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The history of headphones - the beginnings of portable sound gadgets

If you look at it superficially, you might think that the history of headphones is hardly any different from that of speakers. After all, it seems reasonable to assume that headphones were simply created parallel to loudspeakers. But that's not entirely true. The beginnings of headphones can be traced back to the late 19th century. It has been handed down, for example, that the first devices often caused small electric shocks if used carelessly. In the following blog we remind you of some significant milestones in the history of headphones.

End of the 19th century: The first "headphones" appear

It is not exactly known who was the forefather of the first wearable headphones. But at least the period in which they were created is relatively certain. A patent for an electrodynamic sound transducer was awarded in 1878 - the loudspeaker was born.

Since headphones were based on a similar functional principle at the time, it can be assumed that the first headphone-like prototypes were hardly anything other than normal loudspeakers that were initially held one-sided to the ear. The reason for this was the previously low output volume, as there was a lack of better amplifiers.

A headphone pioneer in history is the American Nathaniel Baldwin, who combined two mono loudspeakers with a headband. Originally this construction was intended for military purposes, but the devices known colloquially as "Baldy Phones" quickly ensured full order books. However, these forerunners to headphones were inadequately insulated and would give the wearer electric shocks if they were not used properly. A "childhood illness" that is out of the question nowadays.

1930s: Advances in comfort and design

The 1930s - and we like to mention it at this point - were the hour of birth of the Beyerdynamic company. The company was founded in Berlin and was the first in history to tackle the industrial production of headphones and is still successful today.

If you compare the first headphones from Baldwin with those from Beyerdynamic, you can see that Beyerdynamic has made great improvements in terms of design and wearing comfort. Interestingly, the basic shape of the first headphones already resembled today's models. In fact, the headphones known as "DT-48" made it to stores until 2012, and of course they are always updated from a technical perspective.

Fun fact: After the Second World War, the successor model "DT-49" was developed, which became known as the "stem receiver" and looked like a mixture of shower head and telephone.

Teufel headphones for the best sound

From 1950: The economic miracle brings stereo headphones

The first records made their debut from around 1950. These usually already had stereo tracks. During this time, the first stereo headphones were introduced by John C. Koss, a famous jazz musician from Milwaukee, USA at the time.

This innovation was an important milestone in the history of headphones, because this model made it possible to play music in stereo for the first time. The astonishingly comfortable fit of the headphones also made them a real guarantee of success. Koss's invention became the new industry standard that everyone actually followed. The Koss Corporation dominated the US headphone market for the next 20 years and thus contributed significantly to the further development of the headphones.

1960s: A milestone in transistor technology

The introduction of transistor technology in the 1960s enabled the development of the first battery-operated, portable headphones. Since headphones were actually only found in living rooms until then, the new technology created a demand for devices that were also suitable for on the go.

1970s: The boom box makes the streets unsafe

In the 1970s, the generation of parents at the time shook their heads with huge portable devices that the children used to make the streets unsafe. Ghetto blasters of every shape and size lived up to their name and from then on filled every street corner with sound - first in Brooklyn, later also in Europe. The successful conquest of urban living space made history and made it possible for the first headphones to hit the big stage on the streets.

The 1980s: The Walkman gave new impetus to headphone development

In 1979 Sony launched the Walkman, the first portable mini-cassette player. Unlike the ghetto blaster, the small, compact player was permanently portable and made listening to music on the go socially acceptable.

Another fun fact: allegedly the German emigrant Andreas Pavel, who moved to the USA in 1977, wanted to patent a “small body-bound system for high-quality playback of audio events” - a device similar to the Walkman. It was not until 2004 that Sony recognized this ingenuity after a long legal battle. This is how Pavel became another part of the eventful history of headphones.

In the course of the breakthrough of the walkman, headphones became smaller and smaller thanks to new technologies. The portable sound suddenly fit in flight luggage and in every backpacker rucksack. So it was not surprising that headphones began appearing in every corner of the world. The Ear-Buds, which were introduced in 1983 - forerunners of the in-ears - had to wait a few years for their breakthrough.

Since 2009: Teufel starts with Sound2Go

Teufel has been successfully involved in the audio market since 1980, but it wasn't until 2009 that the first Teufel headphones made it into the range. Many different models have appeared since then and have really shaken up the headphone market, including, for example, the popular AIRY, the first Bluetooth headphones from Teufel. From in-ears and over-ears to Bluetooth and noise-canceling headphones - Teufel now offers headphones in almost every segment and for every sound requirement. You can find out which model is right for you with our large headphone comparison.

Teufel headphones: rich sound for those who love sound

Whether as the perfect companion on the go or as a trusted companion at home: With REAL BLUE NC and AIRY you are on the safe side in all sound matters. Comfortable wearing and innovative technologies make the over-ear headphones the right choice for music fans who can never do without the booming in their ears.

  • ▶ REAL BLUE NC: The REAL BLUE NC over-ear headphones bring you the peace and quiet you need to immerse yourself in every note of your playlist and feel every twist. The noise-canceling headphones offer you a sound experience that you have never known before. They effectively shield you and your music from ambient noise. Circumaural headphones, a smart control and a long-lasting battery with a quick charge function that lasts up to 60 hours make the package so convincing.
  • ▶ AIRY: The wireless Bluetooth highlight AIRY from Teufel is thick when it comes to acoustics without taking off. With the smart over-ear headphones, you can stream music via Bluetooth with apt-X® from Spotify, Deezer and Co. in top quality. With a stamina of up to 30 hours and a low weight, the headphones are your reliable urban companion.

The history of headphones: a look ahead

In the future, manufacturers are likely to continue developing more wireless headphone models that will gradually replace wired ones. Wireless headphones, for example the MOVE BT from Teufel, connect to the playback device via Bluetooth and are often much better and more flexible to wear. Even the well-known broken cable is history with Bluetooth headphones.

Another trend that will catch on is noise-canceling headphones. Noise-canceling headphones almost completely shield you and your hearing from the environment, so that interference-free listening to music with a more intense sound experience is possible. An additional plus point: Your surroundings will not notice the thumping bass of your favorite songs.

On your ears, in your ears: Over-Ears and In-Ears from Teufel

The history of headphones: a conclusion

  • The history of headphones is inevitably linked to the development of the first loudspeakers at the end of the 19th century.
  • The first models consisted of two mono speakers connected by a bracket. They could happily electrocute their wearer.
  • The introduction of multi-track records in the 1950s kicked off the development of the first stereo headphones.
  • The Walkman sparked a new trend: the previously large headphones became smaller and smaller.
  • The history of headphones is far from over: Thanks to the latest technologies, music can now be heard wirelessly via Bluetooth headphones. Noise-canceling models take the sound experience to a higher level.
Image 1: © No 9 Army Film & Photographic Unit, source: Wikimedia Commons
Image 2: © Beyer Dynamic. Source: Wikimedia Commons
Image 3: © Daderot. Wikimedia Commons
Image 4: © Xray40000 Certain rights reserved. Source: flickr
Image 5: © TheDash Source: flickr