Top 10 Best Synth Pedals For Guitar & Bass


Looking to add some interesting synth-like instrumentation to your music but only have a guitar to work with? Rather than spending your rent on a nice synthesizer or relying on software, try plugging your guitar into a synth pedal.

In this article, we’ll discuss the top 10 best synth pedals in the world. There will be 5 pedals for guitar and 5 pedals for bass, though we can certainly swap instruments and plug into any of the 10 to great effect.

The 5 best synth pedals for guitars are:

The 5 best synth pedals for bass guitars are:

Let’s talk about each in greater detail and discuss why they’ve made this list of the top 10 best synthesizer pedals for guitar and bass.

Related articles:
Do Guitar Pedals Work With Keyboards & Synthesizers?
Do Guitar Effects Pedals Work With Bass Guitar?


What Are Synth Pedals & How Do They Work?

Synth pedals are special breed of guitar effects units.

Most pedals have circuits that process the guitar signal at the input and produce the desired effect for the output. Typically, the signal goes into the pedal; is processed by the pedal’s circuitry, and the effected signal is outputted.

Synth pedals, conversely, use the waveform of the guitar signal at the input to control their circuits. These pedals have actual audio synthesis circuits built into their design.

The input signal in the synth pedal controls the input parameters (note/frequency values, dynamics, etc.) of the synthesizer. This is much like a keyboard would control the note values and dynamics of a regular synthesizer.

So then, synth pedals designed for guitar should work optimally with a clean guitar signal at their input. Similarly, a bass synth pedal should work optimally with a clean bass guitar signal at its input.

Of course, bass and guitar are similar enough that synth pedals will work with either. Because synth pedals work optimally with clean guitar and bass signals, they are best-positioned at (or at least near) the front of the signal chain.

Related article: How To Order Guitar/Bass Pedals (Ultimate Signal Flow Guide)

With that being said, let’s talk about some synth pedals!

For more in-depth information on synth pedals, check out my article What Are Synth Pedals (Guitar/Bass FX) & How Do They Work?


Boss SY-300 Synthesizer

We’re starting off with a bang with the Boss SY-300 Synthesizer (link to check the price on Amazon) from the legendary Japanese pedal manufacturer, Boss.

Boss SY-300

The SY-300 is perhaps the most powerful synth pedal that does not require any special GK pickup and 13-pin cable. Simply plug your guitar, bass or other instrument in via the 1/4-inch jack and you’re ready to go!

This detail should not be underestimated. The fact that any guitar will work with such a powerful synth engine is incredible!

This analog-style digital synth pedal works with a powerful polyphonic synthesis engine with three separate sections. Each oscialltor can be set to any of the following wave types:

  • Sine
  • Sawtooth
  • Triangle
  • Square
  • Pulse-Width Modulation
  • Detune Sawtooth
  • Noise
  • Input Signal

The pedal offers a step sequencer (with tap tempo control) to help create dynamic melodies and arpeggios by simply feeding a single note into the pedal.

The Blender function allows us to mix and match synth settings from other patches to produce awesome and novel sounds with a press of a button.

Beyond the oscillators, the SY-300 has adjustable filters, amps and LFOs that allow for custom sound shaping typically reserved for high-end synthesizers.

The high-speed DSP of the SY-300 provides zero-latency processing in the pedal, which is awe-inspiring considering everything that’s going on within its analog and digital circuitry. The superb tracking of the SY-300 allows users to express themselves just as they would without having any pedals, only now with a synth-like output.

Four effects processors can be tapped into simultaneous to further customize the sound. Effects include:

  • Touch Wah
  • Compression
  • Limiting
  • Overdrive/Distortion
  • Equalization
  • Slow Gear
  • Delay
  • Chorus
  • Reverb
  • Phaser
  • Flanger
  • Tremolo
  • Rotary
  • Uni-Vibe
  • Panning
  • Slicing
  • Isolator
  • Lo-Fi
  • Delay + Reverb
  • Chorus + Delay
  • Chorus + Reverb

So we essentially get a multi-effects units along with our synth pedal.

Each of the effects mentioned above can be provided by other pedals in the signal chain. To learn more, check out my article Full List & Description Of Guitar Pedal Types.

By looking at the pedal, we can also see that is has a graphic LCD display to tell us what patch we’re currently using. It also has a dedicated on/bypass footswitch along with 3 assignable footswitches.

The SY-300 comes with 70 ready-to-play preset patches and 99 user patches for storing custom sounds. We can also create/store and download patches with BOSS Tone Studio editor/librarian and BOSS Tone Central, respectively.

Performing with such feature-rich pedals can sometimes be a pain. This is not so with the SY-300. Set the patches up the way you like them and scroll through seemlessly. Set the footswitches to control three different parameters of your choosing on each patch.

The SY-300 has two external footswitches and an expression pedal input. Connect additional controllers for even more real-time control if needed.

The Thru output allows us to send the dry signal to a separate line of pedals or directly to an amp. It can also be used as an effects loop by plugging the Thru chain back into the pedal via the Return jack.

Two stereo outputs offer additional routing capabilities while the MIDI I/O is great if we want to interface the synth pedal with switchers, drum machines, and other MIDI gear.

On top of all that, the SY-300 is also fully compatible with DAW software via its USB connection. This opens up a few opportunities:

We can choose to record SY-300 directly or the dry (unaffected) guitar sound while simply monitoring the synth effect. We can also resynthesize our recorded dry guitar signal (or any other digital audio signal) through the pedal after-the-fact to really tweak our tone to get it just right (or to adjust parameters in real-time).

If that wasn’t enough, the USB connection will also allow us to build, organize and download patches in Boss’s Tone Studio software for later recall in the pedal.

From unique lead textures to rich, evocative soundscapes, the Boss SY-300 will open up a whole new world of sonic possibilities and insiration to guitarists, bassists and anyone else who can afford one!

There’s so much more to say about this pedal but I want to keep this article at a somewhat reasonable length.

The Boss SY-1000 (link to check the price on Amazon) should also get an honorable mention on this list. This pedal is like the SY-300 on steroids! It’s Boss’s, and perhaps the world’s, most powerful guitar/bass synth and modeling processor ever.

The catch is that, to get the most out of this pedal, we’ll need to install the aforementioned GK 13-pin guitar pickup on our guitar to properly interface with the pedal. The 1/4-inch guitar/bass input is mainly for blending and Dynamic Synth processing.

Boss SY-1000

That being said, please check out the Boss SY-1000 to find out more about this insanely powerful unit!

Boss is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Guitar/Bass Effects Pedal Brands To Know & Use.


Boss SY-1 Synthesizer

Boss also snags the second spot (third if you count the honourable mention of the SY-1000) on this list with their more compact Boss SY-1 Synthesizer (link to check the price on Amazon).

This pedal looks less intimidating than the previous Boss pedals. However, the amount of inputs, outputs and labelling make this compact pedal seem much more in-depth than a typical compact footpedal.

Looks are not deceiving, in this case. The SY-1 is less intimidating than the SY-300 and SY-1000 (if we couldn’t tell by the name). However, there’s a lot packed into this small package.

Boss SY-1

The SY-1 is a wildly powerful and surprisingly simple polyphonic synth pedal. It’s built Boss’s legendary synth technology is a compact pedal that fits easily into any rig.

This pedal features a whopping 121 ultra-responsive synth patches (that’s more than the 70 ready-to-play preset patches of the SY-300)!

There’s little access to “under the hood” adjustments (envelopes, LFOs, additional effects), which may make this pedal a bit dull for the tweakers among us. However, this greatly reduces cost and simplifies the pedal significantly. You don’t need any background in synth programming to take full advantage of this superb pedal.

Though the SY-1 is designed for guitar (we’ll get the SYB-5 bass version shortly), the pedal does work rather well with bass, even polyphonically (multiple notes at once)

Plugging into the SY-1 is easy: just plug in with a typical 1/4-inch cable like you would most other pedals. The DSP of the SY-1 takes care of the input signal, using it to control the synth engine with zero latency whatsoever.

