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Jaguar Listening Studio Video (2018)

Check out the 2018 video of the Jaguar Listening Space, in Seattle, WA.  This project has been waiting several months to be finalized and happened to be shot just before we upgraded our camera kit, but it was time to put it out and move on.  If you compare to our 2016 video posted on this site you’ll agree our skill with the camera and editing have progressed and we expect they’ll advance substantially by the time of the next one.  The Jaguar System has changed a bit since 2016 and substantial changes were made to the acoustic panels on the ceiling.  The room is truly finished now, seriously, exactly the way I want it and doing any more would be way too expensive and time consuming.

Note: Watch in Full-Screen, 1080HD mode, for the best viewing experience.

Editing was done with DaVinci Resolve after ditching Final Cut.  Resolve is an amazing program once you learn your way around it.  I highly recommend trying it out if you have any desire to get into editing video files.  Resolve is substantially more powerful than Final Cut and less expensive than Premier (though it can require some upgrading of hardware).  The cost is only $300 for the full version, but the Free version does almost everything except edit 4K video, making it possibly the most impressive free program I can think of.
https://www.blackmagicdesign.com/products/davinciresolve/edit

The camera used was the GH5, which I found really difficult to use, so I moved to the GH5s as soon as it was released.  Then I added the Voightlander 17.5mm lens.  Both are substantially better in low light conditions and would have been ideal in this case, but all the shots were completed before the addition of the new gear.  Going back and shooting more footage after you think a project is complete is kind of like eating a bowl if ice cream after finishing a Thanksgiving dinner…difficult to summon enthusiasm.  That said, more videos will be coming with the new gear.

How to Rip Your Discs with Exact Audio Copy

Exact Audio Copy is the gold standard for ripping music CDs onto a Windows computer.  With the multiple layers of error checking in EAC no other program will give you a more accurate rip.  If your discs are relatively free of scratches, you’re probably fine to use iTunes, with the Error Correction feature selected or a similar program.  However, last time I checked (a few years ago) EAC was about 20% faster, iTunes doesn’t do FLAC and it takes up a lot of space for a player you would never want to use with Windows.  Older versions of EAC required a lot of knowledge to configure, but the new version is a lot more automated, so this is going to be much easier for me to show you how to use it.

Let’s start by downloading the program at the link below.  When installing you can select all components, but I deselect the GD3 Metadata Plugin, because it isn’t free.

http://www.exactaudiocopy.de/en/index.php/resources/download/

When the setup wizard starts:

  • Select the drives you rip from,
  • Select “I prefer accurate results”,
  • Put an unscratched music CD in the drive (something that’s widely distributed, so it can be found in the database),
  • Wait for the test to finish as it detects the features of your drive,
  • When you reach Encoder Selection select “FLAC”,
  • Click through the next few windows, supply your email address, select “I am an expert” and “Finish”.

Submit your info below to join Jaguar’s Email List and you’ll receive an email with the Jaguar EAC Profile (.cfg file).

[email-download download_id=”773″ contact_form_id=”907″]

  • Install the Profile Settings: After submitting the form above and saving the emailed file, open EAC and go to the menu and select, EAC > Profiles > Load Profile and select the .cfg file.  Check the settings described below to make sure they’re correct.

In the Menu, Click: EAC > EAC Options, and use the settings for each tab as follows:

  • Extraction: “Lock drive” should be selected, set the Extraction and the Error Recovery areas at the bottom to “High”.
  • General: on this tab I leave the default settings and check the “Eject CD after Extraction” box.
  • Filename: paste this in the Naming Scheme box: %genre%\%artist%\%albumtitle%\%tracknr2%-%title% and paste this in the Various Artists box: %genre%\%albumtitle%\%tracknr2%-%title%  Now you’ll have a Genre, Artist and Album hierarchy created when you rip each disc.  You can make changes if you want to alter how the folders and files are created and named.
  • Directories: you can either select a folder for your files to save in the same place with each rip or set it to ask you where to save with each disc.
  • Write: I prefer to deselect the Uppercase box, and select the Disable copy protection and select the CDRDAO boxes.
  • Other Tabs: leave the default selections.

