Grounding Converters


I can’t believe that you recently advised us to connect the digital ground pin of ADCs to the system analog ground. Was this a mistake?

RAQ:  Issue 9


That was no mistake. It's the only safe way to connect data converters (ADCs and DACs) that have separate analog (AGND) and digital (DGND) ground connections. Your horror is the result of a philosophical error known as a "category mistake." I know something about philosophy as well as electrical engineering.

A category mistake occurs when we assume that because two objects have the same, or similar, names then they are the same thing, or the same sort of thing. The name here is "digital ground." The digital ground is the part of the system ground that carries the ground currents of the system's digital circuitry. In a converter, the digital ground (DGND) is the pin that carries the supply current from the converter's digital circuitry and the return current from its digital interfaces

But they must be joined at the package1 and nowhere else. I have noted before that data sheets are often less than ideal – sometimes a converter data sheet may recommend that AGND and DGND are connected to system analog and digital grounds respectively. When a data sheet tells you to do this it is incorrect, and you should ignore it. 2

Furthermore, it is rarely advisable to locate the star point of the system analog ground and the system digital ground at a data converter – it should be near the power supplies. If the ground impedances are as low as they should be, this arrangement will slightly lower the noise immunity of the converter's digital interfaces, which should not matter, but will greatly improve the noise performance of the analog part of the system, which matters a lot.

And with the lowest possible impedance – do not separate them with resistors, inductors or ferrite beads. 

There is a single exception to this rule, which is discussed in the longer text accessed by the link.

Grounding ADCs (ppt)



James Bryant

James Bryant was a European applications manager at Analog Devices from 1982 to his retirement in 2009 and he still writes and consults for the company. He holds a degree in physics and philosophy from the University of Leeds and is also C.Eng., EurEng., MIET, and an FBIS. In addition to his passion for engineering, James is a radio ham and holds the call sign G4CLF.