Headroom is the amount of space between the highest level of an audio signal and the maximum level that the system can handle without distortion or clipping.
When we think about headroom we're typically referring to that of a power amplifier. Power amps are likely the first to be challenged with large signals.
But, headroom is just as important every step along the musical chain.
Take the preamp, for example. Rarely does a preamplifier have to produce an output signal exceeding 2v rms, so many manufacturers feel comfortable with their products having a headroom of another 2v volts greater than the 2v input limit of most amps. Our BHK preamp, for instance, is rated at 4v rms for all its measurements.
However, the BHK preamp isn't limited to 4V. In fact, it can easily output double or triple that without clipping or strain.
Why's that important?
Because headroom is more than just clipping. Headroom also has to do with what I call the linearity window.
This performance window is where the signal is most comfortable without need for feedback. The sweet spot, if you will.
Like a car or any device, the less you push performance boundaries, the better the results you'll achieve.