I don't think there's a single person outside of Madison Avenue who thinks loud commercials are a good thing. In fact, I'd say that if there were an easy way to quiet them down, everyone would jump at it.
Well, a commercial muffler may have finally arrived in the form of SRS Labs' MyVolume adapter, a small $99 plug-and-play box that connects to any cable or satellite box via HDMI (there's also a version that connects with RCA cables). Plug it in, and everything — TV shows and commercials — get leveled out to the same volume. I've been using the MyVolume for a couple of weeks and I can say it's the real deal.
I set out to test the MyVolume both quantitatively and qualitatively. The quantitative results are in the video above. I played a DVR'd commercial for Bing twice, once with the adapter connected and once without, and recorded the level reading on my iPhone's voice recorder. You can see for yourself that the difference in volume: It's slight, but noticeable.
How does this translate into what you actually hear? Depends on the commercial, but I'd say the adapter takes blaring ads down to merely irritating, and irritating down to normal. But don't take my word for it. When I hooked up the MyVolume, I didn't tell my wife what it was for. After a week I asked her if she noticed anything about the commercial volume lately. She said she hadn't, but that she couldn't remember being annoyed by any commercials in that time either. Sounds like an endorsement to me.
One last thing: We first reviewed a preproduction unit, which would put itself in standby mode when the TV was off, cutting off the HDMI signal completely until I switched it back on — not good for a device that's supposed to go in back of your equipment stack. SRS promises production units wouldn't have the problem, and we tested one to make sure it worked properly (it did). Take from that what you will. Finally, at separate times after we got the production unit, the audio cut out altogether for about 10 seconds, and the whole picture was overcome with snow for a second or two. I can't definitively say the MyVolume was responsible for these, and they barely even qualify as minor problems, but they didn't used to happen before I installed the box.
Bottom line: The box definitely has an calming effect on commercials, and in turn, family members. Is that effect worth $99? Let us know what you think, and come back to the site a little later today for your chance to get the MyVolume effect for $0.