The needless debate over drum construction and the misguided search for undo drum resonance

ChrisCirino

Senior Member
I hope this post will meet with much debate here on DW. I encourage any and all discourse on the matter. My words are not intended to offend, but instead are meant to elicit some thought from those who ceaselessly seek the ultimate drum sound. Truth be told I am not a professional drummer, but I do consider myself a skilled enthusiast and I have owned and do own more drum equipment then most (nay Bermuda or Bo).

So why do we seek this mysterious “resonance” from our poor drums and why do we endlessly parse over what is the best wood, bearing edge or suspension mount. Is there some infra-sonic Nirvana that we hope to fall upon whilst we twist and turn our drum keys? Do the things we drummers endlessly quibble over really make a difference? I say yes and no. Yes, we can produce qualitative and quantifiable differences in sound by changing this or that, but ultimately they make little difference in the application of our instrument. Please allow me to explain.

When I play with other musicians, I am keenly aware that my drum sounds must find a place within the spectrum of the bands overall sound. Guitarist and bassists are often victims of I scooped out all of my mids and created the perfect Metallicaesque tone but I can’t here myself in the mix. I beg you to listen to some tapes of the band playing together and then turn up your mids guys. At first they will say it is too harsh or shrill or whatever but ultimately they will concede that the collective does in fact sound better when everyone finds a place in the mix.

I know this may be seen as sacrilege but I posit this to my DW brethren, who cares if your 12” tom can resonate for an extraordinary amount of time or that you can show me on an oscilloscope that that your bass drum’s tail takes .08 milliseconds more to dissipate. These things are inconsequential in the general application of our instrument. I think we would all agree that the drum set is generally played as part of an ensemble. Most folks are not apt to sit through a solo drum performance and even Buddy had a band to back him up. Knowing this, shouldn’t we seek a sound that most benefits the collective?

Many factors besides construction and composition contribute to the sound of our drums. Room size, room construction and the placement of our kits within the room itself are often more tangible than the things we twiddle over. Admittedly shell material, bearing edge, lug type, rim type, suspension mount or not, and head selection all contribute to a drums sound. But to what degree? I contend that a lay-person (i.e. a non-drummer) could not distinguish any difference in the sound of most drums regardless of their construction and that in fact most drummers could not audibly distinguish between the oft debated different wood types or bearing edges used on drums. After querying my bandmates, on numerous occasions, about the changing of my snare drum, drumheads or whatever I am generally met with ambivalence or the ubiquitous “Did you change something?” I have grown accustomed to hearing that I still sound like me regardless of what set I play and that the things I believe will bring our music to new found heights, go unnoticed by others.

Does it matter if your bass drum is uber-resonant if you’re going to stuff it full of pillows, gag it with dampened heads or are going to cut a huge hole in the front head? Though I personally love that big open Bonhamesque BD sound, it has very little application in most modern music. Almost all of that luscious low end is gobbled up by other instruments competing for the same frequencies. To me the bass drum tom mount or virgin BD argument is another non-starter. If you do any of the above mentioned things to dampen your bass drum who cares if it is marginally diminished (this is also questionable) by a BD tom mount. This is more a question of preference and accessibility than sound. I have owned many a bass drum with and without tom mounts and I can distinguish no audible difference between a virgin and those saddled with a BD tom yoke. I have also owned nearly every major brand of drum set and most boutique snare drums as well. Regardless of the shell material or bearing edge cut, I have learned over time that with proper head selection and tuning I can get them to sound the way that I want.

Many of us never get to hear our instrument from the audience’s perspective. I have often thought my drums sounded too thin or “plasticy” from behind the kit only to find that they are killing it from FOH. Most of us are never going to play on stadium stages with suspended line arrays. Most of us must settle for playing in small clubs where our instrument is heard acoustically or with minimal sound reinforcement, like a lone kick drum microphone. Bottom-line: It’s great if your drums sound amazing from the drum stool, its better if they sound great in the audience.

So why does any of this matter? Bottom-line: The magic is in the man, not the drums. Just look at our own Bo Eder. His endless search for the perfect drum sound inevitably leads him down the same road and to the same destination with predictably the same result. Bo sounds like Bo on a Pearl BCX, Ludwig Classic, Gretsch USA Custom or any of the other 20+ kits you can see on DW.

So stop all the futzing about bearing edges, suspension mounts, and the obvious benefits of wormwood over maple and apologetically play what you like, for whatever reason. There is no best or better only preference and predilection. So rock out with your co%k out and enjoy the ride.

P.S. Bo, that was metaphor and don’t switch cymbals. They will not be better, just different.
 

MrInsanePolack

Platinum Member
Interseting thoughts. For me personally, I have the ideal sound in my head and can usually find it. Doesn't matter the brand, wood, bearing edge, so on and so forth.

This being said, when I first learned how to tune properly I was constantly messing with heads and tuning. It was a "I wonder how this is gonna sound" thing. Perhaps I got it out of my system, I dunno. These days I spend about 5 minutes or so tuning up and that's about it. I would rather play.

My snare, on the other hand is a different story. I currently have 2, a Rogers Dynasonic 5x14 COB from about 1974, and the one that came with my Midtown kit. I believe it is 5x13 and poplar. While I feel proud to be the owner of the Dyna, it just doesn't do it for me. The little Pearl snare on the other hand makes me giddy as $h!t every time I play it. It cracks, buzzes, rings, has a good amount of body, basically does everything I ask of it. The Dyna not so much. It makes me happy, but I am constantly trying to tweak the damn thing and just seems like I am wasteing my time. It hasn't been played in almost three years because of this.

As far as others, I don't know. Perhaps it the next step in the evolution of drum obsession. Its akin to car guys trying to squeeze one more horse out of an engine that's on the brink of detonation.
 

GetAgrippa

Platinum Member
Man lots of truth here. You can mic a Cajon kick and mic plastic buckets (or a shoe box as Tony will attest) and get some great sounds. And it is all about skill- you don’t whack or beat a drum but there is a stroke, you hold the sticks just right to get the best sound out of drum or cymbal-ain’t no whacking , crying , bleeding like Whiplash LOL. Until I started recording myself I always tuned my drums for my side of drum kit- now I tune to where it sounds best recorded from audience perspective. Which I was surprised how crappy they sounded. Playing live tuning toms too low no one hears it- so everything went up in pitch from what sounded good from my side. It is generally wiser to have good cymbals and snare cause you can skimp on rest of kit and still get a good sound. What something like 80% of sound is heads? Yeah I wonder how many ways can they re-engineer drums and hardware-when many of the innovations of past are better than present?
 
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Gottliver

Senior Member
I agree with this 100%. But must add that playing behind a kit that sounds, feels and looks great TO ME, makes me play better. It's inspiration.

Also, I think quality has more to do with tone than the materials used. Good edges, round shells, stable hardware and quality heads will sound great regardless of shell material.

That being said, I do prefer and will only buy drums made of maplebirchkapurmahoganypoplargum wood.
 

Drumolator

Platinum Member
I totally agree with the original post. One day I spent a looong time playing with heads and tuning on a twelve-inch Slingerland tom. I learned tons of stuff about tuning that day. It is very good to know your instrument. Drums are the best. Peace and goodwill.
 

Steady Freddy

Pioneer Member
Advances in drum technologies have made huge strides in the way drums sound. Remember how they sounded in the 60s. That dull thud.

I'd rather not go back to that. Some players want to get the most from their drums and some may not put in as much effort.

I think we all have a favorite drum track where the sound of the drums was really inspirational. Was the sound developed or did it just happen? I don't know, but I'd rather strive for a great sound than a pretty good one. That said, you can get wrapped around the axel about it.

I watched a documentary about Tom Petty and how it took 3 or 4 days to get sound on drums. The drummer was about to have a nervous break down.

But the sound they got set the stage for a decade of music to come.

As always YMMV
 

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
I think we all seek the best of everything within our budgets regardless of item. Guns, skis , cameras, cars, tools. Within the last year I have gotten into woodworking and have been gifted and bought many power tools. I set a budget, look at items within that budget, and buy what looks or within reviews, works best. Then come the hacks. Many ideas, videos, books, articles on how to make that particular item even better or more efficient. The same goes for drums. I don't see it as a needless debate, but more a quest to make something that produces sound, to make a better sound. To make a multi-pieced instrument, feel better when playing, be more ergonomic, etc. As humans we also just like choice. Nothing wrong with that. Imagine a band where every instrument, was exactly like every instrument in all of the other bands. I will agree that there may not be a best, but will totally disagree that there is no better. Everything can be made better, or made to sound better. That is the quest, and it is far from needless and definitely not misguided.
 

