Enhanced Audio Return ChannelTVs have had the ability to output an audio signal via the HDMI ARC (Audio Return Channel) port for many years. However, the HDMI ARC channel has very limited bandwidth, meaning that it cannot support the latest and greatest audio formats. And often, ARC is even limited to stereo audio.
The new eARC standard promises to fix all of that by increasing audio bandwidth from Mb/s, which is best case for ARC, to a 37 Mb/s. That is enough to push through high bitrate and lossless audio (bit, Dolby TrueHD etc.). eARC was introduced as part of the HDMI standard but as the HDMI Forum confirmed to FlatpanelsHD in January , certain features of HDMI can be added to HDMI devices via updated firmware.
Sony has confirmed to FlatpanelsHD that the new Master series of TVs, comprising A9F (AF9) OLED and Z9F (ZF9) LCD, will support HDMI eARC, making them the first TV models to do so as far as we are aware.
Also read: HDMI ARC (Audio Return Channel) and eARC explained
We asked Sony to shed further light on the matter. In one example, Sony explained how eARC will make it possible for the TV to pass-through Dolby Atmos. What this means is that you can connect an UHD Blu-ray player directly to the TV via HDMI, and then pass-through a Dolby Atmos audio signal (in lossless Dolby TrueHD) to the eARC port from where it can be outputted to a connected soundbar or receiver (needs to support eARC, too). In short, the new Sony TVs will support all of the features that eARC has to offer.
This is a big step forward for TV audio as it also changes the dynamics of how you can set up your speaker system. A soundbar or receiver no longer has to deal with HDMI inputs and all of the video signals from your external players. Of course, a receiver can still serve as the control central in your system but you are probably familiar with the headache of dealing with 4K, HDR, HLG, and Dolby Vision pass-through in receivers.
To be clear, the speakers in Sony’s new Master TVs are not Dolby Atmos-capable and built-in apps such as Amazon and Netflix do not yet have support for Atmos – like Netflix on LG’s and OLED TVs. That may change in the future but Sony had nothing to announce at this event. For now, the main benefit of having eARC in Sony’s new TVs is pass-through.
Also read: Hands-on with Sony A9F and Z9F (AF9 / ZF9)
The new Master TVs will not support any other HDMI features, the company said.
eARC is the second feature from the upcoming HDMI standard to make it into an HDMI based TV. Earlier this year, Samsung implemented HDMI VRR (Variable Refresh Rate) and FreeSync in some of its new TVs.
If you want to learn more about eARC then look out for the upcoming article dedicated to the topic.
How to use the Sonos Arc on a TV without eARC (and get Dolby Atmos)
Without an HDMI eARC connection the Sonos Arc can not deliver the best-quality sound – we show you how to maximise sound quality with your slightly older TV.
The Sonos Arc is the company’s first steps into the world of high-definition home cinema audio, delivering Dolby Atmos 3D sound.
Yet, as good as this move is, there’s potentially a problem for many people: the Sonos Arc only has a single eARC HDMI input, so what does this mean if you don’t have the same type of port on your TV? The answer depends on the type of TV you have, how old it is and the types of ports you have available.
Related: Sonos Arc review
What is HDMI eARC?
The HDMI Audio Return Channel (ARC) was designed to let audio flow in the opposite direction to a soundbar or home cinema amp. Designed as an upgrade to Optical S/PDIF, HDMI ARC has a maximum audio bandwidth of 1Mbps (S/PDIF is limited to around Kbps).
In addition to boosting bandwidth for higher-quality audio, HDMI ARC also supports HDMI CEC, which means your TV’s volume controls can adjust sound on the external device, and there’s built-in lip-sync correction, too, although this often needs manual adjustments to make it work properly.
The problem is that high-quality uncompressed audio, such as Dolby TrueHD, needs more bandwidth and won’t run over HDMI ARC. This is where HDMI eARC comes in, with an increased bandwidth of 37Mbps, and improved lip-sync.
HDMI eARC is backwards compatible with HDMI ARC, and can switch to the lower bandwidth option for compatibility with older devices. So, an HDMI ARC on a TV can be plugged into the HDMI eARC of the Sonos Arc.
Which TVs have HDMI eARC?
Although HDMI eARC can technically be implemented on HDMI b ports, the reality is it’s only TVs with HDMI ports that support eARC. Effectively, unless you’ve bought a TV in the last 18 months or so, it’s unlikely that you’ll have HDMI eARC, which means you can’t run the highest-quality audio into the Sonos Arc.
If you are lucky enough to have HDMI eARC (the port on the back will be labelled as such), then the full high-quality signal can be passed through to the Sonos Arc.
Related: What is HDMI ?
Can’t you connect a device directly to the Sonos Arc through an HDMI splitter?
HDMI eARC (and ARC before it) output sound on different pins in the HDMI cable than with a regular HDMI port. So, sound goes from a device (or app) into the TV, which then outputs the sounds on the right pins to the external device connected via eARC or ARC.
It’s more than just sound being on the right ports, as there’s a handshake that has to go along with the connection: this sorts out how sound is synchronised, plus the HDMI CEC control information.
Even if you buy an HDMI splitter and send one cable into the back of the Sonos Arc, you won’t get any sound out of it at all. Unfortunately, there are currently no external sound boxes that can convert a signal into HDMI eARC, either, although some companies are looking at creating one.
If successful, you’d effectively have an external box with an audio output that would feed the Sonos Arc, and a video output that runs to your TV.
What happens if my TV only has HDMI ARC?
If you’ve got a TV with HDMI ARC only, then you can’t get full uncompressed audio into the Sonos Arc. Instead, some form of lossy, lower bandwidth codec has to be used. What happens, depends on the type of TV that you have.
There’s a bit of overlap, but the general rule is that if you have a TV built before , it can use Dolby Digital, the oldest standard, for compressed sound. If you’ve got a TV made after , then it will most likely support Dolby Digital Plus, which is encoded in rates of up to Kbps, and supports channels of audio.
Dolby Digital Plus is an advanced codec, designed to sound as close to the source material as possible, delivering higher-quality audio than Dolby Digital while using a lot less bandwidth than Dolby TrueHD. However, Dolby Digital Plus still uses lossy compression, so some detail is stripped out; Dolby TrueHD uses lossless compression.
What about Dolby Atmos?
If you’ve got HDMI eARC, then you can get Dolby Atmos at the highest quality with any Dolby TrueHD source, such as an Ultra HD Blu-ray player. This will move the full-quality sound through your TV to the Sonos ARC.
Streaming services that support Dolby Atmos don’t use Dolby TrueHD as it’s too bandwidth-heavy, and instead encode Atmos using Dolby Digital Plus, which is encoded at between Kbit/s and Kbit/s. So, if you watch Netflix or Disney Plus, then you’re still getting a compressed version of Dolby Atmos.
The good news here is that if you have a TV with HDMI ARC that supports Dolby Digital Plus and Dolby Atmos, then you’ll get the same quality from streaming services as on a TV with HDMI eARC.
Things get a bit more complicated when it comes to external devices. Blu-ray and Ultra HD Blu-ray discs only carry Dolby Atmos as part of a Dolby TrueHD soundtrack, which as we know can’t be passed through to the Sonos Arc, as there’s not enough bandwidth. There is a workaround: if your TV supports Dolby Atmos decoding natively, such as LG’s OLED TVs, then the TV can decode the high-resolution Atmos input and re-encode it as Dolby Digital Plus to send to the Sonos Arc.
You get a slightly compressed version of the sound, but in practice, it’s hard to hear the difference as the change is subtle.
Related: What is Dolby Atmos
Does Dolby Atmos encoding work with all inputs?
Unfortunately, whether or not a TV can encode Atmos to Dolby Digital Plus still depends on the device and what it’s capable of. For example, Sky Q has Dolby Atmos on some of its programmes and films, but when I fired up the integrated Netflix app, there was no Dolby Atmos content available; using the LG Netflix app, I could send Atmos to the Arc.
What about DTS sound?
Sonos doesnt support any DTS sound format at all. In fact, if you try and play a disc using any form of DTS sound (original DTS, DTS-HD MA, or DTS:X) you wont get any sound on your Sonos Arc at all. Thats rather frustrating, as many discs only have a surround soundtrack in DTS audio, and dont offer an alternative Dolby Digital one. The Arc does support multi-channel LPCM sound, which gives you a way of getting DTS sound into the system. See my guide on how to get DTS on Sonos for more information.
What if I don’t have ARC at all?
If you don’t have a TV with any type of HDMI ARC connection, then you can use the optical adaptor that Sonos provides. As noted above, this will limit you to Dolby Digital with more compression, and therefore lower-quality sound. And, you won’t be able to get Dolby Atmos.
Using the HDFury Arcana as a workaround
Thankfully, theres now the HDFury Arcana to help. This external box takes an HDMI input, and then send the video to your TV (or projector), and the audio directly to the Sonos Arc using the Arcanas eARC output. This means that if you have an older TV without eARC, you can get full-quality lossless sound formats sent straight to the Sonos Arc.
