Do Ground Loop Isolators Affect Sound Quality?

Your car might be equipped with built-in speakers to provide entertainment when traveling. Usually, you can connect your car speaker system to a smartphone, computer, or MP3 player through an aux cable or Bluetooth. However, you may hear static when listening, but there are workarounds to get the best possible audio.

Ground loop isolators affect the sound quality of your audio system by eliminating noise distortion and minimizing static, providing a clearer sound. If there is a hum or buzz from your speakers, these tools remove it and reduce audio jitters to enhance your sound streaming experience.

This article will: 

  • Define a ground loop isolator.
  • Demonstrate how it can enhance your audio. 
  • It will discuss the sources of ground loop noise. 
  • Give tips on installing ground loop isolators in your vehicle’s sound system.

Let’s get started.

Ground Loop Isolator in car

How Do Ground Loop Isolators Affect Sound Quality?

Ground loop isolators eliminate noise distortion by using a transformer to step the voltages from each circuit in the ground loop up or down, based on the magnitude of the voltage gap.

They have a 1:1 ratio, which means their output equals their input, and the balance enables the ground loop isolator to filter out any voltage fluctuations that could interact with the electrical signals in the circuit.

What Is a Ground Loop Isolator?

A ground loop isolator protects a ground loop circuit from external interruption. 

Typically, you can plug a Bluetooth aux connector into it, followed by the isolator connecting to a 3.5 mm socket on your vehicle. However, they are not exclusive to Bluetooth use. These tools can also join anything that connects with a 3.5 mm aux wire.

A great example of a ground loop isolator that works really well in a car is the BESIGN Ground Loop Noise Isolator (available on Amazon). It is a very popular and well-regarded model that works in many situations, not only for audio systems in cars. Even though this isn’t the cheapest out there, it defiantly won’t break the bank, and it’s a really good investment to get a better listening experience.

What Is a Ground Loop Circuit?

A ground loop circuit connects two or more loops to the same ground cable.

In an ideal system, every component in a ground loop circuit will have the same voltage potential. However, if the ground wire has a high resistance, the second circuit’s voltage would be significantly smaller than the first, which would result in a voltage gap that causes the ground wire to lose its power.

This phenomenon is called interference, and it may be dangerous or inefficient in electrical systems.

What Are the Advantages of a Ground Loop Isolator?

Ground loop isolators eliminate unnecessary noise in audio systems, such as the hum generated by a car alternator. Thus, if audio quality is essential to you, a ground loop isolator is necessary for a more defined sound.

They also prevent dangerous interactions between consumers and high-voltage electrical systems.

Additionally, these instruments are reasonably inexpensive and capable of producing a high-quality electrical circuit.

Can You Make a Ground Loop Isolator at Home?

Excessive humming from the sound system might be very annoying, and certain people may want to fix this issue immediately. Although you can build a ground loop isolator at home, it would likely be less potent than a professionally constructed isolator.

Nonetheless, if you need an urgent patch, the following resources are used to construct a ground loop isolator:

  • Solder
  • Small box
  • Power drill
  • Desolder tool
  • 16 gauge wire
  • A PC modem or a 1:1 audio transformer
  • Soldering Iron
  • 2 RCA female plugs

Once you have gathered these tools, you can make an isolator using the following method:

  1. Using a desoldering tool and your solder pin, remove the isolation transformer from the modem by unsoldering the four legs. If you have a 1:1 transformer, you can skip this step.
  2. Drill two holes into a small box that is large enough to fit the modem and other components. The holes should be parallel to each other.
  3. Attach the 2 RCA female plugs to the holes in the box.
  4. Glue the transformer between female connectors.
  5. Solder two red and black wires to both female connectors.
  6. Join the red wires to the upper portion of the transformer.
  7. Attach the black wires to the lower portion of the transformer.

Once you are finished, you can add the isolator between your audio cables and stereo. Numerous users have found success with this approach and have reported no degradation of sound quality considering the fact that it was an at-home build.

What Causes Ground Loop Noise?

In unbalanced systems, ground loop noise happens as current flows through the cable shield contacts between various pieces of equipment. However, it’s worth noting that a hum may occur in balanced designs as well, but it’s less probable.

The voltage difference between two safety grounds, or the voltage difference between a safety ground and a grounded satellite, is the second most frequent cause of the noise.

Magnetically mediated noise may also be induced directly through signal cables. 

Alternatively, the noise current will escape from key inputs via the primary and secondary windings of the AC transformer. These signals induce current flow in the cable shields, introducing distortion to the audio signal.

How To Eliminate Ground Loop Noise?

There are eight main approaches to remove ground loop noise:

  • Through an isolation converter.
  • Exclude one of the ground loops. This method converts the device to a single point ground.
  • Create a gap in the shield conductor of the signal wire. The split should occur at the end of the load.
  • Parallel to the shield, attach a thick copper conductor. This lowers the shield’s resistance and, therefore, the strength of the unwanted signal.
  • Link the metal chassis together using strong conductors such as copper strips. Afterward, link these components to the building’s ground wire system at a single stage, which is called single-point grounding.
  • Before terminating the cables to the next appliance, wrap them in ferrite bead chokes. This approach eliminates radio frequency and digital noise but has a negligible impact on noise at 60 Hz.
  • Bundle the cables used in the grounding configuration. With this method, the ends are near enough that stray magnetic fields produce similar currents in both ends, canceling out the disturbance.
  • At the load end of the wire, insert a tiny resistor of around 10 ohms in the shield conductor. This tool is strong enough to reduce magnetic currents while keeping the components grounded, thus avoiding the noisy hum described previously.

For consumer audio applications, the most feasible and cost-efficient approach is to use an isolation transformer.

How To Install a Ground Loop Isolator for Your Car

It is best to consult a specialist to mount your vehicle’s ground loop isolator. Automotive audio systems can be challenging to understand if you lack previous knowledge. However, if you are secure in your abilities, the following directions will assist you in installing your isolator:

  1. Ensure that the vehicle is off and thoroughly cool.
  2. Determine the location of the amplifier and its RCA jacks, which are usually at the back of the vehicle.
  3. Disconnect the amplifier’s RCA cables.
  4. Attach the red and white RCA connectors to the ground loop isolator’s corresponding jacks. Connectors are usually color-coded to make it easy to determine which wire goes where.
  5. Plug the red and white cables from the ground loop isolator into the amplifier.
  6. Screw the terminal into a bare metal piece on the car to ground the isolator or attach it to the amplifier’s negative terminal. Certain ground loop isolators are self-grounding, so they do not require this step.

Some ground loop isolators connect to your auxiliary jack in your car. This variant is the best option for those who are inexperienced with the mechanics of a vehicle.

Final Thoughts

Ground loop isolators are an inexpensive way to reduce audio distortion effectively. But if you have spare parts lying around at home, you can use these to create your isolator instead of heading to the store.

Sound quality is vital to your streaming experience, and if you are experiencing several types of audio distortion, Sound Speeds has a video that will help: