The Roku app’s best feature is also its least known

When it comes to providing an easy-to-use and affordable platform to access your favorites streaming services Like Netflix or Disney Plus, Roku devices have always been in the premier league. That Roku Express 4K Plus is CNET’s first choice for streaming devicesoffers 4K video, voice search, Apple AirPlay and more for less than $50.

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Roku’s free mobile app for Android and iOS is also highly rated, with 1.3 million reviews and an average of 4.7 stars on Apple’s App Store. You can use your phone as a remote control, type from your keyboard, and even perform voice searches. But my favorite feature in the app is one that I don’t often hear about.

It’s called “Private Listening” and it allows you to stream the sound from your TV straight to your mobile phone, skipping the TV’s speakers entirely. By plugging in a pair of headphones, either wired or wireless, you can watch TV late into the night without disturbing others in your household.

Here’s an overview of how to use this feature.

How to use private listening

1. Open the app and connect your phone app to a Roku device

After you’ve downloaded the Roku app, the first thing you’ll need to do is connect your app to the Roku device of your choice. You can find nearby devices in the app at Devices Menu at the bottom of the screen, which should be on the lower right side of the app, with a TV icon. In order for your Roku to appear, both your phone and the device must be connected to the same Wi-Fi network.

2. Navigate to the remote function

Click on the remote icon. In the mobile app, it should be the third option on the right and is conveniently labeled “Remote.” Tapping the remote button should bring up a screen with a similar layout to the physical Roku remote, but with a few extra buttons for keyboard input and voice commands.


The private listening button below the arrow keys looks like a pair of over-ear headphones.

Screenshot by Brian Rosenzweig/CNET

3. Click the Listen Private button.

The private listening button looks like a pair of over-ear headphones. On most interfaces, the private listening button is located below the purple select and arrow keys, often on the right. In the iOS app, it’s in a row just above the play/pause, rewind, and fast forward buttons.

4. Enable private listening

Once you click Private Listening, you’ll get a prompt explaining that Private Listening has been turned on and how to turn it off (hint: you’ll just click the button again). If you’re using wired headphones, audio should start playing immediately from your device.

5. Make sure your favorite wireless device is connected and enjoy

If your headphones or other audio device is wireless, the first thing you should do is make sure the device is connected through your phone’s Bluetooth settings.

6. Check if your Bluetooth audio is synced by tapping the “Settings” button

If for some reason the audio streaming into your headphones seems to be out of sync with the video on your screen, the Roku app can help.

From the remote menu, click the settings icon (in the shape of a gear) at the top left of the screen. This will take you to the controller settings menu.


The Roku app allows you to adjust the audio delay using your phone camera.

Screenshot by Brian Rosenzweig/CNET

7. Disconnect private playback and click Adjust Audio Delay

At the bottom of the menu you should see an option that says Adjust the audio delay. Before starting this process, you need to disconnect private playback. When you’re done, click Getting started.

8. Follow the prompts to sync your audio to the TV

You will now be prompted to hold your phone camera up to the screen and ensure that most of the screen is captured. Once you click Continue, the screen will turn purple and occasionally a white screen will flash alongside audio to test sync between the two. After about 10 seconds the sound should be synchronized. If the sound is still off, you should be able to sync again until it adjusts.

You should now be good to go.

For more information on Private Listening, see Roku’s support page.

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