Headphones History – A Brief Look At The Timeline

For decades, headphones have been a part of our lives. In the case of music enthusiasts, it is an important part of their life. In this post, we will have a brief look at the history of headphones, kind of like a headphones history wiki. Let’s see, how it all began and over time, how they became a valuable asset to us.

The Early Days Of Headphones

In the early 1880’s headphones weren’t what we see today and the fact is that they were not even used to hear music, which is the most common use these days. Those days, the headphones(actually the ancestor of today’s headphones) were used by telephone operators which weighed around half a kilogram. Sadly, the user had to bear that weight on their shoulders.


A picture from the Electrophone advertisement

Things changed a lot when the Electrophone system was invented in 1895. People started to use the electrophones to hear music from local live theatre performances. Users had to pay a yearly subscription fee for this. If we do an approximate currency conversion, that fee would be around ₹400 today.

In the early 1900’s, an inventor from the United States, named Nathaniel Baldwin, invented a practical version of ‘real’ headphones. Though private businesses rejected his invention, the navy got interested and bought 100 headphones from him, making him a rich inventor. Sometimes, it is not just about making money, it’s more important to keep the money you make. Well, Nathaniel made a ton of money but went bankrupt later.

Rise Of Real Headphones

The rise of real headphones started in the late 1930’s when Beyerdynamic introduced their commercial dynamic headphone – DT-48. Dynamic headphones are still popular these days. Huge leap from the ancestors and a mark in the history of headphones! Guess what, DT-48 was in continuous production till 2012, in different forms. The DT-48 was worth around ₹35,000. It was primarily intended for professional use in studios.

Modern Headphones History

The ‘modern’ headphones came to the light when a break-through invention was done by John Koss in the late 1950’s. It was the first stereo headphones called the Koss SP-3. Although these were made of cardboards and foams, they were amazing as they were targeted towards the hearing of music, especially during a time when the ‘Rock n Roll’ genre got traction among music lovers. Throughout the 1960’s Koss’s devices remained a key player in the market.


A picture of Koss headphones

When players like Philips and Sennheiser came to the market with better and affordable solution, it was a whole new booming period of headphones. Sennheiser brought the Sennheiser HD414 to the market which shook the market with it rocketing sales. It was light-weight and sounded amazing. It still remains one of the most successful headphone models of all time.


A picture of the Sony Walkman with FM/AM

In the late 1970’s, Sony brought portable audio cassette players to the market, called the Walkman. The walkman came with Sony’s own headphones. This sure is a product that should be added to any good headphones history wiki.

Fast Changes In History Of Headphones

In the 1980’s the headsets came into the limelight and then came headphones with the neckband from Sony, in the late 1990’s. Things changed in a more advanced way in 2000, when Bose came up with their QuietComfort series which provided amazing noise cancellation technology.

It was then, the market was hit by a breath-taking, ultra-portable product – iPod from Apple. A thousand songs in your pocket. That was the tagline for the product that had a 5GB storage. This was a major advancement in the history of headphones technology.

Then in 2006, Dr Dre and Jimmy Iovine came with Beats, a premium line of headphones from Beats Electronics that gave the best bass in the market. Apple acquired Beats in 2014.

Today there are a wide variety of headphones for different purposes ranging from lowest priced models to highly expensive ones like the diamond-studded from Graffs and Beats(122 Carat diamond from Graff), worn by American rapper Lil Wayne, which costs about ₹6,84,85,000.

I hope you enjoyed this brief read on the history of headphones. Stay tuned for more informational content on headphones.

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