The Brief History of Headphones

It is not in doubt that the headphones play a vital contribution to our comfort in listening to sounds. They filter background noise to minimize distortions and eliminate all forms of ambiguities. It is for this reason that it makes some sense to get to know more about them. We have dedicated the entire article to the history of headphones by examining them in finer detail.

History of Headphones

What is a headphone?

Headphones are special pieces of earphones that are co-joined by a band that is placed over the head. They are used to channel sounds directly to the ears and used to listen to music or speech. The headphones can draw signals from any electronic like radio, computers, tablets, and cellphones.

How do headphones work?

A headphone in its simplest form is basically two loudspeakers which are mounted on a strap that is subsequently fitted over your head. Inside the speakers are a magnet, diaphragm cone, and coil of wire.

The loudspeakers convert electrical signals to sound waves. They draw in music from the source usually in the form of an alternating current (AC), transmit the same through the connecting cables or via Bluetooth connectivity to the drivers, and finally to the miniature speakers which are found in the headphones.

Upon receiving the incoming signals, the drivers generate some magnetic fields. The fixed magnet in the voice coil attracts and repels the signal from the magnet. This creates a back-and-forth movement that oscillates around 20-20,000 times each second. As it does so, it alters the air pressure in its front and hence creates audible sounds.

History of headphones

The modern headphone as we know it arose from the telephone receiver earpiece. These gadgets were for a long time the only ways and means of listening to electric audio signals. That was until the amplifiers were later on developed.

In its earliest forms, the headphones comprised some iron drivers which were subsequently attached to the balanced or single-ended amateurs. The typical single-ended kind of amateur utilized some voice coils which were wound around round and about the poles of some permanent magnets. These were subsequently positioned close to flexible steel diaphragms.

As the audio currents traveled through the coils, they varied the intensity of the magnetic fields. This, in turn, exerted some varying forces on the diaphragm, making it vibrate, thus generating sound waves. No damping was used throughout the entire sound generation process because of the need for high frequency. This however created poorer sound quality as it triggered larger peaks thanks to high resonance.

What is a headphone

Earlier headphone models did not have some padding. They thus were not so comfortable to put on, especially for longer durations. At the same time, they also differed in times of their impedance with those used in the telegraph possessing impedance of just about 75 ohms.

Some versions of the headphones were used for wireless radio communications. They comprised some turns of finer wire which increased the sensitivity. In their basic shapes and forms, they were part of a vacuum tube’s plate circuit. It also transmitted dangerous voltages. This circuit was ordinarily connected to the positive high voltage battery terminal with the other terminal being securely grounded to the earth.

The utilization of the bare electrical connections implies that the users could sustain shocks whenever they got into direct contact with the bare headphones connections in the course of adjusting the uncomfortable headsets.

In 1958, John C. Koss who was an audiophile, as well as a jazz musician from Milwaukee, developed the first modern version of the headphones. They first found applicability in the US Navy, radio and telephone operators, and in quite a number of industries.

Later on, the earbuds were developed primarily to help cope with hearing problems. They were plugged into the ear canals of the users and also found extensive use in transistor radios. The commercial versions were launched in 1954. Their sound production mechanisms however differ. That is because they utilize a moving iron driver or piezo-electric crystal as opposed to the magnetic coils.

Later on, came the incorporation of the transistors. These altered the manner in which the listening habits by mainly letting people listen to the radio from just about any location. Thereafter, the 3.5 mm radio and phone connector were added.

When were headphones invented?

The Brief History of Headphones

The first truly successful headphone as we know them today was invented by Nathaniel Baldwin in 1910. He made the device by hand in his kitchen and sold the technique to the United States Navy. He basically merged the telephone receiver earpiece and the magnetic technology.

Uses of headphones

Headphone finds applicability in numerous fields. Below are however the major areas in which they are used:

Two-way Communication – Those circumstances which require two-way communication also employ headphones. When worn on the head, the speakers minimize the hassles of having to switch back and forth numerous other devices. This expedites the process of relaying the necessary pieces of information.

Private Listening – This is by far the most common area in which the headphones are used. With regards to this, they are used to listen to audio signals without interfering with the concentration and focus of others. Examples of these are the libraries and other installations that are ordinarily sensitive to noise.

Audio Production and Recording – While recording and producing audio signals, it is necessary to mix the signals perfectly to come up with the highest possible quality output. This can only happen if the headphone is used to listen intimately to the sounds and mix them thoroughly as required.

Aviation – Headphones are extensively used by pilots to listen and communicate with each other and the air traffic controllers. They eliminate background noise and channel the sound outputs directly to the ears to eliminate any forms of ambiguity.

Disc Jockeying – Disc jockeys use headphones to listen to the sounds generated by the music they play. This allows them to mix the sounds well and come up with the best audio output achievable at any given time. it is for this reason that their sound output is higher than normal.

The Final Words (Conclusion)

Just to reiterate the earlier point, headphones are truly great pieces of electronics indeed. By knowing the history of headphones as is the case above, you will truly appreciate how come they have come. You will indeed find them in just about any other kind of electronic device today. This being the case, you want to make appropriate arrangements to acquire and make use of one soonest possible.

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