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What is headroom?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Tames, Oct 1, 2004.

  1. Tames


    Dec 31, 2002
    Decatur, IL, USA
    I'm really sorry to ask such a silly question, but before I came to this forum, I'd rarely ever heard that term. What does it mean? Does it have to do with something like having power to spare for certain volumes? Someone please help me not sound like an idiot anymore.
  2. Marlat


    Sep 17, 2002
    London UK
    This is a really basic explanation, but effectively headroom with an amp is no different from in a house or car.

    If you are in a room with a lot of head room (ie distance between your head and the roof), then you might think the space is wated because it doesnt really get used, but its useful for those times when you want to jump around / go crazy to keep you from hitting the ceiling.

    Likewise with an amp, you may have an amp that produces significantly more power than you actually need to achieve your desired volume, however if you are chugging along playing fingerstyle and all of a sudden more to slap, if your amp is already at full tilt (ie no headroom left) then it may be pushed over into clipping (distortion). If your amp has some power left (ie headroom) it will not distort in reproducing those extra lound notes.

    Some other guys will do the technical explanation :D
  3. Squidfinger

    Squidfinger I wish I could sing like Rick Danko.

    Jan 7, 2004
    Shreveport LA
    From what I've gathered I think it's basically how hard you can pluck a string before it distorts.
  4. billfitzmaurice

    billfitzmaurice Commercial User

    Sep 15, 2004
    New Hampshire
    Owner, Bill Fitzmaurice Loudspeaker Design
    It's how much power you have available above and beyond what you are using at any particular point in time. Assume you have a 100 watt amp and you are using 50 watts; that means you have 3dB of headroom. That's not much. It's recommended that you have 6 to 10dB of available headroom so that you won't eat it all up on transients; that means having four to ten times the power available than your average power draw. Knowing how much your average draw is without measuring equipment isn't possible, but if you get distortion on hard transients then whatever you've got isn't enough.

    The term is also used in recording, usually to specify in dB how much more input can be tolerated above 0 vue before clipping occurs.