Antique Sound Lab AQ-2004DT review

organorgan Posts: 5,022
edited August 2003 in 2 Channel Audio
I've had this pre-amp for about a month now and it should be fully broken in. This review will be divided into two sections. I tried the ASL with two different amps, one SS and the other tube.

The ASL AQ-2004DT is a pure Class A tube pre-amp. It uses three tubes, a single 12AX7(ECC83) and a pair of 12AU7(ECC82). For a tube pre-amp, this is as simple as it gets! It retails for for $299USD and I think this is THE pre-amp to match with any SS or tube power amps. I know you're wondering how the hell a $299 pre-amp can sound good? First of all, it doesn't have a phono section. Adding a decent phono section could increase te price by $50-$100 depending on the quality. #2 It doesn't have any bass/treble/balance conrol. #3 Only has three inputs. #4 Class A tube designs are much simpler than a Class A SS. Now you can see why I think this pre is the best bang for your hard earned cash.

Build quality: This pre-amp has a very nice "audiophile look". It has a classy and simple look, much better than the pictures around the net. The chassis is all metal and painted black, with the brand name written in gold under a red LED. A single transformer is located behind the three tubes and all inputs and output connections is gold plated.

ASL with NAD C270: At the time I received the ASL, I wasn't using my Dynaco because the quad cap was leaking. A replacement cap arrived a week later.
I ordered the ASL from www.audioweb.com. My mother woke me up early in the morning and gave me the box. I can see that audioweb took good care to make sure it arrives in one piece because the box had a paper labeled "Live Animal" on it. Anyways, I opened it up and installed the tubes that came with it. The tubes ASL shipped with ther pre was JJ/Tesla tubes made in Slovakia. I plugged everyting in and hooked it up to my NAD C270. I let the tubes heat up for a bit and then I put in my Opera CD. The frst track was "Habanera" from Carmen, performed by Victoria de Los Angeles. The tube sound was there loud and clear. The orchestra's sound had a lot of weight and sounded very rich with much better soundstaging than my previous SS pre-amp. Vocals sounded extremely smooth and voluptuous in an erotic kind of way. It sounds so good that even today, I still get butterflies in my tummy when listening to a good recording! Ever since my Dynaco's capacitor went bad, I was dying to get the tube sound back and that's why I got the ASL. Now I was very happy. I had no idea my NAD C270 could sound so sweet. IMO, SS stuff will sound lifeless and dull without tubes somewhere in the component chain. Or maybe my NAD pre amp isn't very good. But I have to agree with what I've read around the net that "SS have no soul". Tubes really bring out the emotions and atmosphere in music. I never got butterflies in my tummy while listening to an all SS system.

Next CD was Immortal (Sons of Northern Darkness). This Norweigan band recorded ther album in the famous "Studio Abyss" in Sweden. The recording is top notch for black metal. I was lucky enough to see Immortal perform in April and still remember how they sound live. The opening track "One by One" is just pure chaos. Very fast drumming, crazy guitars and a "lizard like" vocals. Everything sounded awesome and was a big improvement over the NAD C160 pre. With the tube pre-amp, everything sounded less "metallic" and more organic. The biggest improvement was slam and dynamics. I had no idea my NAD power amp can hit so hard. My LSi9's also played deeper than ever before. I couldn't believe the difference, especially in bass. The bass was tighter, punchier, and deeper with great control. Bass drums and bass guitars was very easy to tell apart from eachother. I was extremely happy with the sound.
After a week my quad capacitor finally came in.

ASL with Dynakit ST-70 tube amp: After a few hours with a soldering iron installing the new quad cap and bias replacement, I was ready to hear the ASL with a tube amp. The Dynakit ST-70 is a Class A push-pull tube amp. Power rating is 35w/ch. It sounds low but let's not forget that tube watts is actually much more than SS watts. The ST-70 is currently uaing a quad(4) of Electro Harmonix EL-34 tubes, a Sovtek 5AR4/GZ34 rectifier tube, and a pair of 7199 GE from te 70's which sounded better than Sovtek's 7199. The Dynaco is a vintage amp and I have changed the inputs to gold plated and soldred binding posts directly to the 4-ohms tap from the output transformer.

About two months ago I had a post about the ST-70 not having enough juice to power the LSi9's. After a post on the Dynaco-doctor.com forum, I was informed that a leaky quad cap will make the amp sound weak and anemic. It was also producing a loud hum. After I replaced the quad cap, the hum went away and the amp was much more powerful. Now it powers the LSi9's with ease.

The sound of the ASL and Dynaco combo is the best I have heard, especially the mid-range and highs. The mids is so open, full bodied, and clear. I can finally hear the throats of the perfomers, lips smacking and breaths being taen between lines. Everything sounds so real. The top end just shimmers especially with cymbals. About a week ago, I changed the tubes in the pre. I got a pair of Electro Harmonix 12AU7 and an Ei 12AX7. The sound is much better than the stock Tesla tubes. There's another great thing about tube equipmets, is being able to change the sound by tryin out different tubes.

I don't know if it's the euphonic sound tubes produce but when I close my eyes, it feels like I'm in a very peaceful and relaxing dream. I always get a picture in my heard of watching swans just gliding over a waveless lake in the late afternoon with some nice trees in the background. I swear this is not a lie. I've never felt like this with any SS equipments.

Because of this, I went to my CD collection and grabbed some CD's I listened to three years ago, in the winter to be precise. Durin that time, I was havig such a blast. I wasn't working and didn't have to much worries and stress. I put the CD on, closed my eyes and I swear it was like de ja vu. I had the same feelings inside of me and it almost brought me into tears. It felt like it was winter outside even though it's summer and all these emotions I was feeling at the time just came back out. Now, when I do this stuff with SS equipments, it works but I only get a fraction of what I got with tubes. With SS, I'd sit there and say to myself "yeah, it sounds a lot better than 3 years ago" and "yeah, I remember doing this and that and feeling good". But SS never hits me as hard emotionally as tubes. SS makes you remember the feelings and emotions you were going through, but the tubes just bring them out. It's almost like a drug or an outer body experience. If you don't believe me, find someone who has a tube set-up, bring some older and new CD's, tell him to dim the lights, then tell him to leave you alone, then close your eyes and you'll see.

Notice that the second part of the review doesn't really focus on sound quality but rather it focuses on emotions? this is exactly what tubes do best. When listening to tubes, you're not going to sit there and say to yourself, the bass is nice, mids is sweet, etc. Instead you'll get lost in the music. You'll feel the emotions the artist intended to give you, and it brings back feelings and memories you thought had escaped from your brain. Having a tube pre-amp and a SS amp will get you half way there, but going all tubes is the best. Instead of focusing on the sound, you'll be focusing on your emotional level and isn't that what we're always trying so hard to achieve?

Thanks for reading my review guys.

Maurice
CD Player: Original CD-A8T
Receiver: Harman/Kardon HK3390
Speakers: Polk Audio RT1000p
"I would rather have a cup of tone than an ocean of power" **Dr. Harvey Rosenberg**
Post edited by organ on

Comments

  • RuSsMaNRuSsMaN Posts: 17,995
    edited August 2003
    Stellar write-up.

    I've been eyeing that exact model to use in the mancave with the SRS and maybe an old Phase Linear.

    It will probably end up being my xmas present to myself this year.

    Cheers,
    Russ
    Check your lips at the door woman. Shake your hips like battleships. Yeah, all the white girls trip when I sing at Sunday service.
  • organorgan Posts: 5,022
    edited August 2003
    Thanks Russ. The Phase Linear stuff looks very nice. They're from the 70's right? Just make sure they use tubes that are still in production, the NOS tube prices are getting too high. I'm going to get some NOS Mullards before their price goes over the roof and then completely dissapear. Man, tubes and your SRS is going to sound killer!

    Maurice
    CD Player: Original CD-A8T
    Receiver: Harman/Kardon HK3390
    Speakers: Polk Audio RT1000p
    "I would rather have a cup of tone than an ocean of power" **Dr. Harvey Rosenberg**
  • RuSsMaNRuSsMaN Posts: 17,995
    edited August 2003
    The PL's are sand amps all the way. Old Bob Carver designed amps.

    Cheers
    Russ
    Check your lips at the door woman. Shake your hips like battleships. Yeah, all the white girls trip when I sing at Sunday service.
  • organorgan Posts: 5,022
    edited August 2003
    Ah, I thought they were tubes. I saw some pics of their pre amps and they kinda look like the Dynaco PAS pre amps. I guess you have to use sand amps to power those giant SRS without spending big moo la. But with a tube pre, you'll get a very tubey sounding SS amp. I just found out that there are different colored AQ2004. I never asked for any specific colour so they sent me the black instead. If you do decide to get the ASL, I suggest changing changing the stock tubes to Ei or NOS. The JJ/Tesla stock tubes are good, but there are much better tubes out there. The current production Ei ECC83 is a copy of the old Telefunken flat plates which a lot of people believe was the best ECC83 tube. So far I've been ordering my tubes from www.thetubestore.com They have a good selection and great prices on current production and NOS tubes. Please let me know when you get your ASL. I'm dying to hear what tubes sound like on SDA's.

    Maurice
    CD Player: Original CD-A8T
    Receiver: Harman/Kardon HK3390
    Speakers: Polk Audio RT1000p
    "I would rather have a cup of tone than an ocean of power" **Dr. Harvey Rosenberg**
  • gidrahgidrah Posts: 3,031
    edited August 2003
    Great review and I'm glad to hear your Dyna's going strong again. I can't wait to put mine back in use after the move.
    Make it Funky! :)
  • organorgan Posts: 5,022
    edited August 2003
    Thanks girah. I can't live without my ST-70. Just wondering, what tubes are you using on yours? The ST-70 owners on audio asylum say the Svetlana EL-34 is THE power tubes to use on it. Also what rectifier and 7199 tubes are you using? When replacing your 7199, try to avoid the Sovtek 7199's. I heard it is not a true 7199 and by looking at the construction it looks different than my GE 7199. The GE also sounds much better. Next up for me will be a quad of Svetlana EL-34 and a pair of JAN 7199. Within a month, it's going to be a Mullard GZ34/5AR4 and probably a pair of Mullard ECC82 for the pre. How much longer will you have to wait until you get yours running again?

    Maurice
    CD Player: Original CD-A8T
    Receiver: Harman/Kardon HK3390
    Speakers: Polk Audio RT1000p
    "I would rather have a cup of tone than an ocean of power" **Dr. Harvey Rosenberg**
  • HBombTooHBombToo Posts: 5,335
    edited August 2003
    Outstanding Maurice!!! that review was on par with the Doc. Thanks for the info and I'm going to follow you. That is a product that fits my scope for 2 channel vinal and the ASL AQ-2004DT will fit the budget with no problem. The 12AX7(ECC83) and 12AU7 are outstanding tubes.

    HBomb
    ***WAREMTAE***
  • organorgan Posts: 5,022
    edited August 2003
    Super cool Hbomb. Thanks for the compliment. You're really going to enjoy that pre. Wow, Russman is getting one as well. What power amp are you going to mate it with? When you get it, please let me know the type of sound you get when trying out different tubes. I'm trying to get the ultimate tube combo for that pre. So far the Ei and Electro Harmonix combo kills the stock JJ/Tesla.

    Oh yeah, Russman and Hbomb, when you do get it and you don't know if the tubes are damaged or leaking, turn on the pre about 15 seconds before turning on the power amp and shut off the power amp before the pre. When one of my JJ tube got gassy, it would send a spike to the NAD during power on and off that would send the NAD into protect mode. After I got the new tubes that problem went away. Also, I think the boxes for the stock tubes were mislabeled. The 12AX7(ECC83) should be placed in the middle with the 12AU7(ECC82) on the left and right.

    Maurice
    CD Player: Original CD-A8T
    Receiver: Harman/Kardon HK3390
    Speakers: Polk Audio RT1000p
    "I would rather have a cup of tone than an ocean of power" **Dr. Harvey Rosenberg**
  • scottdawgscottdawg Posts: 166
    edited August 2003
    Organ I have the ASL LH01 pre. It has a headphone stage and uses the 6DJ8,6922,E88CC tubes. I have purchased 5 pair of tubes and my last purchase of a used set of Amperex branded Hewlett Packard 6922's sound by far the best and I mean by far. I noticed it immediately and was just in awe. I also have some NOS Mullards that are good but dont match the Amperex. My Electro Harmonix, JJ-Tesla and Phillips JAN are just OK. My NAD C270 will be here Monday. I am very excited about breaking out the SDA 2's again. These JBL L100T's sound great with the Amperex tubes. My rig has never sounded this good.
  • pjdamipjdami Posts: 1,898
    edited August 2003
    WOW! Maurice very nice writeup bud. I see that you have been getting into tubes here lately and with good success. That's great.

    Emotional.... I'm all about that with music. I want my experience to be as emotional as possible. For now I have that with my systems but your review has sparked an old curiousity I have had with tubes myself and is something I will have to experiment with myself down the road.

    I do have some questions for you or anyone else that knows. How long do these tubes last?? How expensive are they to replace (like the stock ones that you replaced).

    Also, your tube preamp, how many sets of preouts does it have? Can one hook a subwoofer to it along with the LSi 9's?

    thx,
    Paul
  • organorgan Posts: 5,022
    edited August 2003
    Hey Paul, thanks, good to hear from you again. It's been a while since you posted on the 2ch forum.

    They usually say every 2 years for pre amp tubes and 1-2 years for power tubes. This is not entirely true. Good quality tubes should last a very long time. Some people have pre amp tubes they've been using for 5-10 years and they still test good. It also depends on how often you use your system, how hard your system is on tubes, etc. But if they're not abused, they will last a long time. I still have pre amp tubes from the 70's that came with my Dynaco and they still work great.

    Some tubes seem to last forever and people still don't know exactly how long they'll last. An example is the Mullard 5AR4. A lot of people hae been using them for 30 years without a problem. They're also considered the best 5AR4 tube.

    The NOS(New Old Stock) tubes usually last a lot longer because the materials they were made of was a lot purer than current production tubes. This is probably why they sound better too. But current production tubes are getting a lot better now because they are using the same pressing machines that was used by companies in the 60's and 70's.

    The only downside to NOS tubes is the price. They're getting more and more expensive but the good current production tubes are sounding more and more like NOS, especially some Russians and the Yugoslavians.

    Tube prices for pre amps range from $7 to $60(NOS). Current production pre-amp tubes are a lot cheaper than NOS.

    To replace the stock tubes in my pre-amp(3), I paid $14.95US for the ECC83 and $17.90US for a pair of ECC82. Express shipping was $13.97CDN. Total payment was $49.22US / $69.12CDN. Check www.thetubestore.com for pics, tube types and pricing.

    My pre amp only has one set of pre outs. I haven't used my sub for a long time. I'm going to buy a pair of Monster's Y-adaptor. They are high quality adaptors that doesn't use any wires. The adaptor is a single unit construction design.

    I'm actually not worried about how long my tubes will last because trying out different tubes is so fun. Sometimes the change can be so dramatic that it sounds like you just got a new pre or amp. Trying to find the best combination of brands is also very fun. Looks like scottdawg already have a good collection of tubes.

    Maurice
    CD Player: Original CD-A8T
    Receiver: Harman/Kardon HK3390
    Speakers: Polk Audio RT1000p
    "I would rather have a cup of tone than an ocean of power" **Dr. Harvey Rosenberg**
  • TroyDTroyD Posts: 12,144
    edited August 2003
    WOW, GREAT review.....

    DEFINATELY on my short list of things I want.

    BDT
    I plan for the future. - F1Nut
  • organorgan Posts: 5,022
    edited August 2003
    scott,
    Thanks for sharing the info. I'll have to look for some Amperex. I'm trying to get as many NOS tubes as I can before they run out. Of course by then, current production tubes should sound much better because the demand for good sounding current production tubes is getting bigger. I don't have a problem with new tubes. I'm happy with my Ei, Sovtek, and Electro Harmonix.

    I'm still trying to order some more tubes but thetubestore.com is still powerless since Friday:(. Let me know how the C270 sounds with your pre. Mine was lifeless with a SS pre amp and the ASL really woke her up. That's when she realised she could really sing. Make sure you try out all your other tubes with it because te speakers and amp is going to be changed.

    Maurice
    CD Player: Original CD-A8T
    Receiver: Harman/Kardon HK3390
    Speakers: Polk Audio RT1000p
    "I would rather have a cup of tone than an ocean of power" **Dr. Harvey Rosenberg**
  • organorgan Posts: 5,022
    edited August 2003
    Thanks Troy. Looks like we're all going ASL crazy. I heard the hype from audioasylum and jumped on it. The price is just too good.

    Maurice
    CD Player: Original CD-A8T
    Receiver: Harman/Kardon HK3390
    Speakers: Polk Audio RT1000p
    "I would rather have a cup of tone than an ocean of power" **Dr. Harvey Rosenberg**
  • pjdamipjdami Posts: 1,898
    edited August 2003
    Maurice,

    Had you posted this a few weeks earlier, I might have not sold my NAD C270 to Scott and set up a third rig in the workout room. Thanks for the info on the pricing. That's very reasonable as well.

    Hey Scott I want my amp back! ;) Just kidding bro..... It would have been a nice experiment though. Let us know what you think as well. At $284 (its cheaper now) that tube preamp is a very inexpensive alternative for some different sound.

    This is an interesting thread and some new life / new twist on things. Good job Maurice. I will definitely experiment with some tubes in the future. Your right about the price for experimenting.

    Right now my two channel B&K / LSi 9 rig sounds plenty warm and dynamic and I'm enjoying it as well.

    Paul
  • Tour2maTour2ma Old School Posts: 10,176
    edited August 2003
    Maurice,

    Let me also say nice review.

    What was the determining factor in your selction of the ASL? Did you consider an old Dyna PAS or PAS-2?
    More later,
    Tour...
    Vox Copuli
    Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt. - Old English Proverb

    "It's easy to get lost in price vs performance vs ego vs illusion." - doro
    "There is a certain entertainment value in ripping the occaisonal (sic) buttmunch..." - TroyD
    "Death doesn't come with a Uhaul." - Dennis Gardner
  • scottdawgscottdawg Posts: 166
    edited August 2003
    Maurice, you are so right about trying the other tubes after I make the change, I will also need to be patient. How long would you say it takes to break in new tubes, I dont think I gave some of mine a fair chance yet. I bought my Amperex from an ebay seller in Germany his ebay ID is dietmar. The tubes were individually wrapped and packaged very proffessional. I will buy from him again. I also bought some online from triode electronics
    ( http://shop.store.yahoo.com/triodeel/index.html ) they also did an excellent job shipping. I would like to get some Telefunken and Siemans Halske, I heard good reviews about them.

    Paul my man, Now your makin me feel bad :D . Hope your not too serious.
  • pjdamipjdami Posts: 1,898
    edited August 2003
    Paul my man, Now your makin me feel bad . Hope your not too serious.

    Nah, Scott. I don't feel bad at all. Just pulling your UGA leg a little;) LOL

    Seriously, I knew the NAD amp had found a good home but I had no idea of these circumstances. Man enjoy you will. I got two killer rigs already I really don't need a third. Wait till you see your amp.. it looks brand spanking new because it is...

    All I want is an enjoyable to read review after you set it up..

    Paul
  • gidrahgidrah Posts: 3,031
    edited August 2003
    My ST-70 came with RCA 7199s and Westinghouse EL-34s and rectifier. I'd like to check out some other tubes, but haven't yet.
    Make it Funky! :)
  • scottdawgscottdawg Posts: 166
    edited August 2003
    Just pulling your UGA leg a little

    Paul thats not funny after tonights Falcons game. :(
    I will post a review as good as I can including pics.
  • pjdamipjdami Posts: 1,898
    edited August 2003
    Scott,

    I just read on ESPN website that Vick broke his leg. Dude I had no clue. Didn't even know honest. Didn't even know you were a falcons fan. Man that's almost spooky ...

    Bad choice of words bro and no pun intended on my part. I hate to see anyone get hurt.

    Sorry for the hijack but I had to send my condolances to good 'ole Scott.

    PJ
  • organorgan Posts: 5,022
    edited August 2003
    Paul,
    You've got plenty of time to wait. Tubes and tube equipments seems to be growing and getting better. You're really enjoying your gear. Your B&K stuff kix serious butt. I actually feel bad because my NAD stuff is not being used. The only one running is the CD player. I guess I'll use the amp to power my surrounds when I get back into HT(it will be in a loooong time:().

    Tour,
    I was going nuts when the Dynaco cap went bad. Going back to the NAD pre and amp just didn't sound as good. I knew the Dyna replacement was going to take longer to arrive, so I ordered the ASL to get tube sound while I wait for the parts. I searched forums to find low priced tube pres and there were quite a bit of discussions on the ASL. I compared it to other pre amps in features, design and price. If you take more expensve pres and cut down on the features, you're likely going to get something in the same price range. I also like it's simplicity. Some people replaced the caps to paper-in-oil and got great results.

    I didn't want to get the PAS because I just want to focus on the ST-70 first.

    Scott,
    It seems like my pre amp tubes didn't take too long. I've had the new set for over a week and the difference is in the vocals and detail. Also, the sound jumps out a little better out of the speakers. I'm getting layers in the soundstage. I don't think it's going to improve anymore though.

    The power tubes took a lot longer. At first the Electro Harmonix sounded a little too powerful in the mids and highs. That was almost two months ago. Now they sound a lot smoother and warmer. The change was very slow. I don't think I got anymore improvements after 2 to 3 weeks of almost daily use.

    Trying out your tubes with the new amp is going to be interesting. I just found out my Sovtek 7199 on the amp sounds better with the new Ei and EH in the pre amp. The GE7199 sounded better with the JJ/Tesla stock tubes because the JJ/Tesla was brighter than the Ei and EH combo. The GE 7199 didn't sound as dynamic with the new set up so I'm back to the Sovtek 7199.
    Make sure your tubes have warmed up before critical listening. Please post a review when you get the new amp.

    Gidrah,
    Those are excellent tubes. If your RCA7199's are the black plate version, those are considered the best 7199 tubes. Don't let them go! Which 5AR4 tube are you using?

    OK, I finally took some pics of my rig, the ASL and the Dynaco. I will post them here very late on Sunday or Monday.

    Maurice
    CD Player: Original CD-A8T
    Receiver: Harman/Kardon HK3390
    Speakers: Polk Audio RT1000p
    "I would rather have a cup of tone than an ocean of power" **Dr. Harvey Rosenberg**
  • scottdawgscottdawg Posts: 166
    edited August 2003
    Maurice, I havent even tried other power tubes yet, didnt think they would affect the sound. ( still learning ) As a result of this thread I have placed a bid on a Telefunken ECL82 which is what is in mine.

    Paul, I was really just kidding dude. Besides you said UGA leg.
  • organorgan Posts: 5,022
    edited August 2003
    Scott, that's cool! The Telefunken are suppose to be in the same league as Mullards. I hear more praise on the Telefunken smaller tubes than Mullard. Mullard is more popular for their 5AR4 tube. I'm sure you'll be very happy with the result. My Ei is a copy of a Telefunken design. The originals are much better.

    I just made an order too. On the way is a quad of Svetlana EL-34 and a pair of JAN-Phillips 7199 for the Dynaco. I can't wait to play with the new toys:).

    Maurice
    CD Player: Original CD-A8T
    Receiver: Harman/Kardon HK3390
    Speakers: Polk Audio RT1000p
    "I would rather have a cup of tone than an ocean of power" **Dr. Harvey Rosenberg**
  • organorgan Posts: 5,022
    edited August 2003
    pic1.jpg
    Close up of the ASL
    pic2.jpg
    Just to give you an idea of the small size of the ASL
    pic3.jpg
    Dynakit ST-70
    pic4.jpg

    pic5.jpg

    pic6.jpg

    Maurice
    CD Player: Original CD-A8T
    Receiver: Harman/Kardon HK3390
    Speakers: Polk Audio RT1000p
    "I would rather have a cup of tone than an ocean of power" **Dr. Harvey Rosenberg**
  • pjdamipjdami Posts: 1,898
    edited August 2003
    Very sweet Maurice. I'm slightly jealous because I can only wonder what all those tubes sound like.

    Dude, you got enough pics to put up your system in the system showcase with some nice descriptions.

    Check into it bro... you got something special going on over there.

    Paul
  • organorgan Posts: 5,022
    edited August 2003
    Thanks Paul. I'll have take better quality pics before I put them up on the system showcase. That was the fist time I used a digital camera.

    *edit* Hey Paul, how are those LSi15's doing? How is the mids compared to the 9's?

    Maurice
    CD Player: Original CD-A8T
    Receiver: Harman/Kardon HK3390
    Speakers: Polk Audio RT1000p
    "I would rather have a cup of tone than an ocean of power" **Dr. Harvey Rosenberg**
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