Roku is releasing a new Streaming Stick device in Canada this month, and aside from its diminutive size and powerful performance, a neat added feature is the ability to use the free Roku app on your smartphone or tablet (iOS or Android) to listen to the audio of whatever you’re watching using.
This is an extension of a feature that was originally included in the Roku 3. It still works the same way now, where the included remote has a headphone jack routing the audio from whatever content is running on the Roku 3 through it. This way, a user could plug in a pair of earbuds or headphones and listen privately, or at a different volume than someone else in the same room.
Roku has applied this setup to the new Streaming Stick. The included remote doesn’t have a headphone jack, so the mobile app is the only way to make it work. The most recent update to the Roku app on both iOS and Android added this feature, and it doesn’t cost anything to use.
There’s also not much to the setup, either, though it currently only works with the new Streaming Stick. There is a possibility Roku could roll it out for the Roku 3 and other previous devices, but the company hasn’t confirmed whether it will do so or not. It does seem likely, however, that future products will utilize the app for private listening.
If you already have the Roku app and used it with a previous device, you only need to update it to unlock the feature. But again, it will only work with the new Streaming Stick, so you would need to set up the Stick and then select it from the app to pair the two together.
Once that’s done, turning private listening on is as easy as tapping the headphone icon on the remote screen.
Note that this not only works with wired headphones, but also wireless ones, too. If you have a Bluetooth set paired with your phone or tablet, the audio will run through them in much the same way. If you have noise-cancelling or other audio features that improve fidelity, those could also apply here. This is unique to the app because the Roku 3 remote only has a headphone jack for wired headphones. Wireless ones can’t pair with it.
That’s another reason why this is a cool and innovative feature that is unfortunately not as widely available with other home theatre products. It negates the need to buy a wireless headphone setup, though is naturally limited to the Roku, in this particular case. If you are looking for a wireless headphone setup that could work with any audio coming out of the TV or home theatre, then this private listening feature won’t provide any further compatibility.
There are already a number of Roku devices available, including 4K TVs with the Roku software built-in. Look for the new Streaming Stick to be available by the end of April.