The history of headphones
Headphones have been a common sight in public for many years now, but for years before that they were being used behind closed doors in studios by professionals. Today, headphones offer us the chance to listen to music without being disturbed. They also provide an invaluable resource for those making and recording music.
Headphones have been a common sight in public for many years now, but for years before that they were being used behind closed doors in studios by professionals.
Today, headphones offer us the chance to listen to music without being disturbed. They also provide an invaluable resource for those making and recording music.
Here, we take a brief look at the history of the headphone, seeing how it became the success that it is today.
The very first headphones
It probably won't come as a surprise to learn that the very first headphones weren't produced for the sole purpose of listening to music. Instead, the first headphones - which appeared shortly before the beginning of the 20th century - were designed for and sold to telephone operators, as well as the armed services.
Nathaniel Baldwin is commonly cited as one of the earliest producers of headphones. The headphones Baldwin made around 1910 didn't look all that different to those that we see today. He made the headphones in his kitchen by hand and sold them onto the United States Navy.
Shortly before the beginning of the Second World War, a German company named Beyerdynamic were the first to create a pair of dynamic headphones. Perhaps because of the lifestyle back in the late 1930s, very few people saw the potential of using the contraption for pleasure. Rather than being sold as part of a hi-fi system, they were known as dynamic telephones.
Headphones slowly but surely found their way into the mainstream, and into the hands of music lovers. But it wasn't until a Milwaukee jazz musician named John C Koss was able to invent stereo headphones that things really took off. By the late 1950s, it wasn't uncommon for artists to release their music on vinyl in stereo sound. Music lovers saw the opportunity and took it.
Koss went on to have a near-monopoly on the headphone market for many years, soon releasing the first electro-static model to be made in the United States. Deciding what headphones to buy was far simpler then, but nowadays it requires plenty of thought and analysis due to the abundance of models found the market.
The next era for headphones was ushered in by the Sony Walkman. Suddenly, in the 1980s, it was possible to take your music with you. As a result, the headphone industry was forced to come up with something new.
The 1980s isn't remembered fondly for the quality of its headphones, but it did mark a change in what users demanded from their headphones. It was then the further development of portable music with the MP3 player that meant manufacturers were able to produce high quality, portable headphones that were affordable.
The 21st Century
The 21st century boasts a wide range of headphones, pandering to every corner of the market. Bose has taken care of the stay-at-home market with its QuietComfort range, while a number of high profile artists are working on making sales to those who want high quality sound when they're on the move.
Headphones today have become about far more than just great sound. The most successful products today are stylish and practical.