Odds are that you own multiple entertainment devices. This could include TVs, gaming systems, and soundbars. All these devices transmit visuals as well as audio, and it’s important that you’re able to access the highest-quality sound possible.
ARC, or Audio Return Channels, having been linking electronics together to simplify your audio system since 2004. Now, there’s a new option available called eARC, which is being incorporated into the latest soundbars, 4K TVs, and more. You can even rely on an eARC firmware update to improve some devices. What is eARC and how can you make the best use of this protocol? Keep reading to learn more.
What is eARC?
Before eARC, there was just ARC – an Audio Return Channel. This allowed for sound data to be communicated between your devices with fewer AV cords. It’s a protocol that has been standard in all HDMI-compatible devices and cords since 2009.
EARC stands for Enhanced Audio Return Channel. E-ARC is capable of handling greater demands for bandwidth and speed than its predecessor. In fact, it can deliver 32 different channels of audio. This includes 8-channel, 24-bit uncompressed data streams, which are delivered at speeds of up to 38Mbps.
This is a huge improvement on the abilities of ARC. By using eARC, you can access the best possible audio from a variety of devices and streaming services. Next, let’s explore situations in which you may need eARC.
Do I need eARC?
You don’t technically need eARC to enjoy watching movies or hook up a soundbar. However, it will greatly improve your experience when connecting to devices that offer high-quality codecs. ARC is able to handle a lower demand for audio quality than the newest devices are able to deliver.
If you want to experience the full range of sounds available on Blu-Rays and 4K Blu-Rays, for example, you won’t be able to do so without eARC. It’s simply too great of a demand for ARC, which by default will filter out advanced audio.
Let’s say that you have an AVR (audio-visual receiver) that’s equipped with eARC, but your TV is not. You won’t be able to transmit the necessary data from your TV to the AVR without incorporating eARC. As we discuss below, this problem can be solved by using an eARC adapter, like an HDMI cord.
What is HDMI eARC?
HDMI cords have included the ARC protocol in their spec sheet since 2009. At the time, it was capable of handling the best audio data available on TVs, DVDs, and gaming systems. However, those same cords are now limited and can’t provide you with the best listening experience.
The newest interface, HDMI version 2.1, has the eARC protocol as the new standard. It is capable of handling much greater demands for bandwidth and carrying enhanced audio. It can communicate 32 different channels of audio; 8-channel, 24-bit uncompressed data streams that are delivered at 38Mbps and 192 kHz.
This opens the doors for a wider range of listening experiences. However, there are still some limitations of what it can, based on the devices that you have.
If you choose to connect an eARC soundbar and an LG eARC TV via the newest HDMI cables, you won’t have any issues. However, connecting your eARC capable TV to an HDMI ARC soundbar will limit the quality of the audio.
Is HDMI eARC better than optical?
A lot of consumers are now wondering whether they should opt for eARC vs optical connections when they are transmitting audio between devices. ARC and eARC cables can transfer both audio and visual data, while optical cable can only transmit audio. In the past, an ARC cable would be slightly less functional than an optical connection.
This was because an ARC cable is made of copper wiring. Although data loss was minor, electromagnetic interference could lessen the quality of the audio being communicated. On the other hand, optical fibers are much more stable and reliable than copper to preserve data quality.
However, the bandwidth of optical cables is far more limited. Optical is limited to supporting 96 kHz audio. At this point, any HDMI 2.1 cable can handle 192 kHz and 32 channels for data. Again, these cables come standard with eARC.
Do I need eARC for Dolby Atmos?
The answer to this question depends on where the audio is coming from. Dolby Atmos can be a great option for an eARC soundbar in 2020. It’s capable of receiving high-quality audio from many different sources.
Let’s say that you primarily watch streaming services. These services typically embed their Dolby Atmos audio into the stream itself. When you bypass the TV speakers and connect straight to the sandbars, they can absolutely transmit the quality sound you’re looking for.
However, you will need eARC if you’re interested in transmitting large bandwidth audio that comes from external sources. For example, if you’re watching a Blu-Ray disc, ARC removes core data that exceeds its capabilities. It’s worth noting that the number of eARC devices is limited, which is why an eARC HDMI cord is your best bet for quality sound.
Do all HDMI cables support eARC?
Let’s say you purchase a device from the eARC TV list and want to connect it with your Dolby Atmos soundbar. All you have handy are a couple of HDMI cables that you’ve owned for several years. Will they work?
Unfortunately, they may not. Not all HDMI cords will be capable, especially if they don’t have the bandwidth needed. Some earlier versions of HDMI can support eARC if they integrate an ethernet connection. This gives the audio data room to transmit.
If you are concerned about transmitting the full range of audio, you can simply purchase a new cord. There are plenty of HDMI 2.1 cables out there that offer high-speed connections and carry 48 Gbps. That is all you need to fully enjoy the best audio quality.