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#1
Lorn

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Ok experts. Lets hear about Eqing. How do you deal with it with the drums? On pads? On atmospherics? On melodies?

 

Do you eq every single channel and also a master?

 

Do you start to eq immediately or do you like to have basic structure in first?

 

Any experience would be great.



#2
Matt Freak Flag

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I EQ as I go, but I don't worry about getting it "perfect" right away.  Unless I have to render the channel for some reason, simple EQing doesn't take much CPU, so I can mess around with it as needed until I'm ready to render a track.

 

Kicks may get EQed to sound punchier/less boxy/more subby.  Snares may get EQed to have more bite or sizzle.  Hats usually get EQed to take off the low end.  

 

I'll EQ my drum bus before it goes into a few layers of saturation/compression (to control what gets distorted), and I'll EQ it after if it needs it (for overall drum balance).

 

I ruthlessly hipass anything with too much low end energy if it conflicts with the bass or kick.  

 

I try not to EQ using EQ plugins if I can help it.  If my saturator has a filter built in, I'll use that, for example.  Or I'll just use different distortions themselves to boost/cut the lows or highs.

 

Synths and recorded sounds will get EQed if they need it to fit the mix, but while I don't think there is anything wrong with a 16db cut or boost if you need it, major EQing to fit a sound into the mix is often a strong sign that I should have chosen sounds that didn't clash so much.  Usually, I'll just change a synth or take something out entirely rather than try to wrestle with infinite mud.

 

I have a nice gentle EQ on my master because I see no reason not to.  I used to avoid this because everyone told me this is a bad idea.  But more often then not, a 3db cut or boost on the master actually sounds better (to me anyways) than going back and working with individual channels. An EQ on the master really makes me feel in control of the overall feel and vibe of my mix.  YMMV.  

 

Everyone seems to do their own thing or have their own "rules" for EQing.  Curious to see what other people's workflow is.  But I do think blanket advice like "never boost more than +6db" is misleading, especially with synthetic music.  Who is anyone to decide what a squelchy space fart is supposed to sound like "naturally?"  


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If it sounds good, it is good.  


#3
neil (spatialize)

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Good advice above. Particularly about cutting the lower eq IF it conflicts with the kik and bass. Only if.

I try to think about sound as filling a whole spectrum and the various components of the track as occupying particular layers within that overall sound. And using eq to make those layers fit together.

First job before you reach for your eq is to create sounds that naturally fit within the sonic spectrum so that less eq and compression is required for the track to work. Creates a more natural sounding mix that people will want to come back to.

If you choose your sounds well and sequence them well then you can go a long way into a track without reaching for the eq. I usually get well into the arrangement stage of a track before thinking much about eq and compression.

At a track level, which is where you start eq'ing, I would say that I mostly use subtractive eq'ing. I.e. Cutting frequencies instead of boosting (though sometimes a healthy boost is just what is needed).

To explain subtractive eq a little... Imagine you want a synth pad that fits between a rhythmic mid frequency part at 1khz and an upper synth at 10khz so You create a pad sound that broadly fits but, let's say the pad conflicts with the mid frequency rhythmic part at1khz.

What I used to do when started off was to boost the area between 3-8khz. While the pad may well sound better initially this keeps those lower mids of your pad sound fairly high in the mix and still conflicting with that rhythmic part at 1khz.

If you just cut the pad where it is conflicting with the rhythm at 1khz... and then raise the volume of the pad track... then you are effectively filling that same gap on the sonic spectrum but you are creating more space in your mix and this can help maintain headroom. If you still feel the need to make a eq boost then it can be a very minimal boost just to bring it a bit of flavour in the pad sound.

This may not seemingly make a big difference on just one track but if you apply this technique cumulatively across a whole mix you will start to notice that your mixes sound more natural.

Don't know if that makes sense or not. But that's a big part of my process.

Another way to look at it is this... Put your eq spectrum analyser on. See where the lumps in the sound are. If you can cut those lumps without changing the character of the sound, then it's probably safe to cut.

Also at a track level, if you do have to do severe cuts or boosts on a sound I normally do that before a compressor, as the first eq is working to balance out the sound... otherwise the compressor is working on parts of the spectrum that it doesn't need to. You can always put another eq after a compressor if you need to add a little spice back to the sound, as compression can often dullen sounds.

I.usually find that more severe cuts and boosts are required on the more experimental sounds which are undergoing multiple plug in processes. More workaday sounds in the mix like hi hats etc often require only mild eq'ing.

When it comes to eq on a group bus I will use very gentle slopes, mostly boosts at that point. I put that after very gentle bus compression.

