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Archive for the ‘announcements’ Category

Got a call over the weekend from Bill Dunham at Sebago Sound who wanted to tell me that he was releasing a Steel String Slinger based upon the topology of a SSS owned by a well-known, grammy-award-winning, blues/pop artist (I know who it is, and based upon the description, you should be able to figure it out).

Don’t have a lot of details on it right now, though I will be doing a demo/review of his pre-production prototype. I’m excited about playing around with the on-board reverb that is in its own loop to control the signal going in and out of the reverb unit. Very cool.

From what I know of the original SSS, the amp is a single-channel amp, but has two inputs: Normal and FET. The FET input is like having an on-board overdrive. Having played with a real Dumble, that FET circuit is pretty special. The prototype will not have this feature, though Bill does have plans to put that in.

For more information on the Sebago SSS, check out Sebago Sound!

In other news with Sebago, Bill has done a fantastic job of creating Dumble clones with his Double Trouble 50 and 100 Watt amps based upon the Dumble Overdrive Special. But more importantly, unlike other boutique Dumble cloners out there such as Two Rock and Bludotone, Bill’s mission is to create Dumble-style amps and not charge a premium. For instance, Sebago’s 50 Watt Double Trouble is only $1995. Believe me, it’s a well-made amp, and the retailers who carry that amp can’t keep it on their shelves for more than a couple of days. I’m not quite sure what the price-point for the SSS will be, but it will be far less than the competition; and you won’t have to wait more than a couple of weeks at most to get one, as opposed to having to wait up 18 months for other builders’ Dumble-style amps.

So lower price, short wait time (if any, if you get it from one of the local retailers)? Kind of a no-brainer, if you ask me… In any case, stay tuned for my review! I’m getting the amp tomorrow evening and will be playing with it for the rest of the week.

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Could this be the last tuner pedal you’ll ever need?

I don’t see how I missed this! I scour the ‘net daily for new stuff, especially from companies that are known to create really high-quality stuff – like TC Electronic. These Scandinavians are incredible inventors, and I haven’t seen or played one one thing of theirs that I didn’t like – though I could rarely afford it. But they’ve come out with a new tuner – yes, a tuner, of all things – that is completely different from any other tuner on the market. It’s called the “Polytune.” As its name implies, it is a polyphonic tuner; that is, the tuner can detect all your strings at once, and you can see which ones aren’t in tune at the click of a foot switch. Unlike traditional tuners that require you to check each string individually, with the Polytune, you strum your open strings. The LED’s will show you which strings are in tune and which aren’t.

In my experience, more likely than not, at any given time only one or two will be out of tune. So imagine the time you save by NOT having to check and tune each string – only the ones that need it! Check out this video to see how it works!

And at $99 bucks… SOLD!!!

Here are some features:

  • 0.5 cent accuracy
  • Standard size box
  • Tune by strumming
  • Can automatically switch between chromatic and polyphonic tuning (it will detect if you’re hitting a single string)
  • Customizable preference settings
  • Has a 9V output jack for powering other pedals
  • True bypass
  • Adjustable reference pitch from 435Hz to 445Hz
  • Supports drop tuning all the way down to B!
  • Works with 4 and 5 string basses as well

It may not have the accuracy of a TurboTuner, but who the hell gives a flying f$%k! .5 cent accuracy is nothing to shake a stick at, and the fact that you can see the tuning of all your strings at once is incredible! Canย  you say KICK ASS!!! I’ve never even seen this thing and I want to give it 5 Tone Bones! Check out the TC Electronic web site for some detailed information!

Could this be the last tuner I’ll ever want? Until someone comes out with something better – and at a better price, for that matter, probably not. I want to get one right now. Unfortunately, they’re only available for pre-order. Hmm… oh well, I supposed I can wait. ๐Ÿ™‚

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How ’bout a completely different take on an overdrive pedal? Well KASHA is at it yet again, teaming up with Tone Box, Inc., with the brand-new Skull Crusher Drive! Utilizing KASHA’s RockMod technology, the Skull Crusher sports four voicings and a tone and gain knob. Plus with a 10db boost, you have 8 different analog overdrive possibilities in a single pedal!

Sounds hauntingly similar to the KASHA overdrive pedal I just tested last week. It is a bit different, as it has a Tone knob, which is different from the KASHA overdrive. But I can personally attest to the quality of the tone of the KASHA overdrive, so you can bet the Skull Crusher will have that same sweet tone itself!

BTW, my KASHA OD is in production and on its way. I got lucky, and will be getting one of the signed models with a handwritten serial number… Oh goody! Might be able to sell one of these for a grand in 30 years! HA!

In any case, I’ve never seen a pedal like the Skull Crusher before! This is a totally new approach to pedals, adding a visual as well as tonal touch to an effect. The pedal will be distributed by Tone Box, Inc. and will retail for $399.

As for the physical appearance of the box, each pedal is hand-sculpted stainless steel, and comes in four finishes: gun metal, stainless steel, aged and ancient. According to KASHA, there will also be 24K gold and Sterling Silver models as well. Damn! Imagine having a stomp box that’s worth more than your guitar! HAHAHAHAHA!!! I LOVE IT!

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Aracom Amps PRX150-Pro AttenuatorAracom Amps has just posted a page on their site which features Gene Baker – luthier of the famed Baker Guitars and now of Fine Tuned Instruments producing “B3” guitars – demonstrating the transparency of the Aracom PRX150-Pro Attenuator at various attenuation levels.

Gene has also provided commentary on the recording and how no EQ adjustments were made to the amp – even down to bedroom levels! This is a re-affirmation of what I’ve been saying all along about this awesome device! The PRX150-Pro simply retains the tone you work hard for – no matter how much attenuate your signal; and more importantly eliminating the need to compensate with EQ.

Check out Aracom’s Gene Baker audio page here!

Having someone like Gene Baker demonstrate the capabilities of the PRX150-Pro is huge! Gene is an incredible guitarist!

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arkDid I ever say, “I love my job?” Well… GuitarGear.org isn’t exactly a job, but even it were, I’d still love it because I get to sniff around the Internet for different kinds of gear. Recently, through The Gear Page forums, I ran across this great amp company called Ark Amps. I had heard the name in passing but didn’t know much about them. Still don’t, but they make some gorgeous amps! The designs are really out of this world with incredible woodwork! And from what I can gather from the audio clips, these are nice-sounding amps as well.

To give you an idea of just how awesome these designs are check out these pictures! Talk about combining art with function! I’ve never seen amp cabinet designs like this – ever! Check ’em out for yourself at Ark Amps!

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Kasha KA-ODP-A

Awhile ago, I was perusing a forum where one of the members mentioned in a reply that it’s a good time to be a guitarist. There’s so much varied gear out there that guitarists have all sorts of options to choose from. One area of guitar gear that certainly seems to get regular entries is the overdrive pedal.

The OD pedal is something of which I never tire. There are so many great ones out there – I just can’t get enough of ’em. One such pedal that has just recently caught my eye is the KA-ODP-A 4-Channel Overdrive Pedal from Kasha amps. This pedal promises to be something special. Check out its features:

– 4 channels with separate voicing and gain structure
– Analog design
– 10 dB clear boost
– True bypass switching
– Very low power consumption (3mA and runs on a single 9V battery)
– No tone change, only enhances sound
– Compact standard aluminum chassis (4 3/8″x2 1/4″ x 1 1/4″)
– AC power jack (uses standard Boss DC power supplies)
– High gloss mirror black powder coat
– Hand made in the USA
– Low noise
– Crystal Blue LED (high intensity)
– Weight: 1.5lb

Built By an Amp Builder

There’s something about gear that’s built by an amp builder, especially when it comes to pedals or other peripheral devices. Amp builders have an innate understanding of the electronics behind tone, and how peripheral devices interact with their amps. A great example of this is Jeff Aragaki from Aracom Amps and his brand-new attenuatore, the Power Rox PRX150-Pro. Jeff totally gets it with how an amp interacts with a speaker, and the Power Rox is a testament to that. The same may be said of the Kasha overdrive in front of an amp. I had a chance to speak with John (Kasha’s owner and builder) this afternoon about the pedal, and it was clear from our conversation that this guy really understands the interplay between effects and an amp – especially with respect to overdrive.

Kasha has been around awhile, having been building the famous ROCKMOD line of amps since the 80’s, so they know something about amps, and their tone is well-known. Guitarists such as George Lynch and Davey Johnstone (Elton John), and tons of session guitarists have been playing ROCKMODS for years. So when John decided to build an overdrive pedal, he didn’t want to model it off of traditional circuits, so he created his own. The result is the 4-Channel Kasha Overdrive.

What’s very intriguing about this pedal is that it doesn’t have an EQ. John designed the pedal in such a way that it preserves the tone going in and outputs it with some OD “flavor” as John puts it. The thinking is that you don’t need an EQ if you’re not doing anything to the EQ of the signal. Smart.

The Kasha overdrive is a lesson in simplicity, having only two knobs: An overdrive selection knob to choose from one of the four different overdrives, and a gain knob. Very simple. But it also sports a “Turbo” switch at the top which will add a 10db clean boost to slam your pre-amp tubes with even more gain. But despite all that, this thing operates on 3 milliamps and only requires a standard 9V power source! That is incredible! My beloved Holy Fire requires a special 48V power supply! So what John has created is definitely special.

I’m going to be trying this pedal out in the next coming weeks, and I’m excited! I’ll keep you posted!

For more information, go to the Kasha product page (scroll down to the end to see the overdrive)

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5 Tone Bones - Gear has stellar performance, value, and quality. This is definitely top of the class, best of breed, and it's a no-brainer to add this to your gear lineup!
Aracom Amps PRX150-Pro Attenuator
Aracom Power Rox PRX150-Pro Attenuator

Summary: This is hands-down the best attenuator on the market! I’ve played a lot of attenuators, and no other has been able to retain tone and dynamics at high attenuation levels as the Power Rox!

Pros: The Power Rox isn’t just an attenuator. It packs extra features that’ll just blow you away, making a it versatile part of your stage or studio rig!

Cons: None.

Features:

  • Rotary Switch provides (6) Step Attenuation Levels, plus
    the Variable Mode allows continuous variable control of “bedroom” level adjustment
  • 33dB attenuation range
    * Attenuates 100 watts down to well under 1 watt (0.05 watt).
  • 150 watt (continuous average) power rating
  • Independent Input Impedance Switch: 2, 4, 8, 16 ohm
  • Independent Output Impedance Switch: 2, 4, 8, 16 ohm
    * Uniquely allows mismatched amplifier and speaker impedances to be used.
  • Attenuator Bypass Switch
  • Load Mode
  • Line Out with Level Control
  • 2 Speaker Jacks (wired in parallel)
  • Passive design, does not require AC power
  • Rugged, black anodized aluminum housing
  • Heavy duty, steel reinforced handle
  • Handwired and Handcrafted in the USA.

Price: $649 direct

Tone Bone Score: 5.0. Jeff Aragaki of Aracom Amps never ceases to amaze me with the stuff he comes up with! This time, it’s an attenuator invention that blows away the competition in safety and tone and dynamics with its patent-pending Speaker Reactance Thru (SRT) technology, plus extra features that make it unmatched in versatility and usability.

I’ll admit it: As much of gear nut that I am, I’m also a huge techno-geek. I dig new technologies and the engineering behind them; and when someone comes up with some new approach to something, with completely awesome engineering, it’s hard to control my GAS. I just have to have it.

I recently took delivery of a brand new attenuator invented by Jeff Aragaki of Aracom Amps, called the Power Rox PRX150-Pro. This, by far, is the best attenuator I have ever used, and will be a fixture in my rig for years to come. That’s right. This will always be in my chain. But not just because of its ability to transparently attenuate an amp signal. This attenuator has features that no other attenuator has such as two speaker outs, and a Line Out that you can use to go direct into a DAW, or even another amp! Talk about versatility. Not only that, because you can match impedance in both the input AND the output, combined with Jeff’s patent-pending Speaker Reactance Thru (SRT) technology, you can squelch down the power of your amp and not worry about ever blowing our your tubes and ruining your amp. The SRT technology just kicks ass!

Talking the Talk AND Walking the Walk: Speaker Reactance Thru Technology

Jeff is a very humble man, so he’d never say anything like this, but I’m not nearly as humble, so I will say it: There’s not a better attenuator than the PRX150-Pro. Even if Jeff didn’t include all the extra features you get with the Power Rox, this attenuator simply kicks the shit out of all the attenuators I’ve ever tried – and I’ve tested several, including the Ultimate Attenuator that seems to be the most popular attenuator; and with respect to safety, tone and dynamics, all others simply pale by comparison.

Where other manufacturers make bold claims (read: brag) about their attenuators’ transparency, not only can Jeff Aragaki make the claim (in his quiet and humble way), he backs it up with detailed discussions of his SRT technology and the engineering behind it and what makes it so transparent. Jeff’s SRT technology is absolutely incredible. At any level of attenuation, the Power Rox retains your tone and dynamics. This is because instead of just dealing with amp power reduction through a series of resistors or a dummy load, which also have the added effect of flattening out the impedance curve and changing tone, the SRT technology ensures that reactance between the amp is maintained throughout the entire spectrum of attenuation; hence, the name “Speaker Reactance Thru.” This means that the impedance curve is kept intact so that the continuity of reactance between the speaker and the amp are maintained. Jeff discusses this in a detailed article about the advantages of the PRX150-Pro.

Let’s talk a bit about safety…

As I mentioned, the PRX150-Pro will not burn out your amp. You can crank your amp up all the way, getting that wonderful power tube drive, and not worry about your amp blowing a tube, or worse yet, frying some circuits from flyback voltage. We’ve all heard the horror stories about people using attenuators, cranking their amps, and blowing power tubes. A lot of this has to do with impedance mismatching. Some manufacturers have added options to match impedance from one direction, but the Power Rox has impedance matching in both the input and output jacks! But the point of this is that with impedance matching on both sides, you don’t have to deal with any type of mismatch. That is very comforting to know.

I’ve actually been playing with the Power Rox for the last couple of months regularly before it hit the shelves, and to date, I haven’t had any power tube problems. And we’re talking running my amps down to less than a watt for a few hours straight. I could never do that even with my Dr. Z, which is one of the more safe products out there. I’ve burned out power tubes using my Dr. Z by cranking power too much. It’s not pretty, and I’ve been lucky so far that only my tubes got burned out. It could’ve been a lot worse.

This ain’t yer Daddy’s Buick…

When Jeff first spoke to me about the Power Rox, I thought, “Okay, it’s another attenuator. I’m sure it’ll be great considering what a whiz Jeff is…” But when he delivered the unit, I couldn’t believe what he had added! I was already impressed that it had both input and output impedance matching. That was simply awesome. But he added some awesome features that I was not at all prepared for:

  • Bypass Switch – This is a mechanical bypass that completely bypasses the attenuation circuit.
  • Line Out – This one thing is just so cool! I used it to go both direct into my DAW, and also used it to re-amp into my Hot Rod Deluxe! Talk about versatility! For a test, I ran a cable to my 1 X 12 cab, then ran another cable to my Hot Rod. I could’ve easily just run direct into my Hot Rod without going out to another speaker as well, but you can see how useful this is. I could get my amp’s tone and combine it with the Hot Rod’s tone. So cool!
  • Two Speaker Outs – This is yet another cool thing. You have multiple cabs that you want to drive with a single amp? This makes it easy.
  • Input AND Output Impedance Matching – No other attenuator matches impedance in both input and output, but the Power Rox has it. It’s all part of the package to ensure continuous reactance between the amp and the speaker.

So as you can see, the added features make this oh so much more than just an attenuator, and it’s a testament to Jeff’s creativity!

The proof is in the pudding…

Unfortunately, doing sound clips of an attenuator’s effect is fruitless, because it is difficult to hear the changes, and moreover, it is difficult to describe the change in dynamics on a recording. However, the Power Rox was tested side-by-side to a number of popular attenuators, and even at low levels of attenuation, compared to Power Rox, all the other attenuators had an effect on tone and dynamics. To date, several people have performed head-to-head comparisons between different attenuators and the Power Rox, and they all come to the same conclusion: The Power Rox is truly transparent; not just the most transparent of the lot, but truly transparent. To me, this box sets the standard by which all others must be measured now.

I used my own transparency test procedure to compare attenuators, but Jeff has also provided a very detailed, and in-depth transparency test that you can view on his site.

I know, I must sound like a twitterpated schoolgirl with how I’m raving about this product, but for the very first time, I’ve been able to record my amps fully cranked without pissing off my family and neighbors, and more importantly, without having to worry that I’m going to blow a tube. Even with my Dr. Z, I’ve had to settle with less drive on my recordings for fear of burning out my amps. But with the Power Rox, I can crank my amps and get that wonderful power tube drive! And even better yet: I can trust that my tone and dynamics will not change, no matter the volume!

For more information on the Power Rox PRX150-Pro attenuator, go the Power Rox Product Page!

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PRX-front-543You ever have an itch you can’t scratch? Well, it has been like that keeping my mouth shut about the Power Rox PRX150-Pro. Ever since I played with the early prototypes, I’ve been completely blown away by this attenuator! This is a totally new take on attenuator technology, folks, and I’m hoping it takes the industry by storm. Why? Simply because what we’re talking about with the Power Rox is true transparency in tone when this is in your signal chain; not “almost” transparent, but truly transparent.

Check out the Power Rox PRX150-Pro page at Aracom Amps!

Most comparisons between attenuators revolve around what’s the “most transparent” attenuator, indicating that really none of them are transparent, so people pick the best of the lot. And frankly, I’ve tested out several attenuators and ended up with the Dr. Z Airbrake, as I felt it was the most transparent out of the ones I tested. But nothing could have prepared me for the transparency of the Power Rox.

I could go on and on, but I won’t. In fact, I had already written a significant amount of text, but decided to just point you in the right direction. Go to the product page. Read through the product description, but more importantly, read the supplementary documentation behind the links at the bottom of the page. Jeff Aragaki has graciously provided some very in-depth articles on how attenuators work, and also provides a high-level explanation of the technology behind the PRX150-Pro.

Other manufacturers may brag about the safety and transparency of their attenuators, but none is willing to back up their claims with the engineering behind their attenuators (and if you knew what some were doing, believe me, if you care about your tone and the safety of your amp, you’d get worried). If you’re interested in or even use an attenuator, you owe it to yourself – and your tone – to check this unit out!

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Tonic AmpsFane

I love living in the Silicon Valley. While it might not be considered a “destination” for music and culture like San Francisco, New York, Nashville, and Saint Louis, it is a destination for technology, and for decades has led the world in many of the technological advancements we enjoy today. Having lived in the Silicon Valley all my life, and watching it transform from a largely agrarian economy to the mecca of high-tech and venture capital, one thing has remained the same: The Silicon Valley has a certain magic about it that inspires innovation and invention.

So it is no surprise that there are several boutique amp manufacturers in the area. I’ve written about a couple in the past, namely Aracom Amps and King Amplification, but recently, I hooked up with Tonic Amps, located in Mountain View; less than 10 minutes from my home!

Darin Ellingson contacted meย  last week, and invited me to come to his shop. While I knew he built amps, what I didn’t know until I did a bit of research is that Darin is Fane International’s North American distributor for Fane speakers! That got me really interested in Tonic – especially Darin’s cabs. Over the years, I’ve heard so much about Fane speakers, but have never had the chance to hear how they sound. And what great fortune that the North American distributor is 10 minutes away from my house!

In a nutshell, I played through three types of Fanes in 2 X 12 and 4 X 14 cabs: Studio 12L, AXA12, and Medusa 150. Plus, I got a sneak peak at some prototype Fanes Darin is having specially made. Through Tonic cabs, the Fanes sound drop-dead gorgeous! I hooked up three different amps to various Tonic Amps: A Reason Bambino, Aracom VRX18 (tube rectified), and a Tonic Torpedo. No matter what amp I played through, the Fanes sounded crisp, articulate and incredibly dynamic. Folks, this is the way to evaluate speakers. Frequency response charts are useful, but until you’ve got the speakers loaded into a cab, you will never know how they truly perform. Tonic cabinets are absolutely top-notch, and if you’re in the market for a great cabinet, you can’t go wrong with these. They’re all solid wood (no pressboard here), and the dimensions Darin has specified really bring out the best character of the Fane speakers.

What was my favorite? It’s a toss-up between the Medusa 150 and Darin’s prototype that he will hopefully bring into production soon. I love the scooped tones of the Medusa and the mid-ranginess of the prototype. Hmmm… can you say 2 X 12 cab with these in it? HAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Dammit! Gave myself GAS again! It’s probably a good thing I can’t afford them right now – I will have to save my pennies. The speakers and cabinets don’t come cheap, but for this tonal quality, it’s worth every penny. You wouldn’t put a great speaker in a cheap cabinet… maybe… No, I won’t even get into that debate… ๐Ÿ™‚

Torpedoes Away

Based upon the classic Trainwreck circuitry, the Torpedo is a pedal lover’s wet dream! I played the 50 Watt version, which is powered by a pair of EL-34’s! Folks, we’re talking clean headroom with this amp, with minimal breakup at the top end of the volume sweep. The tone is thick and rich and very well-balanced. I didn’t notice an overabundance in any part of the EQ range… well… it did have just the slightest amount of midrange, but that’s good though, because this amp’s tone will play nicely in a mix.

At any volume level, the amp sounds great, but its true character comes out when you dime the volume and play it through a 4 X 12 cabinet. Throw a couple of pedals in front of it (we used the British Ball Breaker and a prototype GeekDriver/GeekRanger pedal in front of the amp), and the amp’s tone combined with the 4 X 12 will knock you across the fuckin’ room! Can you say wicked overdrive that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up? It was amazing to witness!!!

The “Torpedo” moniker is totally appropriate for this amp. It is meant to fire out a shot of gorgeous tone, blow you out of the water, and knock you into tone heaven! Even at the volumes we were playing at, this tone isn’t a face-peeling raucous. Granted, a lot of that quality had to do with the Fane speakers we were playing through, but just as with you not putting great speakers in a shitty cabinet well, you don’t play a great amp with shitty speakers either.

If you live in the Silicon Valley, I encourage you to contact Darin and check out his workshop. It’s set up for jamming, so bring an axe or two! Darin’s even got beer! Though next time I go to his shop, I’ll bring a 12 pack. BTW, he like Tecate. ๐Ÿ™‚ย  For more information, check out the Tonic Amps web site! To get a reference for how great Tonic Amps sound, check out Darin’s YouTube site at: http://www.youtube.com/user/MrTonicAmps.

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GeekMacDaddy British Ball Breaker

I had such a great evening tonight! Darin from Tonic Amps invited me over to his shop to try some amps through his excellent speaker cabinets (be on the lookout for a review in the next day or so). He has a very cool workshop that he also shares with “GeekMacDaddy,” who makes some absolutely KICK-ASS pedals! I got to try out a few of them tonight, and absolutely fell in love with the British Ball Breaker, which GeekMacDaddy touts as a classic Marshall Plexi in a box. He’s not kidding, either. This is a helluva pedal, with rich, thick, overdriven Marshall tone. Just set your amp on clean, crank the master volume, engage the British Ball Breaker, and you’ll be rewarded with gorgeous Marshall-esque overdrive!!! YOWEE!!!

You gotta check out these pedals! They just rock! In addition, GeekMacDaddy is just about to release another freakin’ fantastic pedal called the GeekDriver that is a totally awesome take on a drive pedal. It sounds awesome by itself, but this pedal was built to be stacked, providing the foundation tone, then driving another fuzz or overdrive pedal. Rockin’!!!

Damn! Two freakin’ awesome pedals that I will have to get – as if I need more! But hey! You know me and overdrive pedals! I just can’t get enough of them!

Here’s a great demo video of both the British Ball Breaker and the GeekDriver from PremierGuitar:

Notice that GeekMacDaddy’s playing through a Tonic Amp! Those amps just rock as well! However, I’m getting ahead of myself!

For more information, go to the GeekMacDaddy site!

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