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  1. #1

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    Default TUBE NEWB seeks 12AX7 / ECC83 Advice

    It was bound to happen, and I've dipped (with a tiptoe) into the liquidity of tubing. Fedex rang the bell at 7:45 AM and I've had my new 12AX7 tube based entry-level phono tube preamp cranking out tunes constantly since shortly before 8 AM rolled around.

    The Sovtek 12AX7LPS* is brand new so it will need some time to simmer, but the sound quality and soundstage are already clearly superior to the great phono stages in my solid state NAD 2600, NAD 7600 and my 2 stand alone Thorens MM-001's.

    I've read enough to get myself in trouble, but would like to tube roll this new pre to find the tube that is most synergistic with my overall system. It's a simple enough proposition as the unit uses just one tube.

    Here's the list with those I believe will sound best descending to those I believe will not be a good match.

    1) Ei --- 12AX7 / ECC83
    2) Tung-Sol --- 12AX7
    3) Mullard Reissue: --- 12AX7 / ECC83
    4) Jan Phillips --- 5751 (same pinout, and said to not be lower gain as tyical 5751's)
    5) Jan Phillips --- 12AX7-WA
    6) Sovtek --- 12AX7LPS (*this is what's in the stock unit)
    7) Electro-Harmonix --- 12AX7
    8) Jan Phillips --- 5751 (same pinout, and said to not be lower gain as tyical 5751's)
    I probably will not pursue these last 4
    9) Tesla / JJ --- 12AX7 / ECC83-S
    10) Sovtek --- 5751
    11) Sovtek --- 12AX7-WA
    12) Sovtek --- 12AX7-WB

    Any help / opinions about these tubes is welcomed, and any used tubes in decent shape offered up for sale to me at a fair price (send a PM to preserve the thread) will be considered.

    I'm also considering a Herbie's "UltraSonic 9 Damping Instrument" to further smooth the tube out.
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  2. #2

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    Also look at GE/RCA/Sylvania. In most if not all instances these are outstanding tubes made side by side with the Brimar, Mullard and Telefunkens.

    Siemens/Halske and Neuhaus/RFT are great as well.

    I know DKG999 likes a particular RCA military designation with triple mica blackplates and clear tops. Bugle Boy and Amprex are another nice variant.

    Dont limit yourself to just what you have listed

    H9
    "Appreciation of audio is a completely subjective human experience. Measurements can provide a measure of insight, but are no substitute for human judgment. Why are we looking to reduce a subjective experience to objective criteria anyway? The subtleties of music and audio reproduction are for those who appreciate it. Differentiation by numbers is for those who do not".--Nelson Pass

    Pass Aleph 30; Eastern Electric Mini Max; Adcom GDA600; MIT S3/Z Pc; SDA 1C; Squeezebox; Tubes add soul!

  3. #3

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    There appears to be a "Tube Fever" epidemic going around CP lately. :D

    Congrats on the new toy Greg. Still waiting on my Yaqin and I'm already eyeballing the Little Dot MKII and MKIII. :o

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by heiney9 View Post
    Also look at GE/RCA/Sylvania. In most if not all instances these are outstanding tubes made side by side with the Brimar, Mullard and Telefunkens.

    Siemens/Halske and Neuhaus/RFT are great as well.

    I know DKG999 likes a particular RCA military designation with triple mica blackplates and clear tops. Bugle Boy and Amprex are another nice variant.

    Dont limit yourself to just what you have listed

    H9
    Thanks! That was the "I've read enough to get myself in trouble" clause in my first post.

    I'm definitely in the "I don't know what I don't know" phase and will open the list up so I don't miss out.
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  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Keiko View Post
    There appears to be a "Tube Fever" epidemic going around CP lately. :D

    Congrats on the new toy Greg. Still waiting on my Yaqin and I'm already eyeballing the Little Dot MKII and MKIII. :o
    DamnThisHobby :D --- Yes, you all told me so at the start :)

    There is simply not enough time and money in the universe to satisfy this addiction!!

    Thank God for technology and "for sale" websites. There's a lot of decent stuff out there that gives you about 99.6% of what the $20,000 stuff gives you for $200 (and then you can resell it on the way up because you still crave that last .4%).

    I think the wives/girlfriends/etc. who call us crazy pretty much hit the nail on the head!
    Last edited by inspiredsports; 07-22-2009 at 06:02 PM.

  6. #6

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    I feel like a little kid 2 days before Christmas. :p

    Here's the latest on my toy:

    2009-07-20 16:24:00 QINGPU Posting
      2009-07-20 16:29:00 700 Despatch from Sorting Center
      2009-07-20 19:27:26 SHANGHAI Arrival at Sorting Center
      2009-07-20 20:11:42 SHANGHAI Despatch from Sorting Center
      2009-07-21 13:20:00 UNITED STATES OF AMERICA USSFOA Arrival at Sorting Center
      2009-07-21 13:21:00 UNITED STATES OF AMERICA USSFOA Handed over to Customs
      2009-07-22 11:10:00 UNITED STATES OF AMERICA USSFOA Released from Customs



    I'm quesstimating by Friday. Tubalicious!

  7. #7

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    Not sure which tube phono-pre you have, however I have been experimenting with my Pro-Ject Tube Box II SE, which uses the 12ax7. The Sovtek LPS are definetely great tubes for a phone pre, and you will need to spend a lot more to do better. I have a pair of RCA clear tops here, and I like the Sovteks better. The Sovteks are just so quiet, and low microphonics (use Herbies tube dampeners to make sure!) and do what a phono pre should. I really think the more expensive tubes should go upstream in the pre-amp.

    Other tubes to watch for are Sylvania triple-mica black plates (always a solid choice!), RCA Command Series, and CBS Hytrons. The Raytheon 12ax7's have been under-rated and overlooked, but now people have realized how good they are and they are getting expensive.

    That's what's in my tube drawer!
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  8. #8

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    I know what a damper is, but how exactly do tube dampers help? Sorry for the newb question.

  9. #9

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    Keiko - that's probably one of those controversial subjects like cables! From what I know they simply dampen the glass of the tube so that it resonates at frequencies outside the normal range of music, thus making the tube quieter because the glass is not resonating. Can I hear a definite difference, not so much. Do I believe in the theory, yes I do. Do they look really cool, absolutely!
    DKG999
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  10. #10

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    Thanks Doug. I like things that lQQk really

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by dkg999 View Post
    Not sure which tube phono-pre you have, however I have been experimenting with my Pro-Ject Tube Box II SE, which uses the 12ax7. The Sovtek LPS are definetely great tubes for a phone pre, and you will need to spend a lot more to do better. I have a pair of RCA clear tops here, and I like the Sovteks better. The Sovteks are just so quiet, and low microphonics (use Herbies tube dampeners to make sure!) and do what a phono pre should. I really think the more expensive tubes should go upstream in the pre-amp.

    Other tubes to watch for are Sylvania triple-mica black plates (always a solid choice!), RCA Command Series, and CBS Hytrons. The Raytheon 12ax7's have been under-rated and overlooked, but now people have realized how good they are and they are getting expensive.

    That's what's in my tube drawer!
    I just saw a review where the writer selected a 1957 Sylvania 5751 Black Plates Triple Mica as his all time favorite. I'm glad I just need 1 because they go for about $150 (88% of what I paid for the preamp!)

    I purchased a brand-new-in-the-box full warranty Bellari VP130 for $170 net delivered. It's not the best in the world, but gets a lot of exceptional reviews. It's a hybrid with a couple of solid state circuits.

    The unit has been both shredded to pieces and compared favorably to $2,000 units, so it's one of those personal preference items where you have to listen for yourself. I like it a lot and will experiment with it until I've learned what the next rung on my ladder is.
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  12. #12

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    In my experience the 5751's sometimes don't have enough gain for a phono pre, but you have a hybrid tube/ss unit, so they might be a good choice.
    DKG999
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  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by Keiko View Post
    I know what a damper is, but how exactly do tube dampers help? Sorry for the newb question.
    If I understand it correctly, tubes are rated for "musicality", "noise" and "microphonics". Musicality and noise are more or less "built in", where microphonics relates how much noise from the room hitting the glass "enters" the tube (like a microphone) and is output to the amp.

    It seems you could liken the use of a tube damper to our use of Dynamat Extreme on the basket of a Polk driver in that both cancel out sound waves that create problems.

    If you find a tube rated as being musical, with low noise, but having poor microphonics, a damper can help (Herbie's told me so :) )
    Last edited by inspiredsports; 07-22-2009 at 07:30 PM.
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  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by dkg999 View Post
    In my experience the 5751's sometimes don't have enough gain for a phono pre, but you have a hybrid tube/ss unit, so they might be a good choice.
    Right, The 5751's have the same pinouts, but typically much lower gain. The Jan Phillips 5751 I mentioned in post #1 is said to be in the same gain range as a typical 12AX7.

    That sweet Sylvania I mentioned above in post #11 may not work well, but I've always erred on the side of learning by experimenting, and then reselling as the next idea comes along. (If I'd followed the status quo, I wouldn't have the sweetest sounding (and first set I know of) 1986 blade/blade SDA SRS 2's TL'd with RDO-198's by employing a simple capacitor substitution)
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  15. #15

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    5751 tubes have 30% less gain than 12AX7's. Because of that they are quieter and typically have less issues with microphones. The 1957 Sylvania 5751 triple mica/black plate is the best I've heard. Avoid the Sylvania gray plates with the green label.
    'Political Correctness'.........defined

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  16. #16

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    Mike, I just have a couple of things to add to what Doug said. Whether tube dampers help or not depends on the resonance your gear is subjected to. Gear between the speakers often gets subjected to more resonance than gear on a side wall. Crank up the volume and place your fingers on the panels of your gear, and you’ll know what I mean. That is why higher end gear is made with thicker panels and a sturdier chassis.

    Also depends on any isolation tweaks that might be used. Some manufacturers mount the tube boards on a suspension system to avoid transmitting vibes into the board, but you still have airborne vibes. One of them try and see if it helps you or not things. Tube dampers helped me when my gear was between the speakers, but I haven’t noticed dampers helping or hurting with my gear off to the side wall.
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  17. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by F1nut View Post
    5751 tubes have 30% less gain than 12AX7's. Because of that they are quieter and typically have less issues with microphones. The 1957 Sylvania 5751 triple mica/black plate is the best I've heard. Avoid the Sylvania gray plates with the green label.
    Thanks, it's good to hear I got on the right track on day number 1. I'm going to hunt down one of these 1957 Sylvania 5751's and give it a try. I'm guessing I'll be able to resell if it isn't robust enough, and I'm sure in for a treat if it is.

    I've already tested advice from forum posts that suggest the Sovtek 12AX7LPS in this unit is happiest at the 75% output setting, and it sounds great and loud enough at that setting. I might be able to drive the Sylvania at 99% so make up some of the gain difference. What I don't know yet is if the limitation is from the Sovtek, or the electronics in the preamp.
    Last edited by inspiredsports; 07-23-2009 at 12:38 AM.

  18. #18

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    I received and installed a Herbies Tube Damper on Saturday and I've noticed a dramatic improvement in passages with a heavy drumbeat. The tube pre sits in a cabinet between my speakers where I've heard this is a problem, and the damper certainly smooths it out.

    After about 130 hours I am absolutely impressed with the sound of this Bellari VP130 with its supplied Sovtek 12AX7LPS, and am actively shopping other tubes listed above now so I can let the tube rolling begin.
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  19. #19

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    Default Rolled my first tube today !!

    It's been a long time comin'!

    I know this is just a tiptoe in the right direction into tubing, but I swapped out the fair to middlin' Sovtek 12AX7LPS for a NOS Telefunken 12AX7.

    I've gotten to know this little tube pre's sonic signature pretty well over the last 6 weeks to the point I figured I could appreciate what a decent tube could do.

    I've just listed to an album side (Pink Floyd; Wish You Were Here- side 1) and I am stunned by the improvement.
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  20. #20

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    A big thanks to h9, mike, SComp for steering me toward other tubes and goodies than my original list contained, and thank you F1 and dkg for politely steering me away from the 5751 that probably would not have been potent enough.

    I reinserted the Sovtek and let it warm up for about a half-hour while my 15 year old son pounded my glove with 80+ mph fastballs, and re-listened to side above. Eeeek!

    I reinserted the Telefunken 12AX7 Smooth Plate Diamond for a 3rd trip through the side. The Telefunken is "lush / more musical" and the soundstage truly grew 3 feet closer to my 11' back listening position.

    Lots of goodies are being introduced. I truly now can't wait until I get the new Yaquin CD-1 Tube Buffer (on order) and new Little Pinkie Power Supply (on order) for my newly acquired Musical Fidelity X-10v3 buffer. The buffer is located between pre and amp.

    My Signal Cable 6' Magic Power Cable that will power whichever of the 2 buffers that wins the shootout also arrived today.

    The sound is approaching nirvana. . . .well. at least this month's nirvana :)
    Last edited by inspiredsports; 09-08-2009 at 08:11 PM.
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    I was going to suggest the Tele smooth plates,, but I see that you have already found their magic--congrats.:)
    JC approves....he told me so. (F-1 nut)

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    Quote Originally Posted by george daniel View Post
    I was going to suggest the Tele smooth plates,, but I see that you have already found their magic--congrats.:)
    Sometimes even a blind squirrel finds a nut! :)
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  23. #23

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    Quote Originally Posted by Keiko View Post
    I know what a damper is, but how exactly do tube dampers help? Sorry for the newb question.
    I asked a similar Tube Newb Damper question not too long ago (wait a minute that was a whole year ago-where the heck did a whole year go??? Ugh!!) Well anyway here it is:
    https://www.polkaudio.com/forums/sho...d.php?p=933206

  24. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by inspiredsports View Post
    Sometimes even a blind squirrel finds a nut! :)
    I am that squirrel;)
    JC approves....he told me so. (F-1 nut)

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    Quote Originally Posted by george daniel View Post
    I am that squirrel;)
    That makes 2 of us!

    I've got a funny feeling this is just the tip of the iceberg and that eventually I'll be heating my man cave with these addictive little glass contraptions. :D
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  26. #26

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    Quote Originally Posted by mmadden28 View Post
    I asked a similar Tube Newb Damper question not too long ago (wait a minute that was a whole year ago-where the heck did a whole year go??? Ugh!!) Well anyway here it is:
    https://www.polkaudio.com/forums/sho...d.php?p=933206
    I've experimented with placement of the tube phono preamp with the original Sovtek tube and had better results with the Herbies tube damper installed in some instances.

    In one case when my turntable and preamp were on a table at midrange driver height on the left wall on a 45 degree angle (3 feet left and three feet out the wall) heavy snare drums did cause audible problems when the damper was off.
    VTL ST50 w/mods/RCA6L6GC/TlfnknECC801S
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    Musical Fidelity A1 CDPro
    Tuners w/mods Kenwood KT5020/Fisher KM60
    MF x-DAC V8, HAInfo NG27
    Herbies Ti-9/Vibrapods/MIT Shtgn AC1 IEC's/MIT Shotgun 2 IC's/MIT Shtgn 2 Speaker
    PSAudio Cryo PwrPrt Prem/ExctPwrEP15A
    Wlnt SDA 2B TL/Oak SDA SRS II TL-Sonicaps/Mills/Cardas/Cust SDA ICs/Mortite/Dynamat Extreme/TFLF Rings/FSB-2 Spikes
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  27. #27

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    I always leave my solid state preamp and amp on, and I leave my turntable tube-based preamp on if I'm leaving the room for just an hour or so between listening sessions.

    Today I came back after a half-hour or so and heard what sounded like I was in a commercial airliner cruising at 30,000', but just a bit more muffled than that.

    I guess in the back of my mind I remembered reading something about that and I gently pushed down on the single exposed tube in the phono preamp and the sound went back to black.

    What is this noise called?

    Is the tube going bad?
    VTL ST50 w/mods/RCA6L6GC/TlfnknECC801S
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  28. #28

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    I guess that answers that.

    The "Veil" we always talk about being lifted when we make a good upgrade got put back over this tube (Telefunken 12AX7 Smooth Plate Diamond) and then the left channel died.

    I tried reseating with no luck, checked connections, connected another turntable, etc. with no luck.

    I place the original Sovtek 12AX7LPS Ruby back in place and am enjoying some vintage Todd Rundgren as I write.

    $53 bucks down the drain unless the eBay seller "nclayton" decides to help me out.

    I guess "Air Travel Noise" generally means a tube crash is eminent ???
    Last edited by inspiredsports; 09-13-2009 at 05:09 PM.
    VTL ST50 w/mods/RCA6L6GC/TlfnknECC801S
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    MF x-DAC V8, HAInfo NG27
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    Where exactly is the north coast? I may have an extra Amperex 12ax7 (same as a Bugle Boy)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Big Dawg View Post
    Where exactly is the north coast? I may have an extra Amperex 12ax7 (same as a Bugle Boy)
    I just noticed this question as I set out to update my thoughts on the Bellari VP-130.

    ###############################################

    I believe the term the "North Coast" was coined by Michael Stanley, of the Cleveland rock band "The Michael Stanley Band" which he formed in the early '70's. MSB recorded "North Coast" in 1992, but Michael had referred to northeastern Ohio as the "North Coast" for many years.

    With almost all of our northern boundry touching the Great Lakes, the largest body of fresh water in the world, north coast is a fitting moniker!

    ###############################################

    I've owned the Bellari VP-130 for 3 months now and listen to vinyl for up to 8 hours a day, 6 days a week so I've grown very familiar with it.

    The unit is subject to volumes of praise, and almost equal volumes of criticism. The praise generally based upon subjective listening, and the criticism upon technical types poring over its supposed design flaws base upon studying a schematic.

    I've always been mildly interested in specifications, but more inclined to "trust my ears".

    The Bellari requires you work with it to learn what sounds best in your system, and some tube rolling too. I've listened to:

    1) Sovtek 12AX7LPS; stock tube from factory
    2) Tung-Sol 12AX7
    3) Mullard 12AX7
    4) Electro-Harmonix 12AX7
    5) Telefunken Smooth Plate Diamond 12AX7
    6) Amperex (Holland) Bugle Boy 12AX7

    The Amperex Bugle Boy 12AX7/ECC83 wins hands down with nice tight bass, a fluid midrange and wonderfully sweet highs. The Telefunken comes in second with great highs and lows, but less magic in the middle. After that the Mullard and Sovtek are tied as very well suited to this unit, and the other two are a bit harsher.

    I experimented with various IC's from the Bellari to my pre-amp and found MIT Shotgun 2's set on their highest impedance setting (90 ohms & up) to sound best and that Silver IC's do not sound good from the Bellari to pre-amp in my rig.

    The most important trick with this unit is to keep its "Output Level" dial set below 75%. Most of the time I set it between 50 and 60% where I deem it to sound best.

    I have no idea why this is the case, but the sound clearly becomes grainy and more distorted when the output level is dialed up. Using it set between 50 and 60% yields sweet, detailed sound.

    They jury was out at first, but this unit has earned a place on my rack for keeps.

    P.S.: Big Dawg, I'd love to buy that Amperex as a spare if its for sale so please PM me.
    Last edited by inspiredsports; 10-25-2009 at 07:05 PM.
    VTL ST50 w/mods/RCA6L6GC/TlfnknECC801S
    CJPV-5 w/mods
    TT CJ Sonographe SG3 Oak/Sumiko LMT/Grado Wood Plat/Sumiko PIB2/The Clamp
    Musical Fidelity A1 CDPro
    Tuners w/mods Kenwood KT5020/Fisher KM60
    MF x-DAC V8, HAInfo NG27
    Herbies Ti-9/Vibrapods/MIT Shtgn AC1 IEC's/MIT Shotgun 2 IC's/MIT Shtgn 2 Speaker
    PSAudio Cryo PwrPrt Prem/ExctPwrEP15A
    Wlnt SDA 2B TL/Oak SDA SRS II TL-Sonicaps/Mills/Cardas/Cust SDA ICs/Mortite/Dynamat Extreme/TFLF Rings/FSB-2 Spikes
    NAD SS rigs w/mods
    GIK panels

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