Goldilocks Analogue – Prototyping 2


Following my initial design article, and the testing article, I’ve put quite a lot of thought into how I can make this Goldilocks Analogue device best achieve my stated goals. Pictured is the only Goldilocks Analogue Prototype in existence.

Goldilocks Analogue - Top Left

Goldilocks Analogue Prototype – Analogue section front of image.

From the testing it was clear that the MCP4822 DAC fully achieved the goals that I had set out to achieve, but that my design for the analogue buffer stage behind it was really quite bad. Fixing it was going to take some thought.

I have decided to separate the analogue output stage into two sections. An AC section which drives the headphone socket, with a designed for purpose headphone amplifier device, and a DC section using a high current rail to rail OpAmp and a negative 1.18V supply rail to allow the OpAmp to fully reach GND or the equivalent 0x000 digital input.

I also found a better solution for the uSD level translation. There is a device designed for purpose, which I’ve now designed into the Goldilocks Analogue.

DAC – MCP4822

The selected dual DAC uses the SPI bus to write 12 bit values to each of its channels. The increments are either 1mV or 0.5mV giving full scale at DC 4.096V or 2.048V depending which scale factor is being used. The testing showed that the DAC is capable of achieving close to the 72dB of SNR that is its theoretical capability.

DAC 43Hz Sine - 7k6Hz

So from my point of view the DAC, and the AVcc filtering system employed to provide a clean analogue power rail, have achieved their design goal. Let’s not change anything.

Headphone (AC) Output – TPA6132A2

Driving a headphone socket with a nominal impedance of 32 ohm is a hard job for an OpAmp, and they are not designed specifically for this job. Therefore, I thought it would be best to separate the two outputs into two separate full-time output devices, specialised for their purposes (AC headphones, and DC PID or general pin-out).  Both Goldilocks Analogue output options are driven simultaneously, and they will not interfere with each other.


For the AC and headphone output, using a specific single ended “DirectPath” headphone amplifier device enabled me to remove the large output coupling capacitors but still achieve a good low frequency output response.

The TPA6132A2 is capable of driving 25 mW into 16 ohm headphones. Its amplifier architecture operates from a single supply voltage and uses an internal charge pump to generate a negative supply rail for the headphone amplifier. The output voltages are centred around 0 V and are capable of positive and negative voltage swings. This means that the TPA6132A2 doesn’t need output blocking capacitors, and therefore can achieve a very good low-frequency fidelity. Using the 1 uF input capacitors stops any turn-on pop or noise, and achieves a low frequency corner below 10 Hz.

As the DAC outputs a signal with up to 4 V peak to peak, I have set the gain on the TPA6132A2 to -6dB. This should result in the full range of the headphone signal being 1 V peak to peak, with approximately 25 mW being delivered into 32 ohm headphones.

The TPA6132 also has a very high power supply an RF noise rejection ratio. Although I’ve gone to a lot of effort to filter the AVcc power supply, the power supply noise generated was still significant. Having over 90 dB PSRR will help to keep the output quiet.

Analogue (DC) Output – TS922A

I originally selected a highly regarded audiophile OpAmp for use in the Goldilocks Analogue. That device was incapable of operating close to its GND rail, and caused significant distortion in the output signal. Based on that experience, I decided to use a rail-to-rail output OpAmp to provide the DC buffered signal.

Even though rail-to-rail OpAmp devices are sold as full Vcc to Vss outputs, under high current loading they all have significant output droop. The only way to avoid this is to avoid driving the (any) OpAmp close to its supply rails.

The positive rail is ok. The supply voltage is a well regulated 5 V DC, and the maximum voltage required from the OpAmp is 4.096 V which is 0xFFF input to the DAC. It is the Ground Rail, which causes the issue, as the OpAmp will be unable to deliver the analogue equivalent 0x000 under high current situations.

The only way to get an OpAmp to deliver a solid GND potential output, is to supply it with a negative supply voltage Vss.  Getting a Vss rail is described below.

The TS922A device is designed for high current rail-to-rail outputs, and is specified to work into 32 ohm headphones, 75 ohm video, and 600 ohm inputs. This DC coupled output can be used to drive PID, Triac or any other application requiring a precise analogue signal up to around 50 kHz.

