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Old 03-19-2010, 04:43 AM
archtopGeek archtopGeek is offline
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Default McPherson, Batson and Tom Bills Guitars: Care to comment?

Dear all,

As I have come to know, McPherson, Batson and Tom Bills Guitars are pretty unusual - in that they have features (not common to all three) like mis-placed () sound holes, different bracing and cantilevered neck/fret board etc. These features (one to many) are also found in other guitars, but these guitars exhibit an extremist approach towards their implementation.

Now, I believe many of you have played one, two or all three of them. If so, I would like to inquire about your experiences. I have seen/heard their video/audios, and they all seem very good. Of course, all of these do not lake in any way as far as materials and craftsmanship are concerned, so I would like to know how do they compare with traditional (custom or factory made) flattops/archtops, of similar quality.

To elaborate, I would like to know...

1. Does cantilevered neck/fretboard (as in McPherson and Batson) really allow the upper part of sound board to vibrate to a great extent? In principal it does, but does it so in practice?

2. Does absence of soundhole on the soundboard, and related changes in bracing result in 'almost' doubling of sound level (volume) and response? Again, In principal it does, but does it so in practice?

3. The Bridge system in Batson guitars is quite unique in that , it neither pulls (like a flat top) nor push (like an archtop) the soundboard. Does it have significant effects on the tome/volume?

4. Any other point you guys want to make.

Also, there is only one audio-visual sample of Tom Bills guitar (on his site and youtube), so if any one of you know of any other, Please do post.

Further, If you know of any other builder(s) implementing such extreme changes in traditional designs, please do post.

Mitesh

Edit: This is not an attempt to compare the above three guitars, rather these three are mentioned here due to their innovative/non-traditional features. The purpose here is to compare these (and other such guitars with other innovative features) with standard/traditionally built instruments. Thanks to Paje, whose response made me clarify these, if it is not already clear.

Last edited by archtopGeek; 03-20-2010 at 11:18 AM. Reason: Clarification
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Old 03-19-2010, 07:26 AM
SuperB23 SuperB23 is offline
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I can't comment on everything here being as I haven't played a Tom Bills guitar. I have played about 10 Different McPherson's and I owned a 5.0xp Cedar/EIR for a while. I also played a Batson guitar for a while one time.

To your first question, I think the Cantilevered necks, the combo of the thicker tops and misplaced sound hole all help with sustain and you hear it big time when you play a McPherson. I've noticed I like the Cedar or Spruce top with Rosewood back and sides the best for McPhersons. I did play a 4.0 with Adi and Mahogany which was very nice but I normally like the dark woods McPhersons. The best sounding one I've played was a 4.5 with Sitka and Eir which is one of thier base models. I've noticed McPherson guitar really rely on those medium strings to drive that thicker top, lights don't work IMO.

On the Batson guitars I've noticed that when you play one they sound more like a standard flat top to the player but a little more like a archtop to the listener. The one I played sounded really good and was a blast to play! I didn't spend enough time with it to really look at all the bracing differences. It seemed like the guitar was the best of what I like in a high quality archtop mixed with a flattop. Very cool guitars and design.

Of all the guitars I've played from both these brands they have all been very high quality.
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Old 03-19-2010, 08:25 AM
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Like Bobby, I haven't played one of Tom Bills guitars but I own a Batson and have played at least half a dozen McPhersons.

McPhersons and Batsons are really very different guitars. I've found McPhersons to be hit or miss, for my taste. But tone is subjective. That said, I like what they're doing and the fit and finish and their guitars is flawless. They can be a bit heavy but play great and are very comfortable.

I'm not sure how well the cantilevered neck/fretboard works, but it sure looks cool. I've heard that part of the top is relatively dead, but every little detail that can help, does. I think the expertise of a luthier would perhaps be able to speak more articulately on the actually effect of them.

I've played at least half a dozen Batson guitars too and have to comment on how much they've grown and pushed themselves. I first met the Batson brothers a couple years ago and was impressed with their guitars then, and their newer guitars are even more remarkable. I love their newer bracing system(s). I like how they're constantly trying to improve their instruments.

I've owned my Batson for about a month now. Their sound is truly unique and original. The absence of the soundhole on the top does add a nice color to the instruments voice. You really have to play one and hear it in person, I think. Words can't describe sound well enough... That said, Bobby's observations about Batsons are well put and give a fair generalization. I think my Batson is the best playing guitar I own. The neck's profile and setup are just remarkable.

Hopefully this helps...

Kindly,
Danny

P.S. here are a couple photos of mine...




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Old 03-19-2010, 10:08 AM
David Hilyard David Hilyard is offline
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These guitars aren't for everyone. But I like them. I've played several McPherson's and like some more than others. Some really put out and others less so. I've only played one Batson and found it thin sounding next to most McPherson's, which I played in the same sitting. I own a Tom Bills Genesis and like it very much. Tom built it for me in 2004. It's got a tone that is kind of a combination of an archtop and a flattop. Tom builds some amazing archtops, and you might want to check those out as well. He has a hybrid, with an arched top and top sound hole like a flattop. He's not shy about experimenting.

To answer your question about the sound hole and doubling the area of the soundboard vs volume, no it doesn't make the guitar twice as loud. With the sound hole on the side, I think what it mainly does is put the sound right in the players face. It's a wonderful sound and it's a great thing to get that kind of feedback as you play. I've played guitars that were uninspiring as I played them but out in front, the sound was amazing. I think the side sound hole design puts the player in the front row. It's very cool. It's got a delicious bass response, as well.

Some photos of mine and a few recordings.









http://www.davidhilyard.com/downloads/Spindrift.mp3

http://www.davidhilyard.com/download...er_is_Wide.mp3
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Old 03-19-2010, 10:24 AM
$ongWriter $ongWriter is offline
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Default my 2 cents

I wanted to like the Mcpherson guitars. Everything he does to a guitar makes sense. Played 3 of them at Gruhns and did nothing for me. Especailly at his price point...alot of great guitars out there.

Batson's...haven't played them...look cool!!!

Not familiar with Tom Bills....sorry
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Old 03-19-2010, 10:41 AM
Howard Klepper Howard Klepper is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by archtopGeek View Post

To elaborate, I would like to know...

1. Does cantilevered neck/fretboard (as in McPherson and Batson) really allow the upper part of sound board to vibrate to a great extent? In principal it does, but does it so in practice?

2. Does absence of soundhole on the soundboard, and related changes in bracing result in 'almost' doubling of sound level (volume) and response? Again, In principal it does, but does it so in practice?

3. The Bridge system in Batson guitars is quite unique in that , it neither pulls (like a flat top) nor push (like an archtop) the soundboard. Does it have significant effects on the tome/volume?

4. Any other point you guys want to make.

Also, there is only one audio-visual sample of Tom Bills guitar (on his site and youtube), so if any one of you know of any other, Please do post.

Further, If you know of any other builder(s) implementing such extreme changes in traditional designs, please do post.

Mitesh
First off, I never played a Batson or McPherson, and just one Bills, very briefly. But I have built guitars with offset soundholes and very small top soundholes and large side ports. More often than not I elevate the fretboard and neck extension over the top.

1. This is not actually a cantilever in engineering terms, because there is no load on the end of the board. But it sounds cool and techie to call it that. Actually, the neck on any guitar is a cantilever, since there is a load on the unsupported end. But I digress.

In practice, very little difference. Some of my best guitars have had the fretboard glued to the top in the conventional way. I have reasons other than sound for doing elevated extensions.

2. Neither in theory nor in practice can this "'almost' double" the sound. Pure marketing hype. What percentage of the top is the soundhole occupying? Then consider that it is in a less active part of the top. Most sound comes from the lower bout. Then consider that it is venting reflected sound from the underside of the top. Even in theory the gain would be slight.

3. No idea. I do notice that the Batson site is difficult to navigate, though.

4. I guess by now I should stop being surprised when people read stuff on a guitar company's site that was written by someone who does advertising copy and take it literally.

Other things: the guitar has been developed over centuries by a lot of smart people who were willing to experiment. They were not unaware of developments in the physics of musical instruments, which were pretty much all worked out 150 years ago. But there is never a shortage of new builders who think they are first person ever to apply some science to the instrument.
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Last edited by Howard Klepper; 03-19-2010 at 10:46 AM.
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Old 03-19-2010, 12:07 PM
sligots sligots is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Howard Klepper View Post
1. This is not actually a cantilever in engineering terms, because there is no load on the end of the board. But it sounds cool and techie to call it that. Actually, the neck on any guitar is a cantilever, since there is a load on the unsupported end. But I digress.

This is confusing - is it or isn't it a cantilever? From your own web page - "elevated and cantilevered fretboard extension with distinctive treble side partial 20th fret,"



4. I guess by now I should stop being surprised when people read stuff on a guitar company's site that was written by someone who does advertising copy and take it literally.

