HDMI Audio Return Channel (ARC) for your HDTV Explained

June 19th, 2013 · 14 Comments · 3D HDTV, Connected TVs, News, Sound Systems, Surround Sound Systems

HDMI ARC Input 580

Read our companion article here


The Audio Return Channel (ARC) feature built into HDMI is one of the easiest ways to set up an audio system. And since an audio system is vital to getting good sound with movies and TV, ARC is important to understand. I mean, who doesn’t want better sound, reduced cabling, and simple control of your entire system. So what is ARC, and how do you take advantage of it?  Find out after the break.

Audio Return Channel is an optional feature of HDMI introduced in version 1.4. It permits owners to maintain all the TVs HDMI connections while sending the audio back down to a sound bar, HTIB, or surround sound receiver. Put simply, instead of needing an extra audio output cable from your TV to a sound device, the ARC enabled HDMI jack on an HDTV doubles as an audio output, sending all the TV-connected sources to HDMI ARC-equipped audio component.

There are many applications where this becomes useful. Smart TVs have Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming content that can carry 5.1 audio streams. The integrated HDTV tuner has stereo and 5.1 audio tracks with broadcast programming. Then, of course, there’s Blu-ray players and gaming consoles that send surround sound audio to your display. All of these audio sources can be sent out over ARC to an external sound system instead of using the lower quality TV speakers.

Setting It Up

What do you need to take advantage of ARC? First, you need a display that supports it. Every Panasonic model this year, LCD and Plasma, has ARC support. Many Sony models do as well. Samsung models with Smart TV features usually include it. The LG 55LA7400 we recently reviewed has support as well. Even though most TVs now include ARC, spec sheets often don’t list it. You may have to read the manual, or check the actual HDMI input labels, to see if it enables use of ARC.

Second, you need an external audio device with HDMI and ARC support. Many surround sound receivers and processors include ARC support. Many sound bars with HDMI also include ARC support, like models from Samsung, Sharp, Toshiba, and Panasonic. Once equipped with a compatible TV and sound device, how does it work?

Most components will mark the Audio Return Channel-compatible HDMI port(s) with “(ARC)” so you can determine the correct one. If it isn’t marked, your owner’s manual will tell you. Any HDMI cable should work, but you will need one additional HDMI cable (between your TV and the audio device). We like the inexpensive High-Speed HDMI cables. Finally, ARC may need to be enabled in the TV setup menus, so check the TV owner’s manual.

With a sound bar, the best option is to switch inputs using the TV (as in, connect everything to the TV, with just a single HDMI cable to the sound bar.. Sound bars usually have fewer HDMI inputs compared to a TV making ARC connection the best way to go. ARC also permits the use of HDMI Consumer Electronics Control (HDMI-CEC), enabling the TV remote to control the sound bar’s volume as well. So your TV remote will switch inputs, change channels, and control the sound bar volume.

With a receiver, the same setup as the sound bar will work. The best audio format supported by HDMI ARC is Dolby Digital 5.1, sadly the higher-resolution audio formats on Blu-ray aren’t supported.

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Additional Considerations

Implemented correctly, ARC provides many benefits. It also has many optional features that aren’t required, so aren’t always fully implemented. Some HDTVs only send stereo audio over ARC (instead of 5.1). Not all ARC connections will handle up to Dolby Digital 5.1 surround audio. Check our list below and your owner’s manual if you want to connect to a 5.1 system to verify compatibility. If ARC is not listed, call the HDTVs customer service phone number. As TVs drop optical audio outputs, ARC will be the only way to get 5.1 audio from a TV in many cases.

Please note: some HDTVs only permit the internal audio (i.e. the audio from the built-in tuner and Smart TV features), not incoming audio from a cable/sat box or Blu-ray player, so it’s best to verify the implementation.

Wrapping It Up

ARC makes it easy to enhance an HDTV with better audio. As long as your devices support it, and are connected e to the appropriate HDMI inputs, improving the audio should be quick and painless.

List of 2013 HDTVs with ARC support (Note: we are still waiting for ARC capability verification from a number of manufacturers. We will update when we receive additional information. Models and format capability data supplied by manufacturer’s media relations department unless otherwise noted.)


LED LCD- F6300 and higher series up through the F8000

Plasma- F5500 and F8500 series

Samsung’s ARC is typically on HDMI3

Samsung only supports PCM Stereo (2.0 channels) from external sources such as cable box or Blu-ray player. Internal tuner and streaming will send up to Dolby Digital 5.1 through HDMI ARC


LED LCD-All Smart TV model series

Plasma-60PH6700 ; 60PN5700

ARC is on HDMI 1; LG ARC supports  Stereo

Source-LG Spokesperson


All LED LCDs and Plasma series

Supports up to Dolby Digital 5.1

Source-Panasonic customer service


All E Series and M Series LED LCDs

Formats-Unknown; Source-Vizio customer service


All model LED LCD . Supports up to Dolby Digital 5.1

Chris Heinonen

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14 Comments so far ↓

  • Mary S

    Do you know if there are any wirelss HDMI products out there that support ARC? so far I have only tried the IOGEAR GW3DHDKIT and it did not work. Now I’m looking into Nyrius and StarTech products.

