Bluecirclerookie's 'PAG' custommade headphone amp system

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Bluecirclerookie
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Location: Amsterdam, the netherlands

Bluecirclerookie's 'PAG' custommade headphone amp system

Post by Bluecirclerookie » Mon Feb 24, 2014 2:02 pm

As a Bc newbie i am very happy that my rig is ready to be shipped to me

I know my rig is very humble compared to the huge rigs u guys have..but my amp is solely built to drive the hifiman he6 headphone (or in my case the referencesounds Code-X HE5 black edition)..it will only pump out 5,28w into 50ohm and have a humble capacity of 650,000uF...but i love the simple and classy looks..WELL DONE GILBERT!! Especially the external powersupply..love the black glossy front with stainless cover pairing on the main amp too.

This is what i get:

- Headphone amp named 'PaG' based on the NSL, built in BC 509Dac module board, with USB input (24/192 board) and dual 3pin XLR output.
- External powersupply BCG3.1, connected to the amp by 4pin xlr
- Peed Al Sea (PLC) Thingee FX2 (4 outlets)
- plug-in module X0E low frequency filter with 6x Syllicone filter (with BC61 power cable upgrade)
- TSPD surge protection module
- his Blue USB cable
- Alps lasertrimmed volume control
- construction: 18G steel chassis with insides painted blue, with black Plexiglass front- and black plate
- all connectors are Silver Neutrik models with silver pins

some pics Gilbert himself took of my amp..just before sending it off to me:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/17843311@N ... 465470633/
Last edited by Bluecirclerookie on Tue Mar 18, 2014 11:51 am, edited 7 times in total.
Life without music is a life without beauty.

Ice Man
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Post by Ice Man » Tue Feb 25, 2014 10:52 am

Huge congrats! I am sure it is a killer amp. NSL technology combined with that huge power supply.....I can only imagine :-) You will be in the middle of every performance that is played through it. Thanks for sharing.

Bluecirclerookie
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Joined: Fri Aug 30, 2013 3:07 pm
Location: Amsterdam, the netherlands

Post by Bluecirclerookie » Tue Feb 25, 2014 10:50 pm

thanks ice man...yeah i have a good feeling about this amp..but dealing with gilbert gave me the confirmation this amp will sound just as good as gilbert wanted it to sound...and knowing how high his standards are for his custom work... lolz
and i feel really welcome here also... u guys are so relaxed (compared to some other audio forums i am on) and are a huge help for info to me!

but i wanted something unique and gave Gilbert a free hand within the budget i had...

so he came up with this...and i cant wait to burn it in for at least a month and then listen to it though my also new headphone i just since recently got..(and enjoy the silicone fumes..lolz)

am really curious how they will sound together as this HP needs lots of power for a headphone and a good amp....

i only hope my wife will never ever find out what i actually have spend on this all..as i lied a little bit (okay a lot!!) about that..as that would be..well... a bit dangerous..oopsie

ps...i hope gilbert himself will say something short about how he thinks this amp sounds..i am really curious about that..as its his baby
Last edited by Bluecirclerookie on Fri Mar 07, 2014 7:37 am, edited 2 times in total.
Life without music is a life without beauty.

Ice Man
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Post by Ice Man » Wed Feb 26, 2014 8:03 am

" only hope my wife will never ever find out what i actually have spend on this all..as i lied a little bit (okay a lot!!) about that"......haha....Yes, this audio hobby that we share is expensive, but I can not think of another audio company that has more value or integrity than Gilbert and BC. You will always get more than your money's worth regardless of your price range. I've had my Music Ring 1200 for twelve years and it is still a vital component of my system. Never had any issues, whatsoever.

You wrote something that struck me:

i wanted something unique and gave Gilbert a free hand within the budget i had...

I ususally custom order my products, especially the larger pieces. Once you start down the custom road, it is very hard to go back to production pieces. Gilbert is the only person with whom I will give a budget to, and then give him free rein as to how best to use it. He represents a most rarified group: those who have both extreme competence and extreme integrity, along with an open-mindedness to carrying out whatever the customer wishes.

