Updated 19 November 2021
Wireless headphones have begun to take over the market, but it's not always easy to understand how to connect them to their devices. Whether you’re connecting your headphones to your phone, PC, TV, game console – or anything, really – we have a guide telling you how to do it.
Wireless headphones have been around for a while, but with headphone jacks on our mobile phones disappearing, they’re really taking off. But how do you connect your new wireless headphones to your mobile phone? And if you’ve invested in a great pair of wireless headphones, you might want to be able to use them for more than just your mobile. If so, can you connect the headphones to your TV or game console, for example? But it’s OK, here we give you all the help you need.
The following guides will tell you how to connect a pair of wireless headphones or a headset to a wide range of products. We’ll be talking about a few special solutions, but the idea is that you should be able to use your favourite headphones wherever you want.
There are different types of wireless headphone technology, but the one that dominates today is Bluetooth. For your mobile and computer, pretty much only Bluetooth actually works for wireless headphones.
Bluetooth itself is available in a variety of different versions (at the time of writing version 5.2 is the latest version). The different versions focus on different applications of the technology, but for headphones the Bluetooth version itself doesn’t make much difference. The right version usually comes with the right technology, but it may be useful to know of at least two Bluetooth technologies.
At the same time, it doesn’t matter which version of Bluetooth is involved, as they can talk to each other fairly well. For example, a pair of Bluetooth 3 headphones have no problem talking to a phone that has a Bluetooth 5.2 chip.
A2DP (Advanced Audio Distribution Profile) or simply the ability to transfer music via Bluetooth. All Bluetooth headphones have this support, but the device sending the audio may not have it (PlayStation 4, for example).
AptX is a technology for compressing audio. This allows for better sound quality over Bluetooth, with faster transmission. The latter may be interesting to get the best possible sync between the image and sound in a film, for example. For it to work requires that both headphones and the device they are connected to support the technology.
With a pair of wired headphones, you just plug the headphone plug into the appropriate socket and off you go. Bluetooth wireless headphones require a little more manual intervention – but not much.
First of all, remember to charge the battery. This may seem obvious, but it’s often forgotten and you’ll find yourself at the start of your journey to work with a pair of headphones with the battery gauge flashing red. Add charging them to your daily routine to avoid this.
Bluetooth headphones also need to be put in pairing mode to connect. This works slightly differently depending on the headphones. The easiest way is to check the manual for your headphones, but there are a couple of standard pairing modes.
Put your headphones on. This will allow you to hear when the headphones go into pairing mode (either through a voice that tells you, or through musical tones, depending on the headphones).
Some headphones have a special pairing button that you press, and this is the easiest method. It’s more usual that you press and hold either the power button when you start the headphones, or hold the volume up, or the call/answer button to go into pairing mode.
If you’re running Android on your phone, some headphones allow you to use NFC for pairing. This means you only need to “tap” the headphones on your phone to pair them
Open the Bluetooth settings on the device the headphones should connect to and search for new devices. If pairing mode has worked successfully, the headphones will appear in the list of available devices. Then you just select the headphones and you're ready to go!
All Mac computers have Bluetooth built in, and full wireless headphone support. Connecting them is easy.
Most Windows 10 computers and tablets have Bluetooth built in, but the same doesn’t always apply to desktops. In this case, you may need a Bluetooth adapter. This is a small gadget you plug into a free USB socket on your computer, giving your computer Bluetooth connectivity. These usually install themselves without you having to do anything after plugging them in You can find a range of these here
With that done, now it’s time to connect the headphones.
The latest version of Windows, Windows 11, looks like its predecessor in many ways. The easiest way to connect Bluetooth headphones is through the Start menu.
TVs can be fiddly to pair with wireless headphones, but not always. Today, many smart TVs from most brands have built-in Bluetooth support that allows you to connect headphones or keyboards. Check the manual for your TV to see how this works with your model. Alternatively, you can go into settings and look for menu choices such as “Wireless devices”, “Accessories” or similar.
If your TV has Bluetooth built in
If your TV doesn’t have Bluetooth, or doesn’t support wireless headphones, you’ll need a small accessory. You need a Bluetooth transmitter with a headphone connector (3.5 mm). This is a small device that’s either battery or mains powered and which plugs into the headphone jack on your TV. It sends audio to your headphones wirelessly.
Because both the transmitter and your headphones lack a screen, the connection can be a bit fiddly, but you can check the transmitter’s manual to do it right.
It’s important that you make sure it’s a transmitter and not a receiver, and that it has a headphone connector. A receiver goes the other way – in other words, you can only send audio to it, for example if you want to play music from your phone on a stereo.
For TV, there are also a lot of dedicated wireless headphones with their own base station that plugs into the headphone jack. The disadvantage is that they only work with your TV.
Connecting your wireless headphones to Android is easy and any phone or tablet with the system supports it.
iPhone and iPad have no problems connecting to wireless headphones. The procedure is the same for both iPhone and iPad, and this is how it works.
Apple AirPods and newer models of headphones from Beats (which is owned by Apple) are a little easier to connect to an iPhone. This is because of their built-in W1 chip, which manages wireless communication. It’s still Bluetooth, but with a quick connection to iPhone, iPad and Mac. You can still use W1-chip headphones with other brands, but you need to pair them in the usual way.
For initial pairing, it will take no more than three seconds for the headphones to connect to the nearest iPhone when you turn on the power to the headphones. You just put them down next to your phone or tablet and everything happens automatically.
For a hyper-modern game console released in 2020, you’d think Bluetooth headphones should be a breeze for the PlayStation 5. But nope.
The easiest way to play with wireless audio is to buy Sony's own Pulse 3D Wireless headset. You can connect this to the PS5 wirelessly with no fuss.
But what about if you already have a good pair of Bluetooth headphones? If so, you sadly have to buy an adapter. Another option is to run the audio through your TV, if it supports Bluetooth headphones.
If you go for the adapter version, you’ll need a Bluetooth adapter to connect via USB-A. Because Bluetooth is standard, most Bluetooth dongles should work.
The Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S were released in November 2020. Modern enough to support something as simple as wireless headphones, right? Nope.
Just like its predecessor, and like Sony’s PlayStation consoles, rather surprisingly there’s no support for Bluetooth headphones. However, there are still solutions.
The Sony PlayStation 4 is a bit of a special case. It has Bluetooth built in, but only for connecting the keyboard and mouse. The required A2DP technology is lacking and so unfortunately, the console won’t work with standard Bluetooth headphones.
There are a couple of solutions. If you play a lot online and want the ability to voice chat, your only option is a headset for the PlayStation 4. A simple one of these comes with the console, but if you want something better for both voice chat and gaming sound, you can invest in a PlayStation 4 headset that plugs into the headset port on your controller. Special wireless PlayStation headsets are also available.
If you can do without voice chat, there are a couple of things you can do. If you already have built-in support for Bluetooth headphones in your TV, or an adapter for it (see that section), you can use that sound for playing too (if you output the sound through an amplifier without Bluetooth, you can resolve that with the same type of adapter as the TV).
The Xbox One doesn’t offer the option to connect Bluetooth headphones, but there are still possibilities.
The Xbox controller includes a headphone jack (3.5 mm) for normal wired headphones and headsets. Many over-ear wireless headphones often have sockets for wires (and come with a wire) so you can plug them directly into the controller. This won’t be completely wireless, but it does work.
However, this only applies to newer Xbox one controllers. The older ones didn’t have a normal headphone jack but require a Stereo Headset Adapter to work (as a bonus you also get handy volume control buttons).
If you can do without talking to people, but simply want to hear sound through headphones without disturbing anyone else in your home, the best way is to use a Bluetooth transmitter for your TV or amplifier (if either of these doesn’t support Bluetooth from the outset). See this section for more information.
The enormous portability of the Nintendo Switch should take wireless headphone technology into account as well. But it’s only in 2021 that we can say this is actually the case.
The Nintendo Switch has a standard headphone jack, so you can plug your wired headphones in. But it was only through a software update in August 2021 that Nintendo added the option to connect wireless headphones via Bluetooth.
Whether you’re playing in portable mode or docked mode, it’s a convenient way to avoid disturbing the people around you with the sounds of the games. It should be mentioned, however, that a pair of connected headphones will cause problems if you intend to connect many controllers wirelessly.
Anyway, this is how you pair Bluetooth headphones to the Nintendo Switch:
Stick to the topic and maintain a respectful attitude toward others. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate posts.