Adding a DAC to my system...recommendations??? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 85 Old 03-15-2014, 08:06 AM - Thread Starter
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Wasn't sure where to place this question so here it is. I am considering adding a DAC to my system and would like to spend under $500 for this venture. I've looked at brands such as Cambridge Audio, Maverick Audio and Music Hall. This addition will be hooked up to my CD player and iPod. Any other brands I should consider?

Thanks.
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post #2 of 85 Old 03-15-2014, 09:23 AM
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The Cambridge DACMagic 100 looks good.
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post #3 of 85 Old 03-15-2014, 09:37 AM
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I need one for a simply wireless head phone hookup and found this FiiO D3 (D03K) Digital to Analog Audio Converter Amazon for 25 bucks, it has one very handy feature, it gets is power from a usb jack on the back of the TV. Not the pricey item you are looking at, works great.
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post #4 of 85 Old 03-15-2014, 11:45 AM
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Why do you need the DAC at all?
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post #5 of 85 Old 03-15-2014, 12:16 PM
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Why do you need the DAC at all?

This is the right question.

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post #6 of 85 Old 03-15-2014, 12:31 PM - Thread Starter
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From what I understand about DAC's is their ability to take the digital signal and convert it to analog providing a "vinyl like" sound. Better depth, richness and detail are supposed to be gained by using one.
At least that's what I've read thus far. I don't really NEED one but I thought it'd be worth a try to see how it performs, hence a modest price point to start with.
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post #7 of 85 Old 03-15-2014, 12:37 PM
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If you like a 'vinyl like' sound from a dac you are in trouble. There simply are no dacs that degrade sound to the low dynamic range,distortion and noise levels of a vinyl record.
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post #8 of 85 Old 03-15-2014, 01:18 PM
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Originally Posted by BigO734 View Post

From what I understand about DAC's is their ability to take the digital signal and convert it to analog providing a "vinyl like" sound. Better depth, richness and detail are supposed to be gained by using one.
At least that's what I've read thus far. I don't really NEED one but I thought it'd be worth a try to see how it performs, hence a modest price point to start with.

I recommend highly that you change where you read about audio. That is one of the nuttier things I've heard. If you want digital to sound like a vinyl record it is just a matter of dubbing a vinyl record to a digital format.
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post #9 of 85 Old 03-15-2014, 02:08 PM
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If you want some of the degradation of sound that you get with vinyl, you can use this device with your phono input:

 

http://www.mcmelectronics.com/product/MCM-CUSTOM-AUDIO-50-7240-/50-7240

 

But it will only give one the degradation from the RIAA equalization curve being applied and removed, not any of the other problems with vinyl.  I am tempted to buy one just to play with it.

 

For more on vinyl, read this article:

 

http://www.hometheaterhifi.com/technical-articles-and-editorials/technical-articles-and-editorials/a-secrets-technical-article63.html

 

http://www.hometheaterhifi.com/technical-articles-and-editorials/technical-articles-and-editorials/a-secrets-technical-article64.html

 

The RIAA curve is discussed on page 4.  But you might want to pay particular attention to page 7 regarding the distortion.  And keep in mind, this is with good equipment carefully set up; for most systems, the distortion will be worse.  And then, of course, there are the clicks and pops of vinyl that one can also enjoy.


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post #10 of 85 Old 03-15-2014, 02:32 PM
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Originally Posted by BigO734 View Post

... a "vinyl like" sound. ....

If you like that sound, best if you invest that $$$ into turntable and some vinyls. wink.gif
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post #11 of 85 Old 03-15-2014, 04:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Frank Derks View Post

If you like a 'vinyl like' sound from a dac you are in trouble. There simply are no dacs that degrade sound to the low dynamic range,distortion and noise levels of a vinyl record.

LOL, the brutal truth.

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post #12 of 85 Old 03-15-2014, 05:22 PM - Thread Starter
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That's precisely why I posted here, to get input on pros and/or cons of using a DAC. I do have a good collection of albums (vinyl) and a turntable to play them on but my receiver does not have a phono input. Understandably, an external phono amp would be the way to go to enjoy my LP's and I have looked at some including NAD, MCM electronics and others. I'll take a look at the articles mentioned in previous post and take everything said into account.
I may have misused the term "vinyl like" in lieu of a better description for the sound reproduction of today's DAC's. My goal is to get better sound out of the digital media I own, not to change it to a "vinyl like" sound, that would just be pointless and a waste of money. My question now becomes, why then do some of these cost over 1K and more? Why are they so popular? So, forget about my using "vinyl like". Is a DAC worth the money or not?
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post #13 of 85 Old 03-15-2014, 05:45 PM
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Originally Posted by BigO734 View Post

That's precisely why I posted here, to get input on pros and/or cons of using a DAC. I do have a good collection of albums (vinyl) and a turntable to play them on but my receiver does not have a phono input. Understandably, an external phono amp would be the way to go to enjoy my LP's and I have looked at some including NAD, MCM electronics and others. I'll take a look at the articles mentioned in previous post and take everything said into account.
I may have misused the term "vinyl like" in lieu of a better description for the sound reproduction of today's DAC's. My goal is to get better sound out of the digital media I own, not to change it to a "vinyl like" sound, that would just be pointless and a waste of money. My question now becomes, why then do some of these cost over 1K and more? Why are they so popular? So, forget about my using "vinyl like". Is a DAC worth the money or not?

