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What Is HDMI ARC (Audio Return Channel)?

How HDMI ARC and eARC Simplify TV Audio Connections

HDMI ARC (Audio Return Channel) makes it easy to send audio from your TV to an external audio system. It was introduced in HDMI version 1.4 and applies to all later versions.

This information applies to TVs from various manufacturers, including but not limited to LG, Samsung, Panasonic, Sony, and Vizio.

Advantages of HDMI ARC

HDMI ARC transmits audio from the TV to the home theater receiver using the same HDMI connection that transmits video from the home theater receiver to the TV.

HDMI ARC allows you to listen to TV audio through your home theater audio system instead of the TV’s speakers, eliminating the need to run digital or analog optical audio cables between your TV and your home theater.

How does the audio return channel work?

If you receive TV signals through an antenna, the sound from those signals goes directly to your TV. To transmit the audio of these signals to the home theater receiver, connect an additional cable (analog stereo, digital optical, or digital coaxial) from the TV to the home theater receiver.

However, with Audio Return Channel, HDMI cables connected to TVs and home theater receivers can carry audio in both directions. In addition, the Audio Return Channel feature provides access to audio sources directly connected to the TV via the Internet, digital, analog and in some cases HDMI inputs.

The specific capabilities of HDMI ARC are at the discretion of the manufacturer. For more information, please refer to the user manual of the specific HDMI ARC compatible TV.

audio return channel

hdmi.org

How do I activate the audio return channel?

TVs and home theater receivers must have HDMI 1.4 or higher to use Audio Return Channel. Additionally, manufacturers of TVs and home theater receivers should include it as an option in their HDMI implementations.

To determine if your TV or home theater receiver has Audio Return Channel, verify that the HDMI input on the TV and the HDMI output on the home theater receiver also have an ARC label in addition to the input or output number. It maps to the HDMI input on the TV and the HDMI output on the home theater receiver.

HDMI ARC Connection Example - TV

To enable Audio Return Channel, go into the audio settings menu of your TV or HDMI home theater receiver and select the appropriate setup option. In some cases, Audio Return Channel is automatically enabled when HDMI-CEC is enabled on the home theater receiver.

Roku TV HDMI-ARC Setup Menu

The appearance of the HDMI-ARC setup menu and activation steps on your TV or home theater receiver may vary. The example above is for a Roku TV.

inconsistent results

While the Audio Return Channel is supposed to be a quick and easy solution for transferring audio from a TV to a compatible external audio system, there are some inconsistencies depending on how TV manufacturers implement its functionality.

  • TV manufacturers may only offer HDMI ARC for two-channel audio. In other cases, dual-channel and undecoded Dolby Digital bitstreams can be recorded.
  • HDMI ARC is sometimes only effective for wireless transmission. If the TV is a Smart TV, it will work for streaming sources accessible inside the TV.
  • If you connect your Blu-ray Disc or DVD player’s audio to your TV (rather than directly to an external audio system), the ARC feature may not transmit audio or only two-channel audio.
  • Since HDMI-ARC is used in conjunction with HDMI-CEC, interference may occur because the communication characteristics of HDMI-CEC vary by TV receiver and home theater manufacturer.

While the Audio Return Channel uses an HDMI connection, the original version of ARC does not support advanced surround audio formats such as Dolby TrueHD/Atmos and DTS-HD Master Audio/:X.

eARC HDMI

eARC (Enhanced Audio Return Channel) has been developed and included in: HDMI version 2.1 to overcome ARC limitations. eARC began rolling out to TVs and home theater receivers in 2019.

eARC adds the ability to stream surround audio formats such as Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and 5.1/7.1ch uncompressed PCM audio from HDMI-connected source devices, as well as all audio from smart TV streaming applications. This means that on a TV with eARC, you can connect all audio and video sources to the TV. Audio from these sources can be routed from the TV to an eARC-compatible home theater receiver via a single HDMI cable connection.

HDMI eARC comparison table

HDMI license

TV manufacturers don’t always advertise which audio formats each TV supports. The steps may also be different if Audio Return Channel and Enhanced Audio Return Channel are enabled. Please refer to your user manual or contact technical support for exact activation steps and features.

TVs and home theater receivers that do not support HDMI 2.1 cannot be upgraded to support eARC.

Some soundbars also support an audio return channel

While the Audio Return Channel was originally designed for use between TVs and home theater audio systems, it is also compatible with a select number of sound bars.

If the soundbar has built-in amplification and HDMI output, it may also have Audio Return Channel (or eARC). If your soundbar has an HDMI output, look for the ARC, Audio Return Channel, or eARC label on the soundbar’s HDMI output, or refer to the user manual.

If you’re in the market for a soundbar and want this feature, check the features and specs, or do a physical check at a store if any devices are on display.

Yamaha YAS-108 Sound Bar with HDMI-ARC Connection

Yamaha Corporation

For more technical information on the Audio Return Channel, see the HDMI.org Audio Return Channel page.

Don’t confuse Audio Return Channel (ARC) with Anthem Room Correction (also known as ARC). This is important because Anthem home theater receivers feature Anthem Room Correction and HDMI-ARC.

