Energy CF-70 Floor Standing Speakers

The first thing to note about this my testing of the Energy CF-70 floor standing speakers is that I tested them as a stereo pair (sans sub) and not as part of full surround system so of you are seeking a pair for front of AV room duties take everthing I have to say about the Energy CF-70s with a pinch of salt. you should really check any speaker set you are interested in at a local vendor before committing to a purchase anyway.

After unboxing and setting the Energy CF-70 up in my hifi room I have to say they are not as big as one might expect for a speaker pair weighing in at 26 pounds each. Looks wise with the grills on they look fairly unimposing and reserved as regular readers might know I tend to have my grills off, once I did this I found their aesthetics to be much more inspiring. A very pretty pair to be sure.

Energy CF-70 Speakers

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During testing I matched the CF-70s with one of my favourite day to day stereo amps the rather smooth and reliable Cambridge Audio Azur 640A which although perhaps a little underpowered for the hefty 300 W RMS @ 8 Ohms of the Energy CF-70s is an amp I know the general feel and characteristics of very well. After setting the cf-70s at a comfortable distance of about 7 feet from each other I was glad to hear that they gave out a seriously pristine performance. The bass end is tight and has a solid and reliable feel with both acoustic and more modern bass heavy music though if you are someone who likes to “feel” the boom in you bass you would do well to match the cf-70s with a suitable sub. The mid range is similarly precise but natural and unaffected sounding, witht he tops being incredibly wel rendered and managing to maintain great stereo imaging and instrument separation on well mixer material. You never get the feeling that you are hearing anything that has been electronically modified or filtered but more a case of a well handled and open sound, this was particularly noticeable on acoustic guitar and a personal favourite album of mine Kaki Kings excellent “Legs to Make Us Longer” sounded at once raw, powerful and still sonically pure.

Many reviewers have commented that the Energy CF-70s may take up to 100 hours of burn in time to reach their full sonic potential and while I would imagine this is probably true in the limited time I had to test the CF-70s I was still extremely satisfied with the quality of the results I received. A quality pair of speakers that give sterling sonic reproduction, pair with a decent sub and you are golden. Highly recommended, all I can say is roll on 100 hours.

 

Manufacturers Specifications

  • Depth: 6 inches
  • Driver Configuration:1″ Aluminum dome tweeter, 5.5″ PolyTitanium midrange, Dual 6.5″ PolyTitanium woofers
  • Frequency Response Curve: 34-20,000 Hz
  • Audio Sensitivity96 dB
  • Impdedance :8 ohm
  • Crossover Description: 2.0 Khz, 650 Hz
  • Speaker Driver Material: Polypropylene
  • Maximum Speaker Depth (inches): 6 inches
  • Exclusive Convergent source Module features woofer and tweeter uniquely integrated for accurate sound and expansive soundstage.
  • Dual 6.5-Inch Woofers and 5.5-Inch midrange feature patented Ribbed Elliptical Surround suspension for greater dynamics
  • Exclusive 1-Inch Hyperbolic Aluminum tweeter provides high frequency accuracy, high power-handling and wide dispersion
  • Rigid, low-distortion cross-braced MDF enclosure with attractive Black Ash Finish and Black High Gloss trim.
  • RRP: $549.99 each (Check Amazon for Current Pricing)
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Yamaha RX-V473 Network AV Receiver

Ok so as time goes on it appears that the big manufacturers are finally getting that when someone buys a piece to be the centre of their setup they really want it to integrate nicely with their personal way of using equipment. With Yamaha RX-V473 5.1-Channel Network AV Receiver the design team at Yamaha seem to have spent a lot of time making integration and ease of use, streaming from wireless devices and remote operation with same iOs or android devices of primary concern.

 

Yamaha RX-V473 Front

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The Yamaha RX-V473 has all the standard I/O a traditional receiver requires (HDMI 4 in/1out w pass thru, usb with ipod charging even when in standby, rj45 network port, 2 coax, 2 digital, analog 4/1, component 2/1, composite video 5/1, etc) but where it really shines is its handling of streaming and the now standard streaming protocols. The Yamaha RX-V473s response to Airplay is second to none during my testing period I was delighted with how quick it was and in terms of streaming speed and reliability also how excellent remote control via the iOs app was. What you will find is that your iPad/iPhone makes for an exceptional remote control, its both easy to use and has pretty much every option you could hope for. Its bpossible to power up and down the unit, change EQ settings, select inputs, control both the traditional FM and internet radio tuner playback, stream from your airplay services (Pandora, Sirius, etc) and of course stream media form your iOS device itself.

Yamaha RX-V473 Rear

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So outside of functionality and ease of use how is the basic sound & video quality of the Yamaha RX-V473? Well I have to say for a sub $500 model the Yamaha RX-V473 kicks some serious butt in terms of both clarity and power pair the Yamaha RX-V473 receiver with a speaker set like the Energy 5.1 Take Classic system as I did and you will get a serious bang for the buck performance. I found surround positioning to be well handled and realistic, loud passages were handled well with a sense of tightness and impact without any unwarranted boomyness you can get from systems that over accentuate the bass end in order to get over power issues. With the power rating of 5x 105watts loudness and power handling isn’t an issue you are likely to have in anything but the largest rooms. The mid range is smoothe and without discernible artefacts with a slight downward notch applied in the area of sibilant noise helping to make vocals and sppech veryclearand discernable. All in all I was very please with audio playback quality from all the audio and video sources I tried. The video rendering of the RX-V473 is similarly impressive in this price range, blacks are rendered well, colours passing though kept their vibrancy on screen and no artefacts we could find were added by the unit. An extremely satisfactory result.

All in all my feeling are that Yamaha have a solid performer that is very good value for money on their hands with the RX-V473. Don’t shirk on quality speakers to match the receiver and you will have an extremely solid, attractive and easy to use AV system for years to come. A big thumbs up for those after a decently priced system with a modern take on media playback and control.

Technical Details

  • 5-channel powerful surround supported in HD Audio format decoding: Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio; Dolby Digital Plus and DTS-HD High Resolution Audio
  • Network recceiver with AirPlay, allows music streaming from Mac, PC, iPod, iPhone, iPad
  • 4K pass-through for next generation super high resolution displays, and HDMI (4 in/1 out) with 3D and Audio Return Channel
  • AV Controller app for operating various functions from an iPod, iPhone, iPad or Android phones
  • YPAO sound optimization for automatic speaker setup
  • Audio input assign capability for HDMI and component video input
  • Front panel mini jack input for connecting portable audio player
  • Audio input assign capability for HDMI and component video input
  • 9 selectable subwoofer crossover frequencies
  • Subwoofer phase select / Subwoofer out
  • Initial Volume Setting and Maximum Volume Setting
  • Audio Delay for adjusting Lip-Sync (0-250 ms)
  • 40-station preset tuning / Auto preset tuning
  • Background Video feature (for Radio only)
  • RRP: $449.95 (Check Latest Pricing on Amazon)

 

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Polk Audio TSi200 Bookshelf Speakers

Polk Audio have been for the last several years been quietly churning out quality speaker sets and surround system with very little in the way of overblown hype or industry aggrandisement, they have however managed to win a place in my heard and my home with their very well designed and priced products. Can the Polk Audio TSi200 Bookshelf Speakers live up to their pedigree? Lets find out.

At first glance the Polk Audio TSi200s are not particularly impressive looking coming in at just over 15 inches tall and with their grilles on the are fairly traditional and pedestrian looking, removing the grilles you are presented with an rather attractive 3 cone arrangement two 5.25 inch Mid woofers and a single 1″ Tweeter. This may seem a little odd in terms of bass handling (more on that later) but it would appear that the TSi200s are designed not only to be usable as a stereo pair but also as satellites in a larger 5.1 or 7.1 system. The build quality is up to Polks usual standards In other words very very decent.

