Sick and tired of that ground hum getting in the way of your listening experience? Want to know how to ground a turntable?
Then join us as we explore why you might want to ground your turntable setup, how you can tell whether you need to, and how to go about doing it all yourself.
Why Ground a Turntable? Do You Have to?
You may want to ground a turntable to enjoy some of the best Christmas vinyl records (since it is almost the season). You may be tired of hearing the annoying hum that might otherwise get in the way. For many, this is the first step towards genuine audiophilia.
Despite how long you may have had your turntable, this ground loop can easily be avoided with some grounding wire. Indeed, any metal turntable chassis can become a grounding terminal fit for the reproduction and playback of all your favorite records.
Although this is more often the case for metal turntables, the need for turntable ground wire can be quite common. This is because all turntables are going to need to deal with electricity to work at some point.
To avoid this often frustrating extra hum, a turntable needs to be grounded. Its chassis connections need to have the same ground potential or voltage all around.
There are, however, two kinds of ground hum present in both automatic turntables and manual turntables. One comes in at 60 Hertz and is relatively harmless. The other is 120 Hertz and, thus, will be higher in pitch. The latter is the one that is caused by poor grounding. This can therefore deliver a cruel electric shock in the most extreme examples.
To distinguish whether your issue is with the ground loop hum, turn the volume up and down. Does the hum increase and decrease in volume by your movements?
If it does not and simply stays the same even when you have removed all the inputs, then you likely will need to fix the turntable’s grounding wire.
How To: Step by Step
So, if you have sussed out whether or not you think your turntable has some grounding issues, then how do you go about solving it? Do you use your own grounding wire? Where can you even source this stuff? No need to panic, for help is at hand.
1. Power Off
The first step for anything that involves electricity should be to turn the power off. Sure, you might have had plenty of experiences in the past which have not been dangerous. But you never know when electricity might bite you when you least expect it.
So, before you proceed anywhere at any time, make sure that the power is off before you take the first steps.
Not only is the risk of shock reduced low to almost nil, but you can also avoid some of the loud popping noises that have been known to afflict people with tinnitus from time to time. Those in the music biz will be intimately familiar with such noises. They are essentially the sound of pieces of audio equipment coming into contact with one another, as the case may be.
So, to avoid such noises as well as the risk of shock, then make sure the power is off – or else!
2. Find the Ground Wire
Seeing as this is perhaps the central object of our investigations today, it would make sense to try and source it before proceeding any further.
Contrary perhaps to what others may have led you to believe – and what most electricians might like you to think – finding the ground wire should not be too difficult. It will, in fact, usually be attached to the underside of the turntable’s chassis.
The wire should not be hard to miss. It will be the wire next to the unconnected copper spade connector. A flat piece of metal that has a U-shape curved out of it.
Though there is technically no standard color that the grounding wire comes in, they generally tend to be green. If your turntable is newer, you might have difficulty finding the grounding wire because it may be wrapped up with a twist tie. Simply unwrap the wire and proceed with caution.
If you still cannot find one, then you are going to have to sort it out yourself. For this, you can use your own grounding wire and ground wire spade connector. You can usually buy this in coils of 5 feet that comes in 18 to 20 gauge, referring to the thickness of the wire itself. Using a pair of needle nose pliers, strip around 6 to 8mm of the plastic insulation from each end, then proceed.
3. Find the Grounding Terminal
This also should not be difficult to find. The grounding terminal will usually be on the back of the amplifier or terminal. If indeed there is one, then you can’t miss it. It will almost certainly be labeled simply ‘Ground’.
It will look either like a metal post with a ridged shaft (as pictured below) or a simple screw terminal. The latter of which will no doubt be more familiar to those who have little experience with electronics in this way.
Once you have got to the source of this ground terminal, simply loosen it so that the grounding wire can come into play and do its work.
In some instances, there might not be a ground terminal. To have gotten this far only to realize that there is not one must feel incredibly disheartening. But fear not!
You can still ground a turntable without one. In fact, you can ground a turntable with a grounding wire alone, connecting it to the main body of the amplifier. Though it might not be quite as effective. Such is the nature of conduction that this is still a perfectly valid course of action.
4. Distance Between the Turntable and Amplifier
Arguably one of the most important physical aspects of the exchange between the turntable and amplifier is the grounding wire connecting them. If the grounding wire, thus, did not manage to bridge the distance between the two, then it would be no use at all.
So, before you proceed any further, make sure that this wire can indeed bridge the gap between the two components. Lest you be left upset. If it does not, then you can always go and purchase a longer wire. However, in my own experience, there are a few problems like that which can’t be solved with some simple space management.
Try moving them closer together. If this is not feasible, try stacking them atop one another. You are bound to have something lying around that can help you complete the maneuver. Perhaps an old shelf that has not been used in a while?
Checking measurements at this stage inevitably prevents upset later on. Who knows, perhaps the grounding wire is even a tad too long at this stage. You can always shorten the wire to your own specific measurements. Though you might need a longer grounding wire in the future.
In this case, I would recommend simply tucking the wire away somewhere around the back of where it is being stored. This way, it does not need to be cut to length.
5. The Connection
Here is where all of your patient work in establishing the foundations of this exercise come together and yield the results you desire. Indeed, you will now be bringing the two central components together and making the connection.
Take the grounding wire’s copper spade connector and place it on the grounding terminal. Tighten this connection. Though not too tight, lest you strip the terminal and ruin the entire mechanism.
If, indeed, your amplifier does not have a grounding terminal, then never fear! As discussed, there is still a way to cater to this and still be rid of that annoying hum.
If this is the case for you, use gaffer tape. Or any other kind of tape that you think is going to last. Then, stick the grounding wire’s spade connector to the amplifier’s metal chassis.
If, on the other hand, you are working on your own grounding wire, take one stripped end and attach it to the chassis of the amplifier (ideally to a screw or something – and especially not the speaker terminal). Then, take the other end of the wire and attach it to the chassis of the turntable (preferably also to a screw).
Finding the exact right spot that eliminates the most hum on both the amplifier and the turntable will take a little experimentation. Do not be afraid to mess around. Place the wire in random places, using your ears to listen out for what works best.
You can easily do this by turning the power back on and touching the end of the wire to different parts of each part’s chassis.
So, there you have it! Hopefully, you are feeling more confident about how to ground a turntable setup yourself. Who knows? You may even have learned something new and valuable about electronics today, eh?
FAQs How to Ground a Turntable
This is all dependent on your own listening tastes. Whether there is a ground hum, it might not bother you enough. If there is not, then there really is no need for grounding. If the hum is of concern, though, then you will likely need a ground wire to rectify this issue.
If you are making your own grounding wire, then take each end of a length of electrical cable and strip it by about 6 to 8mm until you are left with just the cable within. Take one stripped end and attach it to the chassis of an amplifier. Preferably to a screw. Then, take the other end and attach that to the chassis of the turntable, also to a screw.