The History of the Headphone

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Listening to music privately using your wireless headphones can be extremely relaxing and fun. Is there one particular moment where you questioned yourself about how did your generation end up having such an amazing device?

Like any other inventions, current wireless headphones also have a long history.

Thanks to Nathaniel Baldwin for creating the first headphones. Now, you can enjoy music exclusively just for your ears.

To know more about your favorite wireless headphones, let’s do a little time travel.

1910: First Headphones by Nathaniel Baldwin

image of First Headphones by Nathaniel Baldwin
First Headphones by Nathaniel Baldwin

The inventor – Nathaniel Baldwin – was a fundamentalist. He studied at Brigham Young Academy (BYA) and finished his electrical engineering degree at Stanford University. He returned to BYA to pursue a teaching career. However, the university fired him for favoring polygamy.

The introduction of the first headphones began when Baldwin gave Lt. Commander A.J. Hepburn of the US Navy a prototype of a telephone. That telephone was designed like a headset. When Hepburn tested the telephone, he found out that it worked and was able to transmit sounds effectively.

From that time, the navy started to demand more headphones from Nathaniel Baldwin.

1958: Stereophones by John C. Koss

image of Stereophones by John C. Koss
Stereophones by John C. Koss

At this time, headphones weren’t just limited to radio communication.

John Koss’ SP3 Stereophones started when patients from Milwaukee hospitals rented his portable phonograph. The revolutionary Koss SP3 Stereophones was proven to have good sound quality and were excellent for listening to music.

Today, the established company of John Koss, located in Milwaukee, is still operating and producing headphones.

1979: Walkman by Sony

Image of 1979 Walkman by Sony
1979 Walkman by Sony

Both Baldwin’s and Koss’ inventions were ‘bulky’ and considered inconvenient. This drawback opened new opportunities in developing newer types of headphones.

Sony, which is still a well-known company today, developed the ‘Walkman.’ The MDR-3L2 headphone was included with their cassette players. So no need to worry about the audio source!

These headphones were the supra-aural type that made the earpads press against the ears. This helped block outside noises and assured the user a quality time listening to their favorite artists.

1989: First Noise-Reducing Headset by Dr. Amar Bose

Image of 1989 First Noise-Reducing Headset by Dr. Amar Bose
1989 First Noise-Reducing Headset by Dr. Amar Bose

During a flight from Zurich, Dr. Amar Bose tried an electronic set of headphones. These headphones were used onboard for entertainment purposes of the passengers.

Dr. Amar went home disappointed and determined to develop a set of headphones with his own company – the Bose Corporation. In 1989, the company successfully developed the first noise-reduction headset. This pair of headphones is designed for and still used in the aviation industry.

2008: Beats by Dr. Dre

Image of 2008 Beats by Dr. Dre
2008 Beats by Dr. Dre

From 2008 and beyond, headphones aren’t just designed for listening to music but also for fashion purposes.

Popular hip-hop artist and music producer – Dr. Dre – worked with Jimmy Lovine, who’s the Chairman of Interscope. With the right team, they were able to launch Beats Headphones.


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