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Ground Lift

Discussion in 'The Stomp Box' started by lstdukestking, Nov 2, 2020.

  1. lstdukestking

    lstdukestking Tele-Meister

    Oct 31, 2012
    Gypsy Angel Row
    Had to order an output splitter to add my final pedal. One side has a ground lift, the other does not.

    My question is will any of my pedals benefit from a ground lift more than another? I don't really want to experiment with every possible combination. Just ready to wire it all up, zip tie the excess cables out of the way and play.

  2. Peegoo

    Peegoo Poster Extraordinaire

    Oct 11, 2019
    Between the Raindrops
    "Ground lift" is a term borrowed from AC circuits (live, neutral, and ground...three conductors) that allows you to flip a switch and disconnect the ground from the device.

    This is different from the 'ground reverse' switch on many older AC devices that used only two wires (live and neutral), like older Fender amps. All the ground reverse switch does if flip the phase of the two AC conductors.

    Ground lift and ground reverse on an AC-powered device are considered a "widowmaker" these days because it can make the chassis of the device live at mains voltage, which means if there's an internal fault (on a lifted ground) or a phase reversal, you can get a bad shock. Or worse.

    On a pedal that processes low voltages, it's quite different. Ground lift is really a small isolation transformer that disconnects the ground/shield conductor but maintains continuity via electromagnetics. This is useful when there's a 'ground loop' containing stray voltages due to variances in ground potential between two different devices. A ground loop can create noise in the signal.

    The switch is there simply as an option if you notice hum/noise in the signal; you flip the switch and see if it helps suppress the noise. Where it is in the signal chain does influence its effectiveness because it works only when it's between two devices (pedals, here) that suffer from different ground potentials.

    Bottom line...if you don't have noise issues caused by a ground loop on the pedalboard, you're golden.
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