Most home entertainment devices come with numerous input ports that enable video and sound interconnectivity between devices. One of the most common connection protocols in most recent equipment is ARC, short for Audio Return Channel, which is normally marked HDMI ARC on many devices. HDMI ports with ARC functionality have the ability to simplify the connections between different entertainment devices.
Despite the advantages presented by HDMI ARC, it is often misunderstood and rarely used by consumers even when present on a device. In this article, we demystify this important connection protocol and help you get the most out of your entertainment system setup.
HDMI, short for High Definition Multimedia Interface, was first implemented a decade ago as an improvement to RGB connections that were slower and had limited functionality. An HDMI cable carries both video and audio signals on a single cable and allows for a two-way connection between devices, which previous technologies could not do. The two-way connection, however, was only used to send a signal from the receiving device telling the originating device about the nature of the connected device.
Additionally, HDMI and an HDMI cable enabled a secure exchange of information between devices and enabled multiple devices to be controlled through one remote as part of the Consumer Electronics Control (CEC) platform. However, this last functionality did not work mostly because of incompatibility between different device manufacturers. It was for this reason that ARC was implemented.
What is HDMI ARC?
ARC primarily implements CEC across all ARC-enabled HDMI ports. This means that with a single connection, you can connect your TV to a home theatre system, a sound bar or any other type of audio device with HDMI ARC functionality and control them with the TV remote. This gives you the ability to control power, volume and other functions of the connected device with a single remote control device. This powerful feature will allow you to control a myriad of devices that connect to the TV, such as game consoles and set-top boxes.
Most importantly, HDMI ARC-enabled devices can send data both upstream and downstream on the connection. This means that a TV can send signals to a Blu-ray player then down to another device and vice versa through the same connection. This is extremely efficient for people who want to use a single device such as the TV set as the centre of their home entertainment system. The TV set can be connected to a gaming console, Blu-ray player, set-top box or other input devices then connected to an audio output device such as a sound bar or other supplemental audio device via the ARC HDMI port. This way, you only need one remote to control the whole setup. This connection also allows you to route the TV signal to a secondary sound device, which improves the quality of the sound from the TV.
Finally, ARC HDMI enables you to enjoy the full capabilities of your Dolby digital surround sound. In most cases, connecting your gaming console or DVD player to the TV directly will reduce the quality of sound. One can route the sound from the input media device through an Audio/Video receiver, which will keep the original sound quality to the output sound device that will ensure premium, quality sound. This setup will ensure you reap the full benefits of HD sound and get the most out of your entertainment experience.