In the Menu, Click: EAC > Drive Options, and use the settings for each tab as follows:

  • Extraction Method: Put a regular CD in the drive and press the “Detect Read Features” button, run the test and press “Apply”.  Now put a heavily scratched CD in the drive and press the “Examine C2 Features” button, run the test and press “OK”.
  • Drive: press the “Autodetect read command” button.
  • Gap Detection: select “Accurate” for Detection Accuracy.  To set the Gap/Index you’ll have to try a few settings after you’re ready to rip discs.  The way to do this is to rip a track and note the time it takes to finish, then rip with the other settings and choose the one that has the fastest time.
  • Other Tabs: leave the default selections.

Compression Options are automatically set to encode in FLAC.  You can change the type of encoding.  My advice is that you not be sucked into the myth that uncompressed lossless files sound better than compressed lossless files, due to the decoder using additional resources to decompress the file.  In the grand scheme of resources the FLAC decoder uses almost nothing.  Music files are played from the computer’s memory and by the time the bits hit the memory they’ve been decompressed and there’s no difference between the two files.  WAV and AIFF files both take 35-40% more hard drive space and WAV files don’t store the CD tag information.

Now you can go through the steps to configure the Gap/Index setting described in the paragraph above.  After that you’re going to want to save your Profile settings, so you can import them later, should you update to a newer version of the software.  You can also use this Profile if you move to a new computer, but you’ll want to go through the Drive Options menu again with a new ripping drive.

To save a Profile, Click: EAC > Profiles > Save Profile.  When you want to import the profile, just select “Load Profile”.

Now you’re ready to start ripping discs.

  • Put a disc in the drive,
  • To import the track names and other disc info you’ll need to be connected to the Internet, then click the Disc icon between the Eject and Mailbox icons.  Change the icon if you want to try a different information database.

  • The next step is important to remember before each rip.  Verify the imported info in these four boxes (like the Genre) is set correctly.  If you don’t change the incorrect info before ripping you’ll have to rename the ripped folder and file tags afterward if you want to correct it. Much easier to do it now.

  • Final step…press the CMP icon on the left to start ripping.

Remember to be sure to examine and listen to your first few rips…if there’s something not working with the compression or naming scheme you don’t want to figure it out 50 discs into your collection.

 

Vanatoo Comes to Mexico

In the fall of 2015, JaguarAudioDesign.com built a sound system in the music room at Door of Faith (Baja, Mexico). Our friends at Vanatoo donated a pair of their amazing Transparent One powered speakers.  This was part of a month-long project, where we also filmed our short film, A Day at Door of Faith.

The fact that these little speakers can fill a room of this size (25′ x 30′) with sound and solid bass is a testament to their design, which includes passive radiator membranes in the rear, thus increasing the bass range surface area.  Normally we’d place these speakers on stands, but this room is used for everything from choir practice to dental exams and with dozens of little kids running around having speakers and cables on the floor just wouldn’t work.  The solution was a pair of great ceiling mounts we found on Amazon.com, for $50.  Drilling through the cabinets, without damaging the sensitive electronics in the right speaker was tricky, but it turned out great.

Note: Watch in Full-Screen, 1080HD mode, for the best viewing experience.

Jaguar Guide to Buying Vinyl Records

In this video we discuss how to buy vinyl records.  Learn all our tips about buying records in the hifi stores, buying records online and how to track down the pressings with the best sound quality.  This video is ideal for anyone interested in starting a vinyl collection.  Right now, you’ll learn how to buy vinyl without wasting money and all the little tips it takes a few years to pick up.

Note: Watch in Full-Screen, 1080HD mode, for the best viewing experience.

Additional Tips
* This is a running list, so feel free to add your suggestions to the comments below.

  • You can leave plastic outer sleeves on the covers and still avoid taking them off to remove the album.  Just turn the outer sleeve up and slide the inner sleeve behind the cover.
  • The main purpose of shipping the album outside the cover is to avoid damaging the cover.
  • http://discogs.com — Find the pressing info for all your albums by searching the matrix numbers here.
  • https://www.discogs.com/help/doc/mp-grading – Here are the definitions for grading records and covers.

