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What you need to know about HDMI ARC and eARC

How to connect your TV to your receiver or sound bar

Want to watch Netflix or Amazon Prime Video through a new smart TV? Maybe some over-the-air TV broadcasts, too?

Planning to connect your TV to an A/V receiver or an HDMI-equipped sound bar?

Then you need to know about ARC and eARC. These special HDMI connections can simplify system operation and improve your TV sound.

What is ARC?

ARC (Audio Return Channel) was introduced in 2009. It enables a single HDMI cable to carry picture and sound from a receiver to a TV and an audio signal from the TV back to the receiver or sound bar. If both devices have ARC, you don’t need a separate audio cable to hear the TV sound through your receiver or sound bar.

Audio return channel via optical digital cable

Without ARC, you need both HDMI and optical digital audio connections between your TV and your sound bar.

Audio return via ARC on HDMI

With ARC, all you need is an HDMI connection between your TV and your sound bar.

One less cable might not sound like such a big deal, but it does solve a problem for people who want to wall-mount their TV and hide the cables behind the wall.

Type of cable needed HDMI HDMI with Ethernet
Surround sound formats Compressed 5.1 (standard Dolby Digital & DTS) Uncompressed 5.1 and 7.1 (Dolby TrueHD & DTS-HD Master Audio), and immersive audio (Dolby Atmos & DTS:X)

What is eARC?

The new eARC (Enhanced Audio Return Channel) promises three substantial improvements.

  • Increased bandwidth, which allows the TV to pass advanced, uncompressed surround sound formats (including Dolby Atmos and DTS:X) along to the receiver or sound bar.
  • More reliable HDMI “handshakes” between devices, which means easier, more dependable operation. You may be able to get away with using fewer remote controls.
  • The mandatory Lip Sync Correction protocol ensures that the picture and sound always match up.

Is eARC is a game-changer for system configuration?

With eARC, a TV can deliver uncompromised audio signals to an eARC-equipped receiver. That begs the question: Should I connect my cable box (and other video sources) to the TV or the receiver/sound bar?

Making video source connections to the TV

Using the TV as the A/V Switcher

Connecting your video sources to the TV can make system operation easier.

If you only have a few sources, it makes more sense to connect through your smart TV. The advantage here is being able to use a television as your central hub, which simplifies the operation of your system. You’ll select sources using the TV’s remote, which should make your life easier.

And since eARC is capable of passing uncompressed surround sound, you won’t lose audio quality for choosing this route.

Making video source connections to the receiver or sound bar

Using a sound bar speaker as the A/V switcher

When you connect your video sources to your sound bar or receiver, you only need one HDMI connection to the TV. That simplifies a wall mount TV installation.

Most of today’s smart TVs have no more than four HDMI inputs. If you have more than four video sources, connect them all through the receiver. Connecting some to the TV and some to the receiver is a recipe for confusion.

If you plan to hang your TV on the wall, you’ll probably want to connect through the receiver, so you’ll only have to run one cable to the TV.

Complex systems that include multi-zone video typically use the receiver as the hub for all the connections.

Setting up an ARC connection

Setting up an ARC connection is simple, and only requires an HDMI cable. Follow the following steps to ensure a proper ARC connection.

  1. Make sure both your television and A/V receiver or sound bar have ARC-enabled HDMI ports.
  2. Connect one end of the HDMI cable to the “ARC” labeled port on your television.
  3. Connect the other end to your ARC port on your sound bar or receiver.
  4. Activate ARC output on your TV. This is most likely in the settings menu under “audio”.

ARC TV sound menu

Some devices automatically switch to ARC mode when the connection is made, but you may have to do it manually in your TV settings.

Do I need a new HDMI cable?

Chances are you do not need a new HDMI cable. As long as yours is 4K and HDR compatible with Ethernet, it shouldn’t have any trouble transferring the data.

Questions about HDMI ARC and eARC

Need help choosing the right A/V equipment? Our advisors know the gear we carry inside and out. They can recommend products you based on your needs.

Purchased components you’re having trouble with? We provide free lifetime tech support with every order.

Contact us today.

  • Tom from Cudahy

    Posted on 5/3/2022

    My tv and sound bar both feature eARC. I have a terrible problem with lip sync. The amount out of sync varies at different times watching cable. I have adjusted the audio delay,but it still is inconsistent. Source is from a cable box. Now the mystery. I switch to arc and audio seems to be in sync. Audio from streaming is in sync with eARc. Cables are all up to date. 2 different cable boxes have been tried. Tv is Samsung/sound bar is Vizio.

    Commenter image

    Emily S. from Crutchfield

    on 5/13/2022

    That sounds frustrating, Tom. It's hard to troubleshoot over comment replies. Fortunately, every Crutchfield purchase comes with lifetime tech support. If you are still having trouble, please get in touch.

  • Chris from Silver Spring

    Posted on 12/6/2021

    If I hook up my Xbox series X to a tv with eArc but my receiver only has Arc will get the full lossless 7.1.4 Dolby Atmos or will it be something less? Do both tv and receiver need to be eArc for that to work?

    Commenter image

    Emily S. from Crutchfield

    on 12/8/2021

    Hi Chris! I'm afraid every link in the chain needs to have eARC in order to deliver an uncompressed signal.
  • Jan Selvig from Webster, MN

    Posted on 11/15/2021

    When setting up a new TV and receiver, both with eARC, how should they now be cabled? My old system has a Yamaha receiver using 4 HDMI input devices (Dish Network, Blue Ray, Roku, PC) with a single HDMI cable going from the receiver to the TV. Now eARC comes along. It appears to me that eARC (and its predecessor ARC) are features added to allow content streamed directly to the TV (with no Roku involvement) to be sent from the TV to the eARC-capable receiver to play higher quality audio. Since the receiver only has one HDMI output, and it's eARC capable, what keeps the receiver from getting confused between sound input from the TV and all those HDMI devices that are still connected to the receiver? Is eARC smart enough to know when to direct TV audio to the receiver and when not to?

    Commenter image

    Emily S. from Crutchfield

    on 11/17/2021

    That's a great question, Jan! The short answer is: yes, it's smart enough. Here's the long version. You've got all your sources connected to the HDMI inputs on your receiver. You select the input there depending on what you watch (Blu-ray, Dish, etc.). The ARC/eARC port on the receiver acts as an output to send all that video information to your TV using its ARC/eARC port. In turn, when you are using your TV's built-in apps, that same connection goes the other way. The receiver's ARC/eARC is then acting as an input for the audio information from the TV. Your receiver will not be confused as long as the correct source is selected (TV, in this case). I hope that helped! Thanks for the question, Jan.
  • Deanna Nelsen from Macon,GA

    Posted on 10/31/2021

    I am considering buying a new Samsung TV with eARC. I currently run all my audio video through aDenon AVR-1902 with ARC. Can I use the eARC connection to get audio directly from TV to receiver while watching streaming content? I would still keep cable box and DVR connected through the receiver but can use the smart TV to stream Netflix and Amazon Prime.

    Commenter image

    Emily S. from Crutchfield

    on 11/4/2021

    You sure can, Deanna! The only notable thing is that the bandwidth capabilities would be limited to ARC (so it can't carry lossless audio formats like an eARC-to-eARC connection could).
  • Chris from Welch, MN

    Posted on 10/7/2021

    If my soundbar is "eARC" capable, but display is only "ARC", would the system behave as if BOTH components simply had "ARC" HDMI input/output?

    Commenter image

    Emily S. from Crutchfield

    on 10/11/2021

    Hi Chris! Yes, you are exactly right. Your system will be limited by the lower bandwidth ARC connection.
  • steve kulsziski from hauppauge

    Posted on 7/19/2021

    hdmi cable is passed thru a 4 way splitter with ir connections, the furthest run is approx 35 feet this signal is sporadic and sometimes goes to greenscreen. cables are in walls so unable to change, is there some equipment that would perhaps boost signal to fix this problem.

  • Gary Bowler from Ontario

    Posted on 7/14/2021

    When using a eARC HDMI connection between a Sony TV and a Denon AVR were the AVR also has inputs from a Direct TV receiver , a Apple TV streamer and a Sony Blu-ray player do you see any communications problems using a Logitech Harmony Elite universal remote ? I was told that eARC and universal remotes are not compatible.

    Commenter image

    Emily S. from Crutchfield

    on 7/26/2021

    Hi Gary! I use a Logitech Harmony Elite with my TV and receiver over a regular ARC connection with no issues. And I haven't heard about any problems resulting from using eARC and a universal remote.
  • William from Kansas City

    Posted on 6/24/2021

    Your overview for the Klipsch Cinema 800 states that you connect one HDMI cable from the TV to the Soundbar and one back to the TV. Is that correct? It also has the eARC port. Which do you use?

    Commenter image

    Emily S. from Crutchfield

    on 6/24/2021

    Hi William! You only need a single HDMI cable to connect the TV to the sound bar if they both have eARC/ARC. Hope that helps!
  • benjamin sevilla from concord

    Posted on 4/11/2021

    i have a sony oled with earc currently connected. to my yamaha sound bar via hdmi. i want to upgrade my onkyo to a denon with atmos and earc. how can i connect both sound bar and recover? i want to use the sound bar for everyday viewing and the receiver when watching movies. I only have one external 4k blue ray player and use the TV app for everything.

  • Alex from Tucson

    Posted on 3/17/2021

    If I have a Samsung 4K TV from around 2018 and the TV is ARC and I just bought a Samsung soundbar (Q70T) that is eARC, is there anything I can do to make the TV to output as eARC? I got lots of movies with Atmos I want to take full advantage of the soundbar

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