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E-MU Wood Series Headphones
$400
$500

E-MU Wood Series Headphones

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$400
$500
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toniidesu
303
Jan 25, 2020
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I'd been curious about these cult classics ever since I first read about them, so I joined the 2018 drop for the removable cable version but got cold feet and canceled because I was afraid of eating ~$500 on something I couldn't return. I then felt buyer's remorse remorse and lurked Drop for the next year hoping they'd pop back up, and last November they did, albeit in a fixed-cable variant. For anyone else who's on the fence, I'm glad I got these! For perspective, I've owned the following over-ear headphones (cracks knuckles): Audio-Technica M40X and M50; Sennheiser HD598, 600, and 650; Philips Fidelio L2, Fostex T50RP Mk3, Oppo PM-3, Sony WH-1000XM3, NAD Viso HP50, Audioquest NightOwl Carbon, and Audeze LCD-X. I'm not going to make any inane claims about "bestness"—sound is inherently subjective because we all have different ears, heads, and frequency sensitivities. So these aren't the "best" headphones, just the best for my use case. It would be absurd to claim, for example, that these do vocals better than the HD650 or have better detail retrieval than the LCD-X. They don't. With that disclaimer out of the way, I like these headphones better than any I've owned before, but I want to clarify why that is. After a lot of experimentation (and expense), I realized that I want the following:
  • Closed back: sadly, I'm never in an environment quiet enough for open backs. This also has the fringe benefit of removing the most expensive headphones from consideration. :)
  • Good sound from any source: after years of messing with DACs and amps, I realized that adding more complexity to your playback chain is a major obstacle to enjoying music. The more upstream gear you add, the more likely you'll trade the simple pleasures of music for the neurotic pursuit of impossible perfection. This allowed me to rule out headphones that need an amp to shine, which really pares down the field.
  • Forgiving treble: I'm sensitive to high frequencies, so I tend to prefer "darker" to "brighter" sound signatures.
Putting all these factors together, these are what I've been looking for all these years, and while I could say I wish I'd known about them a few years and a few thousand dollars sooner, it's possible that if you meet your headphone match too soon, you won't recognize it. Once you embark on any sort of grail quest, you'll travel far even if it's just to end up close to where you started. So no regrets! :) In addition to fulfilling the requirements above, the E-MUs have the following sound highlights:
  • Awesome quality and quantity of bass: these are a basshead's dream come true: I would say bass response is the dominant feature of their sound. Note that the bass isn't as quick or dynamic as the NightOwl, to say nothing of the LCD-X.
  • Great treble extension without being painful: the Sony WH-1000XM3 and Oppo PM-3 are both examples of headphones whose treble rolls off too soon, to the point that some recordings sound lifeless or incomplete.
  • Smooth, natural timbre: perhaps unsurprisingly, the combination of two organic materials in critical places—biocellulose drivers and wooden ear cups—creates a very natural sound. There's a reason musical instruments and speaker cabinets are made of wood, and these headphones definitely benefit from the unique sonic properties of wood, in this case teak. This is their secret sauce relative to other closed headphones I've tried. This benefit is reduced if you don't listen to a lot of jazz and classical, though.
  • Soundstage is big and open for a closed design. There's good width, but not much depth.
  • Putting all this together with their undemanding power requirements, these are the solid headphones for gaming, even plugged straight into a PS4 controller. Video game sounds are usually V-shaped, so these are a natural fit. I would imagine they'd be perfect for movies too, but the only time I watch movies on headphones is during flights, and these aren't travel friendly.
Here are the not-so-great things about their sound (with stock pads):
  • Bass can be overpowering and boomy on certain tracks, crowding out the gentler mids.
  • As is the case with most V-shaped headphones, imaging isn't the best. These don't create a razor-sharp stereo image with clear instrument separation. They're warm and syrupy and kind of stir sounds together (with the exception of the highest frequencies). Depending on your tastes, this will either sound "musical/natural" or "congested." That said, these don't fall apart with fast/busy music like drum and bass or metal, so to me it's not a big deal. Even so, I don't think anyone would call these "analytical." If you like maximum detail and crystal-clear imaging (generally exemplified by the HD800 series), you probably won't like these.
  • Sibilance can be a real problem on some tracks, and this is true even after swapping to different earpads.
And finally, comfort/quality:
  • Ear openings are too small for Dumbos like me, which limits how long I can keep them on. Fortunately, the earpads are easy to swap, and I'm currently using the Brainwavz XL pads in leather. If you've got the coin, ZMF or Dekoni pads are probably even better. Changing to the larger and flatter Brainwavz pads significantly changed the sound, making it leaner and more open, but also harsher and more sibilant.
  • Headband is minimally padded and creates a hot spot on the crown of my head. Something like the ZMF Pilot Pad will correct this. You may not have this problem.
  • The earcups swivel! This is an underrated feature that makes a big difference in comfort.
  • These are pretty barebones for the price. There's nothing in the box but a 1/4" adapter and a business card for E-MU (lol). Seems odd for the price, but whatever.
  • Build quality is excellent. I'm sure this is equally true for everything built on the Foster 443742 platform, but all the structural bits seem to be metal, which reassures me about their longevity. Nothing creaks or squeaks, and the wooden cups are polished nicely.
  • The cable length is great for most situations, although when I plug them into my phone and walk around the house it looks and feels absolutely ridiculous because the cable is thick and unwieldy. You'd have to be a real maverick to wear these out.
Anyway, I think I've said more than enough about these, but if this helps even one person find headphone happiness, it will have been worth the time I spent writing this review. Thanks for reading!
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Troglo
5
Mar 17, 2020
Thank a bunch, I appreciate the feedback. I’ll actually have a chance to demo some Audeze gear this weekend if I want. If I do, I will pay close attention to what you mentioned there regarding comfort. It’ll probably be a quick test. I mostly just wanna bring my Loki along for the ride and see how much bass they kick out. So that comfort thing might’ve gone unnoticed, thanks again!
toniidesu
303
Mar 17, 2020
TrogloSure thing, glad to help! The final thing I'll say is that the E-MU is the most musical headphone I've owned. Many headphones, especially at the high end of the market, seem to prioritize sound reproduction over musicality. I felt the LCD-X fell into this category: heard analytically, it's an outstanding performer across the frequency range, but the whole still seemed to me less than the sum of its parts. It just lacked the sweetness and warmth I equate with music (to be fair, I listen to a lot of jazz and classical). The HD650/6XX is an exceptionally sweet headphone, especially for vocals. If you can get away with an open back and don't mind using an amp, I think it's probably the best value in the headphone world and becoming a better value all the time. If you're less concerned with musicality and don't mind something that's pointless without an amp, the Fostex T50RP Mk3 is an insane value and has some of the best bass I've ever heard. Good luck and let me know if I can answer any other questions!
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Onaha
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Sep 12, 2019
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Really great headphones
I experienced some serious buyers remorse after my drop ended and I waited for shipment notification. I already owned several pairs of closed-back headphones, and hadn't spent enough time with some of them. The cable wasn't removable, and shorter than I'd prefer. I already owned Fostex Ebonies, and I expected these to be similar, if not exact. But these rarely show up for sale here, and I had read so many great reviews that I pulled the trigger and then spent a few weeks questioning my decision. I'm very happy to say I have no regrets about the purchase. These are just great headphones. I will let others with more refined ears go into further detail than I can, but these have a sound signature that just works for me. I'm not opposed to EQ, but I prefer to not use it if I don't have to. Some may feel these need some tweaks, but I don't. Bass, mids, and highs are all clear, yet different from the Fostex they most resemble outwardly. While I would guess these would also be considered a "fun" sound signature like the TR-X00 Ebony, they don't overly emphasize the bass, and the highs seem a little more balanced to my ear. I don't find myself searching for bass heavy tracks in my library like I do with the Ebonies. I just hit shuffle and let it go. They seem lighter yet sturdier to me than the Fostex do, and I find the pads to be more comfortable. The wire is more what I would like for portable than desktop, but my desktop setup is fairly close, so the short length is not a major issue for me. I can see the cable being too short for others though. One of the recurring issues I saw on a previous drop was with the housing of the detachable cable, so I imagine they changed the connection to remedy those complaints. I have zero issues with the new fixed connection, and if this change will result in more durability I am all for it. While I'd love to run them balanced, they really do sound great the way they are. I went with the Teak upgrade, only because all the positive reviews specifically praised the sound the teak ear cups gave off and I couldn't find any reviews of the bamboo cups. I can't speak for how the bamboo sounds, but the teak is worth the extra money in my opinion because they just sound great. If you've considered these before, or are on the fence, I think you will like these a lot. They are not the best headphones I own (Focal Clears are my current leaders), but they may be my favorite closed back for enjoying music. I own the Fostex Ebony, Audeze LCDX-C, Beyedynamic DT770 250ohm, Meze Noirs, and Mr Speakers Ether CX, and I reach for these more than any other closed back on my shelf. For $400 w/ the upgrade to teak, they are still cheaper than most of those, and less than half the price of 2 of them. I think it's a great value for the sound they deliver, and you should buy with confidence.
