Apple TV and AirPods: a near-perfect match

I have been using and enjoying Apple’s AirPods for a few months now. They pair quickly with my iDevices, stay in my ears even when I’m active, and provide better than average sound for wireless cans.

Sure, some people think they look like antennae growing out of one’s ears. Or broken Q-Tips. Or Snoopy earrings. Or Teletubbies. Or mini-hairdryers. The list goes on.

Frankly, because I liked the functional goodness that the AirPods deliver, it took me all of a half-hour to get over the stigma of wearing them.

They are lightweight and comfortable. When the music stops playing, I literally forget they are in my ears.

Even when the music plays, I sometimes forget where it’s coming from. I’m just hearing music. I’m not thinking about the source.

That struck me the other day when I was hitting golf balls at the local driving range. I had the AirPods in, was listening to music, and was hitting balls metronomically. I was getting a few looks from other folks at the range, and it hit me that I had totally forgotten I had the things in my ears.

Despite all the turning and bending and swinging I went through in the course of an hour, the AirPods stayed in just fine.

Paired with Apple TV

One use for the AirPods that I particularly enjoy is watching TV. Specifically, Apple TV. There are a number of reasons for this.

First, particularly with movies and other programs, where the soundtrack ranges from quiet to loud and everything in between, I can better hear what is being said on screen regardless of other ambient sound.

Second, if there are extraneous noises from my environment—heavy rain or wind outside, the dishwasher running, someone mowing their lawn—I can shut them out.

Third, and probably most important, if I’m watching a program at night, and other members of the household have gone to bed, I can watch and listen without bothering anyone.

For the Apple TV, pairing the AirPods is pretty straightforward. With tvOS 11, Apple’s latest operating system for the Apple TV, the AirPods automatically pair with the Apple TV.

To select the AirPods as the sound source, you drill down in the ATV menus to Remotes and Devices, then Bluetooth, and then select the AirPods as your sound source.

After connecting the AirPods, I can control volume with the ATV remote:

 

A few drawbacks

As with everything, there are some drawbacks to using AirPods with television.

When listening to TV audio through my Yamaha YAS-101BL sound bar, which connects to my flatscreen via a digital-out cable, the sound bar can do a pretty credible job at delivering simulated 7.1-channel surround sound.

However, when listening through the AirPods, which are limited effectively to stereo sound, I lose some of the spaciousness and ambiance of surround sound that my source material generates.

Also, my Samsung HDTV flatscreen is going on nine years old. It doesn’t have Bluetooth connectivity, so when I switch to another source (e.g., cable TV), I can’t use the AirPods.

I’m looking into a third-party Bluetooth attachment like this one for my TV, but for now I’m limited to the Apple TV as my Bluetooth-compatible source.

Still, the ability to get sound from my ATV to my AirPods is really a benefit. If not perfect, pretty damn close.