Home Studio - Do I go audio interface or mixing console

Discuss the hardware/software tools and techniques involved in capturing sound, in the studio or on location.

Home Studio - Do I go audio interface or mixing console

Post by richermusic »

Hi everyone

I have really enjoyed being on this forum so far and have found the advice really helpful so thank you to all the members.

I am currently starting my own home studio for the purposes of recording drums and also producing recordings for some of the bands that my company manages (only covers etc - not signed artists).

Currently - I have a 6 meter by 6 meter space to work in. I was planning on having the computer / mixer etc all in one room.

My big question is what do people suggest in terms of audio interface over perhaps using something like a behringer X32 or Presonus Studio Live for instance.

There’s a lot of different routes I can see and even going down the Apollo universal audio route which scares me due to how much money it costs if you want anything with a decent amount of channels.

Does anyone have any advice? I am sure it will Chuck up more questions than answers but I wanted to start somewhere. Ideally I am looking for at least 16 channels as drums take up a lot.
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Re: Home Studio - Do I go audio interface or mixing console

Post by Arpangel »

Depends how you work, if you do a lot of live mixing while recording I’d recommend a hardware mixer, or you could track through an interface and finally, mix in the box.
But a good hardware mixer, something analogue, will also give you the option to mix-down through it back on to the computer, to give you a bit of analogue character, if that’s what you need, also an external mixer lets you connect analogue outboard easier, and lets you control that while recording, as I said, depends how you work.
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Re: Home Studio - Do I go audio interface or mixing console

Post by omnamic »

What’s your DAW?
Audient preamps are great for drums, so if you haven’t got any preamps yet, I would suggest you try going with that: iD 44 interface plus 2 ASP 800 or 1 ASP 800 and 1 ASP 880. The iD 44 lets you integrate outbord. That with an additional DAW controller with 8 or more faders and you‘re good to go for live recording and mixing without blowing too much money. I would prefer this setup to a mixer these days.
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Re: Home Studio - Do I go audio interface or mixing console

Post by ajay_m »

You get a lot of flexibility with something like the x32 and personally I think the immediacy of being able to change levels or eq by just reaching over and tweaking something rather than fiddling with a mouse or trying to use an iPad as a control surface, feels much more immediate.
The scribble strips are great too because you can easily see what's feeding a track.
But everyone has their own workflow so I know a lot of people are happy to work "in the box"
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Re: Home Studio - Do I go audio interface or mixing console

Post by Wonks »

I'll point out that the Behringer will limit you to 44.1kHz or 48kHz sample rates, which is fine until you have a band that needs an 88.2kHz or 96kHz recording.

The Presonus Studio Live is a Firewire device, and Firewire is now dead/unsupported technology on most computer OSs. Whilst you could probably get it working at the moment, it could severely limit you as to what computer you could run it on and limit upgrading in the future.

How many inputs do you think you'll need to record at at once?

6m x 6m is a decent but not huge sized space, and the squareness means that you'll have serious standing wave issues which means a lot of bass trapping if the space is to sound good and be good to record in. Bass and drums will be especially hard to get a good balanced sound in without it. It's just physics. So you will probably end up with a slightly smaller workable space once the acoustic treatment has gone in.

There are those that like mixers when recording, but more that think they are an unnecessary waste of space. many studios have them simply because they look good and simply record through an AI to the computer.

Given that the mixers you've talked about are both digital mixers, you aren't providing anything that an AI+computer can't provide apart from the hardware controls. But you can still use hardware fader and knob surfaces to control the DAW software and plugins, and you can then chose what software to run. If you use a digital mixer purely as an interface with faders, then you are paying a reasonable amount for all the bits you won't use, plus it's taking up more space in what could soon be a very cramped studio.

But the choice is yours. Just consider all the pros and cons of your choices.
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Re: Home Studio - Do I go audio interface or mixing console

Post by OneWorld »

It seems it is a de facto additional function of a digital mixer these days that they can work as an interface, some with 32 or more channels of audio I/O which seems ever so useful.

But I see any reviews or even specs listed that give latency figures, so yes one could have 32 channels i/o but if at a such high latency it would be like waiting for a bus to arrive, then what's the point.

I sort of get the feeling that a mixer with a built in interface is a mixer with an interface bolted on as an afterthought. Whereas an interface will come with some software with mixing capability, and both hardware and software are made exclusively to perform as an interface, and so do the job very well.

I could be completely wrong on this of course and it could be the case that a digital mixer/interface does indeed performs well as an interface.

I like the Totalmix software that comes with RME interfaces, can't be beaten and used in conjunction with my 16 fader DAW controller, I reckon I have a perfectly acceptable setup.