Case in point: your cosmetics. It sounds very lavish. And, I am sure, it will look stunning. I, on the other hand, ask G if he has scrap metal lying around to use as my case, and if we can use either sillycone or MDF, as much as possible, to reduce my cosmetic cost to the lowest possible level. G respects my wishes, just like he respects yours and the rest of his customers, equally.

G ususally doesn't comment on how his pieces perform; he leaves that to others. He may comment on some facts, though. For example: if your piece is the first headphone amp to incorporate NSL technology and if your power supply is also one of the largest, if not the most, to date, for a headphone amp. Trust me, the BC community will understand those facts, and will know that G's reputation for quality and refinement, will speak volumes about how capable and amazing your headphone amp will sound. You, of course, will only know how truly special it is, once it's completely broken in.

nikki
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Post by nikki » Wed Feb 26, 2014 9:31 am

BCR,

Congratulations - the anticipation must be a killer :) .

The NSL still haunts me to this day.

Bluecirclerookie
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Location: Amsterdam, the netherlands

Post by Bluecirclerookie » Wed Feb 26, 2014 2:02 pm

Thanks u guys (and girl ofcourse :-) ) yes, this long wait (since june) had been killing me..in meantime i bought new stuff to complement it..i guess thats the risk when u wait for something special for a long time..u guys probably know what i mean...

Question..as my rig has lots of silycone in it (plc and filters) how bad is the smell? And how long does it take to go away? Any tips to quicken up the less smell process? Lolz

Thanks again for the sweet words..u guys and girls (nikki) are top!
Last edited by Bluecirclerookie on Fri Mar 07, 2014 7:38 am, edited 1 time in total.
Life without music is a life without beauty.

nikki
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Post by nikki » Wed Feb 26, 2014 2:22 pm

BCR

I'm actually just another beer drinking dude :) but I can understand the confusion. Nikki was the name of my previous dog ... maybe I should change my moniker to Loki (current dog) to avoid gender confusion :).

Depends if you like the smell of salt and vinegar chips - the fumes will be with you for a while. It will be a dead giveaway to your wife that something new has come into the house :).

I left my pipes in the basement for a couple weeks of burn in and detox before bringing them up to the audio room.

Bluecirclerookie
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Location: Amsterdam, the netherlands

Post by Bluecirclerookie » Wed Feb 26, 2014 2:27 pm

nikki wrote:BCR

I'm actually just another beer drinking dude :) but I can understand the confusion. Nikki was the name of my previous dog ... maybe I should change my moniker to Loki (current dog) to avoid gender confusion :).

Depends if you like the smell of salt and vinegar chips - the fumes will be with you for a while. It will be a dead giveaway to your wife that something new has come into the house :).

I left my pipes in the basement for a couple weeks of burn in and detox before bringing them up to the audio room.
Oops i am sorry about the gender thingie..lolz wont happen again..hehehe

Thanks for the info..yeah..i already told my wife that the tubes are the only thing new in my rig (and almost free of charge) and that the amp itself is bought second hand...so i have that covered..

yeah i know..i am going to hell when i die.. Lolz
Life without music is a life without beauty.

Ice Man
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Post by Ice Man » Wed Feb 26, 2014 9:17 pm

Ditto that, Nikki. I only heard the NSL Jr. and THAT haunts me....the full blown version would have done me in!

Bluecirclerookie
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Location: Amsterdam, the netherlands

Post by Bluecirclerookie » Thu Feb 27, 2014 11:35 am

Deleted post
Life without music is a life without beauty.

masluck
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Well - did you get your toy box?

Post by masluck » Sun Mar 16, 2014 7:40 pm

Hello BCR,

Well, did you get your BC toy box? Let us know.. :D

Mark

Bluecirclerookie
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Location: Amsterdam, the netherlands

Re: Well - did you get your toy box?

