An entertainment room with speakers and a wall-mounted TV.

If you have tried plugging an HDMI cable in your new TV, soundbar, or AV receiver (AVR) recently, 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 a part of the HDMI 2.1 specification.

eARC builds upon ARC. ARC greatly simplified the TV and home theater setup 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 through HDMI and not send audio back. For sending audio, you would need a TOSLink or coax cable.

Like ARC, eARC also lets your TV send audio generated by built-in streaming apps, cable, satellite, and other source devices (for example, a gaming console or a Blu-Ray player) to your soundbar or AVR using a single HDMI cable. However, eARC supports far greater bandwidth and speed than ARC, thus allowing the transfer of high-quality, uncompressed audio, which isn’t possible with ARC.

How Is eARC Different From ARC?

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

In addition, eARC includes its own data channel that is used to allow the TV to discover 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 don’t need eARC or even ARC. If you use your TV’s built-in speakers and don’t have any external soundbar or speaker setup, you do not need eARC. However, if you aren’t satisfied with your TV’s speakers and are planning to get a soundbar, getting an eARC-compatible device is a good idea. But make sure your TV also supports eARC before getting an eARC-compatible soundbar or AVR.

What Would You Want eARC?

eARC port on an LG TV

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

You can check the HDMI connectors on the back of your device, and an eARC-compatible device will typically have eARC mentioned next to a connector. The device’s specifications and manual will also carry details about eARC support.

eARC is still limited to premium and high-end devices and is yet to be 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 increase over the coming years.

If you have an eARC device and one ARC device, you won’t enjoy the benefits of eARC. However, if your device supports both eARC and ARC, you can use ARC functionality. eARC by itself is not backward-compatible with ARC, but HDMI Forum is asking manufacturers to offer ARC as a fallback option.

Apart from 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 are planning to use other HDMI 2.1 functions on the same HDMI cable, the Ultra High-Speed HDMI cable will make the most sense. Other HDMI cables will struggle or just don’t support additional HDMI 2.1 features due to their limited bandwidth.

Supports eARC

Cable Matters 48Gbps HDMI Cable

You can't just use any old HDMI cable if you want eARC. This high-speed HDMI cable is fully compatible with it.

In addition, 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 option in Sound or Sound Out settings.

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Profile Photo for Gaurav Shukla Gaurav Shukla
Gaurav Shukla is a technology journalist with over a decade’s experience reporting and writing about consumer technology. His work has appeared in Android Police, XDA Developers, and NDTV Gadgets 360.
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