HDMI eARC and HDMI 2.1 Demystified: Everything You Might Want to Know
Summary: What is HDMI eARC and what is HDMI 2.1? If you’re not an audiophile, these jargons might sound very strange to you, even if your newly purchased smart TV actually supports it, you just don’t know about it. Now that you’re reading this article, then make sure you read till the end, as we’ll explain all these things to you in great detail, so that you can improve the audio quality exponentially when watching Blu-ray and 4K Blu-ray movies at home on your Smart TV model.
Table of Contents
- Part 7. Preserving the High-Definition Audios with DVDFab 12
In a recent minor update, DVDFab 12 announced the support to convert Blu-rays and 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays to MP4 videos preserving the high-definition audios, such as the Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Atmos, DTS-HD Master Audio or DTS:X, in its Blu-ray Ripper and UHD Ripper modules with the newly introduced MP4.TrueHD.eARC conversion profile.
So here it brings us back to the eARC again, what is eARC? Why is it so important if I want to experience the true magic of high-definition audios? Continue your exploration to find the answer.
Even if you’re not quite an audiophile, you might still know something about HDMI, which has been into our daily life for almost two decades, and nearly all the laptops, smart TVs, AMPs (amplifiers), soundbars, game consoles, projectors, DSLRs today come equipped with at least one HDMI socket. It might hard for you to name an AV device of nowadays that is not HDMI enabled, except for a smartphone and a tablet, on which even the traditional 3.5mm audio jacket has been removed, less alone adding an HDMI socket.
What is eARC? What is HDMI eARC? What is eARC HDMI? Are they technically referring to the same thing? Don’t panic! Here comes the time for the demystification: ARC, standing for Audio Return Channel, is a clever protocol that sits within the HDMI standard to help simplify a complicated AV set-up and reduce the number of cables you need. Although HDMI was launched as early as back in 2002, but it wasn’t until 2009 that the HDMI ARC protocol was added as part of HDMI version 1.4 and has been part of the specification ever since. eARC (also known as Enhanced Audio Return Channel) is the next generation of ARC protocol, a feature implemented in the most recent HDMI 2.1 specification.
The truth is if you’re not an audiophile with picky ears regarding sound quality, then you might not care about all those high definition audios available on today’s Blu-ray and UHD Blu-ray movies. But to those who do care about getting the best audio quality, HDMI ARC or HDMI eARC matter a lot. Just picture the scene. You have a set-top box, Xbox One or PS5 and Blu-ray player all plugged into your Smart TV via HDMI. Or perhaps you’re a Netflix or Amazon Prime Video subscriber and you have installed their respective video apps on your TV. Either way, instead using the TV’s inbuilt speakers for audio, you prefer hearing everything played through your top-end soundbar or AMP connected to your home theater system.
Previously under such circumstances, you would have to connect an optical cable from the back of your TV to an optical input on your audio device. But that’s not the best solution because there is a chance you might mess up with those cables. This is when and where HDMI ARC/HDMI eARC kicks in to fix the mess. HDMI ARC/HDMI eARC can save the trouble using an optical cable because it allows you to send audio downstream from a compatible HDMI socket on your TV directly to a compatible HDMI ARC/HDMI eARC socket on a soundbar or AV receiver.
Well, the answer to this question depends on you how much do you want to hear the true HD audios. Technically, ARC doesn’t allow you to bitstream the full-fat high-quality audio codecs such as Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Atmos, DTS-HD Master Audio or DTS:X soundtracks that are presented on the Blu-ray and 4K UHD Blu-ray movie discs. It simply strips out the core 5.1 data stream. If you want this level of functionality, then you’ll have to opt for the HDMI eARC. That being said, HDMI ARC does allow to receive Dolby Atmos audio from streaming services including Netflix and Amazon Prime Video as these services embed Dolby Atmos in a Dolby Digital Plus stream, which ARC can handle.
The main benefit of eARC is a big boost in bandwidth and speed, which makes it possible for you to transmit higher-quality audio from your TV to a soundbar or AV receiver. Theoretically, HDMI eARC has the potential to deliver up to 32 channels of audio, including eight-channel, 24bit/192kHz uncompressed data streams at speeds of up to 38Mbps. This means all those high bitrate formats currently available on Blu-ray discs, 4K Blu-rays and some streaming services — Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio and object-based formats such as Dolby Atmos and DTS:X — will all be compatible.
