Our association with sound that has a relation to innate facets of our physiological attributes has prompted us to devote our time in order to enhance our ability to produce as well as reproduce sound with immense clarity and thorough proficiency. With that being said, it becomes evident that our craving has let us to encompass sounds through varying means, which can be through instruments that include our vocal cords as well (i.e. the production of sound) or through means of receiving sounds in which our ears play a vital role in. The tools through which we listen to recordings have evolved drastically with the passage of time; our enthusiasm with sound has brought us to new heights when it comes to producing sounds and or music as well as how we listen to the sound bites and melody. Our receptivity and curiosity towards sound has led us to breakthroughs in how we listen to them and with time, we have explored further technical intricacies in sound. This is because music is a universally revered and loved facet that is integral to not just our lives, but partakes in our betterment and wellbeing as well. It is embedded across a vast number of diverse cultures, faiths, traditions in all parts of the world. Furthermore, within its own vastness, this art form has the capacity to overwhelm the mind in ways that are unfathomable otherwise. It is the tapestry of sound and silence woven together in such a manner that depending on the interpretation of it by the listener can make him or her feel and experience a blend of diverse emotions simultaneously.
In the post-industrial world and through the fast innovations in technology that followed from the start of the previous century up until the present day, we have come too far, particularly when it comes to the impact of technology in our day to day affairs. We, as a species, have devoted our energies in form of collectives and are grasping and consuming information at a pace that was unimaginable prior to aforesaid timeframe. The “research and development” that we are doing presently as a collective civilization, is absolutely unprecedented in comparison to past eras in mankind’s tryst with existence. Our grasp of elements that help us in perceiving sound physically has expanded excessively; we have imparted our comprehension of these elements into the technologies that we have developed thus far. Our own inventions have made the pitch, sonic texture, loudness and other similar elements more precise and clear. It would not be a farfetched thing to say that these technological modes have made our reception of sounds immensely better and even more convenient as well. This is not just true for majority of humans but other able individuals that have hearing related deficiencies as well reap the benefits of technological advancements in how we grasp and capture sounds. The capacity to receive and thus perceive sound is one of the innate attributes of our senses. This capacity and our need for it have instilled a craving in us to capture sound waves with clarity as we grasp every single note.
Among the breakthroughs in technology related to reproduction of sound was the advent of headphones, which is greatly inspired my mankind’s love for music. Music, through to its very conception up until this very day, has been a crucial and influential facet of human history. There are several evidences of varying magnitudes that date back all the way to pre-historic era. Primitive variations of instruments used to this day such as flutes, have been discovered by archeologists. This alone is a testament of the influence that music has on human psyche. Music not only serves as a medium of expressing what is otherwise inexpressible, but within it, music encompasses emotions that people can associate with other communicable factors of human instincts such as love, devotion (for divinity) etc. These aspects of music are note solely associated with the production of music, but also how we listen to it. Although music has played an integral part in the evolution of headphones and other listening devices, the development of sound related technologies has to be attributed to other necessities associated with the importance of sound as well.
Headphones are a device used for listening; they are conceptualized to be comparatively small in size than other technological devices made and used for the same purpose since they are a wearable device produced for the purpose of enabling an individual to listen to audio formats privately or without disturbing others in their surroundings at any time. This facet makes them a contrasting alternate to speakers, which are purpose-built in order to let the sound flow into the open air in order to channel sound within vicinity or a limited premises. Headphones are not constructed to emit sounds directly, albeit this can change in future, they however channel the sound through devices on which reproduction of audio can be played and on which headphones can be connected to. This transmission of sound is done through transducers. Transducers are the devices that transform signals into varying form of energies, depending on their use within a particular function or device. The transducers which are most commonly a part of headphones are moving coil driver transducers, which are also known as “dynamic”. The devices on which headphones are plugged in order for them to function could be anything, from a radio to an amplifier, an immobile large computer machine to a portable media player such as a CD player or a walkman. On the other hand, there are wireless headphones as well, they do not require electrical signals to operate that are channeled through circuits in the machines on which wired headphones are connected to, wireless headphones however use signals are transmitted through devices capable of encoding radio or infrared signals. Apart from the stratification of headphones in terms of wires and wireless, their size, how they’re worn etc. are also factors that stratify headphones into different types. Putting their connecting properties aside, headphones generally come in four varieties; these varieties are, over-ear headphones, on-ear headphones, ear buds, and lastly, in-ear headphones:
Also known as Circumaural headphones, they are built in such a way that they cover the ears of the user. The shape of their ear pads is made to block outside ambience. Over-ear headphones are meant to be comfortable for the user’s ears while they are in use. However, since these type of headphones are the largest type of headphones, their weight can be mildly discomforting to the head of their user. Due to their properties, they are widely used to block noise as their form makes them passive noise cancelling headphones and their shape can make them a makeshift earmuff as well, depending on the material of the ear pads in a particular circumaural model.
Also known as Supra-aural headphones; as indicated by their name, their pads lie on the ear of the user rather than around them. They are generally smaller than over-ear headphones and not the best ambient sound removing devices when considering their form and shape. Although their attributes make them lighter than average circumaural headphones, they can cause potential discomfort to the ears as a result of pressure. However, that varies upon the material used in the ear pad of any headphone, whether circumaural or supra-aural.
They are smaller variations of headphones. More portable than both On-ear and Over-ear headphones, they have small ear pads that fit into the ear canal of the user. As their name suggests, since they fit into the user’s ears, they are convenient for passive noise cancellation and audio isolation. Unlike both supra-aural and circumaural headphones, they are plugged around or in the ears rather than worn overhead. However, their drawback is that due to the semantics of their form, they are prone to falling off out of the user’s ears.
Similar to in-ear headphones in that they are ear fitting and not worn overhead. They are supposed to fit on the outer layer of the ear rather than in the ear canal of their user. This specification of these headphones makes them unreliable for the cancellation of outside side. However, this makes them more convenient and ideal for public use as their lack of outer sound reduction helps in situations where one cannot afford to be devoid of all sound in his or her particular surroundings for e.g. vehicular traffic.
The criteria to determine what headphone best suits you depends on several factors. From frequency response of headphones to their size, from the transducers used to the materials utilized to construct the structure of the device. All the aforesaid factors determine how the bass and treble in the sound are interpreted by the listener. The physical interpretation of sound in any being is restricted to a range of frequencies in the specie, which that living organism belongs to. Humans on average are receptive to 20 Hz to 20 kHz (20,000 Hz). Taking the latter factor into consideration, the frequency response of any headphone model determines how the human ear would decipher its bass sound as well as treble. For e.g. headphones with frequencies at and over 23khz have high quality treble that is suitable for users of all ages. Age is a factor to consider over here since the maximum frequency for humans decreases with the passage of time.
Although a better music listening experience and aspirations for it have been the catalyst in development and further growth in the technological intricacies of headphones, they are not merely a recreational device; their usage is required in several professional fields as well. For instance, radio jockeys wear them while they are talking to their listeners on air in order to monitor their quality of voice and block acoustic feedback. Musicians use headphones to comprehend tablatures that they have to follow as they listen to the reproduced play back sound of other instruments (including vocals) or the rest of the band. Furthermore, headphones are also central to businesses that have telephonic customer services as their representatives use headphones to grasp the clients’ queries, without distraction from other representatives, who too cater to the clients with headphones and listen to their queries along with other inquiries. Moreover, headphones not only make professions and integral parts of varying businesses more effective and all around feasible. They also enhance the efficiency in regular day to day activities by being an ambassador and provider of music to the ears of their user; a good example of this is gym time and other fitness related activities, whether recreational or professional.
Initially, headphones were utilized by radio companies and telegraph operators to ensure reception of audio without bothering individuals close by. However, for the purpose of use at home, electrophones were used. Electrophones were a service, an olden day equivalent of musical portal, which inspired the advent of headphones. Invented during the late 19th century, they were invented and used in Britain. They allowed their users to dial a particular number on the device that connected to a live musical or theatrical performance with in the settlement in which the user resided in. However, the credit for the very first set of headphones goes Nathaniel Baldwin, who in 1910’s developed handmade models in his kitchen. Up until the 1940’s, headphones were primarily used by radio and telephone operators in various fields. It wasn’t until advent of first stereo headphones (Koss SP-3) by a musician and an “audiophile” John Koss in 1958 that the usage of headphones diversified outside the realm of radio related work and communication. His invention was purpose-built for music and it also coincided with greater developments in semantics of audio that resulted in foundation and then consequential spread of high fidelity (hi-fi) sound quality that lacked distortion as well as had precise frequency response in comparison to previous reproductions of sound(s). Eventually, this lead to the entry of companies like Sennheiser, Onkyo, and Phillips into this new market and further development in the technology ensued due to the attraction of the purpose built headphones by Koss. With a multitude of tech firms partaking in the world of headphones and the rest of the audio industry, this item has seen several breakthroughs in itself and it has side by side progressed over the passage of time as well.
One such breakthrough was the invention of noise cancelling headphones in 1970’s by the iconic and revered Dr. Amar Bose, who was also the founder of of the Bose Corporation. Unlike over-ear headphones and in-ear ear fitting headphones that passively obstruct outside noise from mixing with the audio sound coming from the ear pads simply on the basis of their shape, noise cancellation headphones use microphones, amplifiers, or speakers that in-built within the headphones, these in-built devices then get hold of outside ambient noise and then play and amplify outer sounds in phase-reverse, without adjusting the reproduced audio transmitted through the ear pads if the headphones.
A drawback headphones is that their misuse can cause both mild and severe impairments to one’s hearing. Their misuse constitutes of listening to the audio in higher volumes, higher frequency headphones can be extremely daunting in this regard. However, this facet is true for misuse of any technological or other sort of tool that requires its user to wear it. Furthermore, manufacturers of headphones over the years have taken measures to curb hearing impairment in their users by implementing circuitry safety measures and are further developing means for helping the users to not resort to raise the volume of their devices while they use their headphones since they might be coerced to increase the volume of the audio that they are listening to because the noise from their outside surrounding might be too loud and thus results in making their audio comparatively inaudible.
Headphones are an integral part of human life as result of their extensive development that was motivated by man’s love for music and the necessity of listening to things privately without causing havoc and disturbances around you. This device has become a part of our daily life to such an extent that it presently is more or less a household item visible in every home. Ear-fitting headphones have become a complementary good that one acquires when purchasing a cell phone. To put things into perspective, since the introduction of iPods by Apple in 2001, the company has sold either directly or with its products, approximately over 600 million earphones all over the world. Human being’s tryst with listening to audio formats has come drastically far, from the kitchen of Nathaniel Baldwin on to Dr. Amar Bose’s innovations up until the foundation of a headphone business empire by Dr. Dre called “Beat”, it has been a journey that has made music listening, games, movies, and even professional errands, much more proficient and as a result of this, a silent contributor in growth of human intelligence.