Google Pixel USB-C to 3.5mm Headphone Adapter Performance Review

cageymaru

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Most everyone misses the headphone jack on modern phones. Companies such as Google and Apple have replaced them with USB-C dongles with a DAC+amp built into them. Audio Science Review performed testing on 3 flavors of adapters to find out just how well designed are these USB-C to 3.5mm adapters. For comparison, read the glowing review of the ESS quad DACs ES9218P with integrated headphone amplifier found in the LG G7 ThinQ Smartphone.

I did some brief testing of the dongles using my Sennheiser HD-650 headphone. Here, I was surprised that the original Pixel V1 had decent amount of bass with clear response and loud enough for enjoyment. In sharp contrast, the other two dongles would not even reach my normal listening level. Yes, you can hear the music but this is no way to treat the HD-650.

This whole business of removing the headphone jack is anti-consumer. No phone is thinner than the 3.5 mm jack allows. I don't like the idea of a dongle as it can get lost, get damaged, etc. If you are going to get one for your Pixel phone (or whatever else it may work with), then my strongest suggestion is to buy the original version before the stock runs out on them. It has far more power, and better performance. The other two dongles, the Google Pixel 2 and Venture/Veclan are what we name "phoned in design." You call a shop in China and ask them to produce a checklist item with no attempt to set quality and performance standard. What you get produces sound but it is a very poor attempt at engineering.
 
We've removed the headphone jack because, let's face it, who wants portable audio?

We've removed the IR Blaster because, let's face it, who doesn't want a ton of remotes?

We increased the size of the phone because, let's face it, MC Hammer pants are back baby!

We increased the resolution of the screen because, let's face it, even 8K looks like crap on your 88" OLED (you know it).

In the USA, we're actively preventing Chinese phones because they often include headphone jacks (fools!) and IR blasters (idiots!).
 
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We've removed the headphone jack because, let's face it, who wants portable audio?

We've removed the IR Blaster because, let's face it, we doesn't want a ton of remotes?

We increased the size of the phone because, let's face it, MC Hammer pants are back baby!

We increased the resolution of the screen because, let's face it, even 8K looks like crap on your 88" OLED (you know it).

In the USA, we're actively preventing Chinese phones because they often include headphone jacks (fools!) and IR blasters (idiots!).

Yeah cant have those fm tuners either wtf is this year 2000?
 
They courageously removed the headphone jack because no one ever wanted to conveniently use their smartphone with their existing headphones. Not when there are over-priced and under-performing Bluetooth options. Or over-priced, under-performing, but profitable dongles.

Expect these brilliant industrial designers and customer-driven smartphone makers will summon more courage to finally pare the apple to the core. Remove the big, power sucking screens from future phones.

Want to see something on your phone? Just purchase the optional Wireless OLED dongle.

Want your phone to power on? Easy. Just grab the optional Wireless Battery dongle.

Nothing says 'tech savvy' better than a pocket full of dongles.

/s
 
Meh. People have overblown the issue of the headphone jack like crazy.

If I want a good listening experience with a good pair of headphones, it ain't coming from my smart phone that streams YouTube or other music (ie. not great audio quality to begin with). Everything I've ever done with an iPhone has been with the included headphones. I wouldn't ever think that I can properly drive, or even remotely benefit, from plugging Sennhiser HD-650s to smart phone.

"Audiophiles" need to let this non-issue go. Everyone else needs to stop kidding themselves that their headphones are worth plugging into their phone. I don't know how the Android side of the fence works but Apple has always, and still does, include headphones with their iPhones. That's all you need.
 
Yeah cant have those fm tuners either wtf is this year 2000?

It's so funny because my phone has all of those "features".... It's a true flagship phone... not sure what all these new phones are (dumb phones?).
 
Meh. People have overblown the issue of the headphone jack like crazy.

If I want a good listening experience with a good pair of headphones, it ain't coming from my smart phone that streams YouTube or other music (ie. not great audio quality to begin with). Everything I've ever done with an iPhone has been with the included headphones. I wouldn't ever think that I can properly drive, or even remotely benefit, from plugging Sennhiser HD-650s to smart phone.

"Audiophiles" need to let this non-issue go. Everyone else needs to stop kidding themselves that their headphones are worth plugging into their phone. I don't know how the Android side of the fence works but Apple has always, and still does, include headphones with their iPhones. That's all you need.

Im sorry you only listen to youtube, or other low quality sources, there are quality audio sources on your phone including the obvious ripping your own music.

Perhaps the included headphones are good enough and comfortable for you, but they aren't for many. There are countless quality headphones that can be driven by a phone.

The point is that removing the headphone jack does nothing for people like you (who dont care) but affects the rest of us that do.

Let the rest of us who use a headphone jack have it back.
 
Meh. People have overblown the issue of the headphone jack like crazy.

If I want a good listening experience with a good pair of headphones, it ain't coming from my smart phone that streams YouTube or other music (ie. not great audio quality to begin with). Everything I've ever done with an iPhone has been with the included headphones. I wouldn't ever think that I can properly drive, or even remotely benefit, from plugging Sennhiser HD-650s to smart phone.

"Audiophiles" need to let this non-issue go. Everyone else needs to stop kidding themselves that their headphones are worth plugging into their phone. I don't know how the Android side of the fence works but Apple has always, and still does, include headphones with their iPhones. That's all you need.

Thats nice.

What if i want to listen to music or a podcast or anything that uses audio with whatever the fuck i want wherever the fuck i am?

This isnt a quality discussion, i dont care if my dt 990 pros are not best driven by a shit phone, i just want the audio and will use whatever is in reach at the time rather than the built in god awful phone speaker(s).
 
Meh. People have overblown the issue of the headphone jack like crazy.

If I want a good listening experience with a good pair of headphones, it ain't coming from my smart phone that streams YouTube or other music (ie. not great audio quality to begin with). Everything I've ever done with an iPhone has been with the included headphones. I wouldn't ever think that I can properly drive, or even remotely benefit, from plugging Sennhiser HD-650s to smart phone.

"Audiophiles" need to let this non-issue go. Everyone else needs to stop kidding themselves that their headphones are worth plugging into their phone. I don't know how the Android side of the fence works but Apple has always, and still does, include headphones with their iPhones. That's all you need.

It's not an "audiophile" issue, it's a basic functionality issue.

I use my cell phone all day as my business phone and I often have to use my PC at the same time so a headset it mandatory. Bluetooth is too fussy to mess with all the time - especially compared to just plugging in my M100s

Same thing in the car - the Ford SYNC in my car is ridiculously hard to connect to and glitchy af - but just pluggin into the 3.5mm jack is fast and easy.

Not everyone has the same use case as a 23 year old hipster or a neck beard audiophile. Some people just need to plug in and get going and this dongle business sucks.
 
If Android phones are ditching the jack and they don’t include headphones then that’s a good reason to be upset. If the phone includes dongle-less headphones like the lightning ones on iPhone then the issue is not the absence of a headphone jack but the absence of included dongle-less headphones.

The level at which some of you got triggered is outstanding.

I love me a great audio set up and I have DACs st home and at work along with a solid pair of Sennheisers for each. But I’m not about lugging my quality equipment to pair it with my phone. Tidal with a cable and dongle that never leaves my car is good enough for me.

Jesus Christ you guys. I have a solution for you types: stay away from phones that don’t have a headphone jack. No need to play the victim.
 
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Obviously, people who want a phone that fits in your pocket and/or has a headphone jack, or has ir etc, is a minority not worth servicing.

The public has spoken and they want big phablets, 6+ cameras, non expandable memory, irreplaceable batteries and zero privacy under the guise of "ai".

We can give up or keep our old devices for however little time they still get security patches. If they even get them.
 
I don't mind the adapter, but there seems to be two variants. One is a 'dumb' adapter and the DAC is inside the phone, this one I have no problems with. The other has the DAC built into the adapter and I don't care for b/c, yes, they are easily misplaced and more costly to replace if that happened.
 
...


Jesus Christ you guys. I have a solution for you types: stay away from phones that don’t have a headphone jack. No need to play the victim.

Except, of course, that most manufacturers seem to be blindly following apple when designing their phones. One needs only to look at the example of battery replacements or phone repairability to see that the future is going to be donglephones if there is no sufficient push back.
 
Dongles suck. They are easy to lose - I've misplaced two so far. My fault for sure.
I use wireless headphones when I can. As long as they are charged, they work well enough for me.
 
Except, of course, that most manufacturers seem to be blindly following apple when designing their phones. One needs only to look at the example of battery replacements or phone repairability to see that the future is going to be donglephones if there is no sufficient push back.

Phone manufacturers aren’t forcing you to buy anything.

Go hashtag your MeToo headphone jack story about they forced their dongle onto you and maybe they’ll listen to the pushback.

My guess: they’ll say we were asking for it.
 
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I think it is time we went back to dedicated devices instead of wanting our smartphone to do everything. If this trend continues anyways phones will just keep skyrocketing in price.
 
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Phone manufacturers aren’t forcing you to buy anything.

Go hashtag your MeToo headphone jack story about they forced their dongle onto you and maybe they’ll listen to the pushback.

My guess: they’ll say we were asking for it.

Although I wouldn’t have put it quite so harsh, at the end of the day manufacturers are supplying the market what they want and people are voting with their wallets. If it really was such a deal breaker for the masses then companies like Apple would fail because no one would buy these phones.

These companies are there to shift product and they’re going to make these changes as long as people are buying it. If they genuinely thought that they were going to ship 100 million units of something with a headphone jack, they’d produce it.

The tl;dr is, people complaining about no headphone jack and are putting their money where their mouth is are the minority, so buy something with a headphone jack and carry on your day
 
I think it is time we went back to dedicated devices instead of wanting our smartphone to do everything. If this trend continues anyways phones will just keep skyrocketing in price.

I still rock an iPod and I agree with your sentiment but let’s be honest, prices are going to keep skyrocketing because capitalism (sent from my iPhoneX)
 
Phone manufacturers aren’t forcing you to buy anything.

Go hashtag your MeToo headphone jack story about they forced their dongle onto you and maybe they’ll listen to the pushback.

My guess: they’ll say we were asking for it.

Would you please show us on the doll where the headphone jack touched you?



By the way, the manufacturers are forcing these things, or lack of things, on us. They have determined what they do and don't want in the devices before manufacture. The costs associated with a headphone jack have to be so low as to not be worth mentioning so it has nothing to do with price. A phone too thin to have a headphone jack in it is probably too thin to hold in your hand and will probably snap in half the moment you pick it up so size isn't an issue.

The real issue behind it? Selling dongles and other accessories. This isn't the first time we've had to mess with dongles. Dongles were the answer for manufacturers not that long ago. Dongles failed horribly because people hated them. A dongle for one phone wouldn't work on another and wouldn't even work on different models from the same manufacturer. The damn things would constantly get lost or broken. Even better is that you had the option of either charging your phone or using the dongle with headphones, you literally couldn't do both at the same time. Dongles are a fucking abomination. The point to having everything in the phone is so you don't need other devices but now they want to push the dongles on you so you have to keep a bunch of extra crap around.

There's a reason the headphone jack was the winner in the phone wars a while back. It just fucking works. It's ubiquitous. You don't need anything extra for it to work. You can use the same exact headphones on shittons of phones because it's a simple, industry standard jack.

I don't care if you like playing with your dongle all the time. It doesn't matter to me. However, most people do not want to constantly deal with little dongles all the time.
 
Odd that he did not include the Apple dongle... And no other Apple devices at all... That would be interesting, as that platform has one or two users...
 
I myself dont care about audio Jack. I broke most of my headphone ,all at the same place, near the connector where the cable is moving à lot. I used to pass around 3 pair per year. Now i use Bluetooth, the quality is not bad (especially Mpow on Amazon quite good with edm) and I havent broken them in a while.

Futhermore, my lg v20 headphone connector is broken inside my phone so whatever reason.

music is recreative for me so
 
Meh. People have overblown the issue of the headphone jack like crazy.

If I want a good listening experience with a good pair of headphones, it ain't coming from my smart phone that streams YouTube or other music (ie. not great audio quality to begin with). Everything I've ever done with an iPhone has been with the included headphones. I wouldn't ever think that I can properly drive, or even remotely benefit, from plugging Sennhiser HD-650s to smart phone.

"Audiophiles" need to let this non-issue go. Everyone else needs to stop kidding themselves that their headphones are worth plugging into their phone. I don't know how the Android side of the fence works but Apple has always, and still does, include headphones with their iPhones. That's all you need.

People don't actually.

It has nothing to do as others have said, with being audiophile. It has to do with, now I have to have a dongle, everywhere when I just needed the headphones before, so it's more money and more things to keep track of and carry around, for NO good reason. The USB-C also doesn't always work, my Pixel 2 XL I often have to plug in the USB-C dongle many times before it "sees" I plugged in a set of headphones, its also not instant like a 3.5mm, its a number of seconds before it swaps over assuming it sees them, a number of times I have to restart the phone just to get them to work. I also use my phone all day for work, and also like to listen to things while I use it, but now, I get to chose if I want to listen to music, or charge the phone, I can't do both.

Simple, small things you say? Probably. But when it's removed for NO good reason on a $1,000+ phone......Fuck that. Tired of losing features and HW only to get charged more for it.
 
I know I'll catch some grief for this one. I feel for the many who love their headphones. I got burned out on them around 30 years ago, just not into things covering my ears or in them. I also got sick of the wires or plugs getting damaged and for the devices that lasted years then the jacks. I do, however, like the idea of portable audio via BT. From streaming to speakers, to car stereos, to home receivers, I'd like to see a standard that could support at least 2 channel 24bit/96khz. Then the DAC+Amps could reside in headphones or speakers and nearly every other receiving device instead of dongles or other inconveniencing parts. For headphones they might need to incorporate some button batteries or some-such but battery tech has come a long way.
 
Also wanted to say thanks Cagey, it was a good read. Heard this was a thing and this was the first review I've read about this kind of tech. Just a little bummed these solutions are quite up to the task but TBH substituting headphone jack for USB seems like a really bad idea considering how much more fragile the mini USB jacks inherently are with increased use.
 
Meh. People have overblown the issue of the headphone jack like crazy.

If I want a good listening experience with a good pair of headphones, it ain't coming from my smart phone that streams YouTube or other music (ie. not great audio quality to begin with). Everything I've ever done with an iPhone has been with the included headphones. I wouldn't ever think that I can properly drive, or even remotely benefit, from plugging Sennhiser HD-650s to smart phone.

"Audiophiles" need to let this non-issue go. Everyone else needs to stop kidding themselves that their headphones are worth plugging into their phone. I don't know how the Android side of the fence works but Apple has always, and still does, include headphones with their iPhones. That's all you need.
The issue is about instead of now being able to use my $7 earbuds I also need to buy a $30 dongle to use them, or spend $100 or more on wireless ones.

If it's insignificant enough to remove without consequence, then it's insignificant enough to keep without consequence.
 
Did they also remove a dac and amp (and of course supporting components)? If so that could easily have become over $1 in savings on the PCBA. If it is simply just a jack then maybe 15 cents savings, which is still decent but probably not worth the back lash. Unless of course removing the jack had no discernible effect on sales.
 
I like playing with my dongle... oh wait

Didn't they remove it to make the devices thinner?

Wireless bluetooth headphones are available from many brands, this would be my answer for anyone not wanting to use a dongle. If you got $200 corded earbuds, I'm guessing you can handle using a dongle too to get your audiophile fix.

The only complaint I can really think of is that you can't charge your phone while using the dongle. So on that thought, are there y-adapter dongles, that have the usb port + headphone jack on it, so that you can charge the phone while using wired earbuds?

...The USB-C also doesn't always work, my Pixel 2 XL I often have to plug in the USB-C dongle many times before it "sees" I plugged in a set of headphones, its also not instant like a 3.5mm, its a number of seconds before it swaps over assuming it sees them, a number of times I have to restart the phone just to get them to work...

That sounds annoying... But maybe you got a bad dongle... no idea if that is a typical experiece. As someone who hasn't had to use a dongle for headphones yet, is the dac always in the dongle? because that seems like a shitty place to put it, not that phones are loaded with high quality dacs...

Now, all that aside, Creative is making some new high end usb audio device that is supposed to sound amazing. Usb soundcard if I remember right. If that was compatible with phones, maybe it is a solution that the audiophiles could not only live with, but actually want regardless.
 
Did they also remove a dac and amp (and of course supporting components)? If so that could easily have become over $1 in savings on the PCBA. If it is simply just a jack then maybe 15 cents savings, which is still decent but probably not worth the back lash. Unless of course removing the jack had no discernible effect on sales.

But see, it's a $800-1,000+ phone, no one cares if its $1 more, or $10 more, hell, one good dongle is $17-20 and I have to keep one at work, home and in the car just to be sure I don't forget to bring one.

I like playing with my dongle... oh wait

Didn't they remove it to make the devices thinner?

Wireless bluetooth headphones are available from many brands, this would be my answer for anyone not wanting to use a dongle. If you got $200 corded earbuds, I'm guessing you can handle using a dongle too to get your audiophile fix.

The only complaint I can really think of is that you can't charge your phone while using the dongle. So on that thought, are there y-adapter dongles, that have the usb port + headphone jack on it, so that you can charge the phone while using wired earbuds?



That sounds annoying... But maybe you got a bad dongle... no idea if that is a typical experiece. As someone who hasn't had to use a dongle for headphones yet, is the dac always in the dongle? because that seems like a shitty place to put it, not that phones are loaded with high quality dacs...

Now, all that aside, Creative is making some new high end usb audio device that is supposed to sound amazing. Usb soundcard if I remember right. If that was compatible with phones, maybe it is a solution that the audiophiles could not only live with, but actually want regardless.

A number of people I have talked to have the same issues across many phones. I also have the offical Google dongle, V1 and V2, I have a number of other brands I also got online and from stores because I thought it was the dongle, I also swapped headphones, from simple 32ohm earbuds to 250ohm cans/IEM's, still the same thing. As for creative, there are already USB DACs, this is not about quality of sound etc, it's about features and convenience, and not having to carry something else around. The fact that items like the 3.5mm, SD cards, removable battery etc etc are being dropped left and right and prices are going up every year as well. There are a number of things that bother me with were phones are going, but the 3.5mm issue is something I have to deal with many times a day. I thought at first I could live with it, and people crying about it were blowing it out of proportion, but after living with it, my next phone WILL have a 3.5mm.
 
Hmm ever since I got a galaxy S2 early in the decade, I retired my mp3 player and cd player and just used my phone while exercising (6 days a week). I have a nice pair of Sony earbuds with sound qualty I've grown quite used to hearing.

Every bluetooth set I try pale in comparison in audio quality and comfort for a much higher price. Now I've reverted back to carrying two devices.

Alas I did buy an Honor 7X since it has a headphone jack - but the maximum output is a complete joke. Max volume is nowhere near what I enjoy during a workout (they're my ears to destroy).

I don't know why anybody would go out of their way to defend these companies decisions to remove the jack just because it doesn't suit them. We want super high resolution amoled screens but yet scoff at the idea of a built in, high quality DAC? You have to be joking.
 
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But see, it's a $800-1,000+ phone, no one cares if its $1 more, or $10 more, hell, one good dongle is $17-20 and I have to keep one at work, home and in the car just to be sure I don't forget to bring one.
.

No that isn't the point. A $1 savings in pcba cost can get someone a bonus when you are selling things in the millions. Heck at my place if I can save 10cents on a pcba I'm sitting pretty at work lol.

Often the sale target price is decided in the beginning and then what features are needed. So the design team has to find out what they can pluck out to meet the target.

No the removing of sd card, swappable battery, audio jack, fm radio etc etc is not to improve the experience for the end user. They are reducing costs while working on ways to market the phone to increase sale price to push profit. I would offer that display, camera, and talk time are probably the biggest things people on average want from a phone. This causes them to treat everything else as secondary and if they can squeeze out a few cents or dollars here and there, that just pushes their profit higher.

I've never owned a phone where I wouldn't want to change anything (though my HTC inspire was pretty close).
 
Did they also remove a dac and amp (and of course supporting components)? If so that could easily have become over $1 in savings on the PCBA. If it is simply just a jack then maybe 15 cents savings, which is still decent but probably not worth the back lash. Unless of course removing the jack had no discernible effect on sales.
It isn't about cost, because a headphone jack is a few pennies in the BoM.* You don't save money on a DAC, because the phone already has speakers, which require a DAC.
It isn't about fitting it in, because at least one person has actually done it
It isn't about waterproofing, because waterproof phones existed long before Apple removed the headphone jack
It's not about enabling wireless audio, because that has existed for years.
So what drove that decision? An attempt to make money on dongle and/or AirPods sales? Almost certainly yes. Was it because there's an irresistible drive to make the phone as (visually) featureless as possible? I'm sure that was a factor as well. Although when you're adding more and more cameras and other dodads, the headphone jack no longer sticks out.

* Darunion is right that a few pennies spread across millions of units adds up to a lot. I wonder, however, if it's worth it. For example, let's assume Apple save $0.10 per phone by omitting the 3.5mm jack, and make $300 profit off each phone. If the omission of the jack means that <1 out of 3,000 sales are lost, then it's worth it...if you ignore the sale of replacement dongles and AirPods. If you assume $100 profit on each pair of AirPods, then you need 3 AirPods buyers (or replacement buyers!) to offset one lost phone sale.
 
...Every bluetooth set I try pale in comparison in audio quality and comfort for a much higher price. Now I've reverted back to carrying two devices... We want super high resolution amoled screens but yet scoff at the idea of a built in, high quality DAC? You have to be joking.

You make a good point.

...No the removing of sd card, swappable battery, audio jack, fm radio etc etc is not to improve the experience for the end user. They are reducing costs while working on ways to market the phone to increase sale price to push profit...

I think in Apples' case, it was definitely profit driven, given the crazy price of those earbuds... And I know there are slimmer versions of those jacks, that expand only when something is plugged in. If enough customers ask for it, at least some manufacturers will cater to them (hopefully). I was seriously considering the Razer Phone 2, but looks like it is missing a headphone jack too...
 
If I want a good listening experience with a good pair of headphones, it ain't coming from my smart phone that streams YouTube or other music (ie. not great audio quality to begin with). Everything I've ever done with an iPhone has been with the included headphones. I wouldn't ever think that I can properly drive, or even remotely benefit, from plugging Sennhiser HD-650s to smart phone.

"Audiophiles" need to let this non-issue go. Everyone else needs to stop kidding themselves that their headphones are worth plugging into their phone. I don't know how the Android side of the fence works but Apple has always, and still does, include headphones with their iPhones. That's all you need.

My issue is more with being forced into it and buying new headphones (dongle is a non-starter sry), juggling more battery management, etc. It's simply unnecessary and has no real benefits at least for my use cases. It seems to be almost entirely about nickle-and-diming you for a bit more profit, not a design decision that in any way favors the consumer.

You don't have to stream music with a phone either. Some phones can fit these things called microSD cards and can have huge amounts of storage capacity quite cheaply. ;) Sure it's not going to sound as good as your external DAC but there is still a lot of middle ground between super high end audiophile setups using lossless FLAC/WAV files and streaming bad quality youtube videos to crappy bluetooth earbuds.

Was it because there's an irresistible drive to make the phone as (visually) featureless as possible? I'm sure that was a factor as well.

I demand my phones be super sleek and featureless! *immediately puts ugly bulky case on new phone*
 
I know I'll catch some grief for this one. I feel for the many who love their headphones. I got burned out on them around 30 years ago, just not into things covering my ears or in them. I also got sick of the wires or plugs getting damaged and for the devices that lasted years then the jacks. I do, however, like the idea of portable audio via BT. From streaming to speakers, to car stereos, to home receivers, I'd like to see a standard that could support at least 2 channel 24bit/96khz. Then the DAC+Amps could reside in headphones or speakers and nearly every other receiving device instead of dongles or other inconveniencing parts. For headphones they might need to incorporate some button batteries or some-such but battery tech has come a long way.

Cheap headphones break easy.

Many of the nicer cans have removable cables.

I like VMODA because I can get all sorts of cables (coiled 1/4", mobile, built in splitter, boom mic, etc) and I can also plug a bluetooth dongle right into them and make them wireless when I need to.
 
I will continue to buy phones that have a headphone jack as long as phones still have them. This feature makes connecting to a car easy. I use rentals and car shares... I'm not going to connect Bluetooth every time.
 
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