Polk Audio TSi200 Bookshelf Speakers

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I tested the performance of the Polk Audio TSi200s in a stereo pair in conjunction with a Cambridge Audio Azur 640A V2 (one of my favourite mid range amps) and found the results to be very favourable. The have a crisp and easily drivable nature and I found that their power handling was excellent with the 75w I was feeding them. The overall tone is very controlled and smooth in the mids with a nice sizzle at the top end but never any signs of noticeable THD pushing through even at high volumes. The Polk Audio TSi200s handled almost everything I threw at it with aplomb and if you are into acoustic or jazz styles you wont be disappointed with their ability to pick out individual instruments with a top level of resolution. This was quitea surprie to me considering the price point the TSi200s are sold at. The only slightly weak point in my consideration was that after a few hours and with a bit of A/Bing I did feel that they might have been slightly lacking in the bass register and would perhaps be helped by the addition of a well matched sub this may be especially true for those who are fans of more modern bass heavy styles of music.

So overall the Polk Audio TSi200s put on a good show for speakers in their price range, they have a very easy to drive nature and are precise without being clinical in their sound. If you don’t need a huge amount of bass or are willing to fork out for a matched sub then these are well worth a test.

Manufacturers Details
Pair of affordable yet powerful bookshelf speakers
Equipped with 1-inch silk/polymer composite Dynamic Balance dome tweeter
Frequency response: 43Hz-25kHz
Equipped with two 5.25-inch diameter bi-laminate organic fiber cone woofers
Recommended Amplification: 20-150 watts/channel
RRP: $349.95 (Check Amazon for Current Pricing)

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Onkyo HT-S7409 Receiver & Speaker Package

It been a while since we’ve touched on the Onkyo home AV product range and so when (as these things do) I cycled back around to having a look at whets they are currently doing I realised that some of the stuff on of their best sellers lists had completely evaded my attention. So lets see if the Onkyo HT-S7409 5.1-Channel Network A/V Receiver/Speaker Package lives up to its top sales position.

First things first Onkyo have really tried to make things as easy as possible for the newbie to enter the home cinema arena with this package, not only is the Onkyo HT-S7409 extremely competitively priced but the package received comes with a full compliment of the THX certified receiver, 4 surround speakers, one centre channel speaker and of course the subwoofer & all the wires, plugs, etc you require for setup of a basic 5.1 surround system. This being said its actually interesting to note that even though the system supplied is 5.1 the receiver itself (a TX-NR609) leaves room for expansion to a 7.1 system on its back panel which was a nice little bonus as far as I’m concerned. The look of the system is pretty much standard Onkyo fare, the receiver is fairly large bit a well appointed and solid feeling front panel the speakers themselves are actually very attractive and modern looking and are for the most part solid and well built with the exception of the 4 satellites which feel slightly flimsier than the other units but not exactly what one would call low quality. The supplied remote is well appointed and can perform all day to day functions but as seems to be becoming common with newer gear it’s not up to the design standards or build quality of the rest of the system.

Onkyo HTS7409 5.1 Home Theater System

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Specifications wise the Onkyo HT-S7409s Receiver is a pretty standard mid range affair with a very respectable 130 Watts of power per channel @ 6 Ohms and with a good level of connectivity including 6 HDMI inputs (1 front & 5 back with 3 D Video Support and Audio Return Channel) & 1 HDMI out as well as a decent array of composite, Coax, Optical and Component I/O along with a single standard VGA PC Input. The Onkyo HT-S7409 is also iPod Ready via a direct USB Input. The specification is finished with the includes a Zone 2 Line Out to allow for a simple level of multi zone functionality.

Initial setup after hooking up the speakers is a little trickier than I would have liked for a unit aimed at entry level users, and while the speaker auto configuration system is actually very good indeed there are a few possible gotchas in the menu diving that may have novices opening the dreaded printed booklet and getting into RTFM territory especially when configuring the internet radio side of things.

Onkyo TX-NR609 Reciever Rear

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So on to the meat of any review the “how does it sound” bit. I’d have to say that after initially worrying that the satellites might be a little sub par in the build department I did think that perhaps they wouldn’t be able to handle 130 watts per channel and might introduce a bit of “rattle and hum” (apologies to any U2 fans out there) to the proceedings at high volume levels, but I’m glad to say it would seem that the engineering team at Onkyo have managed to match the speakers to the system extremely well and in fact have done a great job of eradication any shortcomings one might expect in a lower end system like this one. The overall tonality of the system in full flow is actually very dynamic and powerful, a real room filler. The sound stage is very well handled with extremely good separation and placement of well mixed surround material. The Onkyo HT-S7409 system manages to make loud and fast moving passages (kick ass, The Dark Knight) extremely enjoyable and punchy while at the same time keeping voices and general speech forward and very legible to the ears. If I’m being pick the top end of the signal could be seen as a little “brittle” and sibilant at high volumes but to be honest these volumes were well beyond what I would call comfortable room listening volumes. Stereo rendering of radio channels (SiriuxXM, Spotify and many others are included by default) was professional and decently managed by the system though perhaps better for speech and bass heavy modern recordings than for classical or subtle acoustic music. All in all though an extremely competent audio performance for a system in this kind of price range.

If I have any reservations about this system it would probably be the fairly minimalist specification for the zone 2 operation of the system. Though I didn’t test it, it does seem to me from reading the manual that if you want proper second zone management then perhaps this system is not for you. Apart from that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this package for a surround system newcomer who wants a very competent system at an extremely reasonable price.

Manufacturers Specifications

  • 130 Watts per Channel at 6 Ohms, 1 kHz, .07%, 2 Channels Driven, FTC
  • 6 HDMI Inputs and 1 Output
  • HDMI Video Upscaling to 4K with Qdeo Technology by Marvell
  • Direct Digital Connection of iPod/iPhone via Front-Panel USB Port
  • Playback of Audio Files Through Local Network (MP3, WMA, WMA Lossless, FLAC, WAV, Ogg Vorbis, AAC, LPCM)
  • RRP: $799.00 (Check Amazon for Current Pricing)
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Grace Digital GDI-IRMS300 Internet Micro Hi-Fi Stereo System

Although for many FM/AM still rules the airwaves more and more each year people seem to get the concept of the vast choice afforded by an internet radio the Grace Digital GDI-IRMS300 Internet Micro Hi-Fi Stereo System is one of the more well specified mid range compact internet radio hifis available right now so we thought we’d put one on test.

Now when Grace Digital say compact boy do they mean it, the GDI-IRMS300 is very small. So much so that pretty much all the controls excepting the LCD display have been moved to the top of the unit (So no putting anything on top of the GDI-IRMS300 then). The overall look is compact and efficient in fact perhaps too much so. It to some degree looks a bit like apiece of ham radio receiver equipment rather than consumer level hifi gear. Having said that the build quality is very good, the casing feels seriously solid and the buttons and dials have a decent feel and responsiveness. The remote is fine in terms of operation but is a little bit of a let-down in the looks & feel department being a fairly cheap plastic & rubber unit.

Grace Digital GDI IRMS300 Internet Mini Hi Fi System

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So on to basic features. You can tell from the outset that the GDI-IRMS300 is designed primarily with the at least moderately tech savvy and internet literate user in mind. Thought you can use services like pandora and also stream from your locally network attached storage (stream songs from your PC using windows media player) it is definitely primarily oriented towards internet radio use. The reason I say that the GDI-IRMS300 seems to be designed for the more tech savvy user is because in al honesty the initial setup and configuration of the unit is a bit of a rigmarole. There are several not insignificant gocthas and the menu diving required to get things exactly how you want them may make some throw their arms up in despair. Im not exaclty a newcomer to this kind of configuration and even I found it too significantly longer than similar units by other vendors to configure. Perhaps part of the problem is that there are just so many things you can choose to do with the GDI-IRMS300, it has more options available than many other vendors offerings. Personally I think that if Grace want the GDI-IRMS300 and its followups to be more successful then they seriously have to improve auto configuration options and the GUI in general, also perhaps the manual could do wit a bit of a “clear English” brush up.

Ok so once the pain of initial setup and configuration has been dealt with how does the GDI-IRMS300 sound? Well to be honest a lot better than I was expecting at this price point. The amp is rated at 32 watts per channel and so isn’t going to be breaking any anti noise laws but is perfectly capable of driving the supplied speakers to a decent small room volume. It will be perfectly fine in a kitchen bedroom or small living room but isn’t really suitable for a larger open plan room. The base end is a tiny bit flabby to my ears and at higher volumes could perhaps be perceived as baffling the other audio ranges. The mid range is quite flat and easy on the ears (as it should be). Finally the top end is moderately well balanced but I found with occasional sibilant notes noticeable again at high volumes. This will be perfectly suitable for talk radio or rock and pop music listening at normal volumes, though I would not recommend it for those who enjoy a lot of jazz, acoustic or classical music or those who like to belt out their music a high volumes. All in all though a decent enough unit with a great feature set at a very reasonable price.

Manufacturers Details
Bookshelf Internet radio with Pandora, Live365, iheartradio, Sirius and over 16,000 internet radio stations
Built in 32 watt high powered class D digital amplifier with 2 wood speakers to provide warm deep base, mellow mid range, and crisp highs
4-line display with 30 micro backlight adjustments to view artist name and song or set one of the 5 alarms
Built in 802.11n for superior wireless range, audio quality and WPS for easy network connectivity
Play your music direct from the internet without a computer or music files direct from your PC or Mac
Connects To Pc/Mac Music Library
High Performance Class D Digital Amplifier
Internet Radio Stereo Shelf System With Integrated Pandora Remote
Listen To Over 50,000 Radio Stations and On Demand Content
Plays Pandora and Live365.Com
RRP: $249.99 (Check Amazon For Current Pricing)

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LG 42LK520 HDTV Review

We recently got our hands on a LG 42LK520 42-Inch HDTV for review from on of our suppliers, its been out for a little while and not a top of the line model but dont let that put you off, the LG 42LK520 has a lot to offer to the discerning AV fan. Here is the lowdown…

The LG 42LK520 build quality is pretty much what you expect from on of the big manufacturers the enclosure is hard plastic with an internal metal frame to harden everything up and attach it solidly to the weighted base. Assembly is reasonably simple and not too strenuous (it weights in at about 34Lbs including the stand) afterwards the unit stands firmly on most surfaces pushing on the front results in little wobble though a solid nudge form behind makes the LG 42LK520 teeter a little so not leaving any room behind for kids to run about is probably a good idea. The unit looks good, with a solidly modern design style and a relatively thin bezel surrounding the screen. The as regards inputs its pretty much as you’d expect with 2 hdmi inputs on the back panel and 1 more for good measure on the side a similarly side mounted USB slot for media playback from memory keys etc (The 42LK520 handles MP3,JPEG & DivX Formats) there is also a VGA computer input and several s-video and component inputs, the only thing that’s missing is an Ethernet RJ45 port for media streaming which is a shame but can be forgiven considering that this is the lowest spec 42″ TV in the LG range.

LG 42LK520 42" HDTV

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On to the real meat of the LG 42LK520 review. Considering that LG 42LK520 is the entry level model of the range its picture quality is pretty stunning its full HD output is very impressive running at the standard 1920 x 1080 resolution it’s hard not to be impressed images are sharp and the 120mhz refresh rate provided by LGs TruMotion technology is impressive in its rendering of fast moving scenes and sports (The UFC really came to life on this TV). Tonally the balance is very good and colours seem vibrant and lifelike but never garish or overpowering, though on certain dark scenes we felt the blacks could have been a little darker. If there is one weak point with this TV it is probably the internal speakers which are not particularly powerful though I imagine will be perfectly adequate for most non home cinema fans needs. We tried the LG 42LK520 in conjunction with a Onkyo SKS-HT540 7.1 speaker system and found the sound when amplified with this mid range system to be excellent and more than a match for the units excellent picture.

So in summary the LG 42LK520 is a very decent performer, not cutting edge exactly but if you are in the market for a very decently priced 42″ LCD HDTV and arent worried about built in streaming you should definitely check this TV out.

Manufacturers Specifications

  • Full HD 1080p gives it superior picture quality over standard HDTV. You’ll see details and colors like never before.
  • Resolution 1920 x 1080
  • Response Time2.4ms
  • Viewing Angle178°/178°
  • Life Span (hr)50,000 hr
  • TruMotion 120Hz technology lets you see sports, video games and high-speed action with virtually no motion blur
  • HDMI Ports: 3 In, 1 Out
  • Energy Star qualified so your entertainment experiene uses less energy
  • Picture Wizard II allows for self-calibration with on-screen reference points to ensure terrifc black, color, tint, sharpness and backlight levels
  • An incredible contrast ratio of 150,000:1 delivers incredibly vibrant colors and deeper and darker blacks.
  • Screen size 42″
  • Display Type LCD
  • RRP: $1,110 (Check Amazon For Current pricing)
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Marantz NR1402 AV Receiver

When you first unpacks the Marantz NR1402 AV Receiver you could be forgiven for thinking you had been sent a compact audio amp rather than a full blown home theatre receiver. This piece of excellence the now famed Marantz design team managed to pack pretty much everything we’ve come to expect from an AV receiver into half the standard size of its competing units. Over the last few years I’ve commented several times on my liking for the somewhat “future retro” look of a lot of the new Marntz product line in the case of the NR1402 AV Receiver this is perhaps not as prominent as say for example the Marantz SR7005 but it does manage to cram a whole lot of control into a front panel that looks both easy to use and stylistically pleasing, this in no mean feat on an AV unit so small.

Marantz NR1402 AV Reciever

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Even though it is compact the NR1402 manages not to scrimp on connections it has a decent smattering of 4 in and 1 out 3d ready HDMI 1.4 ports. Also incuded are 3/1 composite in/outs and 2/1 component i/o’s along with 4 analogue in as well as digital optical and coaxial ins to finish with. Initial setup and room EQing was both easy and quick to perform (Though to be honest the manual can be a little on the obtuse side of things for my liking). But lets be honest what is most important with a unit like this isn’t necessarily it’s specification on paper or even its ease of use but its basic sound characteristics. I’m glad to report that the Marantz NR1402 is on a basic level even without its bells and whistles (Dolby TrueHD/DTS-HD decoders and Dynamic EQ) an extremely competent performer. We tested it with our previously reviewed Energy 5.1 Take Classic Home Theater System and found it to be a nice match. The NR1402′s signal (50-watt @ 8 ohms per channel) drove the Energy systems speakers and sub easily and even at near top volume never showed any signs of boomyness or distortion.

Marantz NR1402_AV Receiver Rear (Click to enlarge)

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It manages to fill mid sized rooms in a controlled and powerful manner it has very good soundstage when working with fast transitions in action scenes but never feel overly bombastic, the mid range is quite smooth feeling with competent if not overly sparkling top end. Good news for the music lovers amongst you too, the Dolby Pro Logic II makes excellent work of rendering stereo recordings though a 5.1 system as a man with a ludicrous music collection this made me smile. Overall the availbale featureset for tinkering is pretty deep on the Marantz NR1402 allowing the tinkerers amongst you to play with pretty much every aspect of your speaker dynamics and signal EQ you would care to.

If you are after a compact good looking and sonically competent 3d capable mid range reciever you would do yourself a disservace to not put the Marantz NR1402 AV Receiver on you list of “Must Test” components.

Manufacturers Specifications

  • NR1402 5.1 Home Theater Receiver
  • At a Glance: Slim design with half the height of traditional receivers
  • Four HDMI 1.4a inputs for added connectivity and 3D support
  • On-Screen Wizard for easy setup
  • Supports the latest hi-definition audio formats
  • M-XPort allows audio playback from Bluetooth-enabled devices
  • three-year warranty
  • RRP: $399.99 (Check Amazon For Current Pricing)
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