Does your soundbar come with an HDMI port labeled “ARC”? You’re in for an easy ride, and we’ll tell you how.
If you have a display device (TV or projector) with an HDMI ARC connector, you can use the ARC function.
One frequently asked question about HDMI ARC is: “Can you use regular HDMI cables for ARC?” If you’re new to this feature of HDMI, you’re probably wondering the same thing.
This article explains the meaning and functions of HDMI ARC. Find out if your regular HDMI cable supports HDMI ARC and learn how to use it.
- What Is HDMI ARC?
- How Does HDMI ARC Work?
- Do All HDMI Cables Support HDMI ARC?
- What HDMI Version Is ARC?
- What Is HDMI eARC?
- What Are the Advantages of HDMI ARC?
- How Do I Find Out if My TV Has HDMI ARC?
- How to Connect Your TV to a Soundbar With HDMI ARC
What Is HDMI ARC?
HDMI ARC is an audio feature integrated into the HDMI connection system. ARC stands for Audio Return Channel.
You will find HDMI ARC technology in most soundbars, AV receivers, and other home theater systems. It allows users to transfer audio to and from a display device on the same HDMI cable.
HDMI’s ARC function redirects audio signals to your external speakers without any other cable connections.
Still a little confused? We’ll explain further in the next section.
How Does HDMI ARC Work?
The HDMI connector is known for its ability to transmit high-quality digital signals. It is also very convenient because it transmits video and audio signals on the same cable.
This convenience begins to pinch a little, though, when you have a soundbar or an AV Receiver.
Soundbars and AV Receivers act as media hubs. They are the intermediaries between source devices (computers, DVD players, set-top boxes) and display devices (TVs, projectors, etc.).
The soundbar receives audio and video signals from a source device, sends video to a display device, and emits high-quality audio from its speakers.
Similarly, an AV Receiver receives AV signals from a source device, sends video to the display device, and sends audio to the connected external speakers.
However, HDMI cannot split audio and video signals. If you connect a display device to your media hub via HDMI, the audio and video must go to the display device.
To fix this and get audio from the external speaker, you must connect a separate 3.5 mm AUX audio cable from your display device back to your media hub.
Cables, cables, and more cables…
Once the HDMI ARC function is activated, though, it returns audio back to the output device. You’ll enjoy the benefits of this function when using a media hub.
If you connect your soundbar and TV via HDMI ARC ports, you no longer have to use a separate audio cable to send back audio.
You can watch your Netflix shows, movies, and sports on your TV, all while getting great audio from the soundbar.
We’ve explained how the HDMI ARC function works. Now let’s find out what type of HDMI cable supports this function.
Do All HDMI Cables Support HDMI ARC?
Yes, most HDMI cables on the market support the ARC function.
According to the HDMI Forum, there are different classes of HDMI cables. The difference between these cables is their transmission speed and bandwidth.
When it comes to HDMI ARC, any regular HDMI cable will work. However, we recommend using high-speed cables for transmitting HD content. They enhance viewing quality and support Ethernet functions.
The concern should be whether your devices are ARC enabled or not. Both the display device and the soundbar have to be ARC enabled.
If one of them is not, it will be impossible to activate the HDMI ARC feature. The HDMI connection will function regularly, but you’ll require a separate audio cable.
What HDMI Version Is ARC?
The HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) connector was introduced in 2002. Even then, it set the standard for digital video and audio transmission.
Over the years, the connector has improved in many ways. Others have been released since the first 1.0 version: 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 2.0, and 2.1.
The ARC feature came with the HDMI 1.4 version, released on 5th June 2009.
The HDMI 1.4 connector also came equipped with an Ethernet channel that accommodated a connection of up to 100 Mb/s. This feature allowed connected devices to share an internet connection.
Subsequent HDMI connector versions also supported the ARC function (along with other new features).
The Type-A HDMI connector port design includes 19 pins. Each pin represents a component of the connection. HDMI 1.4 and other ARC-enabled versions return audio over pins 13 and 14.