A New Power Conditioner! — Akiko Audio Corelli

Akiko has just released a new Power Conditioner, called the Corelli (named for the Italian composer and violinist).  The Corelli is passive filtering device…it eliminates noise from your power.  Many audio products, including very expensive ones, are good at killing noise, but the trick is not to also kill the dynamics and treble extension in your sound.  If you ever try a power conditioner that uses balanced power technology, notice how black the background is, but also how the music becomes grounded and lacking in air and spaciousness.

Note: The unit is similar to the Shunyata Typhon, in that it’s not a power distributor (it has no outlets), it plugs directly into your mains outlet or an outlet of your power distribution device.

The Corelli is available with a 30-day trial period in the Jaguar Online Store.

Akiko Power ConditionerAkiko Power Conditioner Akiko Power Conditioner

 

 

 

 

 

 

Watch our Short Film

This isn’t about audio or even techie stuff, but when I first got my camera gear I was looking for a fun project and that ended up being this short film, shot at Door of Faith Orphanage.  Back when I lived in San Diego, in the early 2000’s, I used to bring groups of business people down to this place, to spend an afternoon with the kids.

Door of Faith was established in 1959, by an American husband and wife team.  Since another American couple took over the administration in 1993, the home has grown to more than 100 children, from babies to young adults in college (they can stay as long as they remain in school).

This is a very happy place that’s doing amazing work and changing lives.  I think you’ll enjoy the film and if you’d like to visit yourself, it’s just a 50-mile drive down the coast from Downtown San Diego.  See the links below for more info.

Note: Watch in Full-Screen, 1080HD mode, for the best viewing experience.

http://dofo.org/

https://www.facebook.com/Door-of-Faith-102733234608

A Free and Accurate Turntable Setup Tool

This Free Turntable Setup Tool online will assist you with setting up the cartridge geometry on your turntable.  With this software you can print a very accurate turntable protractor on a piece of paper.  Jaguar has personally compared the results of this software to the $50 Mofi and $250 Feickert protractors and found absolutely no difference.  It may not be as durable or convenient as those others, but it’s free.

This software was created by a super smart guy named Conrad Hoffman.  Here’s a link to Conrad’s website and a link to download the tool.

http://www.conradhoffman.com

DOWNLOAD

Using the Tool

  • Read Me: Start by reading the instructions in the Read Me file.
  • Spindle to Pivot Distance: Set this according to the specification given by the manufacturer of your tonearm.
  • Inner/Outer Groove Radius: These are automated calculations, based on the box you select on the right (don’t touch these figures).
  • DIN/IEC/Typical: These settings have to do with the distance of the music tracks from the center of the album.  Choose “Typical”, which is the most accurate, on average.
  • Printer Correction: It’s possible, but very unlikely your printer is not printing to accurate scale, on the X or Y axis.  The print will give you horizontal and vertical guides to measure with a ruler, to confirm the scale.
  • Arm ID: This allows you to label your sheet, for example, a particular tonearm name.
  • Lofgren/Stevenson: Choose Lofgren A; I recommend this because it generally provides the lowest amount of total distortion (Stevenson the most distortion); see the graphs below.
  • Print Arc Template: Click this button to finish.

CaptureTurntable Protractor

Lofgren ALofgren BStevenson* Note: Distortion calculations are dependent on the distance of the most inner and most outer groove, from the center.  Generally Lofgren A offers slightly less total distortion than Lofgren B and notably less than Stevenson.

* Source: John Elison http://www.audioasylum.com/cgi/t.mpl?f=vinyl&m=1013273

Jaguar Listening Studio Video (2016)

Here’s what we’re up to these days at Jaguar.  Check out our new video of the Jaguar Listening Studio and our Reference System.

Note: Watch in Full-Screen, 1080HD mode, for the best viewing experience.

This video has been about 18 months in the making…putting the system and room together, assembling the video production kit and learning how to use it.

The Room

The acoustic panels are from RPG Acoustics, including eight 2ft tuned corner bass trap sections and a pair of 4′ x 5′ broadband bass panels.  The ceiling is ringed by two dozen 2′ x 2′ curved (Broadband Absorption and Diffusion) BAD panels, with an additional 2″ layer of rigid fiberglass in the wood frames.  The ceiling panel is a 36 sq/ft collection of flat BAD panels; we originally planned a 64 sq/ft panel, but scaled it back, with the potential to expand it later.  I have about 500hrs invested in building the frames and installing room treatments.  If you’ve never tried mounting 600lbs of acoustic panels on an 18ft ceiling, I can’t recommend it.