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Barce
5
Nov 12, 2019
Fair point, that's why I don't assume it's true myself. I'm loving the Teaks so far, they've dominated my listening time since arrival. The only thing I don't adore about them other than the heavy, undetachable cable (it's not as bad as I had braced myself for) are the fact that the earspace on the sheepskin pads is smaller than I'd like, so the comfort isn't absolute. Really great pads otherwise though, I can tell they're a big part of this awesome sound signature. They're supremely fun cans in a different way than Argons are. I'm very pleased.
Jakob
375
Mar 8, 2020
OnahaDo you ever experience clipping with your Focals? My Elex clip when listening to powerful bass tracks like Hans Zimmer soundtracks or EDM at Admittedly loud volumes. I really like my Elex, they are easy the best I have but the clipping is a known issue with their driver design and a disappointing weakness in an otherwise great headphone. This is why I love my Emu, they provide thunderous bass with zero distortion.
zep483
667
Sep 5, 2019
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Amazing Value/Great sound!
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Vonx1
11
Sep 12, 2021
PH has sort of a wider band of bass/midbass/lower mids emphasis, which I like. It's not quite as clean in bass to mids transition as d2000 but has more thickness. The d2000 knock off pads tone down the lower mids/upper bass, but add air and space like you said. Adding the attenuators back in bring back the midbass punch and lower mids back while still keeping most of the air. It's a good compromise I think :)
Hyde
1049
Sep 12, 2021
Vonx1Yeah I find D2000 is one of the more cleaner sounding Fostex. I recently got D5200 while it's not as clean as D2000, but D5200 is warmer and musical. Bass ever so slightly bloated. I do think D5200 is a decent compromise. However I'm thinking to try D9200 now....... lol.
Saxelrod92
159
Jun 10, 2020
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Best headphone in its price range.
I used to own the old 2012 Denon d5000 model, have owned a Mr. Speakers alpha prime, and have heard a bunch of high end sennheisers. I currently also own the E-MU purplehearts for travel, and have tried a bunch of sub 200 dollar In-Ears. In my opinion these teaks are probably the best sounding and built headphone you can buy for 400 dollars. There's maybe some open backs here or there that can do mids or treble a bit better, but for a whole package this is the one. Bass: this variation of the classic foster OEM really refined the bass region a lot. It has much better transient response now so everything hits hard, cleanly, and quickly. Extension is very good, but it's not flat all the way down and I personally would prefer deeper sub bass extension overall. That said the thump and clarity in the sub bass these headphones do have is very satisfying. If these are your only pair, you'll not feel like something is missing at all here. If you happen to own a much pricier headphone that does bass better then you'll feel these aren't quite up to par, but also they are like 400-600 less dollars than the higher end headphone. Overall bass is fantastic, and impressively never bleeds into the mids (if your coming from lower end gear, with mid bass bleed, this will be the most noticeable change at first). Mids: this is the biggest improvement over all the other versions of this headphone. Its not as recessed as it's other versions can be, in fact with sounds like electric guitar it's really incredible. It really gives guitar that nice full crunch sound, and lots of detailed clarity. Resolution as a whole is greatly improved, while still sounding smooth. That said if you want a mod forward sound, these won't cut it for you. Certain frequencies will dip a more than others putting certain vocals a but behind the rest of the sound. Overall really impressive, esp with guitar and has a nice full sound to most of the midrange. Treble: again compared to it's counterparts it is much more refined overall in the treble. It stays consistently smooth, clean, and tilted warm. It has much more resolution than the other headphones, and it really brings out lots of small details without being overly sharp or bright. It stays on the warm side of neutral for sure, but it's airy and clear. The only part that becomes an issue is somewhere in the upper mids/lower treble it can get a tiny bit shouty with certain frequencies and sounds. But it never feels like the driver get overwhelmed when that occurs, and it never crosses into that shouty distortion area that can be painful. It just stays controlled, but depending on your ears can be a little annoying after a while. Its by far the least refined element of their sound, and the only area that tells you these aren't 700+ dollar headphones, bit instead 400 dollar headphones. Overall treble is nice, smooth, clean, and detailed. Imaging and soundstage: they exhibit some of the more familiar imaging characteristics I've heard on the other foster OEM models. Which would be nice and wide, but not very deep, without much precision in the center image. The right and left though is very precise, and works great for gaming. Layering is also very good, so busy songs never sound like a jumbled mess of noise. I listen to a lot of metal, and these headphones never break a sweat keeping up with everything going on in those songs. The fast transient response really makes a huge difference here. Overall they image well, have a wide soundstage, leave plenty of air between instruments, but aren't that deep or the most laser precise ever. Build quality/comfort: honestly they are built much better than my old d5000 was. These teaks are somehow much sturdier, no loose hinges or wobbles, and