On the back of every TV, there are different ports for various types of cables. Each of these is labeled so users know which cables go where. Every TV today is built with HDMI ports as the current audio/video standard. For the most part, these ports are simply labeled “HDMI”. But if you take a closer look, you may notice one labeled as “HDMI ARC”. This is a special type of HDMI port that comes with a few extra features when connecting a soundbar, receiver, or other audio system to a TV.

What is HDMI ARC?

ARC stands for “Audio Return Channel”. While this is not a new technology (it was introduced in 2009), many consumers are unaware it is an option even if they have all the cables and electronics needed to use it. Utilizing HDMI ARC allows users to only use an HDMI cable for their audio connection instead of an HDMI cable plus a separate audio cable.

Without ARC, an HDMI cable would need to go from the source (a DVD player, video game console, etc.) to a sound system (soundbar, receiver, etc.) and then from the sound system to the TV. But this signal is one-way and stops at the TV, only passing through the sound system, so a second audio cable must be run from the TV back to the sound system. This makes the sound system the endpoint and enables it to play the audio from the movie, game, show, etc. being played.

When HDMI ARC is used, the HDMI cable going between the sound system and TV becomes two-way. This allows the entire HDMI signal to go from the sound system to the TV and then just the audio goes back to the sound system. In a nutshell, this means that users do not have to connect a separate audio cable and can have just an HDMI cable running between the TV and sound system, reducing clutter and making cables easier to manage.

Can My TV Use HDMI ARC?

Probably. ARC was developed in 2009 so the majority of modern TVs are equipped with it. HDMI cables that are version 1.4 or newer can support ARC. The current standard for HDMI is version 2.0, which came out in 2013. If you have an HDMI cable that is 6 years old or older, the version number should be written somewhere on the outside of the cable. Just make sure to plug the cable into the port labeled “HDMI ARC” and not one of the other, standard HDMI ports on the back of the TV or sound system. 

If your TV or sound system does not have a port labeled “HDMI ARC”, it was unfortunately not made ARC compatible. Both the TV and sound system must have and use an HDMI ARC port for ARC to work correctly. You cannot use an HDMI ARC port on one end and a regular HDMI port on the other end.

Is HDMI ARC as Good as a Dedicated Audio Cable?

Yes and no. It depends on the manufacturer of the TV. Many televisions are not made to send 5.1 surround sound over an HDMI cable. So users accustomed to 5.1 audio may notice a dip in quality with their electronics. To check whether that is the case, you may need to look up the specs for your specific TV. Some televisions do support 5.1 audio, but not necessarily by default, while others do not support it at all. Additionally, the audio source needs to be capable of 5.1 surround sound (for example, Blu-ray supports 5.1 audio while DVD does not).

There is also a new version of ARC called eARC (enhanced Audio Return Channel) that is built into HDMI version 2.1 cables. While HDMI 2.1 is on the market now, it is still brand-new so many existing TVs and other electronics cannot do not support it. Most televisions only go up to 4k while HDMI 2.1 was designed for 8k, so many manufacturers still consider it overkill. While HDMI 2.1 will certainly be adopted by manufacturers at some point down the road, it may be a few years before it begins becoming widespread.

Get Your HDMI ARC Cables Today

ShowMeCables carries a large stock of HDMI cables all rated for HDMI 2.0, more than capable of supporting ARC. With same-day shipping for orders placed before 5:00 pm Central and hundreds of units in stock at our St. Louis, MO warehouse centralized in the middle of the United States, ShowMeCables is ready to help you connect your sound system with ARC today.

Have questions about HDMI or any of our other products? You can reach our Sales team at 1-888-519-9505 or Sales@ShowMeCables.com