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What is the HDMI 2.1 eARC Feature?

HDMI 2.1 eARC Technology
Posted 01/02/2018 by Marshall Goldberg

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Have you heard of a new HDMI 2.1 feature called eARC? It will ensure that your AV receiver (AVR) or sound bar will be compatible with future HDMI 2.1 devices, such as TVs, game consoles, set top boxes, and DVD players.

A big problem with home theaters is that the audio and video must flow through an AVR onto the television. This means that whenever you upgrade to a video capability not supported by the audio device, the system will not work to the fullest of its capabilities. In the past, this has forced many consumers to upgrade their system each time new HDMI technologies rolled out. AVR owners had to upgrade their AVRs to support new HDMI features including 3D, 4K, HDCP 2.2, High Dynamic Range (HDR) and other technologies.

The new HDMI 2.1 specification offers a huge array of new video-related features, which will gradually roll out over the coming years. This includes higher video resolutions, video compression, Dynamic HDR, and Variable Refresh Rate – and there are many variants of each of these features. Owners of an HDMI 2.0 AVR won’t be able to benefit from these new additions, and it’s likely that early HDMI 2.1 AVRs will not support all of these features and their possible variants.

The HDMI 2.1 eARC feature allows you to connect your devices directly into the TV, while still playing the full range of audio formats, including high bitrate audio, on the audio device. This removes the AVR from the video path, so that new HDMI video features can be used without upgrading the AVR. For example, a 4K AVR with eARC can be used with an 8K TV, as long as the TV has eARC, and the AVR will play all of the high bitrate home theater audio formats. For many consumers, this also means that it’s no longer necessary to switch inputs on both the TV and the AVR in order to use the device you want; simply use the TV to choose what you want to watch, and the audio device will play it.

HDMI 2.1 eARC will only be available on new AVRs, sound bars and TVs. The bright side is that we finally have a no-compromise audio solution for HDMI which will remain compatible as new features roll out for many years to come. For that reason, when buying a new AVR or sound bar, make sure it has eARC, to future proof your home theater system.