PS Audio DirectStream DAC (Redcloud Update)

@Moose68Bash

Hi, Phil. Haven't interacted directly with you since Polk Fest 14, but I sat next to you in the HQ auditorium during the day. We spoke of your daughter, dropping her off at college, etc. I'd recently retired from the Air Force. Just trying to jog your memory and reintroduce myself.

The reason for this post....if you haven't loaded the Bridge II and Redcloud updates, do so, NOW. I've had the DirectStream for a year and a half and have been through three updates. I've read your comments and tended to agree with you assessment. Huron was a big step forward for my system but, what I felt it gained in detail, clarity, and bass, left a bit of a disconnect with the music. As if the instruments were in their own independent space and not truly cohesive.

Enter Redcloud. HOLY COW. Without going into all the superlatives, load it! In my opinion, it's seriously trumped Huron. Okay, maybe I'll throw some superlatives your way. Was just listening to Dire Straights, "Private Investigations", FLAC RIP, Roon streaming via ROCK from a NUC. It's so open, airy, three dimensional and all instruments in the right place. I like this track because it throws a wide and deep sound stage when it's done right.

I have a large playlist of tracks I use to demo and the next song is the Eagles, "Hotel California", SACD DSD rip (possible w/Oppo BDP-105 hack). Like many folks with the DirectStream, I've had annoying pops when DSD tracks started or stopped. Gone!.............Well, as I type, song just finished and not completely gone. No pop at the beginning but definitely at the end. Dag nammit.

A bit different configuration than your system but same DAC and speakers. Here's my gear for comparison:

- Streaming via ethernet--->Roon running on a dedicated ROCK NUC, wireless to
access point with CAT 5e to Bridge II
- PS Audio DirectStream DAC w/Bridge II
- DirectStream as preamp
- Parasound HCA-1500A Amp (Fully upgraded by Big Sky Audio)
- SDA-SRS 1.2tl's (Every mod created)
- Dreadnaught (1000VA)
- MIT Shotgun S1 interconnects and bi-wired cables

You seem to be pretty dialed into the details when you describe what you listen for, so I'm interested in your (and your wife's) thoughts on your favorite tracks once you load Redcloud.

John

Comments

  • Moose68BashMoose68Bash Posts: 3,485
    @JayCee,

    Great to hear from you after a few years!

    I've just downloaded Redcloud, and I shall update my DSD tomorrow.

    I can't wait to see how it sounds!

    Cheers!
    Family Room, PS Audio PW Transport, DirectStream DAC; AQ Sky XLRs, Perreaux SM6 MKII Pre; AQ Sky XLRs, Perreaux Prisma 750 Amps or CAT 600.2 Dualmono Amp, Morrow SP7 Speaker Cables, SDA SRS 1.2tls (RD0198s, Dreadnought, Black Hole 5, Acousta-Stuf, Dynamat Extreme, JBWeld. Vr3 Mods: "The Abbot" Monastery-Level Xovers, Custom Internal Wiring, Binding Post Plates, & SDA ICs).

    Exercise Room, Wadia 171 iPod Dock, PS Audio PerfectWave MkII DAC, AQ Sky XLRs, Perreaux SM6 Preamp, AQ King Cobra RCAs, Perreaux PMF3150 Amp, Dreadnought, Supra Rondo 4x2.5 Speaker Cables, SDA 1Cs (Vr3 Mods Xovers).

    Synology 713+ NAS on Gigabit LAN serving PW MkII DAC & DirectStream DAC.
  • Moose68BashMoose68Bash Posts: 3,485
    edited December 2017
    @JayCee,

    Well, I updated both the DirectStream DAC and the Bridge II this evening.

    First, I played "Midnight Sugar" by the Tsuyoshi Yamamoto Trio from my NAS.

    I purchased this album recently on the recommendation of a Forum member from months ago (I apologize for forgetting who recommended the CD), and it immediately became one of my reference albums.

    My wife's reaction was immediate and not good. First off, she did not recognize the music as some I have been playing frequently over the past couple of weeks. When I told her what it was, she said, "Too bright. Too shrill. Makes me nervous. Can you change it back to the old firmware? It's like the cheap speaker cables [which I had once tried to use v. a much more expensive pair] you tried."

    Not good!

    So, next, I started playing to Yo-Yo Ma's "Songs of Joy and Peace," which has been for years one of my go-to albums for comparisons among pieces of gear. Sounds great to me, but I have yet to hear from my wife, who left the room because of the first disastrous "trial balloon."

    In contrast to my wife's my observations parallel yours: A palpable increase in clarity of instruments and vocals. Better definition of the sound stage, which appears to have more depth, but I cannot say it is any wider or higher. It may, in fact be less high, the greater depth may come from a more forward rendering of the more forward sources of the sound.

    The sound of Ma's cello is truly stunning. The timbre of the instrument and the precision of the individual notes are more realistic than they has ever been in the many times I have listened to this album. The bass is remarkably tight and realistic.

    The pizzicato portions of the music are distinct and clear.

    All of the above clarity, distinctness, and precision are probably what my wife is reacting to. She prefers a warm sound to a bright sound. She often wants to trim the treble a bit, and she did not like the Canare 4S11 Star Quad speaker cables (referred to above) v. the Morrow SP7 cables because the Canare cables were too bright and shrill in her opinion.

    Right now, I'm listening to the track "The Wexford Carol" on which Alison Kraus's voice is rendered beautifully -- rich, clear and very realistic.

    More later!
    Family Room, PS Audio PW Transport, DirectStream DAC; AQ Sky XLRs, Perreaux SM6 MKII Pre; AQ Sky XLRs, Perreaux Prisma 750 Amps or CAT 600.2 Dualmono Amp, Morrow SP7 Speaker Cables, SDA SRS 1.2tls (RD0198s, Dreadnought, Black Hole 5, Acousta-Stuf, Dynamat Extreme, JBWeld. Vr3 Mods: "The Abbot" Monastery-Level Xovers, Custom Internal Wiring, Binding Post Plates, & SDA ICs).

    Exercise Room, Wadia 171 iPod Dock, PS Audio PerfectWave MkII DAC, AQ Sky XLRs, Perreaux SM6 Preamp, AQ King Cobra RCAs, Perreaux PMF3150 Amp, Dreadnought, Supra Rondo 4x2.5 Speaker Cables, SDA 1Cs (Vr3 Mods Xovers).

    Synology 713+ NAS on Gigabit LAN serving PW MkII DAC & DirectStream DAC.
  • JayCeeJayCee Posts: 291
    edited December 2017
    @Moose68Bash

    Thanks for your impressions. Every time I see your posts re. Yo-Yo Ma I make a mental note to pick up a CD. Just wrote it down and will make a point to. Correction to a comment above...Polkfest we met was 2012, not '14.

    Warning...Long Post....

    Day 2 of listening. Definitely believe, in my system, there’s a very positive improvement. Unlike your wife, I don’t find an unnatural or overemphasis of the highs. My wife won’t sit still very long when it comes to auditioning audio. She’s more of a “background” music kind of gal. No “which sounds better” conversations in my house. Congrats on finding someone much more amiable with your audio passion.

    My hearing is in the over 50 league, and I have slight tinnitus in my right ear, but still have good hearing. Parasound amps are known for being a bit laid back and a good match for Polk’s. Perhaps this makes a difference. Many of the parts used to upgrade the amp are the same as used in the current Halo series. The gent that did the work is an authorized Parasound technician and he said, subjectively, I would get about 85-90% of the Halo sound for a fraction of the cost.

    Spent the day listening to most of my demo tracks and a few others I culled out. Here are the standouts:

    - Bonnie Raitte, “So Close”: My go to for female voice, soundstage and instrument placement. Not that this is a great recording but it’s an excellent gauge each time I make a change in my system. There’s definitive separation between each instrument, mixed this way, and Bonnie is dead center with her guitar and voice as sweet as I’ve heard. There’s a prominent cymbal behind the left speaker that adds emphasis to the track….sparkle and shimmer is very nice and realistic. Used an Oppo BDP-105 prior to the DirectStream and her voice never sounded this clear.

    - Beatles, “She’s Leaving Home [Take 1-Instrumental]”, from the 50th anniv edition. This is a bonus outtake on the recent release of this CD collection. The strings have never sounded as sweet. From the deepest notes of the cello(?) to the mids and highs of the violins. This is a gem that makes me feel like a fly on the wall in 1966/67.