Generally 80hz is a good spot for depth on bass. 200hz a good spot for adding punch to bass. 500hz to 1khz can be a muddy area and I don't boost much in this area.

Boosts around 1khz add a bit of rhythmic bite. Anything from 10khz upwards adds fresh air. Boosts to sounds anywhere in the mid range often initially sound good but you can easily overdo it if you have a lot of sounds going on.

Also I tend to use the channel eq in logic for normal cuts. But if I want to boost eq, particularly on a bus, I will use the nicest eq I have as boosting colours the sound more than cutting.

Eq is mainly about knowing the sound of your monitoring system really and working at sane volume levels. Don't eq with your music loud. Eq at a quiet level first and then see how it translates when you turn it up.
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#4
Iacchus

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I will EQ every channel.  You could talk forever about EQing different kinds of sounds, but for me the most important thing is keeping the low end as clear as possible for the bass and kick drum.

 

Every track will have a high pass filter applied. I move the frequency up until the sound starts to lose some of the quality of sound i like it in.  Usually you can take a fair bit off the bottom without it sounding any different at all.  Usually you can position the cuttoff point just below the 'root frequency' if it is a sound with a clear note.  I will do this solod and again perhaps with the whole mix, as often you can take even more off when it is part of an ensemble.  This kind of treatment of everything can free up a few db of DB of headroom, bring up your overall volume, and make everything sound more crisp and less muddy in the low end.

This is 90% of the mixdown process and the most important thing to do as far as I'm concerned.

 

Try to save this work for the mixdown.. if you apply EQs etc as you go along composing the track for temporary/live versions, take them all off for the mixdown and start again. It may feel like you are redoing work but you will get a better result.  Also EQ things in the right order.  Get your drums and bass working together nicely first, then do your lead instruments and vocals, then pads and FX last - these need the least amount of 'space'.

 

If a sound has a 'solo' bit or sits in a breakdown where it  needs to be EQd less heavily, then you can automate your settings so it can take up more of the spectrum in these bits

 

If you want something to cut through the mix like a snare, you can make a dip in EQ on the other sounds at a suitable frequency.  Channel grouping can be handy for this kind of thing.   You can even get the EQ to dip only when the sound is happening, if you use an 'audio follower' mod.  Bitwig and Reaper have them. 

 

One other thing I like to do is EQ my reverb quite heavily, cutting off the bottom and top, the bass is largely useless and adds a lot of mud, and the top end stops your reverb sounding too sparkly and artificial.. give it a go you might find a darker reverb with this kind of treatment can be brought up in volume and have a stronger effect without sounding too 'reverby'. Most reverbs have a HP filter setting but I find it best to ignore this, have the 100% wet reverb on its own channel and own EQ, which gives more control and easy tweaking down the line in the mixdown.   Same treatment can be applied to delays.

 

Never put an EQ on the master, leave that to the mastering engineer.  If you need to EQ your master, you have down your mixdown wrong. 


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#5
neil (spatialize)

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I will EQ every channel.  You could talk forever about EQing different kinds of sounds, but for me the most important thing is keeping the low end as clear as possible for the bass and kick drum.

 

Every track will have a high pass filter applied. I move the frequency up until the sound starts to lose some of the quality of sound i like it in.  Usually you can take a fair bit off the bottom without it sounding any different at all.  Usually you can position the cuttoff point just below the 'root frequency' if it is a sound with a clear note.  I will do this solod and again perhaps with the whole mix, as often you can take even more off when it is part of an ensemble.  This kind of treatment of everything can free up a few db of DB of headroom, bring up your overall volume, and make everything sound more crisp and less muddy in the low end.

 

 

If a sound has a 'solo' bit or sits in a breakdown where it  needs to be EQd less heavily, then you can automate your settings so it can take up more of the spectrum in these bits

 

 

 

 

 

i do agree with HPF cutting the low bass on the majority of tracks, however i think it depends on how many layers your track has.  if you have multiple parts all shouting for space then yes, which is quite common in psychill, psy trance etc and cutting most of the bass of those multiple tracks may well be the best option.  It's also quite useful if you are recording a lot of live instruments as the micing up procedure can introduce a lot of noise in the lower registers.  

 

however as iacchus says, in intros and breakdowns (using automation if you need to, (or bounce an audio un-eq'd copy), yes it's often better to leave the full spectrum of the sound.  or in drone ambient music, let the fullness of the sound flow out.  (Although with highly reverberated sounds you have to get very surgical with the eq's on the reverbs).

 

But consider a moment a track that is somewhere in between pure atmospherics and a full on complicated track with multiple parts. A simple track structure i.e. a drum part and bass line with only a few elements on top at any one time.