I still have this 'itch' that keeps telling me "Try a digital mixer/interface and that will be all you could ever desire"

BTW the Presonus Studiolive Series III replaces the Presonus Studiolive and is not firewire but AFAIK USB, has at least 32 x 32 IO interface and the ability to record stereo or multichannel, though AFAIK you have to record all 32 channels at one go, so it's not quite like a HDD recorder. I believe the Behringer X32 has similar capabilities. I think Sam Spoons knows all about this, he speaks very highly of the X32
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Re: Home Studio - Do I go audio interface or mixing console

Post by richermusic »

All of this sounds quite useful.

Another thing I am not sure about is the sound quality. If I was to get something like the presonus or behringer then Am I going to hear much difference between them and something like the Apollo X16.

I know that with some of this, it’s how long is a piece of string but if it was all through the same mic etc then when doing a direct comparison, are you going to notice.
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Re: Home Studio - Do I go audio interface or mixing console

Post by Sam Spoons »

I use my X32 in my home studio, latency is simply not an issue as any 'live' processing while recording/overdubbing would be through the desk not the computer/DAW with a latency of <1ms each way. It's horses for courses but I use the desk live (though only occasionally since I more or less retired a few years ago) and like the immediacy of it in the studio and prefer to record and mix through it. My space is around 4 x 4 m and comfortable for 3 or 4 and doable for 5 musos. It isn't pro studio standard but has a fair bit of treatment and sounds great for my needs.
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Re: Home Studio - Do I go audio interface or mixing console

Post by The Elf »

I wouldn't touch an analogue mixer, and I certainly wouldn't touch a mixer that doesn't present the full number of input channels directly to my DAW.

Beyond this you have oodles of choices, and the X32 would certainly fit the bill.

Personally I don't want to give up space to a mixer, and the AI solution I chose will take me up to 192 separately recordable incoming channels (and instantly recallable external insert paths), which is important to me. Also important to me is TotalMix, with which I enjoy a deeply satisfying relationship. That means it's RME for me all the way.

Think it through carefully, decide what is important to you, and do your research. Get it right now and it will pay you back for years to come.
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Re: Home Studio - Do I go audio interface or mixing console

Post by James Perrett »

My preferred way of working for the last 20 odd years is to use an RME audio interface with ADAT inputs/outputs in conjunction with outboard convertors. In the early days the convertors were real ADAT machines but I now use a mixture of Audient/Behringer/Focusrite preamps/convertors.

The old interface didn't have an onboard mixer but I already had a studio mixer so this wasn't a problem. Modern RME interfaces come with the comprehensive Totalmix software mixer so a separate mixer is no longer needed. If you want real knobs and faders you can use a control surface with Totalmix.
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Re: Home Studio - Do I go audio interface or mixing console

Post by Mike Stranks »

Wonks wrote: Sat Jan 28, 2023 11:55 am The Presonus Studio Live is a Firewire device...

The original was... the current ones offer USB connectivity...
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Re: Home Studio - Do I go audio interface or mixing console

Post by Wonks »

I just searched for what the OP put. And we don’t know if the OP is thinking used or new, so if used, it may still be appropriate info.
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Re: Home Studio - Do I go audio interface or mixing console

Post by Drew Stephenson »

Hmmm. I wrote a reply earlier but it doesn't seem to have posted. I blame my fat fingers.
It was along these lines...

Unless I was looking for something that was going to double up for live use, then I'd be looking at an interface. If I still wanted to get hands on with faders (and I do) then add on something like a Behringer X-Touch of some kind.

Probably the cheapest way to get 16 channels in is via a Tascam US16x08 but it doesn't give you any expandability. So I'd probably look at something like an Audient EVO16 and then expand via their EVO SP8 (or similar) which I think will allow you to go up to 24 channels (at base frequency rates).

Going up a notch price wise opens the door to RME and their total mix software as well as their ongoing product support.

But if you really do want to mix on the way in it might be worth looking at the Tascam Model 24?
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Re: Home Studio - Do I go audio interface or mixing console

Post by kingsize »

Like some others here, totally agree in that it depends how you work. I have a lot of keyboards, synths and modules, so 30 + stereo inputs to connect in if they were all connected at once, which is never the case. I’m a keyboard player who occasionally mixes in guitar and drums with mates. Tracking is important to me because I play by ear, and I love a great sound. I’ve mentioned two systems below that I have paid for and use, for my own playing, recording rehearsals to improve a band or group, and critical listening to music to learn it.

I have used RME interfaces as the backbone for recording for two decades now, used to be three firefaces. Four years ago I started using the Apollo X16, having already invested in a fair bit of UAD plugins to get the Neve colour I craved. As others have indicated RME have been super reliable with ensuring their gear remains useable with each Mac or Windows OS. Their sound quality is excellent, and the only maintenance costs have been recapping the power supplies. The only problem in NZ has been getting RME gear, that’s changed now. RME reliability with their drivers, and clever engineering means I can plug unbalanced or balanced leads into the firefaces and route whereverI choose. RME remains my reliable transparent recording solution. Each RME firefaces 800 unit cost NZ 4.5k in 2007 and 3 of them and getting here cost around 14k in total. Other RME gear added in the last 2 decades are a Babyface pro and AIO card in a second studio mac. Original RME system was 48io at 96kHz, which was and is brilliant value for money when you consider how long it’s lasted, how flexible, and reliable it is.

Recently I purchased two of the Korg MW2408 mixers and put each of their 8 buses into the Apollo x16, and connected the 16 outs into each of the Korgs 8 mono inputs, it’s early days but I’m loving the simplicity and the tracking through Neve perception. The Korgs were very cheap here, NZ1200 each , and with each of them having 8 stereo inputs, they make a very good analogue front end to a UAD setup for keyboard hoarders like me. Unlike RME - the UADs don’t have a total mix equivalent so having a real mixer with a small footprint that has useful number of bus outs and the ability to custom mix some headphone outputs is great for band practice and recording a rough mix. About to add in 2 x ssl patch bay NZ so I can choose to switch which synths are connected to the korg mixers and the RME matrix at any given time. This analog system cost NZ8k for the Apollo in 2019, 2.4k for the korg mixers, 2k for the SSL x patch units, and is effectively a 48in 16 out system at up to 192kHz with the ability to patch in outboard or plugins without sacrificing inputs. So NZ12.4 k for a more complex but colourful option, and I’ve yet to determine it’s reliability. I expect it won’t be as good over the long term as the rme system has been given UADs support for constantly changing evolving computer systems. That said so far I am loving the sound and simplicity of the analog mixer with UAD and the option of some colour if I want it.

I’ve not factored in the various costs of leads to connect it all, and I can’t readily factor in all the pros & cons of other gear that’s come and gone in the last two decades, but suffice to say sometimes you go down a path trying to get “that sound” and you realise it’s an unreliable and expensive waste of time. I poured a lot of time and money into an Allen and Heath GSR 24M mixer because I loved the sound of synths and plugins through it, but my space is too dusty and that mixer comes with a maintenance cost, and repairers are not easy to find here.
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Re: Home Studio - Do I go audio interface or mixing console

Post by OneWorld »

blinddrew wrote: Sat Jan 28, 2023 5:41 pm

But if you really do want to mix on the way in it might be worth looking at the Tascam Model 24?

Just as a slight aside - I tried the Tascam Model 24, and I was quite impressed, it did what I wanted. I am sure I read somewhere that if you had it in interface mode, you couldn't record a track back from a DAW to the SD card, seemed a bit counter intuitive, I thought that was the point of the thing. Anyway, I found that I could record to and from the DAW.

After a little while, the output started breaking up on one channel of the headphones output. It was one of those really irritating faults, I would jiggle the connector, it would spring back to life, then I'd settle down to do some tracking and it started playing up again.

What put me off though was that before I sent it back, I thought I would imagine the circumstances where at some point in the future I would need it repairing, and I looked about for companies that offered repairs on Model 24s and I could hardly find any. I returned it although was sad to see it go.
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Re: Home Studio - Do I go audio interface or mixing console

Post by ore_terra »

For not recording purposes, I dont see the point in having a digital mixer unless the integration as daw controller is excellent, which does not happen with any of the models mentioned above :lol: I’d much rather go with a GOOD daw controller and a GOOD interface.

For recording, or if you are going to actually mix on the console, I’d have an analog with all inputs routed to the interface.

In the studio, where I record I have a Presonus Quantum 4848 hooked to an old Soundcraft 6000 and some other preamps.

At home, where I do everything else, I use an Apogee element with an Avid dock and pair of S1’s, and it’s been great so far.
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Re: Home Studio - Do I go audio interface or mixing console

Post by ef37a »

From years of reading SoS and this and other forums I would say "RME and some ADAT units (and possibly pre amps IF you feel they will make a difference/impress the punters")

I can see the attraction of sitting behind a large desk decked out like the flight deck of Enterprise but in truth how many of its facilities will be used for basic tracking?

But 6mx 6m (height?) is biggish space to monitor in and the bands will surely want to hear 'rushes' at near real volume? This means some serious monitor speakers and, along with room treatment, is where a very decent chunk of the money will need to be spent. There have been a few monitors reviewed in SoS that can meet the SPL needs of midfield monitoring but around £8k seems the price point.

The Fireface UFX ll would be a good starting point at around £2k then expand to taste with ADAT units. A small rack would make for a very compact and tasty setup!

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Re: Home Studio - Do I go audio interface or mixing console

Post by Arpangel »

richermusic wrote: Sat Jan 28, 2023 12:52 pm All of this sounds quite useful.

Another thing I am not sure about is the sound quality. If I was to get something like the presonus or behringer then Am I going to hear much difference between them and something like the Apollo X16.

I know that with some of this, it’s how long is a piece of string but if it was all through the same mic etc then when doing a direct comparison, are you going to notice.

All interfaces have a sound, that’s a fact.
Price doesn’t determine "the sound"
The final decision is based on what you like, not what others tell you you should like, sometimes these decisions go against what the general consensus is, but that’s the same with everything, and buying something that you haven’t heard in your context, is like buying a car without driving it.
Bottom line is it’s up to you, I could recommend various things, but these are my preferences, not anyone else’s.
I’ll be honest, my budget is virtually unlimited, I use two Behringer interfaces, and a Motu.
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Re: Home Studio - Do I go audio interface or mixing console

Post by Mike Stranks »

Arpangel wrote: Sun Jan 29, 2023 8:21 am
All interfaces have a sound, that’s a fact.
Price doesn’t determine "the sound"
The final decision is based on what you like, not what others tell you you should like, sometimes these decisions go against what the general consensus is, but that’s the same with everything, and buying something that you haven’t heard in your context, is like buying a car without driving it.
Bottom line is it’s up to you, I could recommend various things, but these are my preferences, not anyone else’s.

... and on those criteria, the same is equally true of all mixers...
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Re: Home Studio - Do I go audio interface or mixing console

Post by ef37a »

"All interfaces sound differently"
Ooo! Ooo! Can we have an AI and mixer "shoot out" on the same lines as The Great Pre Amp Expose'?

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Re: Home Studio - Do I go audio interface or mixing console

Post by Arpangel »

ef37a wrote: Sun Jan 29, 2023 8:36 am "All interfaces sound differently"
Ooo! Ooo! Can we have an AI and mixer "shoot out" on the same lines as The Great Pre Amp Expose'?

Dave.

Yes Dave, bring it on, but I think we know what everyone would prefer, no point in doing it really.

:D
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Re: Home Studio - Do I go audio interface or mixing console

Post by Mike Stranks »

Arpangel wrote: Sun Jan 29, 2023 8:38 am
ef37a wrote: Sun Jan 29, 2023 8:36 am "All interfaces sound differently"
Ooo! Ooo! Can we have an AI and mixer "shoot out" on the same lines as The Great Pre Amp Expose'?

Dave.

Yes Dave, bring it on, but I think we know what everyone would prefer, no point in doing it really.

:D

Eh?

In a double-blind assessment - which I think is what Dave is suggesting - then no-one involved has any way of knowing what they were listening to until after they've made their preferences clear.
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Re: Home Studio - Do I go audio interface or mixing console

Post by ef37a »

Mike Stranks wrote: Sun Jan 29, 2023 8:43 am
Arpangel wrote: Sun Jan 29, 2023 8:38 am
ef37a wrote: Sun Jan 29, 2023 8:36 am "All interfaces sound differently"
Ooo! Ooo! Can we have an AI and mixer "shoot out" on the same lines as The Great Pre Amp Expose'?

Dave.

Yes Dave, bring it on, but I think we know what everyone would prefer, no point in doing it really.

:D

Eh?

In a double-blind assessment - which I think is what Dave is suggesting - then no-one involved has any way of knowing what they were listening to until after they've made their preferences clear.

Indeed Mike but at the time the SoS instigators were at great pains to point out that the pre amp tests were not true, 'scientific double blind tests'.

For those that don't know...A 'robot' piano played the same piece of music and several different pre's of varying price were recorded. The readers were then invited to list their preferences/guesses. IRRC the results were no better than chance?

Dave.
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Re: Home Studio - Do I go audio interface or mixing console

Post by The Elf »

ef37a wrote: Sun Jan 29, 2023 8:55 am
Mike Stranks wrote: Sun Jan 29, 2023 8:43 am
Arpangel wrote: Sun Jan 29, 2023 8:38 am
ef37a wrote: Sun Jan 29, 2023 8:36 am "All interfaces sound differently"
Ooo! Ooo! Can we have an AI and mixer "shoot out" on the same lines as The Great Pre Amp Expose'?

