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What Is An Audio Return Channel?

Marc Green
January 25, 2022
What Is An Audio Return Channel?

You know how quickly home theatre difficulties can become complicated if you put more than one or two devices into a TV. While HDMI cables make connections easier, they can pose nearly as many issues as they solve.

Because audio and video are carried over the same wire, audio is a particularly difficult challenge with HDMI. HDMI Audio Return Channel (aka HDMI ARC) is a feature that simplifies your home theatre setup. Let's look at how it works and what you can get from it.

What Is HDMI ARC and How Does It Work?

HDMI is supposed to make connecting audio and video devices easier. For even the most basic connections, we used to need anywhere from two to five connection ports and many wires. In many cases, HDMI reduces this to a single cable.

Let's pretend you're utilizing a soundbar. This is where things become a little more complicated, especially if you want to control the level of the soundbar using your Roku remote. Two alternative HDMI technologies, ARC and Consumer Electronics Control (CEC) were created to address this issue.

CEC allows your remote to send signals to other devices over your HDMI connections. This means you could use a single remote control to control all of the devices connected to your TOnon. ARC ensures that all of your audio ends up in the same spot regardless of source. This may seem straightforward, but it isn't.

HDMI Audio Return Channel

If you wanted all of your audio to play through a soundbar or A/V receiver before ARC, you had to route all of your devices through the soundbar or receiver, then to the TV. This means that your TV and your receiver must support 4K, HDR, and any other new technology.

The audio return channel handles all audio, both to and from a given device, using a single port. This means that you may connect a soundbar to one of your TV's HDMI inputs, and audio from other devices will automatically play through that soundbar without any additional preparation.

That's how it's meant to operate, at least. HDMI ARC, like most other home entertainment solutions, has flaws. For example, because of the delay in the connection, you may experience situations where the audio and video do not precisely sync.

Visit our blog page to learn more about the audio return channel.

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