Setting up a pair of wireless Bluetooth headphones with a Nintendo Switch used to be a multistep — and somewhat costly — process. First, you needed headphones, then you needed a Bluetooth audio transmitter that’d either plug into your Switch’s headphone jack or its bottom-facing USB-C port. Well, after about four years, Nintendo surprised us with a system update that finally enables said feature natively — no accessories required.
Some Bluetooth transmitters, like Genki’s Switch adapter, may still be worth investing in if you want to be able to connect multiple headphones simultaneously (the Switch only allows one set of headphones to be paired at once). But if it’s just you and your Switch, the newer process is no more complicated than pairing headphones with your smartphone. That said, there are still a few steps involved, which we’re going to run through below.
Put your headphones into pairing mode
On most pairs of Bluetooth headphones, you can enter pairing mode by pressing and holding the power button down for longer than it takes to turn them on. Most models will make a distinct chime or have LEDs that flash at a faster pace to indicate that pairing mode is active.
This feature isn’t limited to big over-ear or on-ear headphones, either. You can pair wireless earbuds, too, but the pairing process might be a little different for those. You can easily pair Apple’s AirPods with the Switch, for example, but you’ll need to open the case with the AirPods inside of them and press the pairing button on the side of the case. If all else fails, check your headphones’ instruction manual or look up the process online.
Find the Bluetooth audio setting on your Switch
From there, go to the Switch’s main menu where you can select a game and click on the settings icon located beneath the game library. It looks like a gear.
In the next window, scroll down the left-hand pane until you see “Bluetooth Audio.” Click that, at which point your only option will be to click “Pair Device.”
Register your headphones with your Switch
With your headphones in pairing mode (and your Switch now actively looking for them), their model name should populate on the Switch’s screen. When it does, click the model name to begin pairing your headphones or earbuds with your Switch.
When it’s successful, a window will pop up saying “Connected to Bluetooth audio.”
If you run into issues — like if your Switch suddenly takes 30 seconds or so to wake up from sleep — my colleague Sean Hollister has the solution for you. Nintendo has also noted that by connecting headphones via Bluetooth, your Switch will be able to connect to just two wireless controllers, as opposed to several more under circumstances when you’re not paired. There might also be some audio latency, so what’s happening in the game might not totally line up with what you’re hearing. In my brief experience trying it out, however, it didn’t seem noticeably worse than when I relied on third-party Bluetooth transmitters.