In theory, HDMI eARC should also be able to make the handshake between compatible devices much smoother and negate the need to activate HDMI CEC (which doesn’t always work properly) — so operating multiple products shouldn’t require any extra steps to get things up and running. As is the case with ARC, you’ll need two devices with compatible HDMI eARC sockets for the protocol to work. This means they need to meet the HDMI 2.1 standard but, not all the products on the market today carry HDMI 2.1 specification.
To take advantage of HDMI ARC, you’ll need a TV and audio processor (AV receiver or soundbar), with matching ARC-enabled HDMI sockets. As discussed previously, it is very likely that your TV has already got an ARC capable HDMI socket. You just need to further confirm which one does. With some TVs, HDMI ARC might work automatically. If it doesn’t, you’ll need to grab a remote and tweak a few of your TV settings, including turning off your TV’s inbuilt speakers and enabling your TV to send audio out to an external speaker or AMP. Moreover, using HDMI ARC does not require a new HDMI cable, your current HDMI cable should be able to cope with the requirements.
As part of the process, you should consider enabling HDMI CEC (Consumer Electronics Control) so you can turn your TV on and control the volume on your soundbar or AMP without the need for multiple remotes. A word of warning, though: turning HDMI CEC on can have some unwanted AV side-effects - so you might want to experiment first.
However, when it comes to the eARC, things might be a little bit different. Read on to check out why.
According to HDMI.org, if you currently use a standard HDMI cable with Ethernet, or a High Speed HDMI cable with Ethernet, you should be fine. Ultra-High Speed HDMI cables with Ethernet will definitely work with eARC standard, because in January 2020, HDMI.org announced a mandatory certification program to ensure any cable labelled Ultra-High Speed supports all HDMI 2.1 features including eARC. But if your HDMI cable is under older versions, such as HDMI 2.0 or older, due to the extra bandwidth needed for some audio formats over eARC, it’s largely possible that they could struggle.
Moreover, if your TV is HDMI eARC enabled, but your AV AMP or soundbar is only compatible with HDMI ARC, it’s likely you’ll get a sound - but the bandwidth restrictions of ARC will mean you won’t be able to experience the high bitrate audio that eARC can provide. Some AV receivers and soundbars that don’t have HDMI 2.1 chipsets can be upgraded to support eARC, but it varies between manufacturers and products. It depends if they are using compatible hardware that can accept the necessary firmware update.
The first 4K TVs with HDMI 2.1 inputs emerged from LG in 2019. All of LG's 2020 OLED TVs are HDMI 2.1 certified too. Some 2019 and 2020 TVs from Panasonic, Samsung or Sony are only HDMI 2.0 certified yet they claim to be able to support some HDMI 2.1 features such as VRR and eARC. The odd model range, such as the Sony 8K Z8H and 4K X900H (XH90) is HDMI 2.1 certified.
Other products with eARC are also starting to emerge, despite slowly. Onkyo and Pioneer were the first to offer eARC updates on select AV products, mainly: Onkyo TX-RZ830, Integra DRX-5.2, Pioneer SC-LX502 and Pioneer VSX-LX503 AV receivers. Sony followed quickly after with updates to its soundbars (HT-ST5000, HT-ZF9, HT-XF9000) and AV receivers (STR-DH790, STR-DN1080) making them compatible with eARC-supported Sony AF9 and ZF9 TV models. All firmware updates are available now.
More recently, the brilliant Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar also sports an eARC-compatible HDMI 2.1 output. Other eARC TVs with HDMI 2.1 include Samsung Q950TS, Q900TS and the most recent models from LG. And also the HDMI 2.1 eARC enabled AMPs: SONY HT-G700, Marantz NR1510, Denon AVR-S650H, Denon AVR-X 8500H, Denon AVR-S750H, LG SN11RG, LG SN10Y, LG SN9YG and LG SN8YG.
Okay, now you’ve understood almost everything about what is ARC, what is eARC, what is HDMI 2.1 and how you can get the best audio quality out of your HDMI 2.1 TV at home. Then it’s time we talk about how to get you more videos with high-definition audios.
