Another day, another frustrating attempt to hook up headphones to a smart TV.
As a TV reviewer, many screens come my way, and the biggest pain of the testing process is undoubtedly getting my various gear — game consoles, streaming devices, audio accessories, and streaming service accounts — all set up and ready to go. And I can’t help but wonder why connecting wireless headphones in particular is usually so tricky.
While some smart TVs today still come with wired headphone outputs, this is becoming an increasingly rare sight – and rightly so, given the rise of wireless audio and the fact that wired headphones rarely come with a cable long enough to comfortably watch TV at the same time. to watch .
There are plenty of wireless headphones to choose from, including dedicated TV-watching headphones that can carry 5.1 (or even 7.1) channel audio, as well as active noise canceling to keep out the noise from your family, friends, and home. But it’s perfectly possible to plug in wireless earbuds or over-ear cans and enjoy some solo audio time.
It is possible, that is, but not always intuitively. I’ve had a lot of trouble finding the right settings – which are usually hidden away from the audio settings you’d think they’d be housed in. Anchor projectors like the Nebula Solar Portable (with Android TV) keep the connection options under Remotes & Accessories, rather than Audio – while new Panasonic OLED TVs with HomeMyScreen keep them under a Setup submenu (Setup > Bluetooth Setup > Bluetooth Audio) instead of Sound.
If you’re familiar with this quirk of connection settings, it’s not that hard to figure out what to do, although even then the experience isn’t always seamless.
TV reviewer and calibration specialist Vincent Teoh, from HDTVTest, says, “I don’t think it’s a priority for TV manufacturers,” and that “if it’s not a priority, TV manufacturers generally won’t allocate resources to implement it.”
That’s somewhat in line with Anker’s official response, who tells us that “Bluetooth is not an essential feature”, with only “about a quarter” of their customers tending to use it with their projector range.
When connecting to Panasonic TVs, it is important to set the sound to ‘Bluetooth Only’ to ensure that the TV remote controls the headphones itself. But we found that the touch controls on our high-quality, over-ear Sony WH-1000XM4 cans just wouldn’t work when plugged into the Panasonic JZ2000, which seemed like an odd power to lose in that context.
And it’s clear that the lack of interest in Bluetooth connectivity in TVs – partly from manufacturers and partly from users, most of whom don’t use the feature regularly or at all – occasionally creates blind spots like this where compatibility with only headphones goes so far. Sometimes, like with the LG E9 OLED we tested in 2019, the Bluetooth connectivity doesn’t work at all.
To Panasonic’s credit, it included a new dual Bluetooth feature in its 2021 TV range, allowing you to have separate volume settings for two connected headphones – and dual connection is now the norm on the new Apple TV 4K too. for the Apple AirPods.
But there’s clearly still a long way to go before Bluetooth implementation in smart TVs is as seamless and easy to access as switching picture presets at the touch of a button.
For those who want to watch TV and movies with their headphones, there are options to do so – just don’t expect it to be as easy as it should be.