The pairing of headphones and TVs may not look natural, but they do complement each other well. To watch content on a screen bigger than your phone while others in the house are fast asleep, you need a TV with a headphone jack to plug in your headphones. However, like most modern smartphones omitting the 3.5mm audio port (thanks to Apple), an increasing number of TV manufacturers are also bidding adieu to the legendary audio port.
New TVs do not have headphone jacks because the tech is increasingly becoming outdated. With wireless headphones, speakers, etc. releasing by the dozens each year, it just doesn’t make business sense to keep the 3.5mm jack in TVs anymore. Headphone jacks, after all, cost money.
If you are among those who depended on TV headphone jacks, and the industry transition from analog to digital has miffed you (to say the least), you must read this article. The good news is you need not discard your wired headphones. And if you are looking to cut the cord and buy a pair of new wireless headphones to enhance your TV watching experience, you’ve got some solid recommendations at the end.
How to Connect Headphones/Earphones to a New TV
Based on your TV model, there are multiple ways to connect a pair of headphones to it.
Bluetooth is typically built into small devices. The technology is not widespread in televisions – including the modern ones. If you have enough dough to spend on a premium smart TV, you will have Bluetooth as a default feature across the range.
If so, there’s no need to mourn over the missing TV audio jack. This is because these Bluetooth-enabled televisions help you wirelessly connect to a range of Bluetooth devices, including speakers, soundbars, headphones, and even smartphones.
And if your TV has no built-in Bluetooth, there are Bluetooth receivers or transmitters to bridge the gap. These adapters usually plug into your TV’s 3.5mm audio port and make your non-Bluetooth television Bluetooth-friendly instantly.
If you’re sold on the concept and looking to buy one, you will come across many options.
The Avantree Audikast Plus is quite a solid option. The Bluetooth transmitter:
- Simultaneously transmits to two devices.
- Takes audio inputs from optical, USB, 3.5mm AUX, and RCA output ports.
- Supports low latency (minimal delay) audio.
You might ask, “Why use a Bluetooth adapter when there is a headphone jack on the TV already?” That’s because not everyone fancies being wired to their television sets – most do not.
If your TV has Bluetooth, but your headphone is a traditional wired set, you may use Bluetooth adapters such as the APEKX Clip Bluetooth Audio Adapter to turn your headphones wireless.
Use the Roku 3 Remote
If you stream content on your TV using the Roku 3, use the headphone jack built into the streaming player’s remote to good effect.
After you power on your Roku 3, and start streaming your favorite content, connect your headphones to your Roku remote audio jack. Once inserted, no audio will come out of your television speakers or soundbar. You can even manage the volume through your headphones using the Roku remote.
The Roku remote is Wi-Fi-based, which means it has a longer range than Bluetooth. The streaming player uses Wi-Fi Direct to connect with the Roku remote. However, based on the level of Wi-Fi interference in your home, there could be video-audio synchronization issues.
Once you plug in your headphones into the Roku remote, the TV’s speakers will be muted. That should work fine if you’re the only person in the room. But if there are others watching TV too and still want to use your headphones, try this simple trick:
- Plug your headphones into the remote’s headphone jack. A volume icon would appear on your TV screen’s right side.
- Now press the volume up and down buttons on the remote’s side in the following order: up two times, down two times, up thrice, and down thrice. This secret code enables your Roku device to play audio via your headphones and TV speakers simultaneously.
- Once you’re done listening through your headphones, unplug your headphones from the remote. The audio shall now come through the TV speakers only.
To listen to audio through headphones and not mute your TV speakers, you’ll have to repeat the same setup process. Unfortunately, your Roku player or remote doesn’t store or remember the settings and switches to default each time you unplug.
Enabling this function may not make much sense if you’re going to watch TV with your headphones on in the same room as others. But if you want to head to the adjacent room and still listen to the audio, this dual-audio feature comes in handy.
Besides the Roku 3, other Roku devices with a headphone jack-integrated remote are the Roku 4, Roku Premiere Plus, and Roku Ultra. And like other media streaming devices such as Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Android TV, Roku also lets you connect your headphones to the streaming device wirelessly, provided your headphones are Bluetooth.
