How to Connect Your Headphones to Any TV Using Bluetooth

A woman watching TV while wearing wireless headphones
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Thanks to the growing popularity of modern HDTVs with built-in Bluetooth radios, watching your favorite shows and movies using headphones powered by wireless Bluetooth has become easier than ever.

Choose and Connect a Bluetooth Transceiver

There are many Bluetooth transceivers (combination of transmitter and receiver) and transmitters on the market, but only those with the right hardware will support a superior TV experience. The key is to choose ones that feature Bluetooth aptX with Low Latency (not just Bluetooth aptX) so that the audio will remain synchronized with the video. Otherwise, there will be a delay between what you see and hear.

If your Bluetooth headphones don't support Low Latency — or if you intend to upgrade your wired headphones with Bluetooth — then you’ll need to pick up a pair of these Bluetooth transceivers. Set one to transmit mode and connect it to the TV/receiver audio output. Set the other to receive mode and plug it into the 3.5 mm jack on your headphones.

After you've installed the Bluetooth adapters you need, follow the instructions to set them up with your headphones.

Resolve Bluetooth Audio/Video Sync

One legitimate concern about using Bluetooth wireless headphones with video content is the potential for delayed audio. You’ll recognize it when you hear everything a split second after it happens on the screen. If you have a more modern television, you can check for a built-in fix. Look for an "audio delay/sync" setting (or something similarly named) under the sound options in the TV's system menu. If present, the adjustment should be shown as either a slider or a box with values typically set in milliseconds. Sometimes you might see a list of all the separate inputs/outputs that can be adjusted. Bringing that slider/number down should help minimize the delay so that the audio syncs with the video.

In rare instances, you'll experience video instead of audio delay. This phenomenon occurs when you're streaming high-definition content where the extra moment it takes for the video to appear (sometimes due to buffering) on the screen causes it to lag behind the sound. In this case, adjust the sound settings to increase the audio delay, slowing it down in order for it to sync up with the video. Make small adjustments and test until you find the perfect match.

For best results, make sure that your smart television has been updated with the latest firmware because outdated firmware affects performance. If you are still encountering audio/video sync problems, check to see if any of your TV’s sound settings are not currently set to "standard." Enabling various sound modes (e.g. virtual, 3D audio, surround, PCM, etc.) can unintentionally inject a delay. If you’re streaming video through an app or separate device (e.g. YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Microsoft Xbox, Sony PS4, Blu-ray player, stereo receiver/amplifier), double-check the physical connections as well as the audio settings on each.

Older electronics may lack these audio adjustment settings. Your best bet for keeping the audio synced with video is by choosing hardware that supports Bluetooth Low Latency.

Low Latency is Key

Look for Bluetooth aptX with Low Latency — this standard must be on both the headphones and the transmitter in order to work. Low-latency Bluetooth incurs a delay no greater than 40 milliseconds, which creates suitable synchronization between what is seen and heard. For reference, typical Bluetooth wireless headphones exhibit audio delays ranging from 80 ms up to 250 ms. Even at 80 ms, human brains perceive audio delayed behind video.

To browse Bluetooth aptX-compatible products, visit the aptX website. Although the lists are updated frequently, they won’t necessarily show everything that is on the market.