zhiyi_zhang617

The best sounding violins

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I have a life-long dream to own,  and thus endlessly search for a great sounding violin in the price range I would be able to afford.

Therefore, I, probably a lot of us, wish to know the best sounding instrument in each price point.

The following is the arbitrary price points based on my understanding.

Entry:                                 < $1,500

Student:                            $1,500 - $5,000

Semi-Pro:                          $5,000 - $15,000

Pro (orchestra):                $15,000 - $50,0000

Pro (performing):             $50,0000 - $250,000

Master:                              > $250,000

Would the experts here provide some insights on the makers of the great sounding instruments in each of these price points?

Also, since everyone says that the price does not correlate with sound, whose violins, besides the big three (Amati, Stradivarius, and Guarneri), tend to be of the best tone regardless of price?

The key here is sound; and only sound, nothing to do with provenance!

Thank you.

  

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6 minutes ago, zhiyi_zhang617 said:

I have a life-long dream to own,  and thus endlessly search for a great sounding violin in the price range I would be able to afford.

Therefore, I, probably a lot of us, wish to know the best sounding instrument in each price point.

The following is the arbitrary price points based on my understanding.

Entry:                                 < $1,500

Student:                            $1,500 - $5,000

Semi-Pro:                          $5,000 - $15,000

Pro (orchestra):                $15,000 - $50,0000

Pro (performing):             $50,0000 - $250,000

Master:                              > $250,000

Entry: Chinese workshop

Student: Better Chinese such as Eastman, Jay Haide. Late 19th or early 20thC anonymous German, Bohemian or French workshops

Semi pro: Antique instruments handmade by individual makers, some not well known. Contemporary violin maker graduates with at least 5 years experience

Pro (orchestra): Award winning contemporary makers. 18th 19th & 20thC highly regarded European makers, some old Italians by unknown makers

Pro (performing): Award winning contemporary makers, Very good Italian & French instruments from 18th 19th &20thC

Master: Old Italian, often 18thC

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1 hour ago, Wood Butcher said:

Entry: Chinese workshop

Student: Better Chinese such as Eastman, Jay Haide. Late 19th or early 20thC anonymous German, Bohemian or French workshops

Semi pro: Antique instruments handmade by individual makers, some not well known. Contemporary violin maker graduates with at least 5 years experience

Pro (orchestra): Award winning contemporary makers. 18th 19th & 20thC highly regarded European makers, some old Italians by unknown makers

Pro (performing): Award winning contemporary makers, Very good Italian & French instruments from 18th 19th &20thC

Master: Old Italian, often 18thC

Thank you,

My intention is hopefully that in every reply, there will be at least one, preferably a few makers mentioned in every price point, based on your experience.

For instance, in Pro (orchestra) price point, instead of "Award winning contemporary makers" and 18-20 European makers,  I would hope specific makers, e.g., Jan Spidlen and Honore Derazey, respectively, had been named; in Master category,  makers like Andrea Guarneri, Nicolo Gagliano, and Nicolas Lupot are known for their violins of exceptional tonal quality. However, how about the lesser known makers, who made the comparable if not equally great sounding instruments? Those are the ones I would hope to learn from you based on your experience.

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2 hours ago, zhiyi_zhang617 said:

However, how about the lesser known makers, who made the comparable if not equally great sounding instruments? Those are the ones I would hope to learn from you based on your experience.

Then you could base your search on the acoustic paper written by Dünnwald who tried to define the 'Italian' sound and which makers would fall into this group. According to Dünnwald (not my opinion) he found two or three instruments from German factories owning this characteristic. 

But I think you are asking a bit a question impossible to answer. To my experience the sound result from a violin largely changes with the bowing technique of the violinist. This means that one and the same instrument can sound fantastic with one violinist and only mediocre with another. 

Secondly, pulling out names doesn't help much either because in general no violin maker replicates exactly the same sound for all his/her instruments. (Past and present)

If you take those two aspects together you see how complicated it becomes. 

