The Apple TV can send audio directly to your AirPods, AirPods Pro or AirPods Max wireless headphones, so you can watch videos, play games or exercise with Apple Fitness + without disturbing anyone else in the room. Here̵
AirPods associated with an Apple ID should ‘just work’
When you pair your AirPods with an iPhone or iPad, iCloud will share that connection with your other paired devices. If you are signed in with the same Apple ID on another device, your AirPods should “work normally” when you try to connect.
This also applies to the Apple TV. With your AirPods already linked to your Apple ID, you can use a handy shortcut to quickly connect. However, this only works if you have the AirPods case open (so that they are awake) or already in your ears. (If you have AirPods Max, put it on your ears.)
To connect quickly, press and hold the play button on your Apple TV remote. You should see a list of available wireless devices including your AirPods. Select them to connect and send audio through your headphones instead of your TV speakers or receiver.
To disconnect, go back to this quick menu by pressing and holding Play on your remote, then choosing Apple TV. This will redirect the audio through the Apple TV.
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Manually pair your AirPods with the Apple TV
If you haven’t paired your AirPods yet, or if you’re having trouble with the method described above, you can try pairing manually just like you would with any other Bluetooth device.
To do this, go to Settings> Remotes and Devices> Bluetooth. Open the AirPods case and press and hold the small white pairing button on the back until the LED starts flashing. (Remove the AirPods Max from the smart case and press and hold the sound control button until the status light starts blinking white.)
You should now see your AirPods appear under the heading “Other Devices” in the list of Bluetooth connections on the screen. Select this and then choose “Connect” to pair your AirPods. If all goes well, your AirPods are now paired with your Apple TV and audio will be routed to your headphones instead of the TV’s speakers or a receiver.
You can now use the quick menu by pressing and holding the play button on your remote to quickly switch between “Apple TV” (no headphones) and your AirPods, or other Bluetooth devices or smart speakers you have connected.
To unpair your AirPods, go back to Settings> Remotes & Devices> Bluetooth and choose your AirPods, then select “Unpair Device” from the menu that appears.
How to Control Volume of AirPods on Apple TV
When using your AirPods with your Apple TV, you can control the sound volume with the volume buttons on your remote. Your AirPods also work just like an iPhone or other similar device, pausing what’s playing on the TV (be it music or YouTube) when you remove an AirPod.
How to improve reliability
We tested original AirPods with the W1 chip and a fourth-generation Apple TV (non-4K) and found performance to be spotty. It’s unclear if interference was the cause, but the audio was patchy at best. Fortunately, YouTube videos remained in sync with the audio despite this. Your mileage may vary depending on the AirPods and Apple TV you have, any nearby wireless interference, and the position of your Apple TV in relation to your AirPods.
If you have similar issues, you can try moving your Apple TV to a position that is more favorable for streaming wireless audio. Seems like it’s a bad idea to put it behind the TV or deep inside an entertainment unit. The Apple TV 4K should perform better because of its more modern system-on-chip.
More than a streaming box
The Apple TV can do more than just stream video. You can use it to play games, mirror your MacBook’s screen and listen to music, podcasts or YouTube videos privately through wireless headphones.
If you want to master your Apple TV, check out the most useful remote tips and tricks to better navigate tvOS.
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