OpAmp Vss (negative) rail

The TS922A can support over 50 mA per channel output, but at this current its output resistance has dropped its ability to reach both rails to greater than 300 mV. Specifically, it can only reach between 0.3 V and 4.4 V. Therefore to enable the output signal to reach GND potential, we have to generate a Vss  with greater than -0.3 V, and capable of supplying in excess of 100 mA (over OpAmp both channels).

I looked at a number of options for charge coupled devices, and decided that the cheapest and best way was to use two paralleled TPS60403 devices to each generate -5 V 60 mA from the 5V power rail. These devices don’t filter their output, but since we are not going to use the -5 V directly, this doesn’t matter.


Following the generation of the -5 V supply, I’ve decided on a TPS72301 variable voltage 200 mA linear regulator, configured to generate its reference voltage -1.186 V, to provide a regulated Vss. Using the internal reference voltage saves a few resistors, and it still generates sufficient negative voltage to enable the OpAmp to easily reach true GND potential.

uSD Card Level Translation – TXS0104

Some further analysis of the voltage translation application revealed that the TXS0104 is designed to exactly suit the purpose of interfacing SPI bus at up to 24 MHz. As a side benefit it is a much smaller package, which recovers prototyping space back to the original Goldilocks benchmark. It is also cheaper than the general purpose OpAmps previously used.

Initially, the prototype used the TXB0104 device, but it was unsuccessful. The 4kOhm output resistance combined with less than optimal uSD card characteristics meant that the design failed. The TXB series cannot drive anything with pull-up or pull-down greater than 50kOhm. The uSD card is specified to have 10kOhm to 100kOhm integrated pull-up resistors, but in practice they all seem to be around 10kOhm. The schematic below will be updated to show TXS shortly.


The PCB Layout

The board layout has been completed, and a PCB ordered to this design.

More detail soon.


Top Signal Layer

GND Signal Layer

5V Signal Layer

Bottom Signal Layer



As of June 2014, I’ve now got all the parts, and the PCB ready for a new prototype. This new version was  constructed late July 2014 and is awaiting basic testing.

Version 2 of the prototype

Version 2 of the prototype, fresh out of the oven.


As of August 2014, I have started testing. So far the analogue design seems to check out, with both the headphone (AC biased) circuitry and the OpAmp (DC biased) circuitry performing as intended. More testing soon, and a new post.

Goldilocks Analogue demonstrating a clean DC biased sign wave (to 0V) .

Goldilocks Analogue demonstrating a clean DC biased sign wave (to 0V) .

The spectrum at the output of the TS922A OpAmp is cleaner now than directly at the MCP4822 DAC output of the previous prototype iteration.

The nominal 12 bit DAC capabilities are able to achieve 72dB SNR. Target achieved.

Spectrum at the output of the OpAmp.

Spectrum at the output of the OpAmp.

Goldilocks Analogue – Testing


This post follows on from the and gives some insight into the results of the first board prototype board assembled.

Updated - Goldilocks Analogue

Updated – Goldilocks Analogue

The information will develop over the next few weeks, as I add more information and test results.

I’ve built a new Goldilocks Analogue design and I have described the changes and additions.


Well I’ve had my  Goldilocks Analogue on my desk now for a few nights, and I’m very impressed that it seems to generally meet the specification that was intended.

The code for setting the DAC levels is currently only optimised for setting two values at a time. Specifically, it is not a streaming function. Never-the-less, it is possible to achieve the stated goal for both DAC channels. The actual number achieved is 108 kSamples/second, shown below, or 18.8us to transmit 2 samples on 2 channels.

I’ve been testing the Goldilocks Analogue DAC stage and found (what I should have known) that I needed an output buffer op-amp able to do negative rail (0V) input and output to support the MCP4822 0v to 4.095V ranging DAC, so I’m going to order some soon.

Unfortunately the OPA4350 (rail to rail high current), at over $10 each, is nearly as expensive as the audiophile OPA4132 I specified previously.

There seems to be a pin compatible alternative, the TS924A, which is about $2 each, but several orders of magnitude worse in performance.

