HDMI ARC vs eARC: A Detailed Comparison

Explore the differences between HDMI ARC vs eARC in our latest guide. Dive into the world of audio tech and find out which is best for you!


Updated on: August 28, 2023

So, you got your new TV, and now as you’ve looked back to connect the soundbar or AV receiver with the TV, you see something new! The eARC port instead of ARC to connect the soundbar to the TV.

Now you might be thinking that you bought the new TV for its amazing features, only to encounter something you didn’t expect. You might also be worried if the HDMI eARC option is better than ARC. 

Don’t fret about the new leaf turned over!

HDMI eARC is a better option for connecting soundbars and other devices, and since you have got it in your new TV, you’ll be getting tons of benefits in terms of audio and video quality, speed, and bandwidth. If you’re a veteran in this field, you’ll likely understand all the terms I’ll use in this article. However, if you’re new in this boat, then all this would sound gibberish, and to make sense of this, you need to know what’s HDMI, HDMI ARC, and eARC and which one is a better option.

So, ready to dive in?

Let’s get started!

Quick Answer: HDMI ARC and eARC both allow your TV and audio devices to communicate, but eARC offers higher bandwidth for better audio quality and supports advanced formats like Dolby Atmos. While ARC is limited to compressed 5.1 audio, eARC can handle uncompressed 7.1 audio and is faster. eARC is the newer, more advanced version.

    

What’s an HDMI cable?

So, for me, the HDMI cable journey started in 2016, when I used to visit my friend’s place to enjoy the cool home theater. My friend found out about this new cable and brought it in. After connecting the TV and AV receiver with this new cable, we turned on the TV and didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, for we saw colors and video quality that we never knew existed.

Well! That was the HDMI cable, a combo of audio and video manufactured as a pure blessing for the home theater.

HDMI is an acronym for High Definition Multimedia Interface, an innovation that assured that the days would improve for home theater. It’s the most widely used connection for transferring high-definition audio and video over a single cable. 

Yes, you heard it right! A single cable for sending both audio and video signals. 

HDMI also supports modern video formats, including 4K and 8K Video resolutions. You can connect almost any external device, including your game console, DVD player, Blu-ray, or any media player, to your TV and soundbar. 

What’s HDMI ARC:

After the HDMI cables come the glorious era of HDMI ARC. Do you see the additional ARC with HDMI; it definitely means something exciting. 

For me, the revelation of the existence of the HDMI ARC was late, but in reality, the HDMI ARC was released in 2009. It is a clever protocol that helps reduce the wire cluster and simplify complicated connections that can almost strangle you. 

Now, you might be wondering what does the ARC mean?

Well, ARC stands for Audio return channel and is what distinguishes the HDMI ARC from simple digital optical and HDMI connections. An audio return channel uses a single cable to carry the signals back and forth between the TV and the soundbar/AV receiver. You can use a single HDMI connection for both input and output. If you’re having trouble with your HDMI ARC connection, you might find this article on why HDMI ARC might not be working helpful.

Not just this! 

The audio and video quality provided by HDMI ARC is so impressive that you might start to question whether what you’re experiencing is real or just a dream.

How does it work?

For instance, connect all the devices to your TV and then connect the TV through the HDMI ARC port to the soundbar using a single cable. Now, you can view video from all devices on the TV, and the audio will be segregated and sent to the soundbar through a single connection—no need to attach multiple audio cables from the external devices to the soundbar.  If you’re unsure how to connect your soundbar to your TV, here’s a step-by-step guide.

connect all the devices to your TV with arc

And, 

The same is true for Vice Versa.

If your TV doesn’t have enough HDMI Ports to connect all devices, you may connect all devices to the soundbar and one HDMI cable from the HDMI ARC port of the soundbar to the HDMI ARC port on the TV. This way, all video signals will be sent to the TV and audio signals to the soundbar. So, the HDMI ARC has been used as both input and output.

Well, that’s one amazing feature of HDMI ARC, but there are more surprises.

The HDMI ARC supports compressed audio up to 5.1 channels and many other Audio technologies, giving you a cinematic sound experience. Not just this, but you don’t have to purchase a hundred dollars for new cables for an HDMI ARC connection. Any HDMI cable can form an HDMI ARC connection.

When can you use HDMI ARC?

A major question that might have clouded your thoughts right now could be, when can you use HDMI ARC? 

Or

How to know that your TV can support HDMI ARC features?

Well, the answer is simple…

Lean on your TV and look for a port labeled HDMI ARC. If you can find one on both your TV and soundbar, VOILA!! You have hit the jackpot to watch and listen to high-definition audio and Video. If you’re debating between using HDMI or Optical for your soundbar, this article on whether to connect the soundbar with HDMI or Optical might help you decide.

To enjoy the features of HDMI ARC, your TV and soundbar must have one HDMI ARC port for connection. So, if you don’t like your TV’s built-in speakers, you can connect all the devices to the TV and connect the TV to the soundbar through the HDMI ARC port. It’ll allow sending high-quality audio signals downstream to your soundbar.

HDMI eARC?The New Kid In The Tech Block:

Now, let’s get back to the problem where we began!

Your TV has an eARC port, which you know nothing about! 

You don’t have to spend the whole day taking stock of it. All you have to do is continue reading for five more minutes. 

HDMI eARC is not rocket science; it’s almost the same as the ARC with a few improvements. eARC stands for enhanced Audio Return Channel. It’s the new generation of ARC with higher bandwidth and transmission speed that’ll help you enjoy some best audio formats and immersive sounds. 

The saying ‘What’s coming is better than what’s gone’ couldn’t be more true!

The higher bandwidth is just like a bigger pipe which can allow more data to pass through with a better and faster speed, In terms of figures, this can be stated as 24 bits of uncompressed data at a speed of up to 37Mbps. It can support uncompressed audio up to 7.1 channels and some of the best immersive sound formats, including Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, and Dolby True HD, which is impossible with HDMI ARC.

hdmi 2.1 and 2.0 bandwidth

Since it’s a new technology introduced in 2019, you might not enjoy it if you have an old TV or soundbar. 

One thing you must check is the HDMI cable for this connection. If you have a high-speed HDMI cable with Ethernet or Ultra speed HDMI cable, you won’t face a problem. However, if you have old wires, you will have to upgrade them. 

HDMI ARC VS HDMI eARC How are they different?

Now that you are caught in the crossfire let’s find out the difference between the two, and check which one is to get the winning goal. 

Speed and bandwidth:

The significant difference between HDMI ARC and eARC is the speed and bandwidth. HDMI ARC has a bandwidth of only 1Mbps. Whereas HDMI eARC can pass more data as compared to HDMI ARC. It can deliver up to 32 channels of audio and 24 bits of data up to speed 37Mbps. 

Well, it’s good news, as the audio signals won’t have to compress anymore, giving a better audio experience in your home theater. 

Sound quality:

The second fringe benefit of HDMI ARC and eARC is the sound quality, which in the case of eARC, is much better. Since HDMI eARC has a higher bandwidth, it allows uncompressed audio up to 7.1 channels, surround sound, and immersive sound technologies like Dolby Atmos, DTS: X, Dolby TrueHD, and DTS-HD Master Audio. 

On the other hand, HDMI ARC has its sound limitations; it supports compressed audio up to 5.1 channels and Dolby Digital (lossy sound). 

hdmi arc vs earc comparision

Backward compatibility:

This situation applies if one of your devices, the TV or the soundbar, doesn’t have an eARC option. Let’s say you have an old soundbar that doesn’t have an eARC port, but your TV has one. In this case, you might wonder if eARC is backward compatible and whether you can enjoy the same quality of sound supported by eARC.

The answer is NO!

If your TV has eARC, but the soundbar doesn’t, the signals will experience ARC bandwidth restrictions, which means you won’t be able to experience high-quality sound formats, and immersive sounds such as Dolby Atmos, as they require higher bandwidth. 

Lip-Syncing problem:

Now, let’s say you have an HDMI ARC connection between your TV and soundbar, and you’re watching a high-quality video, i.e., 8K resolution; in this case, you might feel a lag between the audio and video. As HDMI ARC has bandwidth limitations, the signals may fall out of sync. You’ll have to jump into the settings every now and then to solve this issue.

Now, this is a problem!

But don’t worry; every problem comes with a solution.

HDMI eARC connection with its higher bandwidth solves this problem. So, you can enjoy high-resolution Audio and video without any syncing problems; the eARC has an automatic lip-sync feature, which gives an uninterrupted audio and video experience.

Supported cables:

Now, as you are comparing the two, like apples and oranges, one significant difference you would encounter is the ports and cables used for HDMI ARC and eARC. These two have different requirements for cables as per the amount of data transmitted over the link.

HDMI ARC supports HDMI 1.4 standard port, so you must get one that supports this standard while looking for an HDMI cable to build this connection. You may choose any high-speed HDMI cable that supports video quality from 1080p to 720p, 4K 30HZ or 3D deep colors, a standard HDMI cable with Ethernet, or an automotive HDMI cable.

However, in the case of HDMI eARC, you need to look for HDMI 2.0 cables, which have a maximum bandwidth of 18Gbps, or an ultra high-speed HDMI cable with HDMI 2.1 specifications; it is designed to support a bandwidth of up to 48Gpbs.

CEC activation:

CEC stands for Consumer Electronics Control and is a unique feature that comes with HDMI ARC and eARC. It allows you to turn your TV and external devices on and off with a single remote (enabling single remote control for multiple devices). You should activate this option manually by jumping into your TV settings for HDMI ARC. 

On the contrary, with HDMI eARC, you don’t need to activate the CEC manually. eARC comes with an automatic eARC activation. Operating multiple devices with a single remote doesn’t require an extra activation step.

To sum up!

Now that you have reached the end, you must know that the eARC you got with your new TV is a blessing. It will reduce cable clutter thanks to its audio return channel and provide an immersive sound experience with technologies like Dolby Atmos, Dolby TrueHD, and DTS-HD Master Audio, all due to its higher bandwidth and data transmission speed.

Finally, the eARC also saves you the extra step of manual CEC activation, which means you don’t have to wait anymore to get started with your home theater. 

So, enjoy the amazing features of this new technology, which you have gotten with your new TV. It’s A GOOD CHANGE!

I’m Shaun Conroy, an audiophile & founder of HiFi Audios. Holding a Bachelor’s in Sound Engineering, I bring deep expertise in audio devices and offer insights & recommendations to fellow enthusiasts.

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