Border Patrol SE-i DAC Review

Well it finally arrived after the USPS confusion. All is well that ends well I guess.

Let me start off by saying what the BP doesn't do:
It doesn't do hi-res, DSD, MQA. So it those are a must have for a DAC then the BP most likely won't be of too much interest to you. It will however do 24/96 & there are work arounds for the other formats. I won't go into any detail about that because I really don't know too much about the techy ins & outs involved.

This is my current gear that I have for my 2 channel listening & the BP review:
KEF R3 monitors
Rogue Audio RP-1 tube pre amp
Parasound ZM 2350 amp
BlueSound Node 2i streamer with built in DAC
NAD D 1050 DAC
BP SE-i DAC
KEF Kube 8b sub
Analog cables are Morrow Audio MA2
Digital cable is ANTICABLES 3.2 RCA
Speaker cables are River Cables Bi-Wire
Power cord are Shunyata on amp, Signal Cable for the pre, Merlin Cable Black Widow on the BP DAC

I'm keeping the NAD for a comparison between the 3 DAC's

The BP also has a tube rectifier that can be disingaged on the fly while playing music. I kept the tube engaged the whole time. I will experiment with it both ways in the future. Now bear in mind that the BP has only been on for a few hours. I really don't know how long before it is completely settled in.

I really didn't know what to expect but I heard & read so many great reviews on the BP & in fact a few of the reviewers bought one after hearing it. Well I must say that only listening for such a short time that what I read was spot on. The difference between the 3 DAC's is very audible. Although the Node & NAD DAC's are more similar than different. However the BP is quite different. The Node & NAD are very focused & very revealing almost to a fault.

The BP is just as focused & revealing but in a very natural sounding way. There are no sharp edges at all. The music is well... musical! The instruments are well defined but not in your face screaming at you.The sound stage is well defined. Imaging is very well presented & very realistic. Vocals take on a whole new meaning of realism. Frank Sinatra is as if he gave you tickets to the front row. Diane Krall is smooth as butter. Again just very natural sounding. One of my go to's with new gear is the classic Jazz at the Pawn Shop...I would switch between the 3 DAC's & with my eyes closed I knew immediately when the BP was engaged. The whole jazz club became more intamint & cozy. Not that the Node or NAD sounded bad mind you they just didn't convey the coziness & could render themselves to be a little on the bright side. Not so with the BP.

I'm sure that after the BP settles in things just might get even cozier. Now this is the way I like my music and always have. I'm sure there are plenty of guys that might find this preference a tad boring but to each his own.

There is something to say about the old school way of doing things... when done right. And this little puppy is old school done right! 👍

In winding down I can honestly say that I am extremely satisfied that I went out on a limb with the BP.

And as I said before Tony...man oh man this thing is smooooth! 🤗

Happy Listening to all and to all a Good Night!! Santa came early! ☃️td1qy2lraauz.jpg
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"2 Channel & 11.2 HT "Two Channel:Magnepan LRSSchiit Audio Freya S - SS preConsonance Ref 50 - Tube preParasound HALO A21+ 2 channel ampBluesound NODE 2i streameriFi NEO iDSD DAC Oppo BDP-93KEF KC62 sub Home Theater:Full blown 11.2 set up.
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Comments

  • Mike Reeter
    Mike Reeter Posts: 4,311
    Its sounds like your patience with the USPS has paid off! Nice write up and a nice set up also. Enjoy!
    SDA SRS 3.1TL's/SDA CRS+4.1TL's and some other stuff
  • JayCee
    JayCee Posts: 1,445
    edited December 2020
    I've been rolling NOS tubes in my pre for the past few months and have come to the conclusion it takes 150-200 hrs for them to settle in. Mine aren't on the power supply side, so not sure if it's as relevant to your config. Really cool that you can switch it off and on. I wonder if you'll get more "detail" without it?

    The reviews really caught my attention regarding the musicality. My PSA DAC is multiples more $$$ and I'm in no way unhappy but I'd be down for a BP PSA shootout. The better player would stay.

    Congrats and really cool you're digging it.

    Edit to add...not sure which Sinatra album you're listening to but I have the No One Cares SACD rip'd to DSD for FLAC streaming and it's as you describe. The redbook layer is also very good. I always smile when a recording from the 50's sounds so phenomenal!
    ➀Speakers: Polk1.2tl's (Uber Mods) ➁Pre/Amp/DAC: PS Audio BHK Signature & 250, DirectStream ➂Cables/IC's: MIT S1Bi-Wire/S1 Balanced +Avel Lindberg 1000VA "Dreadnought" ➃Power Conditioner: PS Audio P15 Power Plant ➄Power Cords: Core Power Technologies Gold, DH Labs Power Plus DIY w/Neotech NC-P301 & P311ends ➅Streamer: Roon ROCK on wifi'd NUC & Uptone EtherREGEN, AfterDark, Emperor Double Crown Clock, Black Modernize LPS⟿Ω☯☥☮⟿🔊♩♪♫♬♩♪♫♬♩♪♫♬
  • Clipdat
    Clipdat Posts: 12,209
  • pearsall001
    pearsall001 Posts: 4,870
    JayCee wrote: »
    I've been rolling NOS tubes in my pre for the past few months and have come to the conclusion it takes 150-200 hrs for them to settle in. Mine aren't on the power supply side, so not sure if it's as relevant to your config. Really cool that you can switch it off and on. I wonder if you'll get more "detail" without it?

    The reviews really caught my attention regarding the musicality. My PSA DAC is multiples more $$$ and I'm in no way unhappy but I'd be down for a BP PSA shootout. The better player would stay.

    Congrats and really cool you're digging it.

    Edit to add...not sure which Sinatra album you're listening to but I have the No One Cares SACD rip'd to DSD for FLAC streaming and it's as you describe. The redbook layer is also very good. I always smile when a recording from the 50's sounds so phenomenal!

    What tubes have you tried in the pre. I'm game for trying other flavors to see how they sound.

    I'm still just keeping the tube engaged in the dac to get a feel for it before I disengage to hear the difference. I'm betting with the tube off it loses a bit of it's warmth. Time will tell.
    "2 Channel & 11.2 HT "Two Channel:Magnepan LRSSchiit Audio Freya S - SS preConsonance Ref 50 - Tube preParasound HALO A21+ 2 channel ampBluesound NODE 2i streameriFi NEO iDSD DAC Oppo BDP-93KEF KC62 sub Home Theater:Full blown 11.2 set up.
  • pearsall001
    pearsall001 Posts: 4,870
    Clipdat wrote: »
    Nice review!

    Thanks! Nothing like the review's I've read of yours though. Just an old croney here trying to convey my initial impressions.
    "2 Channel & 11.2 HT "Two Channel:Magnepan LRSSchiit Audio Freya S - SS preConsonance Ref 50 - Tube preParasound HALO A21+ 2 channel ampBluesound NODE 2i streameriFi NEO iDSD DAC Oppo BDP-93KEF KC62 sub Home Theater:Full blown 11.2 set up.
  • Clipdat
    Clipdat Posts: 12,209
    Thanks for the kind words, but it's not a competition. We're all in this for the love of the music.

    I appreciate you sharing your thoughts on the Border Patrol DAC!
  • bem
    bem Posts: 98
    Excellent review! I thoroughly enjoyed reading about this DAC. It’s going to have to go on my list for possible purchases in 2021. Enjoy.
  • JayCee
    JayCee Posts: 1,445
    What tubes have you tried in the pre. I'm game for trying other flavors to see how they sound.

    No experience w/the EZ80 you have in the BP but my BHK takes 12AU7 or suitable sub variants and ships with current production PS Vanes. Here's what I've been playing with...

    From Brent Jesse: GE Blackplates 12AU7-from the 50's and made for use in organs. He no longer has them in-stock but I saved off his add:

    4zp4iwcsg24z.png

    From Waterford Valves:
    I'm a nerd so I use a spreadsheet to track tube/component hrs:
    1nzj86t73yev.png

    Brent Jesse has a good rep. I had a problem with one tube in a set of the GE's and he was pleasant via phone...exchanged the tubes with no problem.

    Although Waterford is overseas, I've had zero issues purchasing the majority of my tubes through them. Prices are competitive, if not cheaper, but you have to be aware of the USD to GBP exchange rate. I made my purchase a while back when the Pound was a bit weaker and paid less than stateside. With Brexit finally happening I'm watching to see if their currency takes a hit. May be an opportunity there. One thing with Waterford is you won't get a shipping price on-line. Derek contacts you directly with price and asks for your approval and adds the cost to your order. I've placed 2 orders and, as I recall, shipping via British Post was about $25.

