Quantcast What decent PAL VCRs are still available? - digitalFAQ Forum
  #1  
11-27-2021, 06:43 PM
semmelbroesel semmelbroesel is offline
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Hi.

TL;DR:

What are my best options these days of finding a decent VCR that plays PAL VHS tapes, can be plugged into a US power outlet, and has advanced tracking for tapes that were recorded with a badly adjusted VCR?

The VCR buying guide in this forum is over 10 years old so maybe there some new sources available that are not listed there. I have not had much luck finding any VCR with my requirements on this list within the US.

Details:

I have a Samsung dvd-v6700 that has been stored in the basement for years - today I pulled it out, and nothing works except for a soft knocking as soon as I plug it in. So it's dead. I used it to digitize my PAL VHS tapes from Germany, and I remember the quality being weird - it had big areas with the colors wrong. I don't know if this is due to the VCR, the VCR that recorded the tapes, the converter, or the digitizer I used. I do remember that 30 years ago, our old VCR had something funky going on that made tapes harder to play on other VCRs.

Either way, I wanted to try again, so now I need a new VCR that plays PAL VHS tapes and works in the US.

I did some reading on it and went through various lists of highly recommended VCRs, and I found any of them really hard to find unless I want to import them from another country without guarantees that it'll work here.

I probably need something with better-than-consumer tracking ability so it can read the tapes I have.

I have spent time on Google Shopping, Amazon, and eBay, and most items I found had some major flaw or were sold in another country.

I don't need professional quality, but the less color artifacts and lines, the better.

Thanks!
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  #2  
11-27-2021, 06:54 PM
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Nothing is "old" about the list. It's evergreen. No new VCR exists.

The current best solution is a JVC S-VHS deck with line TBC, PAL model obviously. Most of those are actually 100-240V, even if not specified. It's far cheaper to get a worldwide PSU from China, than to make one that is Europe/PAL only, or USA/NTSC only -- so that's what manufacturers of VCRs and DVD players/recorders have done for the past 20 years now. At worst, anything labeled 100-120V, used in Europe, may blow up. But anything 220-240V, plugged into USA 100-120V will, at worst, simply not turn on. But again, most will. I have multiple PAL JVC decks, all are fine here. All you need is a plug shape adapter, less than $5 on eBay (or less than $2 if you want to wait 6 weeks slow boat from China shipping). Just don't buy the VCR on eBay. For PAL decks, VCRshop.nl is currently suggested.

The "I don't need professional quality" statement is always meaningless. No such "pro quality" exists. You have video that looks good, or you have video that doesn't. "Pro" equipment was meant for special tasks, and generally doesn't play back consumer VHS tapes anyway. It was for broadcast or medical, not home use, not VHS tapes made in camcorders or VCRs. What you want is lack of tracking issues, good color (accurate), no artifacts, etc. Good quality, meaning good/suggested decks -- ie JVC/Panasonic S-VHS VCRs with line TBC.

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  #3  
11-27-2021, 07:10 PM
semmelbroesel semmelbroesel is offline
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Thanks for the fast reply.

Sorry, I didn't word that part well - had a frustrating day... I knew that the VCR list would not likely change since nothing new is being produced, but the list of places to find/buy a VCR might have updated - that's what I meant.

So your suggestion of VCRshop.nl is exactly what I was hoping for - thank you so much!

Good to know not to buy VCRs on ebay - I NEARLY bought one today, but the seller already had a buyer, so looks like that was a good thing :-)

I have a few adapters from German to US power plug styles, so I should be good there as long as the VCR can handle US power.

Thanks again!
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  #4  
11-27-2021, 07:21 PM
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Also at worst, the menus might be in Dutch or German or whatever, no English option. But not an issue, it's still obvious what's what. Or Google Translate if unsure.

It's just going to be europlug or UK mains adpater. Don't get a step converter, just the shape adapter. Not all are made equal, some are better than others. I should probably photo some, add to the list.

BTW, I am trying to rework the VCR list, to better rank decks, and include some warnings about JVC 9000s DD issues. So while not outdated, I do hope to update it.

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  #5  
11-27-2021, 07:44 PM
semmelbroesel semmelbroesel is offline
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I checked the site briefly, and it has an English version.

I'll have to spend some more time going through what they have, but not tonight anymore.

Thanks again!
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  #6  
11-27-2021, 08:13 PM
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I refer to the VCR menus.