Yes Dave, bring it on, but I think we know what everyone would prefer, no point in doing it really.

Eh?

In a double-blind assessment - which I think is what Dave is suggesting - then no-one involved has any way of knowing what they were listening to until after they've made their preferences clear.

Indeed Mike but at the time the SoS instigators were at great pains to point out that the pre amp tests were not true, 'scientific double blind tests'.

For those that don't know...A 'robot' piano played the same piece of music and several different pre's of varying price were recorded. The readers were then invited to list their preferences/guesses. IRRC the results were no better than chance?

Ahem... Some of us got pretty close... ;)
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Re: Home Studio - Do I go audio interface or mixing console

Post by ef37a »

The Elf wrote: Sun Jan 29, 2023 8:57 am
ef37a wrote: Sun Jan 29, 2023 8:55 am
Mike Stranks wrote: Sun Jan 29, 2023 8:43 am
Arpangel wrote: Sun Jan 29, 2023 8:38 am
ef37a wrote: Sun Jan 29, 2023 8:36 am "All interfaces sound differently"
Ooo! Ooo! Can we have an AI and mixer "shoot out" on the same lines as The Great Pre Amp Expose'?

Yes Dave, bring it on, but I think we know what everyone would prefer, no point in doing it really.

Eh?

In a double-blind assessment - which I think is what Dave is suggesting - then no-one involved has any way of knowing what they were listening to until after they've made their preferences clear.

Indeed Mike but at the time the SoS instigators were at great pains to point out that the pre amp tests were not true, 'scientific double blind tests'.

For those that don't know...A 'robot' piano played the same piece of music and several different pre's of varying price were recorded. The readers were then invited to list their preferences/guesses. IRRC the results were no better than chance?

Ahem... Some of us got pretty close... ;)

Maybe but it was still a guess!

Dave.
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Re: Home Studio - Do I go audio interface or mixing console

Post by Arpangel »

If any "quality" tests are so close, that a guess is required, then AFAIC I’d probably be happy with any of them, it seems a lot off folks these days are getting a bit too obsessed with things on a microscopic level, that don’t really matter in the real world.
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Re: Home Studio - Do I go audio interface or mixing console

Post by tea for two »

Arpangel wrote: Sun Jan 29, 2023 8:21 am I’ll be honest, my budget is virtually unlimited

In which instance, just in case you haven't considered this already, haven't done this already :
purchasing music gear for deprived Schools in London.
There are so many deprived Schools in London they would be over the moon to receive just a few bits of music gear.
Also for deprived community centers in London.
In the approx 200 towns in London pretty much most of them have a community center with plenty of them deprived.
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Re: Home Studio - Do I go audio interface or mixing console

Post by James Perrett »

Just about every audio interface can give you acceptable sound quality these days. The differences are down to:

1. Whether it can handle the inputs and outputs that you want to use. Some people need full professional level capability to connect to older gear but not many audio interfaces can output +24 or +28dBu. Another issue seems to be a lack of headroom in mic preamps with certain interfaces.

2. Whether the drivers are reliable and capable of low latency. Check things like is it easy to change sample rate or change clock source?

3. Is the manufacturer well established and are they quick at supporting new operating systems for their old interfaces? Many manufacturers rely on third parties to write the core of their drivers so don't have the expertise to support their products if that third party no longer wants to support them.
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Re: Home Studio - Do I go audio interface or mixing console

Post by ef37a »

" Another issue seems to be a lack of headroom in mic preamps with certain interfaces."

I agree James and this is always going to be a bit of a problem with 'simple' AIs with a single mic gain control. The designer then has to strike a balance between enough clean gain for a dynamic mic or decent headroom.
Most seem to plump for higher gain on the basis I guess that many home bods will, initially at least, go for a dynamic mic. Should they aspire to a hot capacitor they can buy XLR pads.

FYI I checked my M4 and it has a max (min gain) input level of +10dBu or 2.5V rms for jazz. Pretty good methinks and it certainly has the low noise and gain for a '58.

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Re: Home Studio - Do I go audio interface or mixing console

Post by James Perrett »

ef37a wrote: Sun Jan 29, 2023 12:24 pm FYI I checked my M4 and it has a max (min gain) input level of +10dBu or 2.5V rms for jazz. Pretty good methinks and it certainly has the low noise and gain for a '58.

That seems very respectable - equivalent to around 143dBSPL from an AKG C451.
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