The 121 patches offer a great deal of colourful sonic options for your enjoyment. These patches are organized into 11 banks holding 11 patches each and are selected via the two right-most knobs. The banks include:

  • LEAD 1/2: A wide range of sounds suitable for single-note soloing.
  • PAD: Full tones that work great with chords, from layered pads to synth brass and more.
  • BASS: Fat synth bass sounds, including filtered and sub-octave tones.
  • STR: Classic analog-style strings, including layered voices and sweeping textures.
  • ORGAN: A large selection of organ sounds, including many with rotary-style modulation.
  • BELL: Percussive synth sounds with metallic resonance.
  • SFX 1/2: A variety of synth sound effects, including explosive one-shot sounds, animated pitch/filter voices, and more.
  • SEQ 1/2: Pulsating sounds with rhythmic pitch or filter changes.

The Tone/Rate and Depth knobs allow us to adjust various parameters of each patch to our liking. The expression input allows us to connect an expression pedal to have more dynamic control over the Tone/Rate parameter.

The Send/Return loop allows us to blend other pedals in parallel with the SY-1. The Send output can also be used as a direct out which lets us route the dry guitar sound and the wet synth sound separately.

Pressing and holding the pedal switch sustains the last-played synth sound, allowing you to play dry guitat guitar over top.

To really understand the Boss SY-1 (and every other pedal on this list), you’ll have to check out a demo or try it for yourself. I always recommend the practice of “trying before buying” though I have included affiliate links in this post if you’re full convinced of purchasing a pedal on the spot.


Enzo Meris

The Meris Enzo (link to check the price at Reverb) is a standout synth pedal from the California-based company, Meris.

Meris Enzo

Meris Enzo is a powerhouse of a synth pedal. This multi-voice synthesizer tracks guitar with perfection in 4 different selectable modes: dry, monophonic, polyphonic and arpeggiated.

It does so all without any special pickups. Simply plug your guitar (or any other electric instrument for that matter) into the 1/4-inch input and open up the vast world of sonic possibilities the Enzo has to offer.

So what’s going on with this pedal?

As mentioned, it begins with mode selection: polyphonic, monophonic, arpeggiated or dry. Two oscillators are assigned to each voice (except dry).

These oscillators are fed into a multi-mode filter with types.

After the filter, the signal flows into a ring modulator circuit with a variable carrier frequency and the ability to link to the Filter Envelope as the modifier wave.

Finally, the signal flows through the two tap delay line and modulation circuit before reaching the stereo output. The pedal offer a maximum of 530 ms delay time.

Whether we’re looking to achieve thick bass synth, lush chords, or completely novel sounds, the Meris Enzo has the potential to get us there.

To get into all the intricacies would take a whole other article, so let’s go over the basics of this feature-rich pedal.

The waveform of the oscillators is adjustable from sawtooth to square via the bypass alt function. The envelopes of these osciallators can be either triggered and set to follow the envelope of the input signal. The sustain of the envelope can be adjusted from zero to infinity.

The pitch can be shifted by half-step increment via the pitch knob which double as a portamento/glide-time control.

This pedal has an input for expression pedal connection. This single jack offers additional control from any of the following controllers:

  • Expression Pedal (can control over all parameters simultaneously)
  • Tap Switch
  • 4-Button Preset Switch
  • MIDI I/O (via MIDI Continuous Controller)

The sonic possibilities are nearly endless with the Enzo. This is an absolutely amazing synth pedal for tweakers. Make sure you read the manual in order to understand all the hidden functionality and get the most out of this deep synth pedal.

Meris is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Boutique Guitar/Bass Pedal Brands To Know & Use.


Electro-Harmonix Synth9

Next on the list is the famed Electro-Harmonix Synth9 (link to check the price on Amazon).

Electro-Harmonix Synth9

The Synth9 is a fantastic polyphonic synthesizer designed for guitar and, to an extent, bass guitar. It tracks nearly perfectly with guitar but gets a bit iffy (though it still works) will the E (and B) strings of a standard bass. For that reason, I’ll include this pedal in the best guitar synth section of this article.

