What is Hdmi Audio Return Channel (ARC)?

Posted by Scott Davies on

HDMI is a convenient and effective way of connecting your entire home theatre system. HDMI offers quicker data delivery speeds at up to 1080p quality, giving you the opportunity to enjoy high-quality videos and sound. HDMI allows you to use only a few standardised cables to connect your television, DVD player and other devices to your home theatre receiver and surround audio devices.

You may have heard of an HDMI audio return channel, but you're probably not sure about what it does or how it works. Fortunately, a simple explanation shines some well needed light on a feature that will definitely benefit home theatre fans.

What is an Audio Return Channel?

An audio return channel is simply an additional channel added on to HDMI 1.4 that allows uncompressed audio from a TV with a built-in tuner to be sent to your home theatre receiver or surround audio controller. This allows you to listen to the audio sent from your TV through your home theatre system without the need for any additional cables. Audio return channel functionality allows HDMI to provide a one-cable solution for most home theatre setups.

Why is an Audio Return Channel Necessary?

Without an audio return channel, your TV must rely on a separate audio connection if you want uncompressed audio delivered to your home theatre devices. Ordinarily, an analog audio or digital optical cable is used to send audio data upstream to a receiver or a surround audio controller. This arrangement is usually the norm if you have a TV with a built-in DVD player or tuner, and you want to send audio content from the TV to the audio system.

With an HDMI audio return channel, uncompressed audio data can travel upstream along the same HDMI cable delivering downstream data, thereby eliminating an extra cable. This has the effect of simplifying home entertainment connections by reducing the number of cables in use. It also has the distinct advantage of providing TV viewers with high fidelity sound directly from the source (the built-in tuner), further enhancing the home theatre experience.

How to Ensure ARC Functionality

In order to benefit from HDMI audio return channel functionality, you must have a home theatre system device that is capable of supporting the feature. Most devices that support audio return channel functionality will usually have stickers or wording identifying them as having that support. There are no special cables required since all HDMI cables will have audio return channel functionality enabled when they are connected to compatible devices. All you have to do is simply connect your devices through audio return channel-enabled HDMI ports located on the devices in question. These ports are usually marked with the letters "ARC" for quick identification.

Some manufacturers may choose not to clearly identify these ports, so you must consult your manufacturer to find out which ports support this feature. HDMI audio return channel is only available on Version 1.4 of the HDMI connectivity standard.


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