HDMI 2.1 ARC: what it is and how to best use it

HDMI ARCWhen we only use HDMI cables to connect any device (game console, Blu-ray player, etc) to the home theater system or a soundbar and the high definition TV we must also use an audio return cable since the digital signal passing through HDMI cannot be diverted before arriving at the TV: in summary, we will therefore have to connect the starting device to the home theater system via HDMI, connect the latter to the TV (always via HDMI) and finally use a cable from the TV to the system, otherwise the audio will be heard from the small speakers of the TV and not from the 5.1 or 7.1 that we had set up for the occasion.Fortunately, HDMI technology has evolved to the point of significantly reducing the number of cables that will pass near the TV and home theater system, taking advantage of HDMI ARC technology. Let’s see together what is HDMI ARC and how to use it on our system or our soundbar so that only two cables are used to make a perfect connection.

READ ALSO: Differences between types of computer cables, ports, sockets, and connectors

Guide an HDMI ARC

Below we will find all the information about what HDMI ARC is, (which stands for Audio Return Channel) what we need to use properly and which devices are compatible with this technology, so as to significantly reduce the use of cables in the living room (which are often always messy).

What is HDMI ARC

HDMI ARC, also called twisted HDMI cable, is an implementation of the HDMI technology it offers a digital audio return channel on the same cable used for a connection. To understand how it works we will show you an example: if we connect a home theater system to the TV via HDMI, the audio is basically unidirectional (system -> TV) and, to amplify the sound or to manage the audio of the other TV sources (for traditional television channels), we will necessarily have to use an audio cable between the TV and the system. With HDMI ARC instead, the audio will “go back” on the same HDMI cable used previously, so as to create a two-way audio stream (system -> TV -> system).


In order to take advantage of this technology, we will have to make sure that all the devices used for the connection are compatible (from the cable passing through the TV and the system), otherwise, it will not be possible to use the return channel. At the time of writing, ARC supports PCM (2ch), Dolby Digital, and DTS Digital Surround (up to 5.1ch) audio return. In recent years, the evolution of this technology, called HDMI eARC: with it, we can take advantage of the new Dolby Atmos and DTS: X standards (up to 7.1 channels) and thus obtain superior audio quality, in addition to the other advantages included with the standard HDMI 2.1 (which brings the maximum resolution to 12K and the frequency to 120FPS, plus other very futuristic additions).

How to make an HDMI ARC connection

In order to manage HDMI ARC, it is necessary to use the right HDMI cable to make all the connections required between the TV, home theater system, and source device. The dedicated doors are recognizable by the writings HDMI ARC (OUT) e HDMI ARC, to be used if we want to make the most of this technology.

ARC performance

To use the return channel, all devices must support the standard HDMI 1.4 (very popular and widely supported), while to take advantage of HDMI eARC it is necessary to use the standard HDMI 2.1 (currently still not very widespread).

ARC and eARC compatible HDMI cables

As easily understood, the difference is made by the HDMI cable we use and the support for the right version of the protocol on our TV and on the type of system, we are about to use (home theater or soundbar). To be on the safe side we have to choose quality HDMI cables and, in the case of HDMI eARC, we have to choose certified HDMI 2.1 cables.

The best HDMI cables we can use for HDMI ARC:

  • AmazonBasics – Premium Certified HDMI Braided Cable, supports Ethernet, 3D, 4K HDR, and ARC (starting at € 8.9).
  • 2m 4K HDMI Cable, Snowkids High-Speed ​​HDMI 2.0 a / b Cables with Ethernet, Supports 4K 60Hz HDR (starting at € 9).
  • KabelDirekt 1 m Cavo HDMI 4K, Compatibile con HDMI 20 A/B, 20, 14 A, 4K Ultra HD, 3D, Full HD 1080p, HDR, ARC (a partire da 5€).
  • CSL – Cavo HDMI 4k da 5m – HDR 2.0 ab – HDCP 2.2 HFR Arc Ethernet CEC (a partire da 6€).

If, on the other hand, we need to exploit the HDMI eARC (or we have planned a future upgrade to that effect), we advise you to focus on the following HDMI cables:

  • UGREEN HDMI 2.1 48Gbps 8K 60Hz Ultra High-Speed ​​eARC cable (starting from 12 €).
  • Luxury IBRA 2.1 Ultra Fast 48Gbps 8K Cable | Supports 8K @ 60HZ, 4K @ 120HZ, 4320p (starting from 18 €).
  • Primewire CSL – 3m – Cavo HDMI 8K – 120Hz DSC – 4K a 240Hz – UHD II – HDR 10+ HFR – VVR eARC (a partire da 10€).
  • Ultra HDTV 8K Cavo HDMI – 2 Metri, 48 Gbit/s, [email protected] / [email protected], Dynamic HDR-10+, eARC (a partire da 30€).

Let us remember that HDMI 2.1 cables must be connected to HDMI 2.1 ports, otherwise, they will work in a limited way (they will be able to reproduce the contents with the ARC standard but they will not be able to exploit the advanced eARC standard). All cables have various lengths (at variable price), it is up to us to choose the one that best suits our needs and able to connect all devices well.

To learn more we can read our guide How to choose the right HDMI cable.


With HDMI ARC and eARC we will minimize cable clutter without losing the original sound quality, which is very important if we are audiophiles and want to enjoy our movies with multichannel audio (especially if we have a large collection of Blue discs. -ray): thanks to this technology, in fact, the Toslink optical cable (the prerogative of high-quality sound) can permanently retire, since with a single HDMI cable it is also possible to obtain the return audio at a very high quality, by choosing the right HDMI cable for the Smart TV and the system in our possession.

We don’t know if our Smart TV supports return audio? We can find out by reading our guides How to know if it’s a Smart TV e How to choose and buy the best Smart TV.


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