ChrisCirino

Senior Member
Let me add a little addendum to my previously published piece. Much respect to Gruntersdad, but I think he missed the point and yes I understand that not everyone can afford a Bugatti. If you have an entry level kit and it sounds bad admittedly there is much work to be done. As a point of clarification I'm specifically referring to top of the line offerings where once a certain quality threshold is attained there is very little difference in the some of the parts.

My point is simple, If given the choice of top quality materials to build a dream kit, your preferred selections no matter how passionate your conviction for Drumbos new stave skankwood snare with the 72 degree round over edges, would likely yield a drum that sounds very much like the rest. Just watch the DW video where they shootout their multi-wood offerings or DCPNH Yamaha comparison (and yes I listened to them on quality headphones). My other point was that the much sought after "sound" characterized by boomy drums with long sustain might sound fantastic in your basement but little to none of that resonance is welcome or can be heard on a stage full of musicians.

People routinely critique drums that they played for five minutes in GC or that they saw demoed on youtube. I would never deign to offer an opinion on a piece of equipment I didn’t own and/or had adequate time to properly evaluate. Personally, I don’t understand brand loyalists who say their drum of choice sounds better than this or that one since all of the top manufacturers make excellent instruments these days, regardless of their secret recipe.

That being said I own a 1972ish Ludwig Big Beat with 3-ply maple/poplar/maple shells and clear interiors. What some might consider the “holy grail” or 1959 Les Paul Burst of drums. The edges are rough and uneven, the wrap isn’t particularly well executed, the tom bracket is mounted directly to the drum and they may even have some questionable roundness. On paper those drums should sound terrible but boy do they sound great. Nobody knows what ingredients are in the secret sauce.

Just like cars, some people get lemons. If your snare drum sounds like shit no matter what you do, get a different snare drum.

To add some credibility to my rant I will list the equipment I currently posses. This is not to brag or boast but to show that I have sampled nearly everything that is out their before I came to my dubious conclusions.

Drum sets I currently own:

Ludwig Classic 3-Ply Pro–Beat (1972)
Shells: 3-Py Maple/Poplar/Maple (Clear Interiors)
Finish: Blue Silk
9x13 Tom
10x14 Tom
16x16 Floor Tom
16x18 Floor Tom
14x24 Bass Drum (Double Tom Mount)

Sonor Phonic Plus (1983)
Shells: Beech
Finish: Gloss Black
8x8 Tom
10x10 Tom
12x12 Tom
18x16 Floor Tom
19x18 Floor Tom
18x22 Bass Drum (Double Tom Mount)

Yamaha Birch Custom Absolute
Shells: Birch
Finish: Vintage Natural
7x8 Tom
7x10 Tom
8x12 Tom
12x14 Tom
13x14 Floor Tom
15x16 Floor Tom
14x22 Bass Drum (Double Tom Mount)

Trick Percussion Al13 (2018)
Shells: Al13
Finish: Matte White Powder Coat
12x6 Roctoban
18x6 Roctoban
6x8 Tom
7x10 Tom
8x12 Tom
12x14 Floor Tom
14x16 Floor Tom
16x18 Floor Tom
14x20 Bass Drum (Virgin)
14x22 Bass Drum (Virgin)

Snare Drums:
5.5x15 Beier Stainless Steel
7x14 Odery Custom Teak
6.5x14 Trick Bell Brass
6.5x14 Ludwig Black Beauty
6.5x14 Yamaha Recording Custom Aluminum
6.5x14 Dunnettt Classic Milkwood Mono-ply
6.5x14 Acoutin Ply Birch & Stainless Steel
6.5x14 Inde Drum Lab Aluminum
5.5x14 Beier Stainless Steel
4.75x14 Noble & Cooley Alloy Classic
6.5x13 Dunnett Titanium
5.5x13 Craviotto Unlimited Maple
6.5x13 Yamaha Nouveau Brass
6x13 Ahead Black Nickel/Brass
5x10 Yamaha Maple Popcorn

