The Best Wireless Headphones for Watching TV
Want to watch TV or a movie, but don’t want to wake the kids or disturb your spouse? Wireless headphones provide you with a cord-free immersive viewing experience, while leaving others in blissful silence.
There are two types of wireless headphones that you can use to watch TV – Bluetooth headphones and those that use a dedicated radio frequency (RF). RF headphones have a longer range – up to 328 feet versus up to 30 for Bluetooth – and fewer lip-sync issues (the lag between when you see a person’s lips move and when you hear the audio), so I recommend RF headphones for your TV watching.
That said, if you have a newer TV that supports Bluetooth 5.0 (or a Bluetooth 5.0 audio transmitter) and you buy headphones that support Bluetooth 5.0, the lag shouldn’t be too noticeable, but will still be there. The main advantage of Bluetooth headphones is that you can use them with your smartphone, so they are more versatile.
Here are my choices for the best wireless headphones for watching TV.
The best wireless headphones for watching TV: Sennheiser RS 175
For the best TV sound quality, I recommend the Sennheiser RS 175 headphones. Not only do they produce rich sound that will enhance your viewing experience, they are comfortable and do a great job of keeping sound in, so you won’t disturb others. And because they employ their own RF transmitter, you can wander up to 328 feet away and still hear what’s going on – with no noticeable latency issues.
Sennheiser is known for high-quality sound, and the RS 175 headphones deliver. You’ll hear crisp dialog, the boom of explosions (especially with Bass Boost mode turned on), and decent left- and right-channel separation for stereo sound. PCMag says they have “excellent range and thunderous bass,” and CNET calls the sound “impressive.”
Setup is as easy as plugging into any of your TV’s audio-out options – the 3.5mm headphone jack, optical out, RCA jacks, or USB. Battery life is rated at a long 18 hours, and the RS 175s charge wirelessly when you pop them on the transmitter base.
If you want to listen with someone else, you can purchase additional headphones to pair with the base station.
For gaming: SteelSeries Arctis Pro Wireless
Gamers face unique challenges when it comes to using wireless headphones. Not only must there be no lag, but the headphones have to be comfortable for extended wear, they need to have a high-quality microphone and, of course, they have to be compatible with your gaming console.
While on the pricey side, the SteelSeries Arctis Pro Wireless checks all of the boxes and excels in every category – audio and microphone quality, wireless range, comfort, platform compatibility and build quality. Rtings.com calls the Arctis Pro Wireless “the best gaming headset we’ve tested for far” with “good audio quality” and “great microphone performance,” while TechRadar says the headset is “unmatched in sound quality even up against wired gaming headsets.”
The Arctis Pro Wireless have a dedicated 2.4GHz lossless transmitter for gaming out of the box on PS4 and PC. It’s also compatible with Xbox One for audio, though you’ll need a cable (which is in the box) if you want to use the built-in, retractable microphone. The Arctis Pro Wireless headset also has Bluetooth, which means you can pair them with smartphone for use on the go.
Two batteries come in the box, so you can charge one while you’re using the other. Each battery delivers up to 10 hours of playtime.
For listening to music: Jabra Elite 85h Wireless Noise-Canceling Headphones
While the Sennheiser RS 175 headphones deliver the best TV watching experience, they’re not the best when it comes to music. If you listen to music videos or movies with a strong music score, you’ll want to choose the Jabra Elite 85h headphones.
The Jabra Elite 85h headphones sit at the high end of the Bluetooth headphone range, along with the Bose 700 ($399.95, check price on Amazon) and Sony WH-1000XM3 ($279.99, check price on Amazon). While the Elite 85h don’t quite match the Bose and Sony headphones in sound quality, they come close, and the other features – comfort battery life and wireless range – make them more enjoyable for watching TV. To be clear, sound quality is very good. Rtings.com says the headphones have “great audio reproduction” and Digital Trends says they “have a very open and inviting soundstage tending towards a warmer overall representation of our favorite music than either the Bose or Sony models.”
The Jabra Elite 85h get an industry-leading 36 hours of runtime, plus they support quick charge. With just 15 minutes of charging, you’re good to go for another 5 hours of watching. Further extending battery life is a handy feature that automatically pauses audio when you take off the headphones, and when you lay them flat they automatically turn off.
The Elite 85h’s soft memory-foam ear cups and headband ensure comfort over the long haul. So you can go from your daytime conference calls to nighttime TV-show binging without a problem. The headphones get high marks for call quality, they have active noise-canceling to block out distracting sounds, and they have minimal sound leakage to those nearby. Rtings.com found that the Elite 85h had the longest wireless range in their testing of Bluetooth headphones, which means you’ll make it to the kitchen and back without dropping audio.
All in, the Jabra Elite 85h are the Bluetooth headphones that have the best combination of sound quality, battery life, comfort, wireless range, and noise blocking. And if your TV doesn’t have Bluetooth 5.0, you can invest in a low-latency Bluetooth transmitter, which plugs into your TV’s audio-out jack (3.5mm headphone jack, RCA jacks, USB or optical). We like the Avantree Audiokast Plus ($49.99, check price on Amazon).
[Image credit: Sennheiser, SteelSeries, Techlicious]
Why you should trust me
For the past 20+ years, Suzanne Kantra has been exploring and writing about the world’s most exciting and important science and technology issues, including covering the latest advancements in headphones and other audio gear. Ten years ago, she founded Techlicious, which offers authoritative, yet approachable, information on buying and using consumer technology. Before that, Suzanne was the Technology Editor for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, where she hosted the radio show “Living with Technology." Previously, she served as Technology Editor for Popular Science Magazine. She has been featured on CNN, CBS, and NBC.