What are HDMI eARC and ARC? A quick guide

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So you purchased a new big-screen TV this Black Friday and want to buy some accessories. One of those accessories is probably some HDMI cable so you can interface with your Xbox, Playstation 5, Blu-Ray player, or other devices. But what are the HDMI eARC and HDMI ARC on my new TV? And which should I use?

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

If you are familiar with any consumer technology, you know it is fast to develop and move. For some devices, like smartphones, the tech is generally incremental, but it can move very fast for other technologies. HDMI technology has moved quickly, and there are a few different types to choose from, two of them being HDMI eARC and HDMI ARC.

We know that an HDMI cable is used to carry the signal from your device to your TV but what are HDMI, eARC, and ARC?

HDMI ARC

HDMI ARC (Audio Return Channel) was developed to help consumers eliminate the need for a separate audio cable, such as an RCA cable or an Optical Cable. These ARC cables are high-speed certified cables that can send audio and video from the source to the TV. The audio signal can travel both ways to and from the speakers, which will improve the sound quality and latency of the signal.

Most TVs made in the last few years support HDMI ARC, which is widely used. To use ARC, you must use an HDMI 1.4 cable or higher. An example of a compatible cable is the Best Buy Essentials cable or the StarTech cable on Amazon.

It is important to note that you can only use the ARC functionality through the specific port on your TV, and the external speakers or soundbar need to be compatible with ARC. You may also need to adjust the settings of your speakers, depending on the brand and model. So be sure to research your system beforehand.

So the simple explanation is that ARC allows you to plug everything into your TV and run only one HDMI cable to your sound system. This eliminates any other sound cables you may be using.

Audio Formats Supported by ARC

  • PCM (2 Channel)
  • Dolby Digital (Up to 5.1 Channel)
  • DTS Digital Surround (Up to 5.1 Channel)
  • DTS is only available on models released before 2018

HDMI eARC

As we mentioned before, technology moves fast but also remains the same. This is why you might see your TV have an ARC connection and a newer HDMI eARC connection. eARC is much newer, and you may not have it on your TV or sound system. Or you may have it on one and not the other. They are backward compatible, but you won’t benefit from eARC if both devices don’t support it.

Samsung explains HDMI eARC this way; “eARC enables sending audio to a TV that originates from cable, satellite, streaming or source devices to be sent to an AVR or sound bar through a single HDMI cable. This ensures the simplicity of the connectivity and that the original audio can be experienced.”

So yes, eARC does exactly what ARC does, but it does it better. HDMI eARC uses a newer HDMI 2.1 technology that improves bandwidth and speed by leaps and bounds. eARC also allows for transmission of HQ audio from your TV to your soundbar or AV receiver, and it is compatible with high-bitrate formats like Dolby Atmos and DTS. An example of a compatible eARC cable is the Rocketfish cable from Best Buy or the StarTech HDMI 2.1 cable on Amazon.

Comparison of ARC and eARC

FunctionHDMI ARCHDMI eARC
Compressed 5.1YesYes
Uncompressed 5.1NoYes
Uncompressed 7.1NoYes
High Bitrate and object-based up to 192kHz, 23-bit(e.g. Dolby Atmos, DTS:X) No Yes

Conclusion

To find out if your devices are ARC or eARC compatible, look at the HDMI connections for the labels ARC or eARC. Hopefully, this simple guide was enough to help you figure out which one you should use.

If you have two ARC-compatible devices, use a compatible ARC cable. If you have one ARC-compatible device and one eARC-compatible device, you can use either an ARC 1.4 cable or an eARC 2.1 cable, but you will only be able to utilize ARC features. If you have two eARC-compatible devices, use a 2.1 cable to take advantage of the better eARC features.

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Last Updated on November 27, 2022.

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