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A novel way to massively improve the SQ of computer audio streaming

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Given Imitche's findings, I guess Romaz's approach of using a Mobo that supports IDE mode is very appealing. I remember Pang Pang said IDE > SATA2 > SATA3 SQ-wise because of the electrical noise. Also, Pang insist that CF sounds best again because of the lowest electrical noise.

@romaz

Are you now already using the 512GB CF? Any findings?

 

 

This is true, but, it also comes down to convenience of use, having your all your files at your fingertips for search/playback in a good library software/ GUI. Thus CF, is out, memory, or any other confined data means.

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This is true, but, it also comes down to convenience of use, having your all your files at your fingertips for search/playback in a good library software/ GUI. Thus CF, is out, memory, or any other confined data means.

Hi Elvis,

 

Do you mean that capacity of CF is too small or too slow? Would you mind to elaborate?

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Hi Elvis,

 

Do you mean that capacity of CF is too small or too slow? Would you mind to elaborate?

 

Too small for my needs. In fact, I just outgrew my 2TB 2.5" 5V HDD. Going to replace with a 4TB 2.5" 5V HDD. Currently I power my drives separate thru the 5V DC output of the HDPlex.

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So it would seem that moving up to this larger microATX ASRock motherboard will bring with it both good things and bad but hopefully, the positives will outweigh the negatives.

 

The Good:

Two PCIE 3.0 slots that allow the most direct access to the CPU that is possible. These slots have the same low latency access to the CPU as RAM. All the other buses must go through the Platform Controller Hub to access the CPU. One slot will be used for my Intel dual LAN card and the other slot will be used for my SATA to PCIE card where my OS drive and one of my data drives will connect.

 

The Bad:

More noise.

 

I can power the CPU directly with a 12V lead from my SR7. This should be a significant advantage over my Mac Mini and hopefully will help negate some potentially serious disadvantages.

 

My mATX motherboard will require a high current 5V, 3.3V and 5V standby rail in addition to possibly another legacy rail and so Paul Hynes has told me that I will not be able to use my SR7 to directly power these rails without a DC-ATX converter. This means I have placed an order for the HDPlex 300W-HiFi-DC-ATX converter based on the recommendation of many. From my search, I have not found another DC-ATX converter that is convincingly better. With this HDPlex 300W-HiFi-DC-ATX converter in place, I can then use my SR7 to feed it. I have had another SR7 on order since January and Paul has told me it should be finally ready to ship in the next week or two. Upon hearing my dilemma, Paul was kind enough to agree to convert my 12V rail to a 19V rail so that I can feed the HDPlex DC-ATX converter the voltage it requires. He has also agreed to fabricate for me a high performance 24-pin to 24-pin ATX cable so that I can connect the HDPlex DC-ATX converter to my motherboard. I really can't say enough great things about Paul. For those with custom LPSU needs, I can't recommend him more highly.

 

Anyway, now that I'm on this path, I did some digging around and here are some comparative values. They don't guarantee how good something will sound but they do provide perspective.

 

Since only noise floor data is provided by most manufacturers, I've gone ahead and listed what I have found. Noise is listed in mV and the lower the value, the better:

 

Generic switching PSU ~ 60mV

EVGA SuperNova 1.6kW Platinum ATX PSU (100% load) ~ 12.4 - 22.7mV

EVGA SuperNova 1.6kW Platinum ATX PSU (20% load) ~ 4.0 - 13.4mV

Corsair AX1200i 1.2kW Platinum ATX PSU (100% load) ~ 7.3 - 13.7mV

Corsair AX1200i 1.2kW Platinum ATX PSU (20% load) ~ 5.6 - 11.4mV

HDPlex 400W ATX LPSU (100% load) ~ 3-5mV

HDPlex 100W LPSU with LT1083 regulators (100% load) ~ 2-3mV

Paul Hynes SR7 (100% load from 10Hz to 100KHz) <4uV = <0.004mV

 

Compared against either HDPlex LPSUs, the SR7 is in the order of being nearly 1000x quieter and nearly 10,000x quieter than a generic switching PSU.