For Example: OPA4350 vs TS924A
Gain Bandwidth Product: 38MHz vs 4MHz
Slew Rate: 22V/μs vs 1.3V/μs
Total Harmonic Distortion: 0.0006% vs 0.005%

Is it worth the difference, when working with a 12 bit DAC in the presence of mV of power supply noise? I’ll revisit this with the next design notes.

How about 5V?

To build an effective DAC I’ve learned that we need to have an effective quiet 5V power supply, with as little noise as possible. To put this into context, the 12 bit MCP4822 generates a 1mV per level difference. I noticed there is quite a few mV of noise on the 5V supply of the Goldilocks Analogue. Not what I was hoping to see, so I’ve gone back to see how that compares with predecessors.

All measurements are taken with a 100MHz Rigol DS1102E, with 150MHz probes grounded onto the USB socket of each board respectively. The probes are directly on the regulator output capacitor, which should be the quietest point on the board, and then directly off Vcc on the MCU for the DIL boards, or a nearby test point for the SMD boards.

First stop is a reference design Arduino Uno R2 board. As a starting point the Uno shows 16mV on the power supply, and 35mV on the MCU. Let’s see how some other boards compare.


Arduino Uno

The Freetronics Eleven board also uses a linear regulator, similar (if not identical to) the Arduino Uno. However the capacitor arrangement must be somewhat more effective because the noise present on the output capacitor is less than 6mV. This is significantly better than on the Arduino Uno, and even measured against the Vcc pin the supply noise remains significantly lower than the Uno.

This Freetronics Eleven board was running at 22.1184MHz rather than the standard Arduino speed, but that doesn’t seem to affect the result.


Freetronics Eleven

Next up is the Seeed Studio ADK boards is an ATmega2560 board running at 16MHz, which also uses a linear regulator. The ADK board exhibits the same quiet supply found in the Freetronics Eleven, and has very similar characteristics on the Vcc test point as well.


Seeed Studio ADK

The Goldilocks v1.1 resulting from the Pozible project is my true point of reference. I hope to be able to do slightly better than this board, by better layout of the same SMPS circuit that is used across all of the Freetronics range of products.

In measurement, the Goldilocks v1.1 sets a very high standard to surpass. Even though there is a 500kHz SMPS running in the supply, the Vcc supply capacitor shows very low noise of only 5.29mV, and the Vcc noise on the test point is only 12.0mV.


Goldilocks V1.1

The Goldilocks Analogue Prototype 1 uses the same SMPS circuit present across the entire range of Freetronics boards, but using an optimised (for this application) layout. Shorter internal tracks should result in slightly faster smoothing, and better regulation, although the effect at normal currents would be minimal.

In comparison with the  Goldilocks v1.1, there seems to be slightly less noise at the supply capacitor with less than 5mV showing, although this effect is marginal. The noise on the Vcc line seems to be similar.


Goldilocks Analogue Prototype 1


Having looked at the power supplies at rest, and built a baseline of what to expect, here are some screenshots of the Goldilocks SMPS under load. Port D is being switched from 0x00 to 0xFF at 30kHz. The first screenshot shows one of the Port D pins on channel 1, and the Vcc (5V) line at the supply capacitor on channel 2. Note that there is 24mV of noise on the Vcc supply capacitor, even without drawing much current.


This second screenshot shows the same set up, but with 8 LEDs being driven off the Port D. Channel 2 shows the variation in supply capacitor Vcc under the increased load.


So the big question is whether the new layout of the SMPS has achieved anything. Well, based on this simple test, it would seem to have generated a fairly significant improvement.

The below two screenshots shows the trailing edge of the 8 LED power load being switched off. Note that on the supply Vcc there is some oscillation and instability as the SMPS recovers from the load reduction.

This first screenshot shows the Goldilocks V1.1 situation, with a ripple of 832mV peak to peak.


With the Goldilocks Analogue, the peak to peak ripple is reduced to under 600mV, which is a 25% improvement in this situation.


Sine Waves

I’m using my new Red Pitaya to analyse the output of the Goldilocks Analogue output state, with a 43.066Hz Sine wave (1024 samples played out at 44.1kHz) as the input to the DAC.


