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What is HDMI ARC? And What Does It Do For Your HDTV?

July 18th, 2012 · 25 Comments · 3D HDTV, 4K Flat Panel, 4K LED LCD, Audio, HTIBs, LCD Flat Panel, LED LCD Flat Panels, OLED, Plasma, Sound Bars, Sound Systems, Surround Sound Systems

What is HDMI ARC

Read our companion article here

Find the Best Blu-ray players and why here

 

ARC, or Audio Return Channel, is one of the most useful technologies since the arrival of HDMI itself.

The problem is, most people have no idea it exists, what it’s for, or how to use it. Worse, manufactures rarely explain its advantages, or how their products implement it (if at all).

All about ARC, it’s coolness and quirks, after the jump.

Audio Return Channel is a feature built into the latest versions of HDMI (1.4, and presumably future versions). In its most basic description, ARC sends audio from the TV back down the HDMI cable to something like a soundbar, home theater in a box, and even a few A/V receivers.

Previously, this two-way data transfer only carried handshake info, to tell the source things like “yep, I’m a TV” and “nope, I’m not stealing your content,” or CEC control data. CEC, or Consumer Electronics Control, let you control multiple devices with one remote… in theory and as long as they were connected with HDMI and had the CEC feature. This never worked in reality as well as it did on paper, with cross-brand compatibility being hit or miss. ARC uses aspects of CEC, letting you adjust the volume on a soundbar, for example, with the TV remote. In most ARC products, the soundbar and TV essentially act as one device, with just a single button push to power them both on (no programming required).

The basic ARC functionality, sending audio out of the TV, varies in potential and implementation. On one level, it can send audio from internal TV sources (like the HDTV tuner, or built-in web streaming apps).

On another level, it can send out the audio from other HDMI sources (presumably to a soundbar). In this instance, your TV becomes the central hub, with all sources plugged into it.

This would be the natural way most people, at least those without receivers or HDMI-switching soundbars, would have their systems set up anyway. Adding a soundbar would require no further setup than one new HDMI cable. The TV switches all the sources, and the audio for each one (BD player, cable box, etc), would get sent to a soundbar or HTIB.

The next further level has the TV converting analog audio sources to digital, and sending that to a soundbar. This is less necessary in this digital age, but for those with legacy sources like VHS, this can be useful.

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The Problems

Because there isn’t much consumer awareness about ARC, there isn’t much push on the manufacturer side to hype it. You’ll see mention of it, of course, but hardly ever any details of how it is implemented, and on how many HDMI inputs. Some have ARC on HDMI 1, others have it on HDMI 2. The truth is, it doesn’t matter which HDMI has ARC, as long as you know which one. Many TVs, once you get them out of the box, will identify which HDMI connection has ARC.

How it’s implemented, though, is much harder to determine. According to HDMI Licensing, it is up to the individual manufacturer to choose how to apply ARC. This creates a level of confusion in the market, as it is difficult to determine if the TV only outputs its own sources over ARC, or whether it sends other connected sources as well.

The Basics

If ARC sounds interesting to you, here’s the quick and dirty: If your TV has ARC already, you’ll just need to get a soundbar, HTIB, or A/V receiver that also has ARC. If you’re getting a new TV, consider ARC as an added bonus, obviously picture quality and screen size are more important. Most mid- and high-end models will likely have ARC at this point. Then it’s just a matter of getting a soundbar/HTIB/receiver with ARC (some do, some don’t).

Setup should happen automatically, with the two devices sensing each other when they’re first connected.

Lastly, the cables

You might need a new HDMI cable for ARC. Older HDMI cables should work, but lots of things should work and don’t. If your cables don’t work, HDMI cables are extremely cheap. Check out our article on the subject, and/or check out Mediabridge or AmazonBasics High-Speed HDMI Cables. Both brands are labeled as ARC compatible.

Read our updated companion article here

Geoff Morrison @TechWriterGeoff
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25 Comments so far ↓

  • Paulo

    Hello,

    I’m sturggling to put to work the ARC system.
    I’ve a TV Toshiba 40SL733G and recently bought a micro hi-fi, samsung MM-E430D. bothe the equipments have ARC built in but the truth is that the hi-fi never recognizes this and always gives an error of “not supported”. I’ve question samsung support and they state that this is normal since tv is from different brand!!! this is rather strange since this should be a common standard technology suitabble for all(just like HDMI or RCA).
    I’ve tried even with new 1.4 HDMI cables to be sure but sadly the result keeps the same.
    Any thoughts about what to do in this case?

