For better or worse, we live in the age of binge-watching, a time when people everywhere (myself included) often spend copious amounts of time in front of the TV.
From movies to the latest hit series or re-watching your favorite show, there has never been more content available on TV.
Content that requires our utmost attention when consuming it, and everyone knows there’s no better way to lose yourself in a TV show than surround sound.
Unfortunately, you can’t always blast the home theater system (if you’re most people anyway).
Thankfully there’s always a great substitute, one that might even be better in some cases, headphones, specifically TV headphones. For binge-watchers and video gamers alike, TV headphones are the new must-have.
Click on each product to go straight to our review on this page.
|Sennheiser RS 120||Low|
|Sony MDR DS6500||Moderate|
|Sennheiser RS 175||High|
What Makes a Good TV Headphone?
Because TV headphones are such a niche product with some important specifications beyond those of normal headphones, most people don’t have a clue how to navigate their search for them; hence some guidance is necessary before diving into the market.
Wired or Wireless
Most modern TV’s have an audio out port meaning you can easily hook your normal headphones up and presto you’re good to go.
The problem with this is most wired headphones tend to have short wires (usually 3m max), which limits your movements considerably when you’re connected to the TV.
Another problem is if there’s more than one of you watching the same thing or playing games then your headphones are off the table.
Wireless headphones, on the other hand, have none of the above-mentioned limitations. They usually come with a dedicated base station transmitting RF (Radio Frequency) signals, Bluetooth or Infrared to the headphone/s. With any of these, you can easily connect more than one headphone and movement is much less limited as well.
Not All Wireless Options Are Created Equal
Yes, if you decide on going wireless, you will still have to choose which option to go with. Choosing between the three options, RF (Radio Frequency), Infrared and Bluetooth require special consideration of not just your needs but your budget as well.
RF is generally accepted as the most superior option of all three, with impressive ranges of between 30 to 100 meters (in line of sight) and high-quality audio, they’re generally the most expensive options as well. Putting obstructions into consideration, your true range will be anything from 20 to 50 meters (depending on the quality of the headphone in question).
Bluetooth, on the other hand, has cheaper options in general, the problem with it is that most TVs don’t come with Bluetooth and very few Bluetooth headphones come with TV adapters (or any adapter in general). However said adapters abound and are quite cheap so that shouldn’t be too much of an obstruction to the determined. Bluetooth range is good but at around 10 meters for most headphones is nowhere near that of RF headphones but should still be adequate for most people, unless you have a living room the size of a small ballroom that is.
The Infrared headphone is the weak link in the equation in terms of range. This is because they’ll only work in line of sight. Blocking the path between headphones and infrared transmitter will result in audio completely cutting off. All this isn’t to say Infrared is without its advantages, for one, there is no static at all with Infrared headphones while Bluetooth and RF can get some sort of interference at times.
What will make or break one form of wireless technology over the other, for you, is your specific needs. If you want cheaper options then Bluetooth and Infrared is the way to go. If however, you’re going to be moving between rooms a lot during your watching sessions or if you’re a certified audiophile then RF is the better pick, provided budget isn’t an issue either.
Before settling on a pair of headphones to buy you might want to check the compatibility of technology used with your TV.
Mostly this applies to Bluetooth. Most TVs don’t have Bluetooth technology and will need a separate transmitter to connect to your headphones and since most Bluetooth headphones don’t come with a transmitter you will probably have to buy your own. Good news is they’re cheap and plentiful on the internet.
With Infrared and RF chances are the headphones will come with transmitters included and you can connect these to your TV. All you need to do is make sure your TV has either a 3.5mm headphone jack, an optical line or RCA output. And unless your TV was made in the 90s (you should probably go ahead and throw that out now) you’ll have one or all three. After that, it’s just a matter of buying whatever corresponds to your TV.
As with every niche in the headphones market, audio quality in this niche is usually a byproduct of the quality of the headphones in question.
In general, the more expensive headphones are, the better the quality, and with that comes better sound quality. This rule generally stands and it usually takes a bit of digging to get cheaper headphones with great sound quality.
With this niche however you need to also consider the wireless technology used by the headphone in question.
RF will generally have the best sound reproduction with the Hi-fi (High Fidelity) headphones in this niche usually coming in RF. Static will usually pop up when you’re about to go out of range for most headphones.
With Bluetooth headphones, audio quality will depend very much on the headphone in question but in general, quality should be good too, not quite to the level of RF but good.
Infrared headphones have no static at all and that brings their quality up significantly, however they’re limited by the line of sight requirements.
As most of the options, you’ll come up with if you want headphones specifically for TV use will be wireless, you’ll need to consider power.
Some headphones come with built-in batteries whereas others will require you to buy batteries from time to time (usually standard AA or AAA so not a big problem).
Good battery life in this niche is anything between 20 to 30 hours with around 15 hours considered the standard. Anything less than 10 and you’re going to be doing a lot of recharging or buying as the case may be.
Sennheiser RS 120 On-Ear Wireless RF Headphone
As far as brands go in the headphone market there aren’t many as well known or as trusted as Sennheiser, with good reason. Their products more often than not deliver in terms of quality and with the Sennheiser RS 120 they’ve made a pretty good attempt at maintaining their status quo.
Setting up the RS 120s is a pretty simple task which shouldn’t confuse even those who might not be so tech-savvy.
The headphones come with an RF transmitter which doubles as a charging dock too.
Before using the headphones for the first time, plug in the transmitter and let the headphones charge overnight (just place them on top of the dock, the red light indicates they’re charging). Don’t forget to insert the AAA batteries included with your purchase before you charge. Unfortunately, the set doesn’t indicate when fully charged so you’ll have to assume this.
Remove the headphones from the transmitter and plug the transmitter sound cables into your TV’s RCA output jacks. If you don’t have those you can use the audio out jack but that will cut off the TV’s sound so if you have other people watching with you that could be a problem.
To connect to the transmitter, locate the RF dial on the headphones (just next to the volume dial), then tune it until you get static free sound. Make sure your TV volume is turned up otherwise all you will hear is static when finally connected a green light will indicate on the transmitter.
One tip to be able to adjust the volume on the TV without simultaneously adjusting headphone volume is to change your TV sound settings to fixed output.
The instructions that come with the headphones are kind of poor but if you follow this guide everything should go smoothly.
Design and Comfort
The RS 120s are stylishly made with a black color slightly set off by the silver/grey Sennheiser logos.
The charging dock is a matching grey, black, and silver in color. As stylish as the design is, the headphone and transmitter feel a little light and flimsy to the touch but they are surprisingly durable for all that.
Comfort isn’t exactly the RS 120s strongest suit to be honest, with some fatigue setting in after a few hours of use.
You may also find that they fall off every once in a while. The trick to lessening that is binding them while they’re on the charging dock every once in a while.
In terms of sound quality, these are actually good, unsurprising given Sennheiser’s reputation in the area.
The lows tend towards the boosted side of things but the mids and highs are solid enough not to be overpowered. The sound quality is good enough that you could use these for anyone that might be hard of hearing and have them enjoying TV time with the rest of the family.
Static is something that might be of concern especially if you don’t follow the instructions correctly. Make sure to tune to the strongest frequency and if you still hear static turn your TV volume up as mentioned above and that should solve your problem.
The effective range of these headphones with walls and all being accounted for is well over 20 meters so should be more than adequate for anyone. You can also connect more than one set of these headphones to the transmitter if you so desire.
Sony MDR DS6500 Digital Wireless 3D Surround Headphones
As one of the giants in the headphone manufacturing business Sony products will always come with high expectations attached and the MDR DS6500 headphones are not immune to that.
The DS 6500s connect using either a digital/optical cable or RAC cables.
Setup is pretty much straightforward, all you have to do is plug in the transmitter and connect the necessary cables from your TV (consoles, laptops, streaming players, sound bars, etc will work just as well).
The frequency doesn’t need any tuning to connect to the headphones so pairing is immediate.
The transmitter also doubles as a charging dock as is standard with most RF TV headphones.
If you’re using analog output (RCA cables) you’ll need to toggle a switch to change the transmitter’s mode. The lack of a 3.5mm audio in port means if you don’t have any of the above mentioned (optical and RCA) output systems on your TV you might want to avoid these, unless you’re willing to buy a converter.
The transmitter has an auto on/off feature causing it to switch off if the headphones are inactive for about 20 minutes, a battery lifesaver if ever there was one as your headphones will turn off too. It can get a little frustrating if you’ve just paused your movie/game to attend to something as you’ll have to turn it on again.
Design and Comfort
The first thing you’ll notice on unpacking the DS 6500 is the transmitter. It’s a solid black rectangular box with a similarly shaped base it stands on.
The black is only broken by the white Sony lettering and a few labels on the switches it possesses, namely input, on/off, compression and effects switches. It also has lights in front to indicate modes and power.
The headphones themselves come in the same solid black color which kind of gives them an elegant rocker-ish vibe. The plush ear cushions are incredibly comfortable and can bear use for quite a few hours at a time without hurting the wearer.
In true Sony style, the sound is the biggest winner for these headphones.
The sound produced is far from Hi-fi due to the boosted quality but that was obviously very intentional from Sony. The mids and highs pulse with vim and verve while the bass is thumping in a way that bassheads everywhere will certainly love.
The one criticism I have here is of the Surround Sound, in simple terms, it’s not very Surround Sound or at least not quite up to what you’d expect from 7.1 Surround Sound. Rear sound doesn’t sound like it’s coming from the rear but more towards your sides which kind of takes away from the immersion of Surround Sound.
On a more positive note though there is no static to speak off with the DS 65000s.
Battery power is around 20 hours on a 3 hour charge and should satisfy even the hardiest binge-watchers.
Range with several walls in between is around 10 meters (headphone will beep if you move out of range) which although not impressive is good.
Sennheiser RS 175 RF Wireless Headphone System
Released in 2015 the RS 175 Wireless headphone by Sennheiser was at the time billed as an innovative addition to their existing line of RF headphones. No doubt because of the interference-free wireless link technology used which at the time was fairly new.
The transmitter doubles as a charging station and requires a simple plug-in to get it working.
To connect to your source you’ll need to make sure it has either an optical out jack or 3.5mm audio out jack, the required cables are provided making setup simple.
Plugging into a TV’s audio out (analog) jack will cut off the main sound from the TV so unless you’re watching alone you might want to use the digital components. The inclusion of RCA components would have been an easy fix here but you’ll have to make do with a sound bar if you’re dead set on using the analog out/in or if your TV doesn’t have an optical jack.
Range is rated at an excellent 100 meters but in real world application (i.e. with walls separating you from the source) you’ll get around 30 meters interference free connection which is really good.
No tuning is required to get the right frequency, a godsend in my opinion.
Design and Comfort
The transmitter for the RS 175s is pretty basic as far as transmitters go; a black and grey device that’s not really made for display and therefore isn’t eye-catching. It also feels a little cheap and lightweight but that shouldn’t be much problem as it just sits there.
The headphones are large over ears that sit comfortably on the skull, thanks to the soft cushions used by Sennheiser. The headphones are on the trendy side of things with their obviously stylish design although thankfully it isn’t too ostentatious.
The headphone sounds well balanced for the most part with mids and highs that are solid and strong enough to hold their own against a punchy bass that might otherwise overshadow them.
The sound profile is hardly for the purist audiophile though especially given the bass boost option on the headphones (can be toggled on the headphone or transmitter). Bassheads will however find it to be a dream as it gives the already strong bass an extra kick.