This shows the sine wave generated at the output of the low pass filter (23kHz -3dB single pole design). This is almost exactly as we would like to see.
Post Filter 43Hz Sine - Oscilloscope
Looking at the lower segment of the sine wave below and the image above, it is almost perfect to 0V and to 4.096V peak to peak.
Post Filter 43Hz Sine - Oscilloscope Segment
Looking at this sine wave on the spectrum analyser across the band up to 7.6kHz, we can see the noise floor is 70dB down from the signal exiting the DAC. It seems the DAC performs as advertised.
DAC 43Hz Sine - 7k6Hz
Looking across the band to 61kHz, we can see the peak at -70dbm from the 44.1kHz sampling noise. Unfortunately, the single pole filter doesn’t do much to suppress this noise source.
DAC 43Hz Sine - 61kHz
To get an idea of whether the 23kHz filter is working as expected, we need to look out to the 976kHz band. The next two images contract the signal before and after the Filter.
DAC 43Hz Sine - 976kHz

The lower image shows that noise peaks out to 200kHz have been properly suppressed, so the filter is working but it is too slow to hit the 41kHz noise.

Post Filter 43Hz Sine - 976kHz

Op Amps

The Op Amp selection was a mistake. Rather than thinking about the application correctly, I simply sought out the best “musical” Op Amp. The audiophile OPA4132 is absolutely not the right tool for this job. And these images show why.

Driving into a 1kOhm resistance, the output of the OPA4132 is shaved off as the op amp output amplifier saturates as it approaches the 0V rail (or Ground rail). The top of the waveform is OK, as we are still 1V from the Vcc rail. Under higher loading, such as headphones at 32Ohm, the signal is worse, much worse.

OpAmp 43Hz Sine - 1kOhm - Oscilloscope

Looking at this (initially as an open circuit) view and then with the 1kOhm loading imposed, we can see the difficulty the op amp has with the signal.

OpAmp 43Hz Sine OpenCircuit - 953Hz

The noise peaks (created by the flattening of the sine wave) are at least 10dB greater under a small load. As the load increases the situation gets worse.

OpAmp 43Hz Sine 1kOhm - 953Hz

OpAmp 43Hz Sine 1kOhm - 7k6Hz

OpAmp 43Hz Sine 1kOhm - 61kHz

To fix this issue, I will need to use a rail to rail high current op amp, and also make sure that I create a small negative rail (-o.23V using a LM7705) to allow the op amp to reach 0V effectively.

Amongst the Burr Brown range the best alternative seems to be the OPA2353, which can support almost 40mA of current, and can effectively drive 75Ohm loads. Unfortunately the OPA2353 (rail to rail high current) costs about $6 each,

There seems to be a pin compatible alternative, the TS922A, which is about $2 each, but several orders of magnitude worse in performance. However, it can supply 80mA and effectively drive 32Ohm headphones.

For Example: OPA2353 vs TS922A
Gain Bandwidth Product: 44MHz vs 4MHz
Slew Rate: 22V/μs vs 1.3V/μs
Total Harmonic Distortion: 0.0006% vs 0.005%


Reset button can be moved closer to the edge.

AVcc supply capacitors are too close together, and need to have bigger pads.

Use the DAC out header spare pin to pin-out the AVcc, for testing or use on prototyping area.

AVcc inductor is not correct footprint (device much larger).

AVcc ferrite bead is not correct footprint (device much smaller).

Remove analogue potentiometers, unnecessary as DAC is extraordinarily accurate.

Put pin-out on DC output, and headphone socket on AC output 100uF capacitors.

Replace Analogue Op Am with LM7705 and TS922A. This generates 0V to 4.096V required to properly buffer the MCP4822 DAC. LM7705 can’t sustain 80mA, but for small DC signals (up to 20mA) we will have accurate buffering of the DAC, and for headphones, it is an analogue signal anyway.

Replace uSD Op Amps with TXB0104, more suitable for the purpose.

These errata have been addressed in the new Goldilocks Analogue design and I have described the changes and additions.

Goldilocks Analogue – Prototyping

Last time I designed a Goldilocks board, it was because I was unhappy about the availability of a development platform that was within my reach; a tool to enable me to continue to learn about coding for micro-controllers.

This Goldilocks, let us call it Goldilocks Analogue, it is not about what I think is necessary, but more about what I’d like to have. The focus is not so much about the basics of SRAM and Flash, but much more on what functions I would like to have, and using my own means to get there.

Also, as the original Goldilocks is sold out, Freetronics are considering making their own version. Please add your wishes here.

Test results are in. Check out the detailed post on Goldilocks Analogue – Testing. Following the testing, I’ve redesigned the analogue output section to make it much more capable. It now support simultaneous AC and DC outputs, with an application specific headphone amplifier device to provide AC output, and high current OpAmp to provide DC output.

The Goldilocks Analogue Prototype 4 has been designed, and is now being produced.


The Goldilocks Project was specifically about getting the ATmega1284p MCU onto a format equivalent to the Arduino Uno R3. The main goal was to get more SRAM and Flash memory into the same physical footprint used by traditional Arduino (pre-R3) and latest release Uno R3 shields.

Goldilocks Arduino 1284p

Original – Goldilocks Version 1.1

I also tried to optimally use the co-processor ATmega32U2, (mis)utilised by Arduino purely for the USB-Serial functionality, by breaking out its pins, and creating a cross-connect between the two MCU to enable them to communicate via the SPI bus.

Whilst the Goldilocks achieved what it set out to do, there were some problems it created for itself.

Firstly, the ATmega family of devices is really very bad a generating correct USART baud rates when their main frequency doesn’t match a multiple of the standard USART rates. Engineers in the know select one of these primary clock rates (for example 14.7456MHz, 18.432MHz, or 22.1184MHz) when they’re planning on doing any real Serial communications. Unfortunately, the 16MHz clock rate chosen by the Arduino team generates about the worst USART timing errors possible.

This means that the Arduino devices can only work at 16MHz while programming them with the Serial Bootloader, otherwise programming is bound to fail, due to losing a bit or two due to the clock rate error.

Arduino had serial programming completely solved in the old days by using a real USB-USART chip, the FTDI FT232R, but for some reason they stopped doing the right thing. This might have been the perfect solution, but they abandoned it. Who knows why…

Secondly, although having an integrated uSD card cage on the platform is a great thing, using a resistor chain to do the voltage conversion is nominally a bit problematic. The output pins (SCK, MOSI, CS) are permanently loaded by 3k2 Ohm and an input pin (MISO) high signal generates only 0.66 of Vcc, which only just clears the minimum ATmega signal high level of 0.6 Vcc. Neither of these issues prevent the uSD card from working, and the voltage divider resistor chain takes almost no space on the board. But still it is not perfect.

Thirdly, there are some minor oversights in the V1 build that I would like to correct if possible.

New Directions

I’ve been toying with the idea of building an Xmega board, in Arduino Uno R3 format, because of the significantly enhanced I/O capabilities of this MCU including true DAC capabilities, but I’ve not followed up for two reasons; the Xmega has no history of use by hobbyists as there is with the ATmega devices, and it doesn’t bring any advantage that an ARM MCU wouldn’t otherwise do better and faster.

Never the less, the ATmega platform still lacks one thing that I believe is necessary; a high quality analogue capability. The world is analogue, and having an ADC capability, without having a corresponding DAC capability, is like having a real world recorder with no means to playback these real world recordings.

A major initiative of the Goldilocks is to bring an analogue capability to the Arduino platform. So this device will be called the Goldilocks Analogue.

Updated - Goldilocks Analogue

Updated – Goldilocks Analogue

There have been music shields and audio shields built before, and the design used is closely aligned to the original Adafruit Wave Shield, but I’ve not seen dual high quality DACs with both AC and DC capability, integrated onto the main board of an Arduino previously. So that’s where I’m going.

The goal is to be able to produce a DC referenced signal, from 0Hz up to around 100kHz, that can provide a binary-linear representative voltage (with sufficient current) to enable a control system, as well as to produce the highest quality audio, with very low noise and THD buffer amplifiers, that the basic AVR platform is capable of producing.

