Technical terms and abbreviations in the world of AV (audio visual) can get very confusing and complicated. So, what exactly is HDMI ARC and eARC when it’s at home? Let’s take a look.
Let’s start with the basics, ‘ARC’ stands 'audio return channel' and relates specifically to a feature of some HDMI ports. In short, it means the port can send audio from your TV to another device like a soundbar.
What is HDMI ARC for?
HDMI ARC/eARC is useful if you have various things plugged into your TV – like a games console, streaming box or Blu-ray player – but you don’t want to use the (likely poor quality) speakers on your TV.
Well HDMI ARC is a convenient way of taking the audio ‘downstream’ to your soundbar or possibly something else like an amplifier. It’s an alternative to using an optical cable which doesn’t have the same features and the cable can break a lot easier.
Do I have HDMI ARC or eARC?
This depends on your TV and how old it is. Most modern sets will have regular ARC and very recent ones might have eARC – also known as next-gen ARC.
The best way to find out is to simply look at the ports on the back of your TV. Normally, the label next to port will say HDMI (ARC) or HDMI (eARC) so you know which port has the feature. It’s typically just one port - HDMI 1 - rather than all of them.
If you can’t see a label next to the ports, you might still have ARC but you’ll need to check the specs for your specific TV model.
HDMI ARC vs eARC
You’re probably wondering what the difference is between the types of ARC. For starters, the ‘e’ stands for enhanced so it’s an improved version which you’ll find on TVs that have HDMI 2.1 ports.
The main advantage of eARC is increased bandwidth, meaning it can transmit the original full resolution audio signal. This additional capability means that eARC supports uncompressed 5.1 and 7.1 as well as standards like Dolby Atmos and DTS:X.
If you want to get technical, eARC supports speeds of up to 38Mbps for up to 32 channels of audio, including eight-channel, 24bit/192kHz uncompressed data. Regular ARC is limited to 1Mbps and compressed 5.1.
What do I need to use HDMI ARC/eARC?
As well as a TV with either ARC or eARC, you’ll need something at the other end to plug the cable into. For most, this will be a soundbar but there are other devices that have the feature including amplifiers.
If you haven’t bought one yet, make sure it supports the type of ARC you want to use with your TV. It’ll be no good if it only has an optical cable. If one product has ARC and the other eARC, then you’ll be limited to the specs of regular ARC.
An example of a soundbar with eARC is the Sonos Arc.
Do I need a new HDMI cable?
You might be wondering about cables and you’d be right to. Any HDMI cable is fine for regular ARC, but older cables may well struggle to support eARC. To make sure, get an Ultra High Speed HDMI cable as it supports all HDMI 2.1 standards.
Do I need to change any settings?
A lot of TVs will detect an ARC or eARC connection automatically so simply plugging your devices together could be all you need to do.
If things don’t seem right – perhaps the sound is still coming out of your TV speakers – then head into your TV’s settings menu and find the audio/sound section. Here you should be able to manually switch eARC on.
This example (above) from Samsung has is under the ‘expert settings’ section.
Check out our chart of the best TVs.