You should have an easy time connecting a soundbar to your television. These audio devices have taken the world with a storm, thanks to their stylish designs and space consciousness. Having a soundbar right below your television is both aesthetically pleasing and functional.
There are several ways of connecting your soundbar to your TV, and you will soon realize that you are spoilt for choices. These include:
- HDMI ARC
- Optical cable
- Auxiliary cable
However, each method has its benefits and shortcomings. Even though you can successfully connect the two devices using any of the means listed above, some connection methods are better.
This article looks at how you can use HDMI or HDMI ARC to connect your soundbar to your television. You will realize that these two offer some of the best ways to link your soundbar to your television. Let us take a more in-depth look.
What is HDMI ARC?
You have definitely encountered HDMI cables in your daily life. However, not everyone knows what an HDMI ARC is. It is one of the best but most ignored HDMI features. It is an audio return channel that allows you to simplify your system, explaining why it is compatible with several TVs, receivers and soundbars.
When used to connect a television to a soundbar, it uses an HDMI cable to send audio from the TV back to the soundbar, which acts as a receiver in this case. It is strategically designed to limit the number of cables between your television and soundbar.
The HDMI ARC allows you to use a single cable for both audio and video, giving you the best of both worlds. Thanks to its delicate design and functionality, an audio signal can travel both ways to and from the speakers. The resultant effect is improved sound quality and latency signal.
Thus, the HDMI ARC saves you money, simplifies your TV-Soundbar setup, and reduces clutter, giving you an aesthetically pleasing connection. Since its introduction in 2009, over a decade ago, it has managed to be a common standard and can be found in several televisions, soundbars and receivers.
Any device compatible with HDMI 1.4 standard should support ARC. However, ensure that you check the documentation for the given device to be safe and sure.
Differences Between HDMI and HDMI ARC
This is one of the most asked questions among different TV enthusiasts. HDMI, which stands for High-Definition Multimedia Interface, is a single cable that can relay high-definition video and audio. The ARC is a part of the HDMI cable and HDMI port, which allows the return of audio data to audio devices.
You can establish that these two are, for the most part, similar. However, the main difference sticks out on the receiver side. A device has to be ARC compatible, or the whole setup will not work. This is one of the reasons why we advise people to check the labels on both the television and the sound system.
Luckily, most soundbars come with a port labelled HDMI ARC, which allows for smooth connectivity. Also, you do not need a new HDMI cable to use HDMI ARC. Any HDMI cable can work. The ARC allows upstream and downstream signals over a single connection between your TV and the soundbar, meaning that you will mostly use a single remote for all your connected devices to execute similar functions.
Broken down, these are some of the significant differences:
Number of Connections
The HDMI ARC allows you to have one connection between your television and soundbar or receiver, whereas you need more than one connection when using regular HDMI. You do not need an optical cable when connecting the soundbar to your TV when using the HDMI ARC as it can connect everything to the TV.
The HDMI ARC allows you the freedom of using one remote control to execute commands such as switching on all the connected devices. This means you can switch on your soundbar and TV simultaneously, liberty that HDMI users do not enjoy.
HDMI is simply a cable designed to relay high-definition media, i.e. media and audio, making it quite bulky. On the other hand, ARC is built in such a way that it only uses one HDMI connection to transmit audio from the TV or soundbar, reducing the setup and number of cables used.
These are the common differences between these two common connection channels. However, it is quite clear that they perform a similar function, even though they are different in a way.
Which One is Better, HDMI or HDMI ARC?
We have seen some of the differences that exist between these two channels. The big question is whether one is better than the other. Remember, as we said in our introductory part, these methods have their fair share of advantages and shortcomings, setting them apart from one another.
It is quite clear that the HDMI ARC towers over HDMI. It has several advantages which make it the better alternative. Keep in mind that its primary function is sending both upstream and downstream audio signals over a single connection, allowing signals to travel in and out of the television using a single port. It, therefore, offers convenience and better sound quality.
The ARC also simplifies connections because it sends audio to the receiver through the same cable that connects the devices. You do not, therefore, need a digital optical cable to link your television to the receiver. You can imagine just how convenient it is if you have a wall-mounted television.
Using one remote for the entire connection should also give you a reason to pick the HDMI ARC over any other type of connection means. All you need is to activate CEC in the general settings of your television. Imagine powering on a range of devices and controlling the volume for both. What more do you need?
Why HDMI ARC?
There are two reasons why most people prefer a connection via the HDMI ARC. These are audio and video quality. It can produce quality sound even from old devices. It also works with several home entertainment systems.
The video quality is also starling. However, this depends on the HDMI Cable as they differ in the quality of audio produced. All in all, the HDMI ARC has revolutionized entertainment thanks to its robust functionality.
How to Connect Soundbar to a TV with HDMI
You will need more than the HDMI cable to connect your soundbar to the television if it does not support ARC, as these usually are ‘input’ only. The standard HDMI port does not allow the two-way transfer of data, meaning that you need an audio channel.
In most cases, you will need the HDMI cable and an optical cord or a coaxial, which facilitates sound relay. Luckily, televisions come with optical digital audio out terminal.