  • col

    i have a sharp 60′ 3d tv and a marantz sr4200 and am trying to get the tv sound through the amp. we have tryed everything in the manual. and still nothing. they are all knew leads. 3.5 audio and r&w audio leads. its doin our heads in..please help. thanks col.

  • Sam

    Can I use a HDMI input slot labeled “ARC HDMI” as a normal HDMI slot for input from the cable DVR. I have a sound bar, but it is connected to the TV by an optical cable. thanks

    Yes.

    HD Guru

  • Andrew

    Hi, I have a Yamaha Z11 reciver and i am using Sony NX-810 55″ TV and playback BLURAY with PIONEER BDP-09FD so i have one HDMI cable from AMP to TV and 2 HDMI cables from BLURAY one to TV for better picture one to AMP for better sound but always have sound droupouts when i use the the BLURAY player when using split HDMI but when i takeout the HDMI from AMP to TV then eveything is fine so its the problem of ARC how can i off it because i have off HDMI Control from the TV no luck.
    Thanks……

  • Andy

    Hi!
    I have LG 55LA740V HDTV and it has an ARC HDMI connection port. I have tried to connect to my Denon AVR-X2000, which also has an ARC HDMI port. I have tried high speed HDMI cable with ethernet, that should support ARC function.

    I can see my Denon setup on my tv, but I can’t get the tv sound to my outside speakers, even if I select them on the sound menu and but “ARC on” on the tv.

    What is wrong with the connection/settings?

    Thank you!

  • rimpesh

    i have samsung f7500 led tv
    i want to connect my tatasky hd box via analog connection .so i can use more features of my ledtv
    Pls help me to get more benifits of my led tv
    Or there is any converter that convert hdmi to analog
    If so pls send me product details….thank..you

  • Chris

    Hello, I have a 73″ Mitsubishi 3d TV, and I purchased a Panasonic 3d surround system. I only have 3 HDMI connectors on back of tv, but none said HDMI (arc), so I used AV cables to get surround sound in regular tv, movies surround sounds great. Can you help?

  • Uday

    I have a LG 42 LW65oo 3D TV which has HDMI/DVI IN 1 (ARC) and another three HDMI/DVI IN Ports(2,3 & 4). I also have a Sony 3D Blu-ray System BDV E880. This has a HDMI OUT ARC and two HDMI IN (1 & 2). I also want to connect this system to Tata Sky DTH cable connection. Tata Sky has got one HDMI port, one SPDIF Optical port and Audio OUT ( L & R ) and Video OUT connectors. The LG TV also has a Optical Digital Audio OUT port and Sony BDV E880 has a Digital Optical IN. Kindly suggest me the Best connection scheme for Best Audio-Video.

  • Manu

    I recently bought a Samsung PN64E7000, and 1 month after I got it, the HDMI-ARC port stopped sending audio back to the soundbar :(

    It was still in warranty, so I requested service, but the TV guy said the soundbar was at fault (Samsung HW-E551), and the soundbar guy said the TV was at fault.

    Bummer.

  • Paul

    I bought a HK 158 recently & after a while I can’t see the front pannel display … Could anyone please advice what to do…. Thanks

  • fumblefingers

    I discovered ARC on HDMI 2 on my new Panasonic Plasma 50UT50 but since there are only 2 HDMI inputs I would have to cable the Blu Ray player to HDMI 1 and then cable Direct TV using composite cables. That would mean that my Direct TV resolution would not be able to get 1080P. So to make things really work as they should I would need to add a 3D AVR. Then speakers or a HDMI soundbar. The thought that the TV’s Toslink optical output will be downconverted from the native sound of the feed to 2-1 is really a turn off.

    Since you mention that all manufacturers do not follow the ARC

  • Andres

    Mikael // Feb 16, 2013 at 3:06 pm

    Hi!

    How should i connet my devices ?
    I have connect my Cable box HUMAX to HDMI2 IN on my LG- TV and my Sony 3D Blueray player to HDMI 3 IN on my LG TV.
    From LG TV HDMI1 IN (ARC) I connect to whitch HDMI port on my Onkyko 616 reciever ?

    Your friends may not understand your Onkyo. Although I don’t have your specific receiver – it most likely has full ARC functionality. It should serve as your switch/hub – not your TV. If all of the ARC functions are not working you may need to look closely at your settings and simply “turn on” the function. You should have only one high speed HDMI cable going from your receiver to your TV.

  • NEIL

    Hi. I have a PS51E450 Samsung TV and recently connected my Samsung HT-350 xu Home cimema system. Can i get normal TV channels to play through the system? I have 1 connected HDMI cable from hdmi in ( Tv) to the home cinema system. I am i missing something? I know i won’t get surround sound through normal TV channels but i thought it would be nice to have some programmes with a bit more speaker beef.

  • Mikael

    Hi!

    How should i connet my devices ?
    I have connect my Cable box HUMAX to HDMI2 IN on my LG- TV and my Sony 3D Blueray player to HDMI 3 IN on my LG TV.
    From LG TV HDMI1 IN (ARC) I connect to whitch HDMI port on my Onkyko 616 reciever ?

    On my reciever i have on HDMI OUT (ARC) and several HDMI ports IN. Should I connect the LG TV HDMI1 IN (ARC) to any HDMI port on the Onkyo reciever or to Onkyos HDMI OUT (ARC) ???? It sounds wrong to connect the TV HDMI 1 IN (ARC) to Onkyo HDMI OUT (ARC) When the TV Signal comes from the Kabelbox up to the TV and suppose to go out trough HDMI 1 IN (ARC) on the TV down to the Onkyo reciever HDMI OUT (ARC).

    I need help to sort my thoughts abouit this!!
    Even if my LG TV has an built in decoder I don’t use it. I use the decoder on the cabelbox whit the TC signar comming in the ait to an antenna.

    Or should I jut connet all my devices to the reciever and only have one HDMI cabel from the Onkyo reciever HDMI OUT (ARC) tom my LG TV HDMI1 IN (ARC) as I’m doing to day. It Works fine but many of my friends say that I should connet all my devices to the TV as it works like a HUB and pases troug the signal to the reciever. I Wouild like the Onkyo reciever to “Fire” up when I fires upp any device I have but it doesn’t….I have to fire the Onkyo up manualy.

    Pleas help me!!!! Any one :-)

  • jacbec

    Sony Blu-ray would not play with my new Marantz SR7007 Receiver & Panasonic Viera TV. Noticed Marantz HDMI output was not on the HDMI ARC connector, changed it & now my Blu-ray works!

  • Xenofon

    Great article. I own a 46″ NX720 Bravia and a sony soundbar su-b401s connected through ARC. My problem is when i connect devices to TV’s HDMI port’s my soundbar doesn’t support DTS, just Dolby Digital! Soundbar seems to support DTS only if i connect the device directly to soundbar’s hdmi port… Its a huge problem for me since i have a PS3,HD Satellite Decoder and Laptop with many .mkv material and DTS support. So at moment i am restricted to one DTS supported device.. Any explanation or solution for this problem? Thanx in advance !

  • Alessio

    I have a Sharp 70″ HDTV that supports ARC through its’ HDMI1 port.

    I have HDMI1 of the Sharp connected to the HDMI I/O port of a NAD 757 Version2 (V2 supports ARC).

    Unfortunately, even thoughnthe 757 sees the ARC pin light up (and displays “HDMI ARC” on its’ VFD display), there is no sound out of the 757 when playing the Sharp on-board Apps like Vudu, Netflix, or Youtube, or when usingnthe on-board Sharp tuner. I called Sharp tech support and they said that ARC was only intended for switching HDMI inputs on the HDTV’s various HDMI ports. I find that hard to believe because first of all, the HDMI 1.4 spec says nothing about a restriction on the TV tuner and Apps as inputs, but in addition, my two LG HDTVs play apps and the on-board tuner through ARC just fine.

