You may not know it but headphones have a significant impact on people. It doesn’t matter if everyone is an audiophile or not – the thing is, headphones is a marvelous innovation that many oversee.
While it was first used for receiving radio transmissions, telephones and military purposes back from the 1910s to the late 1950s, it soon began to be a great source of audio output to the public.
In this article, we’ll take a look at how headphones has greatly influenced people into appreciating sounds and beyond.
How It All Began
Back in 1910, a man named Nathaniel Baldwin created the very first pair of headphones… right in his very own kitchen. Knowing that it will become a valuable equipment, he sold his invention to the US Navy.
From then on, it became a staple for radio transmissions and telephone communications, transferring audio signals from one place to another.
It became a marvelous item; which soon became very vital during the days of World War II, making it possible for soldiers in the field to call for artillery strikes from the Navy.
Sailors get to pick up the call via headphones and inform the men on board. Were it not for headphones, communications would have been harder between the divisions and the war might have chosen a different victor.
If you want to know the finer details of its alpha stage, here’s the wiki to explain it to you:
“These early headphones used moving iron drivers, with either single-ended or balanced armatures. The common single-ended type used voice coils wound around the poles of a permanent magnet, which were positioned close to a flexible steel diaphragm.
The audio current through the coils varied the magnetic field of the magnet, exerting a varying force on the diaphragm, causing it to vibrate, creating sound waves.
The requirement for high sensitivity meant that no damping was used, so the frequency response of the diaphragm had large peaks due to resonance, resulting in poor sound quality.
These early models lacked padding, and were often uncomfortable to wear for long periods. Their impedance varied; headphones used in telegraph and telephone work had an impedance of 75 ohms.
Those used with early wireless radio had more turns of finer wire to increase sensitivity. Impedance of 1000 to 2000 ohms was common, which suited both crystal sets and triode receivers.
Some very sensitive headphones, such as those manufactured by Brandes around 1919, were commonly used for early radio work.
In early powered radios, the headphone was part of the vacuum tube’s plate circuit and carried dangerous voltages.
It was normally connected directly to the positive high voltage battery terminal, and the other battery terminal was securely grounded.
The use of bare electrical connections meant that users could be shocked if they touched the bare headphone connections while adjusting an uncomfortable headset.”
The Birth of Stereo Headphones
Decades later, headphones became a tool for listening to common audio everyone is familiar with: music. A jazz musician named John Koss produced the very first stereo headphones that was suited for music purposes.
Since then, headphones became a necessary apparatus for record studios and musicians performing their music. Thus, audiophiles found a more convenient way to enjoy sounds: the headphones.
The Rise of Audiophiles
Technically, audiophiles have existed way before headphones were introduced to the public.
Before the earpiece, audiophiles always spent time in a room with great acoustics and carefully position their audioware in a place where sounds are optimal.
This kind of audiophilia still exists with the hardcore sound lovers but when the headphones finally came, it ushered in a new breed of audiophiles.
People misconceive an audiophile as someone who loves listening to music so much. This is wrong. An audiophile loves more than just music; an audiophile has a meticulous taste when it comes to one important factor: audio.
And by audio, I mean every bit of sound. Whatever sound emits from the headphones matter.
Every boom it makes, every treble it brings, even the distant background sound should make a difference. If you look at it from a casual standpoint, you’d say this is ridiculous. For audiophiles, this is everything.
And it doesn’t go for headphones too; it goes with a specific room at home too. An audiophile makes sure that a room has good acoustics and wants nothing but the best replication of a live performance – almost as if you’re listening to the artist themselves inside a recording room.
This makes it great for listening using headphones or loudspeakers. And speaking of such, audiophiles will never settle for the cheap kind.
As for going outside, audiophiles prefer secluded areas with minimal people. In public transportation, an audiophile likes to stay in the corner of the vehicle like the very edge of bus seats or in an area inside the train where people don’t talk much. This gives an audiophile more focus on the sounds inside the headphones.
When it comes to equipment, the audiophile doesn’t want anything cheap or whatever earpiece that comes along with the phone they bought.
No ear pods, no standard stereo headphones, not even the expensive Beats by Dr. Dre. An audiophile doesn’t settle for headphones lower than $200.
If anything, the headphones they buy cost as much as $1000 or more. Why? Because they want nothing but the best audio output, carefully crafted with unpretentious materials to deliver god-tier quality in both sound and design.
The wires, the slew rate, the earcups, the bass, treble, they all account into great headphones. This goes the same with speakers too.
Did you think an audiophile stops there? Nope. In fact, audiophiles carefully choose their music and audio sources too. For example, choosing lossless music over mp3 files.
To keep it brief, lossless music is almost ten times larger than an mp3 file. It’s a raw audio file that includes all the tiny details from the song and has a significantly better sound quality than any other music formats.
You can find lots of lossless music on Tidal.
Speaking of quality music, an audiophile prefers vinyl over CD and digital simply because the sound quality is significantly better. The bitrates are higher and it produces lossless music since these come directly from the recording studio.
However, you don’t need to be an audiophile to appreciate headphones. If you just like to listen to music or find a decent one for gaming, that’s fine too.
Headphones in Music
Alright, so I discussed about audiophiles but I want to talk about the majority of people who just casually play music whilst using headphones.
It’s amazing how the headset transformed from stationary objects into compact listening on-the-go.
It was used as a hearing aid for libraries with audiobooks and stations in the music stores but ever since the Walkman was created, it generated a whole new generation of music listeners.
As the music sources evolved, so did the headphones. In 1984, headphones even became smaller, almost like the size of a hearing aid.
It became known as earbuds but it wasn’t until 2001 when it turned mainstream due to the Apple iPod. Earbuds were now synonymously called earphones and earpiece.
It was lighter, more compact and easier to carry around everywhere. You don’t need to hang it around your neck like headphones but rather you can put it inside your pocket.
The only drawback here was that it was more fragile than headphones: the wires are thinner, the materials are smaller and it was always prone to damage if you keep folding it and improperly placing it inside your pocket.
Nevertheless, earbuds kept shaping up with better materials, sturdier wire connections and sound qualities that can equal expensive headphones.
Soon, people who love to workout get to have sweatproof and waterproof earphones that they can carry around anywhere – complete with ear hooks and a more durable cable.
For the people that have filophobia (fear of wires), wireless Bluetooth stereo earphones were made.
Of course, the headphones would get the wireless treatment too right after the popularity of Bluetooth earplugs. If you haven’t figured it out yet, these headphones include rechargeable batteries.
The problem is that wireless headphones are considered to be more fragile than wired headphones, especially when sweat is involved. Under any circumstances, wireless headphones malfunction easily when there’s a large build-up of sweat. If you thought this was suitable for jogging, you thought wrong.
Headphones in TV, Movies and Streaming
Whether you’re watching Netflix, HBO or a local channel, sometimes it’s just better off listening to what you’re viewing with headphones.
Arguably, it may not still be as frequent as using speakers, viewers who watch by themselves enjoy the comfort of using earphones or headphones while watching on a laptop, phone or even the TV.
Some manufacturers make headphones specifically designed for a theatrical experience. Of course, I’m talking about Dolby Digital Surround Sound and THX.
Thanks to its technologies, the viewing experience feels much like going to a high-end movie theater. And since it’s focused right in between your ears, you can hear the show or movie’s distant background sounds and crisp sound scoring.
Headphones in Gaming
If there’s one thing that’s rich in video games other than graphics and gameplay, it’s the sounds.
Just like movies and TV, gaming bursts with all kinds of audio and the only way to appreciate it besides high-quality speakers is through listening with headphones.
Ever since the popularity of esports, manufacturers like Beach Turtle, DXRacer and Razer constantly create headphones specially designed for gaming, preferably calling them as gaming headsets.
Or at least that’s what they claim. While it’s not necessary to buy them for single player games, they do happen to be a best-seller for competitive gamers, especially those looking to become pro.
This is because gaming headphones are specially designed to step your multiplayer game up – clearer footsteps, more hearable gunfire from the distance, an enemy’s queue when they activated an ultimate skill or hearing someone defusing a bomb while you’re camping nearby.
Adding to the sound quality is the mic quality and ear comfort. Communication is an essential part for any team-based multiplayer game and the last thing you want is your buddy not understanding a word you’re saying because your microphone is as bad as when your foot is experiencing pins and needles.
And of course, ear comfort should be a priority too. Have you ever felt that agitation whenever you slowly take off your headset after hours of playing? Yeah, the pain isn’t very subtle at all.
Most gaming headsets have soft earcups or leather so that means lesser pain and more game time. Not to mention the sweat won’t ruin the earcups in the long run.
What’s good about headphones when they’re not comfortable, right? As much as design and quality goes, comfort levels should always be at an all-time high to bring the perfect audio-listening experience.
Also, they don’t come as cheap as usual headphones – at times, they’re even more expensive than audiophile headphones. Some experienced users even say it’s better off to buy a standard headset because the quality is barely comparable and that you’re just paying for the “Gamer hype” brand.
Headphones in Communication
For a very long time, headphones were primarily used for telephones and radio transmissions. Even today, they’re still doing their part in both telecom companies and militaries. Call center agents use specialized headsets built for multipurpose tasks that are directly linked to their computers.
As for the multitasking businessmen, there’s always the wireless Bluetooth earpiece that you simply hook on your ear while you’re doing something else. Wireless headphones also include a built-in mic and calls but don’t expect the sound quality for communication to be satisfying at all.
Headphones in Healthcare
People suffering from tinnitus or any hearing problems find refuge in the form of hearing aids. While headphones became commercial in the 21st century, the first hearing aid was made in 1898 by Miller Reese Hutchison. Fast forward to modern times, hearing aids are smarter, more durable and more convenient now.
People with sleeping problems also find headphones to be very beneficial. While earmuffs do exist, headphones with active noise-cancelling tend to minimize ambient sounds.
It’s more expensive than regular headphones since these use the same technology for pilots and sleeping aids. In fact, the noise-cancelling feature derived from aviation way back in the 1950s and is still used today.
It just so happened that this tech is now used for the public.
And if you happen to have trouble sleeping because of background noises, the headphones will do the trick. The earmuffs are exactly the same and the active noise control helps delete ambient sounds. Making this a must for people suffering from insomnia and any other sleeping disorders.
There are a few cons to these headsets
First of all, these require batteries or USB ports. The active noise control feature is separate from the headphones in general as these require a separate power source. And if you’re the traveler type, you will constantly need extra batteries to power up the noise cancelling feature.
And since the active noise control feature is separate, that also means these headphones are heavier than the regular ones. The extra weight is due to the added electronics and battery slots.
Also, if you notice it, these headphones sound softer than regular types especially when noise cancellation is off.
This is not necessarily a bad thing but if you prefer loud and proud sounds over silence from the outside world. You might want to just get the usual headphones.
Headphones Have Helped People One Way or Another
Whether it’s music, gaming, movie viewing, sleeping and hearing, headphones made a large impact on society.
They come in different shapes and sizes with various purposes and functions. Well-known brands keep innovating headsets, earphones and headphones while new and indie brands constantly release obscure yet top quality audiophile earpieces.
How about you, what kind of headphones do you have? Are you an audiophile that has a $500 headphones? Maybe just a regular Samsung phone user that simply appreciates the stock earbuds that come with the box?
Whatever you have, headphones should be cherished and appreciated for its convenience for the people.