The Synth9, as the name might give away, has 9 patches to choose from. Each patch has parameters that can be controlled via the two control knobs (CTRL 1 and CTRL 2). Let’s have a look at the patches:

  1. OBX: An emulation of the meaty sounding Oberheim® OB-X.
    • CTRL 1 = tone control.
    • CTRL 2 = selection between 4 octaves.
  2. PROFIT V: The Sequential Circuits Prophet-5 provides inspiration for our versatile PROFIT V preset.
    • CTRL 1 = sweep time of the downward filter envelope.
    • CTRL 2 = selection between 8 intervals of either octaves or 5ths.
  3. VIBE SYNTH: A polyphonic synthesizer with decaying harmonic content
    and vibrato.
    • CTRL 1 = adjusting power and sweep range of harmonics.
    • CTRL 2 = adjusting both vibrato rate and depth simultaneously.
  4. MINI MOOD :A big sounding Moog® inspired synthesizer that blends a
    portamento synth with a non-portamento synth (blend is controlled via the volume knob).
    • CTRL 1 = volume adjustment of portamento notes.
    • CTRL 2 = portamento time.
  5. EHX MINI: An emulation of the classic Electro-Harmonix Mini Synth.
    • CTRL 1 = control filter envelope sweep time and direction.
    • CTRL 2 = selection between 4 octaves.
  6. SOLO SYNTH: A fuzz-synth preset where a synth oscillator and a fuzz
    square wave guitar are combined to create one single extreme synth tone.
    • CTRL 1 = tone control.
    • CTRL 2 = selection between 4 octaves.
  7. MOOD BASS: The Mini Moog® and Taurus pedals served as inspiration for this preset.
    • CTRL 1 = sweep time of a downward filter sweep.
    • CTRL 2 = selection between 3 octaves.
  8. STRING SYNTH: Our emulation of an ARP® string synth.
    • CTRL 1 = tone control.
    • CTRL 2 = filter sweep attack time.
  9. POLY VI: Inspired by the Korg® Polysix.
    • CTRL 1 = tone control.
    • CTRL 2 = modulation depth.

This pedal offers control for synth volume and dry volume at the output ( keep the dry volume up if you’re playing bass).

Sometimes the simple pedal give the best results. The EHX Synth9 is certainly simple relative to many other synth pedals but deserves a spot on this list for its superb character and patches inspired by some of the greatest synths to ever be created.

Electro-Harmonix is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Guitar/Bass Effects Pedal Brands To Know & Use.


Keeley Electronics Synth-1

The wrap things up on the guitar synth side is the awesome Keeley Electronics Synth-1 (link to check the price on Amazon).

Keeley Electronics Synth-1

This pedal looks awesome and is fairly straight forward.

The monophonic oscillator (square, sawtooth or triangle) is triggered by the incoming guitar signal. This synthesized sound is then fed through a moog-inspired low-pass filter that can be adjusted via the Filter knob or swept via a connected expression pedal.

The Attack knob allows us to control the attack or lead-in time of the notes we play.

Using the Blend knob, we can adjust the relative output levels of the direct signal and synth signal to get our perfect mix.

On top of that, you’ll notice a “Chaos” switch.

This alters the method by which the input signal triggers the saw and square oscillators (to zero-cross detection rather than positive/negative peak detection), making it more difficult to determine the fundamental/note value of the incoming signal. This unstable triggering sounds rather chaotic.

When the Choas switch is engaged with the sine wave oscillator, a sub octave is produced along with a slightly out-of-tune octave above to create some modulation. This signal is then hard-clipped to achieve square-like disotrtion.

So whether you need straight up fuzz or a wildly expressive synth, the Synth-1 is a relatively straightforward option for your rig!

Keeley is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Boutique Guitar/Bass Pedal Brands To Know & Use.


Boss SYB-5 Bass Synthesizer

The first model to introduce the best bass guitar synth pedals is the legendary and compact Boss SYB-5 Bass Synthesizer (link to check the price on Amazon).

This is the current bass version of Boss’s legendary SY line of synth pedals (see the previously mentioned SY-1 and SY-300). It is the successor of the first-ever compact bass synth pedal: the Boss SYB-3.

Boss SYB-5

As a starter, the first thing I should point out is that the SYB-5 has a control for the output of the direct and effect signal. Completely ridding of a bass guitar signal can really thin out a mix quickly. By keeping the direct sound in the output when the pedal is turned on, we can produce the effect without ridding of the dry bass signal.

Notice that there are two outputs (A and B). Output A acts as the single mono output. When A and B are both connected, A only outputs the processed signal while B only outputs the direct signal. This allows for more intricate routing if you’re into that sort of thing.

