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Dirty-South Blues Harp forum: wail on! > Suzuki UltraBend: A Revolutionary new 10 Hole
Suzuki UltraBend: A Revolutionary new 10 Hole
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Todd Parrott
1001 posts
Aug 04, 2012
1:15 PM
In regards to Will Scarlett.... Amen to all of the above. He's a really cool guy and certainly has my respect.
566 posts
Aug 04, 2012
1:31 PM
I caught an interview with Will Scarlett on Howard Levy's school when I was a member.

He was playing some seriously cool stuff. Just brilliantly out of the box playing. Very simple, but things that us normal guys don't even think of.
23 posts
Aug 05, 2012
3:32 AM
Wow, great news. Really looking forward to trying it!
But can you overblow on it? I know you don't "need" it but overblowing gives you a whole other sound and you can bend up which I like a lot.
That would be great because then you have even more expression. Best of both worlds :)
Brendan Power
248 posts
Aug 05, 2012
4:09 AM
@Gauker: Nope, the Ultrabend is an overblow-free zone. The new bends take the place of overblows/overdraws.

Because of the single valve per chamber, when you play the low-pitched reed in each hole (blow 1-6 and draw 7-10) the valve closes over the high-pitched reed. Now you have the low-pitched active reed and the even lower Sympathetic Reed in the same resonance cavity, whioch means you can bend the active reed down.

To take an example in hole 4 on a C harp:

You can bend the D draw down to C# as usual

When you blow, the vlave closes over the D reed and now you only have the blow C and the low draw Bb Sympathetic Reed (which has no reed gap) in the loop. That means you can bend the C down to B.

To overblow, you need to have the C and D in play when you blow, but the single necessary valve stops that happening.

Ditto with the high draw reeds, except in reverse.

Personally I'd take bends over overblows any day, but good overblowers (like yourself and Todd) will I'm sure want to retain that ability even if you do get to like the UltraBend for some stuff. Horses for courses...

However, if you want to bend up you just start on the bent note - and you can do that on 18 reeds now.
24 posts
Aug 05, 2012
4:49 AM
Thank you for a quick answer Brendan :)
I'm gonna order me one to try it out like everyone should. You can't judge it until you've try it.
It also makes the harmonica more balanced as a instrument because you use only one technique over the whole harp. More like a saxaphone f.ex. Looking forward to trying it.
1287 posts
Aug 05, 2012
5:37 AM
747 posts
Aug 06, 2012
2:03 PM
I'm really shocked. Looks so interesting.
Hope soon it'll be available with stainless steel reeds. Anyway it's absolutely necessary to try...
Excuse my bad English. Click on my photo or my username for my music.
68 posts
Aug 06, 2012
7:44 PM
I might just hold off on my planned move into trying chromatics. If I can get all the notes for three octaves without OBs and just using 'normal' bending techniques, the SUB30 might do the job.

Of course it will not be seen in Australia for years and the local RRP will probably be $500, but that's part of the joy of living in Australia!
Brendan Power
252 posts
Aug 11, 2012
10:16 PM
A few here commented on the tuning diagram for the UltraBend, saying it seemed confusing. Others have emailed me privately - especially about the upper octave, where it appears the tuning is "flipped". Hopefully I can explain more clearly below.

It IS a bit strange until you think through the mix of Richter tuning and the third reed required in each chamber for the extra bending. In holes 1-6, where the active blow is lower than the draw, you need an extra DRAW Sympathetic Reed a tone lower than the blow to allow it to bend a semitone. So it's one blow and two draws.

In hole 5 of a C harp the pattern is E blow/D draw on the top reedplate, F draw on the bottom reedplate. The E and F are active as usual, and the D is the Sympathetic Reed (SR), with no gap.

But in holes 7-10 (where the breathing pattern is opposite in the Richter tuning), it's the other way around. You have the active blow and draw, and an extra BLOW reed (SR) a tone below the draw to allow it to bend a semitone. So it's one draw and two blows.

Where to put the extra blow reed? Due to the tightness of space on the top reedplate (which has 20 reeds) and the need to fit an outside valve over the active blow reed, it makes sense to put the active blow on the bottom reedplate (which has only 10 reeds as normal). That gives plenty of room to fit the valve.

So that's where the tuning is "flipped": for example, in hole 8 the top plate has the draw D and blow C SR, and the bottom plate has the blow E.

That means the top 4 reeds of the bottom reedplate are blow notes, not draw as on a normal harp.

Here's a tuning diagram for the whole harp, blow reed to the left on the top reedplate (the SR has an asterisk next to it):

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
| D | G | B | D | F | A | C | E | G | C |

I hope that explains things better.

Last Edited by on Aug 11, 2012 10:19 PM
271 posts
Aug 12, 2012
1:59 AM
Someone might have to check my homework.

7f7fd8f3, Standard With

272 posts
Aug 12, 2012
2:03 AM
Any of you guys get one of these yet?
274 posts
Aug 12, 2012
3:24 AM
Sub 30 ReedsTroubleshooting
Brendan Power
253 posts
Aug 12, 2012
3:43 AM
@ Chickenthief: Your pencilled-in bend notes are correct
142 posts
Aug 12, 2012
8:49 AM
Looks fabulous. Any clue as to which vendors will get shipments? I want to get an early spot on the waiting list(s).

Vendors check in here please? Double your orders.

This Sub30 is going to be a big success. It's an example of evolutionary natural selection surviving as the fittest - Darwin.

Brendan the seminal force.
143 posts
Aug 12, 2012
12:46 PM
Not to forget that Rick Epping had the first patent on the 30 reed scheme and Will Scarlett had the bright idea, as pointed out by Brenden Power above, Brenden still the seminal force in that he brought it to us.

Last Edited by on Aug 12, 2012 12:47 PM
31 posts
Aug 17, 2012
12:08 AM
Just curious. What happens if you pull off the valves? Overblows enabled? Bending or overblows with careful technique? Both opposing reeds sounding off at the same time in a chorus of shreiks and squeals?
Brendan Power
256 posts
Aug 17, 2012
3:58 AM
@ Roverharp: Will Scarlett is here at SPAH, happy to see the UltraBend finally out in the world after all the years of waiting.

I gave him one and he was quick to ask the same question. I was sure it wouldn't work but he insisted on trying, so we pulled off a couple of the valves to test the idea.

It didn't work unless one physically stopped one of the draw reeds with lips or a finger with covers removed. That's not practical, so we replaced the valves.

The single valve in each chamber is essential. Take hole 6 on a C harp, where you have a G blow, A draw and F draw Sympathetic reed with no gap. When you draw the valve lifts up and you can bend down the A draw as normal to G#. When you blow, the valve closes over the A reed, leaving only the G and F in the airstream. You can then bend the G blow down to F#.

Without the valve nothing happens, neither bend nor overblow. It would be nice to have both but, if I have a choice, I'll go for a juicy double-reed bend over an overblow every time.
752 posts
Aug 17, 2012
1:08 PM
Brendan, why extra valve is not added to Sympathetic reed to block it while regular draw?
Excuse my bad English. Click on my photo or my username for my music.
213 posts
Aug 17, 2012
1:21 PM
@ Boris: From what I've read, the design did originally have a valve on the sympathetic reed. But they discovered if the sympathetic reed had no gap, or a negative gap (ie. the reed dips into the slot), they didn't need to use a valve. By gapping the reed like this it prevents the reed from playing normally (the reed is "choked"), so no need for a valve, but the reed is still able work "sympathetically" when bending.

Last Edited by on Aug 17, 2012 1:22 PM
753 posts
Aug 17, 2012
3:54 PM
Zero gap can make sympathetic reed unplayable while draw, but this reed increases airloss while regular draw. Of course slot ebossing can help but anyway it's possible to make it more airtight.

BTW, hope Seydel will make similiar concept. Actually for seydel it can be much easier because of wider hole spacing.
Excuse my bad English. Click on my photo or my username for my music.
214 posts
Aug 17, 2012
4:15 PM
That's true, but I don't think the airloss will be all that significant (although I haven't tried one yet, so I can't be sure). Closing off the gap can be quite effective at reducing/eliminating air loss. For example, even on an unembossed (standard diatonic), if you completely close off the gap of a blow reed, you can play the overblow almost as easily and strongly (and bend it up almost as high and easily) as if you were to take the cover plates off and completely block off the blow slot with your finger (thereby eliminating all airloss through the slot). Of course you wouldn't set up a normal harp like that because even though the overblows become extremely easy and strong sounding, it would make it impossible to play regular blow notes. But it shows that a " zero gap" or "negative gap" is quite effective at reducing air loss through the slot. And like you mentioned, embossing that slot will make it even more effective, I'm guessing to the point of all but eliminating any noticeable air loss. Also I'm sure these will have the same narrow reed slot tolerances that the manji's have (the manji's have the narrowest reed slot tolerances of any factory made harp, of course embossing can make the tolerances even narrower).
Of course I haven't tried one yet, so I could be wrong, but I'm sure this is something they took into consideration and tested quite a bit before they decided they could remove the valve from the sympathetic reed.

Last Edited by on Aug 17, 2012 4:34 PM
754 posts
Aug 18, 2012
4:44 AM
Yes you're right I just keep thinking of future improvements.
BTW I measures slot tolerances of Manji, 1847, Golden Melody, B-radical using ocular micrometer of my microscope. And I guarantee that tolerances are pretty the same for all harps I measured. Usually they vary from reed to reed and from side to side between 0.03 and 0.06 mm maximum, and in generally about 0.04-0.05 mm. All models and manufactures was about the same. After my embossing (I emboss harmonicas using microscope) it usually 0.01-0.03 mm. And harmonicas responce and sounds much better. Especially bends and overbends.
Excuse my bad English. Click on my photo or my username for my music.
126 posts
Aug 18, 2012
7:39 AM
excellent info in.. thanks boris ... i found post embossing approx 30% increase in playing time per breath also
Thievin' Heathen
11 posts
Aug 18, 2012
11:13 AM
It looks like I discovered this thread a day late. I was at SPAH yesterday and was not aware I needed to be looking for a new Suzuki. I spent a good deal of time at the Suzuki boothe and about the only promos I detected were for the Sirius and Olive. It was pretty low key. No pressure. They have a good product that sells itself.

As I was wandering around, I was fortunate enough to find my way into Filip Jers' "Jazz - Chromatic or Diatonic" seminar. I will be buying one of these SUB30's in the near future, but with the full knowledge that I will not be using it anywhere near its' full potential until I exactly which note I want to play and exactly where to get it from on any number of harps.

Thanks Filip for presenting that so tactfully and demonstrating it so brilliantly.

Brendan Power
258 posts
Aug 19, 2012
2:18 AM
@ REM and Boris: A good discussion. My 1989 prototype had an extra valve for the Sympathetic Reed, but this also requires a valve housing above the reed. You can see a photo of it here:


However, this adds complexity. Then I discovered I could eliminate those two parts by simply giving the SR no gap.

As Boris says, this does introduce an extra source of air loss, but REM is right: with embossing the effect is negligible. I have two embossed UltraBends now and they play really sweetly, loud and crisp. Filip Jers has done his too, and can confirm the significant effect of embossing on this harp.

I will be getting a whole set of keys done over time by retuning the stock models. In terms of diatonic harmonicas, the 3 reed cell is the way forward I think...

Like Boris, I hope that Seydel and Hohner make their own versions in time: that kind of competition can only be good for the harmonica in general.

Last Edited by on Aug 19, 2012 2:20 AM
757 posts
Aug 19, 2012
2:33 AM
Brendan Power
Am I properly understand that patent is free and can be used by any manufacturer?
BTW with seydel hole spacing it looks easier to make 20 reed reedplate.
Excuse my bad English. Click on my photo or my username for my music.

Last Edited by on Aug 19, 2012 2:57 AM
Brendan Power
259 posts
Aug 19, 2012
3:21 AM
Yes Boris, the 3-reed-per-chamber harmonica design (independently co-invented by Will Scarlett and myself) is now in the public domain and free for anyone to use.

Rick Epping's 1993/94 patents never claimed to patent the actual 3-reed-per-cell concept (which he was shown in a signed disclosure by Will Scarlett in 1987), but did patent his 30 and 40 reed manifestations of the idea (the full story is at the same link).

Sadly Rick's 1994 patent (a more complete version of the 1993 one) stopped Suzuki working further on my 30 reed harp design, which had been reduced in size close to the hole spacing of a normal 10 hole diatonic by 1994 (see photo on the link in my previous post). That's why this great idea has sat unused for so long...

Rick's 1994 patent expired in 2008, so the 3-reed-per-chamber design is now free for anyone to exploit.

Last Edited by on Aug 19, 2012 4:30 AM
71 posts
Aug 19, 2012
6:07 AM
Great meeting you at SPAH. Thanks for all your informative posts.

Would you - as a separate thread - offer some tips on how to adjust or customize the SUB-30? The literature is a bit confusing. I opened one up at SPAH but was a little intimidated.

Greg Jones
16:23 Custom Harmonicas
569 posts
Aug 19, 2012
6:09 AM
Funny you know......surfing was revolutionised with the adoption of the tri-fin.....band trios have more fun........try everything thrice.......
One of Rubes's bands, DadsinSpace-MySpace
Old Man Rubes at Reverbnation
311 posts
Aug 20, 2012
2:07 PM
I worked on Will Scarlett's--very important that the responder reed has no gap, otherwise it wants to sound when it shouldn't.
327 posts
Aug 20, 2012
2:15 PM
I tried it... VERY intriguing. It plays very smoothly and sounds great. As a dyed-in-the-wool OB/OD player, I am uncertain as to how quickly I would get used to it... every time I tried an OB and got a bend, it was a reminder of how much woodshedding would be required. But it's such a cool idea, and is also reminder #517 of why Brendan Power is such an asset to the harmonica world.

On another note... meeting Will Scarlett was one of the highlights for me, not only of SPAH, but of playing harmonica period. Just an amazing dude.
Thievin' Heathen
13 posts
Aug 20, 2012
7:31 PM

Surfing is an interesting anology. Windsurfing was dead-in-the-water until Hobie's patent on the mast base expired. Now we have Kite Boards. If this 3rd reed thing catches on simularly, we better fasten our seatbelts.
312 posts
Aug 20, 2012
8:55 PM
I also played Brendan's personal UltraBend, he put a metal comb in--very cool.
Overblows are fine for blues but this design makes it easy to sound smooth, much better for other kinds of music.
And of course, it would be great with some alternate tunings--again, not so much required for blues.
One last thing, when Filip was going back and forth between an Olive and the UltraBend, there was no difference in sound! So if you can play that well, you don't need it as much . . .
I don't play harmonica that well!

Last Edited by on Aug 20, 2012 8:56 PM
1 post
Oct 19, 2012
4:42 PM

What is the best price for the Sub30 Ultrabend?

In this present discussion "cloud 1i" mentions that he got his for about $100. Refer to 19th post from the top. Best I can find is about $185 plus ship.

Here is what cloud 1i said:"I got 3 of them today. But the semi tone bends are NOT the overblows (with a normal diatonic) notes. And they are not cheap, about US$100. "

Cloud 1i, can you please tell me where you purchased your Sub30 Ultrabends for about US$100?

Or anyone for that matter, what is currently the best price on the market?
2798 posts
Oct 19, 2012
6:07 PM
$185 is the retail price give or take a buck or two. You can get them cheaper when they are used...I think MSRP is $218.

If you get dealer pricing, or are an endorser, they are a lot cheaper.
OOTB Harmonica Price List
VHT Special 6 Mods
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Quicksilver Custom Harmonicas
78 posts
Oct 19, 2012
8:10 PM
In Japan the cheapest price seems to be 6,480 yen from
Soundhouse Japan online music store which is about ~us$82.

That's also about 800yen cheaper than the harp shop in Jimbocho.

Type "sub30" into the search box top right and press the search button to the right of the text entry box, and you will see the sub30 page as #1 entry on the search results list.

If Soundhouse is out of stock when she wants to get them she could try taniguchi-gakki store in Jimbocho (or via web) where they are 7,140 yen or ~us$90 They might have some in stock in their 4th floor harmonica/accordian department. It's harmonica nirvana there!

Also looks like they ship international.
We can send out the commodity to foreign countries.

Please note they do not sell for resale:
"?Please read the following notes well.
1, It is not possible to buy it excluding an individual purpose of use (resale etc.).
2, We can speak only Japanese. Please send E-mail when you contact us.
3, We do not accept any returns for reason.Please confirm the commodity well."

so anyone who is thinking of running an international arbitrage business in Sub30's...please don't abuse their goodwill.
They are tight with Suzuki and I think it might not end well for all involved.

Paul Cohen aka Komuso Tokugawa
HarpNinja - Your harmonica Mojo Dojo
Bringing the Boogie to the Bitstream

Last Edited by on Oct 20, 2012 4:53 AM
2 posts
Oct 20, 2012
12:29 AM
Thanks Komuso,

I have a Japanese friend. I will speak to her before her next trip to Canada. Thank you.

I wish to share with you some of my harmonica playing. I am playing a CX-12 chromatic with my band THE MARTYS, playing a jazz composition called "DragonFly" written by my keyboard player Marty Steele. I play diatonic also, and am interested in the chromatic possibilities of the Ultrabend :)
3 posts
Oct 20, 2012
12:32 AM
Opps! Forgot to post the youtube link. I want to play this tune, jazzy blues, and other jazz tunes with the UltraBend:
79 posts
Oct 20, 2012
4:32 AM
Edit to previous message above with more info

Paul Cohen aka Komuso Tokugawa
HarpNinja - Your harmonica Mojo Dojo
Bringing the Boogie to the Bitstream

Last Edited by on Oct 20, 2012 4:38 AM
316 posts
Oct 20, 2012
4:42 AM
@harpmart- Cloud 1i is a troll. For some reason trolls seem to pop up in the "official Suzuki" threads. Maybe competitors who want to disrupt and confuse? Frankly a bit uncomfortable.
Pistolkatt - Pistolkatts youtube
361 posts
Oct 21, 2012
6:01 AM
Daron and I went to a Gregoire Maret Show last night to represent Suzuki--brought a bunch of harps for people to play, Greg was phenomenal as usual (Suzuki Japan makes his signature model).
After the show, he stopped by to chat, and we got an Ultrabend into his hands. So now he is a SU30 owner as well.
We have some more coming in soon--still only in the key of C, D, and A, more keys coming next year.
366 posts
Oct 21, 2012
11:00 PM
Boris wrote, "Hope soon it'll be available with stainless steel reeds."
That would be Seydel, and they aren't making the design yet, as far as I know (although, who knows, maybe Jim will rebuild his LOL).
812 posts
Dec 19, 2012
2:03 AM
I get SUB30 in D for customizing (order). Besides money for job it was interested for me to try it. In general out of the box it was playable. Not sounding and responce really good, much similiar to chinese harps, but all bends was there (although high bends sounded bad). After customizing (embossig all reeds, gaping, replacing valves with PT Gazell's) it become really nice, similiar in feel and tone to Seydel Session (not a strong attack, mild tone). I will not buy it because 1) i'm used for overblows, 2) I'm seydel guy, 3) I wish stainless steel reeds, 4) too expensive, 5) don't have spare reeds, 6) better I'll work more on PowerChromatic tuning. However this harmonica is very interesting, especially for players who don't want to learn overblows and/or alternative tunings.
I DIDN'T PUT DUTCH TAPE TO LOWER X-REEDS. After embossing it goes more than ok.
Respect to Brendan and Suzuki for great idea.
For me it looks more real to offer SUB30 as Pro instrument with the same layout and principles, than offer a new technique (overbends) or new tuning (although powerbender tuning could be better choice to start with).
Excuse my bad English. Click on my photo or my username for my music.

Last Edited by on Dec 19, 2012 2:13 AM
221 posts
Dec 19, 2012
3:37 AM
Hi Boris,

I haven't tried it yet, because it's too expensive and I would only buy one with stainless steel reeds. I would rather pay somewhat more and get all reeds in steel than have an instrument with that many brass reeds in it.

I play a PowerChromatic tuning as well. I would never go back to Richter, although I am very interested in trying the PowerChromatic with SUB30 reeds. Although it would not such a big difference as it does to the Richter, there are quite a bit of positions that could seriously benefit from the blow bends. For example 3rd position, which in PowerChromatic has quite a bit of interesting notes on the blow reeds. I am thinking of 12th position as well... In my mind, it could be fantastic... I am an overblow player too, and I like overblows, but I still think there is something to that idea...

What do you think?
813 posts
Dec 19, 2012
5:53 AM
I think that PowerChromatic tuning doesn't need an x-reeds. Powerchromatic have enough limited expressivness (no deep bends), so it's not a really good idea to loose attack too.
Excuse my bad English. Click on my photo or my username for my music.
3001 posts
Dec 19, 2012
6:40 AM
As previously stated, the benefit to the SUB is note the "extra" notes as you can accomplish that by other means. The greatest benefit is the note LAYOUT.

Even the best overbend players would have a much harder time playing 1st position blues riffs in the middle of the harp compared to a SUB30. I am very eager to try the combs and valve plate from X-reed.

If the SUB30 had the same playability OOTB as a Crossover or 1847 - without heavy modification, I'd be nearly sold. If that could be done at a price point under $200, I'd for sure, then, be sold.

I love that Brendan is offering more keys. I am assuming they are either retuning 30 reeds or replacing reeds? Both are a lot of work!

Regarding the valve material, after extensive testing on a dozen SUB's, I think the Suzuki valves are very good, and not absolutely necessary to replace...

Taping off the first three responder reeds on higher keys isn't necessary, but I personally prefer to do so...I haven't had an A yet where it didn't play tons better taped off.

The reeds need just as much labor as a regular Richter harp - and the end result, unless after market combs and the valve plate make a huge difference - is a harp that is as Boris and I have described as sounding like a Session Steel.

After testing different covers, valves, and reed and reed slot modification in regards to tone and volume, you can get a great harp out of the SUB30, but without the presence and volume of, say, a custom Marine Band. This is neither good or bad...

Overall, the exact same issues with overbending exist with the SUB 30. To some extent there is a difference in lead times, I suppose, if you are ordering through X-Reed. I

Custom Harmonicas
3002 posts
Dec 19, 2012
7:00 AM
I went ahead and ordered the basic X-Reed version in A. I am looking forward to reviewing it. Interestingly, it cost me $159.49 US...whereas the retail of a STOCK SUB 30 would be $185.

The X-Reed has their "valve" plate as well as a Corian comb. There wasn't the option to order it with Manji covers, but I am sure I'll make the switch.

Suzuki, especially if they are giving X-Reed their blessing, should lose a ton of money in the US for having a stock version retail at $180. This whole thing seems weird. If the harp were under $100 stock, as it is overseas, I'd have a hard time not wanting to really pursue playing them.

Custom Harmonicas
6308 posts
Dec 19, 2012
11:28 PM
Boris, why don't you retrofit one with stainless!

On the other end of trying to play chromatic, I'm still playing with my Turboslide. I haven't gotten the hang of playing chromatically yet, but I'm having loads of fun using it as a magnetic whammy bar on chords.

Thread Organizer (A list of all sorts of useful threads)
814 posts
Dec 20, 2012
1:01 AM
too much time to fit them ((: It looks they are not all similiar in lenght and wide.

Actually there's key problem in harmonica evolution.
More and more people need harmonica which have nice chromatic possibilities and expressive like diatonic (with deep bends, chords and proper attack), while have to play chromatically (at least without a bunch of difficulties). Any solution loose something - chromatic harmonica loose all, but very easy to play chromatically, no new technique. Overblow on richter need to learn a new technique and to get harmonica which impossible to buy in a store. Alternative tunings for full chromatic playing loose chords and deep bends. For my taste the best solution have to be like 12 hole mix of powerbender and powerchomatic to play expressive in the first octave and to play chromatically in the 2nd and 3rd octaves with rare overblows. But this is too complex to move all richter 10 hole players to a new layout and amount of holes.

SUB30 loose attack a bit, tone a bit, while no new techniques, no new tuning.

So my conclusion is SUB30 is a great solution for market, but not the best solution for evolution.
Excuse my bad English. Click on my photo or my username for my music.
222 posts
Dec 20, 2012
3:36 AM
Waha, Boris, the layout you describe is exactly what I have been playing for the last two years. Hole 1 to 8 is power bender, hole 9 and 10 is hole same as hole 5 and 6.

I had Jim make me a 12-hole with 11 and 12 the same as 7 and 8, a seydel solist pro 12. Unfortunately, for some reason, reeds kept breaking down on it. Jim redid the harp two times, but still a reliability issue. That was a great great great harp to play though...

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