Record players, also known as phonographs, are often regarded as the pharaohs of all the music players in history. The quality of the music they emanate, the rustic feel of the much-loved and cherished vinyl, and the nostalgia of listening to your favorite pieces of music at leisure are a few of the reasons why music connoisseurs worldwide still prefer these devices.
A record player enthusiast can well appreciate the quality of a perfectly performing turntable. The music is crisp and free from disturbance as it plays in otherwise silent background.
So what is that humming and buzzing, and how can you stop it?
Why Do You Need to Ground Your Record Player?
Imagine a pleasurable music experience with your record player. What if it is disrupted by a strange humming every time you play a record? While this may go unnoticed by some, as the playback on your vinyl can mask it, it can be extremely annoying to others.
A faulty turntable does not necessarily cause this sound. You might hear buzzing when the amplifier is at maximum or when you’re not playing a record at all.
For the music to stay as melodic as it’s meant to be, it’s essential to keep the record player in peak performance. One such method of ensuring quality sound is to ground your record player.
Every record player comes with a turntable, an amplifier, and a receiver. Whether your record player is of the direct drive type or has a belt type fitting, it makes no difference. Except for players with a built-in preamp grounding, any other type of record player will require a ground connection. Grounding a record player is done for two reasons:
To Eliminate Ground Loop
Record players at some point during their usage will develop what we call a ground loop. This phenomenon is a common occurrence when there is a voltage or potential difference in the chassis’ connections. As with any other electrical appliance, the record player’s metal casing carries the risk of being in contact with a live wire.
The electrically-conductive casing will pass the electric current and cause a difference in electric potential. The result is a disturbing hum that is distracting and distinguishable from the melody you play. This hum can be benign background noise at low volumes, but it can be jarring as you crank up the volume.
To Ensure Your Record Player’s Safety
While an irritating hum can be quite a dampener on a lovely musical evening, safety concerns are another ball game altogether. In a larger device, the absence of grounding can cause the user to receive shocks when using the record player.
Grounding your record player will ensure that the excess electrical impulses are directed towards the earth’s conductive surface. This protects not only your device but also your household members, as well as your house, from electrical surges and the ramifications they may bring about.
What Is the Grounding of a Record Player?
Grounding, or earthing, is a method of connecting specific parts of your record player to the ground. When a record player is grounded, the exposed electrical components connect to the earth’s conductive surface. The differences in potential or voltage are resolved and brought to similar levels by connection with the ground. This is done both as a security measure and a functional failsafe.
While you ensure the safety of your device’s usage, grounding has many other perks, too. Grounding resolves the irritating hum you encounter when the device is on. The quality of sound coming from the device is made clear in the absence of the hum, and you will be able to recognize the lack of background noise. The overall performance of the turntable also improves when you successfully ground the device.
How to Know When Your Record Player Requires Grounding
This is a question often asked by people who have purchased a record player. You may have found yourself unaware of the answer to this question when you first purchased your record player or even unaware of the problem, to begin with. As you continue to use your device, ask yourself these questions:
- Do you encounter an electric shock when you come in contact with the metallic portions of the record player?
- Do you find yourself listening to an undeniably discernible hum that peaks to a screeching sound as you crank up the volume knob?
If the answer to either of these questions is “yes,” your record player is in absolute need of grounding.
Another way of identifying if your device needs grounding is by checking for the source of the hum you hear. The hum may be caused by the ground loop created by a lack of grounding of your appliance’s metallic casing. This hum is of the wavelength 120Hz. Another hum can be the input connection and is of the wavelength 60Hz. The key is to identify if your device is throwing off a ground loop hum.
This may sound pretty technical, but it’s easy if you have a keen sense of hearing. Imagine a low-pitched, calm, and serene sound like those made by the sea’s continually crashing waves on the rocks. Now compare it with a higher-pitched buzzing with aggressive undertones.
If the hum you hear is calm and slight, you can rest easy. However, if you hear an antagonistic and higher-pitched hum, it’s time to get on with grounding your record player.
What Materials Do You Need for the Grounding System?
Grounding a record player is an easy process with little to no learning curve. You may find that your device already comes with the materials required for grounding your system. You may also need to create some materials for grounding your system correctly. Here are the materials that are necessary to ground your record player efficiently:
- A grounding wire – Your record player may be furnished with a ground wire that is meant to be attached as a ground wire to the amplifier or the receiver.