Using Eagle

I used to look at Eagle (Kicad, etc) with healthy scepticism. Yeah, not something that I’d be able to learn, but in the process of realising the Goldilocks Analogue, I have learned that it is far easier to learn a new skill than it is to guide someone in India or Malaysia, who doesn’t even get the start of what I want. The old idiom, if you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself.

There is a “Fremium” version of Eagle available, which is enough to get started. I’m going to try to get a “Hobbyist” version as soon as the paperwork is through.

So all this below is my first Eagle project.

The Schematic

I’ll talk through each item in the schematic, particularly those things which are novel in the Goldilocks Analogue. The schematics for the Goldilocks V1 can be found in the User Manual.


The FT232R is the same device used in countless earlier Arduinos, such as the Duemilanove, and in USB-Serial adapters everywhere. The drivers for all major operating systems are widespread and there is no magic required. Importantly, the FT232R chip generates a real USART baud rate, at any speed from 300 baud to 3 Mbaud.

Unlike in the Duemilanove I’m using the FT232RQ chip, which is in the QFN package. There is too much going on to take up the board space with the larger package.

FT232RQ - Goldilocks Analogue

I’ve added a switch to disable the DTR Reset functionality of the Arduino and Wiring Bootloaders. Often, I would like a running device NOT to be reset by plugging the USB cable, but then I’ll be using the Goldilocks in another thing where I do want this to happen. Having a switch, like Seeed often do, is the best answer.

Also, I’ve added a 6 pin connector replicating the standard FTDI pin-out, to enable the FT232RQ to communicate with other devices, should this be necessary. It would be a shame to lock it into the board, with no option for extension.

uSD Buffer

In designing the buffer for the uSD, I was trying to achieve two things. Firstly, isolate the uSD card entirely from the SPI bus when it was not in use. By isolate, I mean over 1MOhm resistance. This isolation ensures that the uSD card doesn’t load up the SPI pins at all, when the uSD is not being used.

Secondly, I was trying to ensure that each end of the SPI bus receives the correct voltages and currents to ensure maximum throughput.

uSD Buffer - Goldilocks Analogue

The two devices selected achieve both goals as desired.

For the MCU to uSD direction (SCK, MOSI, and CS) I’m using a 74LVC125 in quad package. This package is tolerant of inputs at 5V rising above its Vcc of 3V3. The output enable on low, is connected to the Chip Select line, which means that the uSD card will not be driven unless the CS line is low. It always presents a high impedance to the MCU.

As a quad package the 74LVC125 has one spare gate, which can be used to drive the Arduino LED. This is neat no cost result that entirely removes any loading on Arduino Pin13.

For the uSD to MCU direction the buffer has to effectively produce a 5v CMOS high when receiving a 3V3 CMOS high. The best way to do this is to use a device that is TTL signal compatible. The TTL minimum high signal is only 2V, much lower than the CMOS minimum high signal of 2/3 of Vcc, and importantly below the worst case of 2/3 of 3V3 CMOS.

The only device I could find with the required characteristic of accepting TTL inputs with a low output enable, is the MC74VHC1GT125. I’m sure there are other options though.

DAC and Buffer

This is the fun stuff. Analogue… the real world. As noted above, the goal is to produce two binary-linear signals with enough buffering that they can drive a reasonable load (such as small headphones or an audio amplifier) and produce a constant voltage under a number of power supply options.

The inspiration for the circuit came from the Adafruit Wave Shield, but there are a number of significant improvements that are worth noting, not least the use of a dual DAC, for two channels of output.

DAC and Buffer - Goldilocks Analogue

Firstly, if you want to get a very low noise output, whilst using a high current Switch Mode Power Supply, it is necessary to filter the supply voltage. I’ve utilised the dual steps of an L-C primary filter, followed by a ferrite core bead secondary filter. I’m not sure whether this is all necessary, and I’ll be testing the circuit later with various components removed to check their efficacy in the role, but if they’re not designed in now they never will be added later.

I’m using the Microchip MCP4822 DAC to produce the raw output voltage. This is an SPI device which will be selected using the other “spare” Goldilocks digital pin PB1. Using PB1 to signal the DAC means that none of the Arduino R3 pins are used for on-board Goldilocks functions, and as both CS lines (PB0 and PB1) are tied high they will ensure that all these on-board devices stay off the SPI bus during system reboot.

