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Computer Audio vs Analogue


gedd

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Many of use here have build very impressive computer based HiFi systems. Have anyone compared your builds with a analogue system?

 

Why I asked is I have been hammered down, ridiculed and isolated by those vinyl supremacists (I call them this as they always say "vinyl rules") because I am the only one to believe in the merits and potential of a digital system.

 

I have listened to DSD and vinyl comparison and I can say the difference is very minutiae to even determine which one is which.

 

I am just wondering does vinyl really rules? Can a digital system surpass what vinyl can offer?

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Your going to get all kinds of answers saying one is better than the other just like those that love their $1000 USB cables vs a $100 cable or those that can hear into the upper freqs like dogs and can hear ever little bit of detail.

 

Me, I enjoy music and I enjoy both analog and DSD, it all depends on the quality of each...

The Truth Is Out There

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I have compared the same tracks on my CA system (Mac Mini into DAC section of Parasound P5) to my analogue system (Thorens TD150 Mk II with "Kugel" arm and Ortofon X3 HOMC cartridge into Parasound P5 phono section) and it seems like the analogue has more "heft" for lack of a better word. More impact to the transients especially. It's not something that I find a huge difference though and doesn't always trump the ticks and pops that are especially problematic in the winter, when I honestly do a lot more listening. Also, the P5 isn't the last word in DACs.

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Many of use here have build very impressive computer based HiFi systems. Have anyone compared your builds with a analogue system?

 

Why I asked is I have been hammered down, ridiculed and isolated by those vinyl supremacists (I call them this as they always say "vinyl rules") because I am the only one to believe in the merits and potential of a digital system.

 

I have listened to DSD and vinyl comparison and I can say the difference is very minutiae to even determine which one is which.

 

I am just wondering does vinyl really rules? Can a digital system surpass what vinyl can offer?

 

 

I like vinyl I have thousands of LPs. I also have a number of reel-to-reel tapes. I like digital. I have thousands of CDs, SACDs DVD-As and high-res downloads. I even have a few 78's. To me, vinyl is merely another music source. Technically, it's not as good as digital, there's no doubt of that. On the other hand (and I've mentioned this before in other threads), sometimes, a good LP will bring me emotionally much closer to the music than does any digital recording I've ever bought. The best sounding commercially made recording that I've ever heard is on an LP.

George

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I, too, have a large number of analogue albums, 15,000 LP's and 1000 pre recorded R2R tapes. Also about 2000 CD and SACD's. I have converted all of the CD's and SACD's to digital files and over 8000 of the LP's and tapes. The main reason is ease of use and the LP's and tapes (will do about 10,000 all together) as a legacy to my daughter and her family. If the conversion is well done ( and I think mine is) then the digital file, particularly for the LP's is as good or better than the original in almost all cases (since I declick every record). However, the R2R tapes (I am speaking of the 15ips 2 track direct copies of master tapes and tapes that are close to that) are not quite as good (but very close) in digital format as the originals.

 

Obviously, something that is often forgotten is that the CD's and SACD's which are newly recorded and not taken from analogue masters are of different artists than those of the original analogues. So the jazz greats like Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, etc. and the classical greats like Pavarotti in his prime, Heifetz, Menuhin, etc. were recorded in analogue, not digital.

 

Larry

Analog-VPIClas3,3DArm,LyraSkala+MiyajimaZeromono,Herron VTPH2APhono,2AmpexATR-102+MerrillTridentMaster TapePreamp  Dig Rip-Pyramix,IzotopeRX3Adv,MykerinosCard,PacificMicrosonicsModel2; Dig Play-Lampi Pacific, mch NADAC, Roon-HQPlayer,Oppo105  Electronics-DoshiPre,CJ MET1mchPre,Cary2A3monoamps Speakers-AvantgardeDuosLR,3SolosC,LR,RR

Other-2x512EngineerMarutaniSymmetrical Power+Cables Music-15KRecs(90%classical),1.7KR2Rtapes,1.5KCD's,500SACDs,50TBripped files

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Many of use here have build very impressive computer based HiFi systems. Have anyone compared your builds with a analogue system?

 

Why I asked is I have been hammered down, ridiculed and isolated by those vinyl supremacists (I call them this as they always say "vinyl rules") because I am the only one to believe in the merits and potential of a digital system.

 

I have listened to DSD and vinyl comparison and I can say the difference is very minutiae to even determine which one is which.

 

I am just wondering does vinyl really rules? Can a digital system surpass what vinyl can offer?

