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6 Aug 2021

Can TV headphones help you hear dialogue on your TV more clearly?

TV headphones are an affordable way to hear your TV's sound better without ramping up the volume

We've all had that annoying TV moment where dialogue's so unclear you need to jack up the volume - or worse, resort to subtitles. TV headphones are a great solution, and with top brands starting from around £80, they can cost far less than a decent sound bar, too. We find out which are the best pairs to buy.

The latest slimline TVs may look great, but their thin speakers can make sound quality shoddy. If your TV supports Bluetooth, you can try using standard wireless headphones to help improve the sound. But if you're planning to use headphones regularly, it's worth investing in some dedicated TV headphones.

These are specifically designed for use with TVs. Most come with handy charging docks so the headphones are ready charged whenever you need them, plus large earcups for extra comfort even through the longest Netflix binge sessions.

Best headphones - no matter what type of headphones you're looking for, our expert tests and professional listening panel have got you covered.

What are TV headphones?

Instead of connecting to your smartphone via Bluetooth like normal wireless headphones, dedicated TV headphones connect wirelessly to your TV via a transmitter you plug into the back of your TV.

This transmitter usually also acts as a convenient dock you place the headphones back on when you finish watching, charging them so they're ready for the next session.

So say goodbye to your wireless headphones going flat midway through The Lord of the Rings and fiddling with their charging cable during your favourite programme.

To make sure you buy the right TV headphones for you, you'll need to check what connections your TV has.

All the TV headphones we've tested have transmitters that support a TV with a standard 3.5mm socket. If you have a new TV that lacks this analogue socket, you'll need to buy TV headphones that support a digital optical socket as well - see the featured pairs below for which these are.

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Will TV headphones help me hear speech more clearly?

If you pick a great-sounding pair of TV headphones, you'll get superb clarity of sound that will make diction in speech clearer without having to raise the volume level. But choose one of the poor pairs we've tested and you may not hear any benefit at all.

Our professional listening panel have sorted the gems from the duds so you know which pairs deliver - click through the links below to our expert reviews.

While simply getting a pair with excellent sound quality is the most important consideration, some TV headphones also go a step further in offering dedicated settings to improve clarity in speech, as we've indicated below.

Philips TAH6005BK/10, £80

  • For TVs with a standard 3.5mm socket

This Philips pair is the second-cheapest set of TV headphones we've tested. Philips claims a long 100-metre wireless range from the transmitter, and controls on the headphones allow you to adjust the volume.

The charging dock means they're ready charged whenever you need them. They also have large foam earcups that should make them more comfortable - our listening panel results reveal whether this is actually the case.

Is this a great bargain buy, or is it wiser to spend a bit more? Find out in our expert Philips TAH6005BK/10 review.

Sennheiser RS 120 II, £100

  • For TVs with a standard 3.5mm socket

These attractively priced Sennheiser headphones are a veteran on the market, having originally been released way back a decade ago. They're not lacking in features though.

They come with a 100 metre claimed wireless range, volume and power controls, plus a channel tuning roller where you can adjust the FM frequency used to connect to the transmitter.

These headphones have an open-backed design that allows air to pass through the ear cups - an approach some audiophiles claim delivers improved sound.

Our professional listening panel couldn't wait to find out if they really deliver - find out more in our Sennheiser RS 120 II review.

Avantree Opera, £130

  • Supports TVs with a standard 3.5mm socket, digital optical socket or Bluetooth
  • Dedicated setting for improving speech clarity

These are one of the most feature-packed pairs of TV headphones we've tested, despite still being fairly reasonably priced.

This pair supports modern TVs that have a digital optical socket. You can even use them as standard wireless headphones with other devices as well, like your smartphone and laptop - just switch to Bluetooth mode.

It also offers a feature aimed at further improving diction in speech, which you can switch on if you're watching a particularly mumble-prone drama.

Does all this promise result in a remarkable all-round package? Our experts give the definitive verdict on whether this is a jack of all trades or a fantastic buy in our Avantree Opera review.

Sennheiser RS 175, £230

  • Supports TVs with a standard 3.5mm socket or digital optical socket

Sennheiser also offers a range of premium-priced TV headphones with added features and higher build quality. This pair's transmitter will happily plug in to the usual TV 3.5mm socket or, for newer TVs that lack one, the TV's digital optical socket.

Alongside volume controls, there are also settings to increase the bass and switch to 'surround' sound mode for film buffs.

If you and your partner both want to use TV headphones, the RS 175 also supports connecting two pairs of these headphones to the same transmitter.

Do these headphones look up your street? See if they're worth the extra price in our definitive Sennheiser RS 175 review.

Even more TV headphones tested

We've tested TV headphones costing as little as £60, to a high-end Sennheiser pair costing £350 - which is still competitively priced compared with sound bars.

That high-end Sennheiser pair (pictured below) is part of its range aimed specifically at those who are hard of hearing, so may be worth checking out if you have difficulty hearing your TV in general.

Find out which are great pairs are worth buying by clicking through the links below to read our fully-tested reviews:

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