HDMI ARC and eARC: Audio Return Channels for Beginners

Jeffrey Morrison / CNET

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

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

The eARC standard that is part of HDMI 2.1Improve the original in several important ways, including support Dolby Atmos, I’ll talk more about this later.

Do you need ARC?

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

Also, most TVs sound terrible, so at least Soundbar To improve the TV experience.Check us out How to buy a soundbar With a guide Soundbar and speakers For many.

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

Ark update

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 TV app’s audio back to your audio system with an optical cable. .. With ARC, you can send TV audio back to your audio system with an HDMI cable connected to your TV. If you do, a two-way street.

HDMI license / CNET

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 both the TV and the soundbar or receiver to work.


Notice the small 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. Relevant to us in the context of this article are eARC, or extended audio return channels.

Although Dolby Atmos can pass 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 required. This makes it easier to align the sound and visuals that have always been a problem in the modern television era.


HDMI license

Both gears must be eARC compatible to take advantage of the new features.Fortunately, eARC is available in far more gear than just the high end 8K tv.. From 2019 onwards for compatible devices Sonos Beam, Include Yamaha RX-V6A And that Sony X950.. This format is backwards compatible with ARC, but don’t expect to stream Atmos over your old TV. Most new TVs don’t require other features of HDMI 2.1, but manufacturers can implement the most 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 ultra-fast cables work as well. However, the current cable has Ethernet, and you may not have known it, so they will probably work as well. Caution: Variable refresh rate (VRR) 4K 120Hz, Requires a 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 TV’s ARC-enabled HDMI input and the other end to the soundbar or receiver’s ARC-enabled output.

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


Again, pay attention to the ARC label on the HDMI connection that connects to your TV. With the first option below, all you have to do is connect all the 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 central hub of entertainment systems.

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

The potential drawback of this setting is that you may not be able to get surround sound above 5.1. 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 the 5.1 Issues section.

2. Use the receiver or soundbar 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 low-cost soundbars may not have enough HDMI input for all sources. In that case, you need to use Setup 1.

In this setting, the receiver / soundbar is the central hub of the entertainment system. Switch sources and use the receiver / soundbar remote control to adjust the volume. Simply turn on your TV using your TV remote and access the apps built into your TV.

HDMI CEC control

Another HDMI function is CEC, or Consumer electronics control.. Almost every company has its own name, such as SimpLink, Anynet +, and BRAVIA Sync. Theoretically, the CEC allows you to remotely control another gear from one gear 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 an aspect of the ARC setup that will hurt you, this is it. If you don’t use one remote control, you may not be able to realize your dreams. Universal remote control.. If that doesn’t work, Google may help. It may be as easy as having to turn on the gears in a particular order. But in the end, this aspect of control may not work.

trouble shooting

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

There is one last thing to check. If everything else looks correct but you still don’t get audio, or if you get audio on 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 resolve the issue.


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

Ty Pendlebury / CNET

5.1 issues

ARC is great, but it has one big problem. That’s 5.1. Technically, TVs are not allowed to send 5.1 audio over HDMI. This means that if you’re watching a movie on Blu-ray using 5.1 Dolby Digital or DTS and it’s directly connected to your TV (setup 1 above), the receiver may only get 2.0 audio. There is. TVs that can do this are said to be “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 run 5.1, while others output 5.1 via optical output, but ARC does not. Our friends at Has an extensive list of what TV does, As far back as 2017.

Please note that this issue is only relevant if you are using a 5.1 source such as a Blu-ray player or game console. And I’m trying to send the device’s audio 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. It’s Doly Atmos, Dolby True HD, and DTS Master Audio. If you have an older TV, you will not be able to send these fidelity formats via 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 about products with ARC, I’m having trouble getting them to work. Run ARC, depending on the age of the gear 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 audio from the TV’s internal app. Not all systems work this way, especially if the soundbar doesn’t have enough HDMI input. However, due to the infinite number of setup possibilities, we cannot provide the perfect ideal advice. In theory, connecting directly to an audio device is likely to give you the highest quality audio.

Also, The connection with the optical cable is disappearing, They provide a more traditional way to connect 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, TV resolution description, LEDLCD vs. OLED More.

Do you still have questions?Tweet him @TechWriterGeoffCheck out 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 Sequel..

HDMI ARC and eARC: Audio Return Channels for Beginners

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