 

Unfortunately, because I will have to use the HDPlex 300W-HiFi-DC-ATX converter which uses regulators with measured ripple values of 10mV (more than 2000x noisier than the SR7), the ultra low noise floor of the SR7 will be buried by the much higher noise floor of the HDPlex DC-ATX converter. From a noise standpoint, almost any decent switching PSU may possibly sound just as good because this converter will be the limiting factor.

 

This then raises the question of just how noisy the numerous switching regulators buried within the motherboard are. Quite possibly, they may be even noisier than 10mV and so from a noise standpoint, especially with a motherboard's 3.3V rail (which is the noisiest rail on an ATX motherboard), all of this may be moot. Quite depressing.

 

CONCLUSIONS?

1. We really need someone to design an audiophile-class motherboard without noisy switching regulators.

2. In the absence of such a motherboard, because noise is potentially additive, it probably still makes sense to use a low noise PSU but its benefits will be at least partially negated by the noise created by the motherboard (or the DC-ATX converter).

3. It would seem that ATX power supplies designed for high power output (specifically high current output) will generally also have a higher noise floor but in this regard, the HDPlex ATX LPSU stands out as being exceptional.

4. Noise aside, low impedance still matters. To my ears, this may be a more important quality because with the aid of grounding boxes, noise filters and galvanic isolating devices, there are ways to mitigate noise but no way to undo the suffocating impact of a high impedance PSU. It's quite possible the EVGA excels here but there's no way to know except through comparative listening since no measurements are available.

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Here's a "nutty" ATX PSU for 999 bucks

 

http://www.coolermaster.com/powersupply/masterwatt-series/masterwatt-maker-1200-mij/

 


Did anyone try to compare powering gigabit Ethernet cards internally via motherboard versus externally via decent PSU?

 

For instance, here's an expansion box from Startech and 12V DC is required

 

https://www.startech.com/Cards-Adapters/Slot-Extension/PCI-Express-to-2-PCI-Full-Length-2-PCIe-Single-lane-Expansion-Box~PEX2PCIE4L

 

PE4C V4.1

http://www.bplus.com.tw/Adapter/PE4C%20V4.1.html

 

PE4L-HP1A

http://www.bplus.com.tw/Adapter/PE4L.html

 

Adnaco S5 (3.3V DC)

http://www.adnaco.com/products/s5/

 

Thunderbolt expansion box (12V DC)

http://www.firmtek.com/seritek/thundertek/chassis.php

 

Optical Thunderbolt cables

https://www.corning.com/optical-cables-by-corning/worldwide/en/products/thunderbolt-optical-cables.html

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3 minutes ago, botrytis said:

1750 for an SSD PCIE card is crazy. It is really more useful for a BIG DATA server. Music doesn't take that much bandwidth.

I agree about the economics, and if successful pricing will come down dramatically.  I am still very curious about the SQ.  This very different tech from rotating hard disk and SSDs.  It could truly suck for audio, or might be a other big step up.

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I've been following this topic with significant interest. I recently purchased the PS Audio Directstream DAC and had a Bridge II on order. My goal was to try the bridged ethernet config from my Mac Mini and run that cable to my DS DAC and have the Mac connected to the switch. So I followed the directions by Romaz on how to add a Thunderbolt ethernet connection. I found I could only add under Network Settings with "Thunderbolt Ethernet" and not "Thunderbolt Bridge". By doing this, both the DS DAC and Thunderbolt would see the router and get an IP address using DHCP. But Roon could not see the Bridge as an endpoint. I rebooted everything and even tried difference ethernet cables but nothing worked. Then I tried to assign each an IP address, both on the same subnet mask and directed to the proper IP address of the router. Nothing. Roon was blind to the DS DAC. I'm no networking expert, but I'm confused as to why this isn't working. Can anyone help me with this? Thanks.

Adam

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On 3/17/2017 at 7:40 PM, greenleo said:

Given Imitche's findings, I guess Romaz's approach of using a Mobo that supports IDE mode is very appealing. I remember Pang Pang said IDE > SATA2 > SATA3 SQ-wise because of the electrical noise. Also, Pang insist that CF sounds best again because of the lowest electrical noise.

@romaz

Are you now already using the 512GB CF? Any findings?

 
 

This is correct.  Paul has been very adamant that IDE > SATA2 > SATA3 with regards to SQ based on electrical noise.  Looking at current draw, from what I am finding, CF draws less than SD which draws less than SSD or HD but not always.  

For example, the Apacer SLC CF cards that so many people seem to like (including Phil Hobi of AO and Marcin of JPlay) has a max draw of 310mA (or about 1w at 3.3V).  SDXC cards can draw twice as much.  My Samsung 850EVO SSD can draw up to 1.1A.

Some 2.5 inch hard drives that spin at 5400RPM can draw as little as 450mA at 5V and could be a decent option for storage (especially when externally powered by something like an LPS-1).  A 3.5 inch hard drive at 12V could be a decent option also if you decide to power it from the same supply that powers your motherboard.

Here is an interesting finding.  I have found that the older Intel X25-E SLC SSDs draw very little current.  It is SATA2 which is ideal. They make a 64GB model that draws about 1.1w during typical server level of I/O activity (about 0.22mA).  I have found a used one for $90 and so I have purchased it for comparison.

http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/intel-x25-e-ssd,2158-6.html

As for 512GB of CF storage, yes, this is too small a volume for most of us.  I have found a card that can accept 2 of them (for up to 1TB of storage).  I have also found a PCIE to SATA adapter (with a replaceable clock) that comes with 4 SATA ports and so not counting one port that would be used for the OS drive, this solution provides 3 free ports for storage drives (or the option of 3TB of CF storage).  I have not yet purchased this 512GB CF card but with the 32GB CF card that I have, I am finding SQ to be a bit better when compared against a 64GB SDXC.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AZ9T41M/ref=pe_825000_114212990_pe_825000_114212990_n_id?th=1

I think what is potentially as important is the bus that you connect to.  As opposed to USB vs SATA vs Thunderbolt vs Firewire vs PCIe, it may be more important to know whether these buses go through the PCH (Platform Controller Hub) which is a hub that most buses must pass through before reaching the CPU.  From what I can tell, only PCIe 3.0 X8 or x16 slots have direct access to the CPU without having to access the PCH and as most know, such slots were designed for use with powerful GPUs in SLI mode.  This will, however, depend on the motherboard and so it is important that you review the block diagram of your motherboard.  PCIe 3.0 operates at either 3.3v or 12v depending on the device but it appears that that's it.

With buses that have to go through PCH (this means USB, SATA, SATA Express, most Thunderbolt, Firewire, PCIe 1.0 or 2.0 and some 3.0), you not only have to go through the noisy switching regulator that supplies that bus (3.3V, 5V or 12V) but also an even noisier 1.05V regulator that supplies the PCH.

With the SATA to PCIe adapter and the Intel PCIe LAN card I plan to use, because I will be connecting them to the motherboard's PCIe 3.0 x8 slots that completely bypass PCH, I am hoping that there will be a noticeable improvement in SQ from the standpoint of less latency and less noise.  We'll see.

Edited by romaz

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2 hours ago, romaz said:

This is correct.  Paul has been very adamant that IDE > SATA2 > SATA3 with regards to SQ based on electrical noise.

Funny, if you go to my 2013 report on drive interfaces--and do a search in it on PATA--you will see me remarking how the old IDE>Firewire400 drive interface I had was the best sounding of all (well third, behind SD card and the gold standard of RAMdisk).

