Week 28, 2016: Using wireless headphones with a TV and a soundbar


Sound Advice

By Don Lindich

Week 28, 2016

Q. I would like two wireless headphones for me and my husband to use with two televisions, an Insignia and an LG. The LG has an optical port connected to a ZVOX soundbar, with no other open audio connection. The Insignia TV has an open coaxial digital port and a headphone connection. Can it be done, connecting two headphones to each TV? From what I know, Bluetooth headphones can only connect to one device at a time. I would like to stay in the $400-$600 range for everything.

-R.G., MN

A. It can be done, but not with Bluetooth. What you need is a wireless headphone solution that communicates via radio frequencies, called RF wireless headphones.

We will start with the LG TV. The only audio port is the optical port connected to the ZVOX soundbar. So, the first thing we need to do is get a signal to the wireless headphones as well as to the soundbar. This can be accomplished with a splitter. It will take one optical digital output and make it two optical outputs. One output will go to the ZVOX, the other to the headphones. Check out the MOTONG 1-in-2-out optical splitter, which is $10 on Amazon.

You now have two optical connections, one for the ZVOX and one for the headphones. I suggest the Senneheiser RS175 RF Wireless headphones, which sell for $279 or less. They have a transmitter cradle with an optical input. They also charge the headphones when they are not being used. Up to four separate headphones can be connected to the transmitter. Additional headphones are the model HDR175 and they sell for $150 each.

In your case, you don’t need to buy an extra set of headphones since you need another transmitter base for the Insignia TV anyway. Just buy two RS175 systems and you can use both headphones with each transmitter. You can use the Insignia TV’s headphone output with the transmitter base so you don’t need a splitter.

This option offers a no-compromise solution for the best sound as well as simplicity in setup and operation. (Though my description may sound complicated, all you really have to do is plug them into the outputs on the TV and they are ready to go.)

It is possible to get a wireless solution for a lot less money. The Sennheiser RS120 wireless headphones are only $68 for the headphones and charging/transmitter dock. However, it only has inputs for a conventional headphone cord and red-white RCA analog inputs.

Using this with the Insignia would be very easy. Just connect the dock to the headphone output and you are all set. Using it with the LG would be a bit more complicated. First, you need the optical splitter, then you need a digital-to-analog converter (DAC) which costs around $25. The DAC will require a power connection, though the splitter does not. Connect the splitter to the TV, then the DAC to the splitter, then the DAC to the headphone base. Buying two of the systems, the DAC and the splitter will cost a little over $200. Extra headphones are the model HDR120 and they are $79 each. They appear to be higher grade than those included with the $69 basic transmitter/headphone kit, hence the higher price. Up to 100 headphones can be used with the transmitter base.

Please note that some wireless headphones (like the RS120) create strong magnetic fields and have a product advisory warning for those with pacemakers and implanted defibrillators. If this is you, please read all the warnings before buying or using any wireless headphone system.