What’s the difference between Earth, Signal, and Chassis Ground?

If you have gone through, or are currently in the midst of, constructing your ideal sound system, you have come across the term “grounding”. Achieving a clean reference ground is postulated as the holy grail when it comes to having the ultimate high-end audio system. However, it is important to understand that when talking about “grounding” you could potentially be referring to three separate things: earth ground, signal ground, and chassis ground. Here, we are going to look at all three ground variations, to clarify the differences between each one, and hopefully help you identify which “ground” you need to address in your home system.


Earth Ground refers to a direct, physical connection to earth, or an electrically neutral body. By connecting a ground wire in your system to “earth”, whether it be directed to an artificial ground or natural ground, you are providing a path for extraneous current. When earth ground is being addressed, you are effectively draining the system of unwanted, “spurious” current that is circulating through the circuit and adding noise to the background. In order to confront problems with earth ground in the system, Nordost offers two solutions: the QLINE and the QKORE (specifically the QKORE1 and the primary side of the QKORE6).


A signal ground is an analog or digital ground that is attached to every signal being transmitted between devices in a system. Since these devices are usually powered separately, it is inevitable that there will be small differences between their potentials, causing small currents to circulate in order to compensate. These currents add to the background noise, obscuring low-level detail in music reproduction. Furthermore, as there are usually multiple signal ground paths in a system, those ground paths can pick up on each other’s interference. Nordost’s QKORE3 and the secondary side of the QKORE6 attract those currents, leaving a clean reference point for the signal ground.


A chassis ground refers to the connection that establishes an electrical link to a metallic enclosure. Describing chassis ground can be confusing because, when speaking about audio equipment, a chassis ground can differ depending on manufacturer. A chassis ground can be connected to the earth ground if it’s meant to prevent electrical shock, or the signal ground when intended for shielding. It can also connect the earth to signal ground, or it can even float. No matter how the chassis ground is connected to the earth and/or signal ground, the previously mentioned products and solutions offered by Nordost will help your system address the chassis ground. Additionally, Nordost’s Tonearm Cable + can help address the chassis ground, depending on how the ground whip is implemented.   


For more information on grounding, download The Importance of Electrical Grounding in Audio Systems today!


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