Top three best TV headphones for 2020
By Oliver Trebilcock
Great TV headphones are a rare find, with many pairs simply not up to scratch. Setup compatibility issues, wireless signal interference and atrocious sound and comfort are among a minefield of flaws our experts have found, even including expensive pairs from top brands. Our trusted lab tests make sure you get a pair you can rely on.
The best wireless headphones for TV use will be convenient to use on a daily basis, sound fantastic and be incredibly comfortable to wear. And for something you’ll use frequently, and with many pairs being rather costly, it’s important to choose well. Whatever type you’re looking for, our experts select the very best pairs, below.
There are two main types of wireless headphones to use with your TV: the first is dedicated home theatre headphones that come with a specialised base station and provide wireless connectivity, along with a convenient dock for charging. The second type is Bluetooth headphones, which can only be used with TVs that support Bluetooth.
Our experts assess the ease of use, setup and functionality of each pair of headphones. We use an expert listening panel with a range of ages, ear sizes and musical tastes, and decades of experience between them to find the best-sounding and most comfortable pairs on the market.
We’re not biased by advertising and our thorough tests don’t leave anything out. We also test the battery life of wireless headphones to see whether manufacturer claims match up to reality, and check for signal interference to make sure you get a pair of headphones that will deliver clear and amazing sound every time.
Click on the links below to go straight to what you’re looking for:
Best Buy headphones – see our full list of our top-scoring headphones across all types.
Best wireless TV headphones with a docking station
These are the wireless TV headphones to go for if you’re looking for a pair designed specifically for optimum use with your TV. This type can be set up to work with almost any TV without adaptors and the included dock means charging your headphones every day is super easy.
They all feature a base station, which acts as both a wireless transmitter and the charging dock. This base station connects into your TV usually via an optical (digital) cable or standard 3.5mm (analogue) auxiliary cable – depending both on what connections your TV supports and the pair of headphones you choose support. An optical connection is recommended if you have a choice, but both can provide a superb experience.
Pros: Everyday use couldn’t be easier: simply take the headphones off the dock to use, then put them back when you’re finished to charge A compatible setup can be achieved for almost any TV without needing adaptors.
Cons: Can be fiddly to set up for the first time, often expensive, no easy flexibility to connect directly to other devices (such as your smartphone)
Examples with wireless base stations include:
- Sony MDR-RF811RK
- Sony MDR-RF895RK
- Sennheiser RS 165
- Sennheiser RS 175
- Sony WH-L600
Our experts have picked out the very best wireless TV headphones with a base station from our expert tests – find out the best pairs to buy in the table below.
Only logged-in members can view our recommendations in the table below. If you’re not yet a member, you can get instant access by joining Which?.
Wireless TV headphones with a base station
Designed exclusively for indoor listening, these are the best headphones for listening to your TV our lab has found so far. They’re fantastic all-rounders, sounding great regardless of what you listen to. The base station has an extremely long wireless range and by putting them back on this dock between uses, they’re always charged whenever you need them – it couldn’t be easier.
These cheaper headphones are nice and comfortable. Sound is detailed and well balanced with a warm tone. They have a good wireless range from the base station and have a long 20-hour battery life between charges from the dock. You can even connect two pairs of these headphones to the same base station if two of you want to listen at the same time.
For film and TV programme use, these headphones truly excel,, where the sound is rich, enveloping and voices clear, and there is lovely sparkle to the high frequencies. Even better, there is no sound leakage, so you can even listen in the same room as others without disturbing them. The impressive battery life lasts for nearly 30 hours between charges as well.
Pricing and recommendations correct as of March 2019.
Bluetooth headphones for your TV
A lot of newer TVs now support Bluetooth. So if yours does, the good news is that you have far more choice in choosing wireless headphones for TV use – the vast majority of wireless headphones connect via Bluetooth (base station headphones are the only main exception). The only significant downside of using Bluetooth headphones with your TV is they don’t have the easy charging dock base station that dedicated TV headphones have.
While you could connect any style of Bluetooth headphones to your Bluetooth-enabled TV, most will likely choose the added comfort of over-ear headphones, or on-ear headphones if you’d like them to be less bulky, both of which have a headband that goes over the top of your head.
Many excellent over-ear headphones contain noise cancelling technology to block out sounds on a commute. There’s no harm in using these at home (you can turn the noise cancelling off, too), but be aware that you’re paying a premium for this technology, so if you don’t plan to use the headphones out of the house, you could save money by avoiding models with this feature.
Pros: Convenient if you’d like headphones to connect to other devices as well (such as your smartphone) and take outside, much wider selection of headphones to choose from
Cons: Requires a Bluetooth-enabled TV, charging isn’t as convenient as with base station headphones and you may find the controls on your headphones (eg to change volume) don’t work with your TV. Many Bluetooth headphones come with very short charging cables that aren’t ideal for use in a living room, so you’ll likely need to buy an (inexpensive) extension cable. If you connect your headphones to several Bluetooth devices in your home (such as smartphone and laptop as well as your TV), you may need to keep switching active connections.
Examples of Bluetooth wireless headphones include:
- Sony WH-CH700N
- Sony WH-CH500
- JVC HA-S30BT
- Philips SHB3075
- Sony WH-H900N h.ear on 2 Wireless NC
- Sony WH-H800 h.ear on 2 Mini
- Sony MDR-ZX330BT
- Goji GTCBTNC18
- Sony WI-H700 h.ear in 2 Wireless
- Bose Soundsport Free
- Sony WH-1000XM3
- Bose SoundSport Wireless
- AKG N60NC Wireless
Our experts select the most suitable, great-sounding and comfortable wireless headphones for TV use available to buy in the table below.
Only logged-in members can view our recommendations in the table below. If you’re not yet a member, you can get instant access by joining Which?.
Best Bluetooth headphones for TV use
These over-ear headphones are a landmark launch, becoming the highest-ever scoring wireless headphones at our expert lab. The industry-leading active noise cancelling is the best we’ve yet seen, they’re superbly comfortable, and the 27-plus hour battery life goes the distance. They’re foldable and there’s even a detachable cord if you forget to charge them, plus a whole host of optional settings in the accompanying smartphone app.
For those who don't want the bulk of over-ear headphones, these on-ear headphones are an excellent choice. They have fantastic sound and good build quality, and they fold into a compact shape to store in their carrying case. NFC support means you can connect them to your smartphone simply by touching your smartphone to the NFC symbol on the headphones.
If you love listening through headphones at home and want to do away with wires, these could be the perfect pair. They make for very immersive listening and have nice retro looks. They have a lovely warm, natural tone with a wide range of sound frequencies produced and plenty of detail.
These over-ear headphones have active noise-cancelling technology to block out background noise. They’re very comfortable and sound quality is decent. Speech is clear and engaging, but the bass can be a touch heavy at times. Battery life varies depending on how you use them. We managed between 22 and 35 hours of playback, which is impressive regardless.
Alternative to TV headphones: Sony Wireless Handy TV Speaker (SRS-LSR100)
Many people who are hard of hearing look to buy TV headphones so they don’t to turn up the TV volume too loud. However, listening to the TV with headphones on can be quite isolating and cut you off from others. Sony aims to provide an alternative with the Sony Wireless Handy TV Speaker (SRS-LSR100). This is a small speaker with a carry handle that you can place close by you in addition to the sound from the TV itself. This means you don’t need to listen at as loud a volume as you would with the TV alone, and you can even listen a long way from the TV.
In addition, since the speaker only projects its sound to a small area of the room, other people can listen to the TV at a normal volume while you still enjoy the benefits. It has its own large rotary volume knob so you can adjust the sound independently from the sound from the TV itself, along with buttons that mean you can use it for most functions of your usual TV remote, such as changing channels.
The wireless speaker communicates with a dock which you connect to your TV, and the dock also conveniently charges the speaker when you put it back there when not in use, so you don’t have to remember to charge it. It also has a Voice Zoom feature which boosts spoken dialogue, allowing you to listen at a lower volume and still hear what people in the room are saying.