all the metal parts feel more precise and of better quality. Ear pads are on the small side, my ears fit inside though and even then it's a bit cramped. These will ship with the newer sheepskin pads, but I also ordered the old protein pads directly for comparisons/backup since the sound changes a good bit depending on your pad choice. That said the sheepskin pads are more luxurious in feel and build quality than the older protein leather pads. Have not tried them yet for sound changes, but it seems these sheepskin pads do a good job at keeping things relatively the same as stock. Comfort is always great for me with these models, light clamp, snug headband with no hotspots despite little padding. Also the cable is better built, but it is thicker and it holds it's coiled up shape unfortunately. It does not like to be straightened out at all, and I just use it coiled a bit. Its an attempt to solve the old Denon cable issues that my d5000 had. Where it was too flexible and eventually tore open breaking the wire. So E-MU seems to have used a thicker less flexible cable to prevent it from constantly being bent. I can tell you this cable is better for longevity but it is a little annoying to deal with it's coiled up memory. Overall I love this headphone, it's just one of those models that takes the original foster OEM and refined every last drop out of it that you can. It has a sound that the most amount of people will enjoy, with comfort as well. All at a price high enough for this to be your end game, and low enough to justify buying on a whim. Either way you'll enjoy the headphones and even when you get very high end models you'll still want to come back to these every now and then.
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JeromeC
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Nov 1, 2020
Saxelrod92Hi Saxel, which headphones do you recommend that has better bass and quality than these for 500 more?
Saxelrod92
159
Nov 2, 2020
JeromeCAt that higher price point I'd say focal is a great choice any of their models really. Esp the clear. Zmf is also a fantastic choice starting close to that price, just a bit over. There's other brands at that price as well that do other sound signatures like more treble detail and bright, or more mids but bass light, or more sound stage, etc. Once you get to a 1000 dollars and up you'll get headphones that specialize in doing something really well. 1500 and up and you get end game headphones that do everything really well, and it just becomes a matter of sound signature personal preference. There's diminishing returns of course, but for those in the hobby with the money, 1500 and up is where they shop.
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Best headphones I have ever had
They make my other headphones sound bad. They have a surprising soundstage for closed back headphones, plenty of details in the highs and bass that sounds creamy, deliciously creamy :) I think I have finally found the sound signature that I like.
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Would recommend to a friend.
Lordecu
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Jan 18, 2022
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Clean and immersive sound - but my headphones came with damaged ear cups
sound is great, no compliance there, also the product feels really premium but the ear cups came out damaged
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invertd
14
Jul 21, 2022
LordecuLooks like the ear pads not the cups. Easy fix
SamDiamond
17
Jan 6, 2022
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Beautiful in every way
I ordered my teaks in early December and they arrived about a month later. Upon unboxing the headphones, you are initially struck with the attention to detail and grace of the design. The wood is both beautiful and understated. The cups are large, hefty and circular. They dangle from a sturdy and smooth ball joint and have 360 degrees of rotation. The height adjustment mechanism is quiet and smooth, extremely satisfying. There is a lot of metal contributing to the build, with a little bit of padding on the pleather headband. Comfort overall is good; the earpads are a little stiff, but I don't think I will change them out of fear of changing the sound signature. Speaking of sound, these are exactly what I was looking for in a headphone. More specifically, I really enjoy my 6XX, especially the timbre and reproduction of midrange. The teaks do this nearly as well as the Senns, though the mids are slightly recessed, with the addition of copious amounts of liquid bass. Reaching deeper than any headphones I have used or tested, these are absolute bass cannons. Yet, they do not distort up to unlistenable volumes. They also have more sparkle in the treble than my 6XX, doing an a/b test really gives me a sense of the "veil" some people complain about (I always thought it was a pleasurable tuning choice). The treble can get just a little spicy around 5.5 kHz in some select songs, but nothing unbearable or deal-breaking. I also am rather sensitive to treble so your mileage may vary here. Soundstage is not particularly large, but they are not specifically "inside your head" headphones. Imaging is very precise to my ears, and I have an easy time picking out where sounds are coming from. Overall delivery of the sound is fantastic- grandiose, lush, and liquid. I highly recommend these and hope there will be another drop soon so more people can experience them! In silvis viva silui; canora iam mortua cano- while alive I was silent; now that I am dead may I sing
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Would recommend to a friend.
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petecamacho
70
Mar 24, 2022
SamDiamondExcellent review!