    - Muddy Waters, “Folk Singer” album, SACD/DSD Rip (FLAC/DoP): I still find it unbelievable that this is a recording from 1963/64. The dynamics are incredible. Muddy’s voice is rough and bluesy but the guitar work is as clear as can be. Soundstage is wide, open and full of air. Can hear details in the room. Love it, love it, love it.

    - Dave Mathews, “Out of My Hands”, DVD-A Rip (FLAC/DoP): Beginning 10 seconds, I can hear Dave moving around, slightly open his mouth and take the first breath before he sings. Low level detail is amazing and the bass riff is punchy and dynamic.

    - Rush, “The Necromancer: Into Darkness…”, CD/FLAC Rip: Not considered their best but the recording is wildly mixed. Electric guitar pans all over the place and the drums are as tight as ever. Geddy’s voice is clear and fresh sounding in the 70’s. Just a fun listen and as clear as I’ve ever heard it.

    - Nathaniel Rateliff, “Brakeman”, CD/FLAC Rip: Brilliant new find in the past few years. This guy has some chops and soul. Simple recording that’s clean, clear and the harmonizing is quite nice. Very easy to discern the singular voice of his background singer.

    - John Williams, Empire of the Sun Soundtrack, “The Pheasant Hunt”, CD/FLAC Rip: I’ve had this CD since the 80’s. Always had to “crank it to 11” to get any details from it. I’ve learned the dynamic range is there but intentionally conducted soft to elicit the sense of a “hunt”. Great instrument placement and the only fault I now find is the ambient noise of the recording location, which isn’t a fault. I can finally hear the details.

    - Harry Connick, Jr., “Follow the Music” and “Joe Slam and the Spaceship”, CD/FLAC Rip: Not your average HC, Jr. music. The entire album, “25”, is nothing you’ve ever heard from him. The 2 tracks mentioned above have BASS in spades and are as funky as can be. "25" and the follow-up album, “Star Turtle” are two of my favorites. @DarqueKnight, Raiffe, I brought this to the Polkfest '12 party at Stu’s house and we listened to it on the 705’s. You were interested in it. Did you ever get a copy? Tightest bass ever and the drum set sounds fantastic. Second track will let you know what rattles in your room. No singing but will give your system a workout in a very pleasing way.

    - David Lindley, “Tijuana”: Just sounds so good! Excellent guitar work and lots of ambience in the recording. Sounds like a small but intimate venue. As clear as I’ve heard it, short of in person. Seen him with Jackson Browne several times and on his own in small clubs (thrice). I know what he sounds like from 5 feet away and he’s now in my room.

    - Gotye, “Somebody that I Used to Know”: A very modern track. Previously, over different iterations of my system (Pikes Peak, Huron, etc.) it sounded flat and not much depth or separation within the soundstage. Voices of the male and female singer were also “just there”. Greater depth and sense of air around the mix. Very discernable contrast with the backing vocals and harmonizing.

    - Cyndi Lauper, “My Baby Just Cares for Me”: Like the Bonnie Raitte track mentioned above, female voice has been a weakness that’s progressively gotten better. Always sounded like there was a slight vail over them. Cyndi’s voice is as clear as I’ve heard it.

    - Natalie Merchant, “The Janitor’s Boy”, CD/FLAC Rip: Fun Dixie band arrangement. Clarinet, trumpet, drums, banjo, etc., female backup singer (just noticed her for the first time). This is the only track that stands out as screechy…clarinet needs to be tamed when belting out the tune. Not sure if it’s the recording or what your wife identifies with but if it’s the latter, ouch. I understand what she means.

    DSD and DVD-A rips are still a problem with loud pops between tracks. I’m wondering if it’s a DoP thing or, perhaps, something with Roon. I no longer use Minimserver but, also, had problems with it. Ted Smith uses neither program but I’d like to know if my pops are as loud as other’s report. Most folks say it doesn’t bother them…it does me.

    I’m very familiar with all the tracks mentioned above and all comparisons are from Huron to Redcloud. Huron seemed to be a bit recessed with respect to placement from front to rear. Also, a bit higher in placement of the theoretical soundstage. I felt as though I was looking up from a seated concert perspective. Redcloud hasn’t widened the sound stage but leveled it with my seated position. Feels like I’m more on the artists level. Instrument placement is again, refined, over previous builds. Still very detailed with a tight bottom end (someone from the peanut gallery will probably have something to say about those last 2 words…LOL). If I had to sum it up in a few words, Redcloud is much more musical than previous iterations. Going back in time, my Oppo BDP-105 did a commendable job for the price point, but the DirectStream is in a much different league.