 

Hi gedd,

 

The thing about audio is that if you ask three folks the same question, you will get at least four different answers (five of which are probably wrong). Well, actually, what is "right" or "wrong", just as what is "good" or "better" or "best" will depend entirely on exactly what one seeks. And exactly how one goes about seeking it.

 

There are folks who value what sounds "good" to them and I'd never argue with whatever brings anyone their listening pleasure. Some folks seek "accuracy" but one must ask "accurate to what?" and "What is the reference?"

 

With all the above said, I can report on my own experience, which I hope is of some interest. You may hear it similarly or you may hear it completely differently.

 

So, to the original question "Can a digital system surpass what vinyl can offer?", the first thing is to define "surpass".

My own holy grail in audio is accuracy -- for the recording itself, I define this as fidelity to what occurred in the presence of the microphones. For the finished result we hear at home, regardless of the format, other factors come into play, those being first and foremost, the sensibilities and goals of the mastering engineer and secondarily, the mastering chain and the tools said engineer uses to achieve the final master.

 

But getting back to the recording itself, as an engineer, I've wondered which format can best represent the output of my microphones. (It is up to me as engineer to use the right type and number of mics and place them in such a way that I'll achieve my first goal of accuracy to what occurred in the presence of the mics.) Over the years, I've recorded to all sorts of formats, from analog machines, like Scully, Studer, Ampex, MCI--using 1/4", 1/2", 1", and 2" tape at 7 1/2, 15, and 30 ips speeds--to analog on lacquer, then vinyl disk, to digital formats like F1, DAT, 1630 and computer hard drive--using proprietary formats as well as standard .aif and .wav at 16-bits or 24-bits running at 44.1k, 48k, 88k, 96k, 176.4k, and 192k sampling rates. (I've never been a fan of SACD or DSD but I've tried those too.)

 

In the end, while many of these can sound quite good, I've always been able to discern a difference between listening to the direct mic feed and listening to the playback of the recording--- until I started experimenting with 4x PCM from a very high quality set of converters. My favored format has become 24/192 PCM as for the first time in my experience, I have not yet been able to tell the recording from my direct mic feed. After decades as a recordist, I find this something to be excited about--- I've finally got a format that sounds like what I hear at the recording sessions. Good as the best analog, including good vinyl, is, it just doesn't cross this very critical threshold.

 

Now if it was the best 24/96 I've heard in comparison with vinyl, I'd say it was a tight race, with each doing something the other doesn't. Neither however, sounds like the mic feed to me. They get close and they sound very nice but it ends there. Between the two, I don't think I have a favorite. To me, it doesn't really matter because the threshold has been crossed by something I find more transparent then either one.

 

Of course, ultimately, all the format does is provide a view of the recording. If the recording isn't very good, a better format will only provide a clearer view of a not-so-good recording. In the end, as I've said elsewhere, 90-95% or more of a recording's ultimate quality has already been determined by the time the signals are leaving the microphones. They have not even entered the mic cables yet, much less been captured to a format like analog tape, vinyl, or any sort of digital.

 

Best regards,

Barry

Soundkeeper Recordings

The Soundkeeper | Audio, Music, Recording, Playback

Barry Diament Audio

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ultimately, all the format does is provide a view of the recording. If the recording isn't very good, a better format will only provide a clearer view of a not-so-good recording. In the end, as I've said elsewhere, 90-95% or more of a recording's ultimate quality has already been determined by the time the signals are leaving the microphones.

That probably can't be emphasized enough. On the other hand, some engineers seem intent on providing a less-than-clear view on perfectly fine recordings despite a great format's capabilities:

 

comp.png

[2004 vs. 1994]

 

No wonder digital gets a bad reputation. Such a disgrace. And that's not even one of the more egregious example of a loudness war victim, only one that I came across by chance today. And in this instance you at least (potentially) still have access to the better version.

 

Thankfully this issue seems confined to the realm of popular music for now.

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In the end, while many of these can sound quite good, I've always been able to discern a difference between listening to the direct mic feed and listening to the playback of the recording--- until I started experimenting with 4x PCM from a very high quality set of converters. My favored format has become 24/192 PCM as for the first time in my experience, I have not yet been able to tell the recording from my direct mic feed. After decades as a recordist, I find this something to be excited about--- I've finally got a format that sounds like what I hear at the recording sessions. Good as the best analog, including good vinyl, is, it just doesn't cross this very critical threshold.

 

Soundkeeper Recordings

The Soundkeeper | Audio, Music, Recording, Playback

Barry Diament Audio

 

Very exciting indeed!! I encourage you to try the same thing with double dsd.

 

We are on the precipice of digital being analogue.

- Mark

 

Synology DS916+ > SoTM dCBL-CAT7 > Netgear switch > SoTM dCBL-CAT7 > dCS Vivaldi Upsampler (Nordost Valhalla 2 power cord) > Nordost Valhalla 2 Dual 110 Ohm AES/EBU > dCS Vivaldi DAC (David Elrod Statement Gold power cord) > Nordost Valhalla 2 xlr > Absolare Passion preamp (Nordost Valhalla 2 power cord) > Nordost Valhalla 2 xlr > VTL MB-450 III (Shunyata King Cobra CX power cords) > Nordost Valhalla 2 speaker > Kaiser Kaewero Classic /JL Audio F110 (Wireworld Platinum power cord).

 

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On the other hand (and I've mentioned this before in other threads), sometimes, a good LP will bring me emotionally much closer to the music than does any digital recording I've ever bought. The best sounding commercially made recording that I've ever heard is on an LP.

 

I too listen to both digital and analog sources. In fact I bought my (high quality) Kuzma turntable for the sole purpose of being able to listen to some kind of analog "absolute standard" in relation to the many differences in sound quality between various digital formats/releases and my digital equipment, which is of equal quality as the analog playback equipment.

 

I would like to add to gmgraves' note that I would describe vinyl, in general, being more "emotional accurate" than digital. On the other hand, a beautiful creation like Kind of Blue is simply unobtainable for me as a (good quality) LP, while the 192/24 digital version of hdtracks is as "emotional accurate" as I can imagine. The same goes for vinyl, I've bought some €1 LP-treasures which easily surpass their modern high res equivalents in terms of sound quality and enjoyment.

 

A growing problem for me is the fact that there is no such thing as a second hand market for digital downloads, nor will there ever be one. Coupled to the ever shifting format wars I'm getting a bit tired of buying, and especially rebuying, digital downloads, while LP's are fun to shop for and trade while they keep their value.

 

Regards,

Ronald

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"(I've never been a fan of SACD or DSD but I've tried those too.)"

 

Hi Barry,

 

I'm curious (and only curious, not upset at all) as to why you don't like DSD.

 

Joel

 

Hi Joel,

 

I've always found the treble a bit discomforting--different from but not necessarily better (in my opinion) than CD.

Perhaps it is the diminishing dynamic range with ascending frequency. Whether this is actually the case, I can't say. All I know is that is how it *sounds* to my ears.

I know lots of folks who love the format. It just isn't my cup of sonic tea.

 

Best regards,

Barry

Soundkeeper Recordings

The Soundkeeper | Audio, Music, Recording, Playback

Barry Diament Audio

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Very exciting indeed!! I encourage you to try the same thing with double dsd.

 

We are on the precipice of digital being analogue.

 

Hi Mark,

 

Speaking only for myself, I don't want my digital to be analog. I don't want my analog to be analog either. I don't want my recording formats to sound "good". I want them to get out of the way. While many formats can sound "very good" (something I consider a coloration) I've never heard analog get out of the way and I've never heard any digital format other than properly done 4x PCM do that either. To my ears, DSD is quite *in* the way. It sounds very nice, in my view, in an impressionistic fashion. I can understand why folks like it but it doesn't offer the type of sonics I seek.

 

That said, I'm always willing to audition anything.

 

Best regards,

Barry

Soundkeeper Recordings

The Soundkeeper | Audio, Music, Recording, Playback

Barry Diament Audio

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Completely non scientific answer ...

 

Personally (and if the same music was available to me in both formats) ... I would take a Project Debut turntable and budget amplifier and speakers over a similar level digital system (say £1000 for source, amplifier and speakers where source for digital includes buying a computer AND a DAC). However I think digital quickly gains an advantage over this level until levelling out when talking high 4 and 5 figure components...

 

I like the tactile experience of listening to vinyl; but equally I enjoy the convenience of a computer based system.

 

At the end of the day if the music is available I'm happy!

 

Eloise

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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As Barry states above. It is all in the quality of the recording. I listen to all sources and enjoy all of them. If I find I do not like a CD or an LP it goes for a trade.

In any dispute the intensity of feeling is inversely proportional to the value of the issues at stake ~ Sayre's Law

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Many of use here have build very impressive computer based HiFi systems. Have anyone compared your builds with a analogue system?

 

Why I asked is I have been hammered down, ridiculed and isolated by those vinyl supremacists (I call them this as they always say "vinyl rules") because I am the only one to believe in the merits and potential of a digital system.

