Watching TV isn’t often about drowning out sound in the room, but sometimes you need to keep things quiet for everyone’s sake. The best TV headphones are a mix of great choices, but sitting at the top of this hill are the Sony WH-1000XM4’s, thanks to the stellar combination of top-class ANC, great sound excellent and battery life.
Best Overall: Sony WH-1000XM4
Sony has been doing well with its headphones lineup, and that’s made especially clear by an industry stalwart like the WH-1000XM4. While TV viewing may not be the first thing you think of when looking at these cans, their set of skills are very much applicable to whatever’s happening onscreen. Whether it’s to block out noise around you, or to keep noise away from someone else at home, these cans should have you covered both ways.
On the active noise canceling (ANC) front, Sony’s unique QN1 processor and a dual noise sensor work well together to keep ambient sound away. If your surroundings are quiet, you can always turn it off and enjoy rich sound at your preferred volume without disturbing anyone else. If you want to tweak the sound for any reason, you can always use the equalizer in Sony’s Connect app to play around with the settings. For a little extra thump to explosions or dramatic soundtracks in any show or movie, try the “clear bass” slider.
It is nice that you can simultaneously pair with a second device, like your phone, so you can pause what you’re watching and take an incoming call without taking off the headphones. Call quality is excellent, thanks to Sony’s Precise Voice Pickup and Speak to Chat features optimizing sound and volume during conversations.
Battery life is really good at up to 32 hours per charge, and fast charging is always an option when you want to get back up and running. Prepare in advance, though, because you won’t be able to charge and listen to them while sitting on the couch watching something.
With the WH-1000XM4 now Sony’s flagship, the WH-1000XM3 may eventually drop in price as these take over.
- Class-leading ANC performance
- Long battery life
- Customizable sound
- Fast charging capable
- Great phone call quality
- Pair with two devices at once
- No simultaneous charging & listening
- No difference in design
$348 at Amazon $350 at Best Buy $350 at B&H
Best in class
The WH-1000XM4 take ANC up a notch and maintain the same great sound, battery life, and comfort from their predecessors.
Best Value: Sony WH-RF400
Right off the bat, it’s important to point out that the unique layout for the WH-RF400 has different pieces that make it less convenient for wall-mounted TVs. If yours is on a stand, it’s likely going to be better for you. The reason why is because there is a cable that connects the headphones’ stand to the TV, plus the other one that needs to go to a power outlet. The headphones connect to the stand wirelessly, but you may need to unplug the headphones’ stand from the TV when you want to go back to the TV speakers.
Sony doesn’t throw in bells and whistles here. There is no support for virtual surround or Dolby Digital, but you do get long range at up to 150 feet, making it easier to walk around the house wearing them while something is on. They also work with anything you’re watching on TV, provided you make the right connection to the TV. That’s either going to be through the TV’s headphone jack or an RCA adapter. There are no HDMI or optical audio ports on the stand. If you’re more technically-inclined, you could try using separately sold adapters to make these work another way.
Given all these limitations, the main reason these headphones made the cut is because they sound great and are not complex to set up. For someone who wants good sound at a good price and without any headaches related to using or maintaining them. The simplicity could be appealing, but if you spent a lot on a high-end TV, you should go to something above this anyway.
The 20-hour battery life is actually better than similar headphones that are more expensive. They recharge relatively quickly, but that won’t matter as much if you leave them to charge every so often before the battery even gets too low.
- Good sound quality
- Solid battery life
- Easy setup
- Excellent comfort
- Great range
- No HDMI or optical audio ports
- Not ideal for wall-mounted TVs
- No Dolby Digital or virtual surround
$118 at Amazon $120 at Best Buy $110 at Walmart
Keeping it simple
Sony holds features back from the WH-RF400 in favor of a more simplified TV viewing setup that anyone can handle.
Best Noise Canceling: Bose NCH 700
While Sony wins out on ANC performance, Bose isn’t far behind with the excellent NCH 700. They are worthy successors to the QC35 II, courtesy of better sound quality, and the outstanding ANC performance. They should do well to hold off background noises at home while watching whatever you like on your TV after you pair them via Bluetooth. There are 11 steps of ANC on here, so you’ve got some flexibility in applying it to your preference.
In turn, they’ll be just as good at keeping the TV’s sound away from others should the shoe be on the other foot. It helps that they’re comfortable to wear for longer periods. Bose used a softer headband and ear cups for a less restricting feeling, but in so doing, made the NCH 700 a little bigger and removed the ability to fold them.
You may forgive that based on how well they sound. Bose did a nice job putting these headphones into a balanced territory without neglecting the bass. While music was the primary focus, the same principles apply for content on TV. If it’s a dialogue-heavy show or a fast-paced action flick with gunfire and explosions, you won’t be disappointed.
Battery life is pretty good at up to 20 hours per charge. And when they die, a quick 15-minute fast charge through USB-C can give you another two hours of playback.
- Superb ANC performance
- Excellent sound quality
- Very comfortable
- Great battery life
- Fast charging
- Non-foldable, bulky design
- Competitors beat their battery life
- More expensive than the top pick
Best Noise Canceling
Bose NCH 700
$379 at Amazon $379 at Best Buy $379 at Walmart
Bose covers a lot of good ground with the NCH 700, including excellent ANC performance, sound quality, and comfort.
Best Home Theater: Sennheiser RS 175
When outfitting your home theater is your focus, Sennheiser’s RS 175 are made to play the role of dedicated headphones. These aren’t really the cans you would use to do anything else, since they’re an RF (radio frequency) pair operating through a 2.4GHz wireless connection. The base station connects to the TV, but the headphones connect wirelessly, and the range is between 100-300 feet, so you can move around a fair bit wearing these.
With a digital optical audio connection, you have an easy path to setting these up because most TVs from the last decade will have that port. If for whatever reason, it doesn’t, you can also use the 3.5mm headphone jack instead. The plug-and-play setup is great, and so is the scalability. If you want, you can add a second pair of RS 175 headphones to the same base station so you can watch along with someone else at the respective volumes you prefer.
They also sound great, with a rich and warm soundstage that should play well, no matter the content you watch. The Surround Sound setting is a mixed bag, as it’s not as good as more current virtual surround technologies, but it’s there if you want it.
Battery life is a steady 18 hours, depending on volume levels. That’s plenty for binging any show, and recharging is easy because you can just do it when setting them back on the base station.
- Great sound quality
- Excellent wireless range
- Easy setup and configuration
- Decent battery life
- So-so surround sound setting
- Could feel constricting over long periods
Best Home Theater
Sennheiser RS 175
$280 at Amazon $280 at Walmart $280 at Newegg
Headphones made for your TV
The Sennheiser RS 175 has one job to do and that makes it easy and enjoyable to watch TV. Check on both counts.
Best Surround Sound: Creative SXFI Gamer
This one may be a surprise, but if you know Creative’s Super X-Fi (SXFI) technology, it won’t be. The Singapore-based company has been working on its own virtual surround sound tech for the last couple of years, and in the SXFI Gamer, you get the kind of spatial audio performance you’d especially want for gaming. They won’t match the best-dedicated gaming headsets on pure audio quality, but that’s fine if hearing in 360-degrees gives you an edge while playing. The boom mic is just a bonus for multiplayer action.
These need USB-C (there’s also a USB-A adapter), so aren’t wireless in any way, which is a bummer, yet understandable as a pair of gaming cans. You will need to go through the SXFI app to map your ears to a profile that personalizes the sound profile, which can be a bit tedious, though necessary to get the most out of the tech.
The good thing about the SXFI Gamer is that you can use them for non-gaming content, too. If you stream Netflix through your console, for instance, you will get the surround effect for movies and shows that support 5.1 surround sound. Another cool tweak is with Roku TVs or streaming devices. Use the Roku app on your phone, plug these headphones into the USB-C port, and you can use SXFI to watch whatever is on there in virtual surround. It also has a 3.5mm headphone jack to plug into devices that way, though you lose out on the mic and it kills the onboard LED lights.
- Great virtual surround sound
- Excellent comfort
- USB-C and 3.5mm wired options
- Works with non-gaming content
- Customization options
- SXFI app is a little tedious
- No wireless capabilities
Best Surround Sound
Creative SXFI Gamer
$130 at Amazon
Hearing it from all sides
Creative puts all angles on blast with the SXFI Gamer, which stands out for its excellent virtual surround sound.
Best for Game Consoles: Razer Blackshark V2
Gaming headphones are about timing and precision. Razer is a top brand in the gaming business, so it stands to reason that it would make a good pair of cans for gamers. The beauty of the Blackshark V2 is that they’re so good for so much less. And it’s a plug-and-play setup, where you simply plug into the 3.5mm headphone jack on the controller for your console and you’re good to go.
The cable is permanently attached to the headphones, which is unfortunate in case something goes wrong with it. For that reason alone, you would have to be a little gentle while using these. There is a sound card embedded inside, giving you 7.1 virtual surround sound, except you get the full experience when plugging in via USB. That includes making adjustments to the microphone or tweaking the sound profile. Razer’s Synapse desktop app is available on PCs, but not through consoles, so if you are to make any changes, you can’t do it on a console.