I just know that violinists who have found their ideal instrument just tried themselves one fiddle after the other, sometimes on the hunt for years.

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Violin sellers will love you for having this "lifelong dream" and "endless search" for the best violin.

However wouldn't it be better, for the time being, just to say in what category you're now? Somehow I'm guessing you're not a "master" with an unlimited budget yet.

Part of this dream seems to be that one will get to be a better violinist just by buying a better violin. It's the same with cars, the typical aspirational consumer fallacy. Sometimes life gets better by not chasing this dream.

In any case the best way to go is just go to a good shop and play some violins. And don't forget a good violin needs a good bow, too, even though bows are not as sexy as violins in the eye of most beholders.

Sometimes it helps to be realistic.

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If I may tell an anecdote from personal experience:

 

It has happened more than once, that parents come into the shop with a ca. 12 year old child, who has grown out of their ¾ violin. As often as not, these parents (& the child) chose themselves an, in every respect, optimised “Dutzendarbeit”, in the price range €1,500 / €2,000, and are in all respects happy with their choice.

 

5 or so years later, the same parents arrive, with the same child, in the meantime a teenager who has made great strides playing the violin and who is contemplating auditions to the Musikhochschule or Konzervatorium. They wish to try violins in the €10,000 to €15,000 price range. They are expecting the same quantum jump that they experienced between the then ¾ violin and the first full sized violin. This quantum jump frankly isn’t available. The parents have been afflicted by the same misconception as the OP. The jump from €1,500 to €15,000 does not mean that the new violin sounds ten times as good. In fact I have an Anton Lutz viola, for instance, which I find sounds better than the Gibson Strad viola, which has also been here. How does that fit in the OP’s template?

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I don’t understand why you put pro orchestra players below pro performing players. At least in my area, there are a lot of orchestra players that are playing instruments well over your master price point. Even in small community orchestras, it’s not uncommon to find instruments over the 100k mark.

While I understand the desire to put instruments into neat boxes that are easy to differentiate, I don’t think you’ll find it a feasible task in the end. I think it’s more realistic to say the instrument one selects is quite often more a function of one’s financial means than of one’s intended uses. 

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11 hours ago, zhiyi_zhang617 said:

Thank you,

My intention is hopefully that in every reply, there will be at least one, preferably a few makers mentioned in every price point, based on your experience.

For instance, in Pro (orchestra) price point, instead of "Award winning contemporary makers" and 18-20 European makers,  I would hope specific makers, e.g., Jan Spidlen and Honore Derazey, respectively, had been named; in Master category,  makers like Andrea Guarneri, Nicolo Gagliano, and Nicolas Lupot are known for their violins of exceptional tonal quality. However, how about the lesser known makers, who made the comparable if not equally great sounding instruments? Those are the ones I would hope to learn from you based on your experience.

The problem with your idea is that you are looking for people to recommend you a hit list, over huge price ranges, to save you the time and trouble of learning. This seems pretty pointless, if for example your own budget were to be $5k max.

Expecting numerous maker suggestions for each price is rather pointless since playing characteristics and tone quality are subjective depending on ones needs and skill level. Even if we only look at contemporary makers, soon the list will be thousands of names long.
Even more for antique instruments, so I'm not sure how a list of fifty thousand names will help you in all honesty.

The problem of relatively unknown makers whose work is very fine quality and hugely underrated, is that they are not well known, so again this cannot really be suggested as their output may have been very small, or only known in one area locally. Even if you wanted one, probably impossible to get hold of as they may rarely be for sale.

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39 minutes ago, jacobsaunders said:

If I may tell an anecdote from personal experience:

 

It has happened more than once, that parents come into the shop with a ca. 12 year old child, who has grown out of their ¾ violin. As often as not, these parents (& the child) chose themselves an, in every respect, optimised “Dutzendarbeit”, in the price range €1,500 / €2,000, and are in all respects happy with their choice.

