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What Is ARC HDMI Port?

by Lisa Hayden
What Is ARC HDMI Port?

While setting up a new TV or plugging in a Blu-ray player, you must have seen the ARC label on an HDMI input. Is it a feature of concern? Let’s find out. 

The ARC label on your HDMI input may not reveal more information. However, it is among the latest technologies to feature in advanced home-theater systems. It allows one to carry out several activities using one cable. Besides, it simplifies your system setup, reduces cable clutter, and saves money.

Below, we’ve discussed the ARC HDMI port in detail, including its features and how it relates to the standard HDMI cable.

Related: HDMI vs. DisplayPort vs. DVI vs. VGA: Quick Comparison

HDMI ARC Definition

HDMI ARC stands for High Definition Multimedia Interface Audio Return Channel. It provides two-way communication between devices using one HDMI cable. In other words, it lets you use the HDMI cable as input and output. This way, you don’t need any additional composite optical or audio cable to connect to your TV. 

HDMI ARC was introduced to the market in 2009. The introduction of HDMI 1.4 has made ARC available on televisions. Besides, it is also available in soundbars. It is supported in all devices compatible with HDMI 1.4. 

Related: Best Soundbar for Projector: Top 7 Options to Consider in 2022

How ARC Works

Regular HDMI cables can transmit video signals only. However, the HDMI ARC allows you to connect and transmit video signals and audio from a TV to a soundbar or receiver. You only need one cable to transmit audio and video signals in your home theater system.

In summary, connecting your TV to an audio system using the HDMI ARC lets you do the following functions:

  • Transmit audio signals from the Television to the audio device.
  • Use a single remote to control several features and compatible devices.
  • Seamlessly watch movies on your TV set while listening to the audio on the connected audio system. 

Note that for an HDMI ARC connection between an ARC-compatible TV and an ARC-compatible audio system, you should connect a high-speed HDMI cable from the TV HDMI (ARC) IN port to the HDMI (ARC) OUT port on the sound system.

Related: HDMI 2 vs. 2.1: What Are The Differences?

How to Set Up an HDMI ARC Connection

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Connecting an HDMI ARC cable between a TV and an audio system involves plugging one end of the cable into the HDMI input in your TV and the other end into the HDMI ARC output on the soundbar. Fortunately, most HDMI cables are ARC-compatible. 

There are two ways of connecting your home theater system using ARC. Assuming you have a soundbar, TV, a game console, a receiver, and a Blu-ray player, you can connect using the HDMI ARC in either of the following ways.

1. Using the TV as an HDMI switch

Using your TV as the HDMI switch allows you to use the TV as the central hub for your system.

Use the steps below to make the connection.

  1. Connect the Blu-ray player to your TV.
  2. Also, connect the game console to the V.
  3. Using the HDMI ARC cable, plug in one end in the HDMI OUT of the TV and connect the other end to the HDMI IN of the soundbar. 

You can switch between the game console and Blu-ray player sources using your TV remote in this setup. In addition, you can use the TV remote to control the soundbar’s volume. However, you can not play 5.1 or more surround sound, especially if you use more surround receivers than soundbars. 

Related: Learn about HDMI RF Modulators

2. Using a soundbar/receiver as an HDMI switch

This setup lets you use the soundbar or receiver as the central hub of your home theater system.

Use the steps below to make the connection.

  1. Connect the Blu-ray player to your soundbar/receiver.
  2. Similarly, connect the game console to the receiver/soundbar.
  3. Using your HDMI ARC cable, connect the soundbar to your TV.

However, most budget soundbars don’t have enough HDMI ports for this setup. In this case, you’ll have to connect your home theater system using procedure (1) above.

The receiver/soundbar being the system’s central hub, you’ll use the soundbar’s remote to switch between the game console and Blu-ray player sources. This remote also lets you adjust the volume. The TV’s remote only comes into play when turning on the TV and when accessing in-built apps on the Television.

Follow the procedure below in both instances (1) and (2).

  1. Locate and insert a high-speed HDMI cable on your TV’s HDMI ARC OUT port.
  2. Power on your Television using the TV remote.
  3. Similarly, power on the audio device.
  4. Connect the other end of the HDMI ARC cable to the HDMI ARC port of your soundbar.
  5. Open your TV’s settings and disable the TV Speakers.
  6. Establish the ARC/HDMI CEC on the televisions and enable it.
  7. Play a sound to test if the TV’s sound plays on the soundbars.

Related: Best HDMI Cables for Apple TV 4K

What Is the Difference Between HDMI and HDMI ARC?

HDMI ARC cables are essentially the same as regular HDMI cables. Nearly all HDMI cables work with HDMI ARC and HDMI ports. However, due to the high-quality audio formats, outdated HDMI versions won’t work with HDMI ARC ports.

The main difference between HDMI and HDMI ARC cables arises from their functionalities. A regular HDMI cable would transmit video signals only. On the other hand, the HDMI ARC cable, other than transmitting video signals, also transmits audio signals from the TV to a soundbar. This feature allows you to transmit video and audio signals in a two-way communication manner as input and output.

What Does HDMI ARC Port Do? FAQs

HDMI ARC lets you connect the audio system and Television using one High-Speed HDMI cable. The connection is between an ARC-compatible TV and an ARC-compatible audio system and allows you to:

  • Listen to TV’s audio from the soundbars.
  • View movies and listen to audio on your TV sent from your audio system.
  • Control multiple functions using one remote. 

Can Any HDMI Port Be Used for ARC?

Yes, any HDMI Port can be used for ARC. Nearly all versions from HDMI 1.4 can be used for HDMI ARC port connection. To connect, input one end of the cable to your TV ARC-compatible HDMI input in your TV and the other into the HDMI ARC output on your soundbar.

Can I Use HDMI ARC as Regular HDMI?

Yes, you can use HDMI ARC as regular HDMI. When plugging the HDMI ARC cable into an ARC-incompatible device, it should work as a regular HDMI cable. 

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