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What is ARC (Audio Return Channel) in Regards to HDMI

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What is Audio Return Channel

Once in a while we like to point out a good question that someone has asked. This time, a question that is sometimes asked frequently both here and other mediums that we publish on or assist with. What is “ARC”?

You may have seen on the back of your receiver or Smart TV that one of your HDMI input/outputs is labeled “ARC”. ARC stands for “Audio Return Channel”, and allows audio to flow backwards down the HDMI from your TV, back to the receiver feeding it video.

So let’s say you have one of the new Yamaha receivers we have recently reviewed. You have your devices connected to the receiver (ie, Blu-ray, gaming console, CD player, etc), and your receiver uses HDMI out to forward the video to the TV as a monitor for such devices (that way your receiver is doing all the switching). Now what about the sound from your TV? Let’s say your TV is plugged directly into the coaxial coming out of the wall and you do not have a cable/satellite box?

Instead of using two cables to send the video from all your devices from the receiver to the TV and then an audio cable to send any TV audio back to the receiver, you can use “ARC”. As long as both the TV and the receiver supports HDMI ARC, you don’t need a cable running back. The same HDMI cable connecting the receiver to the TV is also feeding audio back from the TV.

Another good example, is if you have a Smart TV and the you use it to watch Netflix or listen to Pandora. Or if you have a Roku stick or box plugged into the back of the TV. Still, only one cable between the TV and the receiver.

The entire point is to assist with the efforts of cable clean up. This works on any sound system that supports ARC (even sound bars).

The only disadvantage, is that you have to make sure your TV supports sending Dolby Digital 5.1 down the ARC connection. Some TVs will only send stereo back to the receiver. Also, ARC does not support DTS and other formats of surround. In the end, it is up to you if you want to use ARC, else you may still be better off using an optical cable to send sound back. As widely as ARC has been adopted, it still feels like an unfinished technology.

 

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About Author

James

Designer, Editor and Reviewer for Poc Network, ProAudio and Mobile Nations.

James enjoys spending most of his time as an audio engineer and technician for the live music industry when he isn’t running around the office here juggling an intense workload. He can also be found frequently in the nearby mountainous ranges, scrambling rocks and rappelling down large sections.

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