December 11, 2017

Plugged In: The History of Headphones


Next time you're on the train or bus, take a look around and just how many people are plugged in, wearing headphones. From listening to music both for leisure or for therapeutic reasons, recording or mixing music, to DJing, producing films, and radio programming, headphones have become a part of our everyday life. Headphones enable us to privately interact with media, even when in a noisy room or a crowded subway or airplane.

So, what are the origins of headphones? Let’s take a look at the history from past to present.


A man named Nathaniel Baldwin, who sold all of the headphones he made in his kitchen to the US Navy, manufactured the first headphones that could be called modern around 1910. The first introduction of technologies we use to differentiate headphones today was in 1937, when Beyer dynamic created the first dynamic headphones.


John C. Koss created the first stereo headphones in 1958, just a year before Stax made the first electrostatic headphones and debuted them in Tokyo. It would take Koss nine years to catch up and create the first American-made electrostatic headphones in 1968.


Sony released the Walkman accompanied with a pair of ultra light headphones. In the following decade, the first earphones appeared – both ear buds and in-ear models, but it would take them twenty years to become accepted, which eventually happened when another piece of tech called the iPod hit the market and caused a revolution.


Apple introduced the iPod to the world. The iPod, and later iPhone and iPad, comes with a now-iconic set of basic white ear buds. A decade later, iPod sales have topped 300 million. Begin to do the math, totalling sales of iPods, iPhones and iPads, and you begin to realize there are an astronomical number of Apple ear buds in circulation.


The launch of the iPhone 5 brought in a new era of headphone design — the Ear Pod. The periscope-like headphones are designed to direct sound right into the ear.


Headphones have come a long way, revolutionizing the way we consume media and the way we communicate. As portable media consumption continues to rise with smartphones and tablets, we're seeing headphones more and more. In addition to sets that transmit with extremely high fidelity, other notable advancements include wireless headphones, Bluetooth headsets and headsets that include a microphone, which can be connected to smartphones or computers.

From streetwear brands like Beats by Dre to high-end experiences like Bose and Sennheiser (who boast the world's most expensive headphones at at $55000), headphones have become not only functional, replacing even the need for speakers during film or music mixing, to extremely fashionable.