JH Audio JH13 Pro Freqphase Review

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JHAudio JH13 Pro FreqphaseReviewed Oct 2013

Details: One of the flagship models from Florida-based CIEM experts JH Audio
Base Price: $1175 from jhaudio.com / smartphone cable with mic and 1-button remote available for $60
Specs: Driver: 6 BA / 3-way crossover | Imp: 28Ω | Sens: 116 dB | Freq: 10-20k Hz | Cable: 4’ L-plug / other lengths available
Wear Style: Over-the-ear

Accessories (4.5/5) – Cleaning tool, Comply Soft Wraps, Otterbox 1000 hard-shell carrying case, and drawstring carrying pouch
Build Quality (5/5) – The JH13 boasts fantastic fit and finish all around, with crystal-clear shells and faceplates. The cables use the common 2-pin connector. Numerous customization options are available for the earphones via the JH Audio website
Isolation (4.5/5) – The isolation provided by the custom shells is excellent – slightly below that of silicone-shelled customs but on-par with my UM and Hidition units
Microphonics (5/5) – No cable noise to speak of
Comfort (5/5) – The nozzles of my JH13 were cut a bit longer than average, similar to the UM Miracle. As with all acrylic customs, the shells are hard but very comfortable when fitted correctly. If the earphones are uncomfortable after an initial break-in period, a refit is probably a good idea. JH Audio does refits at no cost within the first 30 days and for $50 thereafter

Sound (10/10) – A staple of the audiophile scene since its release in 2009, the JH Audio JH13 Pro underwent an update dubbed “Freqphase” last year. Both the JH13 and the bassier JH16 are currently shipping with the Freqphase tweak, which is meant to ensure phase coherency between the drivers by delivering all frequencies to the ear at once. Regardless of the technical details, the JH13 Pro sounds absolutely fantastic to me. It is tight, balanced, and impossibly clear. The bass is quick and extended, with a few decibels of boost and the ability to produce a good amount of punch when necessary. The JH13 can sound lean and quick one moment, and crank out beats with some serious authority the next. Its tone is, on the whole, a bit warmer than that of the Etymotic Research ER4S, but still close to neutral.

Great dynamics and transparency carry over to all aspects of its sound – in addition to good bass control, the JH13 boasts unbelievable clarity and resolution. The mids are in balance with the bass and expose every nuance of the recording with great definition. The sound is, on the whole, a little fuller and more natural compared to the Etymotic ER4S without sacrificing any clarity whatsoever. Comparing the JH13 to the quad-armature Ultimate Ears UE900, for example, makes the UE set sound muffled, thanks in part to its recessed upper midrange and slightly boomier bass.

The treble of the JH13 is nicely prominent but not at all harsh or sibilant. Treble energy is spot-on, appearing about even with the Etymotic ER4S while doing a similarly good job of minimizing harshness and sibilance. Westone’s flagship custom monitor, the ES5, sounds a little dark in comparison to the JH13 and appears a touch more congested. The JH13, on the other hand, sounds airy and has superb instrument separation and stereo imaging. Is presentation has much better depth than that of the Ety ER4S and an airier, more open feel than that of the UE900. The sum sound is crisp and accurate without missing out on the enjoyment factor, especially for those who don’t need tons of bass boost to tap their toes. 

Select comparisons

VSonic GR07 ($179)

VSonic’s dynamic-driver flagship is an order of magnitude less expensive than the JH13 but, as one of the more capable earphones in its price range, makes for an interesting comparison. The most obvious difference between the two lies in the bass – the GR07 has a softer bass presentation that lacks the speed, tightness, and texture of the JH13’s low end. Overall bass quantity is similar between the two earphones but because it lacks the bass control, as well as the more forward midrange, of the JH13, the GR07 sounds boomier in comparison and its low end appears heavier and more intrusive.

The midrange of the GR07 is not as prominent as that of the JH13 and lacks some clarity in comparison. The treble of the VSonics tends to be hotter and vocals generally appear more sibilant. The JH13 sounds significantly smoother, but not for lack of energy. Rather, it follows a treble profile more like that of the Etymotic ER4S, avoiding the peaks that can make the GR07 offensive while maintaining similar overall treble presence. The JH13 also has a more three-dimensional presentation with better depth compared to the VSonic set.

HiFiMan RE-600 ($399)

One of the few accuracy-oriented dynamic-driver earphones in its price range, the RE-600, much like its lower-priced RE-400 sibling, is an impressive performer when it comes to delivering accurate, yet smooth sound. The biggest difference between the RE-600 and JH13 is the treble – the HiFiMan set sounds dull and lacks treble presence in comparison. Its tone is a little warmer overall and there is a touch more bass bleed and less clarity than with the armature-based JH13. The JH13, due in large part to its tighter bass and superior treble presence, appears a little more detailed and textured, and boasts a more spacious and airy presentation with better imaging.

Unique Melody Miracle ($950)

Unique Melody’s flagship is one of my favorite custom-fit earphones and the standard against which I’ve compared all other monitors for the past several years. Its 3-way, 6-driver configuration and balanced, spacious sound make it a natural competitor for the JH13, but on closer inspection the two earphones are as different as they are similar. The bass of the Miracle is rather level whereas the JH13 has its low end boosted by a few decibels. This is especially noticeable in the mid-bass region and gives the JH13 greater overall bass impact. It also makes the Miracle seem more focused on deep bass in comparison as there’s no mid-bass boost to get in the way. Nonetheless, the punchier JH13 still sounds a touch more resolving than the Miracle.

The JH13 boasts more midrange presence and clarity while the UM set has more recessed mids that end up sounding a bit veiled in comparison. At the top, the Miracle is a little smoother, but otherwise similar in both treble energy and top-end extension. The presentation of the JH13 is, on the whole, more forward but both earphones provide a great sense of space and have excellent imaging.

Sensaphonics 3MAX ($1050) 

Sensaphonics’ flagship earphone is a pro-oriented monitor with good bass, a mild midrange focus and smooth, inoffensive treble. The JH13 boasts similarly ample bass impact on tracks that call for it but also has greater ability to scale back, providing tighter, quicker, less intrusive bass when necessary. It is brighter, clearer, and more detailed than the 3MAX, revealing fine musical nuances more readily and sounding more refined overall. The JH13 also has better treble energy and sounds more crisp. It is more spacious as well, with a soundstage that boasts better width and depth in comparison to the 3MAX.

Hidition NT 6 ($1200) 

The 4-way, 6-driver NT 6 is less bassy than its pricier NT6-Pro sibling, just as the JH13 Pro is less bottom-heavy than the pricier JH16. The similarities between them run deeper, however. For me, both of these monitors are the cream of the crop – impossibly clear and resolving, with very good imaging and lifelike presentations. The differences between them lie largely in sound signature, with the JH13 being a pinch on the warm side of neutral and the NT 6 being slightly bright.

While the low end of the NT 6 is extended, punchy, and dynamic, it doesn’t crank out bass with quite the same authority and impact as the JH13. Personally, I don’t find the low end of the JH13 excessive, but the bass of the Hidition is flatter in profile and a little tighter as a result. The more mid-bassy JH13 carries a slightly warmer tone, though the mids on both earphones are completely free of veiling and fantastically clear. The NT 6 is brighter, with more emphasis on high frequencies, while the JH13 is a little flatter up top. On the soundstage front, the JH13 sounds a little more 3-dimensional and enveloping while the NT 6 has slightly less depth to it. Interestingly, the JH13 Pro is also significantly more sensitive than the NT 6.

FitEar To Go! 334 ($1345)

One of priciest and most exclusive universal-fit earphones in the world, the Japan-made TG334 utilizes a quad-armature configuration to deliver a warm and powerful sound with smooth, relaxed treble. It sounds quite different from the accuracy-oriented JH13 – significantly bassier and darker in tone. The JH13, with its tighter, less powerful low end, makes the TG334 sound quite muddy in comparison. The mids of the TG334 also appear somewhat muffled next to the JH13, with the JH Audio set offering up better treble presence and superior overall balance as well. On the presentation front the two are more similar, but the TG334 is slightly less coherent-sounding than the JH13.

Value (9.5/10) – The IEM market has changed a lot in the past several years, becoming saturated at an increasing rate. Still, of all of the earphones I’ve tried recently, the JH Audio JH13 Pro has been the biggest eye-opener, delivering clarity and resolution unlike anything else I’ve heard. It effortlessly produces extremely nuanced and refined sound across the entire frequency range, complete with fantastic instrument separation and imaging.

I do believe that the best Hi-Fi component is one that does its job so well, you don’t even know it’s there, and after a year spent with the JH13 Pro I still marvel most at its ability to simply fade away, leaving only the music. In fact, finding anything that mildly displeases me about this earphone is a struggle, but one I really don’t mind.

Pros: Class-leading sound quality; great fit & finish
Cons: N/A


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About Author

Living in the fast-paced city of Los Angeles, ljokerl has been using portable audio gear to deal with lengthy commutes for the better part of a decade. He spends much of his time listening to music and occasionally writes portable audio reviews across several enthusiast sites, focusing mostly on in-ear earphones.

28 Comments

  1. Michael on

    How does the roxanne compare to the jh13

    • ljokerl on

      Sorry, haven’t had any hands-on time with the roxanne.

  2. proedros on

    Hi Joker ,

    thanx for a great review

    My question is , i already have NT6(+whiplash hybrid v3 cable) and i am LOVING it , but i am curious to try JH13 PRO

    would these 2 be so close in sound that buying jh13 be an overkill ? or can they both coexist in peace in my ears ? :-p

    I am eyeing a used JH13 at a very good price (reshelling+buying would come to around 600 euros , instead of the 1100 if bought new) but i need to know if nt6 is not like a brother to the jh13

    thanx in advance,

    Proedros

    • ljokerl on

      Hmm… that’s a good question. It’s similar to asking whether a HiFiMan IEM too close to a TWFK set (e.g. ATH-CK10) to coexist in the same collection. Both are relatively balanced-sounding, both provide sound that approaches neutral, and both do a great job with overall detail, instrument separation, etc. Where they differ is small things like overall tonality, note thickness, and maybe a slight difference in frequency response here and there.

      I guess the answer is… if the NT6 is so close to perfection for you than you don’t want to stray too far from it, and also are willing to take the chance that you’ll end up preferring the NT6 anyway, go for it. But if you are looking to try new something new, or want something that is a direct upgrade to the NT6, I’d skip it.

  3. Jwong on

    JH Audio seems to also offer an even pricier Sirens series (Roxanne, Angie, and Layla). Do you know how these compare to those, at least in terms of what their target audience is? And how do you think these would fair for mixing and mastering music? Thanks!

    • ljokerl on

      Unfortunately I haven’t had the chance to try any other models from JH Audio.

      As for using these for mixing, I think they should fare quite well – they’re not the most neutral in-ear monitors out there, but they’re not don’t carry a huge emphasis on any particular part of the frequency spectrum, either, and the resolution and realistic note weight should be assets.

  4. Rob on

    Do you know how these compare to the original non pro version of the JH13?

  5. Michael on

    Are these any good for edm? And how do they compare to the 3003 and shure 846?

    • ljokerl on

      Like most reference monitors the JH13 doesn’t have a ton of bass, which I know some EDM listeners really like. Other than that, I think it’s very genre-versatile and personally enjoy it for EDM.

      The K3003 will give you more of a v-shaped sound, with slightly more bass and treble emphasis and a bit less resolution and overall refinement. That’s mostly on the Reference and +Treble settings. The +Bass setting of the K3003 isn’t worth using IMO.

      Unfortunately I was never able to get a very comfortable fit with the SE846 (housings too big) so I can’t comment on its sound.

      • Michael on

        I listen to mainly edm I would say I am not really a huge bass fan I most want the best vocals for my edm because I most likely listen to vocal edm. In the headphone table In green which has the best vocals good soundstage and really good clarity that will make me say Wow? Also what does the green table mean

        • ljokerl on

          Green just means custom fit. Everything else is universal-fit.

          The JH13 has the biggest wow factor and very good resolution… most of the other sets either have less bass or a more laid-back sound and will be less suitable for what you want. The exception is the Westone ES5, but it’s less clear and not better than the JH13 in my opinion.

  6. Ziv Goldfeld on

    Hi, great reviews – thank for that!

    Due to some very unfortunate coincidence I’ve recently lost all my gear, which included a Cowon J3 DAP and UE triple-fi 10 IEM with a custom pure silver cable by Chris Himself. I’ve been quite happy with my Cowon J3+Triple.fi 10’s, but lacked some warmth and tightness of the bass. But now this is my chance to upgrade to the CIEMs world!

    After doing some reading (especially this review and the other links found in it), I strongly tend toward the JH13s. Bot they sound great! Details, resolution and separation of the highest importance for me. I also very enjoy a good bass, but one that is tight and does not bleed to the rest of the spectrum. I love vocals and want them to be present, textured and clear while not concealing anything behind them. Would you say that the JH13s make a good choice for me?

    Another question is regarding DAP should I pair with them (in indeed you think the JH13s are the ones for me :). My DAP budget is up to 400 USD. I’ve done some reading and found that the Fiio X% and the DX90 are very well though off in this price range. Both have a decent UI and build quality and the X% is stronger on the battery side. But putting all of this aside – which will pair best with the JH13s?

    Initially, I was thinking about getting JH16s, mainly because I only now read this review and finally got a good grasp of the technical terms that accurately describe what I am actually looking for; the JH16s are not it being to heavy on the bass side. I’ve read a lot of good reviews about the DX90 but got the impression of it also having a rather dominant mid-bass. therefore, I felt maybe the Fiio X5 will be an better fit so that the bass won’t become over-powering. Nonetheless, all the rest of what DX90 has to offer, I generally prefer it over the X5 (especially that it is great with details and more accurate). However, now that I’ve got the JH13 on sight, the pairing with DX90 sound more natural, since I don’t mind bass, I just want it balanced with the rest of it. I’d be very happy to hear what do you think of this and which DAP do you recommend. If there is a third\fourth option(s) I should consider – I am in now way fixed on getting either of these two DAPs.

    Thank you so much in advance!! Getting this right will make me thrilled!

    • ljokerl on

      Sounds like the JH13 would be a good fit – while I don’t think it’s a particularly warm earphone, it does have tight, punchy bass and everything else you’re after. Doesn’t hurt that it was designed and tuned by the same person as your TF10s, either.

      As for DAPs, I’ve only tried the X5 briefly and thought it sounded very good, but I can’t say how it compares to any of the other DAPs you’re looking at. I also did not get to try it with the JH13, which is a particularly sensitive earphone. I would recommend checking existing X5/DX90 reviews specifically for mentions of background hiss and high output impedance, as both of those would be undesirable with the JH13 and would probably sway me to get one DAP over the other.

      • Ziv Goldfeld on

        Thanks for the advice, will do some more reading and post back on which seems to be a better choice (in case anybody else will be in that same dilemma). By the way, I’m sorry for all the typos in my original post, I’ve written it using a tablet and you know how tablet keyboards can get – any way to fix all these typos? I didn’t find an ‘edit’ option.

        One more DAP related question: Is there any good reason to consider DAPs beyond this price range, such as the AK120/240 , Questyle, etc.? I’m wondering do they actually outperform their 300-400$ priced counterparts by a margin that is worth the price difference…

        • ljokerl on

          That would be great – this review gets a ton of traffic and I’m sure others have similar source concerns.

          I’m not big on very expensive DAPs because in my experience the differences in performance are very small between audiophile DAPs in general, and between expensive and VERY expensive ones especially. You will get a much more polished user experience with something like the AK120, but I don’t know how much that’s worth to you.

          • Ziv Goldfeld on

            User experience is nice, but unless it reads my mind and massages me at the same time, I don’t see how its worth an additional 800$ :). At the end of the day the only thing that’s really critical is the quality of the sound. My criterion for all the rest of the DAP’s properties is that they would not be such that one is bothered by.

            Thanks again for the advice, it’s highly appreciated!

  7. henkie on

    Thanks for all of these reviews. And I also like that a lot is compared to the VSonic GR07, since that is one of the few headphones that I have experience with, which makes it especially useful to have as reference.

    I was wondering, though. I use my GR07s mostly at work and when travelling, and they’re fine for that. A smidge heavy on the bass, perhaps a little recessed in the mids – might be my FiiO X3, too. But compared to my home audio set it feels rather… congested maybe. It’s a lot more difficult to hear details on the GR07s – where my home audio set can put down notes so that it feels you can walk around them and admire them, the GR07s seem to string it together in comparison. Aside from that it also feels a lot more ‘closed in’ compared to my speakers, if that makes sense.

    It makes it rather hard for me to chose the GR07s if I want to listen to music without bothering others at home. From what I’ve heard, an open, over-ear headphones should improve the ‘openness’ of the sound, and I was thinking of some entry-level Stax or perhaps a HE-560, but that would require me to also get an amp for the best results.

    After reading a bit more here, I was wondering if perhaps I could also get a more open sound through a better IEM or CIEM. What is your experiences with this? Could I expect a more ‘open headphone’-type sound from the JH13 (like Stax or a Hifiman planar headphone)?
    I prefer a neutral sound signature, I love the clarity and detail that my home set can produce. I like to listen to metal, progressive rock, or some electronic music, and yes, I know that for metal the neutral and overwhelming detail is not really the best combination (makes it rather tiring to listen to), my speakers have made that already clear to me.

    • ljokerl on

      I would not recommend an IEM for what you want, and especially not an aggressive-sounding BA-based custom with a closed-ear seal like the JH13. There are some universal earphones that do have more of that open-air feel than the GR07 (example: Sony MDR-EX1000) but if you’re going for a more speaker-in-a-room type feel I would definitely go STAX, LCD-3, or similar full-size open cans if you have the option and save IEMs for on-the-go use. Even my lowly Sennheiser HD600 can give any of my CIEMs a run for the money when it comes to soundstage presentation, though I could never substitute the HD600 for my JH13 in any sort of portable setting.

      • henkie on

        Thanks for your response.

        You say the JH13 is aggressive sounding? Do mean that as in more aggressive than the GR07, or more or less the same? To my ears and in comparison to my home audio set, the GR07 actually sounds fairly laid back. I do listen mostly at low volumes, though.

        I was initially also looking for an open headphone for at home, but that would likely require an amp, which would mean that I wouldn’t be able to easily move for instance from the sofa to the dinner table (or I’d need a portable amp, which as far as I can tell is not an option for a Stax). Then I stumbled across this site (from the mega-review thread at head-fi – which was also the source on which I based my initial purchase of the GR07 (the classics at the time) – many thanks for that!) and I got to wondering if an (C)IEM might also be able to fit the bill. That would mostly eliminate the need for an amp and should be fairly easy to drive from my X3 (or later an X5 or DX90 or some such) and so be both cheaper and easier. And would give me better sound quality at work and on the go, too =)

        Can you give an idea of how neutral for instance a HE-560 is when compared to the JH13 (or VSonic GR07)? I always read a lot about bass extension and punch for the HE-560, but I’m a bit allergic to bass heavy phones so that has kept me away from a purchase up to now (unfortunately they’re not easy to find for an audition around here). That and the question of how easy they would be to drive. Would I need an amp to drive it without losing too much in clarity and detail or bass-looseness?

        • ljokerl on

          The JH13 is more aggressive, but as I said it’s simply not what you’re looking for because your problem seems to be mostly with the presentation and not the sound signature.

          For the HE-560 you should have an amp of some sort, though you don’t need one that costs and arm and a leg. It’s not bassier than the GR07 but by virtue of being a large ortho headphone it does move more air, so I wouldn’t quite call it “neutral”, and definitely not bass-light. If you want a simple, comfortable full-size can that doesn’t sound closed and definitely doesn’t have overblown bass, you might as well get an HD600. It won’t be very expensive and it has more balanced bass than the HE-560. You do need an amp for it still, but even so it won’t cost you much more than a JH13.

          • henkie on

            I understand that the JH13 is not what I’m looking for, I was just wondering, because I don’t see the aggressiveness mentioned in the review itself. Plus I think I’ll keep the JH13 in mind for if/when my GR07s fail. In-ears appear to fail roughly once every two years for me, so it could be relatively soon-ish as well (although I hope these customs would survive longer than two years).

            I’ll keep an eye out for the HD600, thanks for the suggestion. It’s retailing around here for around €300, so I could get an €900 amp and it would still only be breaking even with a JH13 in terms of price. Do you have any suggestions for a (semi-)portable amp to go with it? I see one retailer relatively close by where I could audition them, perhaps listen to an HD800 while I’m there, too.

            Many thanks for your help and suggestions!

          • ljokerl on

            Demoing the HD600 and HD800 both is a great idea if you have that chance. You’ll get a much better idea of where higher-end open cans fall between your speakers and IEMs.

            I don’t have a lot of experience with higher-end portable amps but I thought the Portaphile 627 was more than capable of driving the HD600. And also my HiFiMan HM-901 can do so fine without an external amp. There’s probably a bunch of other amps that can drive them as well.

          • henkie on

            I managed to demo an HD650 and an HD800. Though I wonder now about the HD650, because the highs not detailed at all, much less so than I’m used to from the GR07. Maybe they needed some burn-in, I don’t know. It seemed quite bass heavy to my ears, though, with a bit loose base (driven by the headphone out of a NAD 356 stereo amplifier), but not that great bass extension.

            The HD800 was much better, effortlessly letting me hear all the treble detail. Tight and controlled bass, good extension, too (driven on the same amp as the HD650). Though I couldn’t hear a bass hump anywhere, the amount of bass was quite a lot, as compared to my home setup. I’d have to turn up the sub quite a bit to get this much bass (but that would sound unnatural as you’d be able to clearly distinguish the sub from the speakers). On the one hand, quite fun to listen with, especially on certain songs, and with great detailing, but the bass might be a bit much on certain other songs.

            Do you have an idea of headphones that would have the same bass extension but perhaps a few dB less on the lower bass? For reference, bass light like for instance the q-Jays is not what I’m looking for, because I got those, then felt like the bass was missing (it’s still there, but not that audible), but more like the GR07 (perhaps with a bit more bass extension).

            I know you can’t really compare in-ears with full-size headphones, but would you say the JH13 has a similar sound signature to the HD800?

          • ljokerl on

            Unfortunately I have no experience with the HD800 that would allow me to draw such a comparison. I’ve only heard it briefly. I do prefer the HD600 to the HD650 for its superior balance, but also has somewhat mediocre bass extension.

  8. Aarne Bielefeldt on

    My question is, has this truly improved over the very disappointing UE-10 that I paid $1500 for and is still sittting on my shelf for occasional earplug use and led me to seriously question the engineering of these small IEM companies over solid tech companies like Etymotic research (the name alone …) or Sennheiser or Stax. Having multiple drivers and crossover networks always add a problem that is very difficult to over come technically and 10 years ago it was impossible for Ultimate Ears to make a good crossover, at least to my trained ears. Has this improved? could I risk another possibly very cold $ bath and have another set made to find out based on reviews like this one? When ever I read comments like “warmer” and “bass boost” I am still a little hesitant as that seems to point to phase problems at the crossover frequency. It is one of the mayor reasons why the ER4 still holds up so well to this day. No crossovers. It is easier to make a decent amp for a high impedance driver then try to “fix” the problems created by multiple driver networks.

    • ljokerl on

      Never tried the UE10 so I haven’t a clue about its performance level or tuning. However, it should be noted that Ultimate Ears is by no means a smaller company than Etymotic (though they are now owned by Logitech) and is credited with a lot of innovation and “firsts” in the in-ear monitor space. There are plenty of multi-BA earphones that have good coherency and you don’t have to have “warmer” sound or a “bass boost” if you don’t want them. However, if your priorities are single-driver coherency and a response that follows that Etymotic “flat” target curve, there’s nothing better than the ER4 that I’ve heard.

      • Aarne Bielefeldt on

        The UE-10, a multi driver custom IEM, was the precursor to this reviewed JH-16 by the same designer from the pre Logitech period. It was reviewed very favorably at the time including on Head-Fi. Over all today’s technology is very similar, there has been no dramatic inventions other then high tech precise engineering capabilities and improvement of tolerances by modern manufacturing technologies.

        It is not just single driver coherency but in ultimate the sound quality as in accuracy of reproduction or simply subjective qualities which depends completely on the listener and the material listened to, so even many reviews would be subjective. It says a lot about the 30 year old ER4 that it is still a reference standard even though it is somewhat harsh and low frequency anemic and there are 300 other options.

        In a professional environment accuracy should at least be discussed in a review and the promotional statements by the manufacturer should include how their product is placed or intended in this regard. One important mention though is a properly installed Sennheiser IE-800 IEM which beats the ER in accuracy and low frequency extension. No surprise it is also a single driver design. If Sennheiser were to offer a custom mold version it would make an interesting alternative albeit at a high cost.

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