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Thursday, August 16, 2012

The History Of Headphones

There are a few basic and critical audio devices that haven't changed much almost from their original conception despite huge advances in general technology. I'm talking about microphones and speakers. Sure, they've evolved and become more linear and efficient, but the basic concept is still the same as it ever was.

Since headphones are basically near field speakers placed over the ears, they fall into the same category, but there certainly has been a lot of evolution through the years. Cool Material recently ran a great article on the history of headphones. Here's an excerpt, but be sure to catch the full article on their site.

1881 – Way before MP3s, dubstep and premium Spotify accounts, headphones had little to do with music at all. Back in the 1880’s, the first headphones (or at least their early ancestors) were used by telephone operators. It was a single earpiece that rested on the user’s shoulder and weighed over 10 pounds (kinda like placing a boombox on your shoulder).Source 

1910 – Nathaniel Baldwin began manufacturing the first modern headphones. He crafted them in his kitchen and sold them all to the U.S. Navy. This was the first time a pair of cans resembled something you’d see today. Baldwin never patented them, however, because he was an idiot. Source

1958 – John C. Koss changed the headphone game in a way that would make Dr. Dre jealous. In 1958, Koss created the first stereo headphones (Koss SP-3) and launched an all out assault on awaiting ear canals. Over the next few decades, Koss would come to dominate the headphone industry, and he would do it all without the need for a pesky college education. Source

1980’s – For the man who was prone to headphone hair, the 80’s offered the first solutions. Both the earbud and the in-ear headphone made their way onto the scene in the 80’s even though they wouldn’t reach their peak in popularity until one Steven Paul Jobs changed the music game years later. Source

2001 – The iPod changed up the whole music universe. It became common to see people with a white cord running from their pocket to their ears multiple times a day. From their inception in 2001 to today, over 300 million iPods have been sold all with the accompanying pair of earbuds. Source

2012 – Headphones have become as much about style as they are sound quality. This may never have been more relevant than when Lil Wayne wore these $1 million dollar pair of Beats. Source

There are more than just these examples so be sure to check out the entire article here.


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1 comment:

Jef Knight said...

When I was a teenager just starting out in audio engineering I had a great collection of antique headphones. Had over 20 really cool ones that dated back to WWI.

When I moved out of my folks house I couldn't take everything with me at first and by brother sold them for drug money to the local antiques guy, along with a dozen antique cameras, silver and gold encased pocket watches and 600 highly collectable comics and assorted antique reel-to-reels and mics. Quite a collection for a 19 year old. It was my "nest egg".

I had planned to sell them myself to get my first quality recording setup. Made for real behind-the-eightball start to my career. But I percevered and it all, eventually, work itself out.



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