Post by Bluecirclerookie » Tue Mar 18, 2014 11:12 am

masluck wrote:Hello BCR,

Well, did you get your BC toy box? Let us know.. :D

Mark
hey Mark!
yes i have..got it saterday the 8th of march.and it blew me away.. i did expect something special..BUT THIS???? it was a box of a total of 18KG..THATS HEAVY!!.remember..am talking about a headphone amp..not a fullsize speaker amp!

i have wrote a 'first impressions' thread about this amp so i think its interesting to include it also here..enjoy reading..dont forget..am talking about a headphone amp..not a speaker amp..and as u will read i tried to be as objective as possible...and another thing...this was my FIRST review EVER..but this amp is so special i just had to make it known to the public that Gill-But is a true magician..but u guys already know about that


here it goes...ps...gilbert..if u like i can sent u the shortcut to the review i did...as on that thread i uncluded some sexy pics in the dark..somehow i cant include any pics on this thread..only URL's..no offline pics...AM I DOING SOMTHING WRONG???


hope u enjoy my first impressions review..BUT OMG this amp sounds like nothing i ever heard!!! as one reviewer once said about the NSL..it has a soundsignature outside of the regular sound universe..NOT SS or TUBE...and that guy was right!..ps..i had to delete the url to the pics because dutch customs was checking my rig out online..so i had to be careful that they wouldnt bill me with a fortune..
but if anyone knows how to include offline PICS..PLS HELP THEN


so here is the review:

First audio impressions after around 100 hrs burn-in time:

okay now we had that covered (i had a summary written of the components in my humble rig..including my stunning sounding Code-X headphone) its now up to the sound, or better said the experience this amp gives me audio-wise.

first of all the soundsignature i was after:

I wanted natural, powerful, organic and balanced sound. with Smooth and dynamic highs with minimum roll off and controlled punchy lows. True to source, realistic, precise imaging and a holographic sound stage (my planar being the bottleneck in this ofcourse!). By balanced and realistic I mean music to be right-proportioned and show a true picture of the performance (I so hate to hear a small ensemble being portrait like an orchestra, or a small jazz club gig to sound like a huge concert in an open stadium).

I realised it was not easy to explain what i wanted in words but luckily Gilbert is such an intelligent person that he knew what I wanted to have and what to put into his design. and he did an excellent job i must say! above any expectations good.



first SHORT expressions:



i will do that tomorrow...this has been a long post until now..so bare with me...so i will do this in steps...



okay back to business:



To kill all the doubts about the qualities of this amp in the butt:



In short: Its Key qualities are: powerful, life, airiness, detail, energy, clarity, organic, presence, soundstage and dynamics. No surprises if you read the reviews about the amp on which he is completely based on, the mighty "NSL". In comparison with the modded 337 i had, the 'PaG' has a much better overall balance and more body. Especially the lows and treble, where it exhibits a justly praised degree of magic compared to the 337. In comparison with the 337, the 'PaG' is not so noticeably warm and as a result, again, music feels more present and alive. The Lows on the PaG totally annyhilates the not also to meagre Lows of the 337, but this is also not in the least because of the attribution of the Code-X no doubt (compared to the he500) and the 650.000uF of capacity..so lots of headroom in its backpocket. Although the 337 did nothing wrong and excelled in many areas i now know it was missing something - the something that all BC amps have i understand and the 'PaG' has it in spades: there-ness, is-ness. The music in ur ears comes alive! nothing more nothing less..like an open window into the music ur listening..



So now i have ur undivided attention i will continiu with the prematurial first impressions:



Now that the 'PaG' has had a break-in time for around 100hrs, i can try to get my first impressions on paper...so bare with me on this as it will probably change once it is fully burned in over around 1 month with non-stop 24-7 playing break-in time or so (according to Gilbert)..i will update my impressions in due time when i think its interesting enough to post..so check this thread so now and then if ur interested.



sooo here it goes...