 

5 or so years later, the same parents arrive, with the same child, in the meantime a teenager who has made great strides playing the violin and who is contemplating auditions to the Musikhochschule or Konzervatorium. They wish to try violins in the €10,000 to €15,000 price range. They are expecting the same quantum jump that they experienced between the then ¾ violin and the first full sized violin. This quantum jump frankly isn’t available. The parents have been afflicted by the same misconception as the OP. The jump from €1,500 to €15,000 does not mean that the new violin sounds ten times as good. In fact I have an Anton Lutz viola, for instance, which I find sounds better than the Gibson Strad viola, which has also been here. How does that fit in the OP’s template?

Strad was probably not so much interested in making good violas. All his violas look to me like violins forced into the size of a viola. 

But, yes, some people apparently think the price tag corresponds to the 'sound value' of the instrument.

 

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12 hours ago, Andreas Preuss said:

Then you could base your search on the acoustic paper written by Dünnwald who tried to define the 'Italian' sound and which makers would fall into this group. According to Dünnwald (not my opinion) he found two or three instruments from German factories owning this characteristic. 

But I think you are asking a bit a question impossible to answer. To my experience the sound result from a violin largely changes with the bowing technique of the violinist. This means that one and the same instrument can sound fantastic with one violinist and only mediocre with another. 

Secondly, pulling out names doesn't help much either because in general no violin maker replicates exactly the same sound for all his/her instruments. (Past and present)

If you take those two aspects together you see how complicated it becomes. 

I just know that violinists who have found their ideal instrument just tried themselves one fiddle after the other, sometimes on the hunt for years.

Thank you for all your points:

Then any idea of the makers of these German instruments possessing the "Italian" tone?

Fully agreed the confounding from the player/skill effect. Therefore, we have to agree Strads sound the best, after kept hearing the gorgeous voice from Perlman and Shaham.

Largely agreed the inevitable variability in the instruments (including Strads) from every maker. However, I guess what I asked for the tendency/probability. As a simple example, a Juzek Master Art tends to be better made and probably sound better than an average non-Master Art Juzek (However, it doesn't mean an exceptional non-MA sounds much better than an typical MA in a rare case).

In my area, we have fortunately a couple of reputable violin shops. I did have some good experience in trying out some of decent ones within my budget.

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14 hours ago, zhiyi_zhang617 said:

The key here is sound; and only sound, nothing to do with provenance!

"Sound" has nothing to do with price. "Sound" is subjective and can be changed easily by moving or changing parts. 

Violins are priced based on the following:

- Maker or workshop
- Condition
- Appearance
- Model
- Geographic origin
- Age
- Provenance

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4 hours ago, jacobsaunders said:

The parents have been afflicted by the same misconception as the OP. The jump from €1,500 to €15,000 does not mean that the new violin sounds ten times as good. In fact I have an Anton Lutz viola, for instance, which I find sounds better than the Gibson Strad viola, which has also been here. How does that fit in the OP’s template?

Thanks a lot, Jacobs.

Your response is exactly what one would hope to read. IOW, if I were a violist, I will start to gain information and study the instruments from Anton Lutz, which are evidently much more affordable than a Strad, and within the reach of an average hobbyist like me.

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12 minutes ago, zhiyi_zhang617 said:

Then any idea of the makers of these German instruments possessing the "Italian" tone?

Can't they just have German tone? What even is "The Italian tone?"

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5 hours ago, Herman West said:

However wouldn't it be better, for the time being, just to say in what category you're now? Somehow I'm guessing you're not a "master" with an unlimited budget yet.

Part of this dream seems to be that one will get to be a better violinist just by buying a better violin. It's the same with cars, the typical aspirational consumer fallacy. Sometimes life gets better by not chasing this dream.

I am, based on the technical skill level, a (old) student at the best. I do have a very small collection of instruments fallen in student to pro (orchestral) category. Similar to the majority of us, I do not, and will highly unlikely have an unlimited budget.

While tiny, my collection is somewhat selective. Therefore, I hope to be more selective if I would continue to build up my collection, that is in fact a part of my purpose to initial the thread.

Whether or not I will continue is indeed a big question, as I start to feel that there might not be a "best" sounding, but only a "different" sounding violin somewhere, and as exactly you stated that "Sometimes life gets better by not chasing this dream."

Anyway, some of us, again, would be interested in knowing the nice sounding violins in each of the price points from the MN experts, based on individual knowledge and experience.

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this is my list, from a player's perspective

Entry:                                 clear open strings, poor-decent projection, string resonance and overtone unbalanced across                                             4 strings, not a focus sound once you go past 3rd hand position.

Student:                            clear projecting til 3rd position on the G, better resonance and overtone across all 4 strings                                                  but still have room for improvement. 

Semi-Pro:                          G string doesn't choke up past 4th position, vibrato easier to come out with less effort, pretty                                             decently balanced in terms of projection up to 4-5th position. the violin can projects all                                                         frequencies with some quirks here and there. 

Pro (orchestra):               simply loud and clear, probably weight alot less than the other category, all 4 strings                                                             balanced, 4 and 5th on the D and A loses no projection nor clearity compared to same notes                                              on A 1st and E 1st position. the violin should project all frequencies with less quirks.  

i'm sure others with more experience can expand on my list alot more, and i'm definitely leaving alot out of it for now. but in my experience at least for the violin industry, price is just a ball park but a really poor precise indicator for judging a violin. i have played contemporary cremonese violin that worth 20-30k and was out matched by lesser priced american violins in the price range of 10-15k. and i always go with a friend so i get the player's perspective as well as the audience. 

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13 minutes ago, zhiyi_zhang617 said:

Anyway, some of us, again, would be interested in knowing the nice sounding violins in each of the price points from the MN experts, based on individual knowledge and experience.

If you asked for the the poorest sounding violins in each of the price points, the names might be the same.

Tone has nothing to do with price.

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50 minutes ago, GeorgeH said:

Tone has nothing to do with price.

Would that mean a German factory copy of J B Schwartz 1813 may possibly sound as nice as, if not better than a Mario Gadda or a workshop MG?

If that is indeed possible, it could be interesting as many of us have JBS copies but not genuine MGs...

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54 minutes ago, GeorgeH said:

Tone has nothing to do with price.

I wouldn't go quite that far, but only say that it has very little to do with price.  There is likely some statistical correlation that could be made if you did a huge blind-test study, but I would wager that the correlation wouldn't be great.  

The idea that makes sense is that a good maker, selecting good wood and crafting with care, is more likely to produce a more desirable tone than an instrument made from a boatload of cheap wood made by low-paid factory workers.  But all wood is different, and all makers are different as well, so you never know for sure.

This is another opportunity for my favorite anecdote:  a soloist was offered a $4 million Strad to play in a concert instead of her 1-year-old instrument from a relatively unknown maker (pricepoint borderline student to semi-pro level)  The instruments were compared on stage, and all who were listening agreed that the modern was the right choice.  The owner of the Strad was one of those who agreed.  Immodesty allows me to admit that the inexpensive modern was made by me.  An additional note: the sound between the two was very different; if you didn't need a lot of power to be heard over an orchestra (no amplification), the choice may have been reversed.

Tone has everything to do with personal preference, and what you want to do with it.

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2 hours ago, zhiyi_zhang617 said:

Thank you for all your points:

Then any idea of the makers of these German instruments possessing the "Italian" tone?

Fully agreed the confounding for the player/skill effect. Therefore, we have to agree Strads sound the best, after kept hearing the gorgeous voice from Perlman and Shaham.

Largely agreed the inevitable variability in the instruments (including Strads) from every maker. However, I guess what I asked for the tendency/probability. As a simple example, a Juzek Master Art tends to be better made and probably sound better than an average non-Master Art Juzek (However, it doesn't mean an exceptional non-MA sounds much better than an typical MA in a rare case).

In my area, we have fortunately a couple of reputable violin shops. I did have some good experience in trying out some of decent ones within my budget.

While I can understand your motivation, I would probably go another path finding what you are looking for. 

I would start with certain key points for the sound and I think it is necessary to be completely subjective. 

Just some random examples which pop up in my head. 

High position playing on the D string: clarity and good response 

trill in different places for cleanliness

Violin friendly scales versus violin foreign scales. 

Timbre changes with bow pressure speed and distance from bridge.

response with different bowing techmique

capability to play pianissimo 

wolfiness anywhere

flexibility with vibrato

(You certainly need more for a solid assessment.)

then I would search in each prize category and look for those characteristics which perform worst. At the same time you might come across some makers which perform in a given price category better matching more criteria than other makers. And if by any chance you find another instrument of the same maker in another shop you have a clue that the maker is a kind of undervalued for your personal criteria. 

On the other hand you might find out which sound characteristics are really unique to very highly prized instruments OR maybe there is nothing really. 

PS the makers of the German instruments certainly have no name as all the mass produced instruments because most of the time several workers were involved in the making process.

Edited by Andreas Preuss
PS

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46 minutes ago, Don Noon said:

I wouldn't go quite that far, but only say that it has very little to do with price.  There is likely some statistical correlation that could be made if you did a huge blind-test study, but I would wager that the correlation wouldn't be great.  

The idea that makes sense is that a good maker, selecting good wood and crafting with care, is more likely to produce a more desirable tone than an instrument made from a boatload of cheap wood made by low-paid factory workers.  But all wood is different, and all makers are different as well, so you never know for sure.

This is another opportunity for my favorite anecdote:  a soloist was offered a $4 million Strad to play in a concert instead of her 1-year-old instrument from a relatively unknown maker (pricepoint borderline student to semi-pro level)  The instruments were compared on stage, and all who were listening agreed that the modern was the right choice.  The owner of the Strad was one of those who agreed.  Immodesty allows me to admit that the inexpensive modern was made by me.  An additional note: the sound between the two was very different; if you didn't need a lot of power to be heard over an orchestra (no amplification), the choice may have been reversed.

Tone has everything to do with personal preference, and what you want to do with it.

This is another great real-case example, believe the responses as such are very informative and helpful, fulfilling the objective of the thread.

Thank you, Don!

BTW, I, based in part on one of your comments, bought a very nice violin in an auction a while ago. Many thanks for that too.

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5 hours ago, jacobsaunders said:

In fact I have an Anton Lutz viola, for instance, which I find sounds better than the Gibson Strad viola, which has also been here. How does that fit in the OP’s template?

Thats nothing, I'm sure vda can find a $150 viola that blows away your Lutz.

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2 hours ago, zhiyi_zhang617 said:

Thanks a lot, Jacobs.

Your response is exactly what one would hope to read. IOW, if I were a violist, I will start to gain information and study the instruments from Anton Lutz, which are evidently much more affordable than a Strad, and within the reach of an average hobbyist like me.

You have no need to “study” the instruments of Anton Lutz, since they were from Schönbach and had a dealership in Vienna, selling Schönbach violins. It is no wonder really that the 19th C. Viennese makers didn’t make many violins, but were more dealers and repairers, since the demand for instruments, to satisfy the fashion for instance to play string quartets at home as a private pastime was largely satisfied by the likes of Lutz or Gebruder Placht etc. I wrote up Lutz for a customer who wanted it, and suggest you use Google translate or Bing if you are interested:


 

Anton Lutz

 

Anton Lutz wurde am 31. Oktober 1814 als Sohn des Geigenmachers und Meßners Ignatz Lutz in Schönbach bei Eger (Böhmen) geboren.

 

1869 wurde Anton Lutz, gemeinsam mit seinem 1843 in Schönbach geborenen Sohn  Ignaz Lutz und seinem Onkel Josef Fuchs Geschäftsnachfolger des Franz Hoyer.