Pros: You don’t feel isolated from others in the room by wearing headphones, can change the volume independently from the TV volume, convenient charging from the dock, large controls for those with limited dexterity, Voice Zoom feature to make voices in films and TV programmes clearer without turning up the overall volume any louder
Cons: Expensive and there are things to watch out for – read our full Sony Wireless Handy TV Speaker (SRS-LSR100) review to find out
There’s also a secondary use for this speaker. If you want to listen to the TV through headphones while others are listening to the TV without headphones, one problem people often encounter is being unable to find a volume that works for this. Often the headphones will be too quiet at the right TV volume for other people in the room. The Sony Wireless Handy TV Speaker allows you to adjust the volume independently from the TV, and since it also features a standard 3.5mm headphones socket, you can connect wired headphones to the speaker. But as they connect to the portable speaker, you won’t have wired trailing across the room. We haven’t covered any wired headphones in this guide – follow this link for our best wired headphones to pair with this speaker.
Find out all the key details of the Sony Wireless Handy TV Speaker, including how good the sound quality is, whether it’s convenient to use, what to watch out for and much more in our comprehensive first look Sony Wireless Handy TV Speaker (SRS-LSR100) review.
TV headphones to avoid
Headphones designed specifically for TV use often come at a premium, and over-ear Bluetooth pairs tend to be costlier as well. All headphones manufacturers say they sound great – including ones we’ve exposed to be dreadful Don’t Buys. Plus it can be particularly difficult when searching online as you can’t try out how each sound.
We’ve found expensive TV headphones with atrocious sound that will make listening a chore – that’s if you’re able to clearly understand the slurred and muddy speech at all. And we’ve even uncovered multiple costly pairs with such poor wireless signal they pick up unwanted interference – one with a constant unbearable background hiss – and from a big-name brand as well.
There’s nothing worse than getting an uncomfortable pair of headphones for TV use you don’t get on with, or ones that only make for a disappointing experience you don’t want to use.
Worst headphones for TV use
These may look similar to other TV headphones with a base station, but the difference in sound quality is stark. There’s a lack of bass, so TV and film scores, and sound effects lack depth. Sound overall feels dull and muffled, lacking in clarity. The battery takes a sluggish seven hours to fully charge, and even worse, we found the headphones randomly picked up radio stations during our testing. Avoid.
Beware being lulled into a false sense of security by big brand names. These big-brand headphones are one of our worst-ever scoring pairs of headphones in our expert lab tests. Sound is thin and sibilants in speech are so harsh they're painful. Our listening panel found they were hot and tight, clamping round your head, and heavy as well.
You'll want to steer well clear of these headphones. They're actually meant for use in the home, so you can listen to your hi-fi or TV late at night without disturbing others. Unfortunately though, you're the one that will end up being disturbed if you buy these headphones. The sound is rotten - a distracting hiss swamps everything you listen to.
Wired TV headphones
Wired headphones for TV use are best for those who don’t get on with wireless technologies, or live in a place that suffers extreme levels of interference.
Pros: Just plug in and play
Cons: Messy wires trailing across living room, some modern TVs (eg many Samsung TVs from 2017 onwards) lack a headphones socket, so you’d need to buy an adaptor
Examples of wired headphones include:
- Sennheiser HD 206
- Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7
- Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7NC
- Bose QuietComfort 25
- Sony MDR-ZX110NA
- Beats urBeats3 with Lightning Connector
- JBL T290
If your TV doesn’t have Bluetooth and you don’t like the idea of a base station, consider getting a Bluetooth adaptor such as the Avantree Audikast (TC418) (£40), August MR250 (£22) or TaoTronics TT-BA01 (£30), which you can plug into compatible TVs to add Bluetooth support. You can then use Bluetooth headphones with your TV. However, this can be fiddly to set up correctly, and there will likely be compatibility issues, such as controls on the headphones (eg for volume) not working with your TV.
Check out all our wired headphone reviews to find the perfect pair for listening with your TV if these are the right headphones for you.
TV headphone brand reliability
The best pairs of wireless headphones for TV use can often be quite expensive and you should expect them to last for years. So it’s important to choose a headphones brand with a strong record for reliability.
Our annual survey of owners of the top headphone brands exposes the stark differences between even some of the most well-known brands – it’s really important to choose the right brand to have the best chance for your headphones to last. For example, for one brand, a shocking 45% of all owners of over-ear headphones reported deteriorating earcup fabric – even from pairs costing well over £100.
Which? members can see which brand this is, and which fare best for reliability and customer score in the graph below.
Make sure you avoid a costly error by checking how top headphone brands perform on our headphones reliability page.