AQ SPKR and AQ XLR and IC

  24. #24
    SuperPoser Rock789's Avatar
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    I'll put a vote in on my B&K PT3 S2 & Anthem PVA 2,
    I got them as a package on ebay for $425, ~$500 shipped...
    they are totally awsome!
    HT: Anthem AVM 50 / PVA-7; Focal JM Lab 4x Chorus 716 S, CC 700 S, 2x Chorus 706S; 2x 12s - Homebuilt Sub
    2CH: B&K PT3 s2, Anthem PVA-2, VonSchweikert VR-1
    Computer: Denon AVR 2805, Old Tecnic & Optimus Speakers
    2004 KTM 200 SX
    2003 Spyder
    2002 Single Cab, 3" cornfed lift, 34"LTB & 31" AT's
    ONLINE PHOTO ALBUM

  25. #25
    Avid Listener Registered Member perry2070's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JDaniel
    I've found that the best bang for the buck is in quality vintage audio. I now own several vintage amps/receivers. They can be had for very little. I send mine to a very respected audio tech who can do everything from simple checking, to recapping, tuner alignment etc. I still come out way ahead in price from new components. Case in point is the main receiver in my analog system - a Sansui 9090db. It is both beautiful sounding and beautiful to look at. I got it for under $50, and had a $60 refurb performed on it.

    I also own vintage Marantz, Technics, Sansui, and Hitachi gear.

    JD
    This may or may not be "quality" vintage, but how about a Pioneer SA7800 amp? I picked one up for $60 on ebay and it runs my Dahlquist DQ18's very nicely! It even had the original enclosure replaced with solid red cedar - gorgeous!

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