For some, there’s nothing better than losing yourself in the world of cinema for an hour or two. However, not everyone can build the home theater of their dreams without annoying the downstairs neighbors. If you live in an apartment or want to watch the game without bothering your spouse, a good set of headphones is a great way to immerse yourself in your favorite programming.
Though wired cans will usually sound way better, there’s never been a better time to cut the cord. You don’t have to settle for a frustrating set of infrared headphones anymore: RF and Bluetooth cans have come a long way, and TV manufacturers including Samsung, Panasonic, and LG have all started to take wireless audio more seriously.
But what to buy? That’s where it gets a little sticky. Unless you own a TV that supports the aptX-Low Latency Bluetooth codec, or you buy a special transmitter, audio will lag considerably behind your video if you’re using Bluetooth headphones. On the other hand, RF headphones may introduce an unwanted amount of static if you live in an apartment, and headsets that use IR to transmit data require a clear line of sight at all times to work.
We’re not about to let you suffer through a bunch of headphones that don’t work. To save your sanity (and money) we’ve compiled a list of the best wireless headphones for TV on the market right now.
Sennheiser RS 185 RF
If you live alone but don’t feel like annoying your neighbors, open-backed headphones like the Sennheiser RS 185 offer surprisingly natural-sounding audio for the price. This model uses RF technology, but is consistently rated as one of the best options among critics evaluating home theater headphones. Though these cans leak sound, it’s really only a problem if your primary listening environment is with someone sleeping next to you. If there is someone sleeping next to you, then the closed-back RS 165 RF is another great option, though it can’t quite match the audio quality of its bigger brother. Both sets can work up to 100 feet away from their receiver, and both boast 18 hours of operating time on a full charge—a lifesaver if you tend to fall asleep in front of the tube at night. Though each model is a little pricy, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better set of home theater headphones.
Plantronics Backbeat Pro 2 SE
If your home is near a train track or other place with droning sound (boiler room, etc.) active noise cancellation (ANC) will let you watch your movies in peace. The Plantronics Backbeat Pro 2 SE is compatible with the latest low-latency Bluetooth profile, so you can enjoy solid audio for around $200 provided you have the right hardware. There are several other options that tick these boxes, but we decided against them because the price increase is a little hard to justify. Additionally, these work great with mobile phones—so you don’t have to buy more than one set of cans for your audio needs.
Avantree Audition Pro
You don’t always need to search the big-name brands to find a set of well-specced headphones. Avantree’s Audition Pro is probably the most affordable headset out there with the aptX Low-latency codec, and isn’t any slouch with 40 hours of audio playback on a full charge. Just keep in mind that the effective range is only 10 meters, so these are probably best used in the bedroom or a smallish living room. But even if you need to shell out for a transmitter to take advantage of the headphones’ solid tech, grabbing the Audition Pro will help avoid draining your bank account without compromising elsewhere. Like the Plantronics, you can also use these with your mobile phone, meaning you don’t have to have a dedicated headset lying around simply for your at-home use.
Sony MDRRF985RK RF
This Sony model seems cheaply built with chintzy plastic, but wider ear cups make it far more comfortable than its closest competitor (Sennheiser RS120). If you’re going to be listening for a long time, you’re going to want to use a headset that treats your ears right. These RF headphones have a max range of 150 feet from the base unit, and a respectable battery life of 25 hours. But there are drawbacks. The audio quality is good enough for late-night TV binging, but it isn’t going to make you believe you’ve been transported into a scene or anything. If that’s an issue, you’re going to have to shell out a little more money for a better pair.
Power Acoustik Farenheit HP-902 RFT
If you have a special someone who wants in on your home theater headphone listening, Power Acoustik offers an affordable way to share with the HP-902 RFT. The base package comes with a transmitter and two headsets, allowing you and another viewer to watch movies without waking the neighbors. Just be aware that comfort isn’t exactly the Fahrenheit’s main selling point, and it pretty much made our list by managing its shortcomings—not lighting the world on fire. The HP-902 RFT sounds decent, has respectable battery life, and won’t eat your entire tax refund even if you spring for additional headsets. As with many sub-$100 RF models, this one feels a bit cheap and isn’t anything to write home about performance-wise. Though its use of AAA batteries isn’t ideal if you need to save money, you could always pick up some rechargeable cells if you plan on keeping this set around. However, any of the above units will offer better sound quality but for more money. Still, the Power Acoustik Fahrenheit HP-902 RFT is the best of the bargain home theater headphones out there, warts and all.
If you’ve found a pair of home theater headphones that rock your socks but didn’t make our list, be sure to let us know. Now that more Bluetooth headphones have overcome the technology’s latency issues, RF and IR home theater cans will have to get a lot better to stay on the market. We’ll be sure to keep an eye out for more wireless headphones for TV worthy of your hard-earned cash, and when we do, we’ll add them to this list.
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