To enjoy your music without disturbing your surroundings, headphones are perfect. They contain small loudspeakers that are placed close to the user’s ear. Headphones are connected to audio sources like amplifiers, radio, DACs etc. by wires but there are also wireless versions. Headphones are usually equipped with a 1/4 inch (6.35mm) or 1/8 inch (3.5mm) phone jack for plugging the headphones into the sound source. To prevent unwanted noise disrupting your music, some headphones have a noise cancellation system. Active noise-cancelling headphones use a microphone to detect unwanted noise which is played back in phase-reverse. In this way background noise is cancelled out. When you go to buy a set of headphones, it is important that you pay attention to the audio quality and the wearing comfort. Audio quality should be outstanding but don’t underestimate the wearing comfort. Since you are probably going to wear it for some time, a pair of headphones should be very comfortable.

Evolution of headphones

Headphones originated from the earpiece. Before the development of amplifiers they were the only way to listen to music. The first headphones used moving iron drivers and were very sensitive to noise thus the sound quality wasn’t that good. They were primarily used in telegraph and telephone work and varied both in quality and in levels of impedance.. In fact, the first headphone had to be connected to an amplifier’s circuitry that carried high voltages. Headphones could be very dangerous that time!
In 1937, Beyerdynamic introduced the DT-48, the first dynamic headphone. Even today, dynamic headphones remain very popular. This was a major step in the audio world since the average man could listen to music at a reasonable quality. But the real turning point came in 1958 when John C Koss, who was an audiophile and jazz musician, developed the first decent quality stereo headphone. Over the next few decades, Koss would come to dominate the headphone industry.


Headphones are available with low or high impedances. It is important to know the impedance of your headphone since it has to match the output impedance of your player or headphone amplifier. The impedance of a headphone is typically measured at 1 kHz. Low-impedance headphones have an impedance range of 16 to 32 Ohms while high-impedance headphones are about 100 – 600 Ohms. As the impedance increases, an amplifier or player has to work harder to drive the headphone. However, the impedance of your headphone should be around 8 times bigger (or more) than the output impedance of your amplifier. If the impedances don’t match, then distortion will occur. Therefore, high-impedance headphones are more tolerant of amplifier limitations but will produce less volume.
Tube amplifiers have a high output impedance. Therefore many older headphones have a high impedance to deal with the high output impedance of a tube amplifier.

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