The Buffalo III 8-Channel DAC

Buffalo-III Integration Guide
by Leon van Bommel

Buffalo-III User Manual v1.0 (coming soon)
Board Outline

2/4/6/8 Channels of PCM (I2S)
1-8 Channels of DSD
1-8 Selectable stereo* S/PDIF Inputs (TTL-level)

*When using S/PDIF, the ES9018 will only function in stereo (2-channel) mode.

8 Channels
Can be combined to form between 1 and 8 output channels by installing jumpers under the board (included).

Power requirements:
5.25VDC for powering onboard regulators.

  • Four-layer circuit board optimized for mixed signals
  • Based on the ESS Sabre32 Reference (ES9018) DAC chip
  • Configurable for 1 to 8 DACs per channel
  • High-precision, ultra-low-phase noise clock and integrated reclocking
  • Three seperate series shunt regulator modules (Tridents) for Digital supplies
  • Dual series shunt voltage regulator module for AVCC supplies
  • Direct DSD, I2S and S/PDIF inputs supporting up to 32-bit/192kHz
  • Supports up to 8 seperate stereo S/PDIF inputs, or up to 8 channels of PCM or DSD
  • Up to 8 channels of outputs can be used in current-output or voltage-output mode (depends on output stage used)
  • All connections by direct or optional (included) terminal blocks
  • Built in digital volume control using the including volume pot
  • Onboard microcontroller and 16 configuration switches, plus a header for remote control options
  • I2C header for optional remote uC interfacing
  • Seperate onboard regulator for powering the microcontroller and accessories

  • Customizable power
    Previous versions of the Buffalo have used onboard local linear regulators for powering the various sections of the ES9018 DAC chip. The Buffalo-II allowed for easy bypassing of the onboard regulators for power supply customization, and also used a pair of custom shunt regulators built around a common voltage reference for powering the critical analog sections of the ES9018. Since out Trident regulators have proven to be extremely popular, we have done away with the linear regulators and designed the Buffalo-III to use them explicitly.
    The Buffalo-III retains a single on-board linear 3.3V voltage regulator for powering the onboard microcontroller and optional external accessories.
    Two 3.3V Trident modules provide power for the on board Oscillator (VDD_XO) and main digital sections of the ES9018 (DVCC).
    One 1.2V Trident module provides power for the digital core (VDD) of the ES9018.
    Finally, the AVCC module provides power for the left and right analog sections of the ES9018.
    (For the best performance, we recommend the Placid set for 5.0V output, powered by a 9V+9V transformer (available here).

    Customizable outputs
    Previous versions of the Buffalo were two-channel or mono, combining the eight channels of the ES9018 into four or eight DACs per channel.
    The Buffalo-III exposes all eight channels independently; by installing optional jumpers on the bottom of the DAC board, the eight channels can be combined in various combinations from one to eight channels.
    When configured for two-channel mode (like the Buffalo-II) the output headers used align perfectly with the inputs of our IVY-III and Legato I/V output stages, allowing for module stacking: no wires and the shortest possible signal path.

    Accessories (for 8-Channel Buffalo-III Only - NOT COMPATIBLE WITH Buffalo-IIIse)


    4-Channel S/PDIF (or AES-EBU) Level Converter Kit
    To make it easier to feed multiple consumer level S/PDIF inputs to the Buffalo-III, we have created a 4-Channel Level Converter which mates up perfectly with the Buffalo's input header.
    Each input is transformer isolated and fed to a high-speed quad-compatator for TTL-level shifting from consumer-level or AES/EBU signals. Terminiation resistors are provided for Consumer, AES/EBU and TTL-level inputs. It can be connected directly to the Buffalo (soldered) or via a 20-pin ribbin cable and connectors (included).

    4-Input Selection Switch Kit
    In order to make switching easier, this kit also includes a small board to hole the 4-position rotary switch and input indicator LEDs, which can be mounted on the switch board or remotely. The switch board connects to the Buffalo's I/O expansion header with a four wire connector (included).

    Schematic Single S/PDIF (or AES-EBU) Level Converter Kit
    There is also a Single S/PDIF Level Converter Kit for those requiring only a single S/PDIF input, or want to use a combination of input types. Using the same circuit as the 4-channel converter (above), this small module can be easily placed anywhere in your enclosure and connected to the Buffalo-III input header and VD power connections using it's terminal blocks or 4-pos 0.1" pads.

    Schematic Sidecar
    Another accessory is the Sidecar, which is used for switching between S/PDIF inputs and PCM(I2S) or DSD inputs. The module is daisy chained between the S/PDIF receiver (above) and the Buffalo-III. By applying 5VDC to the Trigger header, the relays switch between the S/PDIF inputs and the inputs on the PCM/DSD header, and then to the Buffalo-III. Please note that this module supports only stereo PCM and DSD signals.

    Ordering Options
    Individual Modules
    Buffalo-III 8-Channel DAC
  • (1) Buffalo-III 8-Channel DAC Module (Assembled and Tested)
  • (1) AVCC Dual Shunt Regulator Module (Assembled and Tested)
  • (2) Trident 3.3V Shunt Regulator Module (Assembled and Tested)
  • (1) Trident 1.2V Shunt Regulator Module (Assembled and Tested)
  • $359.00 USD
    Buffalo-III 8-Channel DAC (No Tridents/AVCC)
  • (1) Buffalo-III 8-Channel DAC Module (Assembled and Tested)
  • NOTE: Local voltage regulators are required for Buffalo-III to function
  • $279.00 USD
    Firmware Update 3 for Buffalo-III DAC (8-channel) $3.00 USD
    Single S/PDIF Level Converter Kit
  • Converts one consumer-level S/PDIF or AES-EBU input to TTL-level S/PDIF
  • Easily powered from Buffalo-III' VD supply
  • $22.00 USD
    4-Channel S/PDIF Level Converter
  • Converts up to 4 Consumer-level S/PDIF or AES-EBU inputs to TTL-level S/PDIF
  • Mates directly to Buffalo-III input terminals (or via included cable)
  • Powered by Buffalo-III' VD supply via input header
  • $46.00 USD (Sold Out)
    4-Input Selection Switch Kit
  • Allows selection between S/PDIF inputs 1 - 4
  • Connects to Buffalo-III EXT_I/O header with included cable
  • LED Indication of selected input
  • Mounts directly to front panel
  • $16.00 USD
    Sidecar S/PDIF/PCM Switch Module Kit
  • Mates between 4-Input S/PDIF Module and Buffalo-III
  • Switched between S/PDIF inputs and PCM (I2S) or DSD inputs
  • Powered by Buffalo-III' VD supply via input header
  • $35.00 USD

    Legacy Documentation
    Buffalo32S (ES9018):  Layout    Manual
    Buffalo 1.0 (ES9008):  Layout    Schematic    Manual