One of the best features of the new Apple TV (4th gen) isn’t very obvious – you can pair a set of Bluetooth headphones with it for totally silent TV! It’s not very intuitive, however, so we’ve put together a guide to show you how to connect Bluetooth headphones to your Apple TV.
Wireless headphones, even those targeted explicitly at TV watchers, have existed for some time, now. Popular with anyone who likes to watch TV at night, when their kids or spouse has gone to bed, they’ve always been something of a hard sell – mostly thanks to the arcane pairing of a transmitter (connected to your television) and a receiver (your headphones).And even then, they only work if you have the right jack on the back of your television. If you don’t, you typically need to be an expensive amp or receiver. That’s changed with the latest generation of Apple TVs.
This Apple TV isn’t the first system to let you listen to content over headphones – there have been various degrees of support for headphones with the latest Rokus, the PS4, and Xbox One. Unlike those systems, however, the Apple TV will work with almost any wireless Bluetooth headphones on the market.
It may be obvious, but for this to work, you’ll need the latest Apple TV (4th generation – 2015 model). Either the 32GB or the 64GB model will work just fine. Additionally, you’ll need a pair of Bluetooth headphones, which can be earbuds, on-ear, or over-the-ear devices.Like any other iOS device (okay, technically this runs a specialized variant known as tvOS), the Apple TV has a Settings app. Using the touchpad on your ATV remote control, navigate to the smart box’s Settings app. Press it down to enter Settings.
Once inside the Settings app, you’ll want to swipe down until you find Remotes and Devices. This menu is where you can customize your Apple TV’s remote control settings, like how fast swiping across the touchpad will send your focus across the screen.
When you’re in the Remotes and Devices menu, you’ll have a new list of options. In addition to pairing new remotes to your ATV, there will be a section that reads Bluetooth – that’s where you need to in order to connect your Bluetooth headphones to the Apple TV.On the Bluetooth screen, there will be a list of devices you’ve previously paired to the Apple TV. If you haven’t paired anything yet, the only thing you’ll see is a listing for your ATV’s remote control (it works via Bluetooth to control the Apple TV, not IR like previous generations).
The next step is to send your Bluetooth audio device (headphones, speakers, whatever it is that you’re trying to connect) into its pairing mode. This is a mode wherein your headphones will be sending out a special “Hello! I want to connect!” signal to any device in the room. Your Apple TV will hear this signal, and the name of your headphones (probably the brand, or the model name) will appear in the list under “Other Devices.” Just swipe down until it’s highlighted, and press down on the touchpad to select it.
That’s all you need to do to connect. If you use your headphones only for the Apple TV, then they’ll connect automatically every time you turn them on the future. If you switch them around and use them with other devices like your iPhone or laptop, however, they might not.
If that happens to you, just repeat the steps above – except this time, you’ll see the name of your headphones under “My Devices.” Just select and click it, and you’ll see this screen above, where you can connect or delete (forget) your device entirely (if you “forget” it, you can always re-pair it: nothing’s permanent, here).
By default, the Apple TV reads what kind of TV you’ve hooked it up to through the HDMI cable (there is a limited amount of information that travels both ways along video cables). It decides what codes to send to your remote control, and within seconds of hooking it up, your ATV remote can turn your TV on and control the various volume settings. Once you hook up a set of Bluetooth headphones, however, your remote’s volume buttons will control the volume on your headphones instead of your television. Since you won’t be seeing your TV’s volume display anymore, a small one appears in the upper-right corner of the Apple TV screen, so that you know where you’re at with regards to the volume level.
And that’s it! Note: you can actually have several Bluetooth headphones, headsets, and speakers “paired” (listed under “My Devices”) at one time, but only one of them can be active – you can switch between them following the steps above. One thing to watch out for is that you can only have one Bluetooth controller and one Bluetooth audio devices on and working at the same time. Ordinarily, the fourth gen ATV can support swo separate Bluetooth controllers (so you can play head-to-head in a game, or something) – but if you also need to use Bluetooth audio, you’ll be down to just one.