Friday, January 13, 2012

Connecting Analog Wireless Headphones to new HD TVs post a challenge

Today, I bought my hearing-impaired husband a pair of wireless TV ears.  When I unpacked the headset, I found that it included only RCA cables.  I checked the audio out options on my Samsung 7000 series 55" 3D  HD TV, and, although it has a wealth of video connections,  I discovered it has only a non-RCA audio out jack for sound bars and home theater systems and a single digital audio out jack.

I got out the TV ears manual and read that I could connect the headset transmitter to digital audio if I purchased a digital to analog audio converter.  So, I called the local Radio Shack then Best Buy and neither had one in stock.  Then I called the TV ears customer support line to order one directly from them and the customer service representative told me that the headsets would only translate audio signals broadcast in PCM not Dolby digital.  She recommended that I call Samsung and find out whether my TV transmits audio in Dolby or PCM.  She said if it turns out that my TV transmits in Dolby then perhaps there was a setting I could adjust to switch it to PCM.

So I opened an online chat session with Samsung support and after some research, he informed me that unfortunately, Samsungs output only Dolby digital and that there was no way to change the setting to PCM.

Although there is a work around to connect the headphones by splitting RCA cables between a satellite receiver and a DVD player, there is a two device limit without manually switching cables between multiple input devices.  Wireless headsets to assist the hearing impaired really need to be connected to the TV, not the various input devices which may include game consoles, Roku players, DVD players, etc.  I sent an e-mail to Samsung suggesting that they take that into consideration when designing their television sets since they continue to offer RCA connections for video in options so I don't know why they can't offer RCA audio out connections for the large number of analog audio products out there.

Note: If you can switch your digital audio from Dolby to PCM on your TV, purchase a digital to analog audio converter from someone like Amazon where it will cost you only about $26.  The company that makes TV Ears wanted about $70 for a converter - almost the price of the headphones themselves!