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What is HDMI ARC and how does it work

If you have an HDTV, home theater, soundbar, or A/V receiver, you may have noticed a small symbol on one of your device's HDMI inputs that says "ARC." What does that mean? Hint:This doesn't refer to your system architecture as in anti-reflective coating (ARC), or that mystical reactor that powers Iron Man's suits.

ContentsHow Audio Return Channel (ARC) WorksHow to Enable Audio Return Channel (HDMI ARC)Not All Suns and RosesConclusion

ARC, or “Audio Return Channel,” is an HDMI specification built into many modern TVs, home theaters, soundbars, and receivers. This is no ordinary HDMI port. It has the potential to simplify your audio cabling needs and setup, but comes at a potential cost. Unfortunately, only a few know that it exists or what it is for and how to use it. Worse, manufacturers rarely explain how to use it or how their products implement it.

Here's everything you need to know about HDMI ARC so you can harness its power to work for you.

How the audio return channel (ARC) works

In theory, HDMI ARC is supposed to help you have one and only one connection between your TV and your audio system. So if your HDMI-enabled TV and sound system have this feature, you can easily stream TV sound to a home theater receiver and listen to your TV sound through the home theater speakers, instead of listen to sound through the TV mediocre. speakers. This impressive HDMI specification provides two-way communication between your TV and a compatible audio device.

For example, if you usually receive your TV signals over the air via antennas, the sound from these sources is transmitted directly to your TV. Now, to get that sound from your TV to a home theater system, you normally need to connect an additional cable (either digital coaxial, digital optical, or analog stereo) from the TV to the home theater system. But with ARC, you can take advantage of the same HDMI cable you already have connected to the TV to transfer those audio signals to the home theater without the need for additional cables.

What is HDMI ARC and how does it work

The next step is to figure out how to enable the Audio Return Channel feature on your TV. Navigate to your TV's HDMI settings and you should be able to see an option to enable it. On home theater systems, you'll likely find this feature on the remote, so you can activate it with the click of a button.

Not all-sun and roses

In theory, using this feature should be as simple as simply connecting an HDMI cable to a TV. However, it's not all sunshine and roses. Sometimes complications arise due to manufacturers' lack of specifications, labeling methods, and other variables that can get in the way. In addition, the HDMI ARC function has its drawbacks.

For example, since ARC was originally designed to replace digital TV audio output, it only supports transmission of the same DTS, PCM and Dolby Digital soundtracks that will pass through the SPDIF output. Therefore, it currently does not support the transmission of DTS-HD or Dolby TrueHD Master Audio. Also, ARC may not allow you to enjoy full 5.1ch surround sound since most TVs are two-channel (2.0ch) via ARC.


When used, HDMI ARC can greatly reduce your wiring needs and simplify your home entertainment setup. Now that you know what HDMI ARC is and how to use it, why not try it out with your home entertainment system? Let us know your experiences via the comments section below.