In use, the first thing to jump out was the bass performance of the PaG. it was as if it has unlimited power to its proposal... another thing thats hit me in the face like a atomic bomb was the sweet treble (with good recordings!). While stopping far short of the bright zone, the top end of the 'Pag' is open and extended. knowing this i went on searching what was considered to be an extreme test to check the performance of the treble..so i found this, its totally not my style..but..it served its purpos well: it was a high quality lossless track of 'peoples colony no.1'



On 'Peoples Colony No. 1', the combination of Latin and Middle Eastern percussion and Sufi-based vocal pyrotechnics places extreme stress on how treble is protraited. A touch hot and it is a real ear-bleeder, a bit soft and the extreme edge is boring to the point that the track becomes just another trance release, lacking the authenticity that they add to the beats supplied by Temple of Sound and it passed the test with flying colors! but i was glad i didnt need to hear that track again as it was so NOT my style of music..no pun intended ofcourse guys.



For me the 'PaG' balanced on the line between these two presentations with all the grace of the football player Christiano Ronaldo (i like soccer..lolz)...but it also showed me that the voices were a bit nausal..and thats exactly how its recorded i understand! i absolutely hated that song..but just for the sake of this review i listened to it at least 3 times to make sure i heard all correctly..and i did...



The frequency just below this, the mid and upper midrange, was shown to excellent effect listening to what I think is the best recording i ever heard from Freddy Mercury, it was with Montserat Caballe, especially 'the fallen priest' and 'rachmanov's revenge', sang live in Barcelona. When i was listening to this recordings through this rig, the nuance in Freddy's voice when listening through the 'PaG' was uncomparable to anything I have heard until now headphone wise or otherwise.as if i had to learn how to listen to music again..it sounded so real...especially when the two voices were changing octaves from low and then higher, while a full orchestra was playing behind them with full force sometimes...unbelievable..i now wish i was there when they actually had that concert back then..it must have been stellar to be there!!!!!



The next three octaves down the scale, from mid-bass to the lower midrange, were vibrant and lively in character. For example, the woody resonance and the harder hits on the piano, the faster smaller drums, the cellos and bigger violins on the soundtrack of 'Beowulf' were all there in spades and were portraited in a way i never thought it could in a headphone, the deep bass (huge drums) that kick in without a warning hits u like a tornado...so deep and powerfull, but still so in control and lightling fast following the changes in speed perfectly..and while the drums are rumbling the higher pitched violins are shown in (to my ears) the right way without any sweat, just right on the other lower side of the orchestra while the drums are on the other side more in the middle...perfectly placed..no smearing at all...and thats what was a bit lacking on the 337 i had...with very dynamic tracks the instruments sounded like they were smeared together a bit..it had a hard time keeping them apart when the track got 'difficult'.



But i have to be honest here.. I was really surprised at how well the 'PaG' portraited the fundamentals of that deep bass...didnt think that a humble 5,28w amp could go that low.. Still, a Home Theater receiver with its multi million watts into trillion channels with 4x 1600watts 35cm subwoofers it is not ofcourse..lolz.



But, if you're looking for a musical headphone amplifier to mate with a neutral sounding higher-end more power-hungry headphone (as my Code-X), the 'PaG' sounds perfectly capable to give u all the beautiful music u need or want.



Staging (positioning of instruments etc) with the 'PaG' was exceptional, although because of the abundance of power u have to lower the volume to a very low level so ur head dont explode. I have a personal preference for a slightly laidback stage instead of a slightly forward one. I find that a stage right in front of me is fun on the short run, but eventually fatiguing on the other hand a deeper stage more to the back, if well rendered, will draw me into a recording while also giving me a greater illusion of being transported to a different acoustic (so u can perfectly feel the admosphere of a jazz club or a huge orchestra playing or some totally crazed metallica heads (like Rammstein) doing their magic on their instruments. The 'PaG' does this in a stunning way although it is by a very small margin slightly more bassy than I find optimal..but i am guessing its all about break-in time as it keeps on smoothing out and opening up almost by the minute the more it plays.. Still, better this than in your face (as some other high power headphone amps tend to do). As for the rest of the stage, the 'PaG" shows a very credible, left to right, front to back and up and down sonic hologram (if u can say that about a headphone), one that held up very nicely and was very credible.



