5 Best Ways to Watch TV with Headphones
Don't give up on TV time just because someone's napping on the sofa (or you simply can't agree on what to watch). You don't have to retreat to the bedroom to watch on your tablet, either. A nice set of headphones lets you enjoy watching TV while everyone else enjoys their peace and quiet.
But when you grab your headphones, you'll find the it hard to relax on the couch when you're tethered to the TV that's only a few feet long. If you can't stand being tethered to the TV, it's time to go headphone shopping. But which headphones should you get, and what do you need to connect them to your television? We run through everything you need to know about wireless listening, plus share our top picks for headphones that deliver exactly what you're looking for.
Best Streaming Player for Wireless Listening: Roku Premiere+ and Ultra
If you already have a Roku, you may already have a mostly wireless listening setup, depending which Roku you own. Certain models feature a remote with a built-in headphone jack to solve just this problem. By plugging in an ordinary pair of headphones, you can watch TV without bothering the rest of the family. It's not exactly wireless — there's still a cable running from your headphones to the remote — but you still get the freedom to watch from whatever seat you like.
The beauty of this plan is its low cost. Even if you don't own a Roku, this solution saves you from buying anything else, and it won't break your budget. Don't forget: the Roku is among ourfavorite streaming media players. Thoughtful features like the remote headphone jack, which you won't find on any other player, are one of the reasons why. If you're in the market for a new streaming media player, the Roku Premiere+ and Roku Ultra both include a remote with a headphone jack, or you can buy the Roku Enhanced remote separately for certain Roku models ($30) direct from Roku.
But if you’re not interested in buying a new media player, other smart options exist.
Best Way to Use Your Existing Bluetooth Headphones: Harman Kardon BTA-10 External Bluetooth Adapter
Some newer smart TVs have Bluetooth built in, which allows you to pair any standard Bluetooth headphones with your television — no muss, no fuss. However, there's a good chance your television isn't Bluetooth-ready, in which case you'll need an adapter. The adapter connects to your television audio input and then transmits the sound via Bluetooth to your headphones. The typical range is 30 feet or more.
Our favorite adapter is the Harman Kardon BTA-10 External Bluetooth Adapter, because of its simple setup. The BTA-10 connects to your television via a standard headphone jack (3.5mm audio cable) or an RCA jack. It includes cables for both, so you won't have to hunt down extra accessories.
The adapter works just like any Bluetooth system. Just click a button on the BTA-10, and put your headphones into pairing mode. The two devices should find one another and link up without a problem. An LED indicator on the BTA-10 blinks when it's in pairing mode and stays lit when it's paired, so you get a clear indication of what's happening.
If you don't already have a pair of Bluetooth headphones to use with your newly Bluetooth-enabled TV, check out the budget-friendly options on our list of the best Bluetooth headphones under $50. All in all, using an adapter with the headphones you have, or buying an inexpensive new set of headphones, is the most economical way to add wireless listening to your television.
Price: $45.90 at Amazon
Best Headphones for Two: ShareMe headphones
If you're looking to catch up on your favorite show with a friend but don't want to fill the room with sound, your best bet is a set of ShareMe headphones. ShareMe isn't actually a specific model of headphone but a type of technology used to let headphones share a single sound source without any tangled wires. A pair of ShareMe headphones connects to each other wirelessly and plays the exact same sound on both.
You get two options on either side of the budget range, the $56 Mixcder ShareMe headphones or the $119 Phiaton BT 460 headphones. Both are Bluetooth headsets, though both have a cable if you want to plug them in. Both produce solid sound and boast great battery life —16 hours for the Mixcder, 20 hours for the Phiaton. Though the Phiaton headphones have better sound and a sleeker interface (controlled by tapping the headphone ear cup, versus the Mixcder’s more standard buttons), it's up to you whether that's worth an extra $60 per pair.
With either of these sharing-friendly sets, you'll still need a way to connect them to your television. If you don't have a TV with built-in Bluetooth, you’ll need a Bluetooth adapter (see above) or a Roku remote (also above) to plug one set of the headphones into.
Best Headphones for Gaming: LucidSound LS30 Gaming Headset
If you're playing games rather than just listen, you'll need a pair of comfortable headphones including a good microphone to let you coordinate with fellow gamers. That can be a tough combination to find without any wires, especially if you're looking for something at an affordable price point, but the LucidSound LS30 fits the bill.
The LS30 has padded headband memory foam ear cups for comfort. Simple control buttons are located right on the ear cup, including separate volume controls for game volume and chat volume. The removable boom microphone produces good voice chat quality. The LS30 offers a solid 15 hours of battery life. The headset is designed to work wirelessly with Xbox 360 and Xbox One and PlayStation 3 and 4 consoles; the Xbox One does require a sound cable that runs from your headphones to your controller in order to chat. While these headphones are designed with console gaming in mind, they'll do just as well when paired with your PC or mobile device.
If you want to keep things under $50, your options are relatively limited. Your best option may be to use any Bluetooth headphones you have, because you won't find anything wireless with a good boom mic for much less than $100. If you have a Bluetooth headset for your smartphone that's also supported by your console, you'll do just fine and save some cash.
Price: $118.50 at Amazon
Headphones for Best Possible Wireless TV Sound: Sennheiser RS 195
Sennheiser has been a high-end audio brand since 1945, and its RS 195 and RS 165 closed-back, wireless headphones offer top-tier sound quality. The over-ear design reduces background noise to help you focus on what you're watching. The pricier 195 model offers exceptional sound with different modes for speech and music, resulting in sound that comes through crystal clear.
Instead of Bluetooth, these headphones use a special Sennheiser transmitter (included) that works from 100 feet (for the RS 165) to 330 feet (for the RS 195) away. The transmitter is as simple to set up as any Bluetooth adapter. Just plug it in to your television (or other audio device) via an optical digital audio output or a standard 3.5mm headphone jack or RCA connection. After that, all you have to do is power on your headphones and listen.
If you have multiple listeners but weren't particularly excited by the ShareMe headphones discussed above, the RS 165 Sennheiser set works with a second pair of headphones. Pick up a pair of HDR 165s ($108) to add an extra set. Whichever model you choose, the headphones have a battery life of around 18 hours, enough for the longest Netflix binge, and charge wirelessly when you set them on top of the transmitter. Easy!
So which model should you get? With the RS 195 model priced at $307, it's definitely not a budget buy, but if you can live without the extra range and sound modes, the 165 model offers solid quality for a more modest $150.
[image credit: watching TV with headphones via BigStockPhoto, Roku, Harman Kardon, MixDC, Phiaton, LucidSound, Sennheiser]