 

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39 minutes ago, Superdad said:

Funny, if you go to my 2013 report on drive interfaces--and do a search in it on PATA--you will see me remarking how the old IDE>Firewire400 drive interface I had was the best sounding of all (well third, behind SD card and the gold standard of RAMdisk).

"If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." Isaac Newton in 1676: ?

 

Edited by lmitche

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I would think the new AMD Ryzen chips would be great for building a music server with. It seems that there is only a Southbridge chip on the MB and the rest is built into the CPU wafer (USB and PCiE channels). Just thinking out loud here.

Edited by botrytis

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8 hours ago, Superdad said:

Funny, if you go to my 2013 report on drive interfaces--and do a search in it on PATA--you will see me remarking how the old IDE>Firewire400 drive interface I had was the best sounding of all (well third, behind SD card and the gold standard of RAMdisk).

 

 

 

That was a landmark article, Alex.  I benefited greatly from it.

 

This is what I took home from it:

 

With respect to SQ, you concluded that USB 2.0 > USB 3.0 and Firewire 400 > 800.  Based on this, I had concluded long ago that higher speeds = higher electrical noise.

 

You also concluded that SD card sounded best.  The Mac Mini is a unique platform in that it places an SD card reader directly on a PCIe x1 bus and so it achieves what audiophiles desire and that is the combination of an electrically quiet storage medium on a low latency bus.  Thunderbolt also sits on a PCIe bus (as does FireWire) and so for those who have no interest in tinkering, the Mac Mini is really an ideal setup.  If only there was a way to really strip down the OS.

 

For those interested, on page 16 of this technician's manual is the block diagram for the 2010 Mac Mini.

 

http://tim.id.au/laptops/apple/macmini/mac_mini_mid_2010.pdf)

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On 17.3.2017 at 10:56 PM, lmitche said:

Well the 3.5 HDD just sounds better. First they run off the 12 volt bus away from the USB 5 volt power. Second they are much quieter electrically. My jaw hit the ground when I first heard my machine without an SSD.

 

But if one power the SSD separately  with an LPS-1, shouldn't that be the best solution ?

Have you or anyone tried ?

 

I'm wonder if HD/SSD Regen will be an upcoming product ?

 

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4 minutes ago, R1200CL said:

 

But if one power the SSD separately  with an LPS-1, shouldn't that be the best solution ?

Have you or anyone tried ?

 

I'm wonder if HD/SSD Regen will be an upcoming product ?

 

I replaced an lps-1 powered SSD with the HDD prior to the jaw drop.

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26 minutes ago, lmitche said:

I replaced an lps-1 powered SSD with the HDD prior to the jaw drop.

 

Oh, I suppose a technical explanation is hard give. Maybe John can help ?

 

The SSD a Samsung EVO 850 ? And the HD ?

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The SSD was a 200 series Crucial powered by an lps-1 at 5 volts, and the HDD a 4tb Western Digital Red drive powered by the ATX power supply at 12 volts.

 

Having discussed the reason with many others, the best thinking is that high frequency noise from the processors in the SSD is avoided by using the HDD.

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Larry,

I have a Platinum class Seasonic in my HQP server build, and an SSD powered by an iFi iUSB power supply (old iFi iUSB used simply as ps).  Are you saying it might be worth swapping out my Platinum ps for a $150 Titanium one, and then using a Red drive?  With this config, is it worth spending $ on a decent SATA cable for the Red drive?

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On ‎3‎/‎18‎/‎2017 at 2:23 AM, romaz said:

So it would seem that moving up to this larger microATX ASRock motherboard will bring with it both good things and bad but hopefully, the positives will outweigh the negatives.

 

The Good:

Two PCIE 3.0 slots that allow the most direct access to the CPU that is possible. These slots have the same low latency access to the CPU as RAM. All the other buses must go through the Platform Controller Hub to access the CPU. One slot will be used for my Intel dual LAN card and the other slot will be used for my SATA to PCIE card where my OS drive and one of my data drives will connect.

