Grounding your turntable probably won’t make an immediate difference.
But it’s an easy thing to do, so why not do it?
Even if you don’t need to do it now, eventually, you’ll be glad you did.
At some point, your record player could begin to emit a humming sound. This is often due to what is called a “ground loop.”
The way to fix a ground loop is to ground your turntable. Even if you do not currently have this problem, it is not uncommon for it to crop up at some point.
So let’s take a few minutes of our time and prepare for it now, so that you never have to deal with “ground loop” in the future.
We’ll begin by taking a closer look at why exactly you want to ground your turntable record player.
Why Ground A Turntable?
The short answer is: to enjoy a hum-free music experience from your record player. That hum can be annoying.
But whether you’ve had your turntable for a while, or are just coming to grips with it, the humming is something you can easily avoid.
Your turntable is an electronic device, covered by metal. And anything made of metal that carries electricity runs the risk of live wires coming into contact with the highly-conductive metal casing.
This causes a ground loop. On heftier devices, this could cause a shock when you touch it. But for turntables, the result of a ground loop is an annoying hum. It happens to an even more intense degree if your turntable is handling signals from a sensitive cassette.
Luckily, ground loops are not hard to avoid.
Do You Have To Ground You Turntable?
The best way to answer this is to ask another question: do you want the records you play on your turntable to be pure and crisp, uninterrupted by a horrible hum that grows into an irritating crescendo when you turn the volume up? If you answered “yes”, then you need to ground your turntable.
The type of turntable doesn’t matter. Whether you have a belt or a direct drive turntable, you might encounter ground loop at some point. The only thing that makes a difference in whether you actually have to ground your turntable, is if you have an amplifier with a built in phonos preamp.
A ground loop is the result of a lack of grounding. More scientifically, it’s the result of the chassis connections not having the same ground potential or voltage.
To avoid that hum emanating from your turntable, you need to ground it correctly to your amplifier. Not only will this minimize, or even get rid of, the hum, but it will help your turntable reach its full potential, giving you the best quality sound it can possibly produce.
But before you ground your turntable, you should probably figure out whether or not the hum actually is caused by a ground loop.
A ground loop hum is one of two hums you might hear. The ground loop hum is 120 hertz, while the other is 60 hertz. You’ll have to rule out the 60 hertz hum to know whether it is time to get your hands mildly dirty and ground your turntable.
You’re probably thinking this sounds far too scientific and only expert can distinguish between the two hums. That is not the case. Any untrained ear can clearly hear the difference
Think of the 60 hertz hum as an elephant rolling around the savanna, low and slow, and think of the 120 hertz as an angry wasp. The 120 hertz hum is far higher in pitch and more aggressive than the 60 hertz hum, which is low and placid. If you’re still not sure, this page can help.
If none of that helped, there are three other ways to figure out if you’re battling a 120 hertz or a 60 hertz hum.
If you turn the volume up and down, does the hum follow suit? Does it get louder when the volume goes up, and quieter when the volume drops?
Next select different inputs and take note if others still carry the hum. If they do and the hum did not change volume when you adjusted the volume knob, then your problem is ground looping.
If the volume changes and the hums only appears with one (or some) inputs, then the hum is likely coming from the source(s) of the input(s) in question.
To tell once and for all if the hum is caused by ground loop, disconnect all your inputs. If the humming stops entirely, you’ve got a case of ground loop.
What did you find? Is your hum, caused by ground loop? Then let’s find out how to fix it and listen to your music the way you deserve to.
How To Ground A Record Player (Even Without Ground Wire)
- Grounding wire attached to the turntable
- About 5 feet (1.5 meters), of fine insulated 18 to 20 gauge stranded wire, if your turntable doesn’t have a grounding wire
- Grounding terminal attached to the amplifier, although there is a workaround if your amplifier does not have a grounding terminal
- Gaffer tape, if your amplifier does not have a grounding terminal
- Needle nose pliers
Step 1: Turn Off The Power
You don’t want to end up with a case of tinnitus (that would never happen regardless, so don’t worry), so turn off the amplifier and the turntable. This way, there’s no danger of any loud noises popping off from either as you connect what you need to. The risk of shock is already extremely low, but turning the amplifier and turntable off eliminates it entirely.
Step 2: Find The Ground Wire
Usually, it’ll be attached to the underside of the turntable’s metal chassis. You’ll notice the wire by the unconnected copper spade connector, which is generally a flat piece of metal that has a u-shape carved out if it.
There’s no standard color your grounding wire will be, but most are green. If you have a more modern turntable, and are having difficulty finding the grounding wire, check beneath the chassis – it may be wrapped up with a twist tie. If it is, unwrap the wire.
If you can’t find a wire at all, you’ll have to manufacture your own grounding wire. This is where the 5 feet, or 1.5 meters of 18 to 20 gauge stranded wire comes in. Using the needle nose pliers, strip about 6 to 8 mm of the insulation from both ends. More steps to follow.
Step 3: Find The Grounding Terminal
This will be on the back of your amplifier or terminal. If it’s there, you shouldn’t miss it, because it’s clearly marked “Ground”. It’ll look one of two ways – either a metal post with a ridged shaft, or it’ll be a run-of-the-mill screw terminal. Once you’ve found the ground terminal, loosen it.
You might find that there is no grounding terminal. Don’t worry, you can still ground your turntable with just the grounding cable and the actual body of the amplifier.
Step 4: Check the Measurements
Now that you’ve found the grounding wire and its matching terminal, make sure the wire can actually reach the terminal. If it can’t, move your equipment closer together.
Step 5: Make A Connection
Remember way back in step one, when you turned your turntable and amplifier off ? Well, now is when that becomes important.
Take the grounding wire’s copper spade connector, and place it on the grounding terminal. Then tighten the connection, but don’t over-tighten it or you might strip the terminal.
If your amplifier doesn’t have a grounding terminal, use gaffer tape to stick the grounding wire’s copper spade connector to the amplifier’s metal box.
If you’re making your own grounding wire, take one stripped end and attach it to the chassis of the amplifier, preferably to a screw, and not to the speaker terminal. Then take the other end of the wire and attach it to the chassis of the turntable, also to a screw.
This serves the same purpose as the grounding wire being attached to the grounding terminal, but finding the spot that creates the best connection and emits less hum might take a little exploring.
A simple way to test for the best spot is to touch the end of the wire on different areas of the turntable’s chassis (with the power turned back on, and taking care not to touch any of the metal with any part of your body).
Step 6: Enjoy The Result
Once the record player is grounded, turn it back on, and relish a hum-free music experience.