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History of Headphones

Evolution of headphones shows just how far the audio industry has come

1958—the year that changed how individuals listened to music forever. It was the year of the personal headphone’s birth and the introduction of Radio Corporation of America’s first stereo LPs. It’s no surprise that headphones revolutionized the way people listened to music, but just how far has headphone technology evolved in the past 50+ years?

Sony was founded on a passion for sound quality and a desire to push the very limits of audio engineering technology, enabling music lovers and audiophiles to get the listening experience they deserve and expect. These fundamental ideas can be seen in how Sony headphones have evolved over the decades.

From the MDR-3 Walkman® headphones to the newest in High-Resolution Audio technology, here are just a few of Sony’s standouts:

1979 — First Walkman® Companion Headphones

The MDR-3: compact size and lightweight design

Created with the idea that headphones should be compact and lightweight, these headphones were sold separately as an accessory to the first-ever “Walkman®” (model TPS-L2). For the first model in the “H-AIR” series, the designers wanted to create headphones that could be used to enjoy music anywhere and anytime. They helped revolutionize the way people thought about listening to music on-the-go.

1995 — First Noise Canceling Headphones

MDR-NC10: designed with travel in mind

As Sony’s first noise canceling headphones, the MDR-NC10 reduced outside noise by 70 percent. The noise canceling circuit sensed outside sound with the built-in microphone and sent an equal but opposite canceling signal to the headphones. And if you needed to hear outside sound temporarily, you could press the Hot Line Switch to admit outside sound.

Not only did these noise cancelling headphones block unwanted sound, but they also fit comfortably in the user’s ear with Fontopia design, which made them great for travel, work environments and outdoor use.

2011 — First 3-D Surround Headphones

MDR-DS7500: brought the cinema to listeners

Designed to give individualized rich, full sound to go along with your favorite 3-D movies, the MDR-DS7500 was the industry’s first* digital surround headphone system that reproduced a 3-D sound field with a newly added height direction.

The headphones featured two additional modes in addition to Cinema mode: Voice mode and Game mode, which were available for optimized vocal and gaming reproduction. And the 18 hours of continuous playback time made it one of the most advanced wireless headphones on the market.

Sony continues to trail blaze into the newest audio technology. To this day, Sony is revolutionizing sound with High-Resolution Audio products like its MDR-Z7 headphones that reproduce high frequency sounds up to 100 kHz, a first for headphone technology.

* As a digital surround headphone system for consumer use (as investigated by Sony in August, 2011)

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