The History of Headphones

The History of Headphones
The History of Headphones

There is a lot of inaccurate information on the history of headphones out there. There even is an ongoing debate about who created the first headphone. Due to all these misleading and contradictory statements, it is difficult to keep track of what the real history is. I will, nonetheless, do my best to paint a rough timeline of the headphone history here.

In 1910, the first effective headphones were developed by Nathaniel Baldwin. He produced them in his kitchen, and sold them to the U.S. Navy. Baldwin is often credited with the invention of headphones, though this isn’t quite true. He definitely made improvements to the headphone technology, but he didn’t invent the first pair. Not according to Mark Schubin anyway. In fact, he suspects the first headphone was created in 1880, if not a bit earlier than that. I recommend that you read his article, “Headphones, History, & Hysteria”. It’s very thorough and a remarkable read.

In 1937, beyerdynamic started production of the first dynamic headphones. They were called DT48, and were produced until 2012. To this day, dynamic headphones are one of the most popular kind of headphones available on the market.

In 1949AKG make their first headphones. AKG is one of the top headphone companies to this day.[1]

In 1958, the headphone industry takes a big turn. John C. Koss invents the first stereo headphones.[2] Before this, headphones were almost exclusively used in industry, such as radio. These new headphones proved revolutionary, because their sound quality was good enough for listening to music.[3]

In 1979, Sony releases the first Walkman.[2] This was another revolutionary time in headphone history. The release of portable music players created a market for portable headphones. Over the next years headphones started shrinking.

In 1989, Dr. Amar Bose introduces the first noise reducing headphones. It begins on an airplane in 1978. Bose tries an early pair of headphones and is disappointed. He can’t hear anything because of the roaring engine of the plane. He wonders whether or not it would be possible to reduce unwanted noise using active noise cancellation. He sets up a research program at Bose Corporation, and the rest, as they say, is history.[3]

In 2001, the first iPod is released.[4] The iPod brought life to its signature white earbuds. The trend towards smaller and smaller headphones has reached its final destination.

In 2008, Beats Electronics release Beats by Dre.[5] To this day, they are one of the most popular headphones on the market.

In 2011, Sennheiser sells the, to that point, most expensive headphones in the world, the $40,000 Orpheus. The company released only 300 sets.

In 2012, Lil Wayne is seen wearing a $1 Million pair of Beats by Dre.[7] Headphones have reached a point where they are more than just small speakers. They are used as a fashion statements as well. While a $1 Million pair of headphones, to us, is ridicules, it says something about how headphones have changed through history.

Headphone technology will continue to advance, as users are demanding more and more. They want better sound, lighter headphones, better signals. Music will always be a part of our community, and headphones give us the opportunity to listen to our favorite tunes where ever we want.

Your Input

If you have any information that you think should make this list, please let us know in the comments below. Remember to include sources, as we want to give credit where credit is due.

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