    Final thought. The majority of my 1500+ album collection is CD based, not high res. It’s very obvious there is much more detail in the standard 44.1 kHz CD than most people believe. Very few of my CD’s (FLAC’d) haven’t benefited with the DirectStream.

    Disclaimer...my gear, my ears, my opinions :smiley:

    John

  • Viking64Viking64 Posts: 1,056
    TL/DR
  • JayCeeJayCee Posts: 291
    Viking64 wrote: »
    TL/DR

    Too Long/Didn't Read?
  • Viking64Viking64 Posts: 1,056
    JayCee wrote: »
    Viking64 wrote: »
    TL/DR

    Too Long/Didn't Read?
    It clocked in at about 1300 words. :)
  • JayCeeJayCee Posts: 291
    @Viking64 I had to LOL your post. My wife writes in code, too. I'm a code cracker and a nice guy...you were warned. :)
  • Viking64Viking64 Posts: 1,056
    JayCee wrote: »
    @Viking64 I had to LOL your post. My wife writes in code, too. I'm a code cracker and a nice guy...you were warned. :)
    HAHAHA Noted! :p
    I'm not trying to bust your ba77s. Just having fun. Thanks for playing along. :)

    Now I have to go and rest my finger. It is tired from scrolling past your post. :D
  • JayCeeJayCee Posts: 291
    @Viking64 Ba77s still in tact. After your post I copied mine into MS Word and it was 1305 to be exact! Too much serious in the world right now. Good to lighten things up. I knew exactly where you were coming from. Perhaps I can help you on scrolling...check out pc voice commands for web surfing, "page down, page down, page down" can be your friend! :smiley: :smiley:
  • Viking64Viking64 Posts: 1,056
    Now my jaw is sore. :( :p
  • Moose68BashMoose68Bash Posts: 3,485
    JayCee wrote: »
    @Moose68Bash

    I’m very familiar with all the tracks mentioned above and all comparisons are from Huron to Redcloud. Huron seemed to be a bit recessed with respect to placement from front to rear. Also, a bit higher in placement of the theoretical soundstage. I felt as though I was looking up from a seated concert perspective. Redcloud hasn’t widened the sound stage but leveled it with my seated position. Feels like I’m more on the artists level. Instrument placement is again, refined, over previous builds. Still very detailed with a tight bottom end (someone from the peanut gallery will probably have something to say about those last 2 words…LOL). If I had to sum it up in a few words, Redcloud is much more musical than previous iterations. Going back in time, my Oppo BDP-105 did a commendable job for the price point, but the DirectStream is in a much different league.

    @JayCee,

    I agree with your concluding observations.

    Nevertheless, today I reinstalled Huron, after which listening to Huron again confirmed for me your comments about it.

    I'm 71 years old, have mild tinnitus, and over the years have worked in various environments that have, like my age, doubtlessly left their mark on my hearing -- stone mills, stone quarries, a foundry, etc. Hence, I believe I do not hear some characteristics of music that my wife hears, especially in higher frequency ranges. She often hears, for example, an annoying shrill sound from a neighbor's alarm system for his standby generators that I cannot hear unless our windows are open.

    My wife literally cannot stay in the room when sound from the stereo system is too shrill, bright, or strident for her ears. Because I prefer to listen to good music with her, rather than to do it alone, her pain trumps my pleasure, which is likely only possible because I don't hear every thing that she hears.

    Maybe the successor to Redcloud will be more to her taste and also satisfy mine -- one of the great benefits of FPGAs. :)
    Family Room, PS Audio PW Transport, DirectStream DAC; AQ Sky XLRs, Perreaux SM6 MKII Pre; AQ Sky XLRs, Perreaux Prisma 750 Amps or CAT 600.2 Dualmono Amp, Morrow SP7 Speaker Cables, SDA SRS 1.2tls (RD0198s, Dreadnought, Black Hole 5, Acousta-Stuf, Dynamat Extreme, JBWeld. Vr3 Mods: "The Abbot" Monastery-Level Xovers, Custom Internal Wiring, Binding Post Plates, & SDA ICs).

