Headphones allow you to listen to your TV without disturbing other
people. Headphones come in wired versions and wireless versions. But
the headphones must connect to your TV in some fashion.
Digital TV flat
panels often have limited audio outputs. Some have the old style analog
RCA stereo (white and red), some have the 3.5mm analog stereo output
while others will only have the digital
optical audio out.
Headphones are analog stereo. If your TV has analog
stereo audio outputs, either the two RCA white and red ports or the
3.5mm single audio out port, consider yourself lucky because plenty of
HDTVs have only the digital optical audio output which requires an
optical audio cable and for headphones, a converter (DAC or digital to
analog converter) from digital PCM
audio to analog stereo.
The digital optical audio output on the TV should be able to output
Dolby Digital 5.1 to a surround sound system, home theater, or Dolby
Digital audio/video receiver for multi-channel sound. However, most
HDTVs have the ability to change over to PCM. The TV menu typically has
an audio output option where you can switch back and forth between PCM
and Dolby Digital. The Dolby Digital option may not be available until
you connect to a surround sound setup.
What is PCM?
PCM is the same digital audio
format as on a compact disc CD, two channel uncompressed stereo.
What is Dolby Digital?
Dolby Digital 5.1 is compressed 6 channel audio. This audio needs to be
decoded, uncompressed by a device such as an audio/video receiver or
DAC and converted to analog audio before you can hear it.
HDTV REAR PANEL
The Audio Out section shows three options, analog RCA, analog 3.5mm and
Headphone listening is easy if you have a ROKU 3, as it comes with a
remote control which has a 3.5mm headphone jack. Just plug in your
headphones to the remote and you get wireless private listening. The TV
sound is cut off when you plug in the headphones.
If you use a cable box for TV programs, the cable TV box should have
the white and red audio output ports on the rear of the box. Plug in
RCA adapter cable with the two RCA plugs on one end and a 3.5mm female
jack on the other end and then your headphones to the female jack. Then
just mute the TV sound. An audio extension cord can be used to extend
the distance from cable box to headphones position. You could also use
the cable box RCA audio output to connect to a stereo amplifier for
loudspeaker or headphone listening.
DIRECT HEADPHONES CONNECTION to TV
For wired headphones or earbuds, you can connect directly to the TV
audio output if your TV has these analog ports. For more distance from
the TV, an audio extension cord can be used. Headphones and earbuds
usually have the 3.5mm stereo plug. So if your TV has the 3.5mm audio
out, just connect directly or use a 3.5mm audio extension cord.
If your TV has the analog RCA stereo (white/red) audio outputs, use an
audio adapter cable which has the two RCA male plugs and a female 3.5mm
on the other end to connect your headphones. Mute the volume on the TV
for private listening.
Audio adapter cable RCA to 3.5mm
Some TVs have a preset volume level for their audio output ports and
the TV volume control will not amplify the sound. In this case you can
connect to a stereo receiver or amplifier and control the volume using
Another option is to use a pair of desktop computer
speakers with a built-in amplifier and headphone jack. Plug the
speakers into the TV and the headphones into the speakers. Then you can
control the volume using the amplified speakers. You could also buy
headphones with volume control or just buy a simple 3.5mm in-line
volume control cord to limit sound that is too loud.
If your TV only has the digital optical audio output, there are a few
considerations which complicate a headphone connection but it will
still work for most TVs. The digital audio output (OPTICAL) is present
on most HDTVs. This audio output should be able to send digital PCM
stereo or Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound (when available).
For a headphone connection, you need an audio converter which can
accept the optical cable connection from the TV and the analog stereo
connection to the headphones. The audio converter will be of two kinds.
One kind of converter can only convert PCM stereo. The other kind of
converter can convert PCM stereo and decode and convert Dolby
Digital 5.1 surround
Although expensive, there are wireless headphones with the
capability to connect to the TV using a direct optical cable
connection. The converter is built-in to the base unit. This setup is
easy because you just plug an optical cable into the TV's optical audio
out and into the optical audio input on the wireless headphone base
unit. The Sennheiser RS-175 is one example of this type of headphone to
You need to look up your TV's audio output capabilities online or in
your owner's manual to find out if your TV has the ability to set audio
output to PCM. If your TV cannot output PCM audio, you will probably
need to buy the more expensive audio
decoder/converter which can convert
Digital surround sound to analog stereo for headphones. Another problem
is the fixed volume level many TV sets have today on their audio
outputs. The fixed volume may be too loud or not loud enough. The headphone
amplifier solves this problem.
Wired Headphones to audio converter using 3.5mm headphone jack
an audio converter.
This solution involves an audio converter box which
you will need to buy. Cost can be from $20 to $50 or so. These small
devices will accept the optical cable connection from your TV and allow
the stereo analog RCA output connection to your headphones, amplifier
There are some considerations here, such as:
Does the converter box actually convert the digital audio to analog or
whatever the TV is sending out from the optical output? Some converter
boxes actually convert
the digital bitstream to analog audio but others will only pass a PCM
2-channel signal to the analog RCA output.
If you see a warning regarding the audio converter box you intend to
buy such as the example below, be sure your TV can output 2-channel
stereo and not just surround sound 5.1 signals.
NOTE! This device will NOT decode
5.1-channel signals. It will ONLY convert 2-channel digital stereo
(PCM) input signals to analog stereo output. This will not work with
TVs that only output 5.1-channel digital signals!
The best converters will convert surround sound to 6 channel analog
audio. Look at the audio converter box. Does it have 6 RCA output jacks
just 2 RCA outputs?
The reason this is important is because some TVs do
not have the option to output their audio as 2-channel PCM over the
only as Dolby Digital
5.1, which needs to be decoded. Go into your TVs audio menu to check
which audio output options are available.
If your TV has the option to output
sound as 2-channel PCM or Dolby Digital 5.1, then you can buy a
only 2 RCA outputs (although you may want to buy a box with 6 analog
outputs). Set the TV to output PCM audio and connect a
standard stereo RCA cable to the converter box RCA outputs and then to
your inputs on a stereo receiver or other sound device.
If your TV can only output Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound, then you
need a converter box which can decode the optical bitstream to 6
channel analog audio.
Audio converter box which takes optical input and outputs 6 channel
If you only have a stereo amp, only connect the FL (front left) and the
FR (front right) cable connections.
Converter box with only 2 analog audio connections. This box does not
convert the optical digital audio so you have to be able to give it PCM
There are also soundbars
with optical inputs and wireless headphones
with optical inputs that may offer a solution. Soundbars for your TV
will give you some
enhanced sound while headphones will allow private TV listening. You
could also buy a home theater in a box system from Samsung, Sony, Onkyo
or Panasonic. These have optical inputs and give you richer sound from
loudspeakers. Just connect an optical audio cable from the TV to the
sound system and start enjoying better sound than your TV speakers can
Wireless headphones use various transmission technologies (Bluetooth,
Radio Frequency, Infrared) from the base unit, connected to the TV, to
the headphones. Be sure to check the distances you want to be able to
use your headphones before buying a setup. Some units can go 300 feet
and more. The base unit connects to the audio converter box in the case
of TVs with only digital optical audio outputs. The headphones need
batteries to work. Some are recharged as they sit upon the base
station. Most wireless headphone systems give you some audio adapter
cables for RCA and 3.5mm connections.
Wireless headphones connection
The sound is output from the TV to the base station and the base unit
sends the stereo sound out to the headphones
be hundreds of feet
Another option to connect headphones is to use an AVR. These can decode
Dolby Digital and have optical audio inputs and a headphone jack with
volume control. Most have HDMI to connect video to the TV so you can
hookup all your source devices such as cable TV box or satellite TV and
games, turntable, CD, DVD, iPod and so forth and listen using
headphones. This is the way most people listen to their TVs surround
sound. Hookup an optical audio cable from the TV's digital optical
output to the AVR's optical audio input and you get audio, either from
loudspeakers or the headphone jack on
Headphones with Volume Control
Want to have up to 4 people
able to listen using headphones and have volume control to silence
stereo headphone amplifier powers up to 4 headphones each with volume
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