Dynamically the 'PaG' is a 'off the charts' capable performer with very good reproduction of every extreme parts of the sound frequency and everything in between. The details are portraited quite well, allthough the treble can be a bit painful on certain very high pitched guitars on high levels of listening or bad recordings (but that can be because of the bad recording itself, bad rip or because it still has a long break-in time to go)..

The small harmonic and pitch changes of complex acoustic passages like i stated in 'Beowulf' were done nicely and in a very believable way...



Comparing:

I can be short with this..i am a one amp, one headphone type of a guy so i dont have much to compare the 'PaG' with personally then the very capable modded OTL Darkvoice 337 tube amp i had for 2 years.

In general the Darkvoice 337 is more "tube-like", while the 'Pag' is more neutral and much more dynamic. Which would be better for you is a personal decision. Both are very capable amps in design and in performance, either one is in its own price catagory a winner in my book..



For me...the 'PaG' is a step up soundwise in a way i never ever thought could be possible..coming from the modded Darkvoice 337 with premium tubes in it paired with a modded Hifiman he500...the Code-X is ofcourse also not in the least responsible for the stellar soundquality i am experiencing now as is the balanced 8wire dual mono 22AWG 'Black Widow' headphone cable of Toxic cables.



in short:

In total, the 'PaG' is an open, well-balanced, powerful dynamic headphone amplifier. to my ears it doesnt have any recognizable weaknesses or it had to be the treble that could be a bit to hot sometimes or the bass thats sometimes to much available...but am sure its all about the meagre burn-in time of just 100hrs or less.



In short it is a superb performer in absolute terms. The lower bass and sweet midrange is exceptional good. It looks classy but not screamy just as i would like on a higher-end component, and it functions flawlessly (it only gave me a scare when i first plugged in the plug into the electricity grid and i was treated by a small flash coming from the socket of the wall..it scared me ****less..but gilbert relaxed me..it was normal because of the capacity of the amp...). sooo Staging is excellent, if a tad more laid back than the norm of powerful SS amps that i know of. It offers excellent detail to reward your choice of quality sources, and has stunning dynamics. even for the price i paid for, it is quite a remarkable product that by far exceeded my greatest expectations!



The big picture:

Alright, let us put it all together now, will the custommade Blue Circle Audio 'PaG' lure the unknowing headphonefan over into the Blue Circle Audio Web, or even better, allow for the newbie audio headfi-geek (now there's a contradiction in terms! lolz) to find a long-term partner in headphone heaven? In a word, yes, IMHO. It is far better than any 'mass-market' amp i heared until now. It is very involving, and thats also a part of the Blue Circle house sound i understand..once a Bluecirkian always a Bluecirkian. (AND U GUYS HERE ON THIS BC THREAD KNOWS WHAT I MEAN WITH THAT)

When i let my friends listen to my rig, and they dont get it, then chances are that listening to any other even extremely expensive rigs will not convince them either..so i let them go back to their bassy cheap headphone stuff (in the likes of Beats, Monster and Bose etc) and their 150usd worth of crappy amps (oops sorry)

And, best of all, the 'PaG' is not just a transition (temporarely) component, it is a real high-end end-game product that will reward careful headphone rig building and it will still stand firm over the long-term. And even at the price i paid for it , it is very hard to beat in my opinion.



Now for the so important points (like the Eurovision Songcontest that will take place very soon again)..pls keep ur votes ready, messieurs et madames..here are the votes for:

Lower-bass - 9
as 10 is not possible with a headphone IMHO..u need to feel it in ur gut also to get a perfect score for this in my opinion, but for a headphone u cant ask for more

Mid-bass - 9

Midrange - 10

Treble -7
i think the bit of hot treble i hear sometimes has to do with the lack of break-in time and bad recordings..so this is a point awaiting the end of the break-in period

Attack - 10++++++!
OMFG!! speechless

Decay - 9

Resolution/ Detail - 9

Soundstage - 8
i think this has more to do with the technical shortcomings of the Planar headphone design in general then the amp itself, and my Referencesounds Code-X is a (perfectly) modded HE-5..but i hope to get a new (better) headphone cable (Toxic Cables) and 2 powercables (BC62's) one day soon to help allivate that a bit.