 

Im Jahre 1815 ersuchte Franz Hoyer (vor 1800 in Schönbach bei Eger geboren) gemeinsam mit seinem Bruder Johann Hoyer erfolgreich um eine Bewilligung zur Eröffnung eines „Verschließgewölbes“ in Wien, obwohl die bürgerlichen Geigenmacher Wiens gegen die Entscheidung der Behörde Rekurs einlegten. Unter „Verschließgewölbe“ ist vermutlich vorwiegend Handel mit Instrumenten aus der Egerländischen Heimat zu verstehen.

 

Bereits 1818 sind die Brüder Hoyer in der Rotenturmstraße mit dem Firmennamen „musikalische Instrumenten Fabrik Gebrüder Hoyer“ zu finden. Man nannte sich im 19. Jahrhundert gerne „Fabrikant“, bzw. die Firma „Fabrik“, obwohl in Wahrheit keine Fabrik im heutigen Sinn bestand, sondern nur eine Reihe von Heimarbeitern, die Ihre handgemachten Instrumente zulieferten.

 

Johann Hoyer starb am 22. Feber 1820 in Wien, und die Firma „Gebrüder Hoyer wurde1821 aufgelöst. Zwischen 1821 und 1831 wurde eine „Verkaufsniederlage nächst der Kellnerhofgasse im sog. Graßhof, nur während der Marktzeit“ gemeldet. Im Jahre1832 wurde am alten Fleischmarkt, Haus Nr.695 gemeinsam mit einem weiteren Bruder, Andreas, eine Firma „Gebrüder Andreas und Franz Hoyer“ protokolliert. Das Sterbedatum des Franz Hoyer ist nicht bekannt, 1869 wurden jedoch Anton und Ignaz Lutz, sowie Josef Fuchs seine Geschäftsnachfolger.

               

Der Firma Lutz  & Co sind protokolliert am Fleischmark Nr. 10 von 1869 bis 1875. 1876 wurde nach Fleischmarkt Nr. 6. umgezogen, wahrend Die Fa. Wenzel Placht und Co. die Adresse Fleischmarkt No. 10 übernahm. Ab 1883 gab es auch eine Filiale in der Rotenturmstraße Nr. 29. Im Jahr 1889 wurde der Sohn, Ignaz Lutz alleiniger geschäftsnachfolger des nunmehr nach Schönbach zurückgekehrten Anton Lutz. Das Geschäft wurde bis zum Ableben von Ignaz Lutz im Jahre 1907 weitergeführt.

               

Anton Lutz wurde mehrmals ausgezeichnet, u.a. 1871 Medaillen in London, Graz, Eger, Linz und Triest; 1872 in Moskau; 1873 ein Silberne Medaille in Wolkersdorf, Bistritz und Paris sowie ein Verdienstmedallie bei der Wiener Weltausstellung im Jahre 1873.

 

Diese Bratsche wurde, vermutlich in Schönbach, im Auftrag der Wiener Firma Lutz, zwischen 1869 und 1875 gebaut, und trägt einen gedruckten Originalzettel im Inneren des Bodens:-

A.      Lutz & Comp.

Musik Instrumenten - & Saiten Fabriks

Niederlage

Wien Fleischmarkt 10

 

Der einteilige Boden, Zargen und Schnecke sind aus geflammtem Ahorn, die Decke aus mittelbreitjähriger Fichte gebaut. Das Instrument ist mit einem braunroten Lack überzogen.

 

                Die Bodenmaße über der Wölbung gemessen sind:-

 

                Länge                                                    393 mm.

                obere Breite                                         183 mm.

                mittlere Breite                                      126 mm.

                untere Breite                                        227 mm.

 

                Das Instrument bekam von uns einen neuen Baßbalken Griffbrett, Steg, Stimme usw. und befindet sich in einem sehr guten Erhaltungszustand.


 

 

 

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