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  • Hi Craig,

    Going back to the external insert plug-in, have you been able to get good results with the plug on a bus?


    I've spent several hours tonight messing with the external insert and buses. For whatever reason, I can't break it. I keep referencing to another track that has just the audio without any processing, and I'm using drums to make it easier to determine audibly if there's any slapback delay. But it's working just fine. Maybe one useful tip is that I ping when the effect is bypassed.

    Do you get consistent pings every time?


    No, sometimes if I ping repeatedly I get different values. Basically I ping and if it works, fine (this happens most of the time). If it doesn't, I ping again.

    Have you tried it with several other plugs in the same effects bin?


    I've tried it with other software plugs in the bin, but have not tried inserting multiple external inserts because it makes more sense to me to just string any external effects together, and treat the collection as one insert.

    Bottom line is that while every now and then I'll get inconsistent pings, that's pretty much the only anomaly I'm getting with external inserts. I have no idea why I'm not experiencing problems, maybe my computer just likes me
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    • BTW I'm thinking of doing the included instruments next, then the V-Vocal MIDI capabilities. Before moving on, do y'all have any questions on material that's already been covered?
      N E W S O N G ! To Say 'No' Would Be a Crime (Remix) is now streamable from my YouTube channel.

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      • In case you wondered where I've been...a couple days ago, the motherboard in my faithful ADK Athlon x2 machine finally bit the dust. All my data was intact (and backed up, of course!) but it was time for a new computer and I am now running a PC Audio Labs dual quad-core Intel machine. Yes, that's right, eight cores! This is a whole other world, frankly. Performance with Sonar is stellar. Check out the attached image for a picture of what eight cores look like in the Transport's CPU meter...

        The PCAL computer has a removable OS drive, and Vista is on the second one. So this is also the computer I'll be using when we reach the Vista portion of this Pro Review.

        Of course, I'm going to fix the ADK because it still performs just fine. And now that Sony Vegas does distributed rendering, I have a serious reason to network the two computers and really save some time when doing videos. But in any event, from now on, I'll be reviewing Sonar 7 on an eight-core machine (and loving every minute). Now, on to the instruments that are new to Sonar 7.
        N E W S O N G ! To Say 'No' Would Be a Crime (Remix) is now streamable from my YouTube channel.

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        • Rapture is one of my favorite soft synths (check out the Pro Review of Rapture for details about the instrument with lots of audio examples), so I have mixed feelings about the LE version. It can play back any standard Rapture patches, which is great, but if someone judges Rapture based on the LE version, they won't be getting an accurate picture of what the instrument can really do.

          To give you some background on the full version, Rapture (first attached image) is based around six "elements." Each one loads a waveform or multisample, and the audio engine is exceptionally good in terms of minimizing aliasing. Note that each waveform or multisample can be "multiplied" within an individual element to as many as nine voices, spread in stereo. That's a lot for one element.

          You can do keyranges for the elements if you're into splits (layering is inherent: just add more elements). There's also an extensive DSP section with filtering and various processors including distortion, bit reduction, sample rate decimation, and the like; what's more, these can be patched in a variety of fixed configurations, including series, parallel, and series/parallel.

          The middle section is where the modulation action occurs, with step sequencer, envelope, and LFO. Each of these is available for Pitch, Filter Cutoff 1, Resonance 1, Filter Cutoff 2, Resonance 2, Pan, and Amp.

          Continuing down the signal chain, there are three EQs for each element along with insert effects. A mixer chooses level and pan for each element, but there are also additional pages. A Global page has two sets of global effects, master effects, three more EQs, and left/right Global Step Generators that affect the overall sound. Another page presents a modulation matrix, and there's a virtual X-Y pad controller.

          So what do you lose with the LE version (second attached image)? Although there's still a section in the upper left section that shows key ranges, transposition, tuning, polyphony, and so on, you can't vary any of these, except for pulling in different waveforms. I can understand Cakewalk not wanting to give away the store, but at the very least, tuning should have been adjustable-using Rapture LE with acoustic instruments could be asking for trouble if the players tuned to each other rather than concert pitch.

          The DSP section remains intact (including the 20 different filter responses), which is appreciated. But modulation is cut down to step sequencing only-no envelope or LFO. While the step sequencing is a very cool aspect of Rapture LE, having only that is a limitation. Also gone: All effects (including the ones on the global page), the modulation matrix, and X-Y controller. You still have the mix/pan/on-off switches for the mixer section, of course. Finally, note that there are fewer programs for the LE version (third attached image).

          The bottom line is that it's great that Rapture LE can play back any patches designed for the full version, even if you can't edit them, especially because Cakewalk is putting a major push on support and additional patches/samples for their soft synths. So if you subscribe to the "I don't want to program, I just want to play" philosophy, Rapture LE makes a lot of sense and is all you'll need. But if you're a tweaker (or need to do fine-tuning!), then you'll want the full version of Rapture. (One other fine point: I may be mistaken, but it seems that Rapture LE actually requires a bit more CPU power than Rapture).

          From Cakewalk's perspective, I'm not sure if Rapture LE is the best possible advertisement for the full version because you won't know what you're missing if all you use is Rapture LE. I think it would be really cool if you got to use the full version of Rapture for 30 days after buying Sonar, and then you had the option of scaling back to the LE version or purchasing the whole enchilada.
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          • This is a cut-down version of Dimension Pro, and my opinions regarding Rapture LE vs. Rapture pretty much apply here as well: Great that it plays back all Dimension Pro patches, but in terms of editing, it's much more limited.

            Dimension Pro (first attached image) is simpler architecturally than Rapture, as it's designed more for sample playback than pureplay synthesis. It has four elements, again with mixer, but in addition to level and pan there are two FX buses and the ability to select an FX sub-page for these buses with two effects category choices: Modulation (chorus, phaser, symphonic, chorus/phaser) and Reverb (seven algorithms). Like Rapture, it has a comprehensive modulation matrix and a virtual X-Y controller pad.

            As to modulators, you can apply an envelope or LFO to each element, which can affect Pitch, Filter Cutoff, Resonance, Pan, and Amp. Each element also has three bands of EQ and an insert FX (with 24 algorithms-delays, reverbs, pan, distortion, etc.), and there are three DSP sections: Lo-fi, Filter, and Drive.

            Dimension LE (second attached image) loses the modulators, EQs, insert effect, X-Y controller, modulation matrix, and ability to vary the parameters in the upper left like key range and (again) tuning. Also note that as with Rapture, there are fewer patches included (third attached image).

            So my conclusions are the same as for Rapture. Dimension Pro and Rapture are truly excellent soft synths; they have a clean audio engine, and Rapture in particular is rich in programming options. It's very cool to have playback engines that can play back the increasing sets of patches available for these two instruments, but I suspect that many users will choose to upgrade to the full version of at least one of these synths.
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            • The z3ta+ (which the People of Cakewalk pronounce "zeta") is a full version, not a lite version, of a synthesizer that's been around for several years (first attached image). Although you can see that a lot of its architecture provided the foundation for Dimension Pro and Rapture, it's a different kind of synth that makes its own contribution to Sonar 7. As it is a full version, we'll cover it in more detail than the Rapture LE and Dimension LE instruments.

              Don't expect a ground-breaking type of synthesis; you've seen almost all the elements before, like oscillators, filters, effects, LFOs, etc. (Well, you probably haven't seen anything like the waveshaper or the morphable LFOs, but we'll get to those shortly.) However, the z3ta+ takes each of those elements far further than the average synth. The oscillators don't have a few waveforms; they have 59. Each filter has a limiter to tame resonant peaks. There's not just one block of delay effects, but three. Phase-lock options abound, and the z3ta+ isn't content to ring modulate or sync just a single pair of oscillators: A novel "circular" structure allows the oscillators to modulate each other in a way I haven't seen before.

              There are two main pages, one with sound generating parameters, and one with effects (second attached image). The two have a common Master Section, which contains several buttons: output limiter on/off, switch between main pages, bank and program management, and open spectrum analyzer window. A pop-up Options menu lets you choose from 11 velocity curves, enable audio input through the processors (cool!), and see a listing of which controls are tied to which MIDI controller numbers, along with ranges and control polarity.

              The Master Section also shows the master level control with metering, and five parameters: control name (pass your mouse over a control, and the detailed name shows up here), control value (provides useful feedback, in real units like dB and Hz, when editing a parameter), draft/normal/high rendering quality, polyphony, and number of voices in use.

              As to the oscillators, although there are 59 waveforms, it's possible to warp those in so many ways (e.g., the waveshaper shown toward the right of the first image, as well as the fact that waveform width is independently modulatable for each oscillator) there are, for all practical purposes, an infinite supply of waveforms. You'll find the usual controls for each oscillator: semitone and octave transposition, fine tuning, phase control, and level. But a Multi mode (like the voice multiplication feature in Rapture) converts each oscillator to eight oscillators (four stereo), with a detune control-much like the Unison modes of old

              Multi isn't the only mode; others allow the oscillator phase to start at the point specified by the phase control setting with each note-on (or phase can be inverted), or free-run so the phase doesn't restart. (Even the Multi option can be phase-synced or free-running.)

              The sync/ring modulation options are richer than Bill Gates, as the oscillators can form a modulation circle where oscillator 1 modulates oscillator 2, which can modulate oscillator 3, which can modulate oscillator 4, etc. Oscillator 6 can even "close the loop" and modulate oscillator 1, so all the oscillators are doing perverse things to each other. Each oscillator pair can have a different modulation type: ring, hard sync, phase modulation, and frequency modulation. You can get some frighteningly complex sounds with these routings.

              Let's look at the waveshaper a bit more: This lets you twist, bend, fold, staple, and mutilate waveforms with functions such as bit reduction, symmetry change, high or lowpass filtering, overdrive, and several others too bizarre to even attempt to describe here. You can even copy shapes to other oscillators, and any transformations get stored with the program.

              The filters are fairly conventional, with one big difference: Tthe 24dB/octave filters consist of two 12dB/octave blocks, and the separation between the cutoff frequencies can be modulated (the 36dB/octave lowpass has three blocks with a similar separation option). Probably the coolest filter trick is wiggling the cutoff in formant mode to get highly "vocal" effects, although the resonance boost switch, which gives whistling self-oscillation effects, is pretty wonderful too.

              I wouldn't consider the filter sound as particularly warm; it falls more on the clean, precise side of the fence. However, using the Smart Shaper option in the Distortion effect can add a nice roundness if you turn the distortion tone all the way up, and keep the distortion gain under about 6dB or so.
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              • Of the six LFOs, four are global and affect all voices, while two are local, with each note having its own LFO. Each LFO can have two waveforms, which can morph from one to the other over a variable amount of time, or be subject to mathematical functions, such as add to each other, subtract from each other, choose the first half cycle from one and the second from the other, multiply their values, take the lowest or highest instantaneous value of the two, and more. Other controls include offset amount (changes the LFO "baseline" level), delay, fade-in, rate (when not being tempo-synced), and phase (alters the phase angle, in 45 degree increments, for the waveform's starting point with each note-on). Phase can also be turned off for free-running LFO effects.

                The LFO section may seem like overkill, but think beyond vibrato and tremolo: with all these options, it's possible to generate very complex control signals that evolve over time. You can make patches that are like little electronic music compositions, where you just hold down a key and listen to all kinds of weird things happen over the next minute or two.

                The final LFO page contains an arpeggiator. It's fairly simple, but is tempo-synced and tracks tempo changes (or runs free, if that's your thing). Settings are stored with the patch, making it valuable for rhythmic, pulsating effects. Patterns are somewhat limited (up, down, up/down with either last note repeated or dropped, and my personal favorite, random), but the range extends from one to six octaves, a length control sets the note duration, and there's a velocity control that determines how the arpeggiator will affect a patch programmed to receive velocity.

                The six general purpose envelopes and single amp envelope share the same parameters: Delay before envelope onset, attack time, slope time to attain an adjustable slope level, decay time to a sustain level, and release time. The overall envelope amount can go positive or negative, for inverse envelope effects. Furthermore, the attack, slope, decay, and release curves can be linear, concave, or convex.

                The pitch envelope page is similar, but has controls for delay, start level (initial value after the delay is complete), attack time, attack level, decay time, release time, release level (final level after note off), and amount. Note that the start and release levels can be positive or negative.

                As to routing all these modulation options, there's a modulation matrix with 16 "slots" where you can link up modulation sources to modulation destinations, and process the source through different curves and controllers. The choice of control curves is extensive. Some examples are bipolar processing, unipolar processing (with reverse options), "slow" (the source will be applied to a lesser degree when control values are small), pitch curves that cover a specific pitch range, and so on.

                Some destinations are notable for their absence: you can't modulate any envelope parameters, the only modulatable LFO parameter is speed, delay feedback isn't supported, reverb has only one controllable parameter (level), and for the oscillators, your only options are pitch and pulse width. For example, if you want to control the envelope decay time by keyboard note number so times get shorter as you move up the keyboard . . . sorry. The mitigating factor is that almost every parameter has an easy-to-use MIDI learn function, so you can at least automate those changes and build them into the sequence. But you can't build them into the patch.
                N E W S O N G ! To Say 'No' Would Be a Crime (Remix) is now streamable from my YouTube channel.

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                • On-board effects include distortion, modulation, compressor, delay, reverb, and equalizer/simulator. Distortion has six different algorithms, with my favorite being Smart Shaper because the drive characteristics change depending on the input signal. Distortion is applied to the filters, so if filters aren't used in a patch, distortion has no effect. Finally, a post-distortion tone control takes out some of the "bite" to warm things up.

                  The compressor has a choice of fast, mid, or slow attack, with separate controls for threshold and ratio. Unfortunately, the latter two use virtual sliders, so you can't see their values in the master page readout. Like the distortion, this is good for setting up some quick effects, but it also is useful when processing external audio signals.

                  The reverb is okay for its intended purpose-just don't expect Reverb of the Gods. The four algorithms are small room, mid hall, large hall, and plate, with parameters for size, damping, low frequency EQ, high frequency EQ, and wet/dry blend. The 7-band EQ, on the other hand, is a home run. The most innovative feature is that there are 12 EQ modes available, which change the band frequencies. For example, the "wide" settings spread out the bands uniformly over low to high frequencies, while the "high" setting places bands at 5, 6.3, 8, 10, 12, 15, and 18kHz. A separate "simulation mode" parameter basically creates curves you can't do manually to obtain specific effects-15" speaker, radio, generic amp, high frequency stimulator-30 in all. This is an extremely useful module (and the slider for each band can be a modulation destination).

                  The Modulation section also scores highly with mono, stereo, and 6-voice chorus; mono and stereo flanger; mono and stereo phaser; quad phaser; and chorus/phaser. Finally, the delay section offers three individual delay modules, each with four modes (stereo delay, ping-pong, cross delay, and LRC delay) along with sync to tempo options, a feedback control, and three EQ sliders, whose center frequencies are set by one of the six EQ modes. When not syncing to tempo, there are individual controls for left and right delay times.
                  N E W S O N G ! To Say 'No' Would Be a Crime (Remix) is now streamable from my YouTube channel.

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                  • Craig,

                    Hate to be late to class, but I never read the Sonar 6 review/tutorial just because at the time I knew I couldn't afford it, so why get hot and bothered for nothing. However, I just got a new, and much better job, and will be upgrading my entire system. I promise I'll ask more pertinent questions when I come back if you could be so kind as to post that link again.

                    Tanx,
                    KC
                    EQUIPMENT/SOFTWARE:

                    Intel Mobo: DP35DP/CPU: Intel Dual Core Quad 6600 2.4G
                    Video: nVidia GeForce 8600 GT w/512RAM/Sys RAM: 2Gig
                    O/S: WinXP SP2
                    Snd Card: Alesis I/O 26/Cntrllr: Alesis Fusion 8HD
                    DAW: Sonar 7HS/Been CW user since '88.
                    Wav Editor: Audition 1.5

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                    • Craig,

                      Hate to be late to class, but I never read the Sonar 6 review/tutorial just because at the time I knew I couldn't afford it, so why get hot and bothered for nothing. However, I just got a new, and much better job, and will be upgrading my entire system. I promise I'll ask more pertinent questions when I come back if you could be so kind as to post that link again.

                      Tanx,
                      KC


                      It's right here in the Pro Review section at http://acapella.harmony-central.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1438357.

                      Sonar rocks...I don't think you'll be disappointed.
                      N E W S O N G ! To Say 'No' Would Be a Crime (Remix) is now streamable from my YouTube channel.

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                      • This is a cut-down version of Dimension Pro, and my opinions regarding Rapture LE vs. Rapture pretty much apply here as well: Great that it plays back all Dimension Pro patches, but in terms of editing, it's much more limited.



                        Craig, you mentioned that Dim LE plays back Dim Pro patches, but how do you get the Dim Pro patches if you don't own Dim Pro?

                        Are there other people selling Dim Pro patches? I got Dim LE with Home Studio 6 XL - I suspect that the Dim LE which came with Sonar Studio/Producer came with much more content (I was underwhelmed...)

                        And now I come to find that the Proteus Packs, including Proteus 2000 are compatible with Dim LE.

                        What to do for bread and butter sounds? Wait for Dim Pro to go on sale again for $99 (more than I paid for SHS6XL), get the Proteus 2000 pack for $79, or find Dim Pro content / patches elsewhere?

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                        • Probably the only thing you could do is buy the expansion packs ( CW or 3rd party ) these also have the waveforms you need to run the patches.

                          By the way , I agree with Craig that you need the ability to tweak those patches ! It's quite rare indeed to find one that just happens to fit in your mix. Lots of them are spectrum hogs , and although you can carve them down with eq, it's not the same.
                          Lots of times you'll find one thats in the ball park and then makes some small changes, like say in the attack or lfo speed , then it works much better.
                          First kill the goose by refusing to feed it , then blame it for dying and not giving anymore gold eggs


                          Professionalism is an attitude and , not a possesion that you own forever once you have acheived something.



                          "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones."

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                          .

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                          • Craig, you mentioned that Dim LE plays back Dim Pro patches, but how do you get the Dim Pro patches if you don't own Dim Pro?

                            Are there other people selling Dim Pro patches? I got Dim LE with Home Studio 6 XL - I suspect that the Dim LE which came with Sonar Studio/Producer came with much more content (I was underwhelmed...)

                            And now I come to find that the Proteus Packs, including Proteus 2000 are compatible with Dim LE.

                            What to do for bread and butter sounds? Wait for Dim Pro to go on sale again for $99 (more than I paid for SHS6XL), get the Proteus 2000 pack for $79, or find Dim Pro content / patches elsewhere?


                            Cakewalk is getting aggressive about expansion packs for Dimension Pro and Rapture. Apparently the instruments are doing well, and Cakewalk wants to "fuel the fire." I have no idea whether the original Dim Pro patches will be made available separately, but if the instruments continue to do well, I expect that you will see more support for them.
                            N E W S O N G ! To Say 'No' Would Be a Crime (Remix) is now streamable from my YouTube channel.

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                            • Hey, here's an idea: Why doesn't Cakewalk add a world-class sampler to Sonar 8 by offering E-Mu something for the Emulator X2? Just a thought. Meanwhile, we have DropZone, which is a basic sample playback instrument.

                              Previous versions of Sonar (as well as Sonar 7, of course) had the SFZ player, which could play SFZ, WAV, and Ogg Vorbis files and had the additional advantage of being multitimbral-you could stick a sample (or SFZ multisample) in each MIDI channel. According to the help, it also has a multimode filter, envelopes, and other synth-type modules, but I've never been able to find them and I suspect that the help is out of sync with the product itself. Whatever.

                              In any event, DropZone is much more sophisticated than the SFZ player. It can load WAV, SFZ, and Ogg Vorbis files, but also AIFF and REX files. With the latter (see first attached image), you can trigger the full REX loop, or individual slices, depending on where you play on the keyboard. It also comes with a bunch of SFZ multisamples and programs, so you're not limited to rolling your own.

                              The samples get loaded into one or both elements, and each has a lot of options: One of 16 different filter types (with cutoff, resonance, and cutoff response to velocity, keyboard note, and mod wheel), and separate ADSR envelopes (with depth and velocity response controls) for pitch, filter cutoff, and amp. The LFO, also separate for pitch, filter cutoff, and amp, has 9 different waveforms, frequency and depth controls, and the LFO depth responds to velocity, keyboard note, and mod wheel. The second attached image shows the filter options.

                              Each element has a volume and pan control, as well as the option to set keyrange, velocity range switching, root note, fine tuning, keyboard tracking, and polyphony limit. You can set a start and end time for the sample, but more importantly, you can loop any portion of the waveform (the sound plays through to the loop, then loops). Once you've established a loop, you can slide it left or right in the waveform, as well as change direction (forward, backward, forward/backward) and set a crossfade time to minimize any clicks caused by the loop repeating.

                              Finally, you'll find a virtual X-Y pad that controls pitch and vibrato. It has "virtual spring loading" so you can "flick" it with your mouse, and it will return to center with a certain amount of inertia. You can see it to the left of the filter drop-down menu in the second attached image, which also shows an AIF waveform being forward/reverse looped.
                              N E W S O N G ! To Say 'No' Would Be a Crime (Remix) is now streamable from my YouTube channel.

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                              • One of Dimension LE's strong points is that it can read the Garritan Pocket Orchestra library that ships with Sonar 7. Garritan's sounds are always welcome, and while the breadth of instruments doesn't come close to the Garritan Personal Orchestra, it's a nice taste of orchestral sounds.

                                I've already mentioned that Rapture LE and Dimension LE are great because they can play back content, but they're obviously limited compared to the full versions. Not so the z3ta+, which is the full version. It's a very tasty, capable, and underrated synthesizer that adds considerable value to the Sonar 7 package. DropZone is not going to make the designers of Kontakt/MachFive/EX24/etc. lose any sleep, but once I got into it, I will say it's a fast way to grab a sample, loop it, and play it. The main way I use it is for developing grooves when I'm in a hurry.

                                Ultimately, if you have a good collection of soft synths, this aspect of the Sonar 7 upgrade probably won't get you too excited. Even if you have Dimension Pro and Rapture, though, the z3ta+ makes sounds that aren't quite like anything else. And as more and more content appears for Dimension Pro and Rapture, they'll be increasing value in having these playback engines.

                                My one complaint involves patch storage and organization, which I find highly confusing. For example, the DropZone content (including multisamples) is located in the DropZone folder in the VSTplugins folder. Fair enough. But if you want to deposit some custom Rapture patches for Rapture LE to read, I found content for Rapture LE in Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\Cakewalk\Rapture LE\Programs. But the Multisamples it reads from go in Program Files\Cakewalk\Rapture LE\Multisamples-and if you have Rapture installed, its multisamples go elsewhereWhen I created some patches for Rapture, I couldn't figure out where to put them so they'd show up in both the Rapture LE and Rapture browsers (answer: you can't get them to show up in both places, or at least I don't think you can, unless you put the programs in two places where both Rapture LE and Rapture can see them). Documentation for the instruments is scattered around as well.

                                From what I understand part of this patch chaos is Windows-related, in order to work with Vista. Still, there's gotta be a better way to organize patches and multisamples for these excellent instruments. Does anyone have a solution? Or can someone from Cakewalk explain the logic behind where different instruments store their patches?
                                N E W S O N G ! To Say 'No' Would Be a Crime (Remix) is now streamable from my YouTube channel.

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