Along with the bass boost option there’s a surround sound option (also can be toggled on the headphone or transmitter). In surround sound mode, the headphones come alive; a really good sound profile becomes even better when it’s activated. In this case, surround sound actually is surround sound and the immersion you get is incredible.
Because of the optical cable, static is none existent with these headphones and even when using analog, there isn’t any static to speak of.
Moving on to battery power, a full charge should last for around 18 hours.
Artiste ADH300 Wireless TV Headphones
One of the lesser known brands in headphone manufacturing, Artiste is a relative newcomer to the headphone industry never mind the TV headphone niche. The ADH300 is their attempt at pushing innovation in an already competitive sector.
The Artiste ADH300 headphones come with a plug-in transmitter that (as is the norm for TV headphones) acts as a charging dock.
To connect to your TV you’re provided with RCA and 3.5mm audio out cables. Unfortunately with these you can’t connect using an optical cable so if your TV only has an optical port (very rare) then these aren’t for you.
Other than that connection with the analog cables provided is straightforward, simply connect the any of the cables to their respective inputs and outputs and that’s that.
No tuning is necessary to get the correct frequency and there’s no need to worry about static.
Listening range is rated at 30 meters but effective listening range through walls, etc is closer to 10 which should serve for home use.
Design and Comfort
The first thing you’ll notice about the ADH300 is the transmitter aka charging port, unlike most versions where the headband portion of the headphone sits on the charging dock, here the earcups sit in cradle-like holes to charge. The design is oddly attractive making it one of the few transmitters that you won’t just want to hide as far away as possible.
The headphones complement the transmitter very well, their black and silver aesthetic should be alluring even to none fashionistas.
Their large over ear design however makes them clunkier than usual and using them in any setting other than at home would be a little problematic.
That said they do serve their purpose very well in the home and shouldn’t be too heavy for anyone, it helps that the ear cushions are soft and comfortable to the wearer.
Sound isn’t exactly the greatest strength of the Artiste ADH300s. I say this because sometimes sound reproduction will lag compared to the TV.
The volume presets in particular tend to cause fluctuations in sound quality. When it’s not fluctuating, the sound profile is balanced with mids that balance well with the highs and lows that although not spectacular are reasonably good.
Battery power is stated at 20 hours on a full charge but lasts around half that in practice which as good as that is considering it’s a wireless headphone, is nothing to shout about within this niche.
The good thing is after a period of inactivity the headphone will automatically shut down, saving you power in the process.
Avantree HT3189 Wireless Headphones
The HT3189 Wireless headphone by Avantree is a Bluetooth headset primarily for TV use.
Avantree’s HT3189s come with a Bluetooth transmitter about the size of a hockey puck.
Unlike with RF headphones, this transmitter doesn’t double as a charging dock for the headphones. Charging is done via a USB port on the headphones; a charging cable is included.
To connect the transmitter to your TV you have the option of using either a 3.5mm audio out jack (cable is provided) or the RCA components. Optical jacks are not compatible and a separate digital to analog converter will have to be purchased if you’re dead set on using these particular headphones.
The headphones come pre-paired with the transmitter meaning pairing will be automatic as soon as both are switched on. You can also pair the transmitter to a different headphone and the headphone to your phone or other Bluetooth capable device. The headphone also works as a wired set using the 3.5mm cable provide.
Both these factors mean you can use these outside the home as a normal pair of headphones should you wish to.
Design and Comfort
The transmitter is super small meaning you can leave it just about anywhere without worrying about it appearing too conspicuous.
The headphone is billed as an over ear but is kind of on the small side so the edges of your ears will be covered by the ear cushions. The ear cushions in question are comfortable and wearing them for a couple hours isn’t a problem although your ears will need to breathe from time to time.
In color both the transmitter and headphone are black with small shades of maroon, all in all an elegant look that would have some heads turning where you to use these outside the house.
First of all as a Bluetooth headset the Avantree HT3189 is not going to be the best pair of headphones you’ve ever used.
The sound profile is pretty much average, nothing to blow you away but not exactly bad either. The mids and highs are solid enough but the bass tends to sound tinny sometimes.
A noteworthy thing here however is the lack of any audible delays, both when using it for TV or as a normal headphone. Problems with sound will largely come from static noise which tends to arise when there’s a sudden change in sound profile from the source causing a bit of muddiness.
Range is stated as 30 meters but is actually less than 10 meters when you factor in walls and etc. In fact, the crackling (static) is more pronounced when you move to another room so the range isn’t all that great here.
An in-ear stethoscope style TV headphone created largely with the hard of hearing in mind, the Simolio SM-823 is well thought out and practical as well as stylish.
First things first, unfortunately these headphones will not work with optical audio outputs and also isn’t compatible with streaming media like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, etc directly from a Smart TV. While those aren’t good things, they aren’t necessarily disasters either.
RCA cables and 3.5mm audio inputs can be used with the transmitter. When using the 3.5mm jack on a TV the main TV volume will automatically mute but with RCA cables you can hear the audio from both sides.
Pairing between transmitter and headphone is automatic and a blue light will indicate on both devices whether connection is established.
The transmitter also doubles as a charge and charging is a simple matter of placing the earphone in its cradle like position on the transmitter.
Design and comfort
Simolio’s SM-823 is a stethoscope style headphone meaning it’ll hang down in front of you from your ears. This means it’ll be uncomfortable for the first time user as this isn’t a common style of headphone. However, the SM-823s are light enough that they aren’t actually heavy so getting used to them shouldn’t be too much of a struggle.
To prevent these in ears from slipping out Simolio made use of ear hooks that hook around your ears and keep them secure. The unconventional design makes it easy for someone to reach the control panel as it’s in front of them.
In terms of aesthetic, the SM-823s are a stylish black and white although the bottom end of the headphones (housing the batteries and various other controls) seems a little bulky and gives them a slightly unconventional look.
The eartips are made of memory foam and provide surprisingly good noise isolation meaning if you’re hard of hearing you won’t have to turn the volume up really loud to hear.
Durability was clearly a big consideration here as the headphone beams are made of stainless steel. The cables are capable of folding without breaking so accidentally sitting on them or dropping them for that matter won’t have much of an effect.
In terms of sound the SM-823s are surprisingly good, and by that I mean they’re easily equivalent to wired headphones in the same range. Featuring balanced mids, highs and lows without any distortion whatsoever this would be a good headphone without all the additional features it comes with.
First and foremost is the MIC button which you can press to switch from wireless mode in order to listen to conversation around you (personal amplifier mode), to switch back just press the MIC button again.
The headphones also feature a balance tuner which you can use to adjust volume for individual ears, a feature which is especially useful if one of your ears has more difficulty hearing.
Battery power is a bit poor (7 hours) compared to other headphones in this niche.
In terms of range these are a solid 30 meters in open spaces but falls to around 12 meters when you factor in walls and other obstructions.
The Best Pick
Nominating an outright winner for best TV headphone on this list is a tough ask given the wide variety on offer, however at a push the title would have to go to the Sennheiser RS 175 RF Wireless headphone simply because it covers all important specifications with its only blemish being the lack of RCA ports.
The Sony MDR-DS6500 comes really close but its Surround Sound lets it down in comparison to the RS 175. That said because of the different uses to which these headphones can be used you’re better off choosing according to your need.
For those who are hard of hearing the best pick would be the Simolio Sm-823 due to the many useful features in that respect, it also wins the durability stakes as well so if you don’t want to be buying a new headphone every now and then that’s your pick.
For a versatile headphone that will be compatible with your TV and other devices (smartphone, mp3, iPods, etc) the Avantree will be the better pick.