What is HDMI ARC? Everything you need to know about it!
What is HDMI ARC?
ARC stands for Audio Return Channel, which is a protocol which is found on HDMI-equipped devices launched in the last few years. As the name suggests, it is a protocol to help two-way transmission of audio data via a single HDMI cable. The technology is especially useful and has the potential to significantly simplify home entertainment systems. However, few know it even exists, much less what it can do. Before we go ahead, it would be great to get a quick primer on the HDMI technology itself.
Understanding the basics of HDMIHDMI stands for High Definition Multimedia Interface that has been around for nearly a decade now. The system was created as a faster, more efficient way to deliver high-quality digital video and audio to and from consumer electronic devices. The current iteration is HDMI 2.0b allows for the transmission of 4K Ultra HD video with HDR at up to 60 frames per second, as well as the ability to transmit up to 32 channels of audio.
As a constantly evolving interfacing format, the slated to release HDMI 2.1 will push the format even further when it is finalised. The upcoming HDMI 2.1 will allow transmission of 8K resolution at up to 60 frames per second and 4K content at up to 120 frames per second, equating to faster and more efficient transmission with support bandwidth speeds of up to 48Gbps.
Like previous iterations, the current HDMI 2.0b format is compatible with all older hardware, but the nature of high-resolution content means you may need to purchase high-speed HDMI cables for best results. Though many people use HDMI strictly as a means for connecting cable boxes, Blu-ray players, and game consoles to their TV, it can do much more.
Apart from transferring both video and audio in a single feed, HDMI was also designed to carry what the industry refers to as “handshake” information from one device to another. These shared transmissions were originally intended to communicate basic data for preventing content theft, as well as messages like the status and type of component connected.
But the system was also designed to share more complex messages as a part of what’s called Consumer Electronics Control (CEC). HDMI CEC lets a single remote control the features of up to 15 connected devices.
Here’s how HDMI ARC can help
ARC can simplify your home theatre system in two crucial ways. The most useful feature HDMI ARC brings to the table is the ability to use one remote control for all of your connected devices’ most basic functions.
The most common use case is for users who a soundbar, home theatre in a box (HTIB), or other secondary audio devices to their TV. As long as both devices are equipped with ARC, simply connecting the HDMI cable to ARC-enabled HDMI port of both devices’ often allow for control of power, volume, and many other features from the TV’s remote. In some applications, it can also simply transfer your TV audio to the unit automatically without having to deactivate the TV’s onboard speakers.
This feature is extremely handy for those who connect gaming consoles, Blu-ray players, set-top boxes, and other devices directly to the TV rather than an audio receiver. It allows for significantly better audio performance for all of your content than what you’ll get from a TV alone, however, its takes out the guesswork of having to think about the audio device.
Alternatively, ARC is also handy for other outboard components like streaming devices. Plugging a Google Chromecast into your TV’s ARC port, for instance, may allow you to automatically switch sources or even turn on your TV when you click the cast icon on your phone or tablet. You may find similar results with other components as well, including Blu-ray players.
An important function ARC performs is sending signals both “upstream” and “downstream” over a single connection, meaning signals can travel in and out of a device over a single ARC HDMI port and cable. “Downstream” refers to a signal that is being passed from the source, say a Blu-ray player, “down” to another device. “Upstream” would then mean sending a signal the opposite way over the same cable.
Another important point to consider is that the above method of connection is preferable for those who want to utilise the full sound capabilities of DTS and Dolby surround sound from Blu-ray, DVD, and gaming content. In many cases, connecting a component to the TV directly will reduce the signal to two-channel audio, and it may also reduce the sound resolution. Routing the audio signal through the receiver instead will preserve the original, high-definition audio signal, ensuring you get the best possible experience.
How to use the HDMI ARC functionality?All you need for HDMI ARC to work its magic is to make sure any connected components are compatible and then simply connect them with a new HDMI cable. In some instances, you may need to go into your components’ settings to activate ARC. However, a vast majority of devices have it enabled by default, making it a plug and play system.
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