Also, Roku isn’t the only device that offers the option to plug in headphones into its remote and transmit audio wirelessly. Some gaming consoles provide comparable features.
For instance, the PS4’s DualShock 4 controller comes with a built-in audio jack that also takes in any pair of wired headphones. The initial setup, however, would be different and perhaps a tad complex.
And, like the Roku, some cable TV set-top boxes could also come with a headphone jack.
If you’d like to learn more about the different ways to connect your wireless headphones to any TV, watch this video:
Consider Dedicated Wireless Headphones
If your TV has a headphone jack but no built-in Bluetooth, and you’re not a fan of wired headphones or Bluetooth adapters or transmitters, consider dedicated wireless headphones. All Bluetooth headphones are wireless, but not all wireless headphones are Bluetooth-enabled.
A pair of dedicated wireless headphones comes with a base stand that connects to your TV via the 3.5mm jack or optical audio port. The headphones use radio frequency and not Bluetooth. And this means a much greater range. For context, Bluetooth headphones usually have a range of not more than 30 feet. RF headphones have a range of close to 300 feet – provided there are zero obstructions in between.
The drawback, however, is you cannot use other audio devices with RF headphones. If you have a soundbar connected to your TV, for example, you’ll have to disconnect the audio device first so that your RF headphones could function. This also means RF headphones work best for the solitary TV watching experience. To enable wireless audio for multiple people, you’ll need additional pairs of RF headphones.
Best Wireless TV Headphones
Hooking your television with a pair of wired or wireless headphones is not just a matter of convenience and privacy. Still, some functional reasons are why some people choose to listen to TV audio through a pair of cans. Dialogues, for instance, sound clear and better through headphones than via TV speakers. Soundbars and similar audio setups are great to fill up a room, but they are not known for voice reproduction.
Seniors in the house invariably crank up the TV volume to clearly listen to dialogues in a show. If you live with aging parents or grandparents and watch many TV shows, they would appreciate a pair of wireless headphones more than you would.
Though any kind of wireless headphones can be used with a TV, dedicated wireless headphones pair the best with televisions. The range is usually great, and audio latency is minimal too. But if you consume lots of music on your TV and the audio quality of dedicated wireless headphones is not cutting it for you, a pair of Bluetooth headphones would be ideal.
Here are some of the best wireless headphones money can buy (includes dedicated setups and Bluetooth headphones).
P.S.: The following headphones are not based on a specific budget or certain features.
The Sennheiser RS 175 is an impressive pair of RF headphones offering various ergonomic, compact package features. The Surround Sound and Bass Boost listening modes, for instance, offer a unique listening experience.
The headphones last a fairly decent 18 hours at a stretch. And like all headphones bundled in with a transmitter, setting up the RS 175 is easy and quick. Just plug the external transmitter into your television, and you’re all set for a holistic audio experience.
The RS 175 can be paired with another pair, as the transmitter for the headphones supports two headphones simultaneously. Therefore, if you’re considering buying another pair for your partner or roommate, buy one without the transmitter and save some money.
As far as sound goes, it’s great – like almost every other Sennheiser. The audio through the RS 175 is detailed and neutral. You can easily discern background effects and voices that you normally don’t get to hear from your soundbars or TV speakers.
The BackBeat Pro 2 SE by Plantronics is arguably the best pair of TV headphones in its price category. It’s the second iteration of the popular BackBeat Pro model and fixes a few things from the original pair – primarily the bulk. The headphones have a pretty well-balanced sound signature, highlighting the rumble and thump from the action sequences in a movie without causing the voices to muffle.
The battery performance is arguably the best among all kinds of Bluetooth headphones, lasting around 30 hours on a charge. However, some users have claimed the battery comes good for only about 25 hours on a single charge, which is still quite impressive. Adding to its longevity are the many power-saving features, such as smart pause mode and auto-off timer.
The BackBeat Pro 2 doesn’t look anything out of the ordinary, but it’s also not extremely boring to look at. It’s a very straightforward, honest design – to say the least.
As alluded to above, the sound is slightly bass-heavy. Casual users will find it quite pleasing and fun. Audiophiles, however, would find the bass a bit too overbearing. However, to Plantronics’ defense, the slight boost in bass helps quieten external noises a bit more effectively with the headphones on.
The Power Acoustik HP902RFT is a pack of two RF headphones in one. It could be paired with two more pairs of HP902RFTs, which means up to four people could be connected to the same transmitter simultaneously.
Despite being quite inexpensive and utilitarian, the headphones do not skimp on audio quality and performance. However, do not expect it to sound like a high-end pair. If you don’t expect much, you would be pleasantly surprised by the audio.
Setting up the headphones is quite easy. But the product bundle doesn’t have a charging station or AC adapter for the headphones. You’ll have to buy some batteries and a power adapter separately. The headphones were initially designed for car usage, which is why the accessories are missing in the box.
As mentioned above, these headphones sound excellent for the price. Though a tad compressed, the sound is overall balanced across various frequencies. Even extremely low bass does not drown out other sounds. Most importantly, the audio does not screech at any point – an issue that’s almost synonymous with headphones in this price range.
If you are an avid TV watcher and don’t care much about music, the HP902RFT more than gets the job done.
The Sennheiser RS 195 is your best bet if you’re seeking “detail” in sounds. For dialogue-heavy shows, proper sound reproduction is essential. TV shows with chaotic events would be difficult to keep up with for people who have some level of hearing loss.
The RS 195 has been built by Sennheiser in collaboration with IDMT (Fraunhofer Institute for Digital Media Technology) to cater to such listeners. IDMT is known for making consumer electronics with a focus on hearing aid technology. As a result, the RS 195 has audiophile sound quality (quite characteristically) and packs in configurable elements for individuals with hearing concerns.
For configuration, the RS 195 offers seven unique EQ (equalization) presets as options. Also, there are a couple of hearing boost modes – music mode and speech mode, which can be toggled with a simple touch of the ear cup button. The speech mode helps suppress background noises when a character on screen speaks.
At around $500, the RS 195 is not cheap. But if you are looking for the absolute best in TV audio quality, and have the budget to boot, go splurge. And like the RS 175, the RS 195 is also radio frequency-based and has a range of 328 feet (around 100 meters).
The Avantree HT5009 is for people on a budget. Unlike the category of premium headphones, the budget section has way too many options, making it quite challenging to pick the ideal one. Luckily, the Avantree HT5009 is an easy recommendation. For the sub-$100 price tag, the headphones’ performance will exceed most people’s expectations.
The setup is pretty straightforward. Just hook the external transmitter to your TV, and your headphones would get paired with your TV automatically in an instant. The transmitter device used is Class 1 Bluetooth, which means you can expect a wireless range of up to 30 meters (100 feet).
The headphones support a couple of high-quality codecs: aptX Low Latency and aptX HD. These audio compression algorithms, which help keep latency to the minimum, are usually found in more expensive headphones. Like other headphone transmitters on this list, the HT5009’s transmitter can simultaneously be paired with two HT5009s.
Other headphones that deserve mention are:
- Logitech G433
- Philips SHP9500
- Audio Technica ATH-M50xBT
- Sony WH-CH700N
- Sony WH-1000XM4
- Grado GW100
- AKG Y500
- Bose QC 35 II
These headphones deserve an honorable mention because all are excellent sounding headphones in their rights. However, the majority of them are music-focused and not purpose-designed for non-musical content as such.
Unlike some of the headphones featured in the primary list above, these headphones are slightly expensive. Though the RS 195 is not cheap by any stretch of the imagination, it has certain unique technologies and features, making it suitable for TV watching and justifying its price tag.
Modern TVs without a headphone jack are not necessarily bad, especially if you consider the long wires needed to pair your headphones with your TV physically. Also, with a plethora of Bluetooth headphones around, using wired headphones in this day and age can be likened to stick shifts despite having the option to go automatic.
Even if you somehow manage to connect your wired headphones to your TV, be wary of the fact that you’ll be physically tethered to your TV – which heightens chances of pulling the cable or tripping over it. The wired approach should be fine if it’s a small screen TV. For larger screens, which almost all modern TVs come with, wireless is the way to go.