It works brilliantly, for the most part, getting around the major issue with the Sonos Arc: it has no regular HDMI input. As the Arcana only has a single input, you can pair it with an HDMI switch to use multiple devices.
Bypassing your TVs HDMI ARC also has the added advantage that you dont get the same lipsynch issues that can occur when passing audio through your TV: this can be very noticeable on systems such as Sky Q.
The HDMI Arcana can also take your TVs ARC output, so you can continue to use its built-in apps and run audio through your TV. I use my LG TVs built-in Netflix app, and can get Dolby Atmos through the Sonos Arc (via Dolby Digital Plus).
Its not a perfect system, and it can be a little bit finicky in the way it works: sometimes it wont pick up the HDMI ARC signal from the TV. I found the best way around the issue is to turn the TV on with the primary input device (in my case, Sky Q). Then, when theres audio coming out of the Sonos Arc to switch to a built-in app, and its happy days. Frequent firmware updates are being delivered, and the Fury improves with each iteration.
Can I use the Sonos Arc with a projector?
HDMI ARC ports arent that popular on projectors, although there are some models that have these. If your projector has HDMI ARC, you need to connect your playback device to the HDMI in port, and then connect the HDMI ARC output port to the Sonos Arc. As far as we can tell, there are no projectors that support Dolby Atmos via this method, and we cant find any projectors that have an HDMI eARC port for the highest quality audio.
For projectors that dont have HDMI ARC, you currently need a device that can extract the audio. The HDFury Arcana, as listed above, will do the job and give you full-quality sound including Dolby Atmos. If youre on a tighter budget, an HDMI extractor that can output audio via S/PDIF, such as the Lindy 4K Audio Extractor will do the job.
However, doing this limits you to Dolby Digital with no surround sound. Given the limitations of using a projector, largely the lack of Dolby Atmos support, youll be better off with an alternative sound system or the HDFury Arcana.
HDMI ARC and eARC: What they are and why you should care
If youre unboxing a brand new 4K TV, A/V receiver, or soundbar, youve likely noticed a little symbol on at least one of the HDMI inputs that says “ARC” or HDMI ARC. But what do these symbols mean? Hint: It has nothing to do with the reactor that fueled Iron Mans suits. Rather, ARC stands for audio return channel, a little-understood protocol that started showing up on HDMI-equipped devices a few years ago before evolving into a now-ubiquitous standard.
The technology is incredibly useful and has the potential to significantly simplify your entertainment system in a myriad of ways, starting with controlling all your audio from one remote.
In this deep dive, well go over the basics of ARC so you can put its powers to work for you. Well also explain how ARC is getting even more powerful with an update called eARC, a new standard that many of our favorite A/V brands are including with their latest hardware. Before we can do that, though, we first need to touch on the core foundation of ARC, and thats HDMI (feel free to skip ahead if youre already learned on that).
HDMI: The basics
HDMI has been around since Chances are you use it now, but you may not know how versatile it is. The system was created as a faster, more efficient way to deliver high-quality digital video and audio to and from consumer electronic devices. A constantly evolving format, starting at the p-capable HDMI , HDMI b was a baby step up from HDMI a, allowing for more capable transmission of 4K Ultra HD video with HDR at up to 60 frames per second, as well as the ability to transmit information for up to 32 channels of audio.
The latest iteration, HDMI (released in ) pushes the format even further. With HDMI , a single HDMI cable can carry 4K video at up to fps, 8K video at up to 60 fps, and even 10K (now that is looking into the future!). That equates to faster and more efficient transmission to keep up with the monstrous bandwidth demands from video and audio of the future right up to a whopping 48Gbps. (If you want even more details, heres everything you need to know about HDMI )
Dont freak out, though! The HDMI format is fully backward compatible with all older hardware, so this does not spell certain obsolescence for your existing entertainment system. While it is true that you will eventually need a new ultra high-speed HDMI cable to take full advantage of the specs new features, that need is still only on the horizon for even the most enthusiastic and deep-pocketed early adopters, and much further out for most of us.
Back to the present day: Many people currently use HDMI strictly as a means for connecting their cable boxes, Blu-ray players, and game consoles to their TV, but that little cable connection can do so much more.
HDMI was also designed to carry what the industry refers to as “handshake” information from one device to another.