    Quick search and found this for your EZ80's:
    https://watfordvalves.com/products.asp?search=EZ80
    ➀Speakers: Polk1.2tl's (Uber Mods) ➁Pre/Amp/DAC: PS Audio BHK Signature & 250, DirectStream ➂Cables/IC's: MIT S1Bi-Wire/S1 Balanced +Avel Lindberg 1000VA "Dreadnought" ➃Power Conditioner: PS Audio P15 Power Plant ➄Power Cords: Core Power Technologies Gold, DH Labs Power Plus DIY w/Neotech NC-P301 & P311ends ➅Streamer: Roon ROCK on wifi'd NUC & Uptone EtherREGEN, AfterDark, Emperor Double Crown Clock, Black Modernize LPS⟿Ω☯☥☮⟿🔊♩♪♫♬♩♪♫♬♩♪♫♬
  • pearsall001
    pearsall001 Posts: 4,870
    JayCee, thanks for all the great info on the tube vendors. I will definitely be spending some time reading up the subject of tube rolling.
    "2 Channel & 11.2 HT "Two Channel:Magnepan LRSSchiit Audio Freya S - SS preConsonance Ref 50 - Tube preParasound HALO A21+ 2 channel ampBluesound NODE 2i streameriFi NEO iDSD DAC Oppo BDP-93KEF KC62 sub Home Theater:Full blown 11.2 set up.
  • JayCee
    JayCee Posts: 1,445
    edited December 2020
    Most welcome. Although I've had tubed pre's since 2012'ish I'm just starting to roll. Price for those EZ's on Waterford is less than 20 bucks, ea. I'd pick up all 3 if I had the BP and combine for least cost shipping. Very affordable. Not pushing Waterford, as I haven't compared your prices, but likewise for any other reputable dealer.

    My BHK-250 amp also takes tubes but a different flavor than the pre. I started w/the pre and still have stock in the amp...PSA forum everyone states it makes the biggest difference vs amp. Speculating, you may experience the same logic w/the DAC?

    edit to add...our resident tube expert(s) will probably have more specific recommendations for you. Both for vendor and with the EZ80.
    ➀Speakers: Polk1.2tl's (Uber Mods) ➁Pre/Amp/DAC: PS Audio BHK Signature & 250, DirectStream ➂Cables/IC's: MIT S1Bi-Wire/S1 Balanced +Avel Lindberg 1000VA "Dreadnought" ➃Power Conditioner: PS Audio P15 Power Plant ➄Power Cords: Core Power Technologies Gold, DH Labs Power Plus DIY w/Neotech NC-P301 & P311ends ➅Streamer: Roon ROCK on wifi'd NUC & Uptone EtherREGEN, AfterDark, Emperor Double Crown Clock, Black Modernize LPS⟿Ω☯☥☮⟿🔊♩♪♫♬♩♪♫♬♩♪♫♬
  • pearsall001
    pearsall001 Posts: 4,870
    My Rogue is also tubes so I will look into doing some rolling there also. Sounds like fun!

    I couldn't resist waiting so I started doing some listening with the EZ tube in the BP on or off to hear the difference.

    With the tube engaged it has a nice softness to the music that is very engageing & inviting.

    With the tube disengaged it has a little more bite to the music but by all means does not venture into analytical & digital land.

    The difference is not night & day but you can definitely pick up on it.

    I'll be doing more listening with vocals & other venues to hear the difference.

    So far with my limited time with the tube experiment I am leaning more to the tube being engaged. Not that things might change mind you. ☃️




    "2 Channel & 11.2 HT "Two Channel:Magnepan LRSSchiit Audio Freya S - SS preConsonance Ref 50 - Tube preParasound HALO A21+ 2 channel ampBluesound NODE 2i streameriFi NEO iDSD DAC Oppo BDP-93KEF KC62 sub Home Theater:Full blown 11.2 set up.
  • JayCee
    JayCee Posts: 1,445
    edited December 2020
    Cool. Trying to relate I'd say, of the tubes I listed, the GE Blackplates have the musicality. The rolling I've done with all the tubes is to get initial hours on them.

