So, you come home with a brand new TV and start setting it up in the living room. You go to plug in your soundbar and notice that there’s something different about the HDMI ports.
One of them is labeled “HDMI eARC.”
If you haven’t been around the A/V world in a while, HDMI eARC is the latest version of a piece of tech called “Audio Return Channel.” This innovation allows devices like your TV to get both audio and video signals through a single cable, a.k.a. your HDMI cable.
Now, you might be asking yourself:
If that’s the case, do I need HDMI eARC on my receiver to use it with my TV?
Well, the answer is: yes, you do.
Before we discuss why you need eARC, let’s first look at what eARC is and how it works on digital devices.
What is HDMI eARC?
First released with the HDMI 2.1, eARC (Enhanced Audio Return Channel) allows devices like your TV to process audio signals without the usual compression that happens with ordinary ARC.
The HDMI eARC has improved bandwidth, which means the speed to transfer information is faster and in more significant portions. As a result, users can get better audio from their soundbars or AV receivers.
Due to its high bitrate, the HDMI eARC can support audio codecs like DTS Master, DTS:X, Dolby Atmos, and Dolby TrueHD. In other words, you have much more flexibility in terms of the variety of audio formats you can use.
Is HDMI eARC backward compatible with ARC?
HDMI ARC is the earlier version of HDMI eARC. It provides users with the same functionalities. The pitfall was that it would still compress audio signals before sending them through the HDMI connection.
This compression resulted in poorer-sounding audio and even video at times.
HDMI ARC is backward compatible with older HDMI versions that don’t have ARC. Naturally, one would assume that HDMI eARC would be the same.
Unfortunately, that isn’t the case.
HDMI eARC is not backward compatible with HDMI ARC. So, if your TV has HDMI eARC and your soundbar only has HDMI ARC, the audio quality would not be downscaled to a format that’s better suited for ARC.
Do I need HDMI eARC on my receiver?
In a word: absolutely.
If you want to enjoy the full benefits of HDMI eARC, you need both your receiver and your TV to be eARC-compatible.
As mentioned earlier, HDMI eARC is not backward compatible with earlier versions of HDMI. Unless you have eARC on both your devices, all you’ll be able to hear is the downscaled versions of audios.
Can I upgrade ARC to eARC on my receiver?
It’s possible to upgrade ARC to eARC on your receiver. However, that would entail getting the approval of your receiver’s manufacturer. That’s not exactly the easiest thing to get.
Manufacturers would much rather sell you a new product than help you upgrade an old one.
How can I connect my TV to my receiver without eARC?
If you think you have no other choice but to buy a new receiver because the one you already have doesn’t have eARC, you couldn’t be more wrong. There are different ways to connect your devices to your receiver without needing HDMI.
Using a coaxial digital cable
The great thing about coaxial cables is that they can transport high-quality audio at a fraction of typical HDMI cable prices. Although there will still be some disparities in terms of audio quality, coaxial cables are still a solid option for anyone on a budget.
To connect your TV to a receiver using coaxial cables , simply:
- Plug in one end of the coaxial cable to your TV and the other to your receiver.
- Make sure both ends are secure, so you don’t experience errors later.
- Connect your devices to a power source and turn them on
- Press “Home” on your remote and go to “Settings.”
- Look for “Display & Sound” and click on “Audio Output.”
- There should be an option that says “Speakers” or “Audio System”; select that and then press save to keep your changes.
The process will look different depending on the equipment you’re using. If the instructions we’ve given above don’t fit your situation, check your device manual for more details.
Using an optical digital cable
Optical digital cables are slightly more expensive than coaxial cables. However, they do a much better job at transmitting audio signals. Therefore, it’s the second-best option if you’re on a budget and don’t have HDMI eARC on your A/V receiver.
To connect your other devices to your receiver using an optical digital cable, you need to:
- Connect either end of the cable to their appropriate ports.
- Make sure they’re secure to prevent errors from happening.
- Plug in both devices into a power source and turn them on.
- Put your audio settings to “Audio System” or “Speakers” on your TV by going to Settings → Display & Sound → Audio Out/Audio Output → Speakers/ Audio System.
Your audios should come out of your receiver once you’ve gone through all the steps.
NOTE: The availability of each of these options will depend on the device type/model that you own. Check what ports are available on your TV, receiver, and other devices before buying any of the abovementioned cables.
HDMI eARC is a valuable and impressive innovation. It allows users to enjoy high-quality audio with vivid and vibrant video. Furthermore, it removes the typical clutter of wires that you usually see in a TV setup.
While most devices are now equipped with HDMI eARC, a few still only sport the earlier HDMI ARC version. Since HDMI eARC isn’t backward compatible with ARC, you might consider other alternatives to enjoy high-quality audio at home.
Optical digital and coaxial digital cables are both great alternatives to HDMI eARC. They can render impressive, clear audio that users can enjoy. Plus, they aren’t as expensive as HDMI cables.
Vance is a dad, former software engineer, and tech lover. Knowing how a computer works becomes handy when he builds Pointer Clicker. His quest is to make tech more accessible for non-techie users. When not working with his team, you can find him caring for his son and gaming.