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trying to build a home theater, and starting with nothing. PLEASE HELP!

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#1 of 17 OFFLINE   Mike Matthews

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Posted August 01 2003 - 12:03 PM

i'm moving apartments, and have been living off my roommates stereo equipment for a few years. now it's time for me to put together a home theater and i have no clue what i'm doing. i have nothing right now, and i've been asking around for advice and opinions...but there's so much out there that it's become quite confusing. i was hoping to only spend $1,000, but after doing some research, this doesn't seem very realistic. my budget for this project is $2,000. i'm a huge music fan, and i enjoy movies as well. however, i'll definitely be listening to more music than watching movies. i live in a standard size apartment, so i don't need anything rediculously big. i want to make sure that what i get now lasts a long time, and has a rich, full, clear sound. i want something that i can blast should i ever feel the urge, although i don't often have a need to do so. having said that, here's what i've been thinking about. again, i have no clue what i'm doing, but i've gotten some advice and based on that, here's what i was looking into: Receiver: Denon AVR-1803 ($500) Denon AVR-2802 (found on ebay for $400) Outlaw Audio 1050 ($400) DVD/CD Changer: Samsung DVD-C621 ($150) PANASONIC DVD-CP72 (found on ebay for $150) Front Floor Speakers: Polk Audio R50 ($450) Polk Audio RTi70 ($600) Center Speaker: Polk Audio CSi30 ($150) Suround Speakers: Polk Audio FXi30 ($280) Sub Woofer: Polk Audio PSW250 ($150) so that gives you an idea of what i've been thinking about. that's already around $1500 and i have no idea what to do about a TV. i've been wondering about those Home Theater In A Box deals, as well as the pre-packaged home theater speaker systems. are those good? i saw the Polk RM7200 that looked nice, as well as a YamahaYHT-940 home theater system that looked good...but i don't know how reliable those pre-packaged systems are. a friend recommened a JBL 5-Piece Home Theater System, but again - i'd have no clue what i'd need to add to that or how good those are. if you'd please make suggestions, offer replacement ideas, tell me what kind of system you have, etc...that'd be wonderful. feel free to build examples of home theaters for me, to give me more ideas and examples. i've also looked into Paradigm speakers, but i went to their website and they had no prices listed. basically - HELP!

#2 of 17 OFFLINE   ChrisWiggles



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Posted August 01 2003 - 12:23 PM

You can scratch together a find system with that budget, so steer clear of the HTiB. Those are not up to task except at the lowest prices if you just want a little bit of surround sound action. Those look like solid reciever choices, and since you are bigger on the music end of things, I would recommend that you get better speakers for your front L/R, and sacrifice timbre matching the surrounds, and perhaps even the center(to a degree, it depends) for better music performance. 27 in TVs and the like aren't super expensive, a few hundrd dollars, until you start demanding hi-def and flat screen and the like, which increases price obviously. I'm not a TV expert by any means, not really familiar with what's out there, others, and the display forum can help better. Now, I like to recommend Paradigm for speakers because of the value (GREAT sound for not much $$), and because they are relatively main-stream. You can find dealers in the states, and their dealers are usually pretty good specialty dealers, not the big-box type stores. I would go for something like mini-monitors ($350/pr) atoms for the surround (4189/pr), and a center, price depends on what center you choose, i think 300-350 for the 370 that matches the mini-monitors, and less if you go for a lesser center. I've heard a setup with mini-monitors and a 270 center that matches the performance series instead of the monitor series, and it's still great. I'm not uber-picky about timbre matching in movies, and I'd rather spend that money on better speakers for the fronts, which seems to be similar to your priorities. And a sub, probably a couple hundred or so, look around, there are some good ones discussed here. Anyway, take a listen to Paradigm if you haven't, I'm sure others will have their favorite brands too, which you should also take a listen to, and decide what's right for you. Another thing to keep in mind, is that some dealers offer trade-ins, so you might, taking previous paradigm setup for example, get atoms all around and a matching center, then trade them in for mini-monitors when the time comes. You can use this option to your advantage to build a better system long-term, while still having a great system in the meantime, without having to sacrifice some speakers all together to get better sound long-term. Hope that helps!

