A Brief History of Headphones

A Brief History of Headphones

Now every other person has headphones. They have different shapes, types of designs, species. However, the first models remotely resembled the current devices and rather looked like telephones. We deal with who and when invented the headphones, as well as how they evolved.


In what year the first headphones were invented

The first headphones, or rather their prototype, appeared in 1881 thanks to the telephonist Belle. The fact that the work of telephonists was difficult because they had to interact with the receiver and transmitter during conversations simultaneously. That is, they constantly held phones in their hands. Then Bella came up with a design with a metal arc on which parts of the phone device were installed. The predecessor of the modern headset was inconvenient because it weighed under 3 kilograms. However, nothing else had to be held in the hands of nothing else, which simplified the work for telephony and gave impetus to the improvement of the device and the creation of full-fledged models.


Who invented the first headphones?

Although the history of the headphones is deeper, their creator is considered to be American Nathaniel Baldwin. In 1910, he made and sold the U.S. Air Force blueprints for headphones. Nathaniel did not invent the first headphones in the truest sense of the term. But he modified their design. His device was equipped with an arc running over the back of the head, and its length was adjusted. The arc held the “ears,” which completely freed the hands of the operator. The engineer also improved the characteristics of the emitters, increasing their sensitivity by 2 times compared to those with the predecessor.

Subsequently, the U.S. military invited engineers to the laboratory, who began work on developing the American inventor’s work.


Who invented the world’s first Bluetooth headphones

The first wireless headphones appeared in the early 90s of the last century when Brand Koss introduced a model capable of connecting to the amplifier or sound source through the I.D. beam. The world’s manufacturers quickly picked up this idea. A little later, Recoton produced devices that operated at 900 MHz and with a range of up to 45 m.

However, in 1997, the company was refused by the British government to produce this model, as the same frequency has already been used. In search of an alternative in 1998, Recoton saw a new opportunity to develop wireless accessories – Bluetooth. The first model based on this technology went on sale in 2004.

Then the headphones gradually evolved, becoming smaller and more comfortable. And at the end of 2016, Apple released wireless AirPods, giving a boost to fashion on TWS headphones. Although for the first time, such devices appeared in 2014 in the model Bragi Dash.


How headphones evolved

Previously, people did not think that you can listen to music through headphones (headphones), for example, walking around the city or on the way to work. Back then, they were massive devices designed to communicate. Briefly about what evolution they have gone through:

In the 19th century, telephone players interacted simultaneously with the transmitter and receiver, loading their hands. In 1881, the telephone operator Bella Gilliland fixed a microphone with a speaker on her head. All this was attached to the structure weighing from 3 kilograms.

Ten years later, Ernest Mercadier, a French engineer, patents the inserted accessories. At that time, this design was revolutionary, as it was a small device with rubber tips for minimal impact on hearing and noise cancellation. However, the world did not accept this, and in the next 50 years, the headphones had the appearance offered by Bella Gilliland.

In 1895, inventor Thomas Edison worked on intra-channel devices and created a device called kinetophone. The device reproduced the picture and sounds. At the same time, the sound passed through the tubes, which were placed in the ears of the listeners.

The next stage in the evolution of headphones made British engineers. In 1896, Electrophone System developed an unusual service for residents. For 5 pounds, a person could listen to live broadcasts from theaters and churches located in different parts of the world. The playback equipment resembled a wooden table – it was a pair of “ears” with a long handle, which held the accessory.

In 1910, Nathaniel Baldwin of the U.S. Air Force drawings with headphones. He created the first headphones in which the arc is fixed on the back of the head, not in the neck. A few years later, the model proposed by Nathaniel entered the service of operators of the U.S. Air Force. Then the gadgets were tested and improved – they were reduced and made easier, covered with skin, and developed a regulator of the size of the arc.

By the early 1930s, these devices were used for communication and were already in the cities. People listened to radio broadcasts in headphones, although their design was still far unfinished. Voice through the device was transmitted well, but qualitatively play the music they have not learned. To correct the situation took To Make The World’s Best, a native of Sweden. He founded a company that produces microphones, and by 1938 began to produce headphones. The first was the dynamic model Beyerdynamic DT-48. The next version (DT-49) was released more than 15 years later.

But the first to produce a mass model was John Koss. In 1958, his company presented a portable player for vinyl playback at the exhibition. Constructively it was a turntable encased in a suitcase. In the box with the player were and “ears,” for the invention of which Coss, together with Martin Lange, took the basis of aircraft phones.

The player’s appearance did not surprise anyone at the exhibition, but the sound of headphones amazed many. After, Koss realized that the future lies behind these devices, releasing a production model Koss SP-3. This is a prototype of intra-channel models. The SP-3 sounds in the ear canal. This improved the sound quality and noise cancellation. In the future, Kossa’s firm became monopolistic, and its turnover exceeded $1 million by 1967.

After the success of John Coss, the evolution of headphones reached its peak. In 1964, Beyerdynamic released a device that weighed 11 grams. There was also a compact listening radio in the box. A year later, the Soviet Union released a portable radio, “Micro,” equipped with a mono-earpiece and immediately gained popularity in Moscow.

Until 1968, these accessories were only available as closed devices until Sennheizer released the world’s first open headphones, the Sennheizer HD 414. The number of their sales exceeded 10 million copies. Interesting fact: having established a patent for the production of open headphones back in the ’60s, Sennheizer still receives deductions from each company that produces gadgets of this design.

In 1979, Japan’s Sony released the 1st Portable Walkman, which was equipped with Sony MDL-3L2 headphones. They were light and accessible, so many could afford them. By the look and design, they resembled familiar to man headsets.

By the 1990s, prototypes of wireless models had been created. And in 1998, Bluetooth technology was used to connect.



More than 100 years have passed since the prototypes of headphones were created. Since then, these accessories have evolved greatly. In addition to overhead models, there were earbuds with active noise cancellation, plugs (drops), and even bone-type devices. The photo and additional information can be found on Wikipedia.

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