When Were Headphones Invented?

Learn About the Early Models of Headphones!

When Were Headphones Invented

Did you know that the first wireless headphones were invented three to six decades back? Yes, that’s right. We’ve got more information here! We’ll go knee-deep into the history of early headphones. Plus, you will get to learn the year when more advanced designs arrive for use. So if you are keen to learn the history of headphones, continue reading! 

The History of Headphones – In Phases 

Now it’s 2023 – the future of headphones, but the history of headphones dates back to the 1880s. Here we present to you the history of headphones: 

Year 1880s – Boombox-Type Headphones Invented

If you were born during the birth of headphones, you would be disappointed with their big size. Yes, Ezra Gilliland designed a 10-pound headphone. One can find the same headphone in distinct models in museums. It shows the device has one earpiece attached to the phone. But the microphone rests on the user’s shoulder. It was the same as carrying a boombox on your shoulder. 

Year 1891 – Rise of the First Earbuds

With the advancement in technology, the first earbuds were invented by French engineer Ernest Mercadier. Compared to the boombox-type headphones with a microphone on the shoulder, they were quite lightweight and portable. The best bet? One can find a rubber cover to protect the ear from friction. This shows the advancement quotient of Ernest Mercadier. 

Year 1890s – The Electrophone (Spotify of Heydays)

During the 1890s, the ways to listen to music were limitless because even the radio was not accessible to the majority of the masses. Then how did people listen to their favorite music? Well, with the start of the subscription service – the Electrophone. Also called the distributed audio system, the electrophone became widely popular in London. The same was exciting as a private listening system because it allowed people to listen to live feeds of cheaters and opera house performances across London. People needed to connect their headphones with phones similar to Spotify for opera. 

Year 1910 – First Official Audio Headphones (The Major Shift)

Here comes the most transformational year for headphones, i.e., 1910. You can also consider the time when the first modern headphones were invented. Engineer Nathaniel Baldwin is behind the invention of the first pair of audio headphones. He significantly improved the previous design. He was an American engineer who conceptualized the idea at his kitchen table. The distinguishable feature? Headphones designed by him resemble modern headphones, but they come with two padded ear cups with two bands. 

Year 1958 – The Birth of Brands 

If you talk about the rise of brands, it began in 1958. Simultaneously, this is when the headphones industry transformed further. After the Second World War, the first commercial stereo headphones were invented under the Koss corporation. John Koss was a musician and entrepreneur. He was the man behind the private listening system. The same includes a record player and headphone jack. Consequently, Koss developed plastic ear cups with form earpads to wear comfortably. In a nutshell, his advancement carved the path for the headphone industry. 

Year 1960 – The Inception of Wireless Headphones

You would be amazed to know that wireless headphones came on the radar way before the Bluetooth concept. Between 1960-1970, radio headphones, also called wireless headphones, were invented. As the name suggests, they were labeled radio because the first wireless headphones came with a built-in FM/Radio antenna and padded ear cups. This gave music lovers the liberty to take their devices anywhere. 

Year 1966 – BeatlePhones

Now, this was the year when John Koss made some serious advancements in his creation and marketing. Apart from just paying attention to his first stereo headphones, her partnered with the The Beatles. As a result, the Beatles Headphones was released in 1966. The same effort was indeed a big marketing success. And guess what? The attempt successfully grasped the teen’s attention, too, in the same audience ventured to pop culture. 

Year 1969 – The First Open-Back Headphones

Brace yourself because, after three years, in 1969, the first open-back headphones were invented. In the case of open-back headphones, the ear cups were open at the back instead of closed. The same allowed users to enjoy the wider sound. Plus, the more breathable design and the lightweight were the cake’s icing.

The same year is when people started wearing headphones more comfortably. Many people call 1969 the most pivotal year in the headphone industry because it was also the year when the audio quality of headphones drastically improved. 

Year 1979 – The Rise of Walkman

Sure, people enjoyed headphones for listening to music at home; however, at that time, headphones were not a portable audio source. That’s when in 1979, the Walkman came into the picture. In 1979, the Walkman was launched by Sony, and it became one of the most popular portable audio sources at that time.

With the Walkman, Sony filled in the gap created by the absence of portable headphones. The music experience became more personal and private. People with the Walkman started enjoying music from their own library, instead of radio communication. As a result, the headphones industry took a new turn and many other brands started manufacturing headphones. 

Year 1989 – Bose Noise Canceling Headphones

The concept of private music listening took a new shift in 1989 until the founder of the Bose Company – Dr Amar Bose, designed the first-ever noise-canceling headphones. Although he designed the noise-canceling headphones in 1970 for aircraft pilots and later, the technology was commercially available to the masses. Some of the best Bose headphones are aviation headphones.

Year the 1990s – Growth of Smaller Technologies

Most of us can relate to this era when the cassette tapes and CDs were on their surge. With all these things at music lovers’ disposal, the concept of headphones took a twist. People were able to commute with their headphones and play their favorite songs. Manufacturers understood the demand in the market, and hence, headphone technology started growing. Did we mention that in the 1990s, portable headphones like in-ears, earbuds, and neckband headphones were launched on the market? 

Year 1994 – Bone Conduction Headphones

It was 1994 when Werner Bottesch patented the first bone conduction headphones. Just like other headphones, bone conduction headphones were also used by military people in the initial phase. Users had no hard time connecting to the outside environment with these headphones. Also touted as bone phones, they transmit sound waves through the bone in a user’s skull rather than the ear canal. In a nutshell, the sound from these headphones bypasses the eardrum. Expect your ear to be free if you still use them. 

