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zahush76
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7th October 2012
Old 7th October 2012
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micromac & sem pro vs oberheim SOFV

So i've decided to sell my Nord Stage 2, get a studiologic vmk88 plus (mainly because it's the smallest, thinnest 88 key controller that still has aftertouch), and expand some more into analog territory since i'm having so much fun. In the past few months i got the vermona perfourmer mkii, and the GRP A4. Both keep me quite busy, have a lot of sound design options - but i'm still looking for a moog sound and an oberheim sem sound since the GRP A4 isn't exactly a "moog\sem clone". Its got a sound of its own, and i'm still hungry for these tones.
Btw, i tried getting along with the pianos, ep's etc - on my pc, to see if i'm doing fine without the onboard sounds on the nord stage 2- and i "think i'll manage". Pretty good samples today.

So regarding the analog synth options that stand before me, there are 2:

1) macbeth micromac desktop + sem pro

2) oberheim son of four voice

Love to hear some of your opinions.
The "for" and "against" for each of the options are as follows:

macbeth micromac + sem pro
+ i get the varaiety of both a moogish sound (and a good one at that) and an oberheim sound
+ they are immidiate. micromac desktop is going to be out in a few weeks, and there are a few sem pro's available now in some of the stores.
+ micromac and sem can interact with each other with all their patch points
+easier to bring to my country. the micromac would arrive by mail and my sister would bring the sem pro from new york with her - thus saving on shipping and VAT.

- already have 2 monosynths. perhaps it's better to go for an analog poly?


Oberheim SOFV

+ polyphony
+ after getting to know the vermona perfourmer, i know the immense potential of having an analog synth that can go from a mono synth to a four voice poly - and everything in between. could make very interesting stuff, concidering it's going to have patch points on each sem.
+ taking into consideration Tom's age - this might be the last chance to get my hands on a new ob 4 voice.
+ lusting for this really bad. I got a bigger hard on from thinking about the SOFV :-)

- getting a SOFV means polyphony and more sound design options - but in the price of giving up the varaiety of having both a moogish sound and an oberheim.
- i don't have enough money to have it shipped over here, and pay for VAT etc. If i want it here - my sister will have to drag it with her (she'd done it bofore and got a polyevoler, and my nord stage 2 in this manner. went past thru customs and no one suspected - so no VAT and no shipping costs, but it's still a gamble. something this big have a potential to draw attention...)

- the waiting game. Tom confirmed in reply to my email a couple of days ago, that he indeed is going to build SOFV units at the beginging of 2013, after he's finished with the first batch of TVS. So the SOFV is going to happen for real. But it's going to be a long long waiting game. I'm got my GRP A4 after waiting 9 months. It was worth every minute of waiting - but quite a nightmare.

Btw, a third, cheaper option is to get the Voyager rme and a sem pro.

What do you guys think?
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7th October 2012
Old 7th October 2012
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Well the SOFV is a backburner thing. I have nothing but the highest praise for Tom's modules but he has said that he wants to proceed with the 2 voice first and the 2 voice at this point is about 4 months behind its original schedule. My understanding is that he is building these things as a 2 person operation so I would not plan on the SOFV arriving on the market anytime soon. The Micromac, OTOH appears to be close to release.
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7th October 2012
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This is what Tom wrote me in reply to my question regarding the SOFV:

Quote:
The SO4V is definitely going to become a product, sometime in early 2013. In fact, the design is already about 75% finished.



The main reason that I delayed it in favor of the Two Voice is because I expect it to weigh over 40 pounds and I cannot personally deal with that. So in addition to finishing the design of the SO4V I am also arranging a final production situation I can handle.
How do you interpet this?
And, is there a chance Tom will hire someone to help him?

Also, part of my initial question\dilemma is wether something like a SOFV is worth the wait - even if it's going to be out only on April\May 2013?
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7th October 2012
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I think it will definitely be worth the wait. For myself, I just think it will be out of my price range. If the TVS is going to be $3500 (price in Sweetwater catalog), the SOVS will probably be much more. Two more SEM modules is much more expensive than a keybed and pitch/mod wheels. The SOFV programmer and TVS sequencer probably aren't going to be too much of a difference in cost.
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7th October 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BM0 View Post
I think it will definitely be worth the wait. For myself, I just think it will be out of my price range. If the TVS is going to be $3500 (price in Sweetwater catalog), the SOVS will probably be much more. Two more SEM modules is much more expensive than a keybed and pitch/mod wheels. The SOFV programmer and TVS sequencer probably aren't going to be too much of a difference in cost.
Tom answered this as well on his email:
Quote:
I expect the price of the SO4V to be a bit more than originally stated.
The price originally stated was 3495$ - which is now the price of the TVS. But he says the SOFV is going to cost "a bit more". So i'm guessing not past the 4k barrier?
Anyway, think about it: the TVS has a keyboard with velocity and aftertouch, pitch and mod wheels, sequencer with sequence memory etc.
The SOFV is going to be without a keyboard, pitch & mod wheels, and without the sequencer. It will have a programmer though.
Initially, the SOFV was supposed to be without ptach points - but now it is part of the plan. But the TVS is also with patch points.
Keep in mind that the sems in the TVS and in the SOFV aren't "full" sems. They don't have an individual power supply, individual midi to cv converter (along with the midi programmer that is found on the sem pro and the sem midi to cv models). These are "bare bones" sem modules. Tom was selling a single bare bones sem module for 599$ (for those who wanted to replace sems in their old four voice\eight voice. So originally, four barebone sems in a SOFV would cost 2400$. To that you have to add the fact he's going to add patch points - and the cost of the programmer.

So, it might not be 3495$ as originally planned - but i'm not so sure it's going to be radically more expensive than the TVS, is it?
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7th October 2012
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well , no keyboard so that helps. But I think there is a programmmer that is not in the two voice. I don't really know how that will affect his price.
My only hesitation here is that the previous public pronouncement on the 2 voice gave June as the date, now it is listed as "late fall" on the website and as yet, for example, I am on the two voice list, and have not been asked to pay beyond the initial ordering deposit. Its not late fall yet however.
This suggests to me that all these deadlines are soft- not intended at all as a criticism of Marion corp or Tom- and I don't want myself or others to pressure anyone into releasing a synth before its ready-I would rather wait years beyond the deadline.
I am just-trying to tell you that there is a chance that summer 2013 will arrive without a SOFV.
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7th October 2012
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I'm taking that into consideration. Question is will it be worth the wait - or is the first option which is more immidiate (micromac & sem pro) just as equally good - considering other pros and cons besides release dates.
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7th October 2012
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Strange that the SOFV will weigh over 40 pounds. The SEM Pro is incredibly light, less than 6 pounds, and it has the additional MIDI-CV. I'm guessing the 4 Voice's built in flight case adds a lot though.

It's hard to help you out with this one, both options are great it really depends what kind of sounds you're missing with your current setup. The problem with gear lust is that it isn't always logical
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7th October 2012
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IMHO,

having the GRP4 makes the Micromac a bit redundant.

The SOFV would add a different universe of sounds, a different approach, a different colour.

If it was me, I'd go for the SOFV.

IF (big IF) you trust TO's ability to deliver.

That's the big point.

It's not about TO's commitment and honesty, it's about the obvious financial and industrial constraints of producing such a beast.

Eg: the "weight" issue. It's of course a matter of engineering (i.e.: design but also serial industrial production, choice of materials, etc).

A domestically hand-crafted wooden cabinet will probably weigh more than an industrially produced one (because of the woods you can find, which don't require industrial saw tools, and which are tough enough in thinner formats; because of the glues you can or can't use, because of the finishing; etc).

Every time I built some wood or metal accessory for my setup [synth cases, keyboard stands adaptations] I ended up with beautiful but bulky objects, because I couldn't rely on the kind of machine tools and materials which serial productions allows.

If you can wait, and if you can afford it, the SOFV looks like a unique instrument.
zahush76
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7th October 2012
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Actually, the more i have to wait - the more $$ i can scratch from here and there.
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7th October 2012
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I've said this before but, SOFV = 4 independent voices in unison or poly. Imagine the pads and sound effects. Or, 8 oscillator leads and bass, slightly detuned. If I planned on putting it in the budget, and if I had the space, I'd be all over this.
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8th October 2012
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A monster mono deserves a monster poly

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8th October 2012
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I have an original FVS, and wouldn't say my favourite aspect of it is the polyphony.
Actually, the sound design options are much less than a standard polyphonic synth. Limited routing, no noise source etc....
The four voices are often too thick to use together in my experience. Plus it's more of a hassle over polyphony with each voice being separately programmed.
I'd probably happily swap my FVS for a 2VS.
Love the SEM, love Oberheim, but in my opinion you'd be paying a lot of money for something that I don't think delivers the features you are looking for.
If you lust after the FVS, buy a vintage 2VS and save some money to buy a proper poly or the Micromac.
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8th October 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rust Creep View Post
A monster mono deserves a monster poly

Sent from my DROIDX

+1000
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8th October 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chrisso View Post
I have an original FVS, and wouldn't say my favourite aspect of it is the polyphony.
Actually, the sound design options are much less than a standard polyphonic synth. Limited routing, no noise source etc....
The four voices are often too thick to use together in my experience. Plus it's more of a hassle over polyphony with each voice being separately programmed.
I'd probably happily swap my FVS for a 2VS.
Love the SEM, love Oberheim, but in my opinion you'd be paying a lot of money for something that I don't think delivers the features you are looking for.
If you lust after the FVS, buy a vintage 2VS and save some money to buy a proper poly or the Micromac.
I think the new SOFV isn't the same as the vintage FVS. The programmer is going to be more advanced and more addapted to poly programming. Did you have a look at Tom's site?
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i would go for the first combo: macbeth micromac + sem pro, can't go wrong with that!
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8th October 2012
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It's really the sound I'm talking about.
I love my Four Voice, but it's so thick and unwieldy, most of the sounds I use are combos of two SEM's mostly, sometimes three.
Modern or not, the SEM isn't as flexible timbre-wise as a regular polyphonic synth.
Anyone who thinks it is is in for a disappointment IMO.
Two oscillators per SEM. 8 osc's in a Four Voice.
Once you get them all in tune, then all the filters matched and each envelope responding the same, you'd probably wished you'd used an OB8 or something modern.
Love the SEM, but the new Two Voice Tom Oberheim is offering is the one I would pick.
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8th October 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chrisso View Post
It's really the sound I'm talking about.
I love my Four Voice, but it's so thick and unwieldy, most of the sounds I use are combos of two SEM's mostly, sometimes three.
Of course. It isn't meant to be a "pad machine". It takes over the sonic territory. I know what it is, how it sounds like (the new sem sounds a wee bit different, but i get the picture), and i know for what parts i'm going to use it. If i'll want 8 note chords, or wavetable pads - of course i have other stuff for that.

Quote:
Limited routing, no noise source etc....
Wrong. On the new SOFV there's a noise source. As for routing - well, each sem is going to have patch points, so there.

Quote:
Once you get them all in tune, then all the filters matched and each envelope responding the same...
I have some experience on that matter from programming the Vermona PERFourMer mkii. The only difference is that on the perfourmer there's no global programmer that enables you to make global filter sweeps, no global lfo's or global envelopes. On the perfourmer you really do have to change each of the four voices each time.
On the SOFV you have to set most parameters once, and off you go. If you want to play it polyphonically, you need to choose the same waveform (or not - if you want it to get interesting), set the same pitch, same cutoff\resonance\envelopes etc.
Once you're done - most parameters can be controlled globally from the programmer. Here, have a look at the "older" design of the SOFV. Tom is going to add some more features:



And here's a list of features that could give you some pointers as to what are the changes in the SOFV programmer - compared to the 70's four voice programmer:

Quote:
Here are some of the features of the Son of 4 Voice:

Four classic Synthesizer Expander Module (SEM) synth modules
SEMs are 100% discrete analog - no custom chips
New state of the art Voice Control & Programmer retains all features of the original Four Voice Programmer and Keyboard control modules while adding new capabilities
SO4V may be used as a four-voice polyphonic synthesizer or as four individual synthesizers under MIDI control
Two MIDI sync capable LFOs with multiple waveshapes including sample and hold per voice
Two programmable ADSR envelope generators per voice

Selectable master tuning (both VCOs or VCO2 only) allows easy detuning for huge unison sounds
Polyphonic portamento with linear or exponential response
Noise generator connected to filter input #1 External audio or A440 tuning reference connected to filter input #2
Updated output module with mix and pan control for each voice
Obviously it's still not easy to program as a "normal" polysynth, but it seems some Tom addressed some of the "problems" and limitations of the older design. Seems fine to me.
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8th October 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chrisso View Post
I have an original FVS, and wouldn't say my favourite aspect of it is the polyphony
"monster", as said bt two othere forumers, is the operative word.

It is an IMPOSING synth. No way a "string machine cum modulations".

No way you can comp on it and solo on - say - a rompler, no matter how present and brilliant (a SOFV "string" pad would kill thee VL-1, eat it, spit its bones, and still be hungry).

Can't have such machine and play it "in the background" , "sometimes". Same problem why I could never really live with the minimoog and the voyager. Too attention-grabbing to be mixed in a "orchestra".

But the OP, accoding to his setup, is probably not in the same line of business.

If he goes for sheer power, and can afford having a elephant-cun-tiger-teeth in his setup, he may want to go for that.

"Polyphony" may be used for "multitimbrality", "pseudo wave-sequencing", "bass + clarinet"... the works.
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If I had a lot of dough and already was covered in the 24dB filter department, I'd grab the SOFV.

If I wasn't covered with other great synths in with 24dB filters, I'd get the SEM/Micromac. I agree what Chrisso wrote:

Quote:
Originally Posted by chrisso View Post
..
Modern or not, the SEM isn't as flexible timbre-wise as a regular polyphonic synth.
...
The SEM definitely has a (big mellow) sound, and while it can do a lot of things, there are times when I'll want something completely different (timbre wise), and I wouldn't pick it as my standard poly either, as others have mentioned.

Otoh., I think the SOFV would be a killer live analog, for more synth oriented music. Not so much for the polyphonics but as Ozy says, for having multitimbrality, eg. two monos + a two voice running at the same time with the onboard sequencer. Could be a nice tool..
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zahush76
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8th October 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ozy View Post
"monster", as said bt two othere forumers, is the operative word.

It is an IMPOSING synth. No way a "string machine cum modulations".

No way you can comp on it and solo on - say - a rompler, no matter how present and brilliant (a SOFV "string" pad would kill thee VL-1, eat it, spit its bones, and still be hungry).

Can't have such machine and play it "in the background" , "sometimes".
I partially agree. I think that a sem based 4 voice poly can be a monster and all the other descriptions you gave it. But the fact there's a multimode filter enables you to tame it a bit. Chords running thru highpass filter aren't the same as going thru the oberheim 12db lowpass.

Quote:
If I had a lot of dough and already was covered in the 24dB filter department, I'd grab the SOFV.

If I wasn't covered with other great synths in with 24dB filters, I'd get the SEM/Micromac.
Well, you tell me. I have the vermona perfourmer which is based on a 24db lowpass, and also the GRP A4 which has a transistor ladder 24db lowpass (among 7 more filter types...).
My dillema between micromac (or voyager rme) & sem - or a SOFV, comes from the fact that i still want moog and sem sounds. The GRP's filters are fantastic. Real killers. But its 24db lowpass is very different from moog, and its 12db SVF is very differnt from an oberheim sem. So if i want those sounds - i'll need those synths.
But on the other hand - i've been lusting after the SOFV for quite some time now, and it seems like it's going to be a unique instrument. One of a kind. Not your everyday monosynth - and not exactly an "orthodox" poly.
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8th October 2012
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Get the SOFV + the Moogerfooger 101. Seriously, I think you'll be well covered in the oscillator department, you don't need another mono for the "moog sound", run your GRP/Vermona/SOFV oscillators and envelopes through the MF101.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gil missFlag View Post
Get the SOFV + the Moogerfooger 101. Seriously, I think you'll be well covered in the oscillator department, you don't need another mono for the "moog sound", run your GRP/Vermona/SOFV oscillators and envelopes through the MF101.
Great idea!
Btw, while looking on some sem pro videos on youtube, i came across your U2 cover (among other videos you made).
Gotta say: wow. And a superb demonstration how a sem and a moog can be used in a track without completely taking over.
And "The pressure" is just brilliant.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zahush76 View Post
...

My dillema between micromac (or voyager rme) & sem - or a SOFV, comes from the fact that i still want moog and sem sounds...
Yea, that's exactly how I see it. I don't have a Moog-style synth of the same sonic quality as the SEM, and thus I'd pick a Moog-style synths next time I've got the budget for a super synth.

I don't own the Vermona or the GRP, so I can't really give my honest opinion whether that covers the Moog-style for you. The GRP looks super nice though Can you make it sound like a Moog, or similar? If so, Gil's suggestion sounds good!
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GeorgeHayduke View Post
I don't own the Vermona or the GRP, so I can't really give my honest opinion whether that covers the Moog-style for you. The GRP looks super nice though Can you make it sound like a Moog, or similar?
Here are a couple examples to give you a general impression.
The first is an informative overview of the GRP's filters. To my ears, in different settings, the 24db lowpass doesn't sound like moog at all (you know, there are lots of 24db lowpass filters such as arp, sequental, roland etc - and they have a sound of their own, so...):



And here's another vid where Enrico is tweaking the filters more "freely". Somewhere about 40 seconds into the vid, he's slowly sweeping the 24db filter:




And finally, a vid made by Isham of this forum, where he goes thru all filter types, in different combinations.
Again, i think it sounds superb. Very vintage analog, thick, like a whip in your face kind of sound. But there isn't a single moment in that vid that it sound either like a moog or a sem.
Frankly - i don't think Paolo was even trying, and that's a good thing. The GRP has a sound of its own:



Do you find it moogish?
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8th October 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zahush76 View Post
Great idea!
Btw, while looking on some sem pro videos on youtube, i came across your U2 cover (among other videos you made).
Gotta say: wow. And a superb demonstration how a sem and a moog can be used in a track without completely taking over.
And "The pressure" is just brilliant.
Thanks man, really appreciate the compliments! BTW if you wanna come over and check the SEM again to help with your decision (or I can bring it to your place and hear the GRP ) give me a call.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gil missFlag View Post
Thanks man, really appreciate the compliments! BTW if you wanna come over and check the SEM again to help with your decision (or I can bring it to your place and hear the GRP ) give me a call.
Yeah. That would be cool. We could A\B them.
But promise one thing: not a word to my wife about how much this costs
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Haha, no worries
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Just to turn your head in another direction have you seen the Pittsburgh modular foundation ? , I've got lots of Analogues but Pittsburgh is next on my shopping list.

PS from the synths you've mentioned I'd go with the Micro Mac, I've read quite a lot of folk being underwhelmed with the SEM (not all but some) never heard this from a Micro Mac owner.
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Quote:
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Just to turn your head in another direction have you seen the Pittsburgh modular foundation ? , I've got lots of Analogues but Pittsburgh is next on my shopping list.
I actually did look - but not on the foundation, but on the "full foundation":



It looks amazing and sounds very good. But i think i'm pretty covered in the "sophisticated monosynth" departement.
And, buying a pittsburgh modular will still leave me hungry for moog and sem tones.



Quote:
PS from the synths you've mentioned I'd go with the Micro Mac, I've read quite a lot of folk being underwhelmed with the SEM (not all but some) never heard this from a Micro Mac owner.
Of course you didn't. They just came out, and the first one to actually get a micromac got it two days ago - so i'm not sure what you're talking about.
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