The SYB-5 utilizes superb digital signal processing technology to offer a zero-latency pedal that faithfully produces the sound of a monophonic analog synths. The bass (other electric instrument) signal at the input is used to control a three-oscillator engine.

This engine is based on saw, square and pulse waves and is capable of producing 11 DSP variations of these three.

These waves can be affected by a low-pass filter with an adjustable cutoff frequency and resonance controls. Depending on the mode, an LFO or an envelope may control the sound of the synth. The rate of the LFO or the decay of the envelope can be altered via the Decay/Rate knob.

An expression pedal can be connected to control the filter along with the LFO or decay continuously with our feet as we play.

Like the SY-1, we can hold notes by holding down the footswitch and play the dry signal over top.

The compact size of this pedal makes it easy to fit into most rigs but don’t let the small footprint fool you. This pedal sounds huge for its size.


Source Audio C4

Next up is the well-respected Source Audio C4 (link to check the price on Amazon), which is not necessarily a bass synth but sounds incredible on bass guitar nonetheless.

Source Audio C4

The C4 is deeply inspired by the tools of classic Eurorack modular synthesis. It’s truly astonishing that all this power and customizability can be packaged into such a compact and user-friendly stompbox unit.

Though the pedal is highly functional right out of the box, its “modular nature” really comes into play when we access the sound-menu Neuro Desktop’s Cloud tab or the Neuro Mobile App’s Browse function to check out and download additional presets created by the Neuro Community and the Source Audio team. Connect the pedal to a computer via the USB port.

The C4 offers 6 presets at any given time, accessible via a 3-way toggle switch and 2 banks. Right out of the box, the presets offer 6 incredible patches including classic vintage and crisp modern sounds.

The tracking of this pedal is phenomenal, allowing us to play without any lag even with stereo inputs (and outputs).

There is also a 3.5 mm control input to connect external control devices such as the Source Audio External Tap Switch, Dual Expression Pedal, Neuro Hub, and Hot Hand 3 Motion Controller.

Between the 4 parallel voices; 3 oscillator wave shapes; 10+ envelope followers; 20+ modulating filters; distortion; tremolo; pitch-shifting; intelligent harmonization; FM synthesis; 2 programmable sequencers and other more, the C4 is truly a highly-customizable synth pedal with the capabilities of a respectable Eurorack modular synth!

Source Audio is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Guitar/Bass Effects Pedal Brands To Know & Use.


Electro-Harmonix Bass MicroSynth

The third bass synth pedal worth mentioning is the polyphonic Electro-Harmonix Bass MicroSynth (link to check the price on Amazon). It is the bass version of the Micro Synth, which is another superb synth pedal designed for guitar. The trigger and filter sweep range are tailored specifically for bass guitar.

Electro-Hartmonix Bass Micro Synth

The Bass Micro Synthesizer looks a bit different than the other pedals on this list. At first glance, it kind of resembles a graphic EQ rather than a synth.

So how does it look different; how does it work, and most importantly, why is it so great?

The Bass Micro Synth is actually laid out much more simply than the other pedals on this list. To understand the signal flow and the inner workings of the pedal, read it left to right as you would in a typical schematic (or a line in this article).

It starts with a trigger control that controls the input volume at which the filter circuits will “turn on.”

Next is the voice mixing section where we can mix in the dry signal with 3 other signals produced from the input. These 3 other signals are: a sub-octave; an octave above, and a square wave oscillator.

The mixture of the 4 voices is then sent to the Attack Delay control that determines the time required for the multi-voice signal to reach full volume.

Finally, the signal passes through the Filter Sweep where the resonance; start frequency; stop frequency, and rate can be controlled.

Adjusting these parameters will get us close to the sound of vintage analog synth.

From fat analog synth textures to percussive stabs to backwards-sounding bowed sounds and everything in between, the Micro Bass Synth has got you covered!


Electro-Harmonix Bass Mono

Electro-Harmonix makes yet another appearance in the top 11 with their Bass Mono Synth (link to check the price on Amazon).

Electro-Harmonix Bass Mono Synth

The Bass Mono Synth is laid out very similarly to the aforementioned EHX Synth9.

The Dry and Synth knobs allow us to dial in the perfect blend of the direct bass (or guitar) signal and the affected synth sound. A notable difference is that this pedal is monophonic, hence the name.

This time around there are 11 superb synth patches to select from. Each patch engages multiple oscillators and can be altered via the sensitivity knob, the control knob and by a connected expression pedal. The 11 patches are as follows:

  1. LASER: deep, pulsating synth.
    • CTRL = adjusting the attack and decay times of the filter envelope.
    • EXP = controling the cutoff frequency of the filter and setting the jump-off frequency for the envelope sweep.
  2. X-FADE: multi VCO synth with some dry signal added to the filter sweep.
    • SENS = setting the filter sweep envelope follower depth and synth volume.
    • CTRL = adjusting the decay time of the filter envelope.
    • EXP = controlling the cutoff frequency of the filter and the base of the filter envelope sweep.
  3. ACID: fast decaying synth reminiscent of the TB-303.
    • SENS = controlling the width of the filter sweeps.
    • CTRL = adjusting both filter resonance and sweep depth of the filter envelope.
    • EXP = controlling the filter envelope’s decay time.
  4. COSMIC: bright and aggressive synth with subtle pitch modulation.
    • CTRL = setting the decay time of the filter envelope.
    • EXP = controlling the depth of the pitch modulation.
  5. SUB: round sub-octave synth for adding low end.
    • CTRL = controlling the volume of the sub-octave oscillator.
    • EXP = controlling the cutoff frequency of the filter.
  6. GROWL: percussive, punchy synth.
    • SENS = adjusting filter sweep depth.
    • CTRL = setting the decay time of the filter envelope.
    • EXP = controlling the filter envelope’s sweep depth or frequency range.
  7. WUB: pulsating synth with a modulating filter.
    • CTRL = setting the speed of modulation.
    • EXP = controlling the filter’s center frequency.
  8. UNISON: the huge sound of stacking voices on a polyphonic synth
    • CTRL = setting the decay time of the filter envelope.
    • EXP = controlling the cutoff frequency of the filter and the base of the filter envelope sweep.
  9. TWIN: A throaty synth sound.
    • SENS = adjusting the width of the filter sweeps.
    • CTRL = adjusting the attack and decay times of the filter envelope.
    • EXP = controlling the filter envelope’s sweep depth or frequency range.
  10. SPECTRE: multi VCO synth with an added adjustable pitched note.
    • SENS = adjusting the width of the filter sweeps.
    • CTRL = adjusting the filter’s cutoff frequency.
    • EXP = controlling the pitch of the added note in half-step increments.
  11. OBLIVION: big, lush, warm synth tone with a warbling modulation effect.
    • CTRL = controlling the rate of modulation.
    • EXP = controlling the resonance of the filter.

Each of the 11 patches can also host a user-customized presets. These presets can be accessed in Preset mode. Factory presets are easily restored should you wish to.

The pedal is easy to use, requiring no prior knowledge of synth design. Simply plug in and adjust to your ears’ liking.

Whether you’re after vintage synth emulations, thick bass synth sounds, stacked voices, or wobbly pulsing tones, the Bass Mono Synth will get you there.


DigiTech Dirty Robot

Last but not least is the compact but powerful DigiTech Dirty Robot (link to check the price on Amazon).

DigiTech Dirty Robot

The Dirty Robot has a lot of functionality jammed into such a small footprint. Like the other pedals on this list, it takes a typically 1/4-inch input and uses the guitar signal to trigger oscillators. In this case, there are two different synth voices.

The two voices are:

  • V1: Straight envelope-style synth. This voice produces warm analog sound with subtle to extreme envelope sweeps just like classic synths from the ’70s and ’80s.
  • V2: Vocal formant synth. This voice provides vocal formant-type effects that can be used for vocoder emulation or talk box style effects.

The sweeps of the two voices are controlled by the concentric Sensitivity/Time controls, which alter the sweep trigger sensitivity and rate, respectively. Sweep range is controlled via the concentric Start/Stop knob.

Sub-octave, octave and square waveforms are blended continuously around a 360º Drift knob.

On top of all that, the Dirty Robot also provides us with chorus and momentary vibrato modulation effects to further its sonic possibilities.

So whether you need a classic synth sound or an attention-grabbing auto-wah-type effect, the Dirty Robot is the tool for you!

DigiTech is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Guitar/Bass Effects Pedal Brands To Know & Use.

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