Can you believe it’s been a decade-plus of enjoying the convenience of HDMI ARC?
It would seem as though we started using this handy feature not too long ago. But, really, it’s been a whole ten years and counting.
Now, manufacturers are adding the newer, advanced eARC to more devices.
And, with it, the fantasy of having mini-theaters in our homes is quickly becoming a reality. I mean, eARC drops some serious cinema-quality sound.
Want to jump on the eARC bandwagon? Your timing couldn’t be more perfect.
But first things first, we know that eARC is an HDMI feature. Is it available with all HDMI cables, though? Does eARC work with every HDMI 2.0 cable?
Let’s discuss this below.
Is HDMI 2.0 Enough for eARC?
We must look at this question from two viewpoints: the HDMI 2.0 cable angle and the HDMI 2.0 hardware angle.
About HDMI 2.0 cables:
You can get eARC with an HDMI 2.0 cable, but only through the version that has an Ethernet channel.
HDMI.org has in the past clarified that eARC is available with HDMI High-Speed cables that have Ethernet. And that includes HDMI 2.0 cables with Ethernet.
HDMI 2.0 cables are officially known as Premium High-Speed HDMI cables. These are the cables with a bandwidth of 18 Gbps, and they come in two types:
- Premium High-Speed HDMI Cables and
- Premium High-Speed HDMI Cables with Ethernet
Only the latter have eARC.
eARC technology is configured to use the Ethernet channel on HDMI cables. So as long as the HDMI 2.0 cable you’re using has Ethernet, it should support eARC.
It’s possible to have an HDMI 2.0 cable that does not deliver eARC. And that also means you’re likely not getting any video or audio signal either.
The likely reasons this may happen are:
- The cable is faulty
- The cable is not certified
- One or both devices do not support eARC
- You’ve connected an extender
1/ Check whether the cable is frayed or has any visible naked wires. That’s the first sign that you have a faulty cable in your hands, and you need to replace it.
2/ Ensure that the HDMI 2.0 cable is certified.
With more than 140 manufacturers participating in the HDMI Certification Program, certified HDMI 2.0 cables are easier to find than you think.
Certified HDMI 2.0 cables have:
- “Premium High Speed HDMI Cable” clearly printed on the cable jacket.
- The Premium HDMI Cable Certification label affixed to the package.
- The Premium HDMI Cable logo on the label.
- A QR Code and holographic image on the label. You can only scan these two on the HDMI Cable Certification App.
3/ Both the audio source and receiver must support eARC. If one of the linked devices is not eARC-capable, eARC will not work.
So if you’re connecting the TV and A/V receiver, for example, both must have eARC.
To know for sure, check the ports on both devices. Most have eARC indicated on the eARC-enabled HDMI port.
Alternatively, check the packaging or user manual. Or confirm the eARC status of the device on the manufacturer’s website.
4/ Avoid using HDMI extenders. They will disrupt the eARC flow.
Remember that the technology requires an end-to-end eARC connection for it to work. Adding a non-eARC device to the chain interferes with the flow.
About HDMI 2.0 hardware:
By HDMI 2.0 hardware, we mean things like the HDMI 2.0 connectors on devices. The responsibility to include eARC hardware lies with the manufacturer.
They can decide to add eARC capabilities to the HDMI 2.0 chipsets on their products. They could also choose not to. But they are not legally mandated to do so.
HDMI Forum develops HDMI features continually, and many of these are optional. The HDMI regulatory body does not mandate device manufacturers to implement them all. It only requires them to indicate which features their products support.
So whenever you go shopping for a new product, don’t merely consider the HDMI version. In fact, HDMI.org prohibits the use of HDMI version numbers as product identifiers.
Instead, they ask manufacturers to state the specific HDMI features each product supports.
What does this mean for you?
It means: Rather than checking whether a new TV you want to buy supports HDMI 2.0 , it’s best to check whether it supports eARC. That’s it. And the same applies to any HDMI-enabled device you wish to buy.
Do You Need an HDMI 2.1 Cable for eARC?
Yes and no.
Confusing? Let’s clear that up.
eARC is available, by default, in HDMI 2.1 cables. It was introduced in the HDMI 2.1 specification, so it automatically works with HDMI 2.1 cables.
Moreover, in January 2020, HDMI Forum announced they would be launching the HDMI 2.1 certification program.
In this new certification, cable manufacturers must adopt all HDMI 2.1 Specification features and capabilities, including eARC. Cables that don’t meet this regulation cannot be certified HDMI 2.1.
So, yes, when you buy a certified HDMI 2.1 cable, it will deliver eARC.
This point leads us to want to emphasize something:
Make sure to No products found.. Avoid using uncertified cables no matter how attractive their price might be.
At best, such cables will only serve you for a while. At worst, they’ll not offer the eARC experience you want.
Even though eARC is built into the HDMI 2.1 specification, it’s not limited to HDMI 2.1 cables.
HDMI Licensing Administrator, Inc. (HDMI LA) clarifies that eARC also works with any high-speed HDMI cable with Ethernet.
So we can say, no, you don’t need an HDMI 2.1 cable for eARC. As advised on HDMI.org, you will get eARC with any Premium High-Speed Cable with Ethernet .
Can You Use Any HDMI Cables for eARC?
No, eARC is only available with specific HDMI cables.
According to HDMI LA, you can only get eARC with these cables:
- Standard HDMI Cable with Ethernet
- High-Speed HDMI Cable with Ethernet
- Premium High-Speed HDMI Cable with Ethernet
- Ultra High-Speed HDMI Cable
The last entry includes HDMI 2.1 cables and those certified to meet the newest specification, HDMI 2.1a.
eARC is a high-bandwidth dependent feature. The advanced audio formats it supports have a higher bandwidth than older audio formats. We’re talking about high-bitrate audio formats like Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, and DTS-HD Master Audio.
Only high-speed cables and those with Ethernet can meet this demand for bandwidth. Standard HDMI cables without Ethernet do not have the capacity to support eARC.
For instance, they cannot support uncompressed 5.1 and 7.1 or 32-channel uncompressed audio, which eARC supports.
And they can only deliver a maximum audio bandwidth of 1 Mbps. This is way lower than eARC capacity, which can go as high as 37 Mbps.
Maybe you have an old HDMI cable but are not sure it has HDMI Ethernet Channel (HEC). Check whether it has “with Ethernet” printed on the cable jacket. If it does, the cable has HEC and can deliver eARC.
eARC works with select HDMI cables.
You can only receive eARC if you use Ultra High-Speed HDMI cables and HDMI cables with Ethernet.
So, while you can use ultra-high-speed HDMI 2.1 cables for eARC, only HDMI 2.0 cables with HDMI Ethernet Channel support eARC.
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.