  • Gerald

    If your receiver does not have ARC how do you connect it to the Samsung 6700 Smart T with ARC

  • Simeon

    Hello, I wonder does all LG models support only stereo via ARC? I like the LB650V which is 2014 model. Do you think it can support up to 5.1 output via ARC?

  • Charlie T

    Question: I have an older Pioneer HDTV with lots of HDMI inputs, but no ARC. I am purchasing a Yahama RX-475 with a ARC. Is there any way to improve this sound for the TV? The TV does have an optical input. Thanks!

  • vincent

    I’ve got a yamaha ysp 3300 sound bar that has hdmi 1.4 with an hdmi ARC port but also with 4k pass trough.
    Is it possible with a new 4k tv with hdmi 2.0 that the sound bar and the hdmi ARC port still works?
    Because the sound bar is hdmi 1.4 and the tv is hdmi 2.0.

  • Raj

    can you please recommend any 5.1 speaker system with ARC support

  • Raj

    very helpful

  • nucco

    ignore Tony. He’s probably got too much spare time.

    I’m a happy Netflix and freeview (UK terrestrial TV) watcher with no cable subscription. ARC is essential to me, and I was glad to discover it by accident when I bought a new HT and ignorantly hooked it into the ARC port… Google did the rest in educating me :)

  • TheGooch

    Thanks for explaining what ARC is and how it works. I’ve got my Netflix, Airplay, and Plex needs handled by ATV3, and gaming needs handled by my Xbox. They go through my home theater receiver to TV(HDMI) . Their optical audio goes to a manual switch then to my wireless headset which cannot switch between sources on it’s own

    It would be nice to have 5.1 audio return channel to the home theater receiver and optical audio out to the headphones. Then I could turn off the power-hungry receiver when using the 7.1 headset without losing audio quality.

    As it stands today, my TV only has stereo optical out, which forced me to decide between audio quality and saving power. I went with quality and use my home theater for source switching.

    Beyond that, I

  • Tony


    Disagree. The number of people who use the broadcast tuner in their set is minuscule and getting smaller all the time. Cord cutters try it, hate it on the whole. and go (back) to Hulu+ and the like.

    Other than that, there is no reason to use your TV as a source. The breadth and depth of apps on external devices is and will likely always be superior. Samsungs ‘smart’ hub is getting better, but it can still be sluggish – even in the top of the line 2013 sets – and obviously lacks the track record of Boxee and others.

  • Patrick

    Love the simplicity of ARC, and the fact that I can use input control on the TV to change input source, and settings (Game/Blu-ray/Tivo), without any effort at all. I don’t want to run my Xbox through the receiver because I don’t want to add additional lag. ARC is a great solution there as well.

    Unfortunately, I don’t use it as much as I’d like because my Panasonic G25 doesn’t support anything other than Stereo… Wish they could update the firmware to fix that!

  • Nathan

    @Tony – While I have no doubt that ARC provides no real world benefit for you, your unusually abrasive statement of fact is nothing more than opinion based solely on your personal use case. There are plenty of real world benefits:

    Televisions periodically serve as sources in a system setup. Perhaps the source material is an episode of Quantum Leap streaming via the television’s Netflix app or maybe the local news in HD from the in-built ATSC tuner. This source material contains audio worthy of amplification and its the ARC feature that enables audio to pass from television to receiver without additional cabling.

    Speaking of additional cabling, there’s a real world benefit to ARC when looking at it from an installation standpoint. Why run the additional cable if there’s an alternative? Optical and/or stereo analog cabling might work well, but ARC simplifies the scenario without compromising quality (and may even result in an improvement).

    So long as televisions serve as sources, there will be a need to output audio. And while I’m not personally a fan of using my TV as a source (Roku and my HTPC feed my media consumption habits), I know that a tremendous number of people value that functionality.

    While I agree that HD Guru’s explanation was a bit long winded, their take on one of HDMI’s more obscure features was spot on.

  • Tony

    Incomprehensibly complex “explanation.” Here’s a short version: it allows you do to hdmi switching in your TV instead of in your receiver. That’s it. And it’s only useful if there is stuff built into your TV (eg Netflix app) that you don’t otherwise have access to.

    In general it’s a total cluster f%#! with no real world improvement in convenience or quality as compared to using your receiver as your primary switching location.

  • Manu

    I’ve got a samsung TV PN64E7000 that has an HDMI-ARC port, and a samsung soundbar that also has an HDMI-ARC port, so naturally I connected them.

    Turns out my PS3 screws up the ARC communication when plugged into my tv. No clue why, but it does. Samsung customer support wasn’t able to figure out what’s wrong.

    After I plugged it into my soundbar, it started communicating with my TV through the soundbar – it shows up as a source on my TV, and if I turn it on, the TV and soundbar automatically switch to the correct inputs for it. Pretty handy.

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