Connect both devices with an HDMI Cable
If your HDMI in terminal does not support ARC, use the HDMI cable to link the HDMI IN terminal on the TV to the TV-OUT terminal on your soundbar.
Connect the soundbar to the TV with an optical cable
This was one of the commonest ways of connecting TVs to different sound systems before the advent of HDMI ARC. Check if both your Televisión and Soundbar have optical audio outputs to facilitate this connection.
Enable the correct speaker setting
The last step is to allow your television channel sound to the external device, and in this case, the soundbar. Go to the TV audio setup menu and set the TV sound output to the external speakers. For some TVs, you may only need to turn your speakers off and disable the main speakers. The optical output is also enabled for some TVs.
You can also use coaxial to connect the soundbar to the TV.
How to Connect Soundbar to a TV Using HDMI ARC
You can easily connect your TV to the soundbar using an HDMI cable if it supports ARC. Unlike the previous connection means, you will not need an optical cable as the ARC is sufficient. The audio from your device will easily play in your soundbar, and given the functionality of the ARC, be sure to enjoy an excellent sound quality.
Most of the time, your TV brand will not matter as these connection guides cut across all Televisions.
Connect with an HDMI Cable
You may have noticed an HDMI Audio Return Channel port at the back or below your television. Connect one end of the HDMI cable to the port and the other to the soundbar’s HDMI-IN. This should be easy. Just make sure that you check the labels.
Choose the Correct TV Audio Output
You definitely have your remote with you. Therefore, through the TV screen, go to the Tv sound set up audio menu and change the output setting from the TV Speaker to an External Speakers (The wording may differ depending on the Television. However, choose any words to this effect).
Some menus may say home theatre or even list the available audio types. If you notice that the output types are listed, make sure that you select HDMI ARC. This is unnecessary for some televisions as they allow you only to turn the TV speakers on and off. Your guess is similar to mine; you don’t need TV speakers when using a soundbar.
All in all, this step seeks to disable the in-built speakers so that sound is channelled to a different medium. If you notice that your television does not allow you to disable the speakers, turning the TV volume to zero will work.
Activate the HDMI-CEC
This step is not mandatory since, in some television brands, the connection succeeds with the second step. However, if you notice no sound coming from your TV, this is the right step. Enable the HDMI-CEC in the TV set-up menu.
Note that this is not a standard name. Different brands have different names for CEC. For LG, you will notice SimpLink, EasyLink for Phillips, BRAVIA Sync for Sony, Anynet+ for Samsung and Kuro Link for Pioneer.
This setting syncs your television and the soundbar allowing you to use one remote to control both. This is the magic of using HDMI ARC. However, note that you may wish to disable it in some settings. A good example is when using a separate control system or universal remote.
All in all, you need HDMI-CEC and HDMI ARC for your soundbar to work correctly.
Can I Use HDMI Cable for HDMI ARC?
Most HDMI cables work with ARC. One of the most notable advantages of using an ARC is that you do not need a new HDMI cable to make things work. All you need to do is plug ne end of the cable into the ARC-enabled input of your Tv and the other end on your soundbar or receiver, in this case, your soundbar.
Any HDMI cable can support the requirements of an ARC connection. However, you are likely to face an issue when we move to eARC, a select type of audio return channel, which we will not cover in today’s articles. However, stay tuned as we will cover this in future articles.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Here are some of the commonly asked questions regarding this topic:
1. What should I do if HDMI ARC is not working?
You do not need to panic if your ARC is not working even after connecting everything correctly. You will have to dive into your TV settings and enable this functionality. You should easily get this in the setup menus or your owner manual.
You may also need to check the audio output settings o your TV or even the problematic source. If possible, change the ‘bitstream’ to ‘PCM’ or the other way round. The last means of tackling this problem is clearing the cache and resetting.
You can do that by turning off both the TV and Audio setting, disconnecting the power cords and the cable from both the systems and leaving it for a minute or so. You will then reconnect all over again, and the system will work.
2. What type of HDMI cable should I use?
You will be okay if you currently use a standard HDMI cable with ethernet or a High-Speed HDMI cable with ethernet. You do not need to buy a new HDMI cable as any will work sufficiently.
3. Can I use HDMI ARC as a regular HDMI?
Yes. It is possible to use HDMI ARC as a regular HDMI because all HDMI cables are similar and carry out the same function. Therefore, plugging a standard HDMI cable in the ARC port will give you the same results.
4. Is HDMI ARC better than using an optical cable?
The truth is that these two connections means have the same purpose as they were created to transfer audio from one source to the other. However, optical cables can only transmit sound, which is quite limiting. On the other hand, the HDMI ARC can transmit both video and sound, making it a better alternative.
5. How can I use the HDMI ARC?
This functionality is mainly used to transfer audio signals from a device to the other. Therefore, there exist several methods through which one can use it. You will mostly use the ARC to transfer audio and video to your television, like in this case.
Among the several means of connecting your soundbar to the television, using an HDMI cable comes first. It allows you to enjoy high-quality sound. Therefore, always ensure that your devices come with an HDMI arc for a better connection.