HDMI vs HDMI ARC vs HDMI eARC

Norvan Martin
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HDMI is a standard cable for sending high-definition audio and video signals between devices, while HDMI ARC has a feature that enables it to send back audio only from a television to an audio device.

On the other hand, HDMI eARC is an updated version of HDMI ARC that offers better audio quality and more audio format support.

Although HDMI ARC might make setting up a home entertainment system easier while HDMI eARC offers higher-quality audio and supports more modern audio formats.

Checking whether HDMI versions are supported by the components is crucial when thinking about a home entertainment system to ensure compatibility and top performance.

In this article, we will discuss the uses and benefits of each cable and also their similarities and differences.

HDMI vs HDMI ARC vs HDMI eARC Comparison Table

CriteriaHDMIHDMI ARCHDMI eARC
Audio and Video TransmissionSupports bothAudio return channelEnhanced audio return channel
Audio FormatsStandard formatsSimilar to HDMISupports advanced audio formats
BandwidthStandard HDMI bandwidthUses HDMI bandwidthHigher bandwidth than ARC
Device CompatibilityCompatible with various devicesRequires ARC support on TV and audio deviceRequires eARC support on both devices
System SetupTraditional setupSingle cable for audio returnSimilar to ARC with advanced audio support
Audio ControlBasic audio controlEnhanced control with TVAdvanced audio control features
Channel SupportSupports multichannel audioTypically up to 5.1 channelsSupports high-channel count audio
LatencyLow latencyMay introduce some latencyAims to minimize latency
Backward CompatibilityBackward compatibleRequires ARC supportRequires eARC support

HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface)

HDMI cable has become the standard for sending high-definition audio and video information between gadgets like televisions, set-top boxes, and gaming consoles.

hdmi cables sub

The fact that this digital interface supports resolutions up to 4K Ultra HD, high dynamic range (HDR), and other cutting-edge video technologies has made it the de facto industry standard for home entertainment systems.

HDMI cables range from  1.0 to the most recent 2.1 cables, which support advanced features like 8K resolution, variable frame rates, and more. Although HDMI 2.1 is the most recent version, many devices continue to use HDMI 2.0 or older versions.

HDMI ARC (Audio Return Channel)

Due to the fact that audio systems use HDMI-connected audio equipment, such as a soundbar or an AV receiver, an HDMI ARC (Audio return channel)  may be needed to receive audio from a television. So there will be no need to further separate audio cables.

HDMI ARC

This helps to streamline the installation of a home entertainment system. Up to eight channels of uncompressed audio, including 5.1 surround sound, can be supported via HDMI ARC, which can transport audio at a maximum bandwidth of 1 Mbps.

HDMI eARC (Enhanced Audio Return Channel)

Despite the advanced nature of HDMI ARC, it has some restrictions. For instance, it only supports a small selection of audio formats and may be impacted by device compatibility.

Additionally, it may not be able to support high-quality audio formats like Dolby Atmos or DTS:X due to its relatively low bandwidth.

HDMI eARC

An improved version of HDMI ARC, known as HDMI eARC (Enhanced Audio Return Channel), was first introduced in HDMI 2.1. Dolby Atmos and DTS:X are only two of the various audio formats that eARC supports in addition to offering better audio quality.

With a maximum bandwidth of 37 Mbps, it has a higher bandwidth than HDMI ARC and can transmit up to 32 channels of uncompressed audio.

Since eARC and HDMI ARC are backward-compatible, newer devices with HDMI eARC ports can still connect to older ones with HDMI ARC ports. However, both the TV and the audio device must support eARC in order for eARC to function.

Similarities between HDMI, HDMI ARC, and HDMI eARC

HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface), HDMI ARC (Audio Return Channel), and HDMI eARC (Enhanced Audio Return Channel) are all versions of the same digital interface standard used for transmitting high-quality audio and video signals between devices.

There are also other  similarities between them which include; 

  • All three HDMI versions share the same physical connector, a 19-pin plug with a rectangular shape. This implies that devices with appropriate HDMI ports can utilize HDMI, HDMI ARC, and HDMI eARC connections interchangeably.
  • All three HDMI versions enable video technologies including high dynamic range (HDR), which expands the color and contrast of the video material, as well as high-definition video resolutions up to 4K Ultra HD. Because of this, they may be used in home entertainment systems, game consoles, and other gadgets that demand high-quality visual output.
  • Thirdly, digital audio transmission via HDMI, HDMI ARC, and HDMI eARC is supported, enabling high-quality sound without the need for analog-to-digital conversion. By doing this, the loss in sound quality that might result from analog connections is eliminated. Furthermore, all three HDMI versions support multi-channel audio formats like 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound, enabling rich audio experiences.
  • All three HDMI versions are extensively adopted and supported by a variety of gadgets, giving them a dependable and practical way to connect diverse gadgets to one another. This implies that users won’t need additional cables or connectors to connect devices like TVs, soundbars, game consoles, and more with only one cable.

Differences between HDMI, HDMI ARC, and HDMI eARC

While there are similarities that make all versions of HDMI well-known and popular choices for entertainment systems they still have a few differences between them (HDMI, HDMI ARC, and HDMI eARC). Some of these differences are outlined below.

  • The audio capabilities are one of the basic problems between HDMI, HDMI ARC, and HDMI eARC. HDMI was the first go-to and invention for carrying audio and video data from a source device, like a game console or set-top box, to a display device, such a TV. Even though HDMI can transmit audio, it can only transmit stereo or multi-channel audio codecs with up to eight channels. As a result, sophisticated audio formats like Dolby Atmos or DTS:X, which demand greater bandwidths and more channels, cannot be sent using HDMI.
  • In order to address some of HDMI’s audio issues, ARC was developed. With HDMI ARC, audio from a TV can be transmitted over the same HDMI cable that is used to transmit video to an audio device, such as a soundbar or AV receiver. As a result, there is no longer a need for a separate audio wire, enabling simpler and more efficient audio configurations. Although HDMI ARC has a maximum bandwidth of 1 Mbps, it is still restricted to eight channels of uncompressed audio, including 5.1 surround sound. This indicates that it is still unable to broadcast cutting-edge audio formats like DTS:X or Dolby Atmos.
  • The enhanced version of HDMI ARC  i.e, HDMI eARC offers better audio quality and more audio format support. With HDMI eARC, up to 32 channels of uncompressed audio can be sent from a TV to an audio device over an HDMI cable with a maximum bandwidth of 37 Mbps. As a result, HDMI eARC is the best option for home theater systems that demand high-quality audio since it can transmit sophisticated audio codecs like Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. Aside from lip sync correction and audio synchronization, HDMI eARC supports other cutting-edge audio features that can enhance the audio-visual experience.

Conclusion

HDMI is a standard cable for sending high-definition audio and video signals between devices, while HDMI ARC has a feature that enables it to send back audio only from a television to an audio device. HDMI eARC is an updated version of HDMI ARC that offers better audio quality and more audio format support.

Checking whether HDMI versions are supported by the components is crucial when thinking about a home entertainment system. 

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Norvan Martin is the founder of BoomSpeaker.com. He is a professional Electronics Engineer and is passionate about home theater systems and AV electronics. BoomSpeaker was created as an online hub to share his knowledge and experiences as it relates to home theaters and home audio electronics. My email: [email protected]  Connect on Pinterest and Linkedin