Whether you like to watch late-night TV while your family or roommates are asleep or just live in an apartment with paper-thin walls, TV headphones are a great way to enjoy your favorite shows and movies without disturbing those around you. However, not all headphones are created equal. Even the best-sounding headphones can be nearly useless for watching TV if they have lip-sync issues.
While wired headphones virtually guarantee a latency-free listening experience, it can be quite the bother to have a long cable running from the TV to your couch. Bluetooth headphones are a lot more convenient but can have problems with audio lag. Thankfully, a number of wireless headphones have low enough latency to be suitable for watching TV. Many are designed with gamers in mind, but there are a few models that are dedicated for TV as well.
We've tested over 490 pairs of headphones, and below, you'll find our recommendations for the best TV headphones. See our recommendations for the best wireless gaming headsets, the best audiophile headphones, and the best wired headphones.
The best wireless headphones for TV that we've tested are the SteelSeries Arctis Pro Wireless. Many of the features that make for a great gaming experience are also important when watching TV, and these ones check off all the boxes. They connect wirelessly with no noticeable audio lag thanks to their unique wireless transmitter compatible with a wide range of home theater set-ups. They can even connect to a Bluetooth device simultaneously so that you can mix audio from your phone and your TV at the same time.
The wireless transmitter provides a low-latency connection and serves as a battery charging station and a customization center for the headphones. You can EQ the way they sound and control the volume levels of the different input sources directly on the transmitter, which is very convenient. It also charges their removable battery, and since they come with two batteries, you can always keep one charging while the other is in use.
While they have a slightly less gamer-centric look than many other gaming headphones we've reviewed, they're still relatively bulky, especially since their microphone isn't detachable. The headband frame can also be too small for some people, which can get uncomfortable at the end of a long movie if your head presses against the frame. The Astro A50 Gen 4 Wireless 2019 have a more ergonomic design that many people find more comfortable, but aren't as feature-packed as the SteelSeries, which are the best home theater headphones overall.
The best wireless headphones for TV specifically designed for this purpose that we've tested are the Sennheiser RS 175 RF Wireless. They interface wirelessly with a specialized receiver dock that plugs directly into most television sets and provides low latency communication with your home theater setup. They also provide an intuitive, if basic, control scheme with physical buttons for volume as well as surround sound and bass boost.
Their sound profile is a little on the bass-heavy side, giving explosions and gunshots an added bit of kick and rumble. Thankfully, this doesn’t come at the expense of completely crowding out more delicate lines of dialogue. Given their intended purpose, their 24-hour battery life is excellent, though recharging them when using a pair of rechargeable AAA batteries can take up to eight hours, depending on their condition and age.
Given their premium price, their build quality is only decent, with low-grade plastic ear cups and somewhat unnatural-feeling lining. Their stiff ear cup padding also means that they leak quite a bit of audio and don’t deliver an especially consistent fit, especially if you wear glasses. These headphones occupy a niche market, so alternatives are thin on the ground: the Sennheiser RS 185 RF Wireless are better performers overall while the Sennheiser RS 165 RF Wireless are cheaper, but both are very difficult to find.
The best Bluetooth headphones for TV that we've tested are the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 Wireless 2016. While Bluetooth generally doesn't make for the best option while watching TV due to audio lag issues, they use a technology called aptX-LL that helps reduce latency. You'll need to buy a dedicated Bluetooth adapter that supports aptX-LL and is compatible with your TV for them to work, but once you get everything set up, they provide a very well-rounded listening experience.
They have a very well-balanced sound profile that'll bring out the thump and rumble of your favorite action movie without muffling voices. Their battery performance is among the best we've seen yet, boasting not only a whopping 30 hours of battery life but several power-saving features too, like an auto-off timer and smart pause mode. They can even connect to two devices at the same time, so you can take calls on your phone without needing to unpair from your TV, which is great.
While their active noise cancelling feature (ANC) will help with your everyday household noises, it won't do very much if you live next to a busy street and are constantly disrupted by the sound of traffic outdoors. The Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless do a much better job at blocking out the low hum of cars passing by, but their battery doesn't last as long, and they're significantly more expensive. All-in-all, the Plantronics provide the best value for the price and are very easy to recommend.
The best headphones for watching TV in the budget category that we've tested are the Logitech G433 Gaming Headset. They may be geared towards gamers, but these wired-only headphones have a versatile overall performance. They're very comfortable, and you can even remove the boom microphone for a more casual at-home look.
They have a neutral, balanced sound profile that can reproduce dialogue from your favorite shows clearly and accurately. There's a slight boominess to their sound profile, too, which can help bring explosions and other action-packed scenes to life. If you're watching on a PC and prefer a different sound, there's a graphic EQ and presets available via the G HUB companion software.
Unfortunately, they leak a bit of noise, which may be distracting to people sitting close by. They also struggle to isolate against background noises, so they may not be the best choice if you plan on watching TV in a lively home. That said, they offer a solid TV-watching performance at a more affordable price.
If you prefer the more spacious qualities of open-back headphones for watching movies but don't want to spend a fortune on premium audiophile headphones, consider the Philips SHP9500 instead. They're less versatile than the Logitech G433 Gaming Headset since they don't have any customization options or extra features, but they're more comfortable and provide a more natural soundstage that many prefer for watching movies. Their open-back design allows ambient noise to seep into the ear cups, creating a more immersive movie-watching experience. That said, they lack quite a bit of low-bass, so you might find action movies missing some thump and rumble.
If you want a more versatile pair, check out the Logitech, but if you prefer the spacious soundstage of open-back headphones, consider the Philips instead.
09/25/2020: Slight changes to the text for accuracy and clarity; no change in recommendations.
05/29/2020: Removed the Sennheiser RS 165 RF and replaced the RS 185 RF with the RS 175 RF due to availability.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best headphones for movies and TV for most people to buy. We factor in the price (cheaper headphones win over pricier ones if the difference isn't worth it), feedback from our visitors, and availability (no headphones that are difficult to find or almost out of stock everywhere).
If you would like to choose for yourself, here are all our headphone reviews. Be careful not to get caught up in the details. There are no perfect headphones for watching movies or TV shows. Personal taste, media content, home environment, and listening habits will matter more in your selection, especially if you have a lively home or wish not to disturb anyone around you with leakage.