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How to connect wireless headphones (to almost anything)

Daniel Hessel

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 Sony wireless headphones to your phone, or your Bose wireless headphones to your PC, TV, game console – or anything, really – we have a guide telling you how to do it.

How to connect wireless headphones (to almost anything)

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.

How wireless headphones work

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.

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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.

Prepare your headphones

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.

1. Recharge the battery

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.

2. Put your headphones in pairing mode.

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

3. Connect to the phone

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!

How to connect wireless headphones to Mac

All Mac computers have Bluetooth built in, and full wireless headphone support. Connecting them is easy.

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  • Open System Preferences, either from the Apple in the menu bar at the top, or via launchpad.
  • Go into Bluetooth.
  • The computer will now automatically search for Bluetooth devices in pairing mode. Wait for a moment and your headphones will appear. Click them to pair them with your computer. In rare cases, a PIN code is required to connect, which is almost always “0000” (four zeros).
  • And here’s a bonus. If you want to easily access Bluetooth in the future, click on the “Show Bluetooth in the menu bar” box and you won’t need to go into settings the next time.

How to connect wireless headphones to a PC with Windows 10

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.

  • Turn on Bluetooth. Click Action Center (looks like a speech bubble) in the bottom right corner of the taskbar. If you can’t find Bluetooth there, go to the Start Menu and choose “Settings”->“PC Settings”->“Devices”->“Bluetooth and other devices” and turn it on.
  • Return to the Action Center (the speech bubble) and select “Connect”. The computer will then search for all types of devices that are ready to connect.
  • Click your headphones when they appear in the list.

How to connect wireless headphones to a PC with Windows 11

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. Connect bluetooth-headphones windows 11

  • Click the Windows button and start to type “Bluetooth”. On the right side of the Start Menu, the option “Bluetooth and other device Settings” will appear. Click it.

Connect bluetooth-headphones windows 11

  • First you’ll see a control to turn Bluetooth on or off. If it’s off, turn it on.
  • To add a pair of new headphones, click “Add device”.

Connect bluetooth-headphones windows 11

  • In the new box that appears, click the top option, “Bluetooth”.
  • Searches for devices in pairing mode. Wait a moment and your headphones will appear, provided you have them in pairing mode.

How to connect wireless headphones to a TV /with or without Bluetooth)

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

  • Go to Bluetooth settings
  • Search for new devices
  • Click your headphones when they appear
  • You may also need to go into the audio settings to tell your TV that the audio output should go via Bluetooth and nowhere else.

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.

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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.

Examples of such products are Twelve South and their Airfly Pro, Airfly Duo, Airfly or Audiocore AC820

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.

How to connect wireless headphones to an Android mobile phone

Connecting your wireless headphones to Android is easy and any phone or tablet with the system supports it.

  • Open Settings. Bluetooth is usually amongst the first choices, or is at the top under a heading like “Wireless and Network” or similar. One shortcut is to pull down from the top of the screen, where you will find your notifications and shortcuts, including Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Press and hold the Bluetooth button to access the connections directly.
  • Depending on the model, your phone starts searching for devices as soon as you do this. Alternatively, you may need to press the search button.
  • Select your headphones from the list that appears, and confirm pairing.

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How to connect wireless headphones to an iPhone or iPad

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.

  • Go to Settings and click Bluetooth.
  • Turn on Bluetooth, if it’s switched off. After a while, a list of available devices appears.
  • Select your device from the list to connect the headphones.

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How to connect AirPods and headphones from Beats to iPhone

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.

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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.

How to connect wireless headphones to PS5

For a hyper-modern game console released in 2020, you’d think Bluetooth headphones should be a breeze for the PlayStation 5. But nope.

Sony Playstation 5 bluetooth headphones

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.

  • Plug the adapter into one of the ports on the back of the machine.
  • Pair your headphones with the adapter
  • Play. The PlayStation 5 console will recognise the Bluetooth adapter as a USB Audio device and transmit the audio accordingly.

How to connect wireless headphones to your Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S

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.

Xbox Series X

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 controller for the the Xbox Series X and Series S has a socket for wired headphones. So you can connect a pair of wired headphones there, or a Bluetooth transmitter, and off you go.
  • Alternatively, you can explore the Bluetooth options on your TV (see separate section here) and connect your headphones that way.
  • Just like the Xbox One, there's a range of Xbox-compatible headsets. If you’re willing to spend your money on one of these, that’s another option.

How to connect wireless headphones to PS4

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.

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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).

If you still want to connect directly to your PlayStation 4, but without voice chat, there are Bluetooth adapters for the PlayStation 4 controller, like this one or this one.

How to connect wireless headphones to the Xbox One

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.

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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.

How to connect wireless headphones to the Nintendo Switch

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.

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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:

  • Go into the settings and scroll almost to the bottom. There you will find the menu option “Bluetooth Audio”.

Nintendo switch bluetooth headphones

  • Press “Add device” and the Switch will locate your headphones if they’re in pairing mode.

Nintendo switch bluetooth headphones

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