Bluetooth has become a fact of life for millions around the globe. Whether it’s your mouse, your earbuds, your game controllers or your watch, Bluetooth is everywhere. It’s the de facto choice for wireless connectivity. Nintendo Switch, for many years, didn’t have Bluetooth audio support, and people made fun of the console for years for lacking what many thought to be an extremely basic feature until it finally arrived via a software update in 2021.
Neither the PlayStation 5 nor Xbox Series X support Bluetooth audio and, on the face of it, that’s very odd. After all, these are premium, expensive devices meant to usher in a new generation of graphics technology: how can they not support a basic feature such as Bluetooth audio when even the Nintendo Switch can? Not to worry, we’re here to explain the Bluetooth situation on PS5/Series X and what the options actually are for wireless audio on consoles.
The PS5 and Xbox Series X could support bluetooth audio but choose not to
The PS5 and Xbox Series X are capable of supporting Bluetooth audio. There’s no technical limitation and no evidence of it being excluded for cost-saving reasons. Instead, Sony and Microsoft have chosen to leave out this feature for two primary reasons: bandwidth and latency.
Bluetooth technology is improving all the time, but it’s not perfect yet. Right now, Bluetooth only has the bandwidth for so many devices to be connected at once, and even then, if there are a lot of other Bluetooth devices around, connections can become unstable.
Then there’s latency. You might notice a slight delay between you pressing play on a song and your Bluetooth speaker or headphones actually making a noise. With music, it’s not really a big deal, but it’s different for games when a delay between a sound being played in-game and you hearing it, even a slight one, can break immersion and even impact your competitiveness. Latency has consequences for voice chatting, too: delays when you’re talking to someone in-game can quickly make effective communication difficult.
All of the above helps explain why Sony and Microsoft aren’t keen on using Bluetooth audio for the latest consoles. In the case of the Xbox Series X (and its sibling, the Series S), Bluetooth isn’t built into the console at all (although the controllers support Bluetooth as a method for connection to other devices such as PCs, tablets, and smartphones). Interestingly, the PS5 does feature Bluetooth 5.1 technology, but this is only used for the connection between the console and controllers.
You can actually connect a pair of wired headphones to the PS5’s DualSense controller, and in that case, you would technically be using Bluetooth audio, but it’s fair to say that both Sony and Microsoft want you to use alternative wireless technology for audio, and that alternative wireless technology is 2.4GHz/5GHz wi-fi, which is much better in terms of latency and bandwidth.
That’s all perfectly logical, of course, but some people simply don’t want (or can’t afford) to buy a dedicated gaming headset, particularly if they’ve already got a perfectly good or even brilliant pair of Bluetooth headphones. The good news is that it is possible to get these Bluetooth headphones working with the PS5 and Xbox Series X if you’re willing to make some sacrifices.
How to use Bluetooth headphones and headsets on PS5/Series X
There are a few ways you can get Bluetooth audio working on the PS5 or Xbox Series X, but the simplest, most direct way is via a Bluetooth adapter. However, if your assumption is that you can simply plug a Bluetooth adapter into one of the USB sockets on your console, pair your headphones with that and get gaming, we’re sorry to say that it’s not always so straightforward.
For starters, the Xbox Series X and Series S simply don’t work with most USB Bluetooth adapters. Instead, you’ll want to find yourself a 3.5mm Bluetooth adapter that will plug into your controller, which then can be paired directly with your Bluetooth headphones. Even if you do find a Bluetooth adapter that connects to your headphones, many will suffer from the latency and sound quality issues that put Microsoft and Sony off prioritising Bluetooth audio in the first place.
Another workaround available to some people is not to connect their Bluetooth headphones to their console but to connect them to their TV. Many modern TVs support Bluetooth audio, and the best incorporate technology designed to reduce latency – though that’s really designed for TV and movies and might not be a great fit for serious gaming.
Crucially, the workarounds above generally won’t support your microphone (if you have one) so are only really suitable for single-player gaming and mute online gamers. You’ll be able to hear other players, of course, but you won't be able to talk back to them. If you’ve got a PS5, you do have another option for a microphone when using Bluetooth audio: the DualSense controller’s built-in microphone. However, while you can use your controller’s microphone when you’re using Bluetooth audio, the microphone quality isn’t very good, so this is more of something you might rely on in a pinch rather than as your day-to-day solution.
Should you use Bluetooth audio on the PS5 or Xbox Series X?
In most cases, the answer is no, but there are exceptions. If you already have Bluetooth headphones that you love and you’re not worried about voice chat, check if you can connect them to your TV and, if you can, whether the latency is low enough and sound quality high enough. There’s a chance, though relatively slight, that this setup could be ideal for you.
If that doesn’t work or isn’t an option, check whether your Bluetooth headphones will also work in wired mode. Most will and there’s often even a cable in the box. Plug the headphones into your DualSense or Xbox controller and, while you won’t be entirely wireless, you won’t have a cable running from console to headset. You’ll even be able to take advantage of 3D Audio on the PS5 and (if you’re prepared to pay for the licence) Dolby Atmos for Headphones on the Xbox. You may still find that your mic doesn’t work, though, and audio quality tends to take a dip when you connect your headphones this way.
If for whatever reason the above doesn’t work for you, you could go down the route of purchasing a Bluetooth dongle (3.5mm for the Xbox Series X, 3.5mm or USB for the PS5), but we’d be wary of spending money on one that isn’t specifically designed for gaming.
Even then, there’s a fairly strong argument for instead spending your money on a dedicated wireless gaming headset. It might not have the same ultimate sound quality as your much-loved Bluetooth headphones, but it will likely be much better suited to the task at hand.