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Can a Little dot mkiv drive active monitors
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Into a [power] amp, yes.
Confusion... Where did the phono preamp come from? Have you got a turntable there? Please rephrase.
The classic chain of analog hi-fi separates has the following elements.
turntable --> phono preamp --> preamp --> power amp --> loudspeakers
The phono preamp (aka phono stage) is a line-level source like a tuner or a CD player or a DAC. So, a system might look like this:
turntable --> phono preamp --> tuner -----------------------> preamp --> power amp --> loudspeakers cd player ------------------->
The preamp (unlike the phono preamp) doesn't really do much amplifying at all. It is mostly a control device with source selection and volume control.
An integrated amplifier has both the preamp and the power amp functions in a single chassis. (An integrated amplifier which contains a tuner module is called a receiver. Integrated amps and receivers of the vinyl era often had built-in phono stages. Nowadays, not so often.) So, instead of
sources --> preamp --> power amp --> loudspeakers
a system could consist of the following elements.
sources --> integrated amp --> loudspeakers
In the above, we did not consider active speakers. To be more precise, the term loudspeakers could be replaced with the term passive speakers in all of the above. Active or powered speakers have built-in power amp modules. Instead of
sources --> preamp --> power amp --> passive speakers
a system with active speakers consists of the following elements.
sources --> preamp --> active speakers
If you only have a single source which has a volume control function (like some DACs do) or if your active speakers have a convenient enough volume knob, your system could be as simple as this:
source --> active speakers
So far we have only covered the analog audio chain. There are many options for the location of the digital-to-analog conversion in the audio chain.
Does this clear any of our shared confusion?
No an amplifier will never convert a signal, that's what a DAC does (Digital to Analog Converter). Solid state just means that the amplifier consists of transistors and operational amplifiers (opamps), instead of vacuum tubes used in tube amplifiers. Transistors have replaced vacuum tubes in most appliances, but are still used in audio equipment since some prefer the sound signature they cause.
The signal has to be analog for the speaker to be able to produce the sound. An analog signal represents the the actual sound while a digital signal is sampled data from an analog signal. The reason why we still store audio digitally is it takes less space and isn't so prone to distortion and other faults. So in your typical case you got digital data going from your storage (harddrive, CD...) to a DAC where it's converted to an analog signal, then the analog signal moves on to be amplified by an amplifier before finally reaching the spaker and turning into sound waves. Of course there may be other steps like crossfeeds on the way too but that's the basics.
*edit* I might add though that you can, of course, have amplifiers and DAC's and whatnot in the same device like a receiver but the circuits themselves got nothing to do with each other.
Edited by spittis - 1/3/13 at 1:32am
It should not be.
Set them the way you find most convenient to use, unless some other way sounds clearly better...