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  #7  
11-27-2021, 08:27 PM
semmelbroesel semmelbroesel is offline
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Oh, got it.

-- merged --

I've looked at a few models, especially JVC HR-S9600 and JVC HR-S9700, and they all specifically say 220V in the back.

How can I be sure that I won't destroy one of those if I buy it from Europe and plug it in over here?

And if they really need 220V, do you know of a good transformer (or whatever they're called) that would work for those?

Thanks!

-- merged --

I found the service manual for the S9600EU, and even there it talks about 220V-240V. At the same time, it supports 50Hz and 60Hz - I don't know if there is a place where you'll encounter 220V with 60Hz...

Does anyone have experience running the S9600EU on US power without a transformer? (I have plug adapters).

If not, what kind of transformer would work best without introducing dirty power?

-- merged --

Oh come on - the service manual then cheerfully continues to describe technical specifications for voltage in Japan, USA/Canada, Europe/Australia including 100V, 100-240V, 110-130V, 200-240V... And yet the very first page lists only 220-240V as specifications...

So what am I supposed to believe here? :-)

-- merged --

And one more - is it normal for VCRs to not have any tracking buttons on the main unit and only have them on the remote control? The VRC I'm considering doesn't come with remote :-(

I might have to go with the 9700 for 200 Euro more that comes with remote...

Any significant differences between 9600 and 9700?
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  #8  
11-29-2021, 12:04 PM
msgohan msgohan is offline
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I think all of my VCRs offer manual tracking using CH UP/CH DOWN on the front panel, for my units without dedicated front panel tracking controls.

According to the manual, that's how the HR-S9600EU works.
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  #9  
11-30-2021, 07:27 AM
RobustReviews RobustReviews is offline
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Often the transformers can have the taps adjusted (I'm painting in broad brushstrokes here) but we've had a lot of EU or North American kit with a universal transformer fitted that can have the taps adjusted.

This is explicitly not something to attempt unless you have either documentation from the manufacturer or a strong understanding of transformer and AC power theory. A lot of older Philips machines from experience all have the same trafco' and can simply have the taps adjusted although often it's not documented. Although I've seen it in various brands. Many EU only models seem to have 110VAC taps if you study the transformer long enough for various brands.

However, I can't speak as to JVC and especially these models, and I'm not offering assistance here, obviously getting this wrong can at best cause extreme stress to linear regulators and at worse cause a nasty fire.... Other components (linears, rectifiers) also need to be studied to check they're usable with the revised power input.

I'm in the UK and that's my sum experience, I can't speak for other markets.

For what you're doing, any suitable transformer will be fine, transformers (at this level) aren't going to introduce enough noise to create any issues, it's still well smoothed by the PSU. The manufacturer units are pretty janky.
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  #10  
11-30-2021, 10:01 PM
semmelbroesel semmelbroesel is offline
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I just checked the manual I have for the 9600. I didn't see anything about Channel Up/Down for tracking, but I didn't look too hard. What I also did not find was a MENU button on the VCR itself (or up/down/left/right buttons), so without a remote, I wouldn't be able to access the Menu, it seems.

So I'll have to go with the JVC HR-S9700 because it comes with a remote.

The question is still:

How can I be sure that the VCR will work on 110V in the US?

I don't want to pay a ton of money only to fry it the first time I use it.

If it needs a step transformer, what would I be looking for to avoid dirty power?
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  #11  
12-01-2021, 04:36 AM
RobustReviews RobustReviews is offline
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As I said, transformer noise is a non-issue in this application.

The ones fitted in the machines by the manufacturers are pretty nasty, don't get bent out of shape worrying about transformer noise.

It's not especially relevant in this application. Try and get a laminated one, but apart from that don't spend too much on it.
Poorer transformers have welded laminations, better ones have pinned laminations.
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  #12  
12-01-2021, 10:24 AM
themaster1 themaster1 is online now
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when you deal with vhs capture it's not about if 110V will work (it will) it's about how clean your power source is. otherwise you'll get funky results.
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  #13  
12-01-2021, 12:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by themaster1 View Post
when you deal with vhs capture it's not about if 110V will work (it will) it's about how clean your power source is. otherwise you'll get funky results.
There are a lot of stages after the transformer, and transformers aren't inherently very noisy* - as I've repeated a few times the units fitted in the machines by the manufacturers tend to be pretty bottom-drawer, volume stuff made as cheaply as possible.

The transformer is one of the least important parts of this puzzle, by the time it's been choked, rectum-fried, passed through manifold smoothing capacitors and a linear regulator the transformer will have minimum impact in reality. The majority of noise will be common-mode from capacitive coupling of the primary and secondary which will be dealt with by the choke.

A bearing no doubt, but in the application of a video machine, it's not worth getting excited about.

*For the purposes of this conversation.
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  #14  
12-02-2021, 12:24 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by semmelbroesel View Post
I've looked at a few models, especially JVC HR-S9600 and JVC HR-S9700, and they all specifically say 220V in the back.
Correct, it's often not stated.

Quote:
How can I be sure that I won't destroy one of those if I buy it from Europe and plug it in over here?
The worst that will happen is it doesn't power up, if it truly did need 220V. That's it.

It's everybody else in the world that has to worry about plugging in a "foreign" 100-120V item to their 220-240V power. And for the reason, many companies/manufacturers opt to just use worldwide PSUs inside, to prevent complaints of items blowing up. Because too many people travel and move worldwide.

Quote:
And if they really need 220V, do you know of a good transformer (or whatever they're called) that would work for those?
Step transformers add noise. You cannot do this. Will not work.

Quote:
I found the service manual for the S9600EU, and even there it talks about 220V-240V. At the same time, it supports 50Hz and 60Hz - I don't know if there is a place where you'll encounter 220V with 60Hz...
Yes, but not places that have outright PAL. 60Hz PAL is PAL variants. And that 9600 would not work there.

Quote:
Does anyone have experience running the S9600EU on US power without a transformer? (I have plug adapters).
The 7600 is fine. The 9600 likely shares parts.

Quote:
If not, what kind of transformer would work best without introducing dirty power?
Does not exist.

Quote:
Oh come on - the service manual then cheerfully continues to describe technical specifications for voltage in Japan, USA/Canada, Europe/Australia including 100V, 100-240V, 110-130V, 200-240V... And yet the very first page lists only 220-240V as specifications...
So what am I supposed to believe here? :-)
Me.

Quote:
And one more - is it normal for VCRs to not have any tracking buttons on the main unit and only have them on the remote control? The VRC I'm considering doesn't come with remote :-(
I might have to go with the 9700 for 200 Euro more that comes with remote...
The standard JVC MBR (example: LP20303) works fine on every suggested JVC S-VHS VCR, and is under $20 on eBay. No need to buy a certain VCR only because it has remote.

Quote:
Any significant differences between 9600 and 9700?
Depends on what you refer to as significant. Those are different internally. Both are good. What really matters is condition these days.

Quote:
Originally Posted by msgohan View Post
I think all of my VCRs offer manual tracking using CH UP/CH DOWN on the front panel, for my units without dedicated front panel tracking controls.
According to the manual, that's how the HR-S9600EU works.
For many, you press CH UP/DOWN together on unit to engage/disengage manual tracking, then UP and DOWN to track. All S-VHS decks can have the remote used, pressing "SP/EP" button to engage/disengage, then the D-pad up/down to track. Some models ONLY have the remote option, and I've seen it undocumented for some models (not mentioned in book).

Quote:
Originally Posted by RobustReviews View Post
Often the transformers can have the taps adjusted (I'm painting in broad brushstrokes here) but we've had a lot of EU or North American kit with a universal transformer fitted that can have the taps adjusted.
This is explicitly not something to attempt
However, I can't speak as to JVC and especially these models
It's just not needed for the end-90s and 2000s JVC decks that are suggested.

In fact, many Panasonics are the same as well, plus the Panasonic ES10/15 recorders. I know because I have lots of PAL gear. I've yet to find a video gear item that fails to power on and perform correctly in USA, with our 100-120V power, regardless of whatever is scrawled on the official EU label on back. Again, because there's no risk of the device blowing up, and instead simply not powering on, I've never been afraid to just plug something in and see what happens. Never been disappointed yet.

Quote:
Originally Posted by semmelbroesel View Post
I just checked the manual I have for the 9600. I didn't see anything about Channel Up/Down for tracking, but I didn't look too hard. What I also did not find was a MENU button on the VCR itself (or up/down/left/right buttons), so without a remote, I wouldn't be able to access the Menu, it seems.
So I'll have to go with the JVC HR-S9700 because it comes with a remote.
Not correct.