    There are definitely noticeable differences in the pre but the GE's rock for $40 matched. Price bias aside, I was truly astounded at how well rounded they are. After the new year I'll go into eval mode.

    I purchased the respective tubes on sound attributes/rep and partly on speculation. The Mullards and Mats may go up in $$$ in years to come but, I targeted the MILSPEC in the event they really are good. If it translates to longevity I should get many hours/years from the more expensive tubes.

    Initial comment on the Mullards since they are popular. Really do have a 3d personality but I find the bass a bit shy. Hoping that changes even though they are the most expensive of the lot.

    Congrats, again, on finding something that excites you. Looking forward to your thoughts.
    ➀Speakers: Polk1.2tl's (Uber Mods) ➁Pre/Amp/DAC: PS Audio BHK Signature & 250, DirectStream ➂Cables/IC's: MIT S1Bi-Wire/S1 Balanced +Avel Lindberg 1000VA "Dreadnought" ➃Power Conditioner: PS Audio P15 Power Plant ➄Power Cords: Core Power Technologies Gold, DH Labs Power Plus DIY w/Neotech NC-P301 & P311ends ➅Streamer: Roon ROCK on wifi'd NUC & Uptone EtherREGEN, AfterDark, Emperor Double Crown Clock, Black Modernize LPS⟿Ω☯☥☮⟿🔊♩♪♫♬♩♪♫♬♩♪♫♬
  • tonyb
    tonyb Posts: 32,840
    Cool Phl. I'd imagine the BP will get sweeter with some hours under it. Congrats man, a winner you've picked. Merry Christmas to you and the family.
    HT SYSTEM-
    Sony 850c 4k
    Pioneer elite vhx 21
    Sony 4k BRP
    SVS SB-2000
    Polk Sig. 20's
    Polk FX500 surrounds

    Cables-
    Acoustic zen Satori speaker cables
    Acoustic zen Matrix 2 IC's
    Wireworld eclipse 7 ic's
    Audio metallurgy ga-o digital cable

    Kitchen

    Sonos zp90
    Grant Fidelity tube dac
    B&k 1420
    lsi 9's
  • pearsall001
    pearsall001 Posts: 4,870
    Yes indeed Tony... this puppy is the real deal. I am really enjoying it.

    Merry Christmas to you & your family also! ☃️🎄
    "2 Channel & 11.2 HT "Two Channel:Magnepan LRSSchiit Audio Freya S - SS preConsonance Ref 50 - Tube preParasound HALO A21+ 2 channel ampBluesound NODE 2i streameriFi NEO iDSD DAC Oppo BDP-93KEF KC62 sub Home Theater:Full blown 11.2 set up.
  • pearsall001
    pearsall001 Posts: 4,870
    Next up... on the hunt for a new power cord for the DAC. Let the fun begin.
    Been poking around a little & the choices are daunting to say the least. I'll come up with a budget that will narrow the field a bit.
    I can most likely stretccccccch things a bit but will tap out at the $500.00 mark.
    I'd rather not go that far if I can help it. A meter length will be plenty.
    Any recommendations?
    "2 Channel & 11.2 HT "Two Channel:Magnepan LRSSchiit Audio Freya S - SS preConsonance Ref 50 - Tube preParasound HALO A21+ 2 channel ampBluesound NODE 2i streameriFi NEO iDSD DAC Oppo BDP-93KEF KC62 sub Home Theater:Full blown 11.2 set up.
  • VR3
    VR3 Posts: 27,356
    Supra lorad

    Pangea ac14mk2

    Great choices!
    - Not Tom ::::::: Any system can play Diana Krall. Only the best can play Limp Bizkit.
  • pearsall001
    pearsall001 Posts: 4,870
    VR3 wrote: »
    Supra lorad

    Pangea ac14mk2

    Great choices!