    Exercise Room, Wadia 171 iPod Dock, PS Audio PerfectWave MkII DAC, AQ Sky XLRs, Perreaux SM6 Preamp, AQ King Cobra RCAs, Perreaux PMF3150 Amp, Dreadnought, Supra Rondo 4x2.5 Speaker Cables, SDA 1Cs (Vr3 Mods Xovers).

    Synology 713+ NAS on Gigabit LAN serving PW MkII DAC & DirectStream DAC.
  • pitdogg2pitdogg2 Posts: 8,294
    Viking64 wrote: »
    JayCee wrote: »
    Viking64 wrote: »
    TL/DR

    Too Long/Didn't Read?
    It clocked in at about 1300 words. :)

    Word vomit
  • JayCeeJayCee Posts: 291
    My wife literally cannot stay in the room when sound from the stereo system is too shrill, bright, or strident for her ears. Because I prefer to listen to good music with her, rather than to do it alone, her pain trumps my pleasure, which is likely only possible because I don't hear every thing that she hears.

    Maybe the successor to Redcloud will be more to her taste and also satisfy mine -- one of the great benefits of FPGAs. :)
    Totally understand. Perhaps, keep 2 SD cards and label one, "Wife's away, Phil will play"!
    pitdogg2 wrote: »
    Word vomit
    Ouch.
  • NightfallNightfall Posts: 7,128
    Viking64 wrote: »
    Now my jaw is sore. :( :p

    This forum is family friendly. Keep that to yourself.
    | Front - Dynaudio Emit M20 | Center - N/A | Rear - Polk Monitor 4 | Sub - N/A |
    | AVR - Yamaha Aventage RX-A1020 | Preamp - Dared MC-7P | Amp - B&K Reference 4420 |
    | Turntable - Yamaha PX-3 | Cartridge - Dynavector DV-20X2H | Digital Source - AURALiC Aries Mini |
    | TV - LG 60" 4K | Gaming - Xbox One - PS3 - New 3DS XL - Nvidia Shield TV |

    This body holding me reminds me of my own mortality
    Embrace this moment, remember, we are eternal
    All this pain is an illusion
  • JayCeeJayCee Posts: 291
    @pitdogg2, @Viking64, @Nightfall

    Day 3....

    Made you look B) >:) o:)
  • pitdogg2pitdogg2 Posts: 8,294
    Why yes i did dang it.....
  • Moose68BashMoose68Bash Posts: 3,485
    edited December 2017
    JayCee wrote: »
    Totally understand. Perhaps, keep 2 SD cards and label one, "Wife's away, Phil will play"!

    @JayCee,

    Exactly what I have done, except no need to label the SD cards. I just keep the SD card that is not in use in a small box with some other gear in my cabinet. However, I don't expect to be switching the cards often because, given my configuration of components, it's a PITA to switch them often.


    Family Room, PS Audio PW Transport, DirectStream DAC; AQ Sky XLRs, Perreaux SM6 MKII Pre; AQ Sky XLRs, Perreaux Prisma 750 Amps or CAT 600.2 Dualmono Amp, Morrow SP7 Speaker Cables, SDA SRS 1.2tls (RD0198s, Dreadnought, Black Hole 5, Acousta-Stuf, Dynamat Extreme, JBWeld. Vr3 Mods: "The Abbot" Monastery-Level Xovers, Custom Internal Wiring, Binding Post Plates, & SDA ICs).

    Exercise Room, Wadia 171 iPod Dock, PS Audio PerfectWave MkII DAC, AQ Sky XLRs, Perreaux SM6 Preamp, AQ King Cobra RCAs, Perreaux PMF3150 Amp, Dreadnought, Supra Rondo 4x2.5 Speaker Cables, SDA 1Cs (Vr3 Mods Xovers).

    Synology 713+ NAS on Gigabit LAN serving PW MkII DAC & DirectStream DAC.
  • Mr_HzMr_Hz Posts: 120
    Have been salivating at the door of this DACS (plus transport combo) but am not financially there yet to pull the trigger. Have clean Bryston 4B Squared amp power and a Bryston BDA-3 DACs... which is solid gear... but somehow I sense the PS Audio experience to be yet another audio level above.
    2.3TL's - Living Room
    CRS+'s (4.1 TL's) - Office
    SDA1C's - Famdamly Rm
    SDA1C's - Master Bedroom
  • NightfallNightfall Posts: 7,128
    edited December 2017
    You might say they're... a mile high of the competition.