Cymbals:

Sabian:
1. 7" AAX Max Splash (Brilliant)
2. 10" AAX Ozone Splash (Natural)
3. 10” Chopper
4. 13" AAXcelerator Hi-Hats (Brilliant)
5. 14" AAX V Hi-Hats (Brilliant)
6. 15" HHXcelerator Hi-Hats (Natural)
7. 16" AAX Aero Crash (Brilliant)
8. 16" AA Raw Bell Crash (Brilliant)
9. 16" XS20 Ozone Crash (Natural)
10. 17" AAXplosion Crash (Brilliant)
11. 17" HHXplosion Crash (Brilliant)
12. 17" HHXtreme Crash (Brilliant)
13. 17" AA Holy China (Natural)
14. 18" AA Raw Bell Crash (Brilliant)
15. 18" AAX V Crash (Brilliant)
16. 18” AAX Suspended Crash (Natural)*
17. 18" HHXtreme Crash (Natural)
18. 19" AAX V Crash (Brilliant)
19. 19" HHXtreme Crash (Natural)
20. 19" HHX Fierce Crash (Brilliant)
21. 19" AA Holy China (Brilliant)
22. 20” AA Raw Bell Crash (Brilliant)
23. 21" AA Bash Ride (Natural)
24. 21" AAX Raw Bell Dry Ride (Brilliant)
25. 22" HH Rock Ride (Brilliant)
26. 22” HHX Legacy Heavy Ride (Natural)

Zildjian:
27. 7” ZilBel (Brilliant)
28. 8” A Custom Splash (Brilliant)
29. 10” A Custom Splash (Brilliant)
30. 12” A Custom Mastersound Hi-Hats (Brilliant)
31. 13” A Custom Mastersound Hi-Hats (Brilliant)
32. 13” K/Z Special Hi-Hats (Natural/Brilliant)
33. 14” A Custom Crash (Brilliant)
34. 14” Oriental China Trash (Brilliant)
35. 15” K Light Hi-Hats (Natural)
36. 16” ZHT EFX (Natural)
37. 16” A Custom EFX (Brilliant)
38. 16” A Custom Crash (Brilliant)
39. 17” A Custom Crash (Brilliant)
40. 17” A Custom Projection Crash (Brilliant)
41. 17” K Custom Hybrid Crash (Natural/Brilliant)
42. 17” K Custom Hybrid China (Natural/Brilliant)
43. 17” K Dark Crash (Natural)
44. 18” A Custom Crash (Brilliant)*
45. 18” A Custom Projection Crash (Brilliant)
46. 18” K Dark Thin Crash (Natural)
47. 18” K Dark Crash (Natural)
48. 18” A Custom China (Brilliant)*
49. 19” K Dark Thin Crash (Natural)
50. 19” A Ultra-Hammered China (Brilliant)
51. 19” K Custom Hybrid Trash Smash (Natural/Brilliant)
52. 20” Oriental Crash of Doom (Natural)
53. 20” A Custom Ride (Brilliant)
54. 20” A Custom Projection Ride (Brilliant)
55. 20” K Custom Hybrid Ride (Natural/Brilliant)
56. 21” A Mega-Bell Ride (Brilliant)
57. 22” K Light Ride (Natural)

Paiste:
58. 10” 2002 Splash
59. 14” 2002 Sound Edge Hi-Hats
60. 14” PST-7 China
61. 16” 2002 Medium
62. 17” Rude Thin Crash
63. 17” 2002 Thin Crash
64. 18” 2002 Crash*
65. 18” 2002 Medium
66. 18” 2002 Novo China
67. 19” 2002 Crash
68. 20” 2002 Power Ride
69. 20” 2002 Power Bell Ride
70. 22” 2002 Ride

Other:
71. 8” Wuhan Splash
72. 10” Wuhan Splash
73. 14” Wuhan China
74. 16” Wuhan China
75. 18” Wuhan China

These are drums I have owned:

Zim-Gar MIJ (1970’s)
Shells: ?
Finish: Orange Sparkle
Hardware: Chrome
8x12 Tom
16x16 Floor Tom
14x20 Bass Drum (Rail Consolette)
Purchased: 1978 (Used)
Sold: 1980

Slingerland (1980)
Shells: Maple 5-Ply
Finish: Chrome
Hardware: Chrome
6.5x10 Concert Tom
8x12 Concert Tom
9x13 Concert Tom
10x14 Concert Tom
16x16 Floor Tom
14x22 Bass Drum (Double Tom Mount
Purchased: 1980 (New)
Sold: 1983

Sonor Phonic Plus (1983)
Shells: Beech
Finish: Red Mahogany
Hardware: Chrome
8x8 Tom
10x10 Tom
12x12 Tom
17x15 Floor Tom
18x22 Bass Drum (Double Tom Mount)
Purchased: 1983 (New)
Sold: 1990

Noble & Cooley Star Series (1990)
Shells: Single-Ply Maple
Finish: Black Lacquer
Hardware: Chrome
5x10 Tom
6x12 Tom
7x14 Tom
8x14 Tom
16x22 Bass Drum (Virgin)
Purchased: 1990 (New)
Sold: 1993

Gretsch USA Custom (1991)
Shells: Jasper
Finish: Gloss Walnut
Hardware: Chrome
5x8 Tom
6x10 Tom
10x14 Tom
14x20 Bass Drum
Purchased: 1991 (Used)
Sold: 2016

Tama Granstar Custom (1992)
Shells: Birch
Finish: Lipstick Red
Hardware: Chrome
8x10 Tom
8x11 Tom
8x12 Tom
12x14 Floor Tom
18x24 Bass Drum (Virgin)
Purchased: 1992 (New)
Sold: 1993

Premier APK (1993)
Shells: Birch
Finish: Black Wrap
Hardware: Chrome
7x8 Tom
8x10 Tom
9x12 Tom
12x14 Floor Tom
14x16 Floor Tom
16x22 Bass Drum (Double Tom Mount)
Purchased: 1993 (Used)
Sold: 1994

Drum Workshop Collector’s Series (2004)
Shells: Pure Maple
Finish: Silver Sparkle FinishPly
Hardware: Chrome
5x10 Short Stack Tom
6x12 Short Stack Tom
12x14 Floor Tom
14x20 Bass Drum (Double Tom Mount)
8x20 BD Woofer
Purchased: 2004 (New)
Sold: 2017

Conaway Custom (2006)
Shells: Keller Maple
Finish: Natural (Tung Oil)
Hardware: Chrome
7x8 Tom
7x10 Tom
8x12 Tom
12x14 Floor Tom
14x16 Floor Tom
20x20 Bass Drum (Virgin)
Purchased: 2006 (New)
Sold: 2008

Drum Workshop Collector’s Series (2007)
Shells: Maple X-Shell
Finish: Silver Sparkle FinishPly
Hardware: Chrome
7x8 Tom
7x10 Tom
8x12 Tom
10x14 Floor Tom
10x16 Floor Tom
18x20 Bass Drum (Virgin)
16x22 Bass Drum (Virgin)
Purchased: 2007 (New)
Sold: 2017

Ludwig Classic Maple (2014)
Shells: Maple
Finish: Black Lacquer
Hardware: Chrome
7x8 Tom (Atlas Mount)
7x10 Tom (Atlas Mount)
8x12 Tom (Atlas Mount)
14x14 Floor Tom (Atlas Mount)
16x16 Floor Tom (Atlas Mount)
14x20 Bass Drum (Atlas Double Tom Mount)
Purchased: 2014 (New)
Sold: 2016

Ludwig Classic 6-Ply Big–Beat (1978)
Shells: 6-Py Maple
Finish: Red Cortex
Hardware: Chrome
8x12 Tom
9x13 Tom
16x16 Floor Tom
14x22 Bass Drum (Double Tom Mount)
Purchased: 2013 (Used)
Sold: 2016

Home Made Custom (2015)
Shells: Keller Maple
Finish: Natural (Tung Oil)
Hardware: Chrome
6x10 Tom
7x12 Tom
12x14 Floor Tom
14x16 Floor Tom
12x20 Bass Drum (Double Tom Mount)
14x22 Bass Drum (Virgin)
Built: 2015 (New)
Sold: 2016

