What is Audio Return Channel (ARC) – Complete guide!

There is one port on your electronic and entertainment device that you most often ignore and this is mainly because you don´t  really understand why it is there. We are conversant with the composite yellow, red and white port and for some audiophiles the AUX port it is there, but that rectangular port that doesn´t look like the USB port but you know it is not is what this post is all about.

That port is called the HDMI port and it the most recent devices which have this port have a unique feature called Audio Return Channel (ARC).

This HDMI port alongside its ARC feature holds a huge deal of benefits for you and learning about it and how to use it will effectively streamline your home entertainment setup, improve your visual and audio quality and keep your device area free from multiple running wires. Most TV and sound devices manufacturers rapidly evolve with the pace of technological advancement and the overall purpose is to increase the sound delivery quality. HDMI was one of such introductions but that’s not. The introduction of ARC as feature of HDMI is the latest jackpot in this regard.

We have done extensive research and therefore will present this new knowledge for many to you in clear terms and at the same time reinforce and further improve the knowledge of some who are already enjoying HDMI alongside its new additional ARC feature.


HDMI is an acronym for High-definition Multimedia Interface. It is a digital protocol that is used to communicate signals between high-definition electronic devices. HDMI first arrived the electronic scene in 2002 when some manufacturers including Sony Corporation, Hitachi, Matsushita Electronics (Panasonic), Royal Philip Electronics, Silicon Image, Thomson And Toshiba Corporation carried out extensive research on streamlining audio visual connection. Since then, it has become the industry´s main hub for designing high-definition devices. HDMI allows the transmission of high quality bandwidth and uncompressed digital data between two devices which are HDMI compatible such TVs, Blu-rays players, HDTV, projectors, desktops, etc.



HDMI amplifies and simplifies your home theater set-up by allowing the transmission of quality video and audio signals and replacing your multiple conventional composite cables. The video and audio quality of HDMI is well enhanced, clear and better than other transmission methodologies like its analogue counterparts.
In addition, HDMI also uses a feature called Transition Minimized Differential Signity (TMDS) which is responsible for protecting the video and audio signal by encoding them and preventing them from the degrading effect of long-run travel. It can also protect the transmitting data from piracy using an authentication protocol called High-Bandwidth Digital Copy Protection (HDCP).

The first HDMI version is called version 1.0. Subsequently, other versions with better features have continued to be premiered until the latest version 2.1 which was released two years ago in November, 2017. This new version has some incredible features that make it to support high resolution video signals. It features an incredibly low electromagnetic interference (EMI) which resists interferences from nearby wireless devices. Most importantly, it has the new HDMI feature, the Audio Return Channel (ARC) feature.

The specifications of other versions leading to this new version are listed below.

Special features Version 1.0 Version 1.1 Version 1.2 Version 1.3 Version 1.4 Version 2.0 Version 2.1
Consumer Electronic control (CEC) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
DVD Audio No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Super Audio CD (DSD) No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
DolbyTrueHD/DTS-HD Master Audio No No No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Next generation CEC command No No No Yes Yes Yes Yes
3D video No No No No Yes Yes Yes
Ethernet No No No No Yes Yes Yes
Audio return channel (ARC) No No No No Yes Yes Yes
4 audio stream No No No No Yes Yes Yes
3 audio stream


No No No No No Yes Yes
2 video stream (dual view)

Hybrid log-gamma(HLG) HDR OETF





























Static HDR No No No No No Yes
Dynamic HDR No No No No No No
eARC No No No No No No
Variable refresh rate (VRR) No No No No No No
Quick media switching (QMS) No No No No No No
Quick Frame Transport (QFT) No No No No No No
Audio low latency mode (ALLM) No No No No No No
Display stream compression (DSC) No No No No No No
Maximum transmission bandwidth 4.95G 4.95G 4.95G 10.29G 10.29G 18G 48G
Maximum supported signal resolution 1080p 1080p 1080p 4K30 4K30 4K60 8K


Audio Return Channel, ARC is a HDMI feature that was first introduced in 2009 when the HDMI version 1.4 was launched and since then most electronic device has this feature incorporated in their device HDMI feature. Audio Return Channel, ARC is represents an audio transmission feature that connects your speaker output to your TV´s control without having another remote or interface to crank up and manage the volume of the speaker. With this HDMI feature, the number of cables you need to connect your TV to your audio output devices is significantly reduced. Therefore, using ARC simplifies your home theatre. It does this by allowing the transfer of audio signals from the TV back to a home theater receiver so that you can listen to your TV’s audio through your home theater audio system instead of the TV’s speakers without any extra connection of digital optical audio also called S/PDIF or analog between the TV and home theater.

The words, upstream and downstream has been used to describe ARC. Audio Return Channel, ARC technology allows audio signal to travel both upstream and downstream over an HDMI cable based on user preference, making it much easier to leverage dedicated audio solutions alongside televisions and similar displays. The newest version of HDMI, version 2.1 even comes with a better, more powerful and efficient ARC feature called electronic Audio Return Channel, eARC.

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ARC is a HDMI feature. There is no ARC without an HDMI. The relationship is that, ARC since it was introduced in HDMI 1.4 enables a TV via a single HDMI cable to send audio signals upstream” to an AV receiver or surround audio controller, increasing users flexibility and eliminating the need for any separate S/PDIF audio connect”

An audio return channel-enabled TV can either send or receive audio via HDMI, upstream or downstream depending on system set-up and users preferences. ARC uses HDMI connection to send audio from a TV to AV receiver or sound bar using a single cable for both audio and video.

HDMI cables carry audio from Blu-ray players or DVD players into a Tab while ARC send audio in reverse, from TV into an external sound bar or speaker without extra audio cable. Connecting an HDMI cable from an ARC-compatible A/V receiver to an ARC-compatible TV will allow you to

  • Send audio from TV to the Receiver.
  • View and listen to movies and other content from source devices as they are passed through the A/V receiver to view on the TV.


ARC is important because it sends audio created by or switched through your TV to an external audio device i.e. sound bar or receiver because most TV’s sounds either below par or altogether terrible. The most important stuff that this feature brings on board is simplicity and ease. It allows you to easily connect your devices together and use them on one remote control.


Using an HDMI port to exploit the ARC feature may be challenging for newbie. However, it is no big deal to use an HDMI port and cable and connect your devices seamlessly. The first thing you need to do is to ascertain whether your device is HDMI compatible. This has become easier with most manufacturers indicating this with the ARC symbol while others simply state it on their user manual or packaging kit.

Practically, you have to connect your Audio system with a single HDMI cable to your TV using the designated ARC-cable port on and in this case your TV becomes the central point for the control of your entertainment system.

Still more, you can connect multiple devices other than just your TV to your speaker output such as DVD player, game console, etc. by connecting them all to your TV directly, then using the TV HDMI port to connect to the speakers. With this, you also have the leverage to control multiple devices using your TV remote alone.

Also, you can connect the audio player to your sound bar or receiver, then connect a single cable from the receiver or sound bar to your TV. In this case, your sound bar or receiver instead of your TV will be the central control point for your entertainment system.


The advantages of Audio Return Channel, ARC are numerous and that is why we are letting you know about it. In an outline, some include:

  • ARC function gives you accessibility to other audio sources connected directly to the TV via internet, digital and analog audio inputs.
  • It cuts down the number of cables you need to set-up your entertainment system. With HDMI-ARC, you no longer need the S/PDIF audio cable.
  • It simplifies your home theater set-up and gives you control ease.
  • Offers a two-way audio signal communication between your devices.
  • It is inexpensive and affordable.
  • It allows you to use a single remote to control your home theatre set up.
  • These terms are associated with the marketing of the newest version and they all sound reassuring of the kind of great audio quality that HDMI ARC offers you: Ultra High Speed HDMI Cable (UHSC), Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM), Enhanced Audio Return Channel (eARC), Quick Frame Transport (QFT), Quick Media Switching (QMS), Variable Refresh Rate and (VRR).
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Despite the numerous advantages of ARC has, it also has son disadvantages which you need to know in other to know how to handle them.

  • It is not easy as it is said and may not work perfectly.
  • ARC is sometimes active only for over-the-air broadcast.
  • Advance surround audio such as Dolby TrueHD/Atmos and DTS-HD Master Audio/:X are not accommodated on the original version of ARC despite the fact that it uses HDMI physical platform.
  • HDMI-CEC communication features vary among TV and home theater receivers because HDMI ARC works in conjunction with HDMI-CEC therefore glitches may occur.


eARC stands for enhanced Audio Return Channel. It is an ARC feature that was introduced when the latest HDMI version, 2.1 was launched in November, 2017. It has superior advantages than the conventional ARC feature in other models and greatly out maneuvers the few disadvantages of the earlier versions ARC feature. Some of these incredible improvements include the fact that it offers an improved connection bandwidth which results in both improved transmission quality and the ability to transfer immersive audio for latest audio streams such as Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio streams from HDMI connected source devices as well as audio from smart TV streaming apps.

eARC is backward compatible with ARC but not with its new features. This implies that you don´t directly need a new HDMI cable to use eARC. However, the preponderance lies on your entertainment device. It has to be eARC compatible to be able to access these added advantages to the ARC feature that is in eARC. This is because as stated earlier, eARC handles more advanced audio formats and quality.

So, when you use an eARC compatible device, you can still enjoy your two-way communication through your existing HDMI cable only that you stand to enjoy better sound delivery service.

Recent home entertainment devices in the last couple of years since 2017 are designed by most manufacturers with the eARC feature. So, some selected TV and home theatres such as Sony A9G OLED and Z96 LCD amongst others that have featured in 2018 and 2019 are eARC compatible. ARC and eARC are the same and functions the same, only that eARC offers improved and better sound quality than ARC as the name implies, it is enhanced Audio Return Channel, eARC.


Can I use HDMI ARC as a regular HDMI?

HDMI ARC is a regular HDMI with added audio return channel function. It then means that you can connect both video and audio receiver between two devices through a single port. The port therefore port should function as any other HDMI port as long as the device is ARC compatible and the HDMI feature is on.

Does my TV have a HDMI ARC?

The easiest way to find out is to check if any input on your TV and the HDMI output of your home theater receiver has an “ARC” label in addition to the input or output number label designation also check specifications on your model manual or package kit if you can’t easily have a locate the HDMI port on your device connection panel.

Which is better HDMI ARC or optical audio?

HDMI ARC is better than optical audio because it can pass video signals and also it can transmit high-resolution audio including the formats found in Blu-ray, Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio which cannot be transmitted across. Optical audio

What are the HDMI 2.1 marketing features names and their acronyms if any?

Some of the names associated with the latest HDMI version 2.1 and their acronyms include, Ultra High Speed HDMI Cable (UHSC), Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM), Enhanced Audio Return Channel (eARC), Quick Frame Transport (QFT), Quick Media Switching (QMS), Variable Refresh Rate and (VRR).

What is audio low-latency mode ALLM?

This feature lets a game console, PC or other device send a signal to the display which will cause it to automatically switch to a low-latency, low-lag mode for gaming.

What is Variable Refresh Rate (VRR)?

VRR lets a gaming source deliver video frames as fast as it can, which in many cases is slower than the normal static refresh rate.

What is Quick Frame Transport (QFT)?

QFT transports each frame at a higher rate to decrease “display latency”, which is the amount of time between a frame being ready for transport in the GPU and that frame being completely displayed.

What is Quick Media Switching (QMS)?

QMS uses the VRR mechanism to eliminate the blackout period when all devices in the HDMI connection chain change video modes.


HDMI Audio Return Channel (ARC) feature, offers you both convenience and simplicity in connecting your video and audio devices. With the added features of the enhanced Audio Return Channel (eARC) which is the latest development in the market, if you are not exploiting this port on your entertainment device, it is now time to begin. ARC has numerous benefits over your composite and S/PDIF cable and you are only an HDMI cable away from exploiting this wealth of knowledge and this great technological tool.

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