    Thanks! On my list
    "2 Channel & 11.2 HT "Two Channel:Magnepan LRSSchiit Audio Freya S - SS preConsonance Ref 50 - Tube preParasound HALO A21+ 2 channel ampBluesound NODE 2i streameriFi NEO iDSD DAC Oppo BDP-93KEF KC62 sub Home Theater:Full blown 11.2 set up.
  • Clipdat
    Clipdat Posts: 12,209
    Douglas Connection
  • pearsall001
    pearsall001 Posts: 4,870
    Clipdat wrote: »
    Douglas Connection

    Thanks! On my list

    "2 Channel & 11.2 HT "Two Channel:Magnepan LRSSchiit Audio Freya S - SS preConsonance Ref 50 - Tube preParasound HALO A21+ 2 channel ampBluesound NODE 2i streameriFi NEO iDSD DAC Oppo BDP-93KEF KC62 sub Home Theater:Full blown 11.2 set up.
  • marvda1
    marvda1 Posts: 4,631
    Cullen cables, triode wire labs, audio envy, audio arts
    Amplifiers: Norma IPA 140, MasterSound Compact 845, Ayre v6xe, Consonance Cyber 800
    Preamp: deHavilland Ultraverve 3
    Dac: Sonnet Morpheus 2, Musical Paradise mp-d2 mkIII
    Transport: Jay's Audio CDT2 mk2, Lumin U1 mini
    Speakers: Rosso Fiorentino Volterra II
    Speaker Cables: Organic Audio Organic Reference 2
    Interconnects: Argento Organic Reference 2, Argento Organic 2
    Power Cables by: Argento Organic Reference, Triode Wire Labs, Swiss Cables
    Wireworld Spaceport
  • pearsall001
    pearsall001 Posts: 4,870
    marvda1 wrote: »
    Cullen cables, triode wire labs, audio envy, audio arts

    Great, thanks.

    The field is filling up. That seems to be the sweet spot for the budget I set. There are just so many great choices. Now to narrow it down.

    I chatted with Capt at audio envy & his PC's are out of stock for a few weeks.
    "2 Channel & 11.2 HT "Two Channel:Magnepan LRSSchiit Audio Freya S - SS preConsonance Ref 50 - Tube preParasound HALO A21+ 2 channel ampBluesound NODE 2i streameriFi NEO iDSD DAC Oppo BDP-93KEF KC62 sub Home Theater:Full blown 11.2 set up.
  • erniejade
    erniejade Posts: 6,193
    edited December 2020
    I recently picked up a used Shunyata zitron viper recently for under $300 that I am impressed with so far. I am running on my lks dac currently. Otherwise Cullen crossover cable is really good.
    Musical Fidelity Tri-Vista 300, Audioquest Thunderbird Zero Speaker Cable, Tyler Highland H2, Audioquest Thunderbird Interconnect, Innuos Zen MK3 W4S recovery, Revolution Audio Labs USB & Ethernet, Border Patrol SE-I, Audioquest Niagara 5000 & Thunder, Cullen Crossover II PC's.
  • pearsall001
    pearsall001 Posts: 4,870
    I recently picked up a used Shunyata zitron viper recently for under $300 that I am impressed with so far. I am running on my lks dac currently. Otherwise Cullen crossover cable is really good.

    Thanks for the recommendations. The list keeps on growing. 👍
    "2 Channel & 11.2 HT "Two Channel:Magnepan LRSSchiit Audio Freya S - SS preConsonance Ref 50 - Tube preParasound HALO A21+ 2 channel ampBluesound NODE 2i streameriFi NEO iDSD DAC Oppo BDP-93KEF KC62 sub Home Theater:Full blown 11.2 set up.
  • pearsall001
    pearsall001 Posts: 4,870
    I'll tell you what... right out of the box the DAC sounded fantastic! Now out of nowhere it's taken on a whole new dimension in rendering it's musicality.
    I know there is such a thing as run in & if this is the case...I'm all in. 👍
    "2 Channel & 11.2 HT "Two Channel:Magnepan LRSSchiit Audio Freya S - SS preConsonance Ref 50 - Tube preParasound HALO A21+ 2 channel ampBluesound NODE 2i streameriFi NEO iDSD DAC Oppo BDP-93KEF KC62 sub Home Theater:Full blown 11.2 set up.
  • pearsall001
    pearsall001 Posts: 4,870
    New PC for the BP dac ordered & on it's way.

    A big shout out to all that offered the great PC recommendations.



