Dolby Atmos delivers advanced surround sound technology to the masses. If your TV and sound system support Dolby Atmos, you’ve probably wondered about the differences between eARC and ARC and how using either one can make your sound system more immersive.
You don’t need eARC for Dolby Atmos. Dolby Atmos works over regular ARC with any compatible TV and sound system only when encoded through Dolby Digital Plus. eARC is backward-compatible, so it’ll still work with any ARC device. Dolby Atmos encoded through Dolby TrueHD only works over eARC.
This article will explain everything you need to know about eARC and Dolby Atmos. I’ll also explain the differences between ARC and eARC concerning Dolby Atmos to help you create the best home surround sound system possible.
Do You Need eARC for Dolby Atmos?
You don’t need eARC with Dolby Atmos since Atmos is compatible with standard audio return channels. However, eARC is often preferred when using surround sound since it provides more bandwidth for audio devices and makes TrueHD audio sound better.
Although you don’t need an enhanced audio return channel (eARC) for Dolby Atmos, you’d certainly benefit from it if your TV supports it.
eARC prevents lagging, and it supports many compressed and uncompressed audio streams with cutting-edge speed and accuracy.
To use the eARC, you need an HDMI 2.1 port on your TV and your soundbar or receiver to get eARC. That’s because Dolby Atmos only works over HDMI cables. Optical, RCA, USB, and other connectors won’t work.
The port is usually labeled on your television, but you should double-check the manual nonetheless.
If your TV or sound system doesn’t have eARC, you can still use it with your Television. When eARC doesn’t work, the soundbar will automatically default to ARC, allowing you to use this speaker with almost any TV or sound stream.
In addition, since most streaming websites heavily compress audio anyway, you won’t hear a massive difference between eARC and ARC sound quality.
Compressed Dolby Atmos doesn’t need eARC, so ARC will work just as well. However, if you want to use the compressed Atmos with an enhanced return system, you can use a firestick or other smart TV device compatible with it. That way, you can make almost any TV work with your sound setup.
Also, Dolby Atmos encoded through Dolby TrueHD won’t work with HDMI ARC and MAT. There simply isn’t enough bandwidth over regular ARC. Consequently, Dolby TrueHD works over eARC.
Can You Get Dolby Atmos Without eARC?
You can get Dolby Atmos without eARC since Atmos is still compatible with a standard audio return channel. Regular Dolby Atmos works over ARC HDMI, meaning any HDMI-compatible devices should work. However, you need eARC if you want Dolby Atmos TrueHD.
Most streaming services use Dolby Digital Plus for audio. HDMI ARC is enough for Dolby Atmos from Dolby Digital Plus.
However, if you want full Dolby Atmos support with uncompressed Dolby TrueHD audio, you must use eARC. For the most part, you’ll only find such high-quality sound in Blu-Ray content played through a Dolby Atmos compatible device.
You still need some kind of HDMI ARC input for Dolby Atmos. It just doesn’t have to be the modern eARC standard that supports high-bandwidth audio.
However, getting Dolby Atmos to function correctly with your TV is always challenging. You may have to tinker with your TV’s settings to get it to work.
Check the TV’s user manual if the Dolby Atmos isn’t showing up even though both devices are compatible. You may need to change a few settings to get it to work.
Can eARC Passthrough Dolby Atmos?
eARC can passthrough Dolby Atmos. eARC is more recent than ARC and supports higher quality digital audio over HDMI. Dolby Atmos works best over eARC because it supports Dolby TrueHD and MAT encoding, while ARC only supports Dolby Atmos encoded through Dolby Digital Plus.
eARC is better than ARC because it supports more bandwidth. In simple terms, you get better Dolby Atmos audio with eARC.
Still, eARC allows Dolby Atmos passthrough with regular ARC devices, thanks to backward compatibility.
Can eARC Improve Dolby Atmos?
eARC can improve Dolby Atmos because it supports higher bandwidth than traditional ARC. eARC supports every form of Dolby Atmos, including Dolby TrueHD. On the other hand, ARC only supports Dolby Atmos encoded by Dolby Digital Plus.
eARC was introduced together with HDMI 2.1 in 2019.
So, only newer TVs with HDMI 2.1 support eARC.
Still, if you primarily watch content from streaming services, eARC won’t do much to improve your Dolby Atmos surround sound experience. For the most part, only advanced sound files, such as those on BluRay discs, will sound better on eARC.
Dolby Atmos is mostly encoded through Dolby Digital Plus on online platforms. This compressed form of Dolby Atmos doesn’t require the additional bandwidth that eARC provides.
You won’t hear a difference between eARC and ARC with most online content. So, you shouldn’t ditch your old soundbar or TV just yet.
eARC will improve high-quality versions of Dolby Atmos encoded using Dolby TrueHD. So, we can say that eARC does make a difference for the future of Dolby Atmos.
ARC vs. eARC for Dolby Atmos
ARC stands for Audio Return Channel. eARC means enhanced Audio Return Channel.
The main difference between ARC and eARC is that eARC supports high bandwidth audio.
Since Dolby Atmos audio is encoded using Dolby Digital Plus on most online content, there isn’t a vast difference between ARC and eARC, at least today.
However, eARC is a newer standard with support for better audio. Only eARC supports Dolby TrueHD, for instance.
But this only matters if your HDMI cable and sound system support Dolby Atmos over eARC as well.
If you don’t have a Blu-Ray player, the differences between ARC and eARC don’t matter that much.
Note: You can use an ARC-enabled soundbar with an eARC TV. In this scenario, your Dolby Atmos won’t benefit from eARC, but it’ll work regardless.
If both your soundbar or receiver and TV support Dolby Atmos over eARC, use it. You’ll get more immersive surround sound in those rare scenarios when the audio was encoded using Dolby TrueHD.
You don’t need eARC for Dolby Atmos encoded using Dolby Digital Plus. Since most online content uses heavily compressed audio and Dolby Digital Plus, eARC doesn’t matter much.
However, eARC supports more bandwidth than traditional ARC. This return channel translates to better Dolby Atmos when the audio is encoded using uncompressed Dolby TrueHD.
If you have the option to use eARC with your Dolby Atmos audio system, do it. Otherwise, it’s not worth it because the bulk of your content will work over ARC just as well.
- Wikipedia: Dolby Atmos
- What HiFi: HDMI ARC and HDMI eARC: everything you need to know
- Dolby Developer: Dolby Audio over HDMI Part 3: Reality
- AV Forums: Dolby Atmos without eARC
- HelloTech: HDMI ARC vs. eARC, Which One Is Better for Your Home Theater?
- Sony: What is eARC, and how is it different from ARC?
Jason is a home theater expert with over 10 years of experience in setting up home cinema rooms and systems. What started out as a hobby soon transformed him into an authority in the audio-visual field. He is passionate about providing readers with accurate and up-to-date information on the latest audiovisual technologies and their applications for home theaters. Read more about Jason.