Does this standard apply to your site? Lots of flowery, marketing hype type lingo there!

Other things: the guitar has been developed over centuries by a lot of smart people who were willing to experiment. They were not unaware of developments in the physics of musical instruments, which were pretty much all worked out 150 years ago. But there is never a shortage of new builders who think they are first person ever to apply some science to the instrument.
Not sure what you are implying with this statement. I recall seeing the Batson site clearly state that they are not the first builders to do some of things that are part of their design approach.
I guess I just read your input as kind of condescending to and dismissive of new and different thoughts and approaches.
Long live the innovators, the dreamers and the envelope-pushers!
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Old 03-19-2010, 01:00 PM
archtopGeek archtopGeek is offline
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Before I respond to your views, (and perhaps bother you with new questions), Let me introduce myself (this is required due to my other thread ). I am a chemist, currently pursuing Ph.D., a guitar enthusiast, and have wide range of interests. I have been interested in guitars for like 4 years, and in guitar construction for last 6 months. I will be experimenting with guitar construction, and may write a research project as well, but not before completing my thesis (ca. 6 months). Thank you all for sharing this with me. It means a lot to me. I appreciate it. Keep it up .

First off, I should notice here that I will not be able to play any of these guitars in near future (at least next 1 year, geographical constrains!), and hence these questions . Having said that...

Quote:
Originally Posted by SuperB23 View Post
To your first question, I think the Cantilevered necks, the combo of the thicker tops and misplaced sound hole all help with sustain and you hear it big time when you play a McPherson.
Hi Bobby, Thanks for dropping in. I gather that there IS a remarkable difference! Nice to know that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SuperB23 View Post
I've noticed McPherson guitar really rely on those medium strings to drive that thicker top, lights don't work IMO.
Due to heavy construction, IMHO.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SuperB23 View Post
On the Batson guitars I've noticed that when you play one they sound more like a standard flat top to the player but a little more like a archtop to the listener. ... It seemed like the guitar was the best of what I like in a high quality archtop mixed with a flattop.
Pretty well summary.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SuperB23 View Post
Of all the guitars I've played from both these brands they have all been very high quality.
Right. I believe this is quite obvious for such guitars that go for such $$$$s IMO.

Quote:
Originally Posted by drcmusic7 View Post
I'm not sure how well the cantilevered neck/fretboard works, but it sure looks cool. I've heard that part of the top is relatively dead, but every little detail that can help, does. I think the expertise of a luthier would perhaps be able to speak more articulately on the actually effect of them.
I had the same confusion ...

Quote:
Originally Posted by drcmusic7 View Post
I love their newer bracing system(s)...
There was even an older bracing system(s)?...I didn't knew about that! Can you tell us more?

Quote:
Originally Posted by drcmusic7 View Post
I've owned my Batson for about a month now. Their sound is truly unique and original. The absence of the soundhole on the top does add a nice color to the instruments voice. You really have to play one and hear it in person, I think. Words can't describe sound well enough... That said, Bobby's observations about Batsons are well put and give a fair generalization. I think my Batson is the best playing guitar I own. The neck's profile and setup are just remarkable.
I'm afraid, I would not be able to try anyone of them in near future, but I share the sentiment that sound is indeed very difficult to describe.

Quote:
Originally Posted by drcmusic7 View Post
Hopefully this helps...
Oh yes , It does. Thanks for the beautiful pictures, Danny .

Quote:
Originally Posted by David Hilyard View Post
These guitars aren't for everyone.
Why so? On the basis of tone/sound? Non-traditional Build? or Price tag?

Quote:
Originally Posted by David Hilyard View Post
I've played several McPherson's and like some more than others. Some really put out and others less so.
Well, but I guess it's true about every other guitar, let it be Gibson/Martin/Batson/Tom Bills, No?

Quote:
Originally Posted by David Hilyard View Post
It's got a tone that is kind of a combination of an archtop and a flattop.
I gather that it's a common feeling about Tom Bills and Batsons! This is getting more interesting...

Quote:
Originally Posted by David Hilyard View Post
Tom builds some amazing archtops, and you might want to check those out as well. He has a hybrid, with an arched top and top sound hole like a flattop.
I know about his KIWI archtop, but will dig more into this...

Quote:
Originally Posted by David Hilyard View Post
He's not shy about experimenting.
Exactly. That's the reason he is being discussed here!!!

Quote:
Originally Posted by David Hilyard View Post
To answer your question about the sound hole and doubling the area of the soundboard vs volume, no it doesn't make the guitar twice as loud. With the sound hole on the side, I think what it mainly does is put the sound right in the players face. I think the side sound hole design puts the player in the front row. It's very cool. It's got a delicious bass response, as well.
This is what I am after. First hand info, not sponsored testimonials or youtube demos. I was quite skeptical about the doubling of sound, and I was convinced that the tone is surely going to be affected by enlarged soundboard (I guess for good!), sound level/volume might be more comparatively, not double though.

Quote:
Originally Posted by David Hilyard View Post
Some photos of mine and a few recordings.
Thanks for the recordings David, I am listening them again and again as I write this to get hold of the tone (!), In the meantime - well played!

Quote:
Originally Posted by $ongWriter View Post
Not familiar with Tom Bills....sorry
Try his site, http://tbguitars.com/ or google him. I read somewhere that Batson brothers were inspired by Tom's designs, (in some interview I suppose).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Howard Klepper View Post
First off, I never played a Batson or McPherson, and just one Bills, very briefly. But I have built guitars with offset soundholes and very small top soundholes and large side ports. More often than not I elevate the fretboard and neck extension over the top.
Hi Howard, Nice to have a luthier in the discussion.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Howard Klepper View Post
1. This is not actually a cantilever in engineering terms, because there is no load on the end of the board. But it sounds cool and techie to call it that. Actually, the neck on any guitar is a cantilever, since there is a load on the unsupported end. But I digress.
Right, But that's what they are referred/advertised as, cantilevered neck/fretboard.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Howard Klepper View Post
In practice, very little difference. Some of my best guitars have had the fretboard glued to the top in the conventional way. I have reasons other than sound for doing elevated extensions.
Can I ask what reasons? I guess better access to upper frets, and I have noticed that first hand. Or structural reasons?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Howard Klepper View Post
2. Neither in theory nor in practice can this "'almost' double" the sound. Pure marketing hype. What percentage of the top is the soundhole occupying? Then consider that it is in a less active part of the top. Most sound comes from the lower bout. Then consider that it is venting reflected sound from the underside of the top. Even in theory the gain would be slight.
Well, in theory it should have a considerable effect, IMHO. Let me explain my point of view. The sound hole only occupies say 7-10% area of the top (so it should not be SO MUCH important), but it is accompanied by heavy structural adjustments (bracing) and the neck joint is just above it. This are precisely two reasons why upper bout is acoustically less active/dead. What other reason can there be for the upper bout to be less active/dead? Batson and Tom Bills remove most of the heaviness and thus CLAIM almost double top area. Of course, there is some marketing hype involved, but I believe, as their designs evolve, the fraction of marketing hype will decrease and actual benefits, if any, will be evident. As we have noticed above, Bobby and David have noticed detectable (to be moderate) benefits.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Howard Klepper View Post
3. No idea. I do notice that the Batson site is difficult to navigate, though.
My feeling as well!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Howard Klepper View Post
4. I guess by now I should stop being surprised when people read stuff on a guitar company's site that was written by someone who does advertising copy and take it literally.
Well said. But, had I believed everything, I would not have asked this questions! I know how sites are made (I make websites, project based) and how things are advertised (I do consultancy for ad firms, project based). Even those buying these "unusual" instrument won't spend some thousand $s for nothing. Being a luthier yourself, I think you have suffered most from (mostly unreasonable) skepticism of guitar players! NOBODY takes it literally.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Howard Klepper View Post
Other things: the guitar has been developed over centuries by a lot of smart people who were willing to experiment. They were not unaware of developments in the physics of musical instruments, which were pretty much all worked out 150 years ago. But there is never a shortage of new builders who think they are first person ever to apply some science to the instrument.
That's very true, But nothing is perfect (or there would not be any metaphor "HOLY GRAIL" ). Guitars did evolve from lutes, and with efforts of you all (luthiers), The guitars may/will evolve into something more exotic or at the least, positively different! We already know something called electric guitar.

I would again assert, your inputs mean a lot to me. Keep flowing the stream of information ".

Last edited by archtopGeek; 03-19-2010 at 01:09 PM.
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Old 03-19-2010, 01:14 PM
David Hilyard David Hilyard is offline
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I don't have your patience with editing.


You asked:
Why so? On the basis of tone/sound? Non-traditional Build? or Price tag?

Yes, non-traditional build! I've met some guitar players that wouldn't even try playing a guitar that looked like these. Price is a factor, too.