Year 2001 – The Rise of iPods (1,000s Songs in Your Pocket)

By the turn of the century, Apple carved its name by designing iPods. People enjoyed this way of listening to portable music. Wondering why? Well, music lovers had a new shift from tapes and CDs. 

In addition, iPods were lighter, faster, and smaller. Plus, iPods were the perfect replacement for CDs. In a nutshell, iPods brought the same level of revolution to the industry, just as walkman did in the early 80s. 

Year 2004 – Bluetooth Revolution

With the invention of Bluetooth in 2004, things started changing for the music industry. People consider the Bluetooth revolution a massive upgrade because it removed the hassle of wires connecting with an audio source.

However, Bluetooth technology was under development in the late 90s, but not all versions are compatible. And hence, it hasn’t come onto the radar. Since the inception of Bluetooth till now, advancements are still being made for a better user experience. Lastly, the Bluetooth trend lifted just after its inception. 

Year 2008 – Beats by Dre

Many of you can resonate with us that Beat by Dre brings you the best in music and headphones. In addition, they are not light pairs of headphones and are often used by people who play DJs. Beats by Dre gained popularity with NBA top players today. You can still shop dozens of designs and styles for distinct preferences. Even now, these headphones have very good noise reduction, and hence, they are one of the best in-ear headphones in the market. 

When Were the First-Ever Headphones Invented?

The first in-ear headphones was invented in 1891 by a French engineer named Ernest Mercadier. Although, in the 1890s, a British company – Electrophone, invented a device that was mistaken to be a headphone. Many people confuse Nathaniel Baldwin with the father of the headphone industry. Still, it’s a half-baked truth because Nathaniel Baldwin was the first person to invent an improved telephonic earphone. 

When Were Wireless Headphones Invented?

From the 1960s till the 1970s, the first wireless headphones were invented, and it was way before Bluetooth technology carved itself. Also called radio headphones, some come with built-in AM/FM radio antennas and speakers in padded ear cups. As the name suggests, the signals come to them via transistor radio. 

With those headphones, radio communication is at your disposal. Most importantly, these radio headphones acted as the perfect hearing aids for hearing impaired individuals. In 1966, the advancement continued, and Koss partnered with the Beatles and released the Beatles Phones 1966.

When Were Noise Canceling Headphones Invented?

In 1979, Dr. Amar Bose invented the first-ever noise-canceling headphone. However, it was first designed to help aircraft pilots to concentrate and receive less noise during communication. Common people couldn’t have their hands on the noise-canceling headphones until Bose Quiet Comfort set came to the rescue in 2001.

But if you believe the other sources, they say that Fogel technically invented noise cancellation in their headphones way before. But it was not like we often associate with modern-day noise canceling. One can clearly understand the rise of noise-canceling headphones took several decades before reaching the music lover’s ears. 

When Were Earbuds Invented?

Ever wondered who made that first earbud? Well, it was a French engineer – Ernest Mercadier, in 1891. It was also the first developed in-ear headset which was lightweight too! It comes to most music lovers as a surprise that even after 130+ years, the rubber cover to protect the ear from friction concept fits perfectly to personify comfort. 

Did Headphones Exist in the 50s?

Yes, headphones existed in the 1950s, but for the military and politicians only! Although the common man was not restricted from using headphones, a class of a handful of people utilized the luxury of owning headphones. But scenes changed when John Koss came into the picture in 1958. Koss developed the private listening system 

Did Headphones Exist in the 70s?

Yes, one can find the mention of headphones in the 70s as well. People often call them – radio headphones. As the name suggests, those headphones come with an FM/Radio antenna and padded ear cups. By 1979, the walkman emerged as a transformation.

Were There Airpods in the Late 90s? 

No! Apple switched from its wired EarPods in 2017 and re-designed its iPhone and earbuds. As a result, the product was equipped with notable features like double-tap to pause audio and automatic pausing. 

When Were First Truly Wireless Headphones Invented?

No doubt that wireless headphones and earbuds were already selling out in the market. But in 2015, the first-ever truly wireless headphones were invented by Onkyo, a Japanese manufacturer. The company made their first wireless headphone, but it wasn’t of the same standard as today. But still, Onkyo carved the door for transformation for the new manufacturers. 

How Have Headphones Changed Over Time?

Like any other technology, headphones traveled a long way during their transformation. Its root can be traced back to 1880 till now. In today’s time, headphones have become a luxury, and you can’t deny their need. We all own or want to own branded headphones for music listening or movie watching. And that’s the reason the headphones industry generated US$17.25bn in 2021. And the revenue is supposed to grow annually by 2.32% every year. 

A Quick Overview of Modern Day Headphones

Modern-day headphones personify sound quality and enhance the music listening experience. In addition, there are different types of headphones available in the market today. Although, almost all of them display a unique fashion statement too! Modern-day headphones work well for personal use in the gym, traveling, or any other purpose if they are of a famous brand and come with a warranty. Keep in mind that noise-canceling headphones work depending on your brand. 

Final Words

That’s it, readers! Now you know that a single person cannot claim the innovation and transformation of headphones. It’s a combined effort of many people in distinct decades. But one thing is clear, the headphone industry dates back to the 1880s, and till now, it has transformed the way people listen to music. 

Headphones are one of the best portable digital devices, and not all of the headphones on the market come with a headphone jack or jack plug. Unknown to many, the world’s first dynamic headphones were invented by German hi-fi stalwarts Beyerdynamic for home listening. Furthermore, the dawn of headphones for the masses started when the Walkman made its way into the market.