Most modern digital devices support HDMI ARC or High-Definition Multimedia Interface Audio Return Channel. If you’re unfamiliar with the technology, it’s simply a program that allows HDMI cables to receive and process audio signals from a source.
In other words, you won’t have to use external wiring – apart from an HDMI cable – to connect your source to a sound device to get audio.
Since most HDMI-capable devices nowadays use HDMI ARC, you might be asking yourself:
“Can I use HDMI ARC as regular HDMI?”
And the answer is YES.
Regardless of whether a device supports ARC, an HDMI ARC port should still be able to function as a regular HDMI port.
- HDMI ARC vs. HDMI: What’s The Difference?
- HDMI ARC vs. HDMI eARC: What’s the difference?
- How do I know if I have HDMI ARC?
- Do I need a specific cable to use HDMI ARC?
- When is it best to use HDMI ARC?
- When is it best to use regular HDMI?
- HDMI ARC isn’t working – what should I do?
- To Summarize
HDMI ARC vs. HDMI: What’s The Difference?
HDMI ARC was first introduced with the HDMI 1.4 versions. Unlike the previous HDMI models, ARC allows sound and images to travel through a single cord. This made it much easier for people to connect their sources to their output devices, as it didn’t use as many wires.
On the other hand, the regular HDMI could only process image signals. This limitation meant you’d have to use another set of wires to connect to your output device and get sound.
Can I Use HDMI ARC As a Regular HDMI?
HDMI ARC is simply an updated version of HDMI. Since HDMI is designed to be backward compatible, there shouldn’t be any reason why you can’t use ARC as a regular HDMI port.
Note: If you’re using an outdated HDMI cable to connect your source and output device, you’ll likely face an issue during the connection process. If/when that happens, try switching your old cables with a new set to see if it fixes the problem. Otherwise, there might be something wrong with your HDMI ARC port.
HDMI ARC vs. HDMI eARC: What’s the difference?
A more recent version of the HDMI ARC technology is the HDMI eARC.
The “e” stands for enhanced, meaning you’ll get better sound quality, and your device will be able to support more audio formats.
Now, how exactly can HDMI eARC do that?
Most televisions tend to compress audio before sending them through the HDMI cable. The compression results in poorer sound quality.
Fortunately, with HDMI eARC, you can transmit audio signals in their original resolutions. So, you can enjoy high-quality sounds without compromise.
You can find HDMI eARC in HDMI versions 2.1 and up. Besides higher-quality audio, other benefits of using HDMI eARC are its higher bandwidth and boosted speeds.
Note: When using HDMI eARC, it’s best to use an HDMI cable that supports eARC (e.g., HEAC or HEC). Otherwise, a connection error may occur.
How do I know if I have HDMI ARC?
The easiest way to identify if you have a regular HDMI or HDMI ARC connection is to check the port labels.
HDMI ports on TVs are labeled according to specific designations. For HDMI ARC ports, it should have an “ARC” label.
“HDMI 1 (ARC)” or “HDMI 2 (ARC)”
In other cases, the HDMI ARC port will be separated from the regular HDMI ports.
Most televisions will have at least one HDMI ARC port. However, higher-end models may have more.
Do I need a specific cable to use HDMI ARC?
Generally speaking, any HDMI cable can work with HDMI ARC. As long as it’s not older than the HDMI 1.4, you shouldn’t encounter any connecting issues.
However, it all depends on what content you’re planning to watch.
If you’re watching high-definition content with 5.1 surround sound, then a high-speed or high-bandwidth HDMI cable would be more appropriate, especially if you have a more advanced audio system at home.
When is it best to use HDMI ARC?
Although HDMI ARC is undeniably beneficial to many users, it’s not necessary to use it ALL THE TIME.
HDMI ARC was designed for people who use external audio devices to produce sound, e.g., speakers or a soundbar. If you’re only using your TV’s built-in speakers, you don’t need to use HDMI ARC.
With ARC, you can control everything connected to your TV with a single remote – including your soundbar volume.
The ARC features a protocol called CEC or Consumer Electronics Control.
What is CEC?
Consumer Electronics Control is a protocol that allows IR (infrared) signals to travel from your TV to external audio output devices. This feature lets you control everything from your audio devices to display devices with a single remote.
You can also control Blu-ray players, consoles, or streaming sticks with your TV remote – as long as they’re connected to the HDMI ARC port on your device.
When is it best to use regular HDMI?
Again, you can use regular HDMI when using your TV’s built-in speakers while watching your shows. There are other times when a standard HDMI port is a much better choice, like:
- When you’re doing a presentation
- When you’re using your TV as a second screen to edit photos/videos
- When you want to show a static display
Every other activity that doesn’t have audio or doesn’t require an external audio output device should use regular HDMI instead of HDMI ARC.
HDMI ARC isn’t working – what should I do?
HDMI ARC should work fine in most cases. However, if you should face an issue with connecting to your TV’s HDMI ARC port, here’s what you should do:
- Enter the TV’s “Settings” menu
- Look for the option that lets you enable ARC on your TV (usually, this menu will have a “CEC” or “HDMI ARC” label)
Check your TV manual to find out how to activate HDMI ARC on your device.
Once the settings are changed, don’t forget to turn off your device. Unplug it from the power source and let it rest for a few minutes before plugging it back in.
If the issue persists, there might be something wrong with your HDMI port. Try to contact an expert to help you find the best solution for your case.
It’s perfectly fine to use HDMI ARC as regular HDMI – as long as you have the right HDMI cable. If you’re using an older cable, the chances of your devices running into a problem are heightened.
To avoid experiencing this, consider using a high-bandwidth HDMI cable – especially if you’re watching high-definition content.
If you’re using a new HDMI cable but still can’t make an ARC connection between your devices, you may try changing the ARC settings on your TV. Changing the setting should solve the issue and let you play audio+video content on your TV.
If the issue continues, it may be time that you replace your TV or call an expert to help you solve the problem.