Best wireless headphones for TV
Enjoy shows and movies without disturbing others
There are two main reasons people ask our Advisors about using headphones to watch TV. They have some hearing loss, which usually means they have trouble hearing what the people on the screen are saying. Or they want to watch TV without disturbing family members.
We offer a few headphone solutions for both situations. I’ll take you through your options, explain the advantages and limitations of each, and show you how they work.
What is the best way to watch TV with headphones?
My go-to recommendation is still a dedicated Wireless TV headphone system. These transmitter-based systems are the easiest to setup and use from scratch. In fact, I set up my own 90-year-old grandmother with one of Sennheiser’s popular RS-series headphones.
Crutchfield Art Director Jason reads a book, undisturbed, while his husband Ryan watches TV using Sennheiser TV headphones.
But if you already own a pair of Bluetooth headphones, or plan on getting some soon, I’ve got good news. In the last few years, Bluetooth has become a viable way to listen to TV sound wirelessly.
How does a transmitter-based system work?
These systems consist of two main parts: a transmitter and a headset. The transmitter connects to your TV and sends an audio signal wirelessly to the included headset. You can get up to 300 feet of wireless range.
At my grandmother’s 90th birthday, she told me about her TV sound problem. The built-in speakers on her flat screen are not very good, and she has to blast the volume to understand dialogue in her shows. She recently moved in with my aunt’s family, and didn’t want to bother others by keeping the TV up so loud.
I knew right away that a transmitter-based system would be best, so I chose the top-selling RS 175. I knew it would be easy for her to operate. Volume controls and sound presets like “speech” are right on the headset.
Also, the transmitter and headset are paired out of the box. So she doesn’t have to re-pair every time she wants to use them, like she would with Bluetooth headphones.
How do you connect the transmitter to the TV?
You can connect the transmitter to your TV, cable box, or stereo pretty easily. It typically only takes one wire.
The wireless transmitter connects to your TV with just one wire.
All Sennheiser and Sony models include miniplug or RCA connection cables. Most of the Sennheiser RS series transmitters can also connect using an included optical digital cable.
Check your TV's output connections and manual before buying, or give us a call.
You can even connect the Sony WH-L600 via HDMI to a TV with an HDMI ARC (audio return channel) input.
What if others want to hear the TV while you use the headphones?
There are usually ways to make this work, though it depends on your TV/Audio setup. My grandmother pretty much only watches cable shows, so we connected the RS-175’s transmitter directly to the audio output on the cable box. Since the box is connected to the TV via HDMI, audio plays through both the headphones and the TV speakers.
Connect the transmitter to your cable box's audio ouput, so that others can still hear sound from the TV.
Are there TV headphones for people who have trouble hearing?
While the Sennheiser RS 175 headphones are more of an all-purpose choice, Sennheiser also makes wireless TV headphones that target specific hearing issues. The over-ear RS 195 headphones have special presets for those who have trouble understanding shows or movies. On-ear buttons let you boost speech, suppress annoying loud noises, and compensate for quieter television scenes.
The more compact Sennheiser SET 840 TV includes an in-ear headset and are a popular choice for folks who have hearing problems. This headset is dialed in to improve the sound of speech and include a large volume wheel. It also features balance control, so you can adjust the amount of sound delivered to your left or right ear.
That's me, testing out the Sennheiser SET 840 headphone system — with the handy oversized volume wheel.
Best wireless headphones for movies and gaming
Wireless headphones can be a cost-effective alternative to a home theater system. They take up very little space and can deliver cinematic sound — whispered dialogue, drama-building musical scores, explosive sound effects. Plus, when my wife and kids are asleep, I like that I can enjoy action movies without waking anyone up.
The Sony WH-L600 wireless TV headphone system features simulated, yet realistic 7.1 channel surround sound. I watched a Serena Williams tennis match through them, and could really sense the power and sheer force-of-will she puts into every strike. And the crescendo of the crowd grew with each set, pulling me further into the moment.
Sony's headphone designers took advantage of their company's connections in the entertainment world. "Theater" mode creates a virtual surround sound field that's based on a Sony Pictures sound-mixing process. And Sony's PlayStation® developers helped design the “Game’ mode.
I tried out the Astro A50 headset for both video games and movies in the Crutchfield gaming lounge.
Speaking of video games, the Astro A50 wireless headset and base station is designed for gaming, but works well for TV and movies, too. It connects like the other transmitter systems. The base station plugs into the TV or game system and beams audio wirelessly.
Serious gamers use directional and spatial awareness cues they hear to their competitive advantage. The A50s sonic characteristics add realism to TV sound, too. I tried them in the Crutchfield gaming lounge, and they were just as effective with a high-speed movie chase as they were with a PS4 racing game.
Can you use wired headphones to watch TV?
Most TVs don't have a headphone jack, but you can get the Sennheiser Flex 5000 wireless system. It works like the other wireless transmitter systems, but lets you plug in the headphones you know and love.
The Flex 5000's wireless receiver has a 3.5mm minijack so you can connect and listen through your favorite wired headphones.
How do you use Bluetooth headphones to hear TV sound?
The Soundcast VGtx transmitter is the best solution we offer. It connects to your TV or sound system and sends audio signals wirelessly to your headphones.
I’ve tried other Bluetooth transmitters in the past, and while they got the job done, they had their limitations. What sets the VGtx apart is the improved Bluetooth chipset and larger antenna. You get a much faster, stronger signal, with up to 150 feet of wireless range.
The Soundcast VGtx transmitter beams audio wirelessly to your Bluetooth headphones.
Just be warned – it can be a bit of a bear when you first pair up your headphones. That’s the main complaint we’ve heard from customers, and I had some trouble at first. There’s no onscreen menu, so you have to completely rely on what you hear.
The good news is that after you pair up once, the headphones usually connect to the transmitter pretty reliably after that. Our Tech Support team can help walk you through the initial setup.
What about TVs with Bluetooth?
Several newer TVs have built-in Bluetooth transmitting capabilities. They will deliver wireless audio to any pair of Bluetooth headphones. You can find this option in the TV’s sound setting menu.
I found the Bluetooth audio option in the sound menu of my LG OLED TV.
I’ve tried this at home with my LG OLED TV, and it worked pretty well as long as I stayed in my living room. Standard Bluetooth has limited range, so the signal dropped out whenever I left the room and went in the kitchen.
I’ve tested with this with a few other TVs here at Crutchfield, and I’ve noticed that audio and video don’t always sync up. You can occasionally get the dreaded "dubbed movie effect." No TV brand or model seems to be any better or worse for this, and it was more or less noticeable, depending on what I was watching.
Some TVs have settings and adjustments that help you correct this issue. But I found that other TVs won’t let you make adjustments when paired with Bluetooth. One suggestion is to turn the TV off and turn it back on with the Bluetooth audio "on" to re-pair.
This is another area where the superior chipset in the Soundcast VGtx transmitter helps. It includes aptX™ Low Latency, a wireless technology that keeps the audio and video in better sync. To take advantage of this, your headphones also have to have the Low Latency aptX chip built in. And keep in mind the wired connection to your TV can also cause sync issues, so you still might have to dive into the TV settings and make adjustments.
Best Bluetooth headphones for TV
There are many headphones that will work well for watching TV. For the most part, the ones that sound good for music can handle all the high peaks and deep impact you get from a movie or TV soundtrack. But here are a few that I like for very specific reasons:
Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless: True wireless earbuds – the ones with no cord connecting the two earpieces – might not be the first type of headphones you think of for TV watching. But these Sennheisers have a lot going for them. They are not only the best-sounding true wireless earbuds available, but they're also our best-sounding headphones with aptX Low Latency.
With no wires, I could turn and move however I wanted — nothing obstructed my head from sinking into the cushions.
I tried them with the SoundCast VGtx and the video and audio synced up nicely – no matter what I was watching. It was really liberating to move around with the ultra light earbuds and absolutely no cord to weigh me down or get caught up on anything. And when I sat on the couch, it was easier to relax wearing these than most of the over-ear TV headphones I’ve tried.
Audeze Mobius: These unique headphones were developed primarily as a gaming headset, but they are just as good for TV. I’ve written an in-depth review, but here are two quick reasons why these are a great choice for TV watching:
- They are the only wireless headphones with top-shelf planar-magnetic drivers.
- Audeze has incorporated head-tracking and surround processing for a one-of-a-kind headphone experience.
Here’s how I described that experience: “You get the audio equivalent of a Virtual Reality visual experience. You feel like you are in the scene unfolding on your screen or monitor.”
Jenny, Crutchfield IT specialist, enjoys the Mobius headphones in our gaming lounge here at HQ.
When we first tried the headphones, I set up an informal demo at my desk. I played YouTube videos on my computer, connected the headphones, and invited my co-workers over.
We pulled up a clip of the martial arts classic House of Flying Daggers. Everyone enjoyed the sound of bamboo spears flying from all directions. And when the characters started speaking, I told everyone to move their head, so they could see that the dialogue was still coming from the “front.”
Sony WH-1000XM3: So far I’ve talked a lot about wearing TV headphones, so you don’t disturb others. But you can also ensure others don’t bother you with noise-canceling headphones. Sony’s flagship model features adaptive noise-canceling circuitry.
Sony's best noise-canceling headphones help block out external sounds so you can focus on your show or movie.
This special technology takes your surroundings into account, then adjusts the level of noise-cancellation. The drivers are tuned for strong bass, so effects will have full impact – but it’s not at the expense of the midrange clarity and high frequency detail.
Need help with your selection?
Just ask our Advisors. They can discuss your setup and find the headphone solution that works for you.
Email them or call 1-800-555-7088 if you have any questions.