The MCP4822 takes 16 bits to set a signal level, this is two SPI bus transactions. The maximum SPI rate is SCK/2. Therefore, if my Goldilocks is doing nothing else, it can generate 691,200 SPI transactions per second. If both DACs are being driven we can generate a square wave of 172,800Hz. This is an unreachable figure. More likely, the best case will be around 50kHz for both channels, or 100kHz if only one DAC is being used.

Optionally, the LDAC pin-out can be used to synchronise the transfer of digital inputs to the analogue output buffers across the two DACs or to a specific clock with low jitter.

Unlike the Adafruit solution, the MCP4822 generates its own internal 4.096V reference voltage Vref. This means that irrespective of whether the Goldilocks Analogue is being powered by a battery, by USB, or by the barrel connector and the SMPS, the output voltage for a particular digital input will be constant.

The op-amp configuration with dual op-amps, in a quad package, designed to double the current capability of the output, has raised concern from all who see it. Concern was my initial thought too. However after some research, I found it to be a recommended configuration for current doubling. The only difference to the Adafruit example circuit is to add low value output resistors which allow each op-amp to find its own offset level without consuming excess current.

I have added the option to bridge the output capacitors to provide a DC output. The output capacitors are necessary for audio use, as headphones or audio amplifier inputs require an AC connection, with no DC offset.

The Layout

It takes many hours to layout even a small board the size of an Arduino Uno. Luckily, I had a completed and fully functioning example to use as a platform, thanks to Jon’s prior work on Goldilocks V1.

The final prototype board layout is now done, and the board design sent off for manufacturing.

Goldilocks Analogue BoardIn this layout, I’ve been able to retain most of what makes a Goldilocks; the ATmega1284p, the complete dual rows of header pins arranged in pin-logical order 0-7, bridging of the I2C pins to A4/A5, JTAG, and a high current power supply. Added to this now are the three items described above; the FT232RQ and Reset switch, buffers for the uSD card, and the analogue platform.

Starting in the bottom left, the SMPS has been relaid to significantly shorten the high current paths around pins 2, 3, and 4. This will reduce the circuit noise, and taken togther with the effort to create solid ground planes, and specific AVcc filtering, will help to ensure the minimum of power supply noise in the analogue platform.

On the right we can see the uSD buffers, which have eaten into the prototyping space significantly. Although the signals will be much nicer than with a resistor bridge, the cost is clearly on space. If the Goldilocks Analogue ever goes into production the SOIC package buffer chip will be replaced by a QFN package, and some space should be recoverable.

Finally, the analogue platform is implemented in the top left of the board, to the left of the pin-outs for the analogue platform and the FTDI interface. Below the pin-outs the analogue supply voltage filtering is implemented, with exception to the chip decoupling capacitors which are tied directly to their supply pins.

Keeping the analogue lines as short, as balanced, as fat, and as well shielded as possible was a key focus of my design. There are a few USART lines running under the chips, but they are unlikely to produce noise as they are under the first ground plane.

Goldilocks Analogue TopThe top layer of the board is pretty crowded. Some tricks such as bridging my lines to get a solid ground plan under the crystal, were passed to me.

Goldilocks Analogue Route2The Route2 or second layer is the ground plane of the board. As such it needs to provide a stable and solid path for currents to return to the origin. I have been able to provide almost solid copper under the entire area from MCU to power supply, and also from the analogue platform back to the central ground point.

Goldilocks Analogue Route15In the Goldilocks Analogue (as in Goldilocks V1) the Route15 layer is wholely at 5v and is a massive supply line. I’ve used this layer to transport the 3v3 supply around the lower edge of the board, to provide power to the uSD card, and its input buffer. The other thick tracks are the USB input line and the analogue AVcc supply line.

Goldilocks Analogue BottomOn the back of the board, mirrored here, things look as we expect. The previously noted bridge capability for the I2C bus to A4/A5 is there, as is the capability to bridge the DAC A and DAC B output capacitors to enable DC output.

Next Steps

The Goldilocks Analogue prototype board design has been sent to Seeed Studio for conversion into a PCB. While this is happening I’ll be sourcing components to solder to the PCB. I think the next post will be on this stage of the process.

Well I have everything finished and in the interim, until I write a new post, here’s the photos of the final assembly of the prototype at Jon’s SuperHouse.

Goldilocks Analogue - 3Here Jon is assembling the first prototype, using several faulty Goldilocks v1.1 devices as donor boards. Only two components didn’t fit correctly, and we didn’t have a uSD card cage so that was left off.

Goldilocks Analogue - 1Out of the toaster oven, and final assembly finished. Just checking that the voltages are as expected across the board.

Well I’ve had it on the desk now for two nights, and I’m very impressed that it seems to generally meet the specification that was intended. The code for setting the DAC levels is currently only optimised for setting two values at a time. Specifically, it is not a streaming function. Never-the-less, it is possible to achieve the stated goal for both DAC channels. The actual number achieved is 108 kSamples/second, shown below, or 18.8us to transmit 2 samples on 2 channels.

The trace below shows the signals for both DACs at 0x0000, then both DACs set to 0x0FFF.

Goldilocks Analogue Max DAC Rate

Therefore, we’ll be able to achieve the 44.1kHz sample rate for CD audio, but only 12 bit resolution, with some time time to spare. If there is a need to read a uSD card, or do some other processing then it is likely that this rate will be more than halved, as the data would then need to to be read over the SPI bus (the same bus the DAC is using) for example. Also, there is a single pole filter between the DACs and the OpAmp buffer, with a 3dB cut-off frequency of 23kHz, which will limit the maximum output frequency but will help to reduce sampling alias issues.

Looking at the board from the top left the MCP4822 can be seen in the SIOC8 package, with the Burr Brown OPA4132 quad op-amp in a SOIC14 package just near the POWER selection jumper. The FTDI FT232RQ USART in QFN package takes up much less space than its FT232RL peer.

Goldilocks Analogue - Top Left

Goldilocks Analogue – Top Left

Now the prototype is finished, it is easy to see what needs to be improved. Actually there’s not too much wrong. The inductors for the Analogue Vcc have the wrong footprint, so they will need to be fixed. The inductor is too large for the footprint and is snuggled up to the POWER jumper, and the ferrite bead is somewhat too small. I didn’t source the very small 15 turn potentiometers, so they are just shorted out. As is the DTR (RESET) disable switch located near the USB connector. As a final issue, the footprint for the 1/8″ jack was wrong for the supplied connectors, so I’ve just added a short set of jumpers to achieve the same outcome.

Goldilocks Analogue - Bottom Right

Goldilocks Analogue – Bottom Right

Here is a short video demonstrating a Voltage Controlled Oscillator running at 44.1kHz sampling into dual channels. It sounds a little odd, because one of the channels is inverted, generating an out of phase effect.


Well, things are good, and bad.

I’ve been testing the DAC stage and found (what I should have known) that I needed an output buffer op-amp able to reach the negative rail (0V) on input and output to support the MCP4822 0v to 4.095V ranging DAC. The OPA4132 exhibits noise and instability issues around 0.3V output.

Unfortunately the OPA4350 (rail to rail high current), which looks like it will be the right pin compatible device, costs over $10 each, which is nearly as expensive as the audiophile OPA4132 I specified previously.

There seems to be a pin compatible alternative, the TS924A, which is about $2 each, but it is several orders of magnitude worse in performance.

For Example: OPA4350 vs TS924A
Gain Bandwidth Product: 38MHz vs 4MHz
Slew Rate: 22V/μs vs 1.3V/μs
Total Harmonic Distortion: 0.0006% vs 0.005%

Is it worth the difference, when working with a 12 bit DAC in the presence of mV of power supply noise?
Personally, I doubt it.

Using my new Red Pitaya to analyse the output, with a 43.066Hz Sine wave (1024 samples at 44.1kHz) the noise floor is 70dB down from the signal ex DAC. It seems the DAC performs as advertised.


43.066Hz 12bit Sine wave, 1024 samples output at 44.1kHz.

More in part two of Goldilocks Analogue – Testing.