There are more than a few ways to connect a pair of headphones to your TV set, each with its own perks and downsides. Let’s investigate to help you pick the right method for your needs.
Why Connect Headphones to Your TV?
If you’ve never thought about adding headphones to your TV, you might wonder if it’s worth it.
Headphones are a convenient way to adjust the volume to your comfort level while simultaneously containing the noise that comes with using the TV.
They’re perfect for any situation where you want to hear what is on the TV (or you want your roommates, partner, or kids to hear without it disrupting your work or sleep).
They’re also great if anyone in your home is hearing impaired as they can be used to adjust the volume just for that person instead of turning the volume up to a level that is uncomfortable for other people.
How Can I Connect Headphones to My TV?
While historically, there were very few options for connecting headphones to your TV, the proliferation of smart TVs, streaming devices, consoles, and dedicated TV headphone products has really opened up your options.
In fact, it’s quite possible you already have what you need on hand to get started. Though as you read through all the different options, you might decide to skip using the gear you have on hand and opt for a solution better tailored to your needs.
To help you narrow down your options, let’s look at what options your TV might offer and what hardware you need.
While reading through the following list, don’t forget about your soundbar or media receiver, if present. It’s possible that your TV doesn’t have a particular port or jack, but the devices you have hooked up to the TV set might.
Your TV Has a Headphone Jack or Optical Audio Port
Smaller televisions (32″ and below) often have a headphone jack on them, as the manufacturer reasonably assumes that you might be sitting near the television.
If you’re using a computer monitor with a Chromecast or such as a makeshift TV, by the way, there’s an even higher chance there is a headphone jack because many monitors come with them.
The simplest way to take advantage of the headphone jack is to just plug a pair of headphones into it. But if you’re sitting across the room from the TV, that’s not exactly an idea solution as you’ll end up with a lengthy 3.5mm extension cord draped across your living space—let’s look at the audio ports on larger televisions and then talk about a wireless solution that works for TVs big and small.
Larger televisions rarely have headphone jacks. If you see what looks like a headphone jack on the back of your TV, but instead of a headphone icon or a label like “audio,” it says “Service,” “RS-232C,” or something similar, it is a service port intended for use by the manufacturer or a technician.
If the headphone-looking jack says “IR Blaster,” it’s intended to be used with an infrared “blaster” cable that allows your TV to send an infrared remote signal to adjacent devices like a cable box.
So while most larger TVs don’t have actual headphone jacks, they do almost always have an optical audio output port. You can purchase an inexpensive digital-to-analog converter that will convert the optical audio output into an analog audio signal. You can plug in headphones or use the basic RCA L/R coax output.
Prozor Digital to Analog Converter
This inexpensive little box converts the digital audio signal from your TV's optical port into a headphone-friendly analog signal.
Just like with the headphone jack on a smaller TV, you could plug a pair of wired headphones directly into that adapter port. But again, having a long cable draped across your living room is a hassle. Instead, we’d recommend plugging a pair of wireless RF headphones into your TV or the aforementioned adapter.
Sennheiser RS 135 Wireless RF Headphones
These Sennhesier wireless RF headphones are a classic for a reason and are the best option for the majority of people looking for RF TV headphones.
RF, or radio-frequency, headphones offer a lag-free and easy-to-setup way to enjoy wireless audio with your TV. On top of that, you can add extra headphones with no issue. So if you happen to be looking for a wireless TV listening solution for multiple people, you can’t beat them.
You could, of course, skip the RF headphone setup and plug a Bluetooth adapter into the analog output. This would allow you to pair Bluetooth headphones with your TV if it doesn’t natively support Bluetooth. Though given our options, we’ll always pick RF headphones over Bluetooth headphones to avoid latency.
Your TV Supports Bluetooth Audio
Most smart TVs support Bluetooth audio, which means you can pair any Bluetooth headset with them. It’s as easy as putting your headphones in pairing mode and then digging into the menu for your particular TV to finish the pairing process.
On the upside, lots of people have Bluetooth headphones lying around, so you’re likely not out any money buying a new pair. Even if you do need a new pair, you can pick up a decent pair of over-the-ear Bluetooth headphones without breaking the bank.
Anker Soundcore Life Q20 ANC Headphones
They're inexpensive, comfortable, and well suited for use as Bluetooth TV headphones.
On the downside, Bluetooth can have noticeable latency, and typically smart TVs only support single headsets, which means you’re out of luck if you want a pair for yourself and a pair for your spouse.
Your Remote or Controller Has a Headphone Jack
If you have a video game console you use as a media player, or you have one of the streaming solutions on the market that has a headphone jack in the remote, you can take advantage of that to enjoy semi-wireless listening. It won’t be totally wire-free, but the headphone wire will only drape down to the remote or controller.
Several popular Roku models, such as the Roku Ultra and Roku Streaming Stick 4K+ have a remote headphone jack. Roku also sells a remote upgrade to support headphones if your current one doesn’t, and they have a Roku Remote app (for iOS and Android) that allows you to listen through your phone.
Roku Ultra (2022 Model)
The Roku Ultra is snappy fast, supports 4K, and the premium remote features a handy headphone jack.
In addition, if you have a Playstation or Xbox you can plug headphones into the controller, much like Roku owners can plug into the remote and listen to the TV that way.
The upside for this solution, if you already have the devices (such as the Roku or Xbox One) is that it’s absolutely trivial to plug in a pair of headphones.
The downside is that, unlike hooking your headphones up directly to the TV (either wired or wirelessly), you can only hear what the device in question is playing.
For example, if you’re using headphones with your Xbox and want to listen to the audio for a Netflix show you’re watching, you’ll need to watch the show using the Xbox Netflix app.
Your Console or Streaming Box Supports Bluetooth
If your game console or streaming box supports Bluetooth, you can pair Bluetooth headphones directly with the device.
You’ll need to check your device model and documentation to see if it supports Bluetooth. Don’t assume that just because you saw a snippet on a Google search that your Roku or Xbox supports it because it varies between model versions.
Like pairing Bluetooth headphones with your TV directly, you’ll usually be limited to using a single set of headphones. A notable exception to this is the Apple TV 4K, which supports dual private listening mode if you’re using compatible headphones. If you’re an all-in-for-Apple household, it’s a really cool feature as you can seamlessly pair up to two pairs of AirPods to your Apple TV.
When Choosing, Focus on Convenience and Versatility
Ultimately, you’re the best judge of what solution you need. But before you select one of the above options to get audio from your TV to your headphones, we’d encourage you really think about your use case.
If all you really need is a way to hear your video games in the middle of the night without waking up your spouse, plugging your headphones right into your Xbox or Playstation controller is likely the cheapest and most simple way to approach the problem.
But if there are a variety of situations where you’d like to hear the TV without bothering anyone else, like watching both gaming and watching TV, it’s worth the extra hassle of getting your hands on an adapter and some wireless headphones to ensure everything your TV comes through loud and clear—not just the content from a single attached device.
Sometimes it’s worth paying a little more for convenience, and it’s really tough to beat the convenience of plugging in an RF headset base once and then just popping the headphones off the stand and putting them on whenever you want to enjoy private listening.
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