    "2 Channel & 11.2 HT "Two Channel:Magnepan LRSSchiit Audio Freya S - SS preConsonance Ref 50 - Tube preParasound HALO A21+ 2 channel ampBluesound NODE 2i streameriFi NEO iDSD DAC Oppo BDP-93KEF KC62 sub Home Theater:Full blown 11.2 set up.
  • marvda1
    marvda1 Posts: 4,631
    what cord did you decide on?
    Amplifiers: Norma IPA 140, MasterSound Compact 845, Ayre v6xe, Consonance Cyber 800
    Preamp: deHavilland Ultraverve 3
    Dac: Sonnet Morpheus 2, Musical Paradise mp-d2 mkIII
    Transport: Jay's Audio CDT2 mk2, Lumin U1 mini
    Speakers: Rosso Fiorentino Volterra II
    Speaker Cables: Organic Audio Organic Reference 2
    Interconnects: Argento Organic Reference 2, Argento Organic 2
    Power Cables by: Argento Organic Reference, Triode Wire Labs, Swiss Cables
    Wireworld Spaceport
  • pearsall001
    pearsall001 Posts: 4,870
    marvda1 wrote: »
    what cord did you decide on?

    Your recommendations were all top notch & in fact Gary uses the Triode digital with the dac.

    But after much deliberation I decided to scale back on the budget & the price of the Triode was a deal breaker.

    After doing a lot of reading on the various PC's I narrowed it down to a few.

    The one that I kept going back to was the Level 3 PC from Paul Speltz at Anticables. A lot of glowing reviews & I liked his design philosophy. And the price was in line with my budget. I'll give it a good workout to see how it fairs against the Shunyata Venom that I currently have. The Venom is by no means a slacker.




    "2 Channel & 11.2 HT "Two Channel:Magnepan LRSSchiit Audio Freya S - SS preConsonance Ref 50 - Tube preParasound HALO A21+ 2 channel ampBluesound NODE 2i streameriFi NEO iDSD DAC Oppo BDP-93KEF KC62 sub Home Theater:Full blown 11.2 set up.
  • BlueFox
    BlueFox Posts: 15,251
    The Venom is the Shunyata entry level power cord.
    Lumin X1 file player, Westminster Labs interconnect cable
    Sony XA-5400ES SACD; Pass XP-22 pre; X600.5 amps
    Magico S5 MKII Mcast Rose speakers; SPOD spikes

    Shunyata Triton v3/Typhon QR on source, Denali 2000 (2) on amps
    Shunyata Sigma XLR analog ICs, Sigma speaker cables
    Shunyata Sigma HC (2), Sigma Analog, Sigma Digital, Z Anaconda (3) power cables

    Mapleshade Samson V.3 four shelf solid maple rack, Micropoint brass footers
    Three 20 amp circuits.
  • pearsall001
    pearsall001 Posts: 4,870
    BlueFox wrote: »
    The Venom is the Shunyata entry level power cord.

    That they are but tell them that. They are an excellent cord that fill the bill nicely & hit the sweet spot between performance and price.
    "2 Channel & 11.2 HT "Two Channel:Magnepan LRSSchiit Audio Freya S - SS preConsonance Ref 50 - Tube preParasound HALO A21+ 2 channel ampBluesound NODE 2i streameriFi NEO iDSD DAC Oppo BDP-93KEF KC62 sub Home Theater:Full blown 11.2 set up.
  • pearsall001
    pearsall001 Posts: 4,870


    With my recent purchase of the Border Patrol SE-i DAC I added the Anticables Level 3 PC & man oh man did it ever shake things up.

    The bass took on a new life of it's own. Tight, taught, dynamic & ever so punchy. I was actually very surprised with what I heard.

    The overall presentation is larger in soundstage scope & flat out more dynamic across the board.

    The DAC itself has exceeded my expectations & has elevated my listening experience to flat out engaging & enjoyable. 👍🍻

    No complaints here... money well spent.

    Paul does recommend outfitting the source first with his PC's & after what I am experiencing who am I to argue.

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    "2 Channel & 11.2 HT "Two Channel:Magnepan LRSSchiit Audio Freya S - SS preConsonance Ref 50 - Tube preParasound HALO A21+ 2 channel ampBluesound NODE 2i streameriFi NEO iDSD DAC Oppo BDP-93KEF KC62 sub Home Theater:Full blown 11.2 set up.