 

The Bad:

More noise.

 

I can power the CPU directly with a 12V lead from my SR7. This should be a significant advantage over my Mac Mini and hopefully will help negate some potentially serious disadvantages.

 

My mATX motherboard will require a high current 5V, 3.3V and 5V standby rail in addition to possibly another legacy rail and so Paul Hynes has told me that I will not be able to use my SR7 to directly power these rails without a DC-ATX converter. This means I have placed an order for the HDPlex 300W-HiFi-DC-ATX converter based on the recommendation of many. From my search, I have not found another DC-ATX converter that is convincingly better. With this HDPlex 300W-HiFi-DC-ATX converter in place, I can then use my SR7 to feed it. I have had another SR7 on order since January and Paul has told me it should be finally ready to ship in the next week or two. Upon hearing my dilemma, Paul was kind enough to agree to convert my 12V rail to a 19V rail so that I can feed the HDPlex DC-ATX converter the voltage it requires. He has also agreed to fabricate for me a high performance 24-pin to 24-pin ATX cable so that I can connect the HDPlex DC-ATX converter to my motherboard. I really can't say enough great things about Paul. For those with custom LPSU needs, I can't recommend him more highly.

 

Anyway, now that I'm on this path, I did some digging around and here are some comparative values. They don't guarantee how good something will sound but they do provide perspective.

 

Since only noise floor data is provided by most manufacturers, I've gone ahead and listed what I have found. Noise is listed in mV and the lower the value, the better:

 

Generic switching PSU ~ 60mV

EVGA SuperNova 1.6kW Platinum ATX PSU (100% load) ~ 12.4 - 22.7mV

EVGA SuperNova 1.6kW Platinum ATX PSU (20% load) ~ 4.0 - 13.4mV

Corsair AX1200i 1.2kW Platinum ATX PSU (100% load) ~ 7.3 - 13.7mV

Corsair AX1200i 1.2kW Platinum ATX PSU (20% load) ~ 5.6 - 11.4mV

HDPlex 400W ATX LPSU (100% load) ~ 3-5mV

HDPlex 100W LPSU with LT1083 regulators (100% load) ~ 2-3mV

Paul Hynes SR7 (100% load from 10Hz to 100KHz) <4uV = <0.004mV

 

Compared against either HDPlex LPSUs, the SR7 is in the order of being nearly 1000x quieter and nearly 10,000x quieter than a generic switching PSU.

 

Unfortunately, because I will have to use the HDPlex 300W-HiFi-DC-ATX converter which uses regulators with measured ripple values of 10mV (more than 2000x noisier than the SR7), the ultra low noise floor of the SR7 will be buried by the much higher noise floor of the HDPlex DC-ATX converter. From a noise standpoint, almost any decent switching PSU may possibly sound just as good because this converter will be the limiting factor.

 

This then raises the question of just how noisy the numerous switching regulators buried within the motherboard are. Quite possibly, they may be even noisier than 10mV and so from a noise standpoint, especially with a motherboard's 3.3V rail (which is the noisiest rail on an ATX motherboard), all of this may be moot. Quite depressing.

 

CONCLUSIONS?

1. We really need someone to design an audiophile-class motherboard without noisy switching regulators.

2. In the absence of such a motherboard, because noise is potentially additive, it probably still makes sense to use a low noise PSU but its benefits will be at least partially negated by the noise created by the motherboard (or the DC-ATX converter).

3. It would seem that ATX power supplies designed for high power output (specifically high current output) will generally also have a higher noise floor but in this regard, the HDPlex ATX LPSU stands out as being exceptional.

4. Noise aside, low impedance still matters. To my ears, this may be a more important quality because with the aid of grounding boxes, noise filters and galvanic isolating devices, there are ways to mitigate noise but no way to undo the suffocating impact of a high impedance PSU. It's quite possible the EVGA excels here but there's no way to know except through comparative listening since no measurements are available.

