ARC (Audio Return Channel) and eARC (enhanced Audio Return Channel) are both features found in HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) connections, specifically starting from HDMI version 1.4 for ARC and HDMI version 2.1 for eARC. They are designed to simplify the process of sending audio from a TV to an external audio system, such as a soundbar or AV receiver. Here are the primary differences between ARC and eARC:
Bandwidth and Audio Quality:
- ARC: Supports audio formats like stereo and Dolby Digital. It does not support high-bitrate audio formats like Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio.
- eARC: Offers a much higher bandwidth, allowing it to support uncompressed and high-bitrate audio formats such as Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio, and even Dolby Atmos.
Lip Sync Correction:
- eARC has a technology called “Lip Sync Correction” built into it. This ensures that the audio and video are perfectly synchronized, eliminating any delay between what you see on the screen and what you hear.
Simplicity and CEC:
- Both ARC and eARC use HDMI’s CEC (Consumer Electronics Control) feature, allowing multiple devices to be controlled with a single remote. However, eARC is designed to work more seamlessly and consistently than ARC.
Data Transfer Rate:
- ARC: Has a data transfer rate of up to 1 Mbps.
- eARC: Can transfer data at a rate of up to 37 Mbps, which is why it can support higher quality audio formats.
- ARC: Available on HDMI versions 1.4 and later.
- eARC: Introduced with HDMI version 2.1, but it’s also backward compatible with some HDMI 2.0 devices, provided they receive a firmware update.
- Both ARC and eARC are designed to reduce the number of cables needed for audio systems. Instead of using separate cables for sending audio from the TV to an audio system, ARC and eARC allow for audio to be sent back through the same HDMI cable that is sending video to the TV.
Do I need eARC for Dolby Atmos?
Yes and no. While eARC (enhanced Audio Return Channel) provides a more straightforward and higher-quality method for transmitting Dolby Atmos audio from your TV to an external sound system, it’s not the only way to experience Dolby Atmos. Here’s a breakdown:
eARC and Dolby Atmos:
- eARC supports the transmission of uncompressed audio signals, including high-quality formats like Dolby TrueHD, which is one of the carriers for Dolby Atmos in home theaters. So, if you’re streaming content on your eARC-enabled TV that has a Dolby Atmos soundtrack (via apps like Netflix or Blu-ray players), and you want to send that audio to an external sound system, eARC is ideal.
ARC and Dolby Atmos:
- The standard ARC can also transmit Dolby Atmos audio, but it does so using a compressed format called Dolby Digital Plus (DD+). Some streaming services, like Netflix, use DD+ for Dolby Atmos. While this is still an Atmos experience, it’s not as high quality as the Dolby TrueHD version.
- If your source device (like a Blu-ray player or game console) is directly connected to a Dolby Atmos-compatible sound system or AV receiver, you don’t need eARC for Atmos. The Atmos audio will go directly to the sound system, and only the video will be passed to the TV.
TV’s Internal Speakers:
- Some newer TVs come with built-in Dolby Atmos capabilities for their internal speakers. While this won’t match the quality and immersion of a dedicated sound system, it does provide an Atmos experience without the need for eARC.
While eARC provides the best and most consistent quality for Dolby Atmos via a TV’s HDMI connection, it’s not strictly necessary. Depending on your setup and source of content, there are other ways to experience Dolby Atmos. However, if you’re aiming for the highest quality Atmos experience from content played on your TV, eARC is the way to go.
Does Netflix use ARC or eARC
For optimal audio functionality, HDMI eARC is essential. Nonetheless, ARC is sufficient to deliver Dolby Atmos audio from streaming platforms like Netflix, Disney Plus, and Amazon Prime Video. This is because these services incorporate Dolby Atmos within the compressible Dolby Digital Plus format, which is compatible with ARC.
Is eARC and HDMI 2.1 the same?
No, eARC and HDMI 2.1 are not the same. eARC is a feature within the HDMI 2.1 specification that allows for the transmission of high-quality, uncompressed audio. While eARC is introduced with HDMI 2.1, the overall HDMI 2.1 standard includes various other improvements and features beyond audio transmission.
Does eARC support 120hz?
eARC is focused on audio transmission and doesn’t directly relate to video refresh rates like 120Hz. However, HDMI 2.1, which introduced eARC, does support higher video refresh rates up to 120Hz at 4K resolution. So, while eARC itself doesn’t “support” 120Hz, the HDMI 2.1 standard it’s a part of does.
Is eARC better than optical?
Yes, eARC is generally considered superior to optical (TOSLINK) for audio transmission. eARC supports uncompressed and high-bitrate audio formats, including Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio, and Dolby Atmos, offering a richer audio experience. In contrast, optical is limited to uncompressed stereo or compressed surround formats like Dolby Digital and DTS. As a result, for the highest audio quality and format compatibility, eARC is the preferred choice over optical.
Does eARC affect sound and video quality?
eARC specifically impacts audio quality by supporting uncompressed and high-bitrate audio formats, ensuring richer and more detailed sound. It allows for formats like Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio, and Dolby Atmos. While eARC itself doesn’t directly influence video quality, it is a feature within the HDMI 2.1 specification, which does support higher video resolutions and refresh rates. However, the primary purpose of eARC is to enhance audio transmission between devices.
Can you hear the difference between ARC and eARC?
Ultimately, the comparison between HDMI eARC and ARC hinges on your usage and auditory discernment. Without utilizing surround sound or the unique audio capabilities exclusive to eARC, the audio output you experience will be nearly indistinguishable.
While both ARC and eARC serve the purpose of sending audio from the TV to an external audio system, eARC provides superior audio quality, better synchronization of audio and video, and more consistent performance. If you have a home theater system or soundbar that supports high-definition audio formats, eARC would be the preferred choice.