 

In such instances sometimes you can be better off sometimes leaving the fullness of the sound on the musical parts or only doing a minor HPF cut on the subs up to 30hz. If you cut unnessarily you might end up thinning out the sound a little too much and then you feel like you need to keep adding elements to fill the track out, which ruins your nice simple track structure.  Sometimes the lower freqs only muddy up the mix, sometimes they add body.  Depends on the sound and the track I find.    

 

So I try to work out what the core elements of any track are and mix that part of the track first.  ie there might be a recurring pad or rythmic sample and I get those parts all sorted and eq'ed in tandem with the drums and bass.... then kind of fit everything else around that.

 

My advice would be to hold all the advice you receive and to apply it according to your track.  Like Iacchus said, you can;t be too specific about what eq to use on what instrument and where....as it really is a case by case basis.

 

If I was going to add any eq to the master I would would probably do a very small bump at 80hz and a very slow rise from 1khz upwards.  

 

This might be useful to help you get a vibe going on a track as it will add a little zing to the proceedings, and the eq on the master does tie the sound together.  However I think you're really better off doing this type of eq'ing on your groups bus, the drum bus being perhaps the most important part.

 

I can recommend Pultec Eq's for adding a very nice crisp but warm upper range and deep warm low end.  UAD do a version but there is also a free version on the Computer Music magazine DVD which is also very good.

 

I would also add to be careful of using presets on some  synths as they are designed to sound impressive and sell the synth (i.e. a very big broad spectrum sound with tones of distortion and eq boosts and delay that try to draw your attention towhat a wonderfully clever synth you are using).  These sounds can sometimes eat up your mix and you have to get very tough with the eq-ing.  So check within the sound structure of the preset to see if you can cut eq or distortion anywhere.


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#6
Lorn

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Great stuff guys. Thanks so much!



#7
andorra

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Sure is interesting reading. Thanks for good mixing EQ instructions and tips everyone!

 

Try to save this work for the mixdown.. if you apply EQs etc as you go along composing the track for temporary/live versions, take them all off for the mixdown and start again. It may feel like you are redoing work but you will get a better result.  Also EQ things in the right order.  Get your drums and bass working together nicely first, then do your lead instruments and vocals, then pads and FX last - these need the least amount of 'space'.

 

Never put an EQ on the master, leave that to the mastering engineer.  If you need to EQ your master, you have down your mixdown wrong. 

 

With these instructions I remixed my new track and it came out so much better.

Now there's more air and clarity in the mix and it doesn't sound so muddy...

Still have to work on some pads but overall it's getting much better, thanks!


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#8
Iacchus

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youll get more of a feel for it after mixing a few albums, we can give you advice but its something that just comes with time, training your ear and knowing what you like.  Comparing to reference material is also important, I always choose one track that i think is well produced and similar style, and have that on a channel so i can easily do an A/B comparison on things like the kick and the bass... this kind of comparison can go some way to make up for a lack on an objective ear and a perfect monitoring setup

 

Talking of which, that is something you want to sort out if you are serious.. get some nice studio monitors, preferably not ported, with as wide a cone as possible, or possibly a studio sub with a smaller cone.  Have a look at sound treatment of your room, you dont need to go ape with this stuff, just having your monitors on decent solid stands at ear level pointing at you at 45 degree angles (i built mine out of wood and filled them with sand).. making sure you have carpet or a rug on the floor, having some bookcases in the room and hanging throws from the walls and ceilings.. position your desk in the middle of the long wall if the room is rectangular (most bad reflections come from side/side and floor/ceiling).. these are cheap and effective ways of improving the sound of your room.  You can take it a step further and look at bass traps and foam and stuff if you want but you can do a decent job with an 'amateuer' setup if you are careful; compare to reference material, take walk around your room while listening, try on other systems, on a PA, in a car, etc.



#9
neil (spatialize)

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yes.. also a pair of open back headphones too for studio use.

 

I recently bought a pair of beyerdynamic dt770's and am wondering how I ever managed without them.  good thing is you can listen to your Walkman with them and habituate yourself to how the music sounds on your headphones, something I don't do a lot of in my own studio room.

 

talking of rooms....rooms are strange beasts with their lumpy reflections.  If I put the gear along the long wall in my room the bass reflections are unworkable.  so the gear goes along the short wall in my room and if you sit 3 cm further back than half way in the room you get a gigantic bass multiplication swell and you start to doubt your own sanity.  I often like to stand by the window and have a pipe and look out at the garden whilst listening through to the arrangement of a track.  problem is the bass sounds stupid at the back of the room, so you have to momentarily turn off your eq production brain and go into creative / arrangement mode.

 

play some decent reference material in your room and move around and find the sweet spot (x marks the spot) in the room where everything sounds balanced.  you can always go and sit there momentarily if you want to check the balance of the mix.

 

In terms of basic volume balancing, I often find that the old listening from outside the room trick is the best.   


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#10
Matt Freak Flag

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Just to offer another (less popular) viewpoint - I really don't think there's anything wrong with mixing with an EQ on the master.  

 

The advice gets repeated everywhere on the internet: "if you have an EQ on the master, you did something wrong."  But in the industry?  There's no shortage of engineers mixing impeccable records who are working straight into their 2buss GML or Massive Passive or what have you from the start. Unless you buy into the idea that it's somehow magically different "because fancy analog hardware" (I don't), then there's no reason that it's not an appropriate workflow even in-the-box.  

 

I agree that you shouldn't try to address all your mixing problems by throwing stuff on the master - that's ridiculous. But there are plenty of non-mastering situations where there's nothing wrong with an EQ on the master.  

 

If you can balance your song by a couple broad boosts and maybe a small cut on the master channel, and it saves you some 30 odd fixes on channel EQs, then that's a good thing.

 

Honestly a lot of the advice that people present as "written in stone" is broken constantly by mixing engineers.  Cut don't boost?  Naw, boosting is fine - just be mindful of your overall volume.  Hipass everything?  Really?  If the sound has no problematic low end anyways, then all you are doing with a hipass is screwing with the phase and/or your headroom. 

 

Break any "rule" if it sounds good.      


If it sounds good, it is good.  


#11
Matt Freak Flag

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In terms of basic volume balancing, I often find that the old listening from outside the room trick is the best.   

 

+1

 

This works surprisingly well.  

 

Headphones on the desk is an alternative in the same vein that I also like.  

 

Also, the legendary Pultec high boost is, apparently, a gentle bell filter (as opposed to a high-shelf) that responds rather weakly to the gain you give it - so, a nominal 10db boost is really more like 4db or something.  According to Dave Gamble (the DMG audio guy) anyways...  


If it sounds good, it is good.  


#12
neil (spatialize)

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Cutting not boosting. No.

Boosting not cutting. No.

Cutting AND boosting where appropriate. Yes.

But I agree matt there's a lot of advice that should be taken with a pinch of salt. For instance I was talking about mastering on a forum and said that I was cutting below 30hz and Ott asked why are you doing that, and I said, because you're supposed to aren't you? And he said but you might be ruining a perfectly good bass sound.

I'm guessing on a pa you might have some exaggerated clutter down there in the mix but you also might be losing quite a lot of depth in the sound if you just blindly cut.

Looking at a mastering forum I found that they are quite split as to whether they cut beneath 30hz but there seems to be a received wisdom going round that you should always cut there. Mastering engineers probably have the gear to make that call though, but home producers who master aswell probably don't. So the sub 30hz cut thing has maybe arisen as a safety net?

I don't think having an eq on the master matters that much. (but I would try to keep it mostly the same between tracks). It's the same as using a pair of speakers with a different eq curve. Adding,say a slow rising boost from 1khz upwards, is probably quite useful as this sort of boost does tie the sound together, and might speed up the production process as you're not fighting to tie the mix together. I mean if you mix flat you're mostly going to add an eq boost afterwards anyway somewhere and most group channels will get a little upper eq pep. So why not do it on the master?

I used to do that but haven't for ages.

Also putting a compressor on the main and mixing into it is a common thing that lots of people do but goes against received wisdom. Again the master will end up with a compressor on it anyway. Why not put it on earlier? If a combination of eq and compressor on the output is going to make the track sound finished earlier and, like matt says, save a whole load of individual eq boosts, then why not?

#13
neil (spatialize)

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+1

This works surprisingly well.

Headphones on the desk is an alternative in the same vein that I also like.

Also, the legendary Pultec high boost is, apparently, a gentle bell filter (as opposed to a high-shelf) that responds rather weakly to the gain you give it - so, a nominal 10db boost is really more like 4db or something. According to Dave Gamble (the DMG audio guy) anyways...


Yeah you suddenly find yourself at a plus 6 or 7 db and wondering how you got there. On any other software eq your ears would be bleeding probably.

#14
Matt Freak Flag

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But I agree matt there's a lot of advice that should be taken with a pinch of salt. For instance I was talking about mastering on a forum and said that I was cutting below 30hz and Ott asked why are you doing that, and I said, because you're supposed to aren't you? And he said but you might be ruining a perfectly good bass sound.