The acrylic rack was built by a local plastics fabricator, according to our specs, as were the speaker platforms, which have Townshend shock absorbers inserted between layers.  Speaker suspension platforms are a typical feature with systems we build.

The coffee table was built by a a local woodworker, according out our design.  The painting was done by a young Seattle artist named Noah Neighbor, who does a lot of interesting work.

Filming

The filming was done on my Panasonic GH4 / Lumix 18-35mm lens and edited on Final Cut.  I was originally planning to use a Vivaldi string quartet for the music, but decided to go with the electronic piece.  A 2nd video wasn’t really an option, because I did too much footage without a tripod and it was unusable.  Please comment below on your ideas what you might have done differently with the video.

The Jaguar System

Here’s the gear currently in the Jaguar Reference System:

http://www.jaguaraudiodesign.com/in-homedesign/referencesystem.html

Assembling a DIY Video Production Kit

In the spring of 2015 Jaguar set out to assemble a video production kit as an additional means of communicating with our clients.  It required 100hrs of preliminary research and about $6,000 of capital and there was a steep learning curve to learn the basics of how to use the equipment effectively. However, if it’s fun for you it may not seem so bad and as described below you can get started for as little as $1,000.

There’s a wealth of amazing and ever-more affordable technology out there and particularly if you’re not an experienced photographer, a number of key decisions will determine how well you select gear that fits your long term needs.

Camera Body

I chose the Panasonic GH4 body. The GH4 has amazing reviews and is considered a great value for under $2K. This is known as a mirror-less, micro 4/3 camera, which have a more compact sensor than a traditional full frame DSLR, so the body and lenses can be much smaller and lighter. The GH4 was and may still be the only camera that records 4K video directly on the SD card. The only real complaint is its average performance in low light, compared to full frame cameras. One of the best performing cameras I’ve seen.
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Note: the most amazing camera I’ve encountered for the money is the Sony A6000, for $500. The one drawback of this model is that the body tends to overheat when shooting in 60fps, but with a Sony 35mm, F1.8 lens it produces some of the best color, sound and resolution I’ve seen.

Lens

I’m using the Panasonic 12-35mm zoom lens. Micro 4/3 lens terminology can be confusing. The full-frame equivalent for this lens is double, so this lens produces the same view as a 24-70mm lens. I went with the Panasonic lens, because using another brand would have meant the optical stabilization feature in the camera would not work and this is an important feature for handheld shooting with longer focal length lenses.

Choosing the right focal length is very important to how you want to use the camera. In my indoor space I need to back the lens all the way down back to 24mm to get most shots in the frame; if the lens focal length is too high you have to back the camera way up (sometimes you can’t get far enough) or you can only do close up shots. It can be difficult to gauge if you’re not experienced, so seek out advice from an expert. The zoom range offers some important flexibility for my needs, but you’ll get improved clarity from a fixed/non-zoomable lens.  Longer focal lengths make it easier to get that effect where the background is out of focus, but again, prevent you from getting as much content in the frame.  Editing software produces a much smoother zoom than a lens.  With a 4K camera (and soon 5K and 6K) you can crop and zoom a wide shot into full 2K HD in editing.

Tripods & Stabilization

You can’t cheap out on a tripod and still get good results with camera movements. If you’re just leaving the camera in place any old tripod will work, but if you want to pan across the scene or room smoothly, an expensive, high quality tripod is required. I’m using the Sachtler FSB-2, which goes for about $1,500 new and half that used. Choosing the right model depends on the load/weight of your camera, with lens and accessories.