    I'll see myself out.
    | Front - Dynaudio Emit M20 | Center - N/A | Rear - Polk Monitor 4 | Sub - N/A |
    | AVR - Yamaha Aventage RX-A1020 | Preamp - Dared MC-7P | Amp - B&K Reference 4420 |
    | Turntable - Yamaha PX-3 | Cartridge - Dynavector DV-20X2H | Digital Source - AURALiC Aries Mini |
    | TV - LG 60" 4K | Gaming - Xbox One - PS3 - New 3DS XL - Nvidia Shield TV |

    This body holding me reminds me of my own mortality
    Embrace this moment, remember, we are eternal
    All this pain is an illusion
  • Moose68BashMoose68Bash Posts: 3,485
    Mr_Hz wrote: »
    Have been salivating at the door of this DACS (plus transport combo) but am not financially there yet to pull the trigger. Have clean Bryston 4B Squared amp power and a Bryston BDA-3 DACs... which is solid gear... but somehow I sense the PS Audio experience to be yet another audio level above.

    @Mr_Hz,

    I have never heard the Bryston equipment you have. I can only say that the PS Audio DirectStream DAC was a quantum improvement in SQ over my Cambridge Audio 840C CD player/DAC that I used for years, and it was also a major improvement over the PS Audio PerfectWave DACs Mk I & Mk II that I used immediately before purchasing and installing the DirectStream DAC.

    One feature of the DirectStream DAC is that its field programmable gate array ["FPGA"] allows more or less continuous improvement and relatively simple upgrades "at home." These upgrades/improvements are improvements in the eyes (or ears) of the PS Audio engineers, but not necessarily in the judgement of each listener, as the conversation in this thread has illustrated.

    My personal opinion is that the first few upgrades of the DirectStream (I've lost count of the number released since I purchased this DAC) were definitely improvements in SQ.

    The difference in opinion between my wife and me about the most recent "upgrade," so called "Redcloud," tends to illustrate to me that PS Audio engineers are now "tweaking" the sound and that they now have entered the realm of personal preference rather than continuing to achieve improvements that virtually all users would appreciate. In my view they are essentially offering their customers choices in the "voicing" of the DAC. They used to achieve a similar goal in the variety of filters they built in to the PerfectWave DACs I & II.

    I have not heard the new version of the PS Audio transport, which I believe is called "Memory Player." I look forward to hearing it one of these days, but the price makes it unattractive to me at this point, because I listen to most of my music streamed from my NAS through a PS Audio Bridge II. And I believe the music rendered this way is superior in sound quality to CDs spun in my current PS Audio PerfectWave Transport. I don't know whether the Memory Player would provide better SQ than the streaming, but I do know that the convenience of the NAS/streaming solution makes me reluctant to spend $4,000+ on the Memory Player [I know the MSRP is about $6,000, but I believe it can be purchased for much less than this.].

    And, BTW, if the length of this post exceeds anybody's interest or attention span, I encourage them not to bother reading it.
    Family Room, PS Audio PW Transport, DirectStream DAC; AQ Sky XLRs, Perreaux SM6 MKII Pre; AQ Sky XLRs, Perreaux Prisma 750 Amps or CAT 600.2 Dualmono Amp, Morrow SP7 Speaker Cables, SDA SRS 1.2tls (RD0198s, Dreadnought, Black Hole 5, Acousta-Stuf, Dynamat Extreme, JBWeld. Vr3 Mods: "The Abbot" Monastery-Level Xovers, Custom Internal Wiring, Binding Post Plates, & SDA ICs).

    Exercise Room, Wadia 171 iPod Dock, PS Audio PerfectWave MkII DAC, AQ Sky XLRs, Perreaux SM6 Preamp, AQ King Cobra RCAs, Perreaux PMF3150 Amp, Dreadnought, Supra Rondo 4x2.5 Speaker Cables, SDA 1Cs (Vr3 Mods Xovers).

    Synology 713+ NAS on Gigabit LAN serving PW MkII DAC & DirectStream DAC.
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