You said:
Well, but I guess it's true about ever other guitar, let it be Gibson/Martin/Batson/Tom Bills, No?

Of course. Perhaps I shouldn't state the obvious. What I meant was, I like McPhersons. Some blow me away. Some don't.
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Old 03-19-2010, 01:32 PM
archtopGeek archtopGeek is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Hilyard View Post
I don't have your patience with editing.
I am not generally patient, but being in research for last few years, it's almost occupational habit (hazard? ).

Quote:
Originally Posted by David Hilyard View Post
I've met some guitar players that wouldn't even try playing a guitar that looked like these.
See, now how can they claim that they are after the TONE? This seems like hypocrisy on their part, but I think this is going to be changed soon.

One more question for you david.

Do you think your Batson's tone is too bright compared to traditional flat-tops?
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Old 03-19-2010, 01:43 PM
Jeff M Jeff M is offline
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Don't know about Bateson or Tom Bill's guitars.
For me, McPherson's sound OK..but not anywhere as nice as the competition in their price range...or many less expensive guitars.

IMO, much of what is "innovative" about them seems to be based not on whether those "innovations" actually improve how the guitar performs, but on layman "non-luthier" theory and how much easier they make production.
I still wonder how these "innovations" will affect the warranty return rate...which I understand has been fairly high.

Bottom line..if it sounds good to you, it is good.
If it's worth the asking price to you..it's worth it.

(Specifically re; the "cantilevered neck"..this is not a McPherson invention. It has been around for awhile. Gallagher guitars, for one, was using it long before McPherson came along.
Doesn't seem to have caught on like hot cakes.)
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Old 03-19-2010, 01:46 PM
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Quote:
There was even an older bracing system(s)?...I didn't knew about that! Can you tell us more?
Glad to help! Yes, they had an older bracing system in which their truss style braces ran completely parallel with the grain. It worked surprisingly well, but now they're using an X braces in combination with the truss style braces, which I personally like better and they used on my guitar.

Here's a photo of the bracing on my guitar...


Quote:
Do you think your Batson's tone is too bright compared to traditional flat-tops?
I think you meant this question for me rather than David. Personally, I don't find it too bright, but that's me. They are very different sounding than a McPherson. What the audience hears vs the player with a McPherson are much closer than the difference of a Batson. Perhaps that's the difference of the sound hole being completely on the side rather than on the on the side of the top? Also, i've found Batsons have more fundamental in the tone than a McPherson.

Hope this helps...

Kindly,
Danny
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Old 03-19-2010, 01:48 PM
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Bottom line..if it sounds good to you, it is good.
If it's worth the asking price to you..it's worth it.
Couldn't agree more. Well put!

Kindly,
Danny
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Old 03-19-2010, 01:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by archtopGeek View Post
.

Do you think your Batson's tone is too bright compared to traditional flat-tops?
Not to speak for anyone but myself -
I have a Batson - Rosewood/Cedar GC, and a Goodall Rosewood/Spruce CJ. The "tone" of both are similar in that it is deep, lush and complex. In my personal experience the Batson tone is what you make it - style, attack, dynamics. I have a colleague who's playing style is the opposite of mine. I rarely use a pick, he mainly uses one. His right hand attack is very aggressive, mine less so. We have passed both guitars back and forth, and they both sound different depending on who's playing (both to the live ear, and on recorded playback). The difference with the Batson is really based on where you are in relation to it - playing position = darker, warmer and nearly too complex. Out front - great balance and articulation.
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Old 03-19-2010, 01:57 PM
David Hilyard David Hilyard is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by archtopGeek View Post
I am not generally patient, but being in research for last few years, it's almost occupational habit (hazard? ).


See, now how can they claim that they are after the TONE? This seems like hypocrisy on their part, but I think this is going to be changed soon.

One more question for you david.

Do you think your Batson's tone is too bright compared to traditional flat-tops?
You meant Bills, I think. No, I wouldn't describe the tone of my Bills as "bright". I have tried a large variety of strings on it, and can get "bright" with bright strings, but in general, the Bills is mellow. I've settled on Elixirs and find the sound round and pianistic. I have a Lowden that is bright by comparison.

Here's a sound comparison I just happen to have, of my Lowden and my Bills, playing the same tune. Different mics but both high quality recordings, less high quality playing.

The Lowden:

http://www.davidhilyard.com/downloads/04_Rings_1.mp3

The Bills:

http://www.davidhilyard.com/downloads/David_Ring.mp3
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