Article ID : 00227116 / Last Modified : 12/10/2020

What is eARC and how is it different from ARC?

    IMPORTANT: This article applies only to specific products and/or operating systems. Check Applicable Products and Categories for details.

    eARC stands for Enhanced Audio Return Channel. It’s an improved version of ARC (regular Audio Return Channel).

    What is Audio Return Channel?

    Before the advent of ARC, you had to use an analogue or optical cable to carry the digital audio stream between your amplifier / Sound Bar and your television. Fortunately, less cable management is required today thanks to HDMI ARC.

    The Audio Return Channel allows digital audio data to be transferred solely via the HDMI cable. In that sense, the HDMI cable sends both visual and audio information back and forth between your TV and a Sound Bar or amplifier / AV receiver. 

    Image of an example HDMI ARC connection.

    Image source: hdmi.org

    What’s so enhanced about eARC?

    With the evolution of sound technologies, (such as object-based sound audio), improving the Audio Return Channel connection became necessary to allow it to carry much more information.

    The main differences between ARC and eARC lie in bandwidth and speed. The enhanced version of the Audio Return Channel has a much higher bandwidth than its predecessor. Bandwidth represents the range of frequencies or amount of data that is being transferred at a time. You can picture it as a water pipe that can only transport a limited amount of water at a time, depending on the diameter of the pipe.

    Higher bandwidth translates into a higher amount of data that can be transferred (a larger pipe). Higher bandwidth also means that digital audio signal doesn’t have to be compressed and is much more detailed, rich and vibrant. As a result, with an eARC channel, you can enjoy the depth of movie-theatre-quality surround sound via formats such as DTS:X and DOLBY ATMOS. Due to the limitations of regular ARC, only eARC can currently process these formats.

    Do not worry if your TV is compatible with eARC, but your Soundbar or amplifier is only compatible with ARC. You will still be able to listen to audio through your Sound system. However, due to bandwidth limitations, you will not be able to experience the maximum high-bitrate audio from the source.

    Table comparing the supported functions of three cables: optical S/PDIF cable, HDMI cable, and HDMI with Ethernet cable.

    Image source: hdmi.org

    What HDMI cable should I use?

    Not all HDMI cables can let you experience the full capacity of eARC. Some HDMI cables do not have enough bandwidth to carry high-frame-rate video and high-bit-rate audio channels. However, high-speed HDMI cables with Ethernet are enough to support eARC, just like the next generation Ultra-High-Speed HDMI Cables. (Please only use certified cables with 'HDMI' on the packaging).
      

    Image of example labels on the packaging of certified HDMI cables.
    Image source: hdmi.org

    Compatible models with eARC

    • 2020 Sony’s Android TVs: ZH8 series
    • 2020 Sony’s Android TVs: XH90/92 series*
    • 2020 Sony’s Android TVs: XH85, XH95, A8, A9S series
    • 2019 Sony's Android TVs: ZG9 series
    • 2019 Sony's Android TVs: XG85, XG87, XG95, AG9 series
    • 2018 Sony's Android TVs: AF9 and ZF9 series

    * Software version update needed, (minimum version: PKG6.0374).