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The History & Future Of Headphones

On average, Americans spend more than 32 hours a week listening to music ─ That’s the equivalent to a full-time job

History Of Headphones
1895: The Electrophone
Allowed subscribers to listen in to live performances over phone lines
Subscriptions cost £5 per year ─ That’s 6.5X the price of Spotify today*
1910: First Headphones
Created by Nathaniel Baldwin, who sold the first 100 pairs to the U.S. Navy
Each headset was made by Baldwin in his kitchen until demand grew too great
Wireless Specialty Apparatus Co. bought the manufacturing rights, with the condition that they never increase the price of headsets sold to the Navy
1937: Beyerdynamic DT-48
First dynamic headphones available for home use
Remained in production until 2012 ─ That’s 75 years of continuous production
1958: Koss SP-3
First stereo headphones, made for music rather than radio
The HiFi headphones were especially popular among returning soldiers
In the 60s & 70s Koss dominated headphone sales thanks to celebrity endorsements like the Beatles and ads featuring King Kong
1968: Sennheiser HD 414
“Open Aire” design made these headphones lighter and more portable
Instead of shutting out the world, the headphones let outside sound through
1979: Sony Walkman
First portable cassette player, with two headphone jacks for shared listening
Led to a boom in lightweight, inexpensive headphones
Portability made music, and headphones, ubiquitous 一 creating autonomy and privacy, even in public spaces
1990s: Changing Tech
More listening options 一 cassettes, CDs, MiniDiscs, and MP3s 一 made portable music less iconic
Cheap, plastic earbuds became standard
The music underground claimed hard-cup style headphones
Became associated with DJs and rave culture, rather than privacy
1999: Bluetooth eliminated the need for a headphone cord, but it would take nearly a decade for the invention to reach the world of fashion headphones
2000: Bose QuietComfort
First commercially available, noise-canceling headphones
Designed to block the roar of airplane engines 一 first for pilots, then passengers
2001: iPod
Reinvented portable music and digital listening
Smooth, white earbuds became a visual symbol of the iPod itself
From 2001 to 2015, 400 million iPods were sold
2008: Monster Beats By Dr. Dre
Designed for better bass and sound quality, quickly became a status symbol
Later designs focused on style and signature designs, including those from
Will.i.am, Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, and LeBron James
2017: AirPods
Replaced Apple’s trademark earbud with a cordless alternative
Despite initial ridicule, AirPods became a cultural phenomenon

More than half (55%) of people regularly use headphones at work ─ Do headphones boost productivity or just create a distraction?

Headphones In The Workplace

Today, employees are interrupted every 3-12 minutes while working
Lost productivity due to interruptions costs $588 billion annually in the U.S. alone
Interruptions increase workplace errors and symptoms of work-related stress
2.8 seconds of distraction leads to 2X the number of errors
4.4 seconds of distraction leads to 3X the number of errors
Interruptions account for increased
Exhaustion: +9%
Physical complaints: +4%
Anxiety: +3%
Do Headphones Improve Productivity?
78% of people think music improves their productivity at work
Just 4% think it’s a distraction
That belief is even stronger in certain industries
More than 4 in 5 employers in these industries believe music increases productivity
Information services, data processing, retail, healthcare, technology, food service, and hospitality
How Headphones Help
46% of people wear headphones at work to avoid conversation
30% use headphones to cancel outside noise
Employees say headphones help by
Improving focus and blocking out distractions
Reducing stress through music
Making mundane tasks more bearable
Signaling to coworkers that you’re busy
Social signaling with headphones isn’t confined to the office — Many women report wearing them in public spaces to avoid harassment and feel more safe
The Mozart Effect
Studies show mixed results on how music affects productivity, but the right background music can be beneficial
Classical background music has been shown to improve reading comprehension
BUT, some music has a negative effect on concentration and attention
Music with lyrics
High-intensity music
Listeners’ favorite songs
Songs that listeners’ hate

“Attention takes mental effort, and we can get mentally tired” ーDr. Robert Desimone, Director of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT

The Future Of Listening

Always Improving Tech
Longer lasting batteries
Better sound quality
Greater comfort & portability
Integrated voice assistants
A Different Kind Of Wireless
Funky Sounds Debussy
Customizable display: Show your own images or a visual synthesizer
Touchscreen control: Navigate songs, make and receive calls
4G & WiFi connections: No need for an external device
Human, Inc.’s “AirMuffs”
Hybrid design: Works as headphones or as a Bluetooth speaker
Translation mode: Translates up to 11 different languages
No headband: Simply clip each earpiece over your ear
Noveto’s Sowlo
Focused audio: Directs sound to your ears without a wearable device
3D tracking: Locates listener’s ears to know where to steer the audio
Private listening: Those nearby won’t overhear your music

Headphones created privacy in public spaces 一 Now they’re changing the way we work

Sources:
https://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/article/2017/time-with-tunes-how-technology-is-driving-music-consumption/
https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uiug.30112064674325&view=1up&seq=151
https://www.stuff.tv/features/headphones-complete-history
https://www.cnet.com/news/does-sennheisers-iconic-1968-headphone-compare-with-todays-headphones/
https://www.lifewire.com/number-of-ipods-sold-all-time-1999515
https://www.theguardian.com/technology/shortcuts/2019/feb/10/how-did-apples-airpods-go-from-mockery-to-millennial-status-symbol
https://cloudcovermusic.com/music-at-work-research
https://www.ics.uci.edu/~gmark/CHI2004.pdf
https://www.ssense.com/en-us/editorial/culture/a-history-of-headphone-design
https://iorgforum.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/CostOfNotPayingAttention.BasexReport1.pdf
https://msu.edu/~ema/AltmannTraftonHambrickJEPG.pdf
https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/features/str-a0031637.pdf
https://blog.rotacloud.com/wearing-headphones-at-work/
https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/4ce8/0912f11b6372f2b9c0bddd53e4b345a61452.pdf
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22523045
https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ882124.pdf
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21508527
https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702303395604577432341782110010
https://www.theverge.com/2018/8/31/17803728/wireless-headphones-usb-c-google-assistant-siri-ifa-2018
https://www.techradar.com/news/the-future-of-headphones-touchscreen-displays-and-integrated-streaming
https://www.cnet.com/news/first-airpods-now-airmuffs/
https://www.businessinsider.com/noveto-focused-audio-technology-could-make-headphones-obsolete-2018-6
https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2019/06/airpods-apple-street-harassment/590989/

Headphones