If you recently purchased a 4K TV, soundbar, or A/V receiver, you would have come across a tiny symbol at the corner of the device that reads HDMI ARC or ARC. Aren’t you curious to know what it is all about? These are relatively new terms, so you won’t find much information on them on the internet and that’s why we are writing this article for you.
ARC or Audio Return Channel is an advanced technology that amplifies your home entertainment system to offer a better and realistic viewing experience. We know you are still confused about the whole thing, so let’s go a bit in detail about ARC. Before you go there, let’s understand the basics.
What is HDMI?
HDMI stands for High-Definition Multimedia Interface and has been around since 2004. We all use it but aren’t much aware what it exactly does. In simple words, it delivers high-quality digital audio and video between devices. The HDMI 2.0a was an upgrade from HDMI 2.0 and supports the transition of 4K Ultra HD digital video. Apart from that, it also transmits HDR at 60 frames per second and is capable to transfer 32 channels of audio simultaneously. The latest version is called HDMI 2.1, which was introduced in 2017, and only one HDMI cable is strong enough to carry 4K video transmission at 120 frames per second and 8K video at 60 frames per second. In the future, it might even carry 10k video!
The best part about HDMI 2.1 is that it can support old devices as well, so you don’t need to buy a new television to use the cable. But if you have a very old television that you haven’t changed for the past 10 to 15 years, you can purchase the Ultra High-Speed HDMI cable. It offers the same benefits of HDMI 2.1. Nowadays, with the improvement in TVs, people use HDMI cables only for to connect to your Blu-ray players, game consoles, and cable boxes. Apart from transferring audio and video, the cables are used to transmit handshake information, which are usually limited to transfer and copy protection data to avoid fraud.
HDMI cables also allow you to transmit complicated messages as a part of Consumer Electronics Control. It is a technology that lets you use single remote control to operate 15 connected devices at once. However, it failed and had to be replaced with ARC.
Introducing HDMI ARC
ARC uses Consumer Electronics Control to assist you in simplifying your home entertainment system. After you set up the television and go to the settings to activate CEC. Then you can control everything from the television to the soundbar using the remote. The second advantage of ARC is that it automatically sends your television’s audio to the sound system without having to switch off the TV’s built-in audio system. A few TVs work differently, so you will have to manually turn off the audio system. You can connect your the cable to your TV’s HDMI ARC port to connect other devices including streaming devices like Google Chromecast.
In just a single connection, the cable can send downstream and upstream single using a single connection. Downstream is when a signal is passed from one device to another. Upstream is when a signal in the passed in the opposite direction at the same time. If you use a soundbar with multiple HDMI outlet, ARC will come handy. For example, you have YAS-207 by Yamaha. Among the many HDMI outputs, it has one that allows a direct connection between the soundbar and Blu-ray player to preserve audio quality.
Moving on to eARC
You are impressed by how ARC works, aren’t you? Wait until you hear about eARC because that will completely blow the mind of the geek inside you. It takes your audio experience to a whole new level by replacing it with surround sound. Nowadays, TVs compress audio signals but only a few support surround sound systems like Dolby Digital Plus and Dolby TrueHD, but they need a large bandwidth. But when you connect your television to the system, it enhances audio quality as a full-resolution audio signal is passed across the HDMI cable.
eARC stands for enhanced Audio Return Channel and is one of the latest features added to HDMI 2.1. To use this feature, your television and audio device should support eARC, which means they should support HDMI 2.1. On the other hand, the HDMI cable must support Ethernet, so the audio quality is the best. It has simplified how new surround systems by Dolby Atmos work. Before eARC, you were required to connect the source device to soundbar or audio/video device because TVs didn’t offer good surround sound feature. With eARC, you can directly connect the HDMI 2.1 cable to your TV. It also makes watching Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu more fun because the clarity is amazing.
The flexibility and simplicity offered by HDMI 2.1 has encouraged big television manufacturing companies including Sony have publicly announced their eARC plans. It is going to take some time for eARC to make it to the global market, so if you are planning to buy a 4K HDR TV, you should go ahead with the plan.
In most countries, people are enjoying 8K content but some still aren’t using 4K televisions. But HDMI 2.1 has a good future ahead of it but the evolution is going to be gradual. The future of 4K HDR TVs has already been planned out perfectly and only needs to be executed. In just a few years, 4K content is going to be a standard and the world would be moving on to something bigger. Until then, enjoy the home entertainment system you have right now.