History Of Headphones


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Headphones, like most gadgets, have become a permanent feature of life on earth regardless of the different geographical locations and cultures of people all over the world. It’s amazing how they are involved in practically every facet of human life, ranging from music and entertainment to aviation and telecommunications. At this point, it is hard to imagine a world without it, yet several generations passed before it came into existence. In the fifteenth and sixteenth century, they never existed, but their widespread use makes it seem like they have been around forever.

They seem highly preferred as they offer the wearer a form of privacy, especially in workstations and offices. Within the headphones are a number of electrical and acoustic devices that pick signals and transmit sounds. For a headphone to work effectively, it should be connected to a signal-producing device like a radio or a mobile phone. There are also noise-canceling headphones majorly used by pilots and flight officers. Some headphones have wires and cables, while more modern ones are wireless and use Bluetooth technology.

See also history of noise-canceling headphones

Historical Exposure Of Headphones

Several people would find this shocking and surprising, but the first headphones were used by telephone companies and their personnel. It was quite stressful for telephone handlers to be always occupied with both hands hence the requirement for the invention and development of headphones. The headphones used then were cumbersome, and the single earpiece which it had was placed on the shoulders of the user for it to function well. Their cumbersome nature made them almost a burden, but for the benefits it offered, they were regarded as a blessing. A device made by Electrophone is most times regarded as the first headphone as it resembled the designs we have today. This amazing device was used to broadcast musical pieces performed in London’s opera houses to subscribers.

A significant breakthrough in the development of headphones was seen in 1910 when an American, Nathaniel Baldwin, invented a headphone prototype that was accepted for testing by the US Navy. They subsequently ordered a hundred pieces of this prototype. This prototype was developed by Baldwin while working on a table. This breakthrough accredited to him contributed to making him a key figure in the history of headphones development. His innovations, too, were widely accepted and adopted for use in several industries.

In 1958, a jazz musician and sound engineer, John C. Koss, created the world’s first stereo headphone, to the amazement of many people. This singular occurrence changed the face of headphones and how the world regarded them, making them even more popular. Before this development, only radio companies, telephone companies, and the military used headphones. Now, these stereo headphones helped launch headphones into the music and entertainment world. Headphones found their way into fields and professions like sound engineering, where they were to ascertain the quality of sound and sources of signals. So the device that was once used by telephone companies now became a significant piece of equipment in various sectors with innovations still going on.

Check out the different types of headphone cables

Sony, a music company with the introduction of Walkman, helped strengthen the relevance of headphones and create a platform for the device to thrive. However, the headphones that came with the Walkman were of low quality and produced awful sounds, but headphones remained popular. Ironically, noise-canceling headphones were developed and became popular with inspiration drawn from the Walkman headphones and their horrible sounds. The influence of Steve Jobs and his Apple company cannot be left out of headphones history. The device that was just a prototype at inception became a world sensation when Apple’s iPod players came into existence. They went a long way in solidifying the growing presence of headphones on a global scale. What began as a simple sound-picking device now transcended into several devices relevant to people from all walks of life.

In 2008, the duo of Andre Young, popularly known as Dr. Dre and Jimmy Lovins, teamed up to produce a line of headphones that was designed like the original headphones. Beats by Dre, as it was named, was a major success as the deep bass and excellent sound made it instant favorites among young adults. It was also praised originality and the sense of authenticity with which it was designed. Its wide acceptance in the American entertainment industry further deepened the importance of headphones in human society.

Decades after the invention of headphones, they began to go wireless as Bluetooth technology came on board pushing cables and wires slowly out of use. But even with the widespread use of wireless headphones, headphones with cables are still being used, especially by those into sound technology and professional audio engineering.


Headphones now are and would still remain a crucial aspect of technology which the world hardly can do without. Gone are the days when one requires a loudspeaker for a wholesome movie experience. Today headphones, especially wireless ones create such an atmosphere with twice as much intensity. They are also quite important to singers and musicians while recording in studios as it improves the quality of sound and helps them hear themselves much better and easier. They are used in blending background sounds, beats, and other effects in music recording. A disc jockey is never complete with a pair of headphones which helps him pick sounds easily and makes song mixing an enjoyable experience.

See also volume limiting headphones and their use

Headphones are also widely used by pilots and flight officers as it aids information transmission and communication. There are several variations of the headphones which have all gained dominance in several fields, such as earpieces, earphones, earplugs, and headsets. Noise-canceling headphones are also very popular and used in the aviation sector. Over the years and as time passes, headphones continue to undergo several innovations with several changes in designs and outlook. It is safe and wise to say that headphones will be staying us for a long time.