How to use Bluetooth Headphones with Apple TV 4

What to Look for, How to use Them

woman listening on headphones
Guido Mieth

People keep different schedules. Your parents, kids or partner may be poring over work while you are in the mood to sit back and relax with a good movie, some music or a game on your Apple TV. They won’t thank you for making a racket while they try to work and this is where Bluetooth headphones can save the day.

Choosing Bluetooth Headphones

Bluetooth is a low-frequency wireless standard that lets devices communicate over short distances.

There are Bluetooth headphones at different prices from a multitude of manufacturers (including Apple’s own Beats brand) and you can always get some inspiration for your next set by researching reputable buying guides, such as this one from UK consumer advocacy organization, Which!. We are not reviewing headsets here, but we can provide guidelines to help you choose the correct set for you. When searching for new headphones consider:

  • Design: Looks aren’t everything but they do mean something. Do you want a utilitarian and functional set of headphones or are you looking for an attractively designed set you can also use with your iPhone. There are four basic designs, earbuds, in ear headphones, on-ear headphones and over-ear headphones.
  • Microphone: If you want to use the headphones with an iPhone you’ll need to look at sets that are also equipped with a microphone to take calls.
  • Comfort: Comfort is critical if you plan to wear the headphones for extended periods. Do you prefer in-ear or over the ear headsets?
  • Sound: Most critically you want your chosen headphones to sound good. In general in-ear models don’t produce much bass but are good for treble and mid-range, while over the ear sets can deliver a good and rich sound field. Open back sets are more natural and let you hear what’s going on around you (though the sound leaks to those nearby) while closed models are a little muffled.
  • Noise cancellation: If you intend using headphones with your Apple TV do you want to ignore all the noise around you? If so you may want to choose a set of noise-canceling headphones. These create anti-noise frequencies to literally negate nearby sound.
  • Battery Life: How much battery life do you get from the headphones? This isn’t necessarily a deal breaker but if you have put together a shortlist of sets you like you may want to use battery life to thin the herd a little.

Check Bluetooth versions

Apple TV uses Bluetooth 4.0 so for best results and to avoid interference and/or sudden audio dropouts it makes sense to buy headphones that also run the same Bluetooth 4.0 standard. Older versions are compatible but the latest edition of Bluetooth offers better stability. Be wary if you are purchasing a set of Apple’s new AirPods as these use Apple’s own proprietary W1 wireless chip and may not be compatible with Apple TV 4 (they appear incompatible at time of writing).

Now you have acquired a set of suitable Bluetooth headphones let’s get you using them with your Apple TV.

How to Pair Headphones with Apple TV 4 or Later

First, you need to pair your Bluetooth headphones with the Apple TV according to these instructions:

  • Put your headphones into pairing mode – the way to do this differs between manufacturers so check the documentation you received with your headphones to achieve this.
  • Launch Settings on Apple TV and select Remotes and Devices>Bluetooth
  • The Apple TV will search for all available Bluetooth devices, listing these on the screen, wait until the name of your headphones appears.
  • Choose them from the list to pair
  • You may be required to enter a PIN code to pair them with Apple TV.
  • If have any problems with the process to make sure the software on both the Apple TV and your headphones is up to date.

You can also pair Bluetooth speakers with Apple TV using these instructions.

Switching Audio Outputs

You may find yourself watching something using the Apple TV that you need to share with those around you, perhaps a news broadcast or an iconic moment in a movie.  You can temporarily switch audio outputs in Settings>Audio and Video>Audio Output. Select this and you’ll be able to choose to output audio through the Apple TV in the ordinary way. You can then switch audio back when you wish to do so.

How to Unpair Headphones

In order to use your headphones with another device or for another reason, you may find you need to unpair your headphones from the Apple TV. This is incredibly simple to achieve:

  • Open Settings>Remotes and Devices>Bluetooth
  • Find your headphones in the list, choose them and then choose ‘Forget Device’ in the menu that appears.
  • You’ll be asked to confirm your decision by tapping a red ‘Forget Device’ command.

I do hope this report helps you use Bluetooth headphones with your Apple TV.