What is eARC?

An entertainment room with speakers and a wall-mounted TV.
Breadmaker / Shutterstock.com

If you’ve recently tried connecting an HDMI cable to your new TV, soundbar, or AV receiver (AVR), you may have come across a relatively new acronym called eARC. Here’s what it means and why it’s important.

The next generation of ARC

eARC or Enhanced Audio Return Channel is an upgraded version of ARC (Audio Return Channel). It was introduced in 2017 as part of the HDMI 2.1 specification.

eARC is based on ARC. ARC greatly simplified the setup of TV and home theater by enabling a TV to send audio to a soundbar or AVR over a single HDMI cable. In the original HDMI standard, your TV could only receive audio and video via HDMI and not send audio back. To send audio, use a TOSLink or coaxial cable.

Like ARC, eARC also lets your TV send audio generated by built-in streaming apps, cable, satellite, and other source devices (such as a game console or Blu-ray player) to your soundbar or AVR using a single HDMI cable. However, eARC supports far greater bandwidth and speed than ARC, allowing the transmission of high quality, uncompressed audio, which is not possible with ARC.

How is eARC different from ARC?

The eARC can carry up to 32-channel audio, including eight 192 kHz, 24-bit uncompressed audio channels, thanks to its 37 Mb / second bandwidth. It also supports the DTS-HD Master Audio, DTS: X, Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Atmos formats. By comparison, the ARC only supports up to six-channel compressed audio and has a maximum bandwidth of 1 Mb / second.

In addition, the eARC includes its own data channel, which is used to enable the TV to detect compatible eARC audio devices. It is also used by the audio device to convey supported audio formats and for the TV to send lip-sync correction data to the audio device.

Do you need eARC?

To be fair, most people do not need eARC or even ARC. If you use your TV’s built-in speakers and do not have an external soundbar or speaker setup, you do not need eARC. However, if you are not happy with your TV’s speakers and are planning to get yourself a soundbar, it’s a good idea to get an eARC compliant device. But before you get an eARC-compatible soundbar or AVR, make sure your TV also supports eARC.

What do you want eARC?

eARC port on an LG TV
LG

Like ARC, you need two devices with eARC-compatible HDMI ports to use the feature. While TVs with HDMI 2.1 ports are largely guaranteed to have eARC support, several manufacturers have also added eARC support to their HDMI 2.0 devices.

You can check the HDMI connectors on the back of your device, and an eARC compliant device will typically have the eARC mentioned next to a connector. The device specifications and manual will also include details on eARC support.

eARC is still limited to premium and advanced devices and is not yet widely available in mass market and budget segments. However, almost all major TV, soundbar and AVR manufacturers have at least a few devices in their portfolio with eARC. This number will continue to rise in the coming years.

If you have an eARC device and an ARC device, you will not enjoy the benefits of eARC. However, if your device supports both eARC and ARC, you can use ARC functionality. eARC itself is not backward compatible with ARC, but HDMI Forum asks manufacturers to offer ARC as a backup option.

In addition to eARC-compatible devices, you also need a high-speed HDMI cable with Ethernet or an ultra-high-speed HDMI cable to use the functionality. However, if you plan to use other HDMI 2.1 features on the same HDMI cable, the Ultra High-Speed ​​HDMI cable will make the most sense. Other HDMI cables will struggle or just not support additional HDMI 2.1 features due to their limited bandwidth.

Supports eARC

Depending on your TV, you may also need to enable eARC functionality by going to the settings. You will typically find the eARC or ARC setting in the audio or audio output settings.

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