 

Great post, Romaz,

Spot on, very well written.  If there was only a way to make this initial server a low noisy, low impedance device, we then probably wouldn't need the renderer?

I picked up a 2Qute to replace for my Hugo, looking to 3Qute for future upgrade.  With it's galvanic isolation I'm going to drop the Intona/Regen and not go the ISO route.  Plan to power the 2Qute with 2 LPS-1's in a series.

Thus I'll be looking at your DAVE system topography for clues to upgrades in my path, since the galvanic isolation is of similar design.  I suspect the biggest upgrade would be the Sotm-200 and it's new soon to be clocking? Next would be a new server, which at this point I am still thinking the Pico itx mobo powered by a Hynes.  

 

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10 hours ago, greenleo said:

HQPlayer Win Server 2016 GUI Network Bridge Walk Through

 

It took me some time to figure out how to do the direct connection in this OS.  I hope that this walk through may be beneficial to the members who is/will use ...

...snip, snip...

 

Enjoy:D

 

Wow Greenleo, you deserve a lot of credit for putting that all together!  I assume that some of it is applicable to regular Windows users too?

 

Seeing what you guys have to go through to make this work under Windows sure makes me appreciate OS X--where a few clicks and it just works.  ^_^

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1 minute ago, Superdad said:

 

Wow Greenleo, you deserve a lot of credit for putting that all together!  I assume that some of it is applicable to regular Windows users too?

 

Seeing what you guys have to go through to make this work under Windows sure makes me appreciate OS X--where a few clicks and it just works.  ^_^

Alex, Thank you for the compliment☺

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6 hours ago, ted_b said:

Larry,

I have a Platinum class Seasonic in my HQP server build, and an SSD powered by an iFi iUSB power supply (old iFi iUSB used simply as ps).  Are you saying it might be worth swapping out my Platinum ps for a $150 Titanium one, and then using a Red drive?  With this config, is it worth spending $ on a decent SATA cable for the Red drive?

Hi Ted, I upgraded from a 460 watt fanless Seasonic platinum ATX SMPS to the 1600 watt EVGA titanium ATX SMPS about a year ago.  I remember posting my thoughts on the upgrade at that time, so to best answer your question I searched and found the CA thread in Google, but the page is missing after the new system deployment this weekend.  Ugh! My memory is that this was a very worthwhile upgrade, but I can't remember, or find, the details.  There are many more titanium class choices today, cheaper ones too, so I'd try one of those and return it if not worthwhile.

 

If you have a SSD in your system today, replacing it with a HDD for boot and music storage is a good idea based on my experience here.  Removing the SSD removes a source of high frequency noise, and having a HDD for music storage avoids the need to drag music files over the network at playback. I don't have a strong opinion on the HDD model type and used the WD red drive as it was in hand.  A faster drive may be better, I just can't say without testing it.

 

On SATA cables, no doubt they change the sound.  So does the connection point and type (SATA and SATA Express) on the motherboard.  I have not tried an audiophile SATA cable like the Panchanko.  I have four SATA cables here of various constructions and did listen to each and believe I have found the best of the four.  It was claimed to be high quality cable on Amazon, cost 12 bucks, so I tried it.  Using the m.2 ngff to Sata connection card was definitely an upgrade with tighter bass and greatly increased top end extension.

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I found the power supply upgrade notes from last year:

 

"FWIW, I have replaced the 400 watt fanless Seasonic ATX power supply with a 1600 watt EVGA ATX power supply priced at $400. This is total overkill, but the ripple specs are less than 15 uv and there is an audible increase in SQ. It comes with a 12 gauge power cord and very heavy ATX, CPU, and SSD cabling. The difference in SQ was immediate with a lower noise floor, more detail and better PRAT. Hifial bought the same power supply on my recommendation."

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