    But, the Sharp tech support guy insisted I was wrong. I wish these manufacturer’s would drop their arrogance and try to help the customer vs. argue with them.

  • Sidhartha Bardhan

    I am using Videocon HD Satelite Box and having a Samsung 40″ HD LED TV(40D6600) which is having Anynet+ function and also i am having Sony Home theater BD-E690. When my TV is connected to Home Theater the Anynet+ Function working properly but when it is connected to HD satelite Box this Anynet+ function is not working. Both the cases i.e TV-HT & TV – Satelite box it is connected through HDMI cord. HDMI cable attached in ARC IN & OUT port respectively on TV & Home theater.
    Pls suggest how can i get the sound output through my Home theater.

  • Doug

    I have arc on Samsung TV and arc on Panasonic surround sound and when I power on it defaults to hdmi arc and I want it to default to hdmi. Is this possible

  • Ann

    I have a Sharp TV ARC capable and Sharp Sound Bar Arc capable. The speakers work when I enable the ARC, but when I turn the TV off it changes the setting to disable for ARC. Any suggestions?

  • Gary

    I have Samsung 3D LED TV with 3 HDMI ports: HDMI IN 1 (DVI), HDMI IN 2 (ARC), and HDMI IN 3.
    Can I re-purpose HDMI IN 1 or 2 to connect devices that aren’t computer or AV receiver?

  • Pat

    I’ll echo M. Wright’s comments.

    I’ve used ARC with my Denon receiver, and Panasonic G25 Plasma since they were taken out of the box. However, as the Tivo, and Xbox both feed the TV directly, I can only receive stereo signals via ARC. I don’t want to send the xbox to the receiver first because of concerns for lag…

    I hope that my next TV will have a 5.1 ARC.

  • M. Wright

    One rather large caveat that is missing from the article is that ARC (at least as currently implemented by HDMI chipset vendors) is effectively just an internal S/PDIF connection. As such ARC will only pass lossy DD/DTS from internal sources and will only pass 2-channel PCM from external HDMI sources. This is because the TV is doing the switching and the TV’s handshake with an HDMI device tells any external device that it is only a 2-channel capable sink, which is true from the TV’s perspective, it only has stereo speakers built in. So using ARC to connect to soundbars like the top-of-the-line sound bar like Yahama’s sound projectors, which offers more than just 2-speakers, you may be missing out on higher resolution and/or surround sound audio tracks from a Blu-ray player, etc.

    Also I’m not aware of any reason why any and all HDMI cables wouldn’t work with ARC. You say some early cables might not have the pins for it, but ARC re-uses two pins that were always part of the specification, pin 14 (previously just a reserved pin) and 19 (hot plug detect).
    The HDMI.org ARC page even says as much: “All HDMI cables will support Audio Return Channel functionality when connected to Audio Return Channel-enabled devices. You can use your existing HDMI cables or choose a different cable type.”
    http://www.hdmi.org/manufacturer/hdmi_1_4/arc.aspx

  • Stringfellow

    Thank you, again, as always Mr. Morrison.

    I had a quick question. Does one really need a cable that is certified HDMI 1.4-series for full 3D output? I am asking because I understood that HDMI 1.4-series had only specific improvements on the 1.3-series by adding “Ethernet” capabilities (sending/receiving information), which is similar to the “ARC” (only send information). Your thoughts…? My source for this was information I gleaned off of Blue Jeans Cable.

    Geoff: Any HDMI cable rated as “High Speed” should work, but there’s always the potential of weirdness. If you get a 3DTV, try your current cables. I’m sure they’ll be fine. Otherwise, $5 on Monoprice to replace. More info here: reviews.cnet.com/8301-33199_7-57321956-221/why-all-hdmi-cables-are-the-same-part-2/

  • chew

    Mr. Morrison you bring on a great topic on arc, every tv manufactures does not have good hdmi control, and cable boxes and Ps3 x-box do not have hdmi control must bluray players have them,to be honest im funny when it comes hdmi control, i have three bluray players on one reciever and tv, i could tell you what has best hdmi control on any brand tv’s between lg,samsung,sony,panasonic and sharp,but denon and marantz have the best working hdmi control and pioneer receivers have the worst gui, but it has best sound and better upscaling chip i could go on all about this topic.

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