A 2nd inexpensive and very light tripod is nice to have for a lot of situations. I’ve also found this Amazon Basics Monopod to be essential. When you’re shooting any place where you’re moving around quickly and a tripod is too much of a hassle to carry and setup, this little thing weighs about a pound, takes a few seconds to attach and will give your shot much more stability than a handheld shot.
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Sound

Most on-board sound with pro-summer cameras is good, but not pro quality. The main factor is the noise floor and you also have limited functionality. I have a Rode mini-shotgun mic, which can attach to the camera and plug into the camera mic input. I have this Tascam 4-channel recorder for situations where I need more than one channel, such as an interview, but most of the time it’s more convenient to record the sound on the camera. I also have a wired Sony lav mic for those interview situations; a wireless mic is more convenient, but you need to spend some money to get a wireless mic with immunity to RFI problems.
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Lighting

Good lighting is essential for professional-level results when shooting inside, even with today’s cameras and lenses. I went with LED arrays, because incandescent and halogen lights were too heavy and hot. I purchased this 2-light LED kit with stands, costing about $500-700. You won’t need a 3rd light except for accents. Each array has 500 lights and I decided the daylight color temp was a better way to go than the warm or bi-color. LED prices should continue to fall rapidly. These lights are light weight, portable and tremendously flexible with the stands, but the best part is the remote control, which allows you to adjust the intensity of each while standing in the frame.
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Storage and Backup

SD cards have become the most common media to record to. 4K files at 30fps, are about 4GB for a 5 minute clip. A 32G card will only give you about 45 minutes of record time; I find a 256G card to be ideal. Make sure the card is rated U3 (such as the SanDisk Extreme Pro), to provide adequate throughput for 4k recording.

Having enough space to offload your recorded files requires some planning and if you don’t back up your files you’re going to eventually lose them. Online backup services, such as Amazon backup don’t offer the upload speeds for the type of files I deal with; 10G takes about 30hrs to upload. I’ve tried RAID enclosures and found them to be a pain to keep running and the PCIe card that came with it created long boot times, plus there’s still the concern of the entire RAID system becoming corrupted. I came to the conclusion that the best solution for me is to just back everything up to separate drives and put them away. A 6TB drive costs about $250 now.

Computer Editing Station

I’m using a Mac and Final Cut for editing. Many pros use Adobe Premier on PC, but it comes with a monthly fee, which can get very expensive over time. Had I known about the Sony Vegas editing software I would have gone with that and stayed on a PC platform.

Hardware performance is important with an editing machine, especially for high-res 4K files. Don’t plan on using your MacBook to edit and transcode 4K files. The most important hardware components are the CPU, memory and graphics card. You want a powerful CPU. A quad core i7 is sufficient (more cores probably won’t be utilized). You can get by with 8G of memory, but 16-32G is ideal. Your choice of graphics card will largely determine how long you wait for tasks to process. The AMD Radeon/ATI cards perform substantially better than GeForce cards for video editing (make sure your power supply is adequate for the card and CPU and the card will fit in the enclosure). I’m using a $150, Radeon 270X, which is barely adequate for my needs, a little slow, but it works.

Sony Sound Forge software came with my Tascam recorder; you can do some audio editing in the editing programs, but this offers some extra features and flexibility.

Accessories

This backpack from Amazon Basics can hold one or two camera bodies or a few lenses. It holds a lot of stuff and works well for shooting on the go.
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To follow our latest video projects, select the “Like” button on the Facebook icon at the bottom of this page.

 

Room Acoustics and Your Noise Floor

One of the biggest challenges with room acoustics in just about any listening space is the Ambient Noise Floor.  Unless your listening room is an underground bunker out in the country you probably have outside noise sources and they’re not helping your sound.  Fighting a high noise floor requires you to turn up the volume of your system, which creates unwanted acoustic interactions within your room…a no-win situation.  Achieving a truly black background in your music is very difficult unless your listening room noise floor is lower than 30dB.  A simple way to measure the room noise is by downloading one of the free sound meter apps for mobile phone, on Android or iPhone.

The Jaguar Listening Studio is located in Downtown Bellevue, about six blocks from the 405 freeway.  Not much we can do to correct that…I keep my fingers crossed that the lone single-story building across the street is eventually torn down and replaced with a tall building, which would probably give us a notable improvement.  There’s also a street out front that gets busy around 5pm; the average noise in our room can get as high as 45dB during the day.  However, our noise floor is somewhat low in the evening (about 25-30dB), which is the reason I eventually decided to only host listening sessions with clients in the evening.

One noise problem I have some ability to correct is the noise made by our refrigerator; it’s a relatively new GE, but like most fridges in the 18-20 cubic ft. range it’s noisy and there’s not enough space to fit a larger, quieter unit.  When listening late at night when everything is closer to dead-quiet you don’t want to hear the fridge coming on for 10 minutes.

