HDMI CEC vs ARC: In-Depth Comparative Analysis

Updated on: September 12, 2023

Imagine going to a movie day at your friend’s home theater. As the movie started, you could feel the characters coming to life and the sound, just as the movie characters were right inside the room.
It didn’t just end here! 
As the movie ended, your friend used a TV remote to turn off and control all connected devices. 
It all seems like magic, doesn’t it?
So, you asked your friend how all of this was possible. Amidst the technical jargon, you caught only two terms: HDMI CEC and ARC.
To avoid the embarrassment of not knowing about these technologies, you bid your friend farewell. However, you still want to know about these cool features and use them in your home theater. 
But you don’t have to go far and beyond the land to know about these features. Just continue reading for the next few minutes to understand all about HDMI CEC and ARC and how they can make your home theater invincible. 

Let’s get started. 

What is HDMI ARC

(image credit: dignited)

Let’s first talk about HDMI ARC!

HDMI ARC is an advanced feature of HDMI technology, designed to reduce cable clutter with its motto, ‘One Less Cable.’

HDMI ARC is a port in modern TVs and other equipment that allows devices to connect and send high-quality digital audio-video signals through a single transmission line. 

You might be wondering: what does ARC stand for?

Well, ARC stands for Audio Return Channel. It enables the audio-video signals to travel back and forth in both directions, as required. For instance, you have an HDMI ARC port in your TV and soundbar. You connect the rest of the devices, like Blu-ray and DVD player, to the TV through simple HDMI ports and connect the TV and soundbar through the HDMI ARC connection.

Ready to see the magic?

Once you start using a streaming device, such as a Blu-ray or DVD player, the audio and video signals will travel through the ARC cable. The audio signals will be sent to the soundbar, while the video signals will go to your TV.

However, if your TV doesn’t have enough HDMI ports, you can connect the devices to the soundbar and one HDMI cable from the ARC port of the soundbar to the ARC port of the TV. Now, your soundbar will act as a central hub, where the audio signals will go to the soundbar, and video signals will travel to the TV through the ARC connection. 

Furthermore, it eliminates the need for an extra audio cable, as both audio and video signals travel through the same transmission line.

Benefits of HDMI ARC

You might want to know why you should get an HDMI ARC connection in your home theater.

The HDMI ARC connection comes with several benefits that would enhance your home theater experience. Some of the benefits are listed below. 

Reduced Wire Clutter:

Imagine being trapped in the endless tangles of the wires in your home theater! 
Horrible, isn’t it? 
With an HDMI ARC connection, you can reduce the clutter of the wires making it less messy. It eliminates the need for the extra audio cable by transmitting the audio-video signals through the same transmission line. 

High-Quality Audio Transmission: 

Another excellent feature that HDMI ARC offers is an immersive sound experience that makes you think you’re in the middle of the action. 
With higher bandwidth and transmission speed, HDMI ARC is able to support high-quality audio formats, such as compressed sound up to 7.1 channels and uncompressed sounds up to 5.1 channels, Dolby Digital and Dolby Digital Plus (lossy), and DTS digital surround sound (lossy).
Impressive, isn’t it? With such audio quality, your home theater experience will be unparalleled.

What is HDMI CEC?

(image credit: nakamichi)

Now, let’s talk about HDMI CEC! 
HDMI CEC is a protocol that allows multiple compatible devices connected through HDMI to communicate with each other. All the devices need to be connected through HDMI/HDM ARC or eARC for CEC to work. 

This is where the magic starts! With a motto of “less remote trouble,” HDMI CEC works just like magic by enabling the user to control multiple devices using a single remote.

Yes, you heard it right. You can control all the compatible, Connected devices in your home theater by simply using a single remote through this feature. 

Don’t rush to discard all your remotes just yet; you’ll still need them to control each device’s unique features.

How Does CEC Work? 

No, there are no fairies or fairy dust behind CEC!

CEC works by sending a unique control signal from one device to the others. There’s a completely different CEC signal, which allows devices to be controlled with a single remote. 

For instance, let’s say you’re using your TV remote to control all the connected devices. Now, you want to turn off your DVD player using the TV remote, so the TV will send a CEC signal to the DVD, shutting it down. 

Benefits Of HDMI CEC

Of course, having one remote to control all devices is a blessing. However, you might want to know all the controls you can access using HDMI CEC. 

Single Remote Control:

With HDMI CEC, you can control all the devices connected through an HDMI connection by a single remote. It enables you to manage various controls like play, pause, rewind, power on/off, and volume adjustment.

One Touch Play: 

With HDMI CEC, you don’t have to worry about switching inputs manually every time you change the input source. All you need to do is use the one-touch play button, and it’ll automatically detect and switch inputs.

Quick Comparison HDMI CEC Vs. ARC

It is an HDMI connection between two HDMI ARC ports of the TV and the receiver. It’s a protocol that allows multiple devices connected through an HDMI Connection to communicate with each other. 
Reduces wire clutter by eliminating the need for an extra audio cable, connecting the source to a soundbar. Eliminates the need for multiple remotes or universal remotes by allowing the user to control all devices with a single remote. 
Supports and provides high-quality immersive sound.CEC has nothing to do with audio quality.

Who’s Who and What’s What!

If you have reached this far, you might have resolved the enigma about who is who and what is what when discussing HDMI CEC Vs. ARC. Both are fantastic additions to your home theater, but they serve different purposes.

HDMI CEC is a protocol that allows the devices to communicate with each other and allows users to control connected devices with a single remote, sparing you the “remote trouble.” On the other hand, HDMI ARC is a physical connection that connects the TV and AV receiver through an ARC port and HDMI cable. It reduces the wire clutter by eliminating the extra audio cable and transmits high-quality audio/video signals through the same transmission line.

Now, there’s no need to feel embarrassed for not knowing about these features.

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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