Invention And Innovation Of Headphones

Headphones are miniature loudspeakers which are placed over the ears and are held in place by a band or wire worn over the head. Generally, headphones can be divided into four separate categories: circumaural, supra-aural, earbud, and in-ear. (Bookrags-2009)

The very first headphones date back to the early adoption of the telephone and by 1919 radio headphones also called as Moving iron headphones were being manufactured. These were for use by professionals rather than the public. There is an argument over who first had the idea to introduce headphones ,the earliest surviving examples date back to around 1910. These had very poor sound quality and with no padding for comfort . They were used by radio operators and telephone exchanges.The famous German company Beyerdynamic invented the very first dynamic headphones back in 1937( Simon hill-june10,2009) and the first stereo headphones were invented in 1958 by John C. Koss, a Milwaukee-based jazz musician and audiophile. Until the 1980s, headphones continued to improve in technology, but remained rather large. And in the early 1980s, with the introduction of the walkman, headphones became enormously small and lightweight. In 1990, Koss introduced its first cordless headphones which used an infrared signal to link the amplifier to the headphones. Also In the 1990s the earbud headphones came into existence they were small headphones that fit into the ear rather than sitting over it. (Darchary carey)

The latest innovation in the field of headphones is the ‘Sound Proof Headphones’ with which one can listen to music without any distraction. Another type of headphones which have been introduced recently are the ‘Surround Sound Headphones’ which create the effect of space in sound. The ‘Vibration Headphones’ try to recreate the bass frequencies with the help of vibration transuedurs so that the listener can both hear and feel the bass. (Jamie Gram)

“Some of the future developments in the field of headphones are the use of Sensaura ZoomFX to provide virtual sound-fields for surround channels and Sensaura Virtual Earä technology [8] for accommodating a huge range of ear, head sizes and types. Other applications include virtualisation of conventional stereo material and creation of a personal hypothetical environment for use along with ‘silent’ musical instruments.” (Headwize)

The main purpose of headphones is to enable one to maximise their audio experience and it generally provides high good quality sound . It also helps in sound proof isolation .And with the introduction of wireless headphones one receive signal for personal wireless television audio and hi fi listening auto scan fm radio.(Shopcreater)

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The introduction of headphones can be classified as a discrete change over time. It’s been a breakthrough invention. It was for the first time that such a product was made i.e.-providing a permanent personal listening solution, now one could listen to anything without being disturbed by external noises and not disturbing anyone else around as well.

As mentioned earlier telephone marked the beginning of headphones and then from the telephones headphones were manufactured and after thatthere have been gradual changes from the initial design and headphones have improved and innovated over time with improvements in sound quality and size, like after the ones introduced by Brandes came the stereo headphones then came the cordless and wireless headphones and the headphones continued to improve in technology. Alternatively it can also be categorised under the segment of gradual change since it was still a devise for listening to music but it has further integrated and upgraded hence it is more likely to be called as a discrete change. But the developments after that will come under the category of gradual change.

When headphones were first invented Beyerdynamic was the first company that officially manufactured headphones and were also the first to market it to the public . Then other companies came into competition at later stages. Clearly evident that initially competition was low. At present, there is a lot of competition in the headphone industry. Many companies are producing similar products with some modifications in quality and design. For example AKG one of the biggest players of sound known for its headphones and other wireless equipment. Then their is bose which is considered to be the best in the market. There sound quality is difficult to surpass and their manufactured quality is exceptional. Another company which is known for its quality and features is Sennheiser. It is one the worlds leader in headphone transducer technology.(Accessmylibrary)

Koss portapro produced by koss is one of the longest running products.Then there is apple which is known all over the world for its headphones. Other than this there are many other good companies in competition for manufacture and sale of headphones. (Admin-28th April 2009)

The level of uncertainty in case of headphones is very low since no drastic changes can be made further, a lot has already been innovated and developed . So there isn’t much scope when it comes to far- reaching developments in headphones in the future. Only the sound quality or the design can be improved.

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The vulnerability of headphones to resistance is extreme .Excessive use of headphones and at high volumes is likely to cause hearing impairments like damage to hair cells In the inner ear which will lead to permanent hearing loss therefore some jurisdictions restrict the use of headphones to a certain limit. Listening to excessive loud volumes for an extended period of time is very harmful and can result in development of tumor and cause heart attacks.(Antoinette Mcgowan-18th April 2007)

Hence in response to this resistance companies have introduced and are still working on headphones with better features and providing the listener to listen to music at less dangerous levels.

Stakeholder management is critical to the success of any product and hence its analysis needs to be considered. The major stakeholders are in this case producers, consumers , government and health groups. Producers don’t know how the market will react since a completely new product is being introduced in the market. The consumers don’t know what to expect from the product i.e.-if the satisfaction drawn from the product is equivalent to the price paid for it. The government and health groups will react to the health risks put forward for headphones and raise issues against the manufacturers acting as a hindrance to further innovation.

Whereas there is a lot of risk involved in headphones. A lot of research goes into deciding which product to be produced in accordance with the customer demand ,cut throat competition in the market and available technology. Moreover the research and innovation process requires a lot of investment. And if after all this the product introduced in the market somehow fails then all the resources used to make the product available in the market are wasted. It is very difficult to cope up with the ever changing market trends as well.

Its widely known that it has many benefits and have been discussed earlier in the report and hence they are so popular and preferred by people. A number of headphones have been introduced lately as mentioned above with better features and sound quality but there are a number of drawbacks to this kind of technology as well. The companies in order to produce newer an better headphones with better technology have failed to maintain reasonable price levels. The headphones produced today are very expensive and this is the major reason that it cannot be afforded by the general public by the time they do buy it a more latest version is available. Most headphones are not capable of producing large amounts of low bass due to the small size of their drivers and the small volume of air moving. (Chris Groppi-23rd November).

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The hearing risk damage from headphones is higher than that of loudspeakers though they are more expensive and with higher research and development cost. The latest headphones are power consuming devices i.e.-the battery needs to be changed very frequently.

Critically analysing the decisions taken by the companies during the course of innovation of headphones it can be said that though headphones have technologically advanced and improved over the past few years to meet consumer needs and a lot is being done to further make headphones popular and for essential daily use. But still less has been done to nullify its negative impact. From my viewpoint I believe this could be one of the future developments to introduce headphones which could provide maximum benefits at minimum costs this would also ensure that headphones remain the market leader and no other similar head device is introduced which would completely rule out the headphones from the market. They could also work on the bass volume by infusing newer and more impactful technologies. The volume of headphones should be reduced by 40% because Researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital have determined that it is relatively safe to listen to music with headphones set to no higher than 60% of its potential volume.(Buzzle-2009).


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  11. Simon Hill(June 10,2009) , “When were the first headphones innovated” , Bright Hubs. Downloaded from…/31558.aspx as at 8th November 2009.
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