Check out all the ways you can connect your TV to an external audio system for better sound.

Content

What Is HDMI ARC (Audio Return Channel)?

How HDMI ARC and eARC simplify TV audio connectivity

HDMI ARC (Audio Return Channel) simplifies sending audio from a TV to an external audio system. It was introduced in HDMI version 1.4 and works with all later versions.

This information applies to TVs from a variety of manufacturers, including, but not limited to, LG, Samsung, Panasonic, Sony, and Vizio.
The Benefit of HDMI ARC

HDMI ARC transfers audio from a TV to a home theater receiver with the same HDMI connection that transfers video from the home theater receiver to the TV.

With HDMI ARC, you can hear TV audio through a home theater audio system instead of the TV’s speakers without also connecting analog or digital optical audio cables between the TV and home theater system.

How an Audio Return Channel Works

If you receive TV signals over an antenna, audio from those signals goes directly to your TV. To get the audio from those signals to a home theater receiver, connect an extra cable (either analog stereo, digital optical, or digital coaxial) from the TV to the home theater receiver.

However, with Audio Return Channel, the HDMI cable connected to the TV and the home theater receiver can transfer audio in both directions. In addition, audio sources connected directly to the TV using internet, digital, analog, and, in some cases, HDMI inputs may also be accessed using the Audio Return Channel function.

Specific HDMI ARC features are provided at the manufacturer’s discretion. Check the user manual for the specific HDMI ARC-enabled TV for details.
HDMI.org
How to Activate Audio Return Channel

The TV and home theater receiver must be equipped with HDMI version 1.4 or later to use Audio Return Channel. Also, the TV and home theater receiver manufacturer must have included it as an option within their implementation of HDMI.

To determine if a TV or home theater receiver has Audio Return Channel, see if any HDMI inputs on the TV and the HDMI output of the home theater receiver have an ARC label in addition to the input or output number. It will be assigned to one HDMI input on the TV and one HDMI output on a home theater receiver.

To activate the Audio Return Channel, go into the TV’s audio or the home theater receiver’s HDMI setup menu and choose the appropriate setting option. In some cases, Audio Return Channel is automatically enabled when HDMI-CEC is activated on the home theater receiver.

The appearance of the HDMI-ARC setup menu and activation steps in TVs or home theater receivers may vary. The example shown above is for a Roku TV.
Inconsistent Results

Although Audio Return Channel should be a quick and easy solution for sending audio from a TV to a compatible external audio system, there are some inconsistencies based on how TV makers implement its capabilities.

A TV manufacturer may only provide HDMI ARC to pass two-channel audio. In other cases, both two-channel and undecoded Dolby Digital bitstreams may be included.
HDMI ARC is sometimes active only for over-the-air broadcast. If the TV is a smart TV, it’s active for the TV’s internally accessible streaming sources.
If you connected the audio from a Blu-ray Disc or DVD player to a TV (instead of directly to an external audio system), the ARC feature might not pass audio, or it may only pass two-channel audio.
Since HDMI-ARC works in conjunction with HDMI-CEC, glitches can occur because HDMI-CEC communication features vary among TV and home theater receiver makers.
Even though Audio Return Channel uses HDMI connections, advanced surround audio formats, such as Dolby TrueHD/Atmos and DTS-HD Master Audio/:X are not accommodated on the original version of ARC.
HDMI eARC

eARC (Enhanced Audio Return Channel) was developed and incorporated into HDMI version 2.1 to overcome the limitations of ARC. eARC began to be implemented on TVs and home theater receivers in 2019.

eARC adds the ability to transfer immersive audio formats, such as Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, and 5.1/7.1 channel uncompressed PCM audio from HDMI-connected source devices, as well as all audio from smart TV streaming apps. This means that on TVs with eARC, you can connect all audio and video sources to the TV. The audio from those sources can then be transferred from the TV to an eARC compatible home theater receiver through a single HDMI cable connection.

HDMI Licensing
TV makers don’t always publicize which audio formats are supported on each TV. With both Audio Return Channel and Enhanced Audio Return Channel activation, steps may also vary. Check your user guide or contact tech support for the exact activation steps and features.

TVs and home theater receivers that aren’t HDMI 2.1 compatible cannot be upgraded to accommodate eARC.
Some Soundbars Also Support Audio Return Channel

Although Audio Return Channel was initially designed for use between a TV and home theater audio system, a select number of soundbars also support it.

If the soundbar has built-in amplification and an HDMI output, it may also feature Audio Return Channel (or eARC). If your soundbar has an HDMI output, check for the ARC, Audio Return Channel, or eARC label on the soundbar’s HDMI output, or check the user guide.

If you’re shopping for a soundbar and desire this feature, check the features and specifications, or do a physical inspection at the store if units are on display.

Yamaha Corporation
For more technical information on Audio Return Channel, check out the HDMI.org Audio Return Channel page.

Don’t confuse Audio Return Channel (ARC) with Anthem Room Correction, which also uses the moniker ARC. This is important as Anthem home theater receivers feature both HDMI-ARC and Anthem Room Correction.
Check out all the ways you can connect your TV to an external audio system for better sound.

#HDMI #ARC #Audio #Return #Channel

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