Besides transferring both video and audio in a single feed, HDMI was also designed to carry what the industry refers to as “handshake” information from one device to another. These shared transmissions were originally intended to communicate copy protection data to prevent piracy and transfer messages about what type of components were connected, as well as what their capabilities were (and werent).
But the system was also designed to share more complex messages as a part of what’s called Consumer Electronics Control (CEC). CEC lets a single remote control operate features on up to 15 connected devices. There are nearly as many names for CEC as there are electronics brands: Samsung has called it “Anynet+,” LG SimpLink, and Sony Bravia Sync. Unfortunately, the system has never really lived up to its potential, and is often mistranslated or simply lost between components from different manufacturers. ARC can help.
The power of HDMI ARC
ARC, along with help from CEC, can simplify your home theater system in two important ways. The first and most useful feature HDMI ARC brings to casual users is the ability to use one remote for all of your audio devices most common functions. For this example, you may need to go into your TVs settings and activate CEC, usually found in the general settings. Depending on what brand of TV you own, the CEC menu option may instead go by its brand-centric subtitle (Anynet+, Bravia Sync, etc.).
Once everything is set up, your TV remote should power on a range of devices from A/V receivers to soundbars like the Sennheiser Ambeo at the same time as your TV and control volume as well. Simplicity is the name of the game here.
In some cases, HDMI ARC also automatically sends your TVs audio to your sound system without you having to deactivate your TV’s onboard speakers. In other cases, though, youll need to go into the settings in your TVs menu to activate External Speakers or Receiver to send sound out from the ARC port to your audio device. (More on that below.)
The HDMI ARC port can also be handy for connecting outboard components like streaming devices, making controlling them easier. Plugging a Google Chromecast into your TVs ARC port, for instance, may allow you to automatically switch sources or even turn on your TV when you click the cast icon on your phone or tablet. You may find similar results with other components as well, including Blu-ray players and set-top boxes.
Your exact level of functionality largely depends on each individual piece of this convenience puzzle. Not all TVs, disc players, media boxes, and audio systems interact with each other in exactly the same way. As a general rule of thumb, matching brands should give you the best overall experience, and those going the heterogeneous route will want to search for any potential compatibility issues before making all the necessary purchases.
In through the out door
As touched on above, the primary function of ARC is sending audio signals both “upstream” and “downstream” over a single connection, meaning signals can travel in and out of a device over a single HDMI ARC port. “Downstream” refers to a signal that is being passed from the source, say a Blu-ray player, “down” to another device. “Upstream” would then mean sending a signal the opposite way over the same cable. Why is that necessary? Convenience and sound quality.
For those who use an audio/video receiver (or a soundbar with multiple HDMI inputs) as a hub instead of their TV, ARC can simplify cable connections. While audio and video from various sources are going directly to an A/V receiver in this kind of setup, any audio coming from the TV itself (say, from local broadcasts or onboard streaming apps) still needs to get to the receiver or soundbar somehow.
HDMI ARC can send audio to the receiver through the same cable that already connects two devices.
For example: Lets say you want to use your televisions built-in streaming apps over apps built into your Blu-ray player or streaming device. Any audio from those streaming apps, like Netflix, Hulu, etc. or audio from an over-the-air antenna needs to get to your receiver somehow. In the past, this would have required that you connect another cable like a digital optical cable to link your TV with your receiver. But with HDMI ARC, audio can be sent back to the receiver through the same cable that already connects the two devices. For those with wall-mounted TVs, thats one fewer cable to snake through the wall!
Lets say you dont have an A/V receiver, though. As noted above, many soundbars from Yamahas affordable YAS to Samsungs powerful HW-N Dolby Atmos soundbar also include HDMI inputs to allow a direct connection from a Blu-ray player or other source, which enables you to better preserve the audio quality.
If you think that sounds great, just wait for eARC trickle down from top-of-the-range flagship TVs to the mainstream budget sector. As we explain in more detail below, with eARC, your televisions audio-processing capabilities are no longer part of the equation. You will be able to get the very best surround sound to any of your audio devices with no compromise.
Today, many TVs dumb down and compress audio signals before passing them through an HDMI cable, while others do support more channels and even Dolby Atmos, albeit using a more compressed codec like Dolby Digital Plus instead of Dolby TrueHD, which requires too much bandwidth. With eARC, the original, full-resolution audio signal can be sent via the HDMI cable again, producing the very best sound with no compromises.
You can already connect audio components to your TV via the HDMI ARC connection to pass the video signal to the TV and receive audio back from the TV as well. With eARC, that connection just gets better, with no degradation of the audio signal imposed by your TV.
eARC: The new kid in town
Weve teased some of what eARC can do, but heres a little more explanation on how it works and other benefits it offers.
The e in eARC stands for enhanced Audio Return Channel and is a new standard feature of HDMI that aims to provide the best possible audio resolution from your TV. The new configuration requires eARC support from both your TV and your audio device, which means both devices must support HDMI older HDMI versions do not support eARC. Youll also need an HDMI cable with support for Ethernet, like the newer ultra high-speed HDMI cables, which do include Ethernet support.
With eARC, full-resolution sound signals including 3D surround sound formats like Dolby Atmos and DTS:X can be passed back and forth from your TV and audio systems. Thats true whether they come from over-the-air broadcasts, internal streaming apps, or Blu-ray players, or game consoles connected directly to your eARC-enabled TV.
Previously, decoding high-bitrate audio like Dolby Atmos often required plugging your source device directly into a compatible audio/video receiver, soundbar, or powered speakers, as most TVs are limited to outputting compressed surround sound or even stereo audio. With eARC, you can plug your HDMI devices directly into your TV, and the TV will then send the uncompressed, high-quality audio to a soundbar, receiver, or amplifier directly from the eARC port.
Whats more, since the HDMI spec offers faster data transfer with more bandwidth, both the audio and video signals can be synchronized automatically. Ever had trouble with lip-sync problems? Those are issues of the past with eARC.
In theory, this new protocol also means manufacturers could create a new wave of audio-only receivers, soundbars, and amplifiers, as your TV would be able to handle the video signal while still allowing for the highest-quality audio to make its way to your sound system. This could significantly reduce the cost of all kinds of home theater components.
It will be a while until eARC is everywhere, but when it is, well enjoy a new level of simplicity and flexibility. So far, companies that have made their eARC plans public include Samsung and Sony, talking about their TVs, as well as Pioneer, Denon, Onkyo, Marantz, Yamaha, and Sennheiser, regarding their A/V accessories. We saw tons of new products at CES toting the goods, including most of the soundbars on our list of the shows best.
With that in mind, we must point out that new technology takes time to become widely available. Dont hold off on buying that new receiver or 4K HDR TV youve had your eye on. HDMI is a very forward-looking, future-proofed technology, but it is still in its infancy, and while very small corners of the world have begun enjoying 8K content, most of us are still waiting for the full incorporation of 4K content into our setups. Finding all the pieces you need right now is only a bit better than seeking a needle in a haystack, especially if you dont have much of a budget to work with.
In other words, this is a gradual evolution and not one that should keep you from enjoying the still-burgeoning world of 4K TVs and Dolby Atmos/DTS:X-enabled audio devices. Like all technologies, the future of home theater is announced and planned long before it becomes the standard. Yes, it is impossible to stay on top of the very latest and greatest from home theater land and unless youre in the top 1%, thats OK.
One of the best and yet least-understood HDMI features is ARC, or Audio Return Channel. It's a feature that enables you to simplify your system and is compatible with most TVs, receivers and soundbars.
In its most basic form, ARC uses an HDMI cable to send audio from a TV back to a receiver or soundbar. That means you can use a single cable for both audio and video -- for example, from the Netflix app built into your TV or a connected game console, and then use your TV for switching.
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The eARC standard, which is a part of HDMI , improves on the original in a few key ways including supporting Dolby Atmos, and we'll discuss this in more depth shortly.
Do you need ARC?
To be fair, many people don't need ARC. If you only listen to audio using your TV's speakers and don't have a receiver or soundbar, then the feature is superfluous. The point of ARC is to send audio created by or switched through your TV to an external audio device, namely a soundbar or receiver.
And because the sound on most TVs is terrible, we strongly recommend getting at least a soundbar to improve the TV experience. Check out our how to buy a soundbar guide and soundbar vs. speakers for more.
If you have a soundbar or receiver of fairly recent vintage that has HDMI, it probably has ARC, too. Here's how it works.
Can you use ARC?
Check the HDMI connections on the back of your TV, soundbar, or receiver. If the HDMI port has ARC, it should be marked as such. Both your TV and the soundbar or receiver must have ARC for it to work.
eARC and HDMI
The latest version of the HDMI interface is HDMI , and it offers numerous important changes including support for higher resolutions. Relevant to us in the context of this article is eARC, or enhanced Audio Return Channel.
While Dolby Atmos can be passed over regular ARC today (via Dolby Digital Plus) eARC offers improved bandwidth for higher-quality Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio streams, including Dolby Atmos.
The new format also has lip-sync compensation built-in. This feature was optional in ARC but is now required. This lets you more easily line up the sound with the visuals, something that has always been an issue in the modern TV era.
To take advantage of the new features, both pieces of gear must be eARC compatible. Fortunately, eARC is available in far more gear than just high-end 8K TVs. From onward, compatible devices include the Sonos Beam, the Yamaha RX-V6A and the Sony X The format is backward-compatible with ARC, but don't expect to stream Atmos through an older TV. Even though most new TVs don't need the other features of HDMI , manufacturers can implement most useful portions of HDMI , such as eARC.
You probably don't need new HDMI cables for eARC. Older cables with Ethernet, either Standard or High Speed, will work. The new Ultra High Speed cables will work as well, of course. But chances are your current cables have Ethernet and you didn't even know it, so they'll probably work, too. N.B.: In order to take advantage of some HDMI gaming features, such as Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) and 4K Hz, a high-speed cable is needed or you'll simply get no signal.
Most HDMI cables should work with ARC. Plug one end of the HDMI cable into the ARC-capable HDMI input in your TV and the other into the ARC-capable output on your soundbar or receiver.
There are basically two main ways to connect a system using ARC. For our purposes, we'll assume you have: a TV, a receiver or soundbar, a Blu-ray player and a game console (Xbox or PlayStation).
1. Using the TV as an HDMI switch: Connect the Blu-ray player and game console to the TV, then connect a single HDMI cable from the TV to the soundbar. The TV becomes the central hub of your entertainment system.
This setup lets you use your TV's remote to switch between the Blu-ray player and game console sources, and in most cases, you can use your TV's remote to control the volume.
The potential downside of this setup is you might not be able to get or higher surround sound. This is more of a problem if you are using a surround receiver instead of most soundbars (which typically can't playback ). We'll discuss this more in the "Issues with " section.
2. Using a receiver or soundbar as an HDMI switch: Connect the Blu-ray player or game console to the receiver or soundbar, then a single cable to the TV. Some budget soundbars might not have enough HDMI inputs for all your sources, in which case you'll have to use Setup 1.
In this setup, your receiver/soundbar is the central hub of the entertainment system. You will switch between your sources and adjust the volume using your receiver/soundbar's remote. You'll only use your TV's remote to turn the TV on, and access any apps built into the TV.
HDMI CEC control
Another HDMI feature is called CEC, or Consumer Electronics Control. Nearly every company has their own name for it, including SimpLink, Anynet+, BRAVIA Sync, and others. In theory, CEC will let the remote from one piece of gear to control another, as long as they're connected with HDMI. For instance, in Setup 1 above, your TV's remote can adjust the volume on your soundbar.
However, there's no guarantee it will work, especially across different brands or ages of gear. If there's any aspect of ARC setup that's going to cause you agony, it's this. You might not be able to realize the dream of using one remote, unless you get a universal remote control. If it doesn't work, though, Google might help. It could be as simple has having to turn on your gear in a certain order. But in the end, this control aspect just might not function.
The last setup step is making sure your TV and soundbar/receiver knows to send or look for the audio being sent over the Audio Return Channel. If you've got everything connected correctly, and it's not working, time to dive into the settings. It should be fairly obvious in the setup menus, but if not, all owner's manuals are on the manufacturer's website.
One last thing to check. If everything else seems correct, but you're still not getting audio, or you get audio with some sources but not all, check the audio output settings on the TV or the problematic source. Look for a setting that lets you change "bitstream" to "PCM" or vice versa. Switching to the other might clear up the issue.
As great as ARC can be, there is one big issue: Technically, TVs aren't allowed to send audio over HDMI. In other words, if you're watching a movie on Blu-ray with Dolby Digital or DTS and it's connected directly to your TV (Setup 1, above) your receiver might only be able to get audio. TVs that can do this are said to have " passthrough." This restriction helped lead to the creation of eARC which we'll discuss shortly, but it enables external speakers to playback both channel and Dolby Atmos.
Some existing TVs can still do while other TVs will output via the optical output, but not ARC. Our friends over at Rtings.com have an extensive list of what TVs do what, though it only goes back to
Keep in mind that this issue is only relevant if you have a source, like a Blu-ray player or game console, and you're trying to send that device's audio via ARC from the TV to a receiver. If your TV doesn't support passthrough, you can either connect that source to the receiver directly, or you can connect the TV and receiver with an optical cable. Optical cables don't carry Atmos, however.
Connecting a source like Blu-ray directly to the receiver/soundbar has another benefit: Doly Atmos, Dolby True HD and DTS Master Audio. If you have an older TV these higher-fidelity formats can't be sent over ARC. But they will be able to with eARC.
On paper, ARC is a great way to simplify your home theater system. The reality is… complicated. Read any user reviews about any product with ARC and there will be issues getting it to work. Depending on the age of your gear and complexity of your setup, getting ARC running and staying running can be frustrating.
Our advice for most people is to connect your sources to your receiver or soundbar, if they're capable, and only use ARC to get audio from your TV's internal apps. Not every system will work like this, not least if your soundbar doesn't have enough HDMI inputs. However, with infinite setup possibilities, we can't offer perfect idealized advice. Connecting directly to your audio device will, in theory, offer the best chance for the highest quality audio.
Also, even though optical cables and connections are disappearing, they offer a more traditional way to connect audio that might offer fewer issues, at the expense of some sound quality and theoretically less simple usability.
Got a question for Geoff? First, check out all the other articles he's written on topics like why all HDMI cables are the same, TV resolutions explained, LED LCD vs. OLED and more.
Still have a question? Tweet at him @TechWriterGeoff, then check out his travel adventures as a digital nomad on Instagram and YouTube. He also thinks you should check out his bestselling sci-fi novel about city-sized submarines and its sequel.
Compatible tv earc
HDMI ARC and HDMI eARC: everything you need to know
The trusty High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) has been the go-to digital connector for flatscreen TVs, projectors and other AV equipment for over 15 years now. Over that time it's evolved into a do-it-all connection, acting as a medium for various video and audio formats.
HDMI ARC (Audio Return Channel) is a clever protocol that sits within the HDMI standard and, in theory, it can help simplify a complicated AV set-up and reduce the number of cables you need.
But what's the point of it? And where does the new eARC protocol fit in this picture? Read on for all the info you need (and more)
What's HDMI and HDMI ARC?
HDMI launched way back in , and the first consumer kit to feature this high-tech connector hit the shops in
It was billed as a convenient way to send high-quality digital picture and sound data ‘upstream’ from a source to a TV, amplifier or soundbar. As HDMI has become the de facto AV connection, traditional analogue sockets such as SCART and component video have found themselves consigned to the spare parts bin.
The HDMI interface has evolved over the years, with new versions (HDMI is the latest) bringing support for new audio and video technologies such as 3D, 4K, 8K, HDR and high frame rates, to name but a few.
It wasn’t until that the HDMI ARC protocol was added to the spec-sheet. It was introduced as part of HDMI version and has been part of the specification ever since.
When would you use HDMI ARC?
Picture the scene. You have a set-top box, games console and Blu-ray player all plugged into your TV via HDMI.
Or perhaps your smart TV is using a built-in video app such as Netflix or Amazon Prime Video. Either way, you don’t want to use your TV’s speakers for audio – you’d rather hear everything played through a soundbar or home cinema amplifier instead.
Previously, you would have to connect an optical cable from the back of your TV to an optical input on your audio device.
But that’s a messy solution. Theoretically, HDMI ARC solves this problem.
HDMI ARC removes the need for an optical cable and allows you to send audio ‘downstream’ from a compatible HDMI socket on your TV to a compatible HDMI ARC socket on a soundbar or AV receiver.
What do you need to use HDMI ARC?
To take advantage of HDMI ARC, you’ll need a television and audio processor (AV receiver or soundbar) with matching ARC-enabled HDMI sockets.
Peer around the back of your TV - if it’s packing three or four HDMI sockets, you need to find the one that’s labelled “(ARC)”. Labelling isn’t compulsory, but as long as your TV is a late model or newer, there should be one at your disposal. Consult the TV’s user manual if you’re unsure.
With some TVs, HDMI ARC might work automatically. If it doesn’t, you’ll need to grab a remote and tweak a few of your TV settings, including turning off your TV’s built-in speakers and enabling your telly to send audio out to an external speaker or amp.
Using HDMI ARC does not require a new HDMI cable. Any HDMI cable should be able to cope with the requirements - it’s only when we move on to eARC this could (potentially) become an issue. But more on that later.
As part of the process, you should consider enabling HDMI CEC (Consumer Electronics Control), so you can turn your TV on and control the volume on your soundbar or amp without the need for multiple remotes. A word of warning, though: turning HDMI CEC on can have some unwanted AV side-effects - so you might want to experiment first.
MORE: How to improve your TV's sound
Are there any issues with HDMI ARC?
Worried about potential lip-sync problems? HDMI v, launched in , added automatic audio syncing, although it was only optional. This means some ARC-enabled products will play together nicely, others might not.
