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Most c9 strings have less leds inside them than the 5 leds inside most retro bulbs and you can't easily cut them to custom lengths without having to calculate adding resistors to drop the excess voltage to keep from burning up your leds. I would go with the retro bulbs and use your custom strands of sockets.  Much easier and brighter.

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I would go with the retro bulbs. I tried the GE C-9 strings that lowes sells and they were hard to get aligned right on the roof line plus only one led per bulb, they didn't look the best. I then went the retro bulb way by getting them from members on PC selling them. I went the C-7 bulb since I had a lot of strings for the C-7. I was very happy how they looked. Hope this helps.

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