Where to Ground Your Subwoofer Amplifier

October 31, 2012

You've just bought a massive subwoofer amplifier and you're going to install it yourself. You've heard of the phenomenon called a "ground loop" from the salesman, but he didn't or couldn't explain what a ground loop is or how it can adversely affect the quality of the audio reproduced by the new, high-end car audio system. In a nutshell, properly grounding amps is extremely important in order to obtain noise-free audio.

Ground Loops Explained
A ground loop is an electrical fault that occurs when two pieces of equipment in the same system are not at the same ground potential. If your car stereo head unit is grounded directly to the battery and your subwoofer amplifier is grounded to a sturdy piece of metal in the trunk, they will most likely, due to the inherent resistance in any type of electrical conductor such as the car's body/frame, be at different ground potentials. The ground loop will make itself known by a hiss or hum heard in the audio reproduced by the stereo system.

How to Defeat a Ground Loop
All 12-volt components need to be grounded at the same location. This is something to consider when performing a subwoofer installation. The best way to ground your car stereo components is to run a 10 or 12-gauge wire from the amp, and 12-gauge from all other components, such as head unit and active crossovers, to a central location. Then run a single ground to the best source of ground, the negative terminal on your car's battery. What many professionals do is run everything to a circuit strip and then run a single wire to the battery to supply ground for everything. Other good places to obtain a single ground connection are:

  • Dashboard electronics ground point under the dash, usually by the brake pedal
  • The tail and brake lights grounding point in the trunk

Be sure to remove any paint from the point you choose to use as your single grounding point.A properly grounded subwoofer amplifier will deliver clean, noise free low frequency audio for years.

3 Reasons Why Subwoofer Amps Overheat

Without an amp to help regulate them, a subwoofer set may not work properly. The amp helps to regulate the power that flows to the subwoofers. If you don't have an amp system set up, the subwoofers will be on their own and may run into problems. If the amp wiring isn't set up correctly or if there are other problems, you may have to deal with your amp overheating. This in itself can cause a number of issues.

Improper Amp Wiring
One of the most common issues that can cause the amp and or the subwoofer to overheat is if the wiring isn't set up correctly. The best way to be sure that your amp is set up properly is to check on the wiring with a professional's help. Have a car stereo expert look into the system after you've installed it, to give the okay as to whether or not the amp wiring is set up properly.

Generally speaking, it isn't that difficult to install and wire an amp in your car. There are a number of good guides for doing so online, and you can also find a set of instructions for basic setup procedures in most amp installation kits that come with the components. Being sure that you take the extra time to wire the amp with the appropriate wire and to the right channels can save you time and money later on.

Incompatibility between Components
In certain cases, if your amp isn't compatible with your head unit, or if the subwoofers aren't compatible with the amp, you may run into overheating problems. This could be because of a discrepancy in the Ohm rating of the different components, which results in a conversion of voltage that can overheat the amp and cause it to break down. Be sure that the power ratings for each of these components are the same throughout the entire car audio system.

You may have overheating problems in your amp simply from overusing it. If this is the case, you may consider temporarily shutting off the audio system or, if you wish, removing the amp from the circuit and connecting the subwoofer directly to the head unit for a short period of time. You can also turn off the subwoofer completely and power the stereo only through the other speakers in the car, although this may distort the sound.

If your amp is overheating, shut it off right away to avoid further damage, including fires and other potentially harmful effects. Ask a professional car audio expert for additional advice as to what you can do to remedy this problem.

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