HDMI ARC produces good quality audio, but there’s something even better for everyone who enjoys quality audio: HDMI eARC.
Is this an improved edition of HDMI ARC? Let’s find out.
What Is HDMI eARC?
HDMI’s eARC stands for ‘Enhanced Audio Return Channel.’ It performs the same function as ARC, but the difference is in the audio quality.
HDMI eARC supports a greatly-enhanced transmission speed and bandwidth. As a result, you can send audio to your soundbar in much higher quality than before.
eARC is a new modification to ARC, introduced in HDMI version 2.1.
You can only activate HDMI eARC between two compatible devices. If your device’s HDMI port is labeled 2.1, it is guaranteed to support eARC.
This technology is relatively new and is more common on AV Receivers than on soundbars.
What Are the Advantages of HDMI ARC?
1. Simplifies Your AV Connections
HDMI ARC returns audio over the same cable used to send video signals. It reduces the number of cables you need to set up your home theater.
2. Better Audio Quality
With ARC, audio signals travel back and forth over the same connection. This feature improves the latency and quality of the audio signal.
It transmits high-quality digital audio, which is better than the analog signals transmitted over aux audio cables.
3. Activates CEC Functions
Consumer Electronics Control (CEC) is a feature that allows you to control connected devices with one remote.
Only HDMI ARC and eARC connections support this feature. It allows you to control the volume and power on your soundbar with your TV remote.
How Do I Find Out if My TV Has HDMI ARC?
Now that you’ve discovered its benefits, are you wondering if any of your old TVs have HDMI ARC?
There are three simple ways to find out:
1. Check the Manufacturer’s Manual
This method is the easiest way to determine if your TV is HDMI ARC-compatible. Manufacturers often list the HDMI version and functions among the TV’s specifications.
If you have misplaced the manufacturer’s manual for your TV, there are other alternatives.
You can download a digital copy of the manual from the manufacturer’s website, or search the website for the specifications of your TV model.
2. Check the Label on the HDMI Port
Most TVs have the ARC function labeled on their HDMI connector, which is on the side or back of your TV.
Here’s how to find yours:
- Step 1: If your TV is mounted against the wall, gently unmount it so that you can examine behind it.
- Step 2: Find the HDMI port on the side or the back of your TV. It should be among the other connection ports on your TV.
- Step 3: Check for the words ARC or HDMI ARC.
If you find any of those words, congratulations! Your TV supports the HDMI ARC function.
3. Test for ARC Function
Some TV brands or models do not label their HDMI ports with supported functions. This omission is quite common, so we advise that you carry out a compatibility test.
Connect an ARC-enabled soundbar to your TV with an HDMI cable. Enable volume on both devices and wait to see if audio returns to the soundbar.
If the audio keeps coming from the TV, it means your TV is not HDMI ARC-compatible.
How to Connect Your TV to a Soundbar With HDMI ARC
Have you confirmed that your TV is ARC-enabled? It’s time to enjoy the benefits of the ARC.
If you do not connect the devices suitably, the ARC feature will remain inactive, and your connection will fall back to regular HDMI.
Follow these steps to connect your TV to a soundbar:
- Step 1: Some TVs may have one or more HDMI ports. Find the port labeled ARC on your TV.
- Step 2: Plug in a quality HDMI cable.
- Step 3: Plug the TV into a power outlet and power it on.
- Step 4: Plug the other end of the HDMI cable into the HDMI ARC port on your soundbar.
- Step 5: Connect the soundbar to a power outlet and turn it on.
- Step 6: Go to the TV’s audio settings and change it from TV speakers to HDMI or External speakers.
- Step 7: Go to Menu > Setup > HDMI CEC and enable it.
After this, audio will come through the soundbar without any problems.
HDMI ARC ports look just like regular HDMI ports. You can only tell the difference through their label or by testing their functions.
HDMI ARC makes it convenient and easy to send quality audio to your quality external speakers.
If you have a TV and media hub with ARC ports, all you need is a high-speed cable to connect both devices.