To correct this problem I installed 2′ x 4′ x 2″ rigid fiberglass panels behind the fridge.  Rigid fiberglass is typically used in acoustic panels, because of its sound absorption capabilities throughout the frequency spectrum (substantially more effective than acoustic foam), especially low bass.  The only other material that’s more effective with low bass is mineral wool, which is often used in combination with rigid fiberglass in constructing bass traps.  Owens Corning manufactures its 701, 703 and 705 series panels (the higher model numbers indicate a higher density).  The absorption coefficients for this product can be seen in the chart below.  However, for my project I used Knauf brand, 3lb, 2″, panels, which are equivalent to the Owens 703, but don’t contain the noxious formaldehyde binder.  I chose to double up the 2″ panels for a total thickness of 4″, to absorb more low frequency noise.

FiberCoefSource: http://www.bobgolds.com/AbsorptionCoefficients.htm

Check out this noise measurements below from our XTZ Room Analyzer hardware/software kit.  This device gives a more detailed measurement than a phone sound meter, showing separate frequencies levels from 15Hz to 20Khz.  There’s a lot going on in this image, because I’ve superimposed three separate measurements on top of each other.  The blue bars (and the top of all bars) represent maximum noise, with the fridge on and no insulation.  The yellow bars overlap the blue and represent the minimum noise, with the fridge off.  The white bars between the blue and yellow represent the noise above the minimum, with the fridge on and 4″ of insulation behind it.  In other words, all the color above the yellow bars is noise made by the fridge.  The blue area represents fridge noise that has now been absorbed and the white area represents the remaining fridge noise.  Refrig-all-with-insulOf course we can’t kill all the fridge noise (though it would be ideal to have a unit that’s dead quiet), because some noise still emanates from the top, bottom and sides, however, the result is an elimination of about 50% of the noise between 40Hz and 2Khz.  While the reduction may appear small, that’s almost a 15dB reduction just at 500Hz…a substantial amount of noise.  From our listening area the noise reduction is very obvious.

Some problems with Ambient Listening Room Noise can be fixed and others can’t, but it’s important to be aware of your room noise level, its sources and the overall effect on your sound.

 

Free Download! The JaguarAudioDesign.com Real-Time Audio Operating System.

Note 10/23/2017: This OS was built in 2013, so drivers for some newer motherboard components (such as Ethernet) may not be compatible.  We recommend you check out Daphile.

https://www.daphile.com/

JAD_ScreenBGcom1

Note (June 9, 2014) – an updated version has been uploaded.  The RTOS now includes CD ripping software, a Mytek USB driver and an updated M2Tech driver.

This project is a Real-Time operating system for audio, designed just for playing computer music files, with a mouse and computer screen or TV (no other frills).  I’ll eventually make it available to a wide audience, but for now I want to get it out for a few of you to try it.

This operating system uses a real-time Linux kernel. The goal of realtime is to give audio processes priority, to prevent interruption by non-audio processes (those that aren’t system critical). In studio production environments these interruptions can result in latency, which is a problem for recording. We’re not concerned with latency, but we can do without audio processes being interrupted. The theory is that these interruptions could disrupt the precision of the clock timing and result in jitter. Of course there are other factors that affect your sound quality, particularly your player’s driver. However, there’s no question realtime operation is different; a little Nu-Force headphone amp requires a latency setting of 17.4ns to remain stable with a generic kernel and can go as low as 8.6ns with the realtime kernel.

Here’s a pic of the player and music server interface.Rhythmbox - Jack

DAC USB compatibility can be an issue for Linux, because DAC manufacturers who develop proprietary USB drivers usually develop only for Windows and Mac. However, if your DAC doesn’t require special driver installation you can connect with USB. If you use a SPDIF connection to a soundcard that should work too (most soundcards support Linux). A Linux driver for M2Tech products is also installed, though I don’t have an M2Tech unit on hand to test.

The OS is easy to run without installation, just burn a Live DVD or create a bootable thumb drive.

Submit your info below to join Jaguar’s Email List and we’ll send you an email with the OS Download Link.

[email-download download_id=”748, 681″ contact_form_id=”908″]