HDMI ARC and eARC: Audio Return Channels for Beginners

Jeffrey Morrison / CNET

The best and always a The least understood HDMI feature ARC, or audio return channel. This is a system simplification feature compatible with most televisions, receivers and soundbars.

In the most basic format, ARC uses an HDMI cable to send audio from the TV back to the receiver or sound bar. This means that you can use only one cable for audio and video. Netflix app integrated into your TV Or a connected game console, and Switch using TV..

The eARC standard which is part of HDMI 2.1Improve the original in several important ways, including the medium Dolby AtmosI’ll talk about that later.

Do you need ARC?

To be fair, many don’t need ARC. If you are just listening to audio using your TV speakers and you don’t have a receiver or soundbar, you don’t need this feature. The purpose of ARC is to send audio produced by or switched through the TV to an external audio device, sound bar or receiver.

Plus, most TVs sound awful so at least Sound bar To improve the TV experience. Consult us How to buy a sound bar With a guide Sound bar and speakers For many.

If you have a fairly new vintage soundbar or receiver with HDMI, you probably have ARC as well. The mechanism is as follows.

On the left is a traditional non-ARC setup where you need to connect the HDMI cable from the Xbox to your audio system, send the video to your TV with another cable, and send the audio from the TV app back to your audio system with an optical cable. cable. .. With ARC, you can send audio from the TV back to your audio system with an HDMI cable connected to your TV. If you do, a two-way street.

HDMI / CNET license

Can I use ARC?

Check the HDMI connection on the back of your TV, soundbar or receiver. If the HDMI port has an ARC, it should be marked as such. ARC is required for the TV and soundbar or receiver to work.


Notice the little ARC label on the HDMI output of this receiver. Soundbars with HDMI look the same.


eARC and HDMI 2.1

The latest version of the HDMI interface HDMI 2.1, And it offers many important changes, including support for higher resolutions. What concerns us in the context of this article are eARCs, or extended audio return channels.

Although Dolby Atmos may go through regular ARC today (via) Dolby Digital Plus) EARC improves the bandwidth of high quality Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio streams, including Dolby Atmos.

The new format also incorporates lip sync correction. This feature was optional in ARC, but is now mandatory. This makes it easier to align sound and visuals which has always been a problem in the modern television age.


HDMI license

Both gears must be eARC compatible to take advantage of the new features. Fortunately, eARC is available in much more equipment than the top of the range. 8K television.. From 2019 for compatible devices Sonos harness, Include Yamaha RX-V6A And that Sony X950.. This format is backward compatible with ARC, but don’t expect Atmos to stream to your old TV. Most newer TVs don’t require other features of HDMI 2.1, but manufacturers can implement the more useful parts of HDMI 2.1, such as eARC.

You probably don’t need a new HDMI cable for eARC. Works with older cables with standard or high speed Ethernet. Of course, the new super-fast cables also work. However, the current cable has Ethernet, and you might not know that, so they will probably work too. Caution: Variable refresh rate (VRR) 4K 120 Hz, Requires high speed cable. Otherwise, you will not receive the signal.


Most HDMI cables Should work with ARC.. Connect one end of the HDMI cable to the ARC compatible HDMI input of the TV and the other end to the ARC compatible output of the sound bar or receiver.

There are basically two main ways to connect your system using ARC. For our purposes, we’ll assume you have: a TV, receiver or soundbar, Blu-ray player, and game console (Xbox or PlayStation).

Sony-ht-st5000 sound bar

Again, pay attention to the ARC label on the HDMI connection that connects to your TV. With the first option below, you just need to connect all sources to the soundbar and a single cable to your TV.

Sarah Tew / CNET

1. Use your TV as an HDMI switch: Connect your Blu-ray player and game console to your TV, then connect a single HDMI cable from your TV to the soundbar. Television will be the hub of entertainment systems.

This setting allows you to switch between Blu-ray player and game console sources using your TV remote control. In most cases, you can use the TV remote control to control the volume.

The potential downside to this setting is that you may not be able to achieve better than 5.1 surround sound. This is even more problematic if you are using a surround receiver instead of most soundbars (which usually cannot play 5.1). This is discussed in more detail in section 5.1 Problems.

2. Use the receiver or sound bar as an HDMI switch: Connect a Blu-ray player or game console to the receiver or soundbar, then connect a single cable to your TV. Some inexpensive soundbars may not have enough HDMI input for all sources. In this case, you must use configuration 1.

In this context, the receiver / sound bar is the central hub of the entertainment system. Change the source and use the receiver / soundbar remote control to adjust the volume. Simply turn on your TV using your TV remote control and access the apps built into your TV.

HDMI CEC control

Another HDMI function is CEC, or Consumer electronics control.. Almost every business has its own name, such as SimpLink, Anynet +, and BRAVIA Sync. Theoretically, CEC allows you to remotely control other equipment from equipment as long as it is connected to HDMI. For example, in setup 1 above, you can adjust the volume of the soundbar with your TV remote control.

However, there is no guarantee that it will work, especially beyond the ages of different brands and gears. If there is one aspect of the CRA setup that will hurt you, this is it. If you don’t use just one remote, you might not be able to make your dreams come true. Universal remote controller.. If that doesn’t work, Google can help. It can be as simple as having to put the gears in a particular order. But in the end, this aspect of control may not work.


The final setup step is to make sure your TV and soundbar / receiver know they are sending or searching for the audio being transmitted on the audio return channel. If everything is properly connected and not working, go to settings. It should be pretty obvious in the setup menu, but if not, all owner’s manuals can be found on the manufacturer’s website.

There is one last thing to check. If everything else looks okay but you are still not getting sound, or if you are getting sound from some sources but not all, check the audio output settings on your TV or the problematic source. Please give me. Look for a setting that allows you to change “bitstream” to “PCM” and vice versa. Switching to the other may solve the problem.


Some soundbars, such as the Vizio Elevate, provide Dolby Atmos audio through eARC and a second (and possibly a third) HDMI input.

Ty Pendlebury / CNET

5.1 problems

ARC is great, but it has a big problem. It is 5.1. Technically, TVs are not allowed to send 5.1 audio through HDMI. This means that if you are watching a Blu-ray movie using 5.1 Dolby Digital or DTS and it is directly connected to your TV (setup 1 above), the receiver may only get 2.0 audio. There is. Televisions that can do this are called “5.1 pass-through”. This limitation led to the creation of eARC, which I will explain later, but with 5.1 channels for external speakers. Dolby Atmos..

Some existing TVs can work in 5.1, while others output in 5.1 through optical output, but not ARC. Our friends at Rtings.com Has a long list of what the TV does, From 2017.

Please note that this issue is only relevant if you are using a 5.1 source such as Blu-ray player or game console. And I am trying to send the sound of the device from the TV to the receiver via ARC. If your TV does not support 5.1 pass-through, you can either connect the source directly to the receiver or connect the TV to the receiver with an optical cable. However, Atmos is not installed in the optical cable.

Connecting a source such as Blu-ray directly to the receiver / soundbar has another advantage. These are Doly Atmos, Dolby True HD and DTS Master Audio. If you have an older TV, you will not be able to send these loyalty formats through ARC. But they will be able to do it with eARC.

ARC reaction

On paper, ARC is a great way to simplify your home theater system. The reality is… complicated. When I read user reviews of products with ARC, I find it difficult to get them to work. Run ARC, depending on the age of the equipment and the complexity of the setup, stay Running can be frustrating.

The advice for most people is to connect to a receiver or soundbar when the source is available and use ARC to get the sound from the TV’s internal app. Not all systems work this way, especially if the soundbar does not have enough HDMI input. However, due to the endless number of installation possibilities, we cannot provide the perfect ideal advice. In theory, connecting directly to an audio device is likely to give you the best audio quality.

As well, The connection with the optical cable disappearsThey offer a more traditional way of connecting audio, but at the expense of some sound quality and, in theory, less usability.

Do you have a question for Jeff? First, check out All other articles he wrote About topics like Why all HDMI cables are the same, Description of TV resolution, LEDLCD vs. OLED After.

Do you still have questions? Tweet it @TechWriterGeoffDiscover his travel adventures as a digital nomad, then Instagram And Youtube..He also thinks you should check out his bestsellers. Science fiction novel City-sized submarines and their After..

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