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How HDMI ARC Works with Soundbars – Everything You Have to Know

Soundbars are now an integral part of home theater systems. Therefore, learning how HDMI ARC works with soundbars can help you to create the perfect audio balance for your surround sound build. But what is HDMI ARC, and does it improve the sound? And how does it work with your soundbar?

We have so many questions with so little time to answer them all. So let’s start with the basics and then delve a bit deeper into HDMI ARC functionality. And if you are in the process of perfecting your home theater system, this is a quick and inexpensive feature.

What is HDMI Arc?

HDMI ARC (Audio Return Channel) is a feature that you will usually find on modern TVs, as well as on home theater systems and soundbars. Its main purpose is to reduce the number of cables between your television and your soundbar or surround sound system. Therefore, you can set up your soundbar and TV with just a single cable.

Many people automatically assume that HDMI ARC is simply standard HDMI, but that’s not true. HDMI ARC is a feature that not only reduces cable clutter but also improves your audio quality when compared to standard HDMI. So how does it work? Let’s find out…

How Does HDMI ARC Work?

How Does HDMI ARC Work

A simple way to explain how HDMI ARC works would be as a ‘Return Channel’ for two-way communication with your home theater. This means that you have much fewer cables and a much more advanced way of transmitting audio and visual data. 

Once you have connected your soundbar with your TV via HDMI ARC, you won’t need to connect HDMI to the TV and then use a separate audio cable from your TV to your audio receiver or soundbar. The one HDMI ARC connection does it all.

Having fewer cables to trip over is always welcome, but there are many other positives. For example, you will only need to use one remote to control everything. Multiple remotes for your TV, receiver, and so forth is an over-complication you can do without.

How Does HDMI ARC Work with Soundbars?

Learning how HDMI ARC works with soundbars is a great way to improve and simplify your entire home theater build. Using this feature to connect your TV with your soundbar is quite a simple process. Just make sure all your equipment supports this feature, or you will be disappointed and bogged down with cables. 

First, check the ports on the back of your TV and look for labels that say “ARC” or “TV-ARC.” Then you need to repeat the process with your soundbar to find the “ARC” port.

Ensuring you connect the ARC channels to each is the most important thing to remember. Plus, you can use an HDMI cable that was made after 2010 to do this. There is a high probability that you have HDMI cables sitting around somewhere in your house or wire box. We all have a box filled with tangled old wires, right? Or is that just me? 

Connecting and testing your equipment…

Before you start to connect and test your equipment, you will probably need to change one setting on your television. Navigate to your TV settings, choose the audio option settings, and then ensure that the “CEC” function is enabled. If not, you can simply enable it from there.

Firstly, make sure all the connections between your TV and the home theater equipment, apart from your soundbar, are linked together. Even if you have a console such as an Xbox or PS5, receivers, or an amplifier, connect them to your TV with the HDMI ports now if they aren’t already. 

Your television should then automatically route all your audio for these devices together. All we need to do then is to connect your TV to your soundbar via the HDMI ARC ports.

Are Most Soundbars HDMI ARC Compatible? 

Are Most Soundbars HDMI ARC Compatible

I always get asked this question, and unfortunately, the majority of new soundbar models don’t have the feature yet. The soundbar industry is currently behind and needs to play catchup. So, if you haven’t purchased a soundbar yet, make sure you read the specifications to make sure that it’s compatible with HDMI ARC. 

I also get asked if soundbars with ARC functionality are more expensive than products that don’t have those capabilities. All upgraded products cost more than standard versions. So yes, HDMI ARC compatible soundbars are slightly more expensive, but not by much. 

If you search for the major electronics brands such as Pioneer, Panasonic, Bose, and Vizio, you will notice that very few of their products have HDMI ARC ports. However, don’t stress, because I have listed some of the best soundbars with HDMI ARC compatibility below.

Monoprice SB-200W Soundbar with HDMI ARC

When you need a reliable soundbar with ARC functionality, this product is a very popular choice.

Sonos Beam Smart TV Soundbar

This ultra-modern soundbar has all the latest HDMI ARC port features that you need to connect with your TV.

Bomaker TV Soundbar

This product comes equipped with lots of features such as a number of sound modes and HDMI ARC functionality.

Wohome Home Theater Soundbar

When you need an affordable soundbar with HDMI ARC functions, you won’t find a better deal than this product. 

Majority Teton 2.1 Channel Soundbar

This is another very affordable soundbar with HDMI ARC and loads of other cool features for your surround sound system.

Are There Disadvantages to Using HDMI ARC with Soundbars?

Like everything in the world, HDMI ARC is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, and there are a few disadvantages of using a soundbar with ARC. For example, if you are building a home theater system larger than 5.1, you are going to have some issues. HDMI ARC has limited ports and is only able to handle up to 5.1.

And I haven’t mentioned the worse part yet. HDMI ARC does not support Dolby Atmos or DTS: X. 

However, there is something called eARC that does expand these types of options to cover 7.1 surround sound functionality. The ‘e’ in eARC stands for ‘enhanced,’ which, as it sounds, is an advanced and enhanced version of HDMI ARC that does support Dolby Atmos and DTS:X systems. 

However, if the soundbar industry is already behind in terms of HDMI ARC, can you imagine how far behind they are with HDMI eARC? It doesn’t even bear thinking about!

Want to learn more about Soundbars and How to connect them?

Then you’ll enjoy our helpful guides on How to Connect a Soundbar to a ComputerHow to Control a Soundbar with a TV RemoteHow to Program an Xfinity Remote to a SoundbarConnect a Soundbar to TV Without HDMI or OpticalHow to Connect a Soundbar to a TV Using Bluetooth, or Can you Connect a Soundbar to a Receiver for more useful information.

And for more quality soundbar options, check out our comprehensive VIZIO SB3821-C6 Review, our Sony HT-S350 Soundbar Review, our Yamaha YAS-207BL Review, our Samsung HW-R650 Review, our Yamaha Audio YAS-109 Review, or our Klipsch R-10B Review for awesome soundbars you can buy in 2021.

But don’t forget to check for Arc Compatability because it is not a standard feature yet.

How HDMI ARC Works with Soundbars – Final Thoughts

HDMI ARC has a number of advantages, such as reducing the number of cables you need when connecting your soundbar to a TV. But the problem is that a number of the leading brands have yet to incorporate this feature into their latest models.

If your soundbar and TV do have HDMI ARC ports, you can connect them with just one cable. However, it’s important to remember that they only work with surround sound up to 5.1. But you can circumnavigate that issue by finding equipment that supports HDMI eARC. 

Therefore, because the technology is still lagging behind, always check the features of your potential soundbar for HDMI ARC compatibility before you buy and ensure it has HDMI Arc.

Happy listening.

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About Jennifer Bell

Jennifer is a freelance writer from Montana. She holds a BA in Creative Writing and English, as well as an Associate of Applied Science in Computer Games and Simulation Design.

Her passions include guitar, bass, ukulele, and piano, as well as a range of classical instruments she has been playing since at school. She also enjoys reading fantasy and sci-fi novels, yoga, eating well, and spending time with her two cats, Rocky and Jasper.

Jennifer enjoys writing articles on all types of musical instruments and is always extending her understanding and appreciation of music. She also writes science fiction and fantasy short stories for various websites and hopes to get her first book published in the very near future.

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