#3 of 17 OFFLINE   Mike Matthews

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Posted August 01 2003 - 12:37 PM

alright, as far as the Paradigm speakers go, how do the Cinema, Monitor, and Performance systems rank? basically, which is the high end and which is the lower end model? some of your post confused me a bit, so let me try and confirm what you said: stick with the receiver and dvd player choices i had. then go with: Paradigm Mini Monitors for my surround speakers. are these generally $350/pr or $189/pr? Paradigm CC370 Center Speaker for the center. a good sub, probably paradigm what would you recommend for front speakers? also, what's timbre matching? based on what you said - how much do you think it will all cost (ballpark)? also - i imagine that i have to find a Paradigm dealer and physically drive there in order to check things out, huh?

#4 of 17 OFFLINE   ChrisWiggles



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Posted August 01 2003 - 01:16 PM

sorry, a comma can go a long way huh... oops :/

That really needs a comma, the mini monitors are 350 a pair, i'd use something like that for fronts, (big comma Posted Image ),,,, and atoms for the surrounds which are 189/pr, and some sort of center that you might choose based on price and demands in terms of timbre matching.

The cinema line is sort of like a small version of the performance line, for roughly the same price, except they are designed to be small, and MUST be used with a subwoofer. The performance series, especially the Atoms(189) and the slightly larger Titans(220) are absolutely killer in their price range, and are large enough and have plenty of bass so they dont NEED to be used with a sub, although a sub is usually helpful with music, and arguably necessary for movies. The monitors series is a step up from the performance series, and more money. Above that is the Reference Studio series, that started at about 650/pr for the outgoing V2s. The newer V3s are more expensive, and Paradigm is also adding a Signature series that starts at like 2K/pr. That's the "order" of those lines, you'd be looking at maybe sacrificing the surrounds and center quality a tad bit to move up to the monitor series as I suggested, for the front L/R, which may fit your music-tilted listening better.

I'm not too familiar with Paradigm subs, the PW220 is decent, and the Servo 15 is awesome, I have an SVS that I chose instead of those to save money, but other than those two subs, their other cheaper/smaller subs, I have no idea. There may be some better bargains out there, but take a listen always, and see what's best.

And your other questions: timbre matching is basically getting speakers in your setup to sound the same. Timbre (pronounced tamber, logical spelling, dont you think? Posted Image ), is sort of like the sound signature of a particular speaker. All the speakers within a particular line from a manufacturer should sound very simalar, so that they match. You ideally wouldn't want a pan of a sound effect to change its sound as it moved between speakers of different lines, or manufacturers. I think the paradigm lines are relatively close in timbre, as are those of many manufacturers, so that fudging a little bit and not getting all your speakers from the same line isn't a big loss, and is especially worth it if you can improve your front L/R, since you listen to music a lot (this is the strategy I am taking in my HT, im a big music guy too).

so, say you got mini-monitors for L/R at 350/pr, atoms for the surrounds at 189/pr, and a CC370 center (which matches specifically with the mini-monitores) for 350, thats about $889, without the sub. Stepping down to the CC270, or CC170 center will save money, but you will lose the match to the monitor series, but IMO it's not too much a sacrifice for a better sub, or being able to afford putting the mini-monitors as the main speakers.

Paradigm, as with most high-end brands, does not sell in catalogues/phone/internet, and you should ALWAYS go in person to audition speakers before you buy. I can tell you that they are great, and someone else can tell you another speaker brand is great. You should not take my advice as if I am the all-knowing speaker guru (someday maybe Posted Image ). go listen, and see what you like best. Hope that helps some more. Above all, go audition, take music you are familiar with and listen thoroughly and carefully and compare, because after all, you're gonna be listening to these speakers for a long time. You want to make sure whatever you get sounds great to YOU, not to me.

#5 of 17 OFFLINE   ChrisWiggles



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Posted August 01 2003 - 01:18 PM

haaahaha im an idiot. I didnt even see the FATTY huge 4189 typo with the atoms. That 4 is supposed to be a dollar sign. They are $189 per pair, MSRP. Yeah.... that WOULD be confusing, huh.... I was sorta wondering why you were confused. DOH! :b

#6 of 17 OFFLINE   Mike Matthews

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Posted August 01 2003 - 03:08 PM

so those small Paradigm Mini Monitors are really better quality and more powerful speakers than those Polk Audio RTi70s or something else along those lines?

#7 of 17 OFFLINE   Mike Matthews

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Posted August 01 2003 - 11:18 PM

got a few more questions: 1) i'd really like a DVD/CD Changer (5-disc), but is that a good idea if my primary goal for this unit is to listen to music? i was looked at the Denon model, which is expensive, but i want to make sure i get a very good quality CD player out of the deal 2) when playing music, will it only come out of my front two speakers, or will it come out of all speakers if i have a surround set up? 3) i think what might be best for me would be 2 Floor Speakers, then a center, and two rear surround speakers. i feel like the smaller home theater main speakers (like the kind that come in the packages) wouldn't quite meet my musical needs. i might even hold off on the sub woofer for now, as i'm hoping to get plenty of bass from the floor speakers 4) would i be able to put together a Paradigm speaker system that matches the Polk set i'd laid out in my initial post for around the same cost? if not, would someone give me an idea of how much the Paradigm equivilant of that Polk set up would cost? i really can't believe i'm spending so much. which brings me to the fact that i hope i'm not going too overboard here. i mean, i love listening to music and watching movies with great sound quality - but i really hadn't expected to spend so much. i was just going to get 2 good floor speakers, a receiver, and a dvd/cd changer. then all of a sudden the Home Theater concept was brought to my attention and i like the idea, but don't know if i can afford it right now. however, part of me also tells me to just go for it because i'll be needing all of this stuff further down the road

#8 of 17 OFFLINE   Steve Lucas

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Posted August 01 2003 - 11:41 PM

Are you talking about the Polk speakers sold at places like Circuit City? Polk is a respected name in loudspeakers, but I have to say, I don't think much of what is being sold under the Polk name in the larger electronic stores lately. I wouldn't even consider them. I think they sound sloppy and the build quality is lacking. I own Paradigms and am admittedly biased, but I don't think you could go wrong with them. Do as Chris suggests and buy the best L/R you can afford since y ou are primarily using them for music. After that, I would suggest second priority would be the center channel and after that surrounds. I have Monitor 9's for my L/R and they have a very tight/solid bass. If I were using them for music only, I don't think they would need a sub. They are a floor standing speaker with 2 8" woofers and a 1" titanium tweeter. Klipsh also has their reference series in the same price range, you might listen to them as well, but listen! Buying a speaker on someone else's word is a prescription for disappointment. I was all set to buy the Klipsh Reference 7's until I actually listened to them. I didn't care for them ( I think the Klipsch sound is an acquired taste, it takes some getting used to). The one detail I would disagree with Chris on is Paradigm's PW-2200 sub. I have one and think it is awesome, especially for the money. I auditioned the Polk, Klipsh, Velodyne and Paradigm subs and I think the PW-2200 is by far the most musical of them all, but it give nothing away in sheer house shaking volume and extension at the same time. If you look around you may be able to find some Paradigm Speakers in the older v2 series and save some serious bucks since the v3 are the current models. Steve
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#9 of 17 OFFLINE   Mike Matthews

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Posted August 02 2003 - 01:06 PM

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#10 of 17 OFFLINE   Tremelle



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Posted August 02 2003 - 04:17 PM

I could not link to this article I found on another site. You will most likely find this very helpful and informative. Home Theater For Cheap written by Mike Shea on 21 November 1999 Being known as a home theater hobbyist who has put a significant amount of resources into his own system, I am often asked by normal citizens how they can get into the world of home theater. Often they look at high end systems and are immediatly turned off by the huge price tags. There is also a misconception that you can get a well performing home theater system for $300. This is unfortunately not the case. This article will discuss the required features for a well performing home theater for a low cost. It will cut through the fuzzy marketing speak and the attitude rich audiophile snobbery to get into the realistic idea of building a good home theater without breaking the bank. Much like the Home Theater 101 article, I will cover each of the required components and point out exactly what features should be present and what can be thrown out with the glossy product ads. Because the focus of this article is home theater for cheap, I won't get into the higher end features one should look for if they are willing to spend the extra money. Here are the main things to look for in a cheap home theater. Plan to spend at least $1500 for a full system. Get a 27" or bigger TV with a component video input. Expect to spend $300 or more. Get a DVD player for your source for $100. Get a receiver with both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS for around $300. Speakers should come from the same brand and model, with five speakers and a powered subwoofer. Be careful of inexpensive all-in-one packages. Cost is around $500 at the low end. Set up your environment as if it were a movie theater and avoid interruptions or distractions. Follow the Liquidtheater Certification Program. Don't forget about cables, stands, and a remote. Cost Here we cut to the bottom line since it seems to be the first question people have. About the minimum someone could spend to build a good home theater system is about $1500. This includes a display (TV), a source (DVD Player), audio electronics (receiver) and speakers (mains, surrounds, center and sub). You may very well have some of these already available so this cost doesn't have to be spent all at once, but everyone I have talked to who has started building a home theater has ended up spending about this much money on their system over a period of 6 months to a year. If you plan ahead, you will end up not wasting money upgrading components and instead build the system you always wanted. The Display The minimum screen size for a home theater display should be 27". A regular tube TV is still the way to go even though digital displays and projection TVs are becoming much more popular. This tube TV will run anywhere from $300 to $500 for a 27" screen. The only feature you should shop for when buying this TV is a component input (in addition to composite and s-video). This input is about 1/2 an inch in diameter with about five pins in the center. Make sure to ignore useless "cool" features such as picture in picture, digital tuners, digital comb filters (when did adding the word digital to everything from TV comb filters to headphones become so cool?), color correction features, lines of resolution and any other marketing ploy. The only real feature that has anything to do with a good home theater system is this component video input for your DVD player. Any extra money should be put into screen size. If you have a few bucks more, you can get a true 50+ inch HDTV 16x9 widescreen display for around $1700. Its a bit more, but it is the biggest bang for the buck right now. The Source DVD is the only way to go. For $100 you can get an excellent DVD player and get the cleanest picture possible from a home prerecorded source. Once again, ignore all the useless features such as a built in AC3 decoder, 3D spatial sound matrix, and jog shuttle control. Don't spend more than $100 for a player and stick to brands like Sony or Panasonic. Any extra money should probably go towards your TV's screen size. The Audio Electronics There are only two features that are really important for a good receiver and that is Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS. Both of these sound decoding methods are what really add the theater like sound to your system. I am not going to get into the differences between the DD 5.1 and DTS except to say that having both gives you the most flexible system and can be purchased without any more expense than just Dolby Digital 5.1. You will continue to be bombarded with extra features and marketspeak to get you to pick one over another, but as long as it is DD 5.1 and DTS, you have all that you need. Receivers from Sony, Onkyo and Yamaha can run around $300 to $400 and will give you exactly what you need for a decent audio system. Beyond the $700 mark you are paying for features that won't make near as much difference as a large screen would, drop any extra cash into your TV. The Speakers The speakers you choose will make the biggest difference in how your system sounds. The main concern here is getting a set of five speakers from the same manufacturer and same model. You need two main front speakers, a center speaker, a pair of surround speakers and a subwoofer. There are many excellent speaker systems from companies such as Atlantic Technologies, B&W Speakers, Definitive Technologies, Boston Acoustics and Energy Speakers. For more on subwoofers, see the Subwoofer Buyers Guide. Most speaker packages cost around $500 to $1000 for a full set. Home Theater Direct sells speaker packages from $150 to $1000 that are all a good value for the dollar. Interconnects, Stands, Remotes and all the other stuff we normally forget about The only requirement for interconnects is that they are large and shielded. If you can get 14 gauge wire for your speakers you are doing fine. For electronic interconnects, make sure they are shielded and not the flimsy cables that come with the system which are very sensitive to outside electrical disturbances. Depending on how you plan to set up your home theater, you may need stands for your front and or surround speakers. These can run about $70 a pair but are easy to make if you are relatively handy. A pair of phone stands from the local superstore can cost a bit less and do the same job. The top remote right now is the $20 Cinema 7 learning remote from One-for-All. This remote is renowned for it's ability to control even the most complex systems with hardly any faults. Set Up The environment you watch your movies in is more important that the components themselves. If you have a constant stream of traffic, phone calls or other interruptions, you can't get lost in the movie no matter how much money you put into your system. Try to find a good time to relax without interruption and watch your favorite Michael Bay brainless thriller. The actual room configuration is the other key factor in setting up your system. Unfortunately the set up for a home theater is relatively rigid as this article on home theater setup from Dolby shows. Many crazy new age methods of room decor as well as room construction itself go against the square approach to a good home theater setup. Care needs to be made when compromising on the location of the display or speakers as the money you spent on quality electronics can be lost if proper placement isn't followed. Buy Smart There are three main rules to my home theater buying philosophy. Don't buy a placeholder, buy to keep. Spend the money where it will make the biggest difference. Don't cheap out. If you are going to throw your hard earned money on a piece of home theater equipment, the idea of replacement in the near future should not be on your mind. If it is, save your money and buy the one that will last the longest. This goes for TVs, receivers, speakers, everything. You don't want to waste $400 on a TV when you plan on getting a $1200 in six months. Make sure that you don't spend lots on small upgrades and little on big ones. The difference between a $300 Onkyo receiver and a $2600 Yamaha receiver is not near as big as the difference between a $300 RCA 19" TV and a $1700 Panasonic 53" widescreen TV. The key is spending the money on the biggest difference. I know the point of this article is to buy for cheap, but the key is making sure you get the features you need. Don't scrimp out on $50 when that $50 was for Dolby Digital in a receiver or for s-video on a TV. The key to this rule and rule number two is that you know what features are important and what features aren't which is covered above. With these basic rules in mind, a normal individual should be able to assemble and set up a very nice home theater system without breaking the bank. Keeping the balance of quality, requirements and cost into the picture with each purchase made will help you spend your hard earned money wisely instead of blowing it on marketing slogans.

#11 of 17 OFFLINE   Mike Matthews

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Posted August 02 2003 - 05:14 PM

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great article. i notice it was written in '99 - but i assume most of that information will always hold true

i had a co-worker today tell me that he bought a sony home theater in a box and it's fine for him. he said he thought that 99% of people wouldn't be able to tell the difference between that and a system that costs a few grand. this got me wondering if maybe that's all i need...

i don't know - an old roommate of mine had some floor speakers and i really wanted to get myself some of those because i love music so much, plus i needed a receiver and DVD player anyway. then i just decided to do the whole home theater thing, but i'm still sketchy on whether an all-in-one system is fine for me(the small main speakers is the only think that worries me) or whether i should go all out

#12 of 17 OFFLINE   SeanV


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Posted August 04 2003 - 10:15 AM

I am by no means an expert in the area of home theater.
I too realized just how many different product combinations exist out there. Because you want a system that you can keep for a "long time" I suggest that you concentrate on quality.

Because you have a love for music I would first concentrate on your main (L/R front) speakers. The only way to make a good decision on these is to go to different dealers and audition the speakers with music that you're familar with. There are many quality speakers out there and everyone has differing opinions on which they prefer, and why. Paradigm, B&W, Polk Audio are just a few of the brands. Also, you can do a search in the 'Speakers and Subwoofers' and see plenty of other brands. Also, many older models can be had for discounted prices when newer ones come out. (i.e. My paradigm studio 40 V2 were a few hundred dollars cheaper when the V3 version recently came out)

Next, you should get a receiver that matches well with the speaker brand that you have chosen. I would suggest looking at the refurbished units to save money. I would say refurbs over ebay because you usually have the opportunity to get an extended warranty.
(www.accessories4less.com is an authorized Marantz refurb dealer, and they offer a 2 & 4 year warranty with prices based on cost of equipment.)

If you spend about 300-350 on a tv then that leaves you with 1650-1700 for the rest of your system. That's a nice amout to have for your first system.

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#13 of 17 OFFLINE   scott>sau


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Posted August 04 2003 - 04:13 PM

Mike, get what you need first. Build a strong foundation. I wouldn't worry about brands right now. I would suggest two things with your budget: 1) Go with a decent 2-channel setup.Your DVD player will play CD's and later DVD's. Get a strong receiver that has DTS, or AC-3. You will use that in your future HT system. Get better cable, a power conditioner, and timbre-matched center and surrounds with a sub later. -or- 2) Get a 5.1 HT system now. Not a audiophile system, but a starter system.

#14 of 17 OFFLINE   NicholasL


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Posted August 04 2003 - 07:54 PM

Put it all into the 2 main speakers and the receiver. Since it's music you'll mostly be listening to...that's what is going to make or break your smile. The DVD player, TV, and surround speakers are what can take the back seat in this case scenario. And yes - get towers. And no - do not get a 5.1 all-in-one setup. it's crap.

#15 of 17 OFFLINE   Travis-J



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Posted August 05 2003 - 12:54 PM

I figured I'd throw in my 2 cents, as a college student who is buying a HT, I had a DVD player $200ish Bought a panasonic sa-he100 6X100 amp $250 A pair of used sound dynamics floorstanders $200cash then a pair of paradigm titans and a cc170 center $415 I have an old 27" TV $50 I am planning on buying a new Tv at some point, but am quite happy with my system. It cost about $1200 with taxes this is in Canadian dollars. the amp I bought has 6.1 surround you probably won't need. so sink more money into your fronts. hope it helped a little.

#16 of 17 OFFLINE   Lew Crippen

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Posted August 06 2003 - 04:05 AM

At $2,000 and a love for music, you might consider putting emphasis on audio and spending less on video, with an eye to an upgrade to your TV in the future. With this in mind, I’d consider something like your initial equipment list. $300–$400 for your receiver (something like a Denon 1603 or 1803) $200–$300 for your DVD player (the Panasonic you mention is a good choice) $900 on speakers (the Rocket ELT package which is being discussed in the Speaker area of this forum is an outstanding choice) $500 won’t leave much for your display, so plan on replacing in a year or so. Another approach would be: $300 on a Denon 1603 $200 on a Panasonic RP72 $400 on the Acoustic Research HC6, 5.1 speaker system You can pick up any of several HD ready displays for $1,000.
¡Time is not my master!

#17 of 17 OFFLINE   Mike Matthews

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Posted August 06 2003 - 06:09 PM

well, the more research i do, the more my budget seems to increase! i'm really going to make sure i cap it at $2,000 though. also, i'm not going to be getting a tv for now. i think i can get that for christmas i'm heading to crutchfield tomorrow to listen to the following system that i'm interested in: Polk RTi70s Polk RTi28s Polk CSi30 and a Polk sub...not sure which one i need, though looking into the Denon AVR-1802 receiver no clue about the CD/DVD changer

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