Roku is a brand of HDMI-based media player that can stream content to you from content providers like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Disney+, and HBO Max, among many other streaming websites. It’s able to turn your HDTV into a device that can access those service providers in a way that’s cleaner than what you can get from your PC.
With that said, even though it’s obvious you can use your Roku on any HDTV or HDMI display device as it acts like a media player a la the Blu-Ray Disc Player, how does it fair with your Bluetooth speakers, amplifiers, and soundbars?
Indeed, can Roku connect to Bluetooth speakers? Let’s find out.
The Lowdown on the Roku Private Listening Feature
Yes, Roku is Bluetooth-enabled. On top of being able to use your home Wi-Fi in order to connect to the Internet and stream with a streaming content provider that you have a subscription with (such as Netflix and so forth), Roku can also be listened to through wired headphones and Bluetooth.
- Originally for Wired Headphones: Roku can’t connect directly to a Bluetooth audio source. Indirectly, it can be done. The Roku Private Listening mode was made for wired headphones or earphones that you link to your remote to hear the audio from your Roku device as it streams popular movies and shows on Netflix like Cobra Kai (originally a YouTube Premium show) and Stranger Things (a trip down memory lane for children of the 1980s).
- An Expanded App Version Is Currently Available: The mobile Roku app can avail of the Roku Private Listening feature that can be used for iPad and iPhone as well as Android devices. The app allows you to listen to the audio from the Roku device to any connected Bluetooth device, which includes Bluetooth speakers or earbuds. The latest Roku devices in 2020 offer compatibility with this recent feature expansion, such as the Roku Ultra and the Roku Streaming Stick.
- Private Listening Limitations to Watch Out For: You can only use one mobile device at a time to access Private Listening. You can’t use two cellphones at the same time or two tablets at the same time or a tablet and a cellphone at the same time. You can only use the app on the Roku device one at a time on the same network for everything to work probably, especially in light of you using a Bluetooth device that’s daisy-chained to your mobile device in order to allow the speaker to work with your Roku via the remote app.
- Fiddling with the App Itself: The remote tab should be selected on your Roku app in order to allow for Private Listening Mode. There should be a headphone icon on the bottom left once the service is turned on. The audio should play through your Bluetooth speaker right after activating the feature. It’s actually preferable that you first download the app and turn on remote tab mode before turning on your Bluetooth device after the fact and allowing Private Listening through the Bluetooth pairing mode.
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Steps to Connect Roku to Bluetooth Speaker
Here are the ways you can go about connecting your Roku device to your Bluetooth speaker, whether it’s a Roku Smart TV that immediately connects to streaming services like Netflix or a Roku streaming stick that you have to plug into the HDTV’s HDMI port.
- Download and Launch the Roku App: Download the latest Roku app for your iPhone, iPad, or Android device. Launch the app from your mobile device. Make sure it’s set up before you try out what’s known as the Private Listening feature of Roku. You need to specifically end up on the Roku home screen. There on the menu, there should be a “More” option you’re supposed to tap. This will give you additional options other than the default ones you usually see.
- Going to the Device Section: On the additional options, select the Device section. From there, tap the name of the Roku device you’re currently connecting to. Doing so allows the app to recognize the Roku device, which in turn makes modes like Private Listening possible. On the list, you can click on the Private Listening feature as well. From there, go back to the “More” menu, which is where your selected Roku device will now be visible on the Device section.
- Activating Private Listening Itself: On the menu of your screen, tap the “Control” option. This will cause the Roku Control screen to appear. There, you will see the icon for “Private Listening”. Tap that as well to activate it. This icon looks like headphones. An audio wave icon should now be seen between the headphone buds or cups. This indicates it’s been activated. Although it’s called “Private” Listening, Bluetooth speakers can also be linked to your mobile device, thus allowing for speaker functionality on top of headphone functionality.
- How to Know You’ve Succeeded: While Private Listening is turned on, any and all audio coming from your Roku device (from the menu sounds to the streaming audio itself) will be played to your connected Bluetooth device on your phone, whether it’s a speaker, amp, subwoofer, ear pods, or headphones. To deactivate Private Listening, just tap the icon on the Control screen. Reactivate it by tapping the icon as well. You know it’s turned on when the audio wave between the headphone muffs is present and turned off when the audio wave is absent.
- Check Connection and Headphone Warning: Check that your wireless Bluetooth speaker is linked to your Android or iOS device. You can link it after the fact since Private Listening works on the Roku to the mobile device level, with the Bluetooth speaker acting as a peripheral to the connected mobile phone or tablet. Also remember that if you’re putting on headphones, don’t do so until the volume is at a safe level. Otherwise, leave them off and adjust accordingly.
- Troubleshooting Audio Issues and Connectivity: Restart your router to power cycle it if you’re experiencing intermittent connectivity. Make sure your Bluetooth device is within range of the cellular phone or tablet to avoid audio issues or disconnections. Your headphones, soundbar, or amps with Bluetooth connectivity should be near both the mobile device and the HDMI display device for the best results. As a reminder, the whole thing works better if your devices all share the same Wi-Fi network.
- What If The Bluetooth Device Doesn’t Show Up? One common troubleshooting concern is when the Bluetooth device doesn’t show up on your cellphone connected to your Roku via the Roku app. Typically, the most common solution for this is to double-check and ensure that both the mobile device and the Roku device are connected to the same Wi-Fi network. It won’t work if they’re linked to separate Wi-Fi networks. This way, you’re assured that your Roku app can find the Roku player and connect to it via a wireless speaker.
- Connecting Bluetooth Dongles with The Remote: Aside from using the app in order to connect your Roku with a Bluetooth speaker, there’s also the option to use the Roku remote, put it on Private Listening mode, then connect a Bluetooth dongle to it to allow for the same results. However, some find this inconvenient and cumbersome. Imagine having to hold the dongle and the remote all day long just to link up wirelessly your speaker to your Roku as you watch The Avengers or Avengers: Endgame on your HDTV or HDMI monitor as well as the projector. Others don’t find it inconvenient.
- Other Means of Pairing Bluetooth with Roku: Aside from using the remote, Bluetooth dongles, or the Roku app, you can also pair Bluetooth devices on what’s known as the Roku TV. There’s a smart TV out there made by Roku that has Roku stick functionality on the TV itself, so you don’t need to connect or disconnect anything. However, the only Bluetooth devices supported by the Roku TV are the Roku Smart Soundbar and the Roku TV Wireless Speakers. Pairing Bluetooth devices with the TV that aren’t those specific devices won’t work. You’ll probably have to resort to using the app.
- Roku TV versus Mobile Private Listening: Even if you’re using the Roku TV, you can still use a Bluetooth speaker that isn’t the Roku Smart Soundbar or the Roku TV Wireless Speakers by using the app to connect third-party speakers to the display device. This is because the mobile phone is the one connecting to the Bluetooth speaker instead of the Roku TV directly, allowing wider Bluetooth compatibility depending on the type of mobile device you’re using. Either that or you can use the Bluetooth dongle on the Roku remote.
A Middleman Daisy-Chain Method of Bluetooth Connection
Even though Roku devices can’t directly connect to Bluetooth audio, the apps you can use to control them can connect to your Bluetooth for you. You need to get your phone or tablet first to download the Roku app.
There are Android and iOS versions of the app for you to use. From there, connect your device to an audio source that works with Bluetooth, whether they’re RayCons or your typical Bluetooth speaker that’s all the rage today. You can find quality speakers on Amazon, by the way. Alternatively, you can use the Bluetooth dongle to connect the speaker to your Roku remote and activate Private Listening from there. The Roku TV only works with first-party Bluetooth devices though.