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What Are HDMI ARC and eARC? Are HDMI ARC Cables Different?

Find out what HDMI ARC and eARC are all about and if HDMI ARC/eARC cables are different than other HDMI cables.

HDMI cable Brandon Jones / TechReviewer

Last Updated: July 27, 2022

Written by Brandon Jones

There are a lot of features like eARC included in HDMI cables nowadays, so you may be wondering what the difference is between cable types.

In this article, I will explain what ARC and eARC are and if HDMI ARC and eARC cables are different from most HDMI cables. I also have some recommended cables for using eARC in your setup.

What Are ARC and eARC?

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ARC stands for Audio Return Channel, while eARC stands for enhanced Audio Return Channel.

ARC allows audio to be returned from a TV to an audio receiver over an HDMI cable. Usually, this would require another cable from an audio receiver to your TV. The HDMI cable can still be used for video from a receiver to a TV while also sending audio from the TV to a receiver when using ARC.

HDMI ARC Uses

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ARC is usually used to send audio from a TV if you have a smart TV with built-in apps like Netflix or Youtube, antenna TV, or even audio from other HDMI sources plugged into the TV.

Since ARC allows audio and video to send through the same cable, it's an excellent way to keep your setup cleaner with only one cable instead of both an HDMI cable and audio cable.

How Is HDMI eARC Different?

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HDMI eARC was added in the HDMI 2.1 specification to transmit high-quality audio from a TV to an AV receiver or soundbar.

Unlike original ARC support, eARC adds extra bandwidth and speed for audio that uses more data, such as Dolby Atmos and DTS:X object-based audio formats, along with other formats like DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD.

HDMI eARC also supports up to 32 audio channels with 24 bit / 192 kHz uncompressed data up to 38 Mb/s. Original ARC only supported 1 Mb/s speed.

Are HDMI ARC Cables and Ports Different?

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HDMI ARC is supported in HDMI 1.4 and newer HDMI versions, while eARC is only supported in HDMI 2.1 cables. Since ARC is part of the standards and specifications of those HDMI versions, there are no different HDMI cables specifically with or without ARC support.

Most TVs nowadays support ARC but may not support eARC if it's an older TV. If you're considering using eARC, you will either have to test and see if it works or look at the specifications of your TV to see if it supports eARC audio formats like Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, DTS-HD Master Audio, or Dolby TrueHD.

HDMI ARC With an HDMI Extension

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While HDMI ARC is supported in most HDMI cables, some extensions methods don't support ARC. This means, even if an HDMI cable says it supports ARC, it still might not work if the way you extend an HDMI cable doesn't support it.

For example, if you extend your HDMI connection with an HDMI repeater or HDMI over fiber optical extender, those methods most likely won't support using ARC. If you want other ways to extend an HDMI cable, you can either use a fiber optic HDMI cable or HDMI over Ethernet extender

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Which HDMI Cable Type Should You Get?

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Since HDMI 2.1 is backward compatible with older HDMI versions, it's probably best to buy an HDMI 2.1 cable for future-proofing. You will ensure that you'll get the most out of your display without worrying about which one to buy. HDMI 2.1 is also needed for devices that support eARC, for better quality audio to soundbars and audio receivers. If you want to make it even easier, be sure to check out my recommended HDMI 2.1 and 2.0 cables below.

With that said, to get all of the features and speed increase, be sure to check if your display and device (PCs, game consoles, etc.) both support HDMI 2.1 and its features.

Keep in mind that HDMI cables can only go up to specific lengths. If you want a very long HDMI cable, you may need to go with HDMI 2.0 instead and follow one of these HDMI extension methods.

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Shorter HDMI 2.1 Cable

Longer HDMI 2.1 Cable

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Shorter HDMI 2.0 Cable

Longer HDMI 2.0 Cable

Max HDMI Cable Length

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Each type of HDMI cable has a limitation of how long it can reach. There's no specific "max" length a cable can go, but a limitation from the material they're made with.

Most newer copper HDMI cables reach around 15 to 25 ft (5 to 7.5 m). HDMI cables made with fiber optic can reach much farther. On average, fiber optic HDMI cables can reach around 50 to 200 ft (15 to 60 m).

Below are the three types of copper HDMI cables with their average length limits and resolutions they can handle at their max cable length:

Max Length of Copper HDMI Cables
TypeMax Cable LengthSpeedSupported Resolutions
Standard HDMI 49 ft (15 m) < 10 Gb/s 720p 60 Hz | 1080i 60 Hz
High Speed HDMI 15–25 ft (5–7.5 m) 18 Gb/s 1080p 60 Hz | 4K 30 Hz
Ultra High Speed HDMI 10–15 ft (3–5 m) 48 Gb/s 4K | 5K | 8K | 10K 120 Hz

Why HDMI Cables Have a Max Length

Most HDMI cables are made of copper, limiting the cable's length because it loses signal strength the farther it reaches. Signal loss can happen with cables made of other materials also. This signal loss (attenuation) is measured in decibels per distance—the greater the distance, the more signal loss.

The signal level may not be high enough if an HDMI cable is too long due to too much attenuation. If you need to support a longer distance, you'll need an extender, repeater, or fiber optic HDMI cable. Otherwise, you will need to find a way to use a shorter HDMI cable.

How to Extend HDMI 2.0 Cables

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HDMI Repeater

An HDMI repeater extends the connection for shorter runs by connecting two HDMI cables and amplifies the signals for better transmission.

Determining the max length when using a repeater depends on the HDMI repeater and the HDMI cable type, but I give the average ranges below. Remember that HDMI repeaters are directional, so be sure to use the device's correct input/output sides.

HDMI Repeater Range
ResolutionLength
4K @ 60 Hz 60–100 ft (18–30 m)
4K @ 30 Hz 100–130 ft (30–40 m)
1080p @ 60 Hz 135–195 ft (40–60 m)

To be safe, assume a repeater can reach only the shorter end of those ranges.

Fiber Optic HDMI Cable

Fiber optic HDMI cables are like standard HDMI cables but made with optical fiber inside the cable and meant for farther distances up to 164 ft (50 m) for 4K @ 60 Hz.

These cables aren't meant to be used with an extender, repeater, or switch and should be used alone. They also must be installed in the correct direction, with the output/display label connecting to the side with the display.

Learn more about fiber optic HDMI cables in my article: What Is a Fiber Optic HDMI Cable and Is It Worth Getting?.

HDMI Over Ethernet Extender

The HDMI over Ethernet extender is similar to an HDMI over fiber optic extender but uses an Ethernet cable for a shorter extension. An HDMI over Ethernet extender can extend the connection up to 130 ft (40 m) for 4K @ 60 Hz or 230 ft (70 m) for 1080p.

Learn more about HDMI over Ethernet in my article: HDMI Over Ethernet - How to Extend HDMI With Cat 5e/6a.

HDMI Over Fiber Extender

An HDMI over Fiber extender uses an optical fiber cable to transmit the data to reach a much farther distance. You could use an HDMI over Fiber extender to extend the connection up 1,000 to 3,300 ft (300 to 1000 meters) for 4K @ 60 Hz.

Learn more about HDMI over fiber in my article: HDMI Over Fiber - How to Extend HDMI With Fiber-Optic Cable.

Learn About TVs

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Want to learn more about TVs? Check out the articles in my TV series:

Learn About HDMI

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Find answers to your HDMI questions by checking out the articles in my HDMI series: