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SyncSailor
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#1
27th January 2013
Old 27th January 2013
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Anyone doing their own repair or maintenance?

I have recently returned to a focus on using my analog gear. After being in storage for a while, many of them need work. (sticky keys and sliders, scratchy outputs, calibration issues, etc.) I've noticed some sites online offer services but there is no way I can afford to send them all off for every problem that comes up.

So...my question is this: Are there ways to learn how to do your own maintenance or even small repairs? Maybe a book on basic electronics, a website?

would be grateful for advice on this.
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27th January 2013
Old 27th January 2013
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I don't know of any one source which is reliable, but feel free to ask me any specific questions and I'll do my best to help. I maintain 9 vintage synths and various outboard effects and gear.

The first thing to watch is any synths which haven't been serviced in 20 years, the electrolytic capacitors could leak and destroy the whole synth with little warning, especially if they haven't been in use.

Maintaining them is not that hard if you're prepared to take your time with it... The hardest part is learning to solder if you can't, and that's not too difficult. I have a greater love of my synths because I've seen them at their worst and nursed them back to health .

Ask away...
Oli
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27th January 2013
Old 27th January 2013
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Really depends on your background, and how deep you want to go. Art of Electronics is a good start for many. Has enough theory to do some useful things, and has some practical examples which aren't found in other text books. It's not synthy, but it covers enough to apply elsewhere. It would take some effort to get through it though. It does have a decent approach for those not doing advanced mathematics.

There are books on synth electronics, but I've never read them, so won't make recommendations. Probably useful though.

Do you have a background in physics/maths? Are you good with hand tools? A bit of chemistry can help sometimes too.

That said, a lot of DIY maintenance is mechanical/janitorial, rather than electronic in nature. YouTube is a decent place to start on electronics cleaning, and basic refurb.

If you want to do real calibration, some test/measurement equipment will likely be needed, and a collection of service manuals is a great asset.
#4
27th January 2013
Old 27th January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SyncSailor View Post
I have recently returned to a focus on using my analog gear. After being in storage for a while, many of them need work. (sticky keys and sliders, scratchy outputs, calibration issues, etc.) I've noticed some sites online offer services but there is no way I can afford to send them all off for every problem that comes up.

So...my question is this: Are there ways to learn how to do your own maintenance or even small repairs? Maybe a book on basic electronics, a website?

would be grateful for advice on this.
I'm in the same boat as you too!
In MuffWiggler forum, under the Music tech DIY, there's a DIY Learning resources thread that has quite a few recommendations too!
Check out: Muff's Modules & More :: View topic - DIY learning resources

As to the Art of Electronics, I did a search on this and found that its available for free on the Net!! In PDF format
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#5
27th January 2013
Old 27th January 2013
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My advice would be.. Start learning on small cheap stuff, a distortion stomp box is a good starting point, parts are cheap, and if you mess up you won't blow up anything expensive. Learn the art of soldering. That is a skill in and of itself. Get the charts and learn how to read resistors. A Volt meter is a must. If you can build a basic pedal, then your ready to move up. I learned the hard way tinkering with tube amps, the voltage on 100w heads is easily enough to kill you, and can make working on electronics scary your first time out. Just go slow and sponge up anything you can from your local tech. Talk less, listen more. At least that's what they always told me.
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27th January 2013
Old 27th January 2013
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For synth repair, learning how to solder and picking the right iron and tip, and how to use a multimeter, is about 80% of what you need to know IMHO. Scratchy pots often just need a good spray. But I wouldn't practice on an old PCB of a vintage synth .
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27th January 2013
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For soldering get youself some of them basic electronic kits, make youself a radio. or a number generator or something, before you start going wild with a soldering iron on your synths.

there's loads of books out there to read. for helping you know how to fault find.
#8
27th January 2013
Old 27th January 2013
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I just changed the battery on an old Kurzweil PC88 I use live.
THe battery was $6 dollars .
My own labor an hour to get the screws out and casing apart and back together.
I used to to break contacts on my old Prophet 5.Contacts were cheap at the time maybe 10 bucks at most.
I paid once and it was too expensive.
Took me 45 minutes to fix.
Took my old Roland d-50 apart when the stereo audio jack crapped out and replaced it,soldered the new jack back to its circuit board and its up and running again.I am sure I saved another $150.
You Tube is starting to have many how to do stuff videos like this that someone has posted.
#9
27th January 2013
Old 27th January 2013
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Here's my experience over the past 5 years:

For three years, I would get into the technical electronics aspect of electronic music making (and recording in general), check out a couple of "Learn Electronics in 24 Hours/Days/Weeks" books from the library, read tutorials online ("The Electronics Club", Doctronics, etc.) and dig into it for like a month. Then get super frustrated that nothing made sense and quit. Then three months or so later get drawn back in by my insatiable need to understand how this stuff works. That went on for three years. I checked out The Art of Electronics, and found it to be of no real value to me. It's renowned for being a well-written know-it-all guide through electronics, but I found it to be as confusing as any other book out there.

Then finally I bought "Make: Electronics", got all the parts for the projects in it from mouser.com, and started getting my hands dirty actually making shit. I also bought "Practical Electronics for Inventors," which is a handy and more-or-less user-friendly (though at times VERY theoretically-deep) reference companion. Recently I just bought an Arduino and an intro-projects book, and it's proving to be a really fast and fun learning process.

So bottom line, take it from me, if you're really into this stuff and if your brain is as ill-equipped by Nature as mine is when it comes to the ability to learn this stuff, get a reliable project book (searching through Amazon let me find some books that made sense for my learning style). Using your hands and seeing a hardware result in real life is 60 million times more satisfying and more valuable as a learning experience than reading all the textbooks in the world.
#10
28th January 2013
Old 28th January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Preston135 View Post
For soldering get youself some of them basic electronic kits, make youself a radio. or a number generator or something, before you start going wild with a soldering iron on your synths.
Great idea. The first kits I made only half of them worked and they were a mess .. I'd hate to learn soldering on my synths!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brainchild View Post
Then finally I bought "Make: Electronics", got all the parts for the projects in it from mouser.com, and started getting my hands dirty actually making shit.
I have both books and the only one that I've used was the "Make: Electronics" also! Yes I'm the same I can't learn from text books I learn through doing and breaking things then fixing them.

TBH most of my synth repair consists of (make sure you're earthed when working on circuit boards with chips):

1. Replacing all 10+ year old electrolytic and tantalum capacitors (especially the power supply ones) with the same voltage, capacitance, and physical SIZE (usually in Panasonic or Nichicon brands from digikey.com)

2. Look for any physical signs of damage or dry solders (an eye glass helps) on the circuit board and replace with the same components, repair circuit traces with wires if necessary to ensure clean lines.

3. Clean inside and out thoroughly with a damp (almost dry) cloth with 10% white vinegar 90% water solution

4. Replace bushings on keyboards (hint! Bushings have a top and bottom. That's why some ebay keyboard keys are all wonky )

5. Clean j-wires on keyboards that have them. Clean contacts on keyboards that don't (cleaning with Deoxit Red 100% and then finishing with Deoxit gold 5%)

6. Remove mess on PCB from previous work with Flux-Off (optional if you're anal)

7. Reseat chips with a chip lifter (this takes practice without bending legs), reseat cables and plugs. Look for oxidation and clean with deoxit red 100%, finish with deoxit gold 5%. If the chips/ICs have different metal from the socket this will cause problems over time, so I replace the socket with a better quality one if you can.

8. Replace the battery with same type (back up presets first if the synth/fx works). Don't let batteries (or any component) get too hot - use heatsinks. Install a battery socket if there isn't one so you don't have to solder it next time. If you can't backup presets you can wire another battery in parallel while you desolder the original to preserve presets.

9. Find the service manual, grab a $30 multimeter, $15 guitar tuner, and ideally an oscilloscope and follow the instructions for voltage checks and calibration.

Turn it on. If you see smoke turn it off straight away .

Take your time, go slow and don't rush. I've never blown up anything and repaired many. The above will cover 90% of repair jobs.

For equipment that still has a fault, you then have a diagnostic process to go through. This is a different topic than just maintenance but let us know how you go?

orph
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#11
28th January 2013
Old 28th January 2013
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I fix stuff for myself & other people.

My advice (along with most of what's been said)

- Learn how to use a multimeter
- make audio and midi cables
- Make guitar pedals (from a kit first)
- learn how to read schematics
- make guitar pedals on vero board from a schematic (a distortion is a nice start)
- learn how to desolder - practice on old circuit boards
- buy an oscilloscope and learn how to use it! (this is if you are really starting to fix things)

- fix something !
#12
28th January 2013
Old 28th January 2013
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I wish i was handy with the soldering iron.. i'd be way more flexible at this stuff and change the battery in my esq-1, seems like there's no one in existance that can do it where i'm at.
#13
28th January 2013
Old 28th January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Extenzo View Post
I wish i was handy with the soldering iron.. i'd be way more flexible at this stuff and change the battery in my esq-1, seems like there's no one in existance that can do it where i'm at.
The only way to get there is practice
SyncSailor
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29th January 2013
Old 29th January 2013
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Thanks for all the replies and encouragement. I'm not at all bad with a soldering iron but never used it for more that repairing audio cords and such. Gonna order a few books then i think I may jump in and try to clean up this old MXR Stereo Chorus for starters.
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30th January 2013
Old 30th January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Extenzo View Post
I wish i was handy with the soldering iron.. i'd be way more flexible at this stuff and change the battery in my esq-1, seems like there's no one in existance that can do it where i'm at.
you want to ask someone like a television repair man.

he may of never fixed a synth in his life, but would have the working knowlage of the repair and would do it to a good standard.
#16
30th January 2013
Old 30th January 2013
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Actually my gear repairs itself. No really!

I have an Alesis Midiverb4, where the LCD backlight failed years ago, recently I switched it on and the backlight was working again and has continued to work ever since.
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31st January 2013
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Lots of good advice here. I started out by building and repairing guitar amps and hanging around at 18watt.com, the Metro forum, and ampgarage. I looked up every word and term that I didn't understand, e.g. cathode follower. After a few months of learning and looking at schematics (learn to read them!) and layouts, I built my first amp.

Currently, I'm working on a Korg Delta and a Crumar Performer. Finding parts can be an issue on older gear. For example, I can't find a string slider pot for the Delta. Ugh.
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31st January 2013
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I managed to fit a backlit LCD in my DX7 mk1 all by myself, opened it up and installed, there was no soldering, just unplugging cables and stuff, but it was a little harrowing still coz LCD's are fragile!

Will learn to solder this year, mainly to circuit bend stuff, but I'm getting a tech to do my Mono/Poly midi kit and DX7 128 patch expansion!
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#19
2nd February 2013
Old 2nd February 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Preston135 View Post
you want to ask someone like a television repair man.

he may of never fixed a synth in his life, but would have the working knowlage of the repair and would do it to a good standard.
Ah ok. so TV repairmen are usually experienced in soldering to PCB's?
#20
2nd February 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by orpheus_ View Post
I don't know of any one source which is reliable, but feel free to ask me any specific questions and I'll do my best to help. I maintain 9 vintage synths and various outboard effects and gear.

The first thing to watch is any synths which haven't been serviced in 20 years, the electrolytic capacitors could leak and destroy the whole synth with little warning, especially if they haven't been in use.

Maintaining them is not that hard if you're prepared to take your time with it... The hardest part is learning to solder if you can't, and that's not too difficult. I have a greater love of my synths because I've seen them at their worst and nursed them back to health .

Ask away...
This could be a *very* useful thread. I have a Juno 60 which makes noise, but doesn't track pitch from the keyboard, amongst other issues. I am teaching myself electronics and have built a few projects.

But I have no understanding of "diagnosis" and I've never repaired a synth. You mentioned capacitors, which is helpful. Could you list a few "usual suspects" or otherwise any key tests that can be performed? In particular, any sort of tests that can be run without having to wade through a maintenance manual?
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#21
2nd February 2013
Old 2nd February 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by orpheus_ View Post
Great idea. The first kits I made only half of them worked and they were a mess .. I'd hate to learn soldering on my synths!



I have both books and the only one that I've used was the "Make: Electronics" also! Yes I'm the same I can't learn from text books I learn through doing and breaking things then fixing them.

TBH most of my synth repair consists of (make sure you're earthed when working on circuit boards with chips):

1. Replacing all 10+ year old electrolytic and tantalum capacitors (especially the power supply ones) with the same voltage, capacitance, and physical SIZE (usually in Panasonic or Nichicon brands from digikey.com)

2. Look for any physical signs of damage or dry solders (an eye glass helps) on the circuit board and replace with the same components, repair circuit traces with wires if necessary to ensure clean lines.

3. Clean inside and out thoroughly with a damp (almost dry) cloth with 10% white vinegar 90% water solution

4. Replace bushings on keyboards (hint! Bushings have a top and bottom. That's why some ebay keyboard keys are all wonky )

5. Clean j-wires on keyboards that have them. Clean contacts on keyboards that don't (cleaning with Deoxit Red 100% and then finishing with Deoxit gold 5%)

6. Remove mess on PCB from previous work with Flux-Off (optional if you're anal)

7. Reseat chips with a chip lifter (this takes practice without bending legs), reseat cables and plugs. Look for oxidation and clean with deoxit red 100%, finish with deoxit gold 5%. If the chips/ICs have different metal from the socket this will cause problems over time, so I replace the socket with a better quality one if you can.

8. Replace the battery with same type (back up presets first if the synth/fx works). Don't let batteries (or any component) get too hot - use heatsinks. Install a battery socket if there isn't one so you don't have to solder it next time. If you can't backup presets you can wire another battery in parallel while you desolder the original to preserve presets.

9. Find the service manual, grab a $30 multimeter, $15 guitar tuner, and ideally an oscilloscope and follow the instructions for voltage checks and calibration.

Turn it on. If you see smoke turn it off straight away .

Take your time, go slow and don't rush. I've never blown up anything and repaired many. The above will cover 90% of repair jobs.

For equipment that still has a fault, you then have a diagnostic process to go through. This is a different topic than just maintenance but let us know how you go?

orph
Ahhh shoot, sorry, didn't read this post
#22
2nd February 2013
Old 2nd February 2013
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I could never find a tech for my synths, so I went on a quest to learn on my own a few years ago. When I look back some of the things I did at the beginning will make me shake my head but I gradually learned enough to get me by. Since then I've gotten deep into quite a few complex synths, including a Jupiter8, OB8, CS50, plus quite a lot more. My last success is this jupiter 6 i recently got which was completely frozen, I found a way on my own to defeat the auto tune which was locking it up at boot, which allowed me to narrow down the problem faster.

My main tools are a DVM, Scope, desoldering iron, a soldering iron, and a multi set of screw drivers. You don't need to be a rocket scientist with "physics or chemistry". Diligence is key. Start off learning what each component does and its role in the circuit. Once you understand the components and their symbols you can start looking at schematics and they will start to make sense. Buy an electronics experimentation center if you think that may help you see the components in action. Or if you are good at following instructions go build yourself a soundlab mini synth. Or do both. Watch youtube videos on how to operate an oscilloscope.

Oh and one last thing, don't be afraid of asking noob questions

And another last thing while i think about it: understand that the power supply can fry you or stop your heart, don't take it lightly (I once caused a giant fireball in front of my face when I first tried learning my oscilloscope....oO)

Goodluck
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#23
2nd February 2013
Old 2nd February 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Travst View Post
Lots of good advice here. I started out by building and repairing guitar amps and hanging around at 18watt.com, the Metro forum, and ampgarage. I looked up every word and term that I didn't understand, e.g. cathode follower. After a few months of learning and looking at schematics (learn to read them!) and layouts, I built my first amp.
That's heaps inspiring man! Well done!
#24
2nd February 2013
Old 2nd February 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Praxisaxis View Post
This could be a *very* useful thread. I have a Juno 60 which makes noise, but doesn't track pitch from the keyboard, amongst other issues. I am teaching myself electronics and have built a few projects.
The thing I've learnt is to follow the current. From the power supply all the way to the output. That's what multimeters and oscilloscopes (and even listening to what a particular point in the PCB sounds like) are for - so you can "hear" or "look at" what the current is doing as it travels from the power supply to the output. At some point when diagnosing a problem you follow the current, you will find a point where it stops, or sounds or looks wrong, and that's a good chance that's where the problem is.

For your Juno problem, when you say it's not tracking notes properly, do you mean it only plays one pitch across the whole keyboard, or that it is out of tune across the whole keyboard?

For the former there could be a problem with a blown resistor on the keyboard itself, or with the CPU (if the Juno 60 uses a CPU instead of control voltage for the keyboard .. I believe it does and the Juno 106 does).

For the latter there are little potentiometers (pots) on the main PCB which adjust the tuning across the octaves. Basically if it's this it just needs to be calibrated. You're going to need AT LEAST a multimeter and the service manual, but it's actually not too hard to calibrate a Juno, and the bits that "require an oscilloscope" can be done fairly accurately by ear. The calibration procedure is only a few pages in the service manual, so you won't have to read the whole thing.

Any help?

orph
#25
2nd February 2013
Old 2nd February 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Praxisaxis View Post
Ahhh shoot, sorry, didn't read this post
o_O
#26
2nd February 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Extenzo View Post
Ah ok. so TV repairmen are usually experienced in soldering to PCB's?
indeed they are, and will have an idea of what 90% of the components do.
the kind of guy who doesn't need to referre to documentation when picking up the right resistors.
#27
2nd February 2013
Old 2nd February 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SyncSailor View Post
I have recently returned to a focus on using my analog gear. After being in storage for a while, many of them need work. (sticky keys and sliders, scratchy outputs, calibration issues, etc.) I've noticed some sites online offer services but there is no way I can afford to send them all off for every problem that comes up.

So...my question is this: Are there ways to learn how to do your own maintenance or even small repairs? Maybe a book on basic electronics, a website?

would be grateful for advice on this.
Most of what you state above is basic electronics, and you can do it with a little practice. Read Electronics 101 safety info before starting - especially on grounding and discharging capacitors.

Next, get a few electronic kits and make something (power supply, amplifier, LED control, etc.) You'll need a good soldering station or at least 2 soldering irons, a 25w and a 40w, and a mulitmeter.

Before you work on your gear, de-energize and de-solder some old circuit boards. Find something made around the same time as the gear you plan to work on. This way, you'll experience some of the pitfalls of working on old gear: brittle connectors, iron hard solder, soldered-through-hole PCBs (ie Roland.)

One word of advice: DON'T TOUCH TRIM POTS unless you have the schematic and a mulitmeter or oscilloscope. (The only exception are tuning capacitors which you can set with a guitar tuner.)

HAVE FUN!
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#28
2nd February 2013
Old 2nd February 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tux99 View Post
Actually my gear repairs itself. No really!

I have an Alesis Midiverb4, where the LCD backlight failed years ago, recently I switched it on and the backlight was working again and has continued to work ever since.
I've been thinking of changing my dx100's LCD with a backlit one
#29
3rd February 2013
Old 3rd February 2013
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I recently bought a soldering station and in the past two weeks I have repaired my monitor speakers (Known issue with Alesis M1 Active Mk 2) and replaced a bent tone arm on a Technics SL-1200. I'm pretty proud of myself, especially the quality of my soldering work (for an amateur) and am now looking for DIY projects for practice!

I don't yet have a multimeter or a 'scope so I don't think I'm quite up to any sort of major projects or synth repairs just yet but I look forward to taking this up as an extension of my musical hobby
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#30
3rd February 2013
Old 3rd February 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tux99 View Post
Actually my gear repairs itself. No really!

I have an Alesis Midiverb4, where the LCD backlight failed years ago, recently I switched it on and the backlight was working again and has continued to work ever since.
Haha same thing happened to me. I was selling a MOTU Ultralite at a discount because the backlight had stopped working on the display. When the guy came to pick it up, I switched it on for him to test it and wouldn't you know the bloody backlight was working!
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