- An insulated wire – You will need an insulated wire if you do not find a grounding wire with your record player. It needs to be of sufficient length and 18 to 20 gauge.
- A grounding terminal – The ground wire must be attached to the grounding terminal on the amplifier or the receiver. In case you do not find a grounding terminal, there exists another way to ground your record player successfully.
- Needle nose pliers – A pair of good needle-nose pliers will be needed to handle, position, and cut the wire needed for grounding your system.
- Gaffer’s tape – Gaffer’s tape will be needed when your system does not have a grounding terminal. The tape will help us in the workaround for establishing a grounding terminal for the record player.
How to Get the Record Player Grounded
We’ve already covered what grounding is and how it can help you. And now that you know all the necessary elements required for grounding your record player, here is how you can get it done without too much effort:
Step 1: Shut Down the Power Source
Shutting down the power source will ensure that you do not encounter any shock. Although the chances of that happening are meager, it’s better to think of safety first. Switching off the turntable power source and the amplifier will ensure that your ears are safe from any unwarranted screeching sounds caused when you are handling the ground wire.
Step 2: Look for the Ground Wire
- The ground wire to the record player is similar to any other electrical equipment. It will usually be connected under the metal chassis of the turntable. It will be identifiable as a flattened piece of u-shaped metal in the form of a copper spade connector which will be unconnected.
- The ground wire, like in any other electrical appliance, may have a distinguishable green color. Many times, you may find it challenging to locate the ground wire. In newer turntables models, this wire will be hidden under the metal chassis of the turntable and neatly folded or twisted with a wire tie. Unravel this wire for grounding.
- In case you do not find any grounding wire, use the insulated wire instead. You will need to strip the insulation on either end of the insulated wire with the help of the needle-nose pliers.
Step 3: Look for the Grounding Terminal on the Amplifier or the Receiver
- The grounding terminal can be located on the back of the amplifier or the receiver terminal. It will be easily identifiable and often be marked as ‘ground.’
- It will either be an all-metallic length of the shaft or a regular screw-in terminal. All you need to do now is loosen this grounding terminal.
- In case you encounter an absence of a grounding terminal, you can easily create an alternative grounding terminal on the body of the amplifier with the help of the grounding wire and the Gaffer’s tape.
Step 4: Make Sure the Measurements of the Wire Are Accurate
- Once you have established the grounding wire and the grounding terminal, you need to check if the measure of wire available is adequate for the distance between the turntable and the amplifier.
- You may need to either reposition the record player’s parts or resize the grounding wire in the event you are using an external insulating wire to create a perfect fit.
Step 5: Make the Connection of the Ground Wire to the Terminal
- This is the step where you will be thankful for the power source being switched off. Bring the flattened copper spade connector to the grounding terminal and slip it in. Fasten this with adequate force and make sure you don’t overdo it.
- If there is no grounding terminal, you will have to attach the connector to the underside of the metal body of the amplifier with the Gaffer’s tape.
- When you are using an external insulated wire, attach one stripped end to the screw on the turntable chassis. Take the other end and attach it to a screw on the chassis of the amplifier. Make sure you do not connect this end to the receiver terminal. While this method is as effective as attaching on an available terminal, you may find yourself changing the spot for attachment to find the place where the least hum is heard.
- Testing for the right spot may take a little trial and error with the system switched on. Take the wire’s stripped end and look for a background humming noise and select the place with the best results. Ensure you do not come in direct contact with any metal part of the system while you do this.
Step 6: Switch on the Power
Once you’ve connected the ground wire to the amplifier’s terminal, switch on the power source for the turntable and amplifier, and prepare yourself for the most pleasing musical experience with your record player.
Those who own a record player check to see if the ground wire is already attached when the player is purchased is a must. If that isn’t the case, grounding it can help the record player reach its maximum potential while giving you the experience of a lifetime and sound quality that is often unparalleled.
Make sure that you are in no danger of being shocked while performing the grounding techniques. When working with electricity, safety should always come first.
Ensure that you read the instructions carefully and follow the steps to the T to avoid any mishaps or accidents. Now that you’ve learned everything you need to know about how to ground a record player, good luck and happy listening!