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Finding the Best TV Headphones

Most folks will find the best TV headphones are wireless headphones.  Using wireless headphones for TV viewing has many benefits; not only convenience but also improved speech intelligibility (see box below) and the ability for multiple viewers to set the TV volume to their liking.  Wireless headphones can be bluetooth, RF (radio) or digital transmission types.  Some of the best sounding and widest array of options in the wireless field come from Sennheiser, which use Kleer. Kleer is a wireless technology that streams uncompressed digital CD-quality (16-bit, 44.1 kHz) stereo audio in the 2.4 GHzband.  Since Kleer's wireless technology requires very little battery power to operate, it is very efficient for wireless headphone use. Your TV will have a digital or analog connections (or both).  This will determine what wireless headphones and accessories you'll need.  If you have analog outs on your TV, choose an analog wireless headphone.  

Adding a DAC

If you have digital outs you can add add an outboard DAC that will allow the use of a regular analog headphone. A DAC is a Digital to Analog Converter. A DAC takes this stream of digital numbers (1's and 0's) which is an interpretation of the audio from a CD player, computer, or any other digital source and converts it to an analog electrical signal that can be amplified and used to drive headphones or speakers. 

Read more about a DAC here.

TV Connection Diagram

Connecting Wireless Headphones to Your TV

Wireless headphones have a wireless transceiver inside them that communicate with the headphone base station, which is directly connected to your TV. The base station connects to your TV via analog audio output or digital audio output connections, depending on your  TV (see inset right).  Most wireless headphones include required cabling(check this).  Whether connected via digital or analog, the TV speakers will be adjustable via normal TV controls, while the headphone listener will use the volume control on the headphones.

Today, many televisions only have digital outputs.  While this can provide better quality, digital wireless headphone options are more limited and can be expensive. One solution to this problem is the Fiio D07 DAC, and inexpensive digital-to-analog converter that will convert your digital signal out of the TV to analog, allowing you to use analog wireless headphones.

If more than one person wants to wear headphones, each headphone's volume can be controlled independently. Extra wireless headphones can be purchased and used from the same base station,  although only one headphone can be charged at a time.

Although sound quality is not as good, you can also plug the base station audio directly into the headphone jack (1/8″ or 3.5mm mini plug) on your TV.  This turns the TV speakers OFF. Some older televisions do not have dedicated rear panel audio connections, so this would be the only method for using headphones with your TV.  On most modern TVs, connecting headphones automatically turns off the TV speakers and you'll be able to adjust the headphone volume with the volume for the TV set. You can also use any regular wired pair of headphones with a TV's headphone jack, although a headphone extension cord may be needed.

Speech Intelligibility & Headphones

An important aspect of TV and movie watching is speech intelligibility; how clearly you can hear and understand dialogue.  Another great benefit of using headphones is that all of these particular models are optimized for the best speech intelligibility possible.  Typically, this is determined by how well TV speakers can reproduce lower-treble sounds. The frequency range which determines audible differences between “S” and “F” sounds, for example, occurs between 3kHz and 7kHz, often called the 'presence' region. Many TV's have lousy fidelity in this range, and turning it up louder simply increases distortion modulation. Headphones are able to provide improved fidelity in these critical lower-treble frequencies (and across the board, really) which allow users to listen at a lower, safer volumes.  They allow others in the room to listen at regular volumes via the TV speakers.

Click here to see our full list of Wireless Headphones for TV listening. 





3 Responses

Jens Daabeck
Jens Daabeck

November 23, 2015

Hi, I have read your articles about wireless TV headphones with great interest. You mention Bluetooth headphones but don’t seem to recommend this type for TV use. Is that because of a possible delay of the sound? We have recently got a Samsung UE55JS9000 SUHD TV with a built-in Bluetooth transmitter, although I don’t know the Bluetooth standard used. Which wireless type of TV headphone would you recommend for this TV?

John McLellan
John McLellan

October 12, 2015

Is the Audio Digital output active at the same time as the TV speakers? Want to be able to hear the TV from speakers and headphones at the same time

David brooks
David brooks

August 10, 2014

Hi,I am a single gentleman and just I watch my TV.I have digital output and looking for wireless headphones,sounds like you favor analog output vs digital.not sure what to buy,I have lost some hearing and would analog be as good as digital?although I like being frugal,I could afford digital.would welcome your input-thx,dave

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