What is Headphones: Definition and 23 Discussions

Headphones are a pair of small loudspeaker drivers worn on or around the head over a user's ears. They are electroacoustic transducers, which convert an electrical signal to a corresponding sound. Headphones let a single user listen to an audio source privately, in contrast to a loudspeaker, which emits sound into the open air for anyone nearby to hear. Headphones are also known as earspeakers, earphones or, colloquially, cans. Circumaural ('around the ear') and supra-aural ('over the ear') headphones use a band over the top of the head to hold the speakers in place. Another type, known as earbuds or earpieces consist of individual units that plug into the user's ear canal. A third type are bone conduction headphones, which typically wrap around the back of the head and rest in front of the ear canal, leaving the ear canal open. In the context of telecommunication, a headset is a combination of headphone and microphone.
Headphones connect to a signal source such as an audio amplifier, radio, CD player, portable media player, mobile phone, video game console, or electronic musical instrument, either directly using a cord, or using wireless technology such as Bluetooth, DECT or FM radio. The first headphones were developed in the late 19th century for use by telephone operators, to keep their hands free. Initially the audio quality was mediocre and a step forward was the invention of high fidelity headphones.Headphones exhibit a range of different audio reproduction quality capabilities. Headsets designed for telephone use typically cannot reproduce sound with the high fidelity of expensive units designed for music listening by audiophiles. Headphones that use cables typically have either a 1/4 inch (6.35mm) or 1/8 inch (3.5mm) phone jack for plugging the headphones into the audio source. Some stereo earbuds are wireless, using Bluetooth connectivity to transmit the audio signal by radio waves from source devices like cellphones and digital players. As a result of the Walkman effect beginning in the 1980s, headphones started to be used in public places such as sidewalks, grocery stores, and public transit. Headphones are also used by people in various professional contexts, such as audio engineers mixing sound for live concerts or sound recordings and DJs, who use headphones to cue up the next song without the audience hearing, aircraft pilots and call center employees. The latter two types of employees use headphones with an integrated microphone.

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  1. DaveC426913

    Why does Bluetooth suck so bad?

    (Serious question here. I really do want to understand if - and possibly how - it's supposed to operate painlessly.)In the 20th century it was printers. In the 21st century it's Bluetooth devices. Every experience with Bluetooth is fraught with repeated failure that just pours gasoline onto a...
  2. DaveC426913

    Hooking up headphones to my smart TV

    I have an LG TV that I would like to hook up to two sets of headphones. (Our house has thin walls, and we like our violent shows.) The TV does not have Bluetooth, and we no longer have a component stereo - just the TV soundbar. Pretty sure my TV has audio out plugs on the back (and other stuff...
  3. T

    Am I overthinking this? (Noise cancelling headphones for airplane noise)

    Can I just shift the wave over by 2Pi to get the opposite wave?
  4. Spinnor

    Google made headphones, power to translate 40 languages

    "Google's Pixel Buds translation will change the world" "Google's Pixel 2 event in San Francisco on Wednesday had a lot of stuff to show off and most of it was more of the same: the next iteration of the flagship smartphone, new Home speakers and various ways of entwining them more deeply into...
  5. S

    What Causes the Strange Sound When Magnets Are Used with Headphones and a Disc?

    I did a little experiment the other day. It involved connecting headphones to a copper disc and a battery. Then I placed a magnet under the disc. When current flows with the magnet present I get this strange sound similar to squeezing ice. What am I hearing? I don't believe it to be the...
  6. J

    Noise isolation headphone recommendations?

    I am looking for some noise isolating headphones for my younger daughter to use when my older daughter is practicing her french horn. It is one loud instrument! I wouldn't expect active noise cancelling headphones to work since I have a hard time believing they can respond quickly as a horn...
  7. G

    B Calculate maximum safe volume for headphones

    I remember doing a physics problem over 30 years ago but I can't remember enough to do it again. The only reason I remember it is that it seemed like it would be so useful when I had teenage kids. Funny how the brain works sometimes. Got teenagers now. We were working on acoustics. If I...
  8. O

    Is my lecturer incorrect or did I just misunderstand? (sound quality)

    I'm a first year electrical engineering student and I had a lecture on Analogue and power electronics today. The main topic the lecturer was talking about was headphones and stereo systems etc. We learned about frequency responses and looked at product specifications and circuit analysis and...
  9. Natanijel

    Solve the Audio Jack Mystery with Nat

    Hello everyone :) I came across a strange situation today when I was listening to my music with my headphones on. When I pressed play to a song, the instrumental intro started off fairly normally (although the audio sounded a little "thinner" than usual, as if compressed), and then, when...
  10. Kevin Harper

    Are 7.1 surround sound headphones possible?

    I am very much into video games. Day Z, Battlefield and stuff like that. In these games it is important to have good headphones so you can hear people sneak up on you, but recently, I have seen ads for 7.1 Surround Sound headphones that actually have multiple drivers in them so that the sound...
  11. N

    Connecting headphones in parallel?

    So i was wondering, if i connected two headsets in parallel before the jack would it send the same sounds to both head sets?
  12. N

    MRI Headphones: Non-Metal Conductors Explained

    So I had to have an MRI today and when your in the machine you wear these headphones so that they can talk to you and stuff, but how could they work with no metal? I realize that there are non-metal conductors but I thought that they had to be doped with metals (to make them semiconductors) so...
  13. I

    Do noise-cancelling headphones use spatial or temporal interference?

    Homework Statement Do noise-cancelling headphones use spatial or temporal interference? Homework Equations The Attempt at a Solution They use spatial interference, right? Temporal interference would cause beats which is not noise-cancelling.
  14. J

    Just got a new pair of headphones with a mic and i have a quick question.

    So this headset has stereo sound and a mic, but the connector only has a tip ring and sleeve. So which part of the connector is for each. (tip for left channel, ring for right channel, sleeve for common, so where does the mic connect.)
  15. cepheid

    How do I repair my wire in stereo headphones with small, non-conducting wires?

    My headphones had a loose connection. I could make the sound cut in and out of the right ear by bending the cable just above the audio plug. So I set about peeling back the insulation. I thought it would be as simple as soldering the broken wire back together. I was wrong for a couple of...
  16. C

    How to engineer specialized headphones

    Hello, I'm a newby at audio electrical engineering. I would like to build headphones that can do double duty as room speakers (in both situations they would be plugged into an ipod headphone jack). What I mean is, I would like to incorporate speakers that are sufficient for playing music...
  17. Doc Al

    Mp3 file plays with headphones but not on built in speakers?

    mp3 file plays with headphones but not on built in speakers?? This is driving me nuts. I have an mp3 file which plays fine on my PC at work, with or without headphones. But the same file on my home laptop only plays with headphones, not on the built in speakers--I get no audio output. (I...
  18. P

    How Can Headphones Act as Antennas

    If you've used Apple's latest iPods, you know that they feature a built-in radio that uses the headphones themselves as an antenna. But how is this possible? I really have two questions about this: 1.) Aren't the headphone wires shielded and insulated so that they should not be able to...
  19. B

    Noise Canceling Headphones Problem

    Hey, I figured you physics geniuses might have an idea regarding what's happening to my headphones: When under certain conditions (some of which I've nailed down, but others I can't figure out) the headphones will start making insanely loud "electric" noises that resemble the "zzzz" sound...
  20. T

    Listening to T.V with Headphones?

    I want to listen to T.V with headphones so that my parents can't hear it, and so that when there's noise in the background I don't have to blast the volume fully to hear it. Is there such a thing that would allow me to do this? (And if they are headphones, are they wireless)
  21. Z

    Noisy Jackhammer Man: Special Headphones Allow Conversation

    Noisy Jackhammer man...has special headphones so he can hear you, you cannot hear him My physics teacher wants us to answer this "A special device can transmit out-of-phase sound from a noisy jackhammer to earphones worn by its operator. Over the noise of the jackhammer, the operator can easily...
  22. R

    Revolutionizing Music Sharing: A New Type of Headphones for Unborn Babies

    New Kind of "Headphones" It has been 11 years since my AP Physics class, which I passed with a "C", so please forgive me if my idea is stupid. Headphones channel sound from one point, which is fine when it is directed into one ear. But when I want to share my love of music with my unborn...
  23. C

    Headphones lose function in one of the earpiece

    I listen to music a lot and I use my CD and MP3 players. But every 6 months or so my headphones lose function in one of the earpiece (usually my left one), and eventually lose function to both. Why is that? I had to constantly switch headphones.