Even if you don’t care much for the surround effect, the Blackshark V2 sound great without it. There is deep bass, with lively mids and highs for an excellent piece of gaming kit. The mic is responsive, and may not need much adjustment out of the box. Razer also managed to make them comfy to wear, so you won’t be feeling a pinch unless you wear them for really long sessions.
- Excellent sound quality
- Surround sound effect
- USB-A and 3.5mm connectors
- Easy to set up
- Affordable price
- Adjustments need a PC
- Cable permanently attached
Best for Game Consoles
Razer Blackshark V2
$100 at Amazon $100 at Best Buy $100 at Newegg
Gaming on point
Razer sticks to its gaming chops with a pair of headphones that sound great without forcing you to splurge for them.
Best for Hearing Impaired: Avantree HT4189
Avantree didn’t exclusively make the HT4189 headphones for the hearing impaired, but there’s plenty to like about them if that’s who is going to benefit. These are Bluetooth headphones that communicate with a transmitter (comes included) for low-latency playback that eliminates lag. They’re easy to set up, be it through RCA, digital optical audio, or the 3.5mm Aux-in jack.
The ear cushions are fairly large enough to accommodate hearing aids, with soft padding to make it easier to wear them over longer periods. They sound great out of the box, and last up to 40 hours per charge. Wireless range also goes up to 100 feet for extra flexibility when viewers have to get up and do something but still want to hear the TV.
The catch to all this is there’s a good chance you may not be able to use the TV speakers at the same time, though it really depends on your TV. That’s one reason why Avantree also sells the HT4189 as a bundle with two pairs and the transmitter. You don’t have to get a second pair if you already have Bluetooth headphones because the transmitter will pair with them, except you will want to do it with a pair that supports the FastStream codec to reduce any lag.
- Great sound quality
- Easy setup
- Excellent battery life
- Pairs with two headphones at once
- Comfortable fit
- May cut off TV speakers
- FastStream codec not widely supported
Best for Hearing Impaired
$100 at Amazon $100 at Walmart $100 at Newegg
Bringing sound closer
The Avantree HT4189 could make life in front of the TV so much for the hard of hearing through a great setup and sound.
Best on a Budget: Mpow 059
Budget-friendly options do exist for TV headphones, and the Mpow 059 are not just cheaper, but also more colorful than your garden variety pair of cans. The snazzy look complements what turns out to be a solid performer. If music was your primary motivation, these headphones might not be as good as others Mpow has come up with, but including a TV transmitter changes the perspective completely.
Mpow didn’t radically change anything to pivot this way, so it is the same product, for the most part. It’s a pretty straightforward setup to connect them to your TV, and once the base station connects to the headphones, there’s not much else to do except listen. The bass-heavy sound signature may not always fit with every show or movie you watch, but you will appreciate it in those times where it makes a scene feel immersive.
Subjective as it is, you should find them to be a comfortable fit, which matters even more when considering the battery life. At up to 20 hours, it’s a modest number, and more than good enough to binge a few episodes or movies in one sitting. The transmitter stand is super convenient for keeping the headphones tidy, and since you can pair with another device at the same time, it might as well be your phone whenever calls come in.
- Good bass-heavy sound
- Pairs with two devices at once
- Comes with transmitter stand
- Decent battery life
- Affordable price
- Better for TV than music
- A little fragile
Best on a Budget
$60 from Amazon $67 at Newegg
Sound travels for less
Mpow reinvents its 059 over-ear headphones as TV-friendly cans, and the makeover works out well.
TVs have come a long way to accommodate different ways to hear what’s happening onscreen. As their own speakers have gotten progressively worse, alternatives can always lead to wireless Bluetooth headphones as a way to improve on that, which is why you see them here among the best TV headphones.
Right now, the Sony’s WH-1000XM4 are the best on the market, owing to a combinaton of outstanding ANC performance, great sound, long battery life, handy controls and a comfortable fit. Those attributes all carry over nicely to watching your favorite content on TV, and since you can still stay in touch through your phone, you’re never really out of reach for those who need you.
They’re not dedicated TV or gaming headphones, like others on this list, and that’s okay. The beauty of today’s choices is they can cover the bases you want at any given time.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Ted Kritsonis loves taking photos when the opportunity arises, be it on a camera or smartphone. Beyond sports and world history, you can find him tinkering with gadgets or enjoying a cigar.