Yamaha Club Custom (2015)
Shells: Kapur
Finish: Black
Hardware: Chrome
7x8 Tom
7x10 Tom
8x12 Tom
13x14 Floor Tom
15x16 Floor Tom
15x20 Bass Drum X 2 (Double Tom Mount)
Built: 2015 (New)
Sold: 2016
 
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larryace

"Uncle Larry"
What you said puts it in the proper perspective Chris. Playing is first second and third. Time is above all that. When I'm not playing, it's no secret, I enjoy the geeking out part so much that even though you are bang on in your assessments, it won't change a thing with me lol. Because I like to get my geek on. I know it's splitting hairs, I love doing that ha ha. If I can't do it here, I can't do it anywhere. When I stumbled on this place, I knew I found a home on the web.

Like I found another little thing I wanted to share....to see if anyone does it or not. I really do but maybe this thread isn't the best for that.

Watch what you ask for. DW would dry right up if we all stuck to that totally valid premise.

Viva la difference!
 

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
As long as we all have different brains, and senses, what we hear will be different whether it is a topline kit or not, tuned by one of the best tuners in the world, we will all hear it differently. As to your list of gear, it seems that your search, for construction, bearing edges, etc etc etc, makes your debate a little silly. Unless you are just a collector or own a museum, that amount of gear to me is more needless than any discussion could be.
 

Les Ismore

Platinum Member
It 'is' all about the drummer, always has been. One thing will always be for certain too, attitudes change.

So as the drummer goes, so goes the equipment the drummer plays with.




I've got a new set of HH cymbals arriving today. Does it matter to the audience? For the audience to be happy, I first need to be happy.
 

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
It 'is' all about the drummer, always has been. One thing will always be for certain too, attitudes change.

So as the drummer goes, so goes the equipment the drummer plays with.




I've got a new set of HH cymbals arriving today. Does it matter to the audience? For the audience to be happy, I first need to be happy.
Excellent point..............
 

dwdrummerky

Senior Member
Gear...pffft

Every "real" drummer knows all you need are:

-Acrolite
-Stage Custom
-New Beats

Anything else makes you an overspending pretentious buffoon.
 

Les Ismore

Platinum Member
Gear...pffft

Every "real" drummer knows all you need are:

-Acrolite
-Stage Custom
-New Beats

Anything else makes you an overspending pretentious buffoon.




Now you can officially say "Been there, done that!" and move on to some different gear. Shopping is fun!






If we were chef's posting on a cooking forum and some chef posts 'It doesn't matter about the extra spices, flavorings, how thick your skillet is, the people aren't going to notice anything past the norm (slat, pepper, onion, garlic etc.), so all the other stuff you're adding to your dishes is meaningless, and 90 out of 100 people aren't going to notice you used a copper pan on that dish.'



I honestly don't care what Bermuda, or Bo ate for dinner last night. Drumming is what we do, 'this' is our world, what get's us off and for some, what we do to feed the family.

We're drummers, this is a drum forum, we're addicted to drums and drumming, just like chef's are addicted to food and cooking.

Its all about the flavors, the sounds and they way we produce them, its 'our' food, and we don't want to eat the same dish every night.
 

AzHeat

Platinum Member
Gear...pffft

Every "real" drummer knows all you need are:

-Acrolite
-Stage Custom
-New Beats

Anything else makes you an overspending pretentious buffoon.
It took me 3 decades to become a pretentious buffoon. Never knew how great it was up here!
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
So why do we seek this mysterious “resonance” from our poor drums

who cares if your 12” tom can resonate for an extraordinary amount of time

Does it matter if your bass drum is uber-resonant if you’re going to stuff it full of pillows, gag it with dampened heads or are going to cut a huge hole in the front head?
If you're regarding resonance as the length of time the heads continue to move, or more generally, the length of note, I agree with your observations 100%. However, if we're talking resonance of the instrument / shell resonance, then I disagree. Such resonance can equate to increased tonal prominence. That not only delivers more body to the sound, it also helps the drum stand out more distinctly in the mix / establish it's own sonic space - something that's always of value, irrespective of the playing context. Remember, it's entirely possible to have a highly resonant drum that produces a very short note & close to zero head sustain.

Bottom line: The magic is in the man, not the drums.
Absolutely - every time - without exception, but an instrument that inspires the player (by whatever mechanism) helps that magic happen.
 
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