History and Evolution of the Headphones

History and Evolution of the Headphones

January 04, 2018 by

It is normal that when you are going outside, you will see dozens of people listening to music on their headphones and earphones. Most of people listen to music for relieving stress in daily life. In addition, Bluetooth headphones are perfect travel companion when you are on the train or plane. It is also a necessity for some people while they are doing exercise. As is the case with most tech accessories we use in our lives; headphones are not given much thought except when you actually need them.

The headphone items are getting fully grown from the first 2 small speakers in your ears in time. Whether the kind of headphones or using designs, even the pronunciation of the core unit, it has a lot of modifications. This article will provide the technical modifications of headphone from the innovation till now.

The early days and subscription services

In the late 1900s, several companies employed telephone lines for a more entertaining purpose: news and music delivery. In Paris, the Théâtrophone was demonstrated in 1881 and made commercially available in 1890.

In Budapest of 1893, the Telefon Hírmondó informed its subscribers of the daily news while delivering some music breaks too. The same also happened in 1895 London with live theatre and Sunday church.

What all of those systems had in common was the fact that subscribers were provided with specialized headsets which allowed them to listen to the incoming content. Though these devices could certainly be considered as predecessors to modern headphones, their cumbersome nature and steady rise of the radio halted their widespread use.

Operators and the U.S. Navy

The very first headphones were primarily used by operators of telephone lines. Those devices were also incredibly heavy and, as is usually the case, looked little like modern headphones.

A revolution which is much more similar to modern headphones came from Nathaniel Baldwin. In 1910, he sent a letter to the U.S. Navy along with a pair of his prototype headphones. Although his letter and invention was initially dismissed, the headphones were eventually tested and their reception was overwhelmingly positive.

Soon after, the Navy contacted Baldwin to request a lot more headphones, only to find out that the man was manufacturing them in his kitchen. After some hurdles and some tweaks, Wireless Specialty Apparatus Co. made a deal with Baldwin to manufacture the headphones in bulk through a factory in his native Utah and the Navy continued to buy them for years.

Inventions just before and after WWII

In 1939, Bayerdynamic invented what they call the “first dynamic headphones”, the DT 48. The series is still incredibly popular amongst audio professionals and their design is still based on that first pair.

Meanwhile in Vienna, AKG produced what is probably the first pair of headphones to focus on design. The K120s were not nearly as cumbersome as earlier models and their marketing campaign focused almost entirely on their eloquence.

Despite their technological and design innovations, these headphones were slow to find a market. However, they did spur interest in the field and propelled both companies forward into the audio industry where their subsequent products would find a much stronger footing.


Koss changes the world

In 1958, the headphones industry changed forever. John Koss introduced the Koss SP-3, the first stereo headphones, to the world. That first model was comprised of two tiny speakers covered in plastic and foam but they still revolutionised the headphones industry.

The response by the public was evident from the very start. Music lovers readily adopted this new type of headphones and the world at large was ready for multiple music revolutions. For the next few years, Koss would attempt to create different forms of headphones, such as the first US-made electrostatic pair in 1968. However, the world’s first, the Stax SR-1, was debuted almost a decade before in Tokyo.

Koss continued to be heavily invested in the industry, rounding up celebrity endorsements and selling headphones like hotcakes in the homes of teenagers and other audiophiles, which coincided with the equally widespread adoption of turntables.

Enter the Walkman

While some companies, like the aforementioned Sennhesier, attempted to make headphones lighter and somewhat more portable, it was not until the release of Sony’s first Walkman in 1979 that portability really became an issue.

Alongside the Walkman, Sony released a pair of MDR-3L2 headphones. The fact that the Walkman included two headphone sockets intended for shared listening meant that the market was flooded with third-party alternatives, many of which were specifically aimed at the younger generation.


The history of headphones is much more varied than most people think. The early days were especially interesting as they show that private listening, as opposed to stereo speakers, is a concept that has existed for more than a century.

The headphone is now moving towards to the development of wireless and sound reduction. It is more flexibility while utilizing the wireless headphone, with the development of innovation, wireless innovation getting fully grown, guaranteeing the sound quality of wireless headphone. In our lives, Bluetooth headphone is a best use of wireless headphone, it is quickly developing at present as the development of the mobile phones.

Reference from: The history of headphones