Remember than manuals are NOT written by those creating the devices. It can, and often does, have wrong info, or omitted info. Far too often, marketing departments wrote these books, and many even outsources the text to "tech writers" that had thin knowledge on the product or company.

Quote:
The question is still:
How can I be sure that the VCR will work on 110V in the US?
I don't want to pay a ton of money only to fry it the first time I use it.
If it needs a step transformer, what would I be looking for to avoid dirty power?
These are not questions that are valid.
- You will not know guaranteed 100% certain, but it is 99% likely fine. There is some % of risk involved in VHS conversion. You can't be skittish. Every time you put a tape in, there are negatives possible.
- 99%+ will not fry. Again, simply do nothing, not power up. That's not your problem in USA. That's for PAL users to worry about with 110V.
- NO STEP POWER ALLOWED!

Quote:
Originally Posted by RobustReviews View Post
As I said, transformer noise is a non-issue in this application.
This is not correct for step up/down converters. Noise is a problem with those.

Quote:
Originally Posted by themaster1 View Post
when you deal with vhs capture it's not about if 110V will work (it will) it's about how clean your power source is. otherwise you'll get funky results.
Yep, correct. And step converters add noise, dirties up the power.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RobustReviews View Post
There are a lot of stages after the transformer, and transformers aren't inherently very noisy* - as I've repeated a few times the units fitted in the machines by the manufacturers tend to be pretty bottom-drawer, volume stuff made as cheaply as possible.
The transformer is one of the least important parts of this puzzle, by the time it's been choked, rectum-fried, passed through manifold smoothing capacitors and a linear regulator the transformer will have minimum impact in reality. The majority of noise will be common-mode from capacitive coupling of the primary and secondary which will be dealt with by the choke.
A bearing no doubt, but in the application of a video machine, it's not worth getting excited about.
*For the purposes of this conversation.
I don't doubt any of that, but you have to realize that step converters are worse than whatever is in the deck. Those are overly expensive (for no good reason), and are made for non-video usage. Those are not tested with images in mind, but more industrial type items and uses.

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  #15  
12-02-2021, 08:41 AM
RobustReviews RobustReviews is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lordsmurf View Post
Correct, it's often not stated.

Yep, correct. And step converters add noise, dirties up the power.

I don't doubt any of that, but you have to realize that step converters are worse than whatever is in the deck. Those are overly expensive (for no good reason), and are made for non-video usage. Those are not tested with images in mind, but more industrial type items and uses.
I think there's a confusion of terms going on here, and one that rapidly needs clarifying.

A transformer as a component isn't going to generate enough noise to upset a video-machine power supply unless it is of such astonishingly low quality (the really nasty solid core jobbies), even then I'd wager it's not going to cause many problems. A transformer can be a single coil of wire, there's nothing inherently noisy about it. It just "is", providing it's adequately laminated - the noise it could generate will be dealt with by the power supply.

As I mentioned in another post, I spent a decade or so working with analytical instrumentation - mostly ISE methodologies, you'll just have to trust me here that if an off-the-shelf transformer from the wholesaler is good enough for one of those devices, something as comparatively 'clown shoes stupid' as a video machine won't be bothered. They were 'industrial units' but I'm not sure what bearing that has? The ISE that controls the chlorination of your water supply could be upset by a few stray pV's: your video machine won't be.

Are we discussing power invertors here? Is this the crux? AC-DC-AC power supplies affecting voltage and frequency? Those can be very noisy blighters, is this what is being meant by 'transformers'?

What sort of PSU does the model in question have?

//EDIT - The service manual schematic gives a VERY big clue as to what's going on here......

Last edited by RobustReviews; 12-02-2021 at 09:01 AM. Reason: Corrected my odd 'AD' power supply!
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  #16  
12-02-2021, 01:18 PM
hodgey hodgey is offline
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Please enlighten us

The service manuals for the multi-voltage variants of these (e.g S7600AM) seem to usually show just differences and refer to the European model for the rest, and they don't show a separate schematic for the power supply so it may be the same even though the european ones only list 220-240V 50/60Hz. Haven't combed through the parts list for differences though so not sure. They seem to have used the same power supply design for a number of years.

I've seen input voltage selector things that change what transformer taps are connected on old VCRs with linear power supplies (the ones that have a very large transformer if you are not too familiar with the term) like my old SL-C5 betamax deck, but I don't think any models typically used for tape digitizing have that.

The US Variants have different power supplies, and yeah you don't want to plug those into 220V, they use a 200V main filter cap and possibly more that's is not rated to handle 220V.

And, you don't want to end up blowing components on the primary side, I have a SVHS decks where both the transistors on the primary side are blown (no idea what could have caused it, maybe overvoltage or something.) that I was hoping to get working, but those transistors are out of production it seems, and couldn't find any modern replacements with the right specs (though maybe there is, I'm still a beginner electronics.) so would have to source new old stock ones from either a dodgy source, expensive old parts store or cannibalizing another JVC which is a bit annoying.

Last edited by hodgey; 12-02-2021 at 01:29 PM.
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  #17  
12-02-2021, 04:04 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RobustReviews View Post
I think there's a confusion of terms going on here,
Argue it with manufacturers.

For example, do not buy this: https://amzn.to/3IbVed4
Nor this: https://amzn.to/3ofCUb5
Search Amazon for "step voltage converter" for many more.

Because these have generally "good reviews", people are often stubborn, and buy them anyway. And those devices vomit noise into AV signals. Because, again, not made for AV purposes. Made to power vacuum cleaner and whatnot. Pricing of these have come down quite a bit since I last looked. You couldn't find one of these for less than $100 some years ago. That alone may be why some folks insist on trying to used these not-needed devices.

I don't really care which exact component within the device is the source of the noise, that does not matter. Nobody is going to buy this, open it up, and attempt to "fix it" to not emit noise -- which I doubt can even be done. It may be interesting trivia, but really outside the scope of usefulness for helping somebody get a good PAL VCR, and use it in North America.

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  #18  
12-04-2021, 06:10 AM
RobustReviews RobustReviews is offline
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Well, let's consider what we have here, according to the schematic.

Firstly, this power supply is frequency 'agnostic' which should be a bit clue, this is a switch-mode power supply, not a linear (which would have a conventional transformer) so it's perfectly likely it'll 'work' on 110VAC without complaint.

These are very noisy power supplies comparatively and this is going to be from the final cost-cutting days of VHS judging by the components but it's cromulent enough to clearly 'work' without vice in this application. They're considerably lighter and markedly more efficient than linear supplies, hence old machines tend to weigh a lot more, most of the weight apparently being the huge lump of iron required for voltage transformation in old linear supply types.

I would need one on a bench to advise further, but having had a quick look over the schematic, I would personally be inclined to just try it on 110VAC. I don't understand US house-wiring but I believe you can have 220VAC sockets anyway (?) - so that's the other option I guess?



If it was MY equipment, I would be quite prepared to see what happens but always carry out your own due diligence.
Do not take this approach with any linear PSU equipment, you will generate a lot of rather unwanted heat, whichever way around you try it!
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  #19  
12-04-2021, 07:04 AM
hodgey hodgey is offline
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The only vcrs I've seen using a linear one past the late 80s are mitsubishi and hitachi ones, and they too moved to SMPS in the mid 90s. So, other than maybe a handful of early 90s models from them which are rarely used to begin with pretty much any VCR usable for somewhat decent quality VHS digitizing will have a SMPS.
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  #20  
12-04-2021, 07:21 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hodgey View Post
The only vcrs I've seen using a linear one past the late 80s are mitsubishi and hitachi ones, and they too moved to SMPS in the mid 90s. So, other than maybe a handful of early 90s models from them which are rarely used to begin with pretty much any VCR usable for somewhat decent quality VHS digitizing will have a SMPS.
You're right, naturally.

Linears were heavy and expensive to manufacture, 'big' (in this context) transformers are quite complicated to manufacture, I used to have a summer job making bespoke ones years and years ago, they're quite involved, back in the days when we used to dowse everything in MEK... Ah good times!

This looks like pretty cooking model stuff from the schematic, and it appears to be part of the mainboard so we're in cost-cutting (in my opinion) by this time rather than a separate shielded unit? That doesn't mean it's not cromulent, clearly, it was a design that worked and I'll turn in to a typical web helmet if I start criticising the design when PSU design is hardly my area of expertise! I have a feeling there may have been some environmental regs that crept in and make SMPS the only viable option too?

To bring this back in, it's quite likely to just "work" on 110VAC.
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