Imaging/placement of instruments - 9

Fit and Finish - 10+++
clean-built no frizzles design, totally built for utmost efficiency and performance, with so much attention for little details and utmost dedication..maybe even with love!...even the bolts are polished stainless steel beauties with rounded heads!)

Self Noise - 10
totally silent when no music is played..total black background..i think that the extra filtering stuff i bought also helps in a big way!, this can be a bit annyoing though sometimes when u have a full LP (vinyl) rip..in front of the black background u hear every tracking noise (u even sometimes hear the pitch changing of that noise!) of the needle until it goes to the next track..and i am not even talking about the crackling noises u hear when the LP is worn out..i had some high quality 24bit 4000bps vinyl rips of Queen and those are now totally unlistenable because of those crackling noises during playback...! as Gilbert said to me once and i quote: 'WHEN U HAVE GOOD SOUND U ALSO GET BAD SOUND' i think he meant these noise issues with it.

Value for the Money - 7-10?
i really dont know..yes its expensive..but OMG the built quality, the classy simple looks, the music experience it gives u in return... for me its a total 10...but for most of u guys (ON THAT PARTICULAR MID-FI THREAD)on a certain budget maybe a 7minus...

BUT...u can always go for their also excellent sounding (also upgradable) 'standard' SBH headphone amp (look for reviews on headfi and google)..and start there! look at me: headphone wise i also started with a very humble Matrix Mstage, Q-jays in-ears phones and a cowon D2 mp3 player as source once... and lookie at me now :wink_face:



okay now...my fingers are hurting and my brain is like mush now..need to go back to my relaxation station..u guess what that will be...



hope u enjoyed this first impressions write on a bit.



until my next update!



may the force of the audiogods be with u!


as i said..i am new to the higher end audio universe u guys are in..so i am guessing what i just wrote down is recognizable on ur amps also..but seriously... this thing...am speechless...for real..i cant take the phones off when i have them on my head...when i get home from work..first thing i do it put them on..just for 30 min or so...when my family goes to bed i put them on again..i cant stay away from the phones..as if i am addicted! never ever felt like this..is this what u guys meant with the NSL (in every model possible) haunts u?

this review is posted on a headphone forum on which i am a very regular poster on..and in less then 1 day it already got 600hits..lolz people all over are getting curious about the amp.. if they only knew what i am experiencing now.. no..its not perfect..but i still needs at least 3 weeks to burn in fully...but OMG..i loved how it looked..but how it sounds superseeds in a big way...thanks Gilbert... u have a customer for life!

and as i stated...Gilbert...if u ever wanna read the original review and the pics i posted with it..just ask..

but until then..pls explain how to include pics here without urls! thanks!!
[/b]
Last edited by Bluecirclerookie on Wed Mar 19, 2014 3:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Life without music is a life without beauty.

Ice Man
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Post by Ice Man » Wed Mar 19, 2014 7:20 am

Congrats. I saw internal pictures. I bet it sounds heavenly and simply, unbelievable. Great review-- it was a pleasure to read. Enjoy your system.

Bluecirclerookie
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Joined: Fri Aug 30, 2013 3:07 pm
Location: Amsterdam, the netherlands

Post by Bluecirclerookie » Fri Mar 21, 2014 2:14 pm

Ice Man wrote:Congrats. I saw internal pictures. I bet it sounds heavenly and simply, unbelievable. Great review-- it was a pleasure to read. Enjoy your system.
Thanks ice man..yeah it sounds absolutely stunning...i did a review on headfi.org about this amp..to spread the word about BC, WITH juicy pics..also sexy pics lighted by candlelight..sexy!! So check it out if ur curious..its headfi.org and then search for PaG.

Seriously..if ur considering a headphone amp..ask gilbert to make one..as this is seriously mind blowing and redicously good sounding and i am sure its greatly because of the NSL heritage behind (inside) it.
I just saw that in the 4 days that the review is online, it already got 1140hits on headfi....lolz.
Life without music is a life without beauty.

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