The recently updated Tunity app helps you overcome TVs that are either muted or drowned out.
Rick BroidaSenior Editor
Rick Broida is the author of numerous books and thousands of reviews, features and blog posts. He writes CNET's popular Cheapskate blog and co-hosts Protocol 1: A Travelers Podcast (about the TV show Travelers). He lives in Michigan, where he previously owned two escape rooms (chronicled in the ebook "I Was a Middle-Aged Zombie").
Of all of the crises faced by this great nation -- and there are many -- few rival the aggravation caused when you can't hear the TV!
Suppose, for example, you're trying to watch football at the local wings-and-beer joint, but there's too much noise; you can't hear the commentary, can't hear the instant-replay results of that controversial call.
Suppose crazy Uncle Mike (who's also mostly deaf) wants to watch his political-punditry shows at full volume while the rest of you are trying to each a peaceful (and non-political) dinner.
Or suppose you just want to watch TV in bed, but your spouse just wants to sleep.
For those and other situations, you need a way to hear TV audio without disturbing -- or being disturbed by -- others. App to the rescue!
It works like this: You simply point your phone's camera at the TV and let the Tunity app "scan" the screen. Although the actual scanning happens very quickly, it can take a full 10 to 20 seconds for the audio to kick in. So it's not ideal for channel-hoppers.
But it's definitely ideal for football fans: According to the developer, Tunity will support over 95 percent of NFL games this season and all national Division I college football games.
In my tests (Comcast + iPhone 6s Plus), the app worked as advertised on major networks like A&E, ESPN, Food Network and TNT (it supports a whopping 100 channels, way more than it used to). But it had trouble with the local cable channel that airs my Detroit Tigers games.
Also, Tunity works only with live broadcasts, meaning you can't use it with shows you've recorded. Even if you just hit pause on your DVR, the audio will continue, effectively leaving you out of sync until you "catch up" to the live stream.
If and when the audio lands out of sync, you can tap the fine-tune controls to adjust it.
Owners of certain Roku models know the joys of plugging a pair of headphones into the remote for silent listening. Tunity affords the same thing for live TV, but costs nothing except some of your smartphone's juice.
This probably isn't something you'd use every day, but when you need it? Wow, is it handy.