SamDiamond
17
Jul 30, 2022
petecamachoThank you! I really tried to dig deep to find the best descriptive words I could to illustrate the sound
Ortho_Sympa
141
Jan 3, 2022
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One of the best sub 500$ closed back headphone
This is a V shape done right, Detail is solid, the bass is boosted without being bloated. mids are a tad recessed but not thin by any means and the highs are emphasized but not sharp or fatiguing.
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spronk
176
Mar 10, 2021
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Really, really nice.
Overall I think I want to give these 4.5 stars and not 5, but on balance they're probably closer to 5 than 4. They are an excellent sounding headphone with a very easy listening sound profile. They look really nice, they feel high quality. The pros?
  • Super smooth liquid sound. Really non-fatiguing, but still has a lot of detail, and a lot of space.
  • Mids are really nice, bass is strong but not overpowering, and treble has a little sparkle, but not a lot.
  • These will play at reasonable levels straight out of a portable device (benefit from a decent amp though)
  • Stock earpads are surprisingly comfortable
  • Build quality seems very good. All the parts are well machined and well finished.
  • The teak is very beautiful, but I'm guessing most won't be quite as stunning as the pictures.
The cons?
  • The cable isn't very good. It's just a bit too thick and springy. The detachable cable option on these Foster-based cans is a bit ugly, so I might end up modding mine to accept 3.5mm or something, or Sennheiser-compatible 2-pin.
  • Headband could use more padding
  • There is a bit of clickety-clackety going on when you move the headphones around.
  • The teak is very beautiful, but I'm guessing most won't be quite as stunning as the pictures. :P
  • They are quite expensive, even for what you get, when compared to say, Sennheiser. I guess you're paying for the artwork of the wood to some extent.
I previously had a pair of Meze 99s that I bought locally second hand, as well as ATH-M50s. Both of them are now gone, and I'm using my Teaks at home as a closed back can when I need them (next to my HD650, HD600, and HE-4XX), and the E-Mu Purplehearts as my portable can.
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Would recommend to a friend.
WildChinoise
241
Jan 16, 2020
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Thoroughly enjoying my music
I've had these in hand for a little over a week. The teak wood came installed and the bamboo cups as extra in a cardboard box. For some of us us Fostex fans, having more types of "affordable" wood to sample, is just over the top. The following comments are just for the teak cups, I'll update when I get around to listening to the bamboo cups. Firstly, it's a well made headphone. I have two other Fostex headphones, build quality is right up there with them. If anything the finish on the wood cups is more polished than my purple heart and ebony models. I do like that there is no obvious branding logo to spoil the wood cup or the the headband. There is a very discrete EMU carved into the rectangle of the headband hinge. This is the model "without" a detachable cable. The cable seems well made and is wrapped in black paracord. Thankfully it is 1.5 meter in length and not the three meter length of prior models. If you like to swap and or upgrade cables, it will be less convenient with model. I modded the cable on my ebony model by cutting it short and re-terminating with a Neutrik plug. I don't know why I find it so amusing that the EMU Teak came in with cable length similar to my modded ebony. Comfort is about the same as prior Fostex models. My main complaint is the ear pads have smaller cutout for your ears than some other headphones. But I have elephant ears, most people probably wouldn't be bothered at all. I also have a large round head , baseball cap size 7 7/8 inches, but there is no problem or issue getting the EMU comfortably positioned on my head. For me the clamp is on the milder side, so I do not experience discomfort from a longer listening session. I happen to like the sound signature of the Fostex family, and these EMU Teak fit right in with the family. There is a goodly amount of bass and it seems well extended. The mids are mildly recessed Clear and detailed highs. In the first few days, I thought the high end was harsh and I kept volume down. After a week, I think the high end has smoothed out a bit and they are much more listenable at higher volume levels. I'm not a good judge of sound staging and imaging. Its probably due to my preferred music genres do not demand much skill or competence in that regard. I listen to classic rock, old jazz, blues, pop, girl group k-pop, j-pop, c-pop, classical Chinese instrumental, some hip hop, some rap. I have listened on Burson Play (V6 classic op amps), Centance DACport HD, Gustard X12 DAC+H10 HPA stack. So far, it sounds best on the Gustard stack. I did try my the EMU briefly on my Eddie Current ZDT Jr. Not a match made in heaven. But to be fair, the ZDT Jr. is not burned in at all and it is running with stock tubes and I have lot of tubes in hand that I want to roll. If you want to challenge the bass of your headphones, try this YT track https://youtu.be/C7HL5wYqAbU All in all. I'm happy to have added another member of the Fostex family to my collection.
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