What is HDMI ARC? How it Works and Do You Need it?

ARC stands for Audio Return Channel. It is a protocol found on the latest HDMI devices. You might have noticed the HDMI ARC ports on Smart TVs, A/V receivers, soundbars, or home theatre. This feature simplifies the audio system arrangement to a great extent.

ARC technology was introduced with HDMI 1.4 standard in the year 2009. This protocol enables two-way communication between the devices over a single connection. That is, the TV can receive as well as transmit signals. Also, only a single cable is required for both audio and video.

Why do we actually need HDMI ARC?

JBL 9.1 vs Sonos Arc: KEY DIFFEREN...
JBL 9.1 vs Sonos Arc: KEY DIFFERENCES

The regular HDMI interface allows the transmission of the signal in one direction only i.e, from the source to the display. On the other hand, an ARC-enabled HDMI lets the display transmit the signal back to the source.

HDMI ARC port
HDMI ARC port

The audio can be routed to the AV Receiver or Soundbar for playback while preserving the original, high-definition audio signal. Thus we can use the HDMI as both an input as well as an output port. This improves the overall performance of the system.

Another significant advantage is simplifying and organizing the audio system in many crucial ways. Since only a single cable is necessary for transmitting both audio and video signals, it saves the hassle of connecting an extra set of cables and makes it convenient to control it via a single interface. The audio can be routed to the AV Receiver or Soundbar for playback while preserving the original, high-definition audio signal.

Consider a case, where you need to plug a set-top box, a gaming console, and a Blu-ray player into the TV using an HDMI interface. If you are interested to use the home theatre or a soundbar rather than using the TV speaker, HDMI ARC will be an intelligent solution.

Connecting TV to Sound bar using HDMI ARC
Connecting TV to Soundbar using HDMI ARC

Usually, an optical cable sends the audio from the TV to the soundbar. This makes the whole system messy. But, because of the two-way flow of sound offered by the HDMI ARC, the complicated AV setup gets simplified and the number of cables also gets reduced.

Read also: 5 HDMI Types & 7 Standards Explained(Speed Compared)

What do I need to have an ARC connection?

The primary requirement to establish an HDMI ARC connection is to check whether the TV, the connected device, and the HDMI cable are at ARC grade. If it is so, the letters ‘ARC’ will be indicated on the cable and nearby the ports.

The devices and cables that support HDMI version 1.4 usually have this feature. Once confirmed, turn on HDMI ARC from within the settings on your TV and receiver to get a better viewing experience.

How is ARC different from eARC?

Both ARC and eARC do the same function. But eARC is the enhanced version of ARC. It is the next-generation ARC that has a much higher bandwidth than ARC. Hence it can deliver higher-quality signals from the TV to the soundbar.

Conclusion

The HDMI ARC provides two-way communication between the signal input source and the output (e.g. display). This feature helps in reducing the complexity, hence the number of wires connected between the devices. One of the useful applications of HDMI ARC is in the home theater setup, where it is connected between the TV and the soundbar. It gives a better viewing experience.

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