What is a Turntable Ground Wire and Do You Need One? - Pro-Ject USA
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What is a Turntable Ground Wire and Do You Need One? – Pro-Ject USA

Whether you’re new to hi-fi or a long-time audiophile, it’s always helpful to refresh yourself on how to improve your sound. There are so many delicate moving parts that make music play on a phonograph, and paying attention to each one of them only enhances your listening experience. the more you learn about the science of sound, the more satisfying it feels to select a space dedicated to world-class acoustics. As with everything related to audio, the key to flawless playback is a combination of attention, high-quality equipment, and the energy to rearrange settings if necessary.

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Since it’s natural to focus primarily on the quality of the turntable’s stylus and cartridge, it can be all too easy to overlook other important parts of the turntable. A turntable ground wire may not be as sexy as other gear, but it can play a big part in improving playback. Fortunately, once you learn how to locate it and what exactly it does, connecting your turntable’s ground wire is easy and makes an immediate difference.

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Reading: How to connect ground wire turntable

what is the ground wire of a turntable?

First things first: what exactly is a turntable ground wire? A ground wire is a single wire that you can connect to your turntable’s chassis and amplifier. this cable puts the turntable and the amplifier at the same ground potential (the zero reference level used to apply and measure voltages, in this case in the context of sound). if you don’t ground a turntable, a small difference in ground potential will cause a ground loop. a ground loop could cause a 60-cycle alternating current to pass between a turntable and an amplifier along the audio cables. Since the preamps for the phono inputs are very sensitive, you may hear an audible 60-cycle hum with the phono input selected. In simple terms, a ground wire can help prevent hum and improve overall sound quality. Fortunately, many turntables come with a ground wire, so you usually don’t have to look for one.

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Reading: How to connect ground wire turntable

why do you need a ground wire?

You may agree that excessive hum is not ideal, but this still begs the question of exactly how a ground mitigates unwanted sound. Why don’t the other cables involved in the connection between an amp and a turntable have these bases covered? Basically, ground wires create an alternate path for electrical current to flow back to the source, rather than creating excess noise or a potentially dangerous electrical charge. while the other cables are meant to carry sound from the source to the amps (and eventually to the speakers), the whole job of a grounding cable is just to pick up what’s left over. A ground wire is a safety wire that has been intentionally grounded and does not carry electricity under normal circuit operating conditions. it’s almost like a bucket that collects excess water so a room doesn’t flood, except instead of mitigating the water, it collects electrical current that could cause excess hum or load.

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Reading: How to connect ground wire turntable

how do you know if the hum is due to a ground loop?

While an ungrounded turntable often causes hum, that’s not the only reason for the noise. so it can save you time to make sure you’re fixing the right problem. Hum from a turntable is usually caused by one of two factors: feedback or a ground loop. one ground loop hum is 120 hertz, while another hum will be 60 hertz. This may sound too technical, but there are easy ways for the untrained ear to figure out what the buzz is all about. first of all, the sound itself is very different. 120 hertz hum will sound aggressive and high-pitched, while 60 hertz hum is lower and smoother.

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Reading: How to connect ground wire turntable

Another way to tell the source of the hum is to turn the volume knob and see if the hum continues. if the hum decreases with volume, this usually means it is due to feedback or a problem other than a ground loop. Also, if you switch inputs and the hum doesn’t change or stops, it’s probably a ground loop.

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Reading: How to connect ground wire turntable

If you discover that the buzz is not a grounding circuit, there are some things that can immediately verify to find a possible solution. The first is very simple, but easy to lose sight of: make sure your headdress is on a completely flat and resistant surface. Second, make sure your speakers are not on the same surface as the headdresses, since even subtle vibrations can cause a feedback loop. third, make sure the phonographer is not close to static sources.

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Reading: How to connect ground wire turntable

Does my turntable always need to be grounded?

usually yes. Regardless of whether it’s a belt drive or direct drive turntable, there is a chance of a ground loop. since the ground wire does not conduct electrical currents from the music itself, it is not technically necessary to ground a turntable to listen to music. however, even if the hum is not very noticeable, in most cases it is best to play it safe to avoid a ground loop. If your turntable comes with a ground wire, that’s a sure sign that it needs to be grounded. Technically, some turntables with built-in phono preamps don’t require grounding. If your turntable has a built-in phono preamp that you use instead of a separate one, there’s no ground wire included, and you’ve never had sound problems, you may be fine. it’s pretty easy to look for a cable and also see what the sound is like. still, it never hurts to ground it.

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Reading: How to connect ground wire turntable

Do I need to ground the RCA cables?

The short answer is no. rca cables are already balanced and grounded by the nature of their design. the three-wire cable includes two signal wires and one ground wire, all of which are sheathed in a cylindrical shield that is also grounded. the two signal wires have identical impedances to the common ground terminal, so they are generally immune to creating hum.

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Reading: How to connect ground wire turntable

how do I find the ground wire?

You’ll want to look at the bottom of your turntable to find it. Many times the ground wire is connected to the bottom of the turntable’s metal chassis and has a disconnected copper spade connector. most vintage turntable ground wires are green, although technically they can be any color. If your turntable is brand new, the cable can be folded under the chassis and hidden with a twist tie. make sure you’ve thoroughly checked the underside of the chassis before concluding you don’t have one.

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Reading: How to connect ground wire turntable

can I use speaker cables if I don’t have a ground wire?

yes. the main purpose of a ground wire is to connect to ground and provide a wire that does not carry its own signal. technically, any insulated wire can do the job, ideally 18 to 20 gauge stranded wire.

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Reading: How to connect ground wire turntable

how do i ground my turntable?

All this talk about why it’s important to ground a turntable still leaves the “how” question hanging in the air. the first thing you’ll want to do is turn off your turntable and amp. you don’t want to risk electric shock or unseemly noise. Next, you’ll look under the metal chassis to locate the ground wire. If your turntable doesn’t include one, choose the insulated cable you’re going to use. once you have the cable handy, you’ll want to find the ground terminal on your amp or receiver. The terminal can usually be found on the back of the unit below the “grounded” mark. often it is a metal post with a simple screw terminal or a metal post with a knurled shaft. be sure to loosen the ground lug once you have located it.

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Reading: How to connect ground wire turntable

Double check to make sure the ground wire can reach the ground terminal of your amplifier. if you can’t, move the equipment as needed (or measure and cut your own ground wire to this distance). now all you have to do is slide the ground wire spade connector onto the ground terminal. make sure it’s tight enough to be sturdy, but don’t over-tighten it.

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Reading: How to connect ground wire turntable

If your amp doesn’t have a ground terminal, don’t worry. You can use tape to stick the ground wire’s copper spade connector to the amp’s metal case. just make sure you secure it enough so it doesn’t come off.

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Reading: How to connect ground wire turntable

If you end up making your own ground wire, you’ll want to strip approximately 6-8mm of insulation from both ends of the wire. then you’ll connect one stripped end to the chassis screw on the amp (try to avoid the speaker terminal). You will connect the other stripped end of the cable to the chassis screw on the turntable. this configuration creates the same basic effect as a ground terminal.

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Reading: How to connect ground wire turntable

Once the amp and turntable are connected, you should be able to turn on the turntable and test it to see if the hum is gone. if the sound is clear and beautiful, your work here is done.

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