HDMI ARC & eARC

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What are HDMI ARC and eARC?

HDMI ARC (Audio Return Channel) and eARC (Enhanced Audio Return Channel) are specific functionalities within the HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) specification that simplify home theater setups. ARC was introduced to eliminate the need for an extra cable between a TV and a soundbar or home theater audio system. eARC is the next generation of ARC.

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Essentially, ARC functionality allows the TV to forward digital audio data upstream to a connected audio system and the audio system to communicate downstream with the TV through the same connection. The bidirectional communication is facilitated through the HDMI-CEC (Consumer Electronics Control) feature. CEC functionality is what allows the TV and audio system to be controlled with a single remote.

So, if you want to play TV audio through higher-quality external speakers and turn the sound up or down with a single remote, you should read our definition and learn what you need to make ARC and eARC work.

What are HDMI ARC and eARC?

Key Takeaways

  • ARC and eARC enable high-quality audio to be sent from your TV to a soundbar or AV receiver using a single HDMI cable.
  • To use HDMI ARC or eARC, you’ll need compatible hardware, the right device configuration settings, and the right HDMI cable.
  • You need high-speed HDMI cables for ARC and ultra high-speed cables for eARC.
  • ARC, introduced with HDMI 1.4, supports basic audio formats like Dolby Digital 5.1 & DTS 5.1, while eARC, introduced with HDMI 2.1, supports advanced formats such as DTS:X.
  • The main advantage of eARC over ARC is its higher bandwidth, which allows for better audio quality and lower latency.

What Do You Need to Use HDMI ARC/eARC?

To use HDMI ARC or eARC, you’ll need compatible hardware, the right device configuration settings, and the right HDMI cable.

This sounds simple, but it can get complicated because there are multiple versions of the HDMI specification, and each hardware component has to support the same version for optimal audio performance.

How to Use HDMI ARC and HDMI eARC?

How to Use HDMI ARC and HDMI eARC?

  1. Start by checking to make sure your TV and sound system both support HDMI ARC (or eARC). When you look at the HDMI port, you should see “ARC” or “eARC.” If your ports are not labeled, consult the TV and sound system’s user manuals to determine which version of HDMI they support.
  2. Next, make sure you are using the right type of HDMI cable for the audio functions you want to use, and connect ARC to ARC or eARC to eARC.
  3. The last step is to enable ARC/eARC in each connected device’s settings by switching the audio output to “ARC,” “eARC,” or “HDMI Audio Return Channel.” While you’re in settings, be sure to check and make sure that CEC is enabled. This will allow you to control both devices with the same remote.

Note: HDMI ARC/eARC are known for handshake issues that don’t allow devices to recognize each other’s ARC capabilities. Reconnecting the HDMI cable and/or restarting both devices can often resolve these issues.

What Cable Do You Need for HDMI ARC and eARC?

The type of HDMI cable you need for HDMI ARC, and eARC will depend on whether you want to use ARC or eARC.

For ARC, a standard HDMI cable can handle the audio return if you don’t have a 4K display setup. However, if you want to pass through higher video resolutions like 4K, you should use a high-speed HDMI cable.

Systems using HDMI 2.1 or HDMI 2.1a should use an ultra high-speed HDMI cable.

HDMI cables are backward-compatible, so if you’re unsure about HDMI versions, try starting with a high-speed HDMI cable. You’ll be able to physically connect devices, but you’ll be limited to the features supported by the oldest version of HDMI in your setup.

HDMI ARC vs eARC: What’s the Difference?

ACR and eARC are similar, but eARC has a much higher bandwidth. This allows it to support more advanced audio processing technologies like object-based audio for immersive sound, which is the next generation of surround sound.

 

HDMI ARCHDMI eARC

HDMI Version: Introduced with HDMI 1.4

Bandwidth: Lower bandwidth

Audio Formats Supported: Supports common formats up to Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1

Cable Requirements: Standard HDMI

Latency: Higher latency, which may affect lip-sync

Data Capacity: Up to 1 Mbps

Control and Features: Basic device control through CEC

Use Case: Soundbars and basic home theater setups

HDMI Version: Introduced with HDMI 2.1

Bandwidth: Higher bandwidth

Audio Formats Supported: Supports all ARC formats plus high-quality formats like DTS:X

Cable Requirements: High-speed HDMI with Ethernet can provide some eARC functions. Ultra High-Speed HDMI is preferred.

Latency: Lower latency with lip-sync correction capabilities

Data Capacity: Up to 37 Mbps

Control and Features: Enhanced control features and capabilities through CEC

Use Case: Advanced home theater systems requiring high-resolution audio

HDMI ARC/eARC Pros and Cons

HDMI ARC and HDMI eARC are important functionalities for those seeking the best possible audio experience from their home theater setup.

ARC/eARC allows the TV to forward audio data upstream to a connected audio system and the audio system to communicate downstream with the TV through the same cable. This makes setup easier for the tech-savvy audiophile, because it eliminates the need for a separate downstream cable.

The challenge is that HDMI ARC/eARC can be tricky to set up properly if you are not tech-savvy or your eyes glaze over at the mention of HDMI specifications, cables, or device settings.

To get the full benefits of ARC/eARC, each connected device and the HTML cable should support the same version of HDMI – and the version of HDMI on each hardware component should support the functionalities the user is interested in using. (Not all HDMI 2.0 devices support 4K at 60Hz, for example.)

It’s also important to check and make sure that the audio content you want to play is compatible with the audio formats supported by your ARC/eARC setup. If your content has an audio format that your ARC/eARC setup doesn’t support, you may not get any sound – or the sound that you do get will be poor quality.

The Bottom Line

HDMI ARC and HDMI eARC allow a single HDMI cable to handle upstream and downstream audio transmissions between a TV and an external sound system. This eliminates the need for a separate downstream audio cable and reduces cable clutter for home theater systems.

When CEC is enabled in device settings, HDMI ARC and eARC allow the user to control the sound and power functions on their TV and external sound system with the same remote control.

While ARC and eARC can significantly enhance the home theater experience by supporting high-quality audio, the benefits are only realized if the hardware components support the same version of HDMI, the HDMI version supports the functions you want to use, you have configured both CEC and ARC or eARC correctly, and the audio source supports the high quality audio formats you want to use ARC/eARC for.

FAQs

What is HDMI ARC/eARC in simple terms?

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Margaret Rouse
Editor

Margaret jest nagradzaną technical writerką, nauczycielką i wykładowczynią. Jest znana z tego, że potrafi w prostych słowach pzybliżyć złożone pojęcia techniczne słuchaczom ze świata biznesu. Od dwudziestu lat jej definicje pojęć z dziedziny IT są publikowane przez Que w encyklopedii terminów technologicznych, a także cytowane w artykułach ukazujących się w New York Times, w magazynie Time, USA Today, ZDNet, a także w magazynach PC i Discovery. Margaret dołączyła do zespołu Techopedii w roku 2011. Margaret lubi pomagać znaleźć wspólny język specjalistom ze świata biznesu i IT. W swojej pracy, jak sama mówi, buduje mosty między tymi dwiema domenami, w ten…