Apart from the MP4.TrueHD.eARC conversion profile that you can use when converting your Blu-ray and 4K Blu-ray discs with the Blu-ray ripper software and the UHD ripper software, there are also some other conversion profiles capable of retaining the HD audios.
Anyway, let’s go over the detailed guides on how to convert Blu-rays and 4K UHD Blu-rays to digital videos without losing the high-definition audio tracks on the original discs:
Step 1 — Download and Installation
Download and install DVDFab 12 on your computer, no matter you are with a Windows computer or Mac computer. Click either of the two download buttons below to download your matched version.
Step 2 — Load your source Blu-ray/4K Blu-ray
When the installation is over, you can launch DVDFab 12 and opt for the Ripper module through the top menu bar, and then load your target Blu-ray/4K Blu-ray source. If it is a physical disc, the software will automatically load it once you insert the disc into the optical drive. Or you can also add an ISO file or folder from your hard drive, using either of the two add buttons (one at the top left corner, the other at the center) or simply drag & drop it into the main interface.
Step 3 — Choose the HD Audio Capable Conversion Profile
Next, you are supposed to choose a conversion profile from the inbuilt Profile Library. To do that, click the "Choose Other Profile" option from the Profile Selection Box. When you are into the inbuilt Profile Library, move to Format>Video>General, and select the MP4.TrueHD.eARC profile.
Additional Tips: there are three more conversion profiles that can get you high-definition lossless audios in the converted videos. They are the M2TS.Passthrough, MKV.Passthrough and the 3D.MKV.MVC.Passthrough available at Format>Video>Filter>Passthrough. You can choose either of these if your device support the playback of such videos.
Step 4 — Customize Output Video Parameters as You Wish
If you want to further customize the video settings to meet your specific need, feel free to click the Wrench icon that shall bring you to the Advanced Settings panel, where you are free to change the values including encoding codec, resolution, encoding method and even the framerate and bitrate.
Additional Tips: If you’ve selected one of the three Passthrough conversion profiles, you won’t be able change anything here at the Advanced Settings panel except for the way how you want to deal with the subtitles. Because Passthrough means both lossless video and lossless audio that you can no longer change.
Step 5 — Edit the Output Video as You Want
When you are done at the Advanced Settings panel, if you still feel creative, you can also go to the Vide Edit panel to make your video stand out from the crowd. To do that, click the Brush icon next to the Wrench icon, and you will enter the Video Edit panel, where you can do many interesting editings, such as adding extra texts, watermark and external subtitles, cropping and trimming the video, etc.
As a sidenote: if you’ve chosen one of the three Passthrough profiles, most of the functions here are also unavailable.
Step 6 — Start the Conversion
When everything is ready. Just hit the Start button at the bottom right corner of the main interface to trigger the conversion process and wait for the conversion to complete, which shall take a while even with the GPU hardware acceleration activated.
Besides converting to MP4, MKV and M2TS videos, there are still other ways that you can explore to preserve the high-definition audios with DVDFab 12. With the Blu-ray ropy and UHD copy modules, you can make lossless backup copies to your Blu-rays and 4K Blu-rays and that can also achieve the goal of preserving the high-definition audios.
To be specific, if you want to use the lossless backup function, you should go with the Clone, Full Disc or Main Movie backup modes. But no matter which mode you choose, remember to choose BD50 as the output size so that no compression shall be involved.
Alright! Above are the detailed information on how to convert Blu-rays and 4K UHD Blu-rays to MP4 videos or make lossless backup copies with high-definition audio tracks to enjoy on your cutting-edge home theater system. Hope you have much fun enjoying the best video and sound effect. If you happen to be in need of a 4K media player software on your HTPC, then DVDFab Player 6 is your No. 1 option.
As the movie industry and hardware industry continue to develop, the HDMI standard will surely continue to evolve accordingly. We don’t know yet where it will finally bring us to, but with its great potential of sending a maximum of 10K content at 120fps down the pipe, it is pretty much convincing that we shall stick to the HDMI 2.1 standard for quite a long period.
In this article, we’ve briefed you on what is eARC, what is HDMI 2.1, what you need to take advantage of HDMI 2.1, alongside with the different means you can use to get high-definition audios to play back on your top-class home theater system. In case you are still interested in getting more 4K videos out of your regular 1080p Blu-rays, feel welcome to check out our featured article on how to upscale 1080p videos to amazing 4K quality.