I'm guessing on a pa you might have some exaggerated clutter down there in the mix but you also might be losing quite a lot of depth in the sound if you just blindly cut.

Looking at a mastering forum I found that they are quite split as to whether they cut beneath 30hz but there seems to be a received wisdom going round that you should always cut there. Mastering engineers probably have the gear to make that call though, but home producers who master aswell probably don't. So the sub 30hz cut thing has maybe arisen as a safety net?

.........

Also putting a compressor on the main and mixing into it is a common thing that lots of people do but goes against received wisdom. Again the master will end up with a compressor on it anyway. Why not put it on earlier? If a combination of eq and compressor on the output is going to make the track sound finished earlier and, like matt says, save a whole load of individual eq boosts, then why not?

 

 

Yeah, the compressor thing is true, too.  So many mix engineers mix into a compressor.  I don't personally like it, but whatever - I use an EQ on my master.  Mixing into a compressor feels awkward for me, although I'll usually slap one on at before a render, and set it to a get the sound pumping the way I want it, if that's what I want.  But people should try it.  Just like anything else - even an EQ on the master - it might work for you.  It works for a lot of people.  Just be aware of what you are doing...

 

I've definitely forgotten about a plugin on the master or another buss before, and that's where the main danger is for me anyways.  Trying to make some guitar pop out of a mix, but they just wont?  Oh, shit - after 15 minutes of confusion, it turns out the day before I had routed all the guitars into a single buss with an (apparently) over-aggressive compressor squashing all the life out of the sound.  Oops.  Happens if I feel asleep working...

 

It's funny you mention that with Ott specifically.  I spent a lot of time a while ago trying to figure out the secret of Ott's dubby bass: subby and deep, but solid and punchy - even on laptop speakers.  I know he works with recorded bass guitar often enough, and that's definitely a part of it... but even a lot of his synthy bass sounds seemed to me surprisingly high-passed.  So, his synth basses have that "live bass" thing going on where any fundamental below say 50hz is actually a lot quieter than that second harmonic. 

 

I can imagine that hi-passing his mix more than that could create all kinds of problems if the bass is already where he wants it.  And high-passing does messed up things to the phase of a sound... which probably doesn't matter 95% of the time, but it can affect your headroom with bass sounds.


If it sounds good, it is good.  


#15
neil (spatialize)

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I guess you can produce a moulded bass sound with frequencies that drops with off a shallow slope under 50hz  so you get that rounded sound, rather than a deep lumbering sound, but even under 50hz there will still be some residual sound.  If the mastering engineer just cuts all the subs without thinking then the track loses that and on a PA may sound a bit weak.  Maybe that's the genius, subtle cuts in that area, leaving just enough sub in the mix so that it gives background body which will sit very nicely on a PA?



#16
Iacchus

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I'm not saying there is anything wrong with tracks having the master treated with an EQ, of course that is an essential part of the process, I just think that should be left to the mastering engineer, they will want you to and usually as for you to render the track with nothing on the master.  So why put it on in the first place?  Mixing is about getting the channels to fit together and have them occupying fairly sensible EQ space, let the mastering engineer worry about the final shine... its their job, an they are better than you at it

 

Unless of course you want to master your own tracks, but thats another story



#17
neil (spatialize)

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i'm referring to a wider perception that cutting the master is something that you should do as a matter of course  ;)

 

i thought this was something you "should" do

 

there's a lot of mixing advice around on the internet these days and some of it dodgy (including mine)

 

with ref to eq on the master; i used this the other night as i had a nice little groove set up but it sounded a little dull as I was working on it; so instead of eqing everything there and then, i just did a little smiley curve on the master to get a quick idea of whether the track was sonically on the right lines

 

i find that using eq like that helps you to walk the tight rope between spending too long producing during the creative period / writing part of the track 



#18
Gagarin

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interesting online quiz to train ears => Learn audio skills as a game, free, with your ears as guide

http://createdigital...-ears-as-guide/


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reality is a creation of your mind


#19
Lorn

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I try not to EQ using EQ plugins if I can help it.  If my saturator has a filter built in, I'll use that, for example.  Or I'll just use different distortions themselves to boost/cut the lows or highs.

 

Can you elaborate on this? Why don't you use an EQ plugin?



#20
Delightful Imperfections

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Some great advice here & excellent food for thought :)

One thing that hasn't been been mentioned, I find doing my EQ'ing in short bursts, usually no more than 4/5 channels at a time max, is pretty effective. This way I'm usually working with 'clean ears' when cleaning my sounds.

EQ'ing with tired ears usually ends up with me EQ'ing again.


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