Use Headphones with Apple TV

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How to Use Headphones with Apple TV

Use AirPlay Speakers or Standalone Receiver

AirPlay is a standard. Contrary to the blogosphere talking points, Apple is not a closed ecosystem. Many different manufacturers offer AirPlay compatible products. In fact, it is built in to several audio systems. There are inexpensive AirPlay receivers that cost about $40. These devices can receive audio from any AirPlay source. Once you have your AirPlay enabled device setup, you can beam audio from Apple TV to your AirPlay receiver. Make sure that you purchase an AirPlay receiver that supports headphones.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any headphones that directly support AirPlay. That would almost be too easy and convenient. I think AirPlay compatible headphones would be a useful and marketable product. I am surprised no one makes these yet.

Jailbreak iPhone and Use As AirPlay Receiver

The App Store does not allow AirPlay receiver apps. A few have been developed, only to be removed from the App Store. My guess is that they use too much battery power. Sometimes Apple is just too heavy-handed. Then again, if an app drains your iPhone battery rapidly, it is a nuisance and some people may blame Apple. They are trying to protect the customer and avoid the next Apple “gate”.

If you are not risk averse, you can download AirFloat from the third-party app store Emu4iOS. I personally wouldn’t recommend this. While this is not jailbreaking, installing an app outside of the App Store could introduce malware. The App Store audits submissions, ensuring that they are secure, efficient and free of malware.

You can also jailbreak your iPhone and install AirPlayServer from the Cydia app store. I don’t recommend jailbreaking, as it can install malware on your device. Jailbreaking can also compromise performance, stability and battery life. It may be a better idea to jailbreak an old iPhone. Keep in mind, if your jailbroken iPhone is running on your WiFi network, it could compromise the security of other devices.

If you decide to install one of these apps, they will work as AirPlay receivers. Once the app is up and running, simply set your Apple TV to beam AirPlay audio to these “speakers”, using the instructions provided above. Plug some headphones into your iPhone and you’re set.

As you can see, using Apple TV with headphones isn’t as convenient as Roku. I have to admit, their remote, which comes with a headphone jack, is a great idea. There are still several options for using headphones with Apple TV. Some of these can be implemented by using what you already have. If not, a modest investment in equipment can get you up and running.

To be fair, most set-top boxes don’t have headphone jacks. I don’t see these on most DVD players, cable boxes, or other video devices. The manufacturers all assume that audio will go into your TV, and from there, you can connect headphones. It’s a safe assumption to make. Apple TV’s lack of headphone support doesn’t diminish its usefulness at all. Apple is not known for fringe features. They try to put in the features most people want. Apple likes to do a few things very well, instead of a lot of things with mediocrity. I think most people are starting to appreciate the Apple way.

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  1. Nice article. I use an Airport Express as my wireless router. I connect my headphones to that headphone jack and select AirPort Express under the “Speakers” setting on Apple TV. It works well and has very high quality audio with no lag. Wish they would add Bluetooth to the new Apple TV on the way, but I’ll be content with volume buttons on the remote ; )

    1. That’s a good point. I knew about the AirPort Express’ ability to act as an AirPlay receiver, but I figured, since it needs to be plugged in, it wouldn’t be suitable for this purpose. I also thought the audio out was line level, but I guess it supports headphones too. Most homes have a lot of electrical outlets — it is required by building codes. So you can just plug in an AirPort Express near your easy chair or sofa and plug in some headphones. Thanks for the tip. I will add it to the article.

      I agree about Apple TV needing better Bluetooth support. Although it currently supports Bluetooth, you can only really use it for keyboards. I am also anticipating the new model and I am hoping that Apple takes Apple TV seriously. My Apple TV 2 reboots itself about 3-5 times a night, sometimes in the middle of a program. They have clearly neglected that model, but I didn’t want to get the 3rd gen model, because I knew they would be coming out with a new one.

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