The biggest problem for ARC in its current guise is manufacturers have been left to pick and choose which elements of the protocol they want to include.
Support for all relevant audio codecs isn’t compulsory, so you can’t simply assume that a TV will be able to send a Dolby Digital or DTS soundtrack from a movie over ARC. Some TV manufacturers only support Dolby Digital, while others only support two-channel stereo, defeating the point.
It’s worth noting ARC doesn’t allow you to bitstream the full-fat high-quality codecs such as Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Atmos, DTS-HD Master Audio or DTS:X soundtracks that you find on Blu-rays and 4K Blu-rays. It simply strips out the core data stream. If you want this level of functionality, you’ll need HDMI eARC.
ARC can, however, allow you to receive Dolby Atmos audio from streaming services that use the format, including Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. These services embed Dolby Atmos in a Dolby Digital Plus stream, which ARC can handle.
What is HDMI eARC? What are the benefits?
Enhanced Audio Return Channel (also known as eARC) is the next generation of ARC. It’s a feature implemented in the most recent HDMI specification.
The main benefit of eARC is a big boost in bandwidth and speed. This allows you to send higher-quality audio from your TV to a soundbar or AV receiver.
There’s scope for eARC to deliver up to 32 channels of audio, including eight-channel, 24bit/kHz uncompressed data streams at speeds of up to 38Mbps.
This means all those high bitrate formats currently available on Blu-ray discs, 4K Blu-rays and some streaming services – Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio and object-based formats such as Dolby Atmos and DTS:X – will all be compatible.
But whether manufacturers choose to support them all remains to be seen.
On paper, HDMI eARC should also make the handshake between compatible devices much smoother and negate the need to activate HDMI CEC (which doesn’t always work properly) - so operating multiple products shouldn’t require any extra steps to get things up and running.
As is the case with ARC, you’ll need two devices with compatible HDMI eARC sockets for the protocol to work. While a device doesn't specifically have to be HDMI certified, HDMI certification does just about guarantee eARC support.
LG was the first manufacturer to go all-in with the new standard producing the first 4K TVs to sport HDMI ports in All LG's OLED TVs have up to four HDMI ports, with Samsung offering one on most models and four on its flagship sets.
Meanwhile, Pansonic's range, except the JX and JX, sport four HDMI ports, two of which are HDMI Sony also offers a mixture of ports, with its top models getting two HDMI and two HDMI
Other products with eARC are also starting to emerge. Onkyo and Pioneer were the first to offer eARC updates on select AV products such as the Onkyo TX-RZ, Integra DRX, Pioneer SC-LX and Pioneer VSX-LX AV receivers.
In Denon launched its first eARC-compatible AV receivers and then in also started future-proofing its AV receivers with models such as the AVC-XH offering full HDMI on one of its seven inputs and two of its three outputs, while the AVC-XH’s eight inputs and two of its three outputs are HDMI certified.
Sony followed quickly with updates to its soundbars (HT-ST, HT-ZF9, HT-XF) and AV receivers (STR-DH, STR-DN), making them compatible with eARC-supported Sony AF9 and ZF9 TV models. All firmware updates are available now.
More recently, both the brilliant Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar and the award-winning Sonos Arc also sport eARC-compatible HDMI outputs, as do LG's SP-A range of Dolby Atmos-enabled soundbars.
Do I need new HDMI cables to use eARC?
According to HDMI.org, if you currently use a standard HDMI cable with Ethernet, or a High-Speed HDMI cable with Ethernet, you should be fine. Ultra High-Speed HDMI cables with Ethernet will definitely work.
Because of the extra bandwidth needed for some audio formats over eARC, it’s possible that very old cables could struggle. In January HDMI.org announced a mandatory certification programme that will ensure any cable labelled Ultra High Speed supports all HDMI features including eARC.
Is eARC backwards compatible with ARC?
If your TV is HDMI eARC enabled, but your AV amp or soundbar is only compatible with HDMI ARC, you’ll likely get a sound – but the bandwidth restrictions of ARC will mean you won’t be able to experience the high bitrate audio that eARC can provide. So no, it's not backwards-compatible.
Some AV receivers and soundbars (like those mentioned previously) that don’t have HDMI chipsets can be upgraded to support eARC, but it varies between manufacturers and products. It depends if they are using compatible hardware that can accept the necessary firmware update.
Time will tell how well-integrated eARC will be, but we're hoping adoption becomes as ubiquitous as HDMI ARC seems to be now.
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