- Support for 4x20 LCD Display and large number display
- Brightness and contrast adjustment with remote
- (OPUS/Wolfson WM8741) DAC volume control: remote and rotary encoder
- (OPUS/Wolfson WM8741) DAC random filter selection 1 to 5 with remote
- (OPUS/Wolfson WM8741) DAC upsampling selection (L, M, H -this is the OSR setting)
- I2C level shifting (5V to 3.3V)
- Optimized power-up sequence

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Buffalo II DAC: Best Bang-for-Buck

(Update, Nov. 2010: I've developed Arduino code to control the Buffalo DAC. Check my other blog:

TwistedPearAudio Released the Buffalo II DAC

This is the 3rd TPA iteration for the top of the line ESS DAC. The first iteration was for the ESS 9008 (24bit) DAC and the second and third are for the ESS 9018 (32bit).

Although it is priced at $249, the ESS DAC includes a spdif receiver, a high speed ASRC and a 32-bit DAC. In Addition, the Buffalo II includes a top-of-the line, ultra low jitter clock from Crystek and a ultra-low noise shunt regulator for the analog section of the DAC.

I think Buffalo II is the new bang-for-buck leader. If we compare a comparable OPUS DAC offering we have the following:
  1. Opus DAC (WM8741): $75
  2. Opus Spdif Receiver (WM8804): $75
  3. Metronome (ASRC): $75
  4. Upgrade Clock (you must mod yourself): $30
  5. Upgrade analog regulation (e.g. Placid, and mod yourself): $40
Total: $295

To be fair, the OPUS does not require an output stage and associated power supply, and the Buffalo II requires an output stage.

In-depth comparison between Buffalo I DAC (ESS 9008) and Buffalo II DAC (ESS 9018) also shows that the new DAC is a better deal than the old DAC (Buffalo I photo scraped from "buyer of board #93 without permission)

Buffalo I ---------------Buffalo II

Panasonic caps: $0.51 ---Oscon caps: $3.14
Crystek 33xx: $2.31 -----Crystek 950: $27.70
ESS 9008: $47.90 --------ESS 9018: $65.60
Regulator: $.75 ---------LT 1763 Regulator: $4.13

Total: 53.75 ---------------------------Total: 115.11
Difference: $61.36

I believe the Buffalo I sold for $169. If we add the price differential for the 4-layer board, and the time spent designing and prototyping and testing the new board, we can easily reach the $80 price difference between the old Buffalo and Buffalo II.

Ah! I forgot the ultra-low noise dual analog regulator, you get that for FREE! (Expect to pay $60 to $120 for two shunt low noise regulators from 3rd parties)

  • There are a couple of dozen additional components in the back side of the PCB
  • The clock is a custom made 20 ppm (standard is 25-50 ppm) model for TPA


I believe the main difference between Buffalo II and Buffalo 32s (aside from having the I/V stage in a separate board) is the analog supply. It appears (from pictures, I don't have the boards and there are no schematics for Buffalo 32s) the analog supply of Buffalo 32s is similar to the one found in Buffalo I.

Buffalo 32s analog supply: based on two LM4971 single opamps
Buffalo I analog supply: based on a single LM4972 dual opamp

No comments: