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How to connect your headphones to your TV

It's easy to connect your headphones to your TV in a variety of ways, whether you have Bluetooth headphones or wired.
November 21, 2021

Whether you’re using your TV as a second monitor, want to watch a movie as loud as possible without your roommates hearing you, or just focus when you’re playing video games, there will come a time when you want to connect your headphones to your TV.

Depending on the type of headphones you have and your TV’s ports, there are multiple ways you can connect your headphones to your TV. You don’t even need the newest smart TV or Bluetooth headphones to do it!

What do you need to know before you connect your headphones to my TV?

Since there are so many kinds of TVs and headphones and endless unique situations a person can be in, you should take a look at what you have to work with before moving ahead.

First, figure out what you have already.

  • Does your TV support Bluetooth, does it have a 3.5mm jack or RCA connections?
  • Do you have a console with any of those?
  • Do you have wired or Bluetooth headphones?
  • Does your TV support a low-latency Bluetooth codec?
  • Do you have speakers connected to your TV?

After you have those things settled, let’s see address these questions:

  • Why do you need to connect your headphones to your TV?
  • Are you watching a film? A TV show? Are you gaming?
  • Are you using your TV as a second monitor?
  • Are you sitting close or far?

All these different scenarios can warrant different methods or equipment.

Lastly, after assessing what you have and don’t have, figure out what you need to proceed. If your TV doesn’t have a headphone jack or Bluetooth support, you need to get an adapter or a transmitter (more on that later). If your TV doesn’t support a low-latency Bluetooth codec (and it probably doesn’t), is that enough of a concern to buy new headphones to eliminate latency? Do you have the money to buy something better for your setup, or do you want to work solely with what you have at your disposal? Once you’ve answered these questions, you can better understand what steps to take next.

Are there headphones made for using with a TV?

Yes, there are headphones made specifically for TVs, with some using radio frequency (RF) receivers and some working over Bluetooth. RF receivers essentially work by plugging into the analog output of your TV and converting the sound into a wireless signal for the linked headphones to pick up. That kind of connection is pretty much always lag-free, but it can sometimes cause some static (especially if your battery is low). Conversely, Bluetooth can come with some latency if your TV doesn’t support a low-latency codec.

How do you connect my Bluetooth headphones to my TV?

Bluetooth headphones are great if you’re the type of person who jumps off the couch in exasperation while gaming.

If you have Bluetooth headphones and your TV has Bluetooth compatibility, you can connect your headphones that way. Go into the settings menu of your TV, search for an accessories menu, and you should see the option to connect to Bluetooth there. Make sure your headphones are visible and ready to connect, and search for the device. Once you see it come up on the Bluetooth results on your TV, connect to them. Voila!

See also: Best wireless headphones

What if you can’t use Bluetooth on your TV?

JBL Link Bar audio/video inputs on the back of the speaker.
Definitely check out the back of your TV to figure out what kind of audio port you have.

If you have Bluetooth headphones, but your TV isn’t Bluetooth compatible, there is still a solution for you. If you have a smart device connected to your TV, chances are it has Bluetooth, and you can connect to that. If not, a Bluetooth transmitter can connect to your TV through either the RCA or 3.5mm jack, and you can connect to that transmitter with your headphones.

See also: The best wireless gaming headsets

Can you connect wired headphones to your TV?

The Turtle Beach Recon 70 gaming headset on an off-white surface.
No, you don’t have to sit three feet away from your TV to use wired headphones.

Check the back of your TV to see if it has a 3.5mm jack where you can directly plug your headphones in. If there is a headphone jack, you can just plug them in right there. For those who need to sit further from the TV and your headphones don’t have a long cable, you can get an extension. If your TV only has RCA, you can get an RCA to 3.5mm adapter.

Many Bluetooth transmitters work as receivers as well, which is super convenient. If you have a Bluetooth-capable TV, but you own wired headphones, you can use a Bluetooth transmitter in receiver mode plugged into your headphones to connect to your TV. You can truly have the best of both worlds with a Bluetooth transmitter!

What if you don’t have a transmitter?

The SteelSeries Arctis 1 Wireless gaming headset on top of a Nintendo Switch.
Good news! The entire Nintendo Switch lineup now has Bluetooth enabled.

If you don’t have a transmitter, but you have a gaming console, you might be in luck. Recently Nintendo enabled Bluetooth support for the Nintendo Switch, so you should be able to pair with it while it’s docked. Pretty much every other gaming console doesn’t support Bluetooth audio, but most wireless gaming headsets use USB dongles to get around this. As a fallback, you can plug a regular 3.5mm pair of headphones into the controller headphone jack. Every modern console has apps for streaming services like Netflix, so you could even watch movies this way, if you want.

Can you connect to your TV with USB headphones?

It’s highly unlikely that you will be able to connect your TV via USB headset. Most Smart TVs have USB ports these days, but the inclusion of USB soundcards is pretty uncommon among televisions—it’s really more of a PC or gaming console thing. If you have an intermediary like a soundbar or media center, and it advertises USB output, that could work.

With all these solutions, you’ll be able to connect your headphones to your TV in no time. Enjoy your gaming session, your movie marathon, or your sick work-from-home setup.

Learn more: How to connect speakers to your TV