Why do smart TVs make it so hard to connect to my headphones?


Another day, another frustrating attempt to connect headphones to a smart TV.

As a TV reviewer, I have many screens presented to me, and arguably the biggest pain in the testing process is getting my various equipment – game consoles, streaming devices, audio accessories, and service accounts. streaming – all set up and ready to go. And I can’t help but wonder why connecting wireless headphones, in particular, is usually so painful.

While some smart TVs these days still come with wired headphone outputs, it’s 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. .

There are plenty of wireless earbuds to choose from, including dedicated earbuds for watching TV that can stream 5.1 (or even 7.1) sound as well as active noise cancellation to prevent sound from your family, friends and family. friends and your home. But it’s perfectly possible to connect standard wireless headphones or on-ear boxes and enjoy some solo audio time.

It is possible, that is to say, but not always intuitive. I had a lot of trouble just trying to find the right settings – which tend to be hidden away from the audio settings you think they would be housed in. Anker projectors like the Nebula Solar Portable (which includes Android TV) keep the connection options under Remotes and Accessories, rather than Audio – while the newer Panasonic OLED TVs with HomeMyScreen keep them in a Setup submenu (Setup> Bluetooth Setup). > Bluetooth audio) rather than Sound.

If you’re familiar with this connection settings quirk, it’s not too hard to figure out what to do – although the experience isn’t always seamless.

person wearing headphones watching television

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Let’s connect

TV critic and calibration specialist Vincent Teoh, from HDTV test, states that “I don’t think this is a priority for TV manufacturers” and that “if it is not a priority, TV manufacturers generally will not allocate resources to implement it.”

This somewhat echoes Anker’s official response, which tells us that “Bluetooth is not an essential feature”, with only “about a quarter” of their customers tending to use it with their range of projectors. .

When connecting to Panasonic TVs, it is important to set the sound to “Bluetooth only” to ensure that the TV remote control is controlling the headphones themselves. But we found that the touch controls on our high-end Sony WH-1000XM4 on-ear boxes just didn’t work when connected to the Panasonic JZ2000, which seemed like an odd ability to lose in this 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 at all – sometimes causes blind spots like these, where compatibility with headphones only. go so far. Sometimes, like with the LG E9 OLED we reviewed in 2019, Bluetooth connectivity just won’t work at all.

To Panasonic’s credit, it has included a new dual Bluetooth feature in its 2021 TV lineup, allowing you to have separate volume settings for two connected headphones – and dual connection is now standard on the new Apple TV 4K for Apple’s AirPods too.

But there’s clearly a long way to go before implementing Bluetooth in smart TVs is as seamless and easily accessible as switching between picture presets with the push of a button.

For those who want to watch TV and movies with their headphones, there are ways to do it – don’t expect it to be as easy as it should be for a while.


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