 

I have listened to DSD and vinyl comparison and I can say the difference is very minutiae to even determine which one is which.

 

I am just wondering does vinyl really rules? Can a digital system surpass what vinyl can offer?

 

 

My own feeling is that if you can listen "through" a source and become involved with the music, it's a good source. But as other's have pointed out, the recording is usually much more important than the source it is recorded on. Some music can *only* be listened to in the car. At highway speeds. :) Other music is sublime in 4XPCM. A lot of music sounds best in DSD. To me that is, your opinion might be totally different.

 

And sometimes, the something about the artist can just be repulsive and ruin the enjoyment of the music, presented in any environment and any format. And tastes change over time too, as our ears age and our experience increases.

 

-Paul

Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat DAC.

Robert A. Heinlein

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1. 99.999999% of us will never know how something sounded at the studio when it was recorded.

 

2. Given point #1, why do so many chase after the "absolute sound" when as a matter of fact you wouldn't know even if you heard it?

 

3. Without a benchmark of having heard the music at the studio, how can any of us (other than the persons present at the studio or recording venue) proclaim any component, audio system or music format as being totally transparent/neutral/accurate?

 

4. So, what is a listener to do about this?

 

5. You have two choices: (a) keep chasing the impossible "absolute sound", "straight wire with a gain" idea, or (b) simply choose equipment and recording formats that *subjectively* make the music more pleasurable for you to listen to.

 

6. I listen to music for enjoyment and if the music subjectively sounds more pleasing to my ears, it increases my listening pleasure. Therefore, why should I care if what I am listening to is accurate?

 

7. Personally, I never look at DR numbers and do not understand the obsession with DR. People have been complaining about it for years but nothing has changed in that regard and I don't see further complaints changing anything. I don't want to know the DR numbers. If I did, that is all I would be thinking about when listening. Also, it would keep me from buying lots of good music. Case in point, Beck's latest album. I think the album sounds great, even if the DR numbers are less then stellar. So many people dismissed the album because of the DR numbers.

 

8. If a song/album moves me emotionally, I buy it. If it just so happens the music sounds *subjectively* more pleasing to me- that is simply a bonus.

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I don't want to know the DR numbers. If I did, that is all I would be thinking about when listening. Also, it would keep me from buying lots of good music. Case in point, Beck's latest album. I think the albums sounds great, even if the DR numbers are less then stellar. So many people dismissed the album because of the DR numbers.

 

Low DR doesn’t necessarily mean that I won’t enjoy the music, but in some instances it is possible to seek out a version with a higher dynamic range. And in that case I will do so. The 1994 CD mastering of Grace sounds much better to me than the one from 2004. In most cases CD remasters sound much worse to me than the original due to increased loudness so I try to avoid them. Unfortunately often enough, the vinyl version is the one that has a higher dynamic range (haven't listened to the vinyl version of that one personally, but I greatly enjoy the digital version).

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1. 99.999999% of us will never know how something sounded at the studio when it was recorded.

 

2. Given point #1, why do so many chase after the "absolute sound" when as a matter of fact you wouldn't know even if you heard it?

 

3. Without a benchmark of having heard the music at the studio, how can any of us (other than the persons present at the studio or recording venue) proclaim any component, audio system or music format as being totally transparent/neutral/accurate?

 

4. So, what is a listener to do about this?...

 

Hi Blake,

 

All good points.

There is, however, one thing that can guide a listener to something closer to the original. While I'm very lucky to be able to compare things with the original mic feed or with the original master (of recordings I didn't do myself), it is still possible for "civilians" to make accurate assessments using one simple criterion:

The more transparent a component, system, format, etc., the greater the differences between recordings.

 

Every recording sounds very different from every other recording. The best components, systems, formats, will reveal this to the greatest degree. Any coloration within a component, system, format, is applied to everything that passes through it, ultimately diminishing the differences between recordings. For example, when different recordings have a common sound in the treble, that is a treble coloration in the component, system, or format.

 

So, finding those components, systems, formats that reveal the greatest differences between recordings will take one closer to the true absolute sound. The component, system, or format is doing a better job of getting out of the way.

 

Best regards,

Barry

Soundkeeper Recordings

The Soundkeeper | Audio, Music, Recording, Playback

Barry Diament Audio

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I, too, have a large number of analogue albums, 15,000 LP's and 1000 pre recorded R2R tapes. Also about 2000 CD and SACD's. I have converted all of the CD's and SACD's to digital files and over 8000 of the LP's and tapes. The main reason is ease of use and the LP's and tapes (will do about 10,000 all together) as a legacy to my daughter and her family. If the conversion is well done ( and I think mine is) then the digital file, particularly for the LP's is as good or better than the original in almost all cases (since I declick every record). However, the R2R tapes (I am speaking of the 15ips 2 track direct copies of master tapes and tapes that are close to that) are not quite as good (but very close) in digital format as the originals.

 

Obviously, something that is often forgotten is that the CD's and SACD's which are newly recorded and not taken from analogue masters are of different artists than those of the original analogues. So the jazz greats like Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, etc. and the classical greats like Pavarotti in his prime, Heifetz, Menuhin, etc. were recorded in analogue, not digital.

 

Larry

 

You are quite correct about the fact that many of the last century's greatest artists and performances were analog and that a CD or SACD or DCD-A or high-res file of the artists and performances are from analog sources. What amazes me is that you have bothered to rip over 800 LPs to digital. I've done a few, and it's time consuming. First you have to digitize the LP (both sides, in real time), then you have to "de-tick" it with the tools available from an app like Audacity on a tick-by-tick basis, then break it up into separate "cuts" (also using Audacity or some other like program), then you have to (often) photograph the cover, back and front (because LP covers are bigger than the beds of most home-style scanners). I can't imagine having the time to do 800 LPs and I'm RETIRED! My hat's off to you Larry!

George

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1. 99.999999% of us will never know how something sounded at the studio when it was recorded.

 

2. Given point #1, why do so many chase after the "absolute sound" when as a matter of fact you wouldn't know even if you heard it?

 

3. Without a benchmark of having heard the music at the studio, how can any of us (other than the persons present at the studio or recording venue) proclaim any component, audio system or music format as being totally transparent/neutral/accurate?

 

4. So, what is a listener to do about this?

 

5. You have two choices: (a) keep chasing the impossible "absolute sound", "straight wire with a gain" idea, or (b) simply choose equipment and recording formats that *subjectively* make the music more pleasurable for you to listen to.

 

6. I listen to music for enjoyment and if the music subjectively sounds more pleasing to my ears, it increases my listening pleasure. Therefore, why should I care if what I am listening to is accurate?

 

 

You got this right. Especially with pop and some jazz (with classical orchestra, it's not that big of a deal, but still...), if you weren't there, you don't know 1) What monitor speakers the musicians, engineers, and producers listened to the playback on. And all you can be sure of from that is that they most likely weren't anywhere near like the speakers you are using. 2) You have no way of knowing what the room sounded like. Without at least those two things being the same, you haven't a chance of knowing what the recording is SUPPOSED to sound like. The best we can all do is put together a system that makes the music sound good to us.

George

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Hi Blake,

 

All good points.

There is, however, one thing that can guide a listener to something closer to the original. While I'm very lucky to be able to compare things with the original mic feed or with the original master (of recordings I didn't do myself), it is still possible for "civilians" to make accurate assessments using one simple criterion:

The more transparent a component, system, format, etc., the greater the differences between recordings.

 

Every recording sounds very different from every other recording. The best components, systems, formats, will reveal this to the greatest degree. Any coloration within a component, system, format, is applied to everything that passes through it, ultimately diminishing the differences between recordings. For example, when different recordings have a common sound in the treble, that is a treble coloration in the component, system, or format.

 

So, finding those components, systems, formats that reveal the greatest differences between recordings will take one closer to the true absolute sound. The component, system, or format is doing a better job of getting out of the way.

 

Best regards,

Barry

Soundkeeper Recordings

The Soundkeeper | Audio, Music, Recording, Playback

Barry Diament Audio

 

+1, for the highest possible value of 1.

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> optical to EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> ISO Regen -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Spectral DMC-12 & DMA-150 -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

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Completely non scientific answer ...

 

Personally (and if the same music was available to me in both formats) ... I would take a Project Debut turntable and budget amplifier and speakers over a similar level digital system (say £1000 for source, amplifier and speakers where source for digital includes buying a computer AND a DAC). However I think digital quickly gains an advantage over this level until levelling out when talking high 4 and 5 figure components...

 

I like the tactile experience of listening to vinyl; but equally I enjoy the convenience of a computer based system.

 

At the end of the day if the music is available I'm happy!

 

Eloise

 

I personally wouldn't count the cost of the computer unless you're purchasing one for the system. I've used the two computers I already own in my main and home office systems.

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> optical to EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> ISO Regen -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Spectral DMC-12 & DMA-150 -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

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