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FM Audio Transmitter
Do you have an old Walkman with a radio receiver? If so, you can purchase an inexpensive FM audio transmitter. I have seen these at the drug store for less than $10. Simply connect the transmitter to the audio output or headphone jack on your TV or stereo. Tune in to the FM radio frequency on your Walkman to listen to your Apple TV. These are commonly used in gyms so that patrons can watch and listen to TV.
This is a much cheaper solution than buying Bluetooth or wireless headphones, even if you don’t already own a Walkman. You can buy an inexpensive portable radio with a headphone jack. You can get the portable radio and FM audio transmitter both for less than $20, if you shop around.
Convert Optical Out to Headphone Jack
Some flat screen TVs don’t have a headphone jack. This is rare, but not uncommon with some inexpensive models. The headphone jack may be in an inconvenient location. Mounting your TV on the wall may make the headphone jack inaccessible on some TVs.
Apple TV doesn’t have a headphone jack. It doesn’t even have a standard line out. Audio is transmitted either through HDMI or the digital optical audio out. Fortunately, you can convert the digital audio output to analog, and connect headphones directly to Apple TV. There are a variety of inexpensive digital-to-analog (DAC) converters on the market. Just make sure it has a headphone jack. Unfortunately, no one seems to manufacture digital headphones the connect directly to the Toslink jack on Apple TV.
Your Apple TV is likely stashed in an entertainment center, which could make it hard to use with headphones. Simply connect the DAC to an FM audio transmitter or wireless headphone transmitter. I recommend this solution only if your TV doesn’t have an accessible headphone jack or line out. Apple TV doesn’t have a headphone jack because they assume your TV or stereo will have one.
Use Mac as Airplay Audio Receiver
Apple TV has the capability to beam audio to any AirPlay compatible receiver that is on your WiFi network. This includes a Mac. If you have a MacBook, you can position it nearby and use wired or Bluetooth headphones to listen to Apple TV. You will need to download and install some third-party software to turn your Mac into an AirPlay receiver. iTunes can only transmit AirPlay, not receive it.
There are a variety of Mac OS X applications that can serve as an AirPlay receiver. AirServer is a popular application capable of acting as a AirPlay receiver. AirServer also runs on Microsoft Windows. They offer a 7 day free trial, so there’s nothing to lose.
Once you have AirServer installed and running, you can redirect the audio from Apple TV to the AirServer target. Press and hold the center select button on your Apple TV remote while a video is playing. You will see a menu with options for the video — Subtitles, Audio and Speakers. Press the up button (top button on the ring) until the top row of options is accessible. Next, select Speakers. From here, you can set which targets receive audio. Simply uncheck Apple TV and check AirServer, and the audio will stream to your Mac or PC. Then you can plug headphones into your Mac or PC. You can also adjust speaker settings by navigating to Settings > AirPlay on your Apple TV. (continue…)