Voltage mode vs current mode phono stages

Can someone explain the differences in layman's terms and why is one better than the other? 


@lewm I did not mean to confuse or sound noncommittal in my compare. Both are capable units, equally enjoyable. With the voltage combo on the first needle drop there was a definite sit up n’ listen - ‘wow’ moment. With the Lino C, it just sounded right from the get go. I think in Fremer’s review, he described the unit has having an orderly or no nonsense sound on the warm side. That is what I am hearing. SS sounding more warm than the tube unit, go figure. I do believe the real gem is the Audio Tekne SUT. It’s just that this Japanese brand flies way under the radar in the US.

I am not using the RIAA in the digital domain with the Lino C. One more word on this unit, there are several upgrade paths available from Rob that makes very appealing to own long term. 

The tube/ voltage mode phono sounds more vivid, the SS current mode sounds more warm and relaxing. This is the most surprising and counterintuitive result having lived with both for a good 6 months.


This may due to the specific design of the Channel D Lino rather than the technology employed.

I currently use a current sensing MC step up feeding the phono input on a Marantz 7 tube pre. It is vastly more transparent than using SUT's in a direct comparison. The SUT's cannot match the transparency, low end extension and speed of the current sensing step up. I own and have tried most of the highly regarded SUT's such as Audio Note, Tim Da Pavaracini 's Head ( which he says is the best he has ever made ), Cotter and many others. They can't compete.

This combo has also seen off my old Jadis, Klyne System 7, Lamm and many other much vaunted phono/pres.

The Goldmund PH2 phono is another example that is shockingly dynamic and quick.

I think you highlighted the SUT issue accurately when you said 

whereas voltage mode is an endless pursuit of SUT’s and loading.

You can spend a fortune on decent SUT's, buy a new cartridge, and have to start the process again.

Better off with the best high gain ( non SUT ) phono you can afford.


@dover Are you referring to Van Den Hul The Grail MC stage in current mode? I think the base model sells in the eight thousand level. If so, you have answered the OP’s original query as to which mode is superior. Although I have a suspicion that a EMIA LCR phono stage with their silver SUT by Slagle / Jackson  might be the persuasive counter argument that might have eluded you from the voltage side.


I think this is like many other things in audio. An allegedly "better" technology does not mean the listener will prefer it sonically and, as with everything, you need to try and see. I recently had a current-mode phono preamp for audition, but I much preferred a similarly-priced voltage-mode preamp, which was slightly noisier, but much better to my ears. Understanding the technology is fine, but it always comes back to the same old story. No getting around it, IMO.

Dover did not mention what current driven device he is using, so far as I can see.  However, he did say he feeds its output to the phono section of a Marantz 7 preamplifier.  That suggests he is using one of the very few available outboard devices that do the current to voltage conversion ahead of any conventional MM phono stage.  I think Sutherland makes such a device and a few others.  I think that's a great idea, as it does not require or may not require a major purchase cost for a whole new phono stage.  I am using such a device that was custom made for me, not commercially available. I use it only with the Ortofon MC2000 cartridge.  Output goes to a modified Silvaweld SWH550 phono stage in MM mode.  I have two other voltage driven phono stages that both have enough intrinsic MC gain for any of my other MC cartridges.

I did some reading on the van den Hul Grail.  The basic unit seems to be SE only.  The SB version costs nearly twice as much and provides balanced circuitry and some other unique features.  Depending upon whose review you read, the RIAA correction is done using either only inductors and resistors (LR type) or using capacitors along with LR (LCR).  Then there are the SE and SE+ versions that cost 3X as much as the base and include upgraded power supplies. I am not sure whether the base model (~$9000) has the fancy RIAA circuit or not. Fremer compared the base and the SE versions to the CH Precision with X1 PS.