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How Does HDMI ARC Work?

How Does HDMI ARC Work?

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You have just bought a new soundbar, with surround-sound speakers, that will produce high-quality sound for your high-definition television, but there is a problem: 

Do you connect it with another HDMI cable or a different audio optical cable? HDMI ARC solves this problem and reduces the number of wires used. 

HDMI ARC first takes the audio transmitted from the HDMI input device. It then sends it back to an external soundbar connected to the HDMI ARC port, reducing the number of cables used and allowing for high-quality audio.


HDMI ARC stands for HDMI Audio Return Chanel. This technology essentially does what the name of it implies.

HDMI ARC technology takes the uncompressed audio data transferred from the input device, such as a Blu-ray player, to the output device, such as your computer monitor or television.

woman plugs HDMI cable into TV

It then sends it back to an external speaker(s) connected to the device’s HDMI ARC output port.

Using the HDMI ARC port on your external speaker(s) and output device not only helps with cable management but audio quality.

HDMI ARC ensures that you get the same uncompressed audio data sent from the output monitor or television, back to your higher-quality external speaker(s), such as your soundbar or surround sound system, with minimal cables.

It essentially bridges the gap between a high-quality external speaker(s) between your input devices, and your output devices. 

How Does HDMI ARC Work?

As said above, HDMI ARC bridges the gap by transmitting uncompressed audio data from the HDMI input to the HDMI output and then sending it back to your external speaker(s).

To go into further detail: The uncompressed audio and video data are transmitted with an HDMI cable from your input device, to your output device. But something else happens in the process.

If you have a high-quality external speaker(s) connected to the HDMI ARC port of your output device, the uncompressed audio is sent from the HDMI output device back to the external speaker(s).

It is essential that your external speaker(s) and your output device must have HDMI ARC ports for this technology to work. The relevant HDMI cables must connect to those ports.

You can connect your input devices to either the television or the external sound device.

The latter method of connecting your HDMI input to the external sound device is better. It provides all the capabilities that come from the external speaker(s) that you will not get when connecting the input device directly with the output device.

Because the external sound device connects to your input devices, it now becomes the entertainment hub. You will now use the external sound device to change between the different HDMI sources and adjust the audio.

This functionality depends on the type of external sound device you have, as some do not allow for this functionality as described above.

HDMI ARC and eARC - Everything You Need to Know!

Below are some general steps to follow to use HDMI ARC technology. There might be slight variations depending on the type and brand of the output and input device, and external sound devices.

The steps are as follows, below assumes that you are connecting a Blu-ray Player as your input device to a soundbar with surround sound capabilities:

  1. Firstly, locate the HDMI ARC port on your high-quality external speakers, and the HDMI ARC port on your output device.
  2. Find an HDMI cable and connect it to the HDMI ARC port of your external speakers.
  3. Take the other end of the HDMI cable and connect it to the HDMI ARC port on your output device.
  4. Connect your input device to its HDMI port with a separate HDMI cable.
  5. Take the HDMI cable connected to your input device, and connect it to an HDMI port on your external speakers.
  6. Power up your external speakers, input device (Blu-ray player), and output device (high-definition television).
  7. The sound data will be transmitted from your HDMI input device to your HDMI output device.
    The uncompressed audio data received from the input device to the output device is now sent back, with HDMI ARC technology, to the external speakers connected to the input device. 
  8. The uncompressed audio will now play through the external speakers instead of the output television or monitor speakers. It will directly support high-quality surround sound.
  9. There may be a separate setting that you need to enable on your output device, in this case, but this depends on the brand and type of high-definition television as well as the external speakers.
  10. Now make use of the soundbar’s provided remote to switch to the source of the Blu-ray player and adjust its sound.
How to Connect Soundbar to TV using HDMI ARC

Benefits of HDMI ARC

There are many benefits of using HDMI ARC technology with your external sound devices and your input and output device.

Below are some of the benefits listed:

  • HDMI ARC technology supports high-quality sound codecs that include Dolby True HD, Dolby Atmos, and DTS Master Audio if connecting your input device directly to your external sound device.
  • With HDMI ARC, you will have fewer cables to manage. The first HDMI cable will connect the external sound device to the output device. The other is for the input device, which attaches directly to the external speaker(s) or output device, depending on your setup.
  • HDMI ARC technology eliminates the potential use of a lower quality audio interface to receive audio from an external speaker(s), such as an optical interface.

Is It Better to Use HDMI ARC?

4K soundbar in front of a TV

It is much better to use an HDMI ARC when using a high-quality external sound device.

HDMI ARC allows an external sound device to receive the same uncompressed audio data that the output device usually receives from the input device.

With the use of HDMI ARC, the output device sends the uncompressed audio data to the higher-quality external sound device.

In most other cases, without using HDMI ARC, you may need to use an optical audio cable of much lower quality to get your external sound device to work. HDMI ARC eliminates that need as described above.

As described above, no extra cables are necessary to get the HDMI ARC to work.

It is much better to use HDMI ARC as it eliminates the requirements of extra lower audio optical cables and produces great uncompressed sound from your external high-quality audio speaker(s). 

Is HDMI ARC Good for Sound?

HDMI ARC is an excellent option for sound if you use a high-quality external sound device.

HDMI ARC allows for high-quality, uncompressed audio with its support of high-quality audio codecs. These audio codecs include Dolby True HD, Dolby Atmos, and DTS Master Audio.

It also allows for high-quality surround sound that does not make use of optical audio, which is uncompressed if your external sound system supports that functionality.

HDMI ARC is great for sound, as it opens the opportunity to use high-quality audio codecs and uncompressed surround sound.

Is HDMI ARC better than optical?


HDMI ARC essentially takes the uncompressed audio data transmitted from an input device to your output device, and transfers it back to your high-quality external speaker(s).

Your input devices are connected directly to the television or the external audio device.

The latter opens many more options to utilize your high-quality external speaker(s), such as its uncompressed codecs that include Dolby True HD, Dolby Atmos, and DTS Master Audio.

HDMI ARC not only eliminates the use of lower quality audio interfaces to connect your external speaker(s), it also produces high-quality, uncompressed audio with fewer cables.

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