Does HDMI ARC Cause Audio Delay? (Explained)


The HDMI ARC technology is one of the greatest tech innovations of this decade. It means that you only need one input port to control all your devices like TV, Audio Receiver, and DVD Player (or better said: everything with an HDMI output).

The challenge for many audio enthusiasts is figuring out whether HDMI ARC causes audio delay when used to connect your TV to a soundbar or Audio-video receivers?

In general, HDMI ARC can cause audio delay. They are designed for specific purposes and do not interact well with every Audio Processor. If you connect your soundbar speaker to a TV with HDMI ARC connection you may experience a slight delay in the speaker’s audio output.

This is because every device has a specific purpose and functionality that makes it unique, and different from other devices. This means that you need to find which one of the two (TV or Audio Receiver), works best for your particular set up.

What Is HDMI ARC?

The acronym “ARC” stands for Audio Return Channel and describes a feature of the HDMI 1.4 version and higher. The feature allows the transfer of digital audio signals from a television to an A/V receiver through a single HDMI cable.

This means that HDMI ARC can be used as both input and output for your Home Theatre System by connecting the TV to the soundbar or AV receiver via one HDMI cable.

Many modern TVs have this feature that allows you to connect your soundbar or A/V receiver to the TV. The TV then lets you control all audio settings, like volume and surround sound using your remote.

How Does HDMI ARC Work?

Unlike normal 3D movies, where the video goes from Blu Ray player to the LED TV for display, HDMI ARC allows the signal to move from one device to another without having to go through a 3D converter/transmitter. This makes it possible for a TV to send an audio signal from the HDMI output port directly to an A/V receiver or soundbar speaker.

In other words, you can use your TV as the central hub of your home audio system by connecting it to your soundbar or A/V receiver with HDMI ARC. Now, you only need one cable which is connected to both devices.

How Do I Use HDMI ARC?

Your TV may have this technology but you will have to find out if the device that you are connecting has this feature too.

First, make sure your TV supports HDMI ARC and the device you are connecting with it does as well. This feature is only available in some high-end TVs, so if your home theater system isn’t expensive you may have to upgrade a few parts.

What Should I Look for When Buying an A/V Receiver or Soundbar Speaker?

If you are buying a new A/V receiver or soundbar speaker, check that both devices have HDMI ARC. The feature is still relatively young in the market and not all models support it yet.

Also, look for how many HDMI inputs they have. If one of your devices does not have ARC, you will need to buy a separate HDMI cable for it.

If you want to use the TV as the central hub for your surround sound system, make sure that A/V receiver and speakers both support HDMI ARC and that they can work together in harmony without causing any audio problems.

Do All HDMI Cables Support ARC?

Typically, HDMI cables support ARC. However, if your TV or A/V receiver does not have this feature designed in it, the HDMI cable may not either. If you are using an older model of soundbar speaker (or A/V receiver) make sure that its manufacturer has included HDMI ARC in their product description.

Some older HDMI cables and other devices may not support ARC. To make sure your system supports the technology, look for HDMI 1.4 or higher in both your TV and A/V receiver (or soundbar speaker). Newer models of these devices should have the same version number written on them.

What is Audio Delay?

An audio delay is also known as “lip sync error”. When this occurs, the audio and video elements do not synchronize well with each other. For example, if you are watching a movie on your TV, sometimes you may hear the sound before seeing the image or vice versa.

This is due to improper synchronization of the two devices that are connected by HDMI ARC. To solve this problem you should try changing the audio settings of your device (like A/V receiver or soundbar speaker which does not have ARC).

If that doesn’t work, try using a different HDMI cable and connecting the devices through a different HDMI input port.

What is Sound Quality Like With HDMI ARC?

When it comes to quality, different TV and soundbar speaker models can provide different experiences.

Also, quality depends on how powerful your A/V receiver or speakers are and how much electricity they use. The stronger the device, the better the audio signal that will be sent to it by your television. So if you want good sound with HDMI ARC, you should get a high-end speaker or A/V receiver.

Also, make sure that your TV is connected to the Internet with an Ethernet cable or it has Wi-Fi capability. With this feature, audio and video will be sent in separate channels (audio is sent through ARC and video goes through Wi-Fi.) This ensures that the signal is strong.

What Are the Limitations of HDMI ARC?

As mentioned above, make sure that your A/V receiver or soundbar speaker has a minimum version number of 1.4 to ensure you get good results with this technology. Also, keep in mind that if your TV is older it may not be able to handle the signal.

According to the HDMI standard, the ARC only sends audio from TV to soundbar speaker or A/V receiver. You still have to use a regular cable for sending video from your source device (like your computer) to your TV.  Also, if you want high-quality audio streaming through HDMI, make sure that both devices support the latest version of HDMI (2.0).

If you have a remote with HDMI CEC functionality, it can even switch on/off all the attached sources automatically when you turn on/off your TV.

The problem is that some of the audio receivers (maybe even yours) use old technology and cannot handle the compressed Dolby Digital soundtracks which are used on most digital channels on cable, satellite or via streaming.

That’s why ARC was introduced to send all audio sources uncompressed as PCM signal to your AV receiver. This causes a latency of around 1-5 ms, which may be too much for lip-syncing on video.

This is not a problem with the ARC technology itself but some audio receivers were designed in a way that audio delay cannot be adjusted anymore – this explains why there exist AV receivers from the 90’ies which have no audio delay setting anymore.

What To Do When The audio and video are out of sync or there is an audio delay.

When the output of audio and video are out of sync with your HDMI ARC, you can adjust the audio delay value to re-align the two. Your TV may have an option to do so, or you may need to access this setting through your source device (computer, game console).

If you don’t want to go through all these steps every time there is a lip-sync error, then instead of using HDMI ARC choose different connection options like SPDIF or optical.

If you are already using SPDIF or optical audio output, there may be no easy way to make the audio delay match up if it was not done right from the beginning.

When Is HDMI ARC The Right Choice?

Though the use of HDMI ARC are expansively increased in recent years, there are still multiple downsides to the technology.

If you can’t access your TV’s audio delay setting or it is not adjustable at all – then using HDMI ARC is not an option for you since lip sync error cannot be solved that way.

“When it comes to quality, different TV and soundbar speaker models can provide different experiences.”

Another disadvantage that you would want to keep in mind before using HDMI ARC is that it does not support high-resolution audio formats like FLAC or DSD. Therefore, if your soundbar speaker only supports the use of such audio files and you want to enjoy them with your TV then getting an optical cable connection is the only way to do so.

If you are already using soundbar speakers with your TV, then you should keep in mind that HDMI ARC is not the perfect choice for every situation and it comes with its own set of limitations.

As mentioned before, if you want to enjoy high-quality audio content on your soundbar speaker, then getting a separate optical connection is a better option.

What Should You Do When Your TV Or Soundbar Speaker Is Not Compatible with HDMI ARC?

You have two options in this case: First, you can get an audio extractor like the one from Monoprice ( check this J Tech 4K30 with SPDIF available here on Amazon for next day delivery) It extracts audio from your HDMI cable before it enters your TV and sends it through SPDIF or optical to your soundbar speaker.

Second, you can get a device like the AV receiver ( learn more about this Denon here on Amazon) that can act as an HDMI switch & an ARC-compatible one that will fix all the problems (audio sync error, lip sync error).

The next possible option is to get a soundbar speaker that supports ARC with your TV. The same downsides of HDMI ARC remain true for this option as well, but the advantage is that you will only need one optical cable connection between your TV and soundbar speaker.

How to fix the annoying audio delay on your soundbar.

If the annoying audio delay between your soundbar and smart tv is not fixable then you can use the next best thing.

An external soundbar with optical input that makes it compatible with your smart tv which sends the audio to the external soundbar via its own separate optical connection.

The main downside to this approach is having another remote control in addition to your existing one. It also requires 2 power outlets.

The upside to this approach is that it does not use a wireless technology like Bluetooth or intellegent hubs from Google. That means you plug your optical cables into your tv, and your external soundbar(s) and never have to worry about batteries dying out on you.

You can listen to the audio from any input source connected to your smart tv using its own speaker, by just switching the input source to the optical connection.

The devices that accomplish this are called “audio extractors” that can be ordered from Amazon.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t support HDCP, so you can’t watch movies in full HD.

You’ll need to make sure your soundbar is connected via optical cable for this to work, which means any smart TV’s with an external audio output might not be able to utilize this feature.

Is Audio Lag Inevitable when Passing through TV?

As you can see from the connections discussed above, the “audio delay problem” is a very common situation, and almost everyone who owns a TV has experienced it in some varying degree.

As a general guide, audio lag is inevitable when you TV setup uses a wireless connection between your TV and soundbar, or when you use the ARC function of HDMI.

Therefore, if you want to experience authentic high-quality sound from your home entertainment setup then getting a separate optical cable connection is the only way out.

Conclusion

Overall, HDMI ARC is likely to suffer from lag if your setup system is wireless, but if you have a soundbar speaker with an optical input then it is not a problem.

In any case, the best way to get rid of audio lag is to use a separate digital-optical cable from your TV to your soundbar speaker for high-quality and authentic audio content playback.

It’s safe to say that regardless of what your setup may be, you’ll never experience the same level of audio quality as a wired optical connection.

And if you have good old fashioned speaker stands – even better – you can use this new technology without any worries about compatibility issues

  • To figure out the best soundbar for TV, don’t forget to check our guide on the topic.
  • To figure out the best subwoofer for TV, don’t forget to check our guide on the topic.
  • To figure out which are the best wireless speakers, don’t forget to check our guide on the topic.

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