There are more than a few ways to connect headphones to your TV, each with their own pros and cons. Let’s do some research to help you choose 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 be wondering if it’s worth it.
Headphones are a convenient way to adjust the volume to your comfort level while also blocking out the noise that comes with using the TV.
They’re perfect for any situation where you want to hear what’s on the TV (or you want your roommates, partner or kids to hear it without it interfering with your work or sleep).
They’re also great if someone in your house is hearing impaired, as they can be used to adjust the volume just for that person, rather than setting the volume to a level that is uncomfortable for other people.
How can I connect headphones to my TV?
While in the past there were very few ways to connect headphones to your TV, the proliferation of smart TVs, streaming devices, consoles and dedicated TV headphone products has really expanded your options.
In fact, it’s entirely possible that you already have everything you need to get started. As you read through the different options, you might decide to skip the existing gear and settle for a solution that better suits your needs.
To help you narrow down your options, let’s look at what options your TV might offer and what hardware you need.
As you read through the list below, don’t forget your soundbar or media receiver, if you have one. It’s possible that your TV doesn’t have a specific port or jack, but the equipment you have plugged into the TV might.
Your TV has a headphone jack or an optical audio connector
Smaller TVs (32″ and under) often have a headphone jack, as the manufacturer reasonably assumes you are sitting close to the TV.
Incidentally, if you’re using a computer monitor with a Chromecast or makeshift TV, there’s an even higher chance there’s a headphone jack, since many monitors come with them.
The easiest way to take advantage of the headphone jack is to simply plug a pair of headphones into it. But sitting opposite the TV isn’t exactly an ideal solution, as you end up with a long 3.5mm extension cord draped across your living space – let’s look at audio connections on larger TVs and talk then via a wireless solution that works for TVs big and small.
Larger TVs 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” says “Service”, “RS-232C” or something similar, it’s a service port that intended for use by the manufacturer or a technician.
When the headphone-like jack says “IR Blaster,” it’s for use with an infrared “blaster” cable, which allows your TV to send an infrared remote control signal to nearby devices like a cable box.
While most larger TVs don’t have true headphone jacks, they almost always have an optical audio output. You can purchase an inexpensive digital-to-analog converter that converts the optical audio signal to an analog audio signal. You can connect headphones or use the simple RCA L/R coaxial output.
Just like the headphone jack on a smaller TV, you can plug wired headphones directly into this adapter port. But again, running a long cable across your living room is a hassle. Instead, we recommend plugging a pair of wireless RF headphones into your TV or the adapter mentioned above.
RF, or radio frequency, headphones offer a lag-free and easy-to-setup way to enjoy wireless audio with your TV. In addition, you can easily add additional headphones. So if you’re looking for a wireless TV listening solution for multiple people, you can’t beat it.
You could, of course, skip the RF headphone setup and connect a Bluetooth adapter to the analogue output. This allows you to pair Bluetooth headphones to your TV if it doesn’t natively support Bluetooth. While we have our options, we will always choose 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 simple as putting your headphones into pairing mode, then diving into the menu for your specific TV to complete the pairing process.
On the other hand, a lot of people have Bluetooth headphones lying around, so you probably won’t have any cash when you buy a new pair. Even if you need a new pair, you can still get a decent pair of over-the-ear Bluetooth headphones without breaking the bank.
On the downside, Bluetooth can have noticeable latency, and typically smart TVs only support single headsets, meaning 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 that you use as a media player, or if you have one of the streaming solutions on the market that has a headphone jack in the remote control, you can take advantage of this to enjoy semi-wireless listening. It won’t be totally wireless, but the headphone cable will only drop at the remote or controller.
Several popular Roku models, like the Roku Ultra and Roku Streaming Stick 4K+, feature 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 lets you listen through your phone.
Roku Ultra (2022 model)
The Roku Ultra is lightning fast, supports 4K, and the premium remote has a handy headphone jack.
Additionally, if you have a Playstation or Xbox, you can connect headphones to the controller much like Roku owners can connect to the remote and listen to the TV that way.
The advantage of this solution if you already have the devices (like Roku or Xbox One) is that it’s absolutely trivial to plug in a pair of headphones.
The downside is that unlike plugging your headphones directly into the TV (either wired or wireless), you can only hear what that device is playing.
For example, if you’re using headphones with your Xbox and want to hear audio from 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 to the device.
You need to check your device model and documentation to see if it supports Bluetooth. Don’t assume your Roku or Xbox supports it just because you saw a snippet on a Google search because it varies between model versions.
As with pairing Bluetooth headphones directly to your TV, you’re usually limited to using a single pair of headphones. A notable exception to this is the Apple TV 4K, which supports dual-private listening mode when using compatible headphones. If you’re an all-in-Apple household, this is a really cool feature as it lets you seamlessly pair up to two pairs of AirPods with your Apple TV.
When choosing, focus on comfort and versatility
Ultimately, you are the best judge of which solution you need. But before you choose any of the above options to stream audio from your TV to your headphones, we encourage you to really think about your use case.
If you really just need a way to listen to your video games in the middle of the night without waking up your spouse, probably the cheapest and easiest way to tackle the problem is by plugging your headphones directly into your Xbox or Playstation controller.
But if there are a variety of situations where you want to hear the TV without disturbing others, such as For example, when watching games and TV, it pays to get your hands on an adapter and some wireless headphones to ensure everything is yours. The TV comes through loud and clear – not just content from a single connected device.
Sometimes it’s worth paying a little more for convenience, and it’s really hard to beat the convenience of plugging in an RF headset base once, and then simply taking the headphones off the stand and putting them on whenever you’re enjoying private listening want.