How to Connect AirPods to an Apple TV

An Apple TV and its remote.

The Apple TV can send audio directly to your AirPods, AirPods Pro, or AirPods Max wireless headphones, letting you watch videos, play games, or work out with Apple Fitness+ without disturbing anyone else in the room. Here’s how.

AirPods Paired to an Apple ID Should “Just Work”

When you pair your AirPods with an iPhone or iPad, iCloud shares that connection with your other linked devices. If you’re signed in to another device using the same Apple ID, your AirPods should “just work” when you try to connect.

This is also true for the Apple TV. With your AirPods already paired 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 in your ears already. (If you have AirPods Max, place them on your ears.)

Switch to AirPods Quickly by Holding "Play" on Your Remote

To quickly connect, press and hold the Play button on your Apple TV remote. You should see a list of available wireless devices appear, including your AirPods. Select them to connect, and route audio via your headphones instead of your TV speakers or receiver.

To disconnect, simply head back to this quick menu by holding Play on your remote, then choose “Apple TV” instead. This will reroute audio through the Apple TV.

RELATED: How to Get Started With Apple Fitness+

Manually Pairing Your AirPods With the Apple TV

If you haven’t yet paired your AirPods or you’re encountering issues with the method outlined above, you can try manually pairing, as you would with any other Bluetooth device.

To do this, head to Settings > Remotes and Devices > Bluetooth. Open the AirPods case and hold the small white pairing button on the back until the LED starts flashing. (With AirPods Max, take them out of the smart case, then press and hold the noise control button until the status light starts flashing white.)

You should now see your AirPods appear under the “Other Devices” heading in the list of Bluetooth connections on-screen. Select this, then choose “Connect” to pair your AirPods. If all goes well, your AirPods are now paired with your Apple TV, and audio will route to your headphones rather than TV speakers or a receiver.

Pair Your AirPods to Your Apple TV Manually

You can now use the quick menu by holding the Play button on your remote to quickly switch between “Apple TV” (no headphones) and your AirPods, or any other Bluetooth devices or smart speakers you have connected.

To unpair your AirPods, head back to Settings > Remotes and Devices > Bluetooth and choose your AirPods, then select “Unpair Device” from the menu that appears.

How to Control AirPods’ Volume on Apple TV

Apple TV 4K

When you’re using your AirPods with your Apple TV, you can control the sound volume using the volume controls on your remote. Your AirPods will also work just as they do with an iPhone or other similar device, pausing whatever is playing (whether it’s music or YouTube) on the TV when you remove an AirPod.

How to Improve Reliability

We tested original AirPods with the W1 chip and a fourth-generation (non-4K) Apple TV and found performance to be spotty. It’s unclear whether 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 the Apple TV you have, any wireless interference nearby, and the position of your Apple TV relative to your AirPods.

If you have similar problems, you might want to try moving your Apple TV to a position that’s more conducive for streaming wireless audio. It seems that placing it behind the TV or deep in an entertainment unit is a bad idea. The Apple TV 4K should perform better due to its more modern system-on-chip.

More Than a Streaming Box

The Apple TV can do more than simply stream video. You can use it to play games, mirror your MacBook’s screen, and listen to music, podcast, or YouTube videos privately over wireless headphones.

If you want to master your Apple TV, check out the most useful remote tips and tricks to better navigate tvOS.

RELATED: 14 Apple TV Remote Tips and Tricks You Should Know

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