We're pretty comfortable with the idea of headroom. More food on the table than needed, more horsepower than required, more amplifier wattage than necessary. But, what about speaker headroom?
The one characteristic of music's reproduction that stands out for me in speakers is a slight compression when the music gets loud. I hear it in every system I listen to, including Music Room One. Less on some systems, more on others.
Compression of any sort drives me nuts because it rips away the veil of disbelief and reminds me it's not real. But, technically speaking, it isn't compression I am sensing. We can measure compression to prove there's no squeezing of sound. It is a lack of headroom I hear.
Headroom isn't about meeting requirements for the obvious. A big power amp sounds less restricted than a smaller one not because of a lack of watts, but rather because it is being asked to do less. It's easier to lift a finger than a one pound weight despite the fact you have the strength to do both.
Over the coming weeks, we'll look at some of the reasons headroom matters. It might be a fun journey.