Assuming you have competent DAC in your preamp, then, no there is no point in adding another one. There isn't any sound quality to a DAC. They are quite transparent. Why are they so popular. Because magazine reviewers say they make a sonic improvement and audiophiles follow along. those of us who have done bias controlled comparisons know better.
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post #14 of 85 Old 03-16-2014, 07:14 AM
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Originally Posted by BigO734 View Post

From what I understand about DAC's is their ability to take the digital signal and convert it to analog providing a "vinyl like" sound. Better depth, richness and detail are supposed to be gained by using one.

What is your source for that?
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post #15 of 85 Old 03-16-2014, 09:12 AM
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I may have misused the term "vinyl like" in lieu of a better description for the sound reproduction of today's DAC's.
I thought your description was abundantly clear. You want an "analog like" sound. Clearly no one asks for an upgrade for the sake of getting distortion as the responses to you indicated.
Quote:
My goal is to get better sound out of the digital media I own, not to change it to a "vinyl like" sound, that would just be pointless and a waste of money. My question now becomes, why then do some of these cost over 1K and more? Why are they so popular? So, forget about my using "vinyl like". Is a DAC worth the money or not?
It is a matter of much better build quality (which usually implies more expensive components and manufacturing cost), much lower volume than mass market products, and high dealer margins. If it cost you $200K to design and manufacture one unit, selling it at even $200K would mean a loss smile.gif. Building something like this will cost a ton more money:

MSB-DAC-IV-Plus.jpg

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post #16 of 85 Old 03-16-2014, 09:56 AM
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Originally Posted by BigO734 View Post

I may have misused the term "vinyl like" in lieu of a better description for the sound reproduction of today's DAC's.
I thought your description was abundantly clear. You want an "analog like" sound. Clearly no one asks for an upgrade for the sake of getting distortion as the responses to you indicated.
Quote:
My goal is to get better sound out of the digital media I own, not to change it to a "vinyl like" sound, that would just be pointless and a waste of money. My question now becomes, why then do some of these cost over 1K and more? Why are they so popular? So, forget about my using "vinyl like". Is a DAC worth the money or not?
It is a matter of much better build quality (which usually implies more expensive components and manufacturing cost), much lower volume than mass market products, and high dealer margins. If it cost you $200K to design and manufacture one unit, selling it at even $200K would mean a loss smile.gif. Building something like this will cost a ton more money:

MSB-DAC-IV-Plus.jpg

So how many MSB DAC-4's has Madrona sold thus far?
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post #17 of 85 Old 03-16-2014, 10:55 AM - Thread Starter
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“Listen to the ATF2 upsampling in the 851D applied to a "lossless" digital file and you can hear every detail and every bit of emotion you'd hear from vinyl. This is the future of music.” - this is from a design manager with Cambridge Audio.

Most of the information I've gathered is from manufacturers websites, of course, touting the benefits to owning their product and how it will perform. As I stated in the post at the beginning of this thread I am simply considering the purchase of a DAC. I am trying to gather as much information as I can before I spend a dime on anything. At this point I may consider just going with a phono preamp so that I can enjoy my albums that I don't have on CD. Thank you all for your comments and suggestions, I appreciate the time you took to reply to my questions.
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post #18 of 85 Old 03-16-2014, 12:26 PM
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So how many MSB DAC-4's has Madrona sold thus far?
What does that have to do with the question and the answer I provided?

Answering anyways, none. My company has no relationship whatsoever with MSB. I simply admire their engineering when I see the products at shows wide open as I showed in that picture. And beautiful music they produce with them.

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post #19 of 85 Old 03-16-2014, 12:29 PM
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“Listen to the ATF2 upsampling in the 851D applied to a "lossless" digital file and you can hear every detail and every bit of emotion you'd hear from vinyl. This is the future of music.” - this is from a design manager with Cambridge Audio.

Most of the information I've gathered is from manufacturers websites, of course, touting the benefits to owning their product and how it will perform. As I stated in the post at the beginning of this thread I am simply considering the purchase of a DAC. I am trying to gather as much information as I can before I spend a dime on anything. At this point I may consider just going with a phono preamp so that I can enjoy my albums that I don't have on CD. Thank you all for your comments and suggestions, I appreciate the time you took to reply to my questions.

 

You should never trust manufacturer's web sites for things like that.  If you did trust manufacturer's claims, you would believe all sorts of lies about cables and magic pyramids and all sorts of ridiculous nonsense.

 

Basically, people are prone to the power of suggestion, and the placebo effect causes them to believe that they hear differences that are not there.  This can be enhanced by the fact that when someone asks you to focus on some aspect of the sound that you did not focus on previously, you are listening to it differently and consequently you will experience it differently.  But that difference in experience is caused by what the listener does, not by the thing actually sounding different.

 

The placebo effect works on all kinds of things, like medicine, but my favorite example of this is with wine:

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/15/world/americas/15iht-wine.1.9221093.html

 

When people are told a wine is more expensive, they believe it tastes better than when they are given the same wine but told it is cheap.  The MRIs indicate that it isn't them simply lying about it, but that they seem to experience it differently when the experience is accompanied by a belief about it.  This is why testing things blind (i.e., without ANY other information about it) is the way things must be tested if we are interested in the actual taste of the wine, instead of people's perceptions of the taste conjoined with some belief about it.

 

The same idea applies to audio.  If you believe there is a difference, you will likely experience/imagine that there is a difference.

 

I seem to recall some testing of audio gear in which the tester claimed to change something that the listeners thought would make a difference, but in reality changed nothing at all, and, of course, the listeners swore they heard the difference!  Too bad I don't have a link for it, but if someone else remembers this, it would be great if they posted such a link.  But there is something similar discussed at:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BYTlN6wjcvQ

 

Actual blind testing is essential for proving what people hear and what they do not hear.  Otherwise, the result is a function of what they hear AND see or otherwise believe about the thing.

 

Really, the believers in differences ought not complain about blind testing.  After all, one hears with one's ears, not one's eyes, right?  Protesting against blind testing is really a kind of admission that they are using something other than their ears to come to their conclusions.

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post #20 of 85 Old 03-16-2014, 02:43 PM
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“Listen to the ATF2 upsampling in the 851D applied to a "lossless" digital file and you can hear every detail and every bit of emotion you'd hear from vinyl. This is the future of music.” - this is from a design manager with Cambridge Audio.

Thank you for providing that information and its source, as it enabled me to investigate some relevant details such as those found on http://www.cambridgeaudio.com/products/stream-magic-6-upsampling-network-music-player .

It looks to me like someone is playing with words.

Upsampling of the kind involved in the ATF2 upsampling actually, either based on theory or reliable listening tests has no known effects on sound quality.

In general upsampling done properly has no effect on sound quality. It just spreads the same information over more samples. Upsampling can only possibly degrade sound quality unless certain kinds of esoteric digital processing relating to music synthesis is also being done. This kind of processing is designed to be used by musicans to strongly change sound quality and is not normally done in DACs or AVRs intended for use in home audio systems.

The following statement is equally true of any good modern DAC:

“Listen to a "lossless" digital file and you can hear every detail and every bit of emotion you'd hear from vinyl."

This statement is true because technically speaking vinyl has far lower resolution than even the DACs in low priced music players and even the lowest cost AVRs.

DACs in general are among the most perfected of all audio components, and are generally sonically transparent, meaning that they have no adverse effects on sound quality. This was not always so but it has been so for a number of years, going back to no later than 1987. The major changes in DAC technology since then has only made them smaller and less costly.

Making breathless claims about the sound quality of even just reasonably good DACs is a "can't lose" situation for manufactuerers because the claims are most likely true and providing equipment that meets even exacting sound quality requirements is now relatively easy and inexpensive.

The inclusion of " ATF2 upsampling" in the first sentence is moot, but the statement including it is true as far as it goes.

It's like saying: If you wave an ACME magic wand over an 8 ounce glass of milk it will have only 150 calories". Of course if you don't wave the ACME magic wand over the milk it will still have 150 calories because that is normal calorie content of milk.. Only naive people are impressed with milk that has "only 150 calories per glass".
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post #21 of 85 Old 03-16-2014, 06:12 PM
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...Only naive people are impressed with milk that has "only 150 calories per glass".
Yes, but is that a known quantity in the glass or in my glass it may be more or less. wink.gifbiggrin.gif
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post #22 of 85 Old 03-16-2014, 06:16 PM
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What does that have to do with the question and the answer I provided?

.... And beautiful music they produce with them.
I am sure of that. But, will the music be just as beautiful with another dac costing much less???
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post #23 of 85 Old 03-16-2014, 06:26 PM
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....
Most of the information I've gathered is from manufacturers websites, of course, touting the benefits to owning their product and how it will perform. As I stated in the post at the beginning of this thread I am simply considering the purchase of a DAC. I am trying to gather as much information as I can before I spend a dime on anything. At this point I may consider just going with a phono preamp so that I can enjoy my albums that I don't have on CD. Thank you all for your comments and suggestions, I appreciate the time you took to reply to my questions.

It is great that you are gathering all the info you can; that is a wise move.

Since you have a turntable and vinyl already just get a phono preamp. It is very rare that an external DAC will help.
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post #24 of 85 Old 03-16-2014, 06:59 PM
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What does that have to do with the question and the answer I provided?

.... And beautiful music they produce with them.
I am sure of that. But, will the music be just as beautiful with another dac costing much less???

Very much a strong possibility.

I question the quality of engineering in audio jewelry like this:



Good engineering is generally thought to include cost-effectiveness which appears to be absent from the product pictured above.
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post #25 of 85 Old 03-16-2014, 07:58 PM
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In general, very general, if your setup looks something like a bunch or sources connected to a receiver or preamp, you will not hear any benefit from an external DAC. To elaborate on one of the previous posts (before things started to become another match of long urinations), what do you feel the sound from your system lacks? What aspect of the sound are you trying to "make better" or make sound like something else you have heard? I would look to other components for improvement (or the room you listen in) before a DAC. 

 

To answer your question directly: not in that price range.

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post #26 of 85 Old 03-16-2014, 08:01 PM
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If you want some of the degradation of sound that you get with vinyl, you can use this device with your phono input:

 

http://www.mcmelectronics.com/product/MCM-CUSTOM-AUDIO-50-7240-/50-7240

 

OMG! Soooo gross. Groser than boogers even. 

 

But, I guess it serves some purpose - people seem to love em'

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post #27 of 85 Old 03-16-2014, 08:08 PM
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I am sure of that. But, will the music be just as beautiful with another dac costing much less???
You are asking me to substitute what I know for what I don't know smile.gif. I can't do that.

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post #28 of 85 Old 03-16-2014, 08:20 PM
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Very much a strong possibility.
If you don't know for sure, then your comment is neither here, nor there.
Quote:
I question the quality of engineering in audio jewelry like this:
And I question your knowledge of engineering if you think what you are looking at is just bling. wink.gifsmile.gif
Quote:
Good engineering is generally thought to include cost-effectiveness which appears to be absent from the product pictured above.
Not at all. Where did you get that definition? Good engineering is delivering to specifications set forth by the company. The engineer designing the next Porsche engine or suspension is not told to make those as "cost effective as he can." They serve a market which is much less price sensitive but wants the best performance. By the same token, nothing about MSB's business plan calls for cost effectiveness. Just as a car enthusiast admiring Porsche engineering, I admire the MSB engineers for being free to deliver on the best they can without worrying about cost cutting that goes on in mass market products.

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post #29 of 85 Old 03-17-2014, 12:30 AM
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wants the best performance.
Pardon me, what you call the best performance, do you mean the performance in picking up kids at the school or getting grocery? I ask this because I've seen Porsche owners doing those many times.
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post #30 of 85 Old 03-17-2014, 06:43 AM
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Very much a strong possibility.
If you don't know for sure, then your comment is neither here, nor there.

Amir, please reflect on the fact that we have conferenced together far a little bit more than a day. Of course I know!

Quote:
I question the quality of engineering in audio jewelry like this:
And I question your knowledge of engineering if you think what you are looking at is just bling. wink.gifsmile.gif
[/quote]

Since its sonic performance is exactly duplicated by far less expensive, large, bulky, and power hungry hardware...
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Good engineering is generally thought to include cost-effectiveness which appears to be absent from the product pictured above.
Not at all. Where did you get that definition?

40 years of experience with the data processing and automobile industry.
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Good engineering is delivering to specifications set forth by the company.

I've always worked for real world mainstream companies like IBM, Chrysler, GM etc., not boutiques and jewelry shops.
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The engineer designing the next Porsche engine or suspension is not told to make those as "cost effective as he can."

Prove it. I'm not privy to internal Porsche management documents and I'll bet that on this forum I'm not alone...

However, I have good reason to believe that performance within some kind of budget is company policy. The budget might be larger or smaller, but in general its always there.

Please tell us how many times Madrona customers allow your designers and installers to work on an absolutely unlimited budget.
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They serve a market which is much less price sensitive but wants the best performance.

Porsche produces a number of vehicles at a number of price and performance points which seems to support my claims.
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By the same token, nothing about MSB's business plan calls for cost effectiveness.

Of course it does, given that none of their products appear to be priced to make significant demands on the GNP of a large wealthy nation.
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Just as a car enthusiast admiring Porsche engineering, I admire the MSB engineers for being free to deliver on the best they can without worrying about cost cutting that goes on in mass market products.

I appreciate Porsche's cost-effective high performance designs. Ditto for BMW and Audi, but I drive a Ford.
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