How to properly connect a TV and a home theater system


You own a 4K Ultra HD TV, QLED TV or OLED TV and want to play the sound on your AV reciever or on your sound bar. How do you recieve the sound from the TV on the home theater system? Which connection should you choose to achieve the best results? What are the differences between a Toslink optical connection, an HDMI ARC connection and an HDMI eARC connection?

Find out in this article!

How to connect your TV to an amplifier via an optical connection (toslink)

The vast majority of televisions have a digital audio output (S / PDIF), most commonly in Toslink optical format. If your amplifier or sound bar has a digital audio input, then you can directly connect it to the digital audio output of the TV using a Toslink optical cable.
The NorStone Arran Optic toslink cable is compatible with digital audio streams in Dolby Digital and DTS.

The optical connector is convenient and almost universal as the majority of televisions, AV receivers, stereo amplifiers and sound bars have one. But it is not the best way to enjoy TV sound on your home theater.

The Yamaha SR-C20A sound bar has two optical digital audio inputs.

Why isn’t an optical connection ideal?

Quite simply because of its bandwidth, which is too limited to let uncompressed HD soundtracks (Dolby True HD, DTS HD MA) and immersive 3D audio tracks like Dolby Atmos and DTS:X pass through.

In addition, an optical link connection only transmits sound, while an HDMI ARC or eARc connection, as we will see below, also makes it possible to control one of the two devices with the other’s remote control (volume, mute, etc…).

How to listen to your TV on an AV receiver

How to connect your TV to a sound bar via HDMI ARC?

Introduced with the HDMI 1.4 standard, the audio return channel called ARC (Audio Return Channel) allows you to use the HDMI input of a compatible television as audio output and the HDMI output of an amplifier or sound bar as an audio input. It is thus possible to send the sound from the television to the AV amplifier or to the sound bar without adding a cable.

All current televisions and AV receivers, as well as the majority of soundbars, feature at least one ARC or eARC compatible HDMI port (here the Samsung Neo QLED QE65QN95A 4K television, the Yamaha YAS-108 sound bar and the Yamaha RX-A2A receiver).

All you need is an HDMI cable to connect the TV and the compatible amp or sound bar to enjoy the sound of movies and TV shows, but also all other sources connected to the TV (DVD player or 4K Blu-ray player, network media player, connected set-top box…).

The Denon AVC-X4700H AV receiver has an ARC and eARC compatible HDMI output.

On most TVs, the audio return channel allows you to output sound in stereo but also in up to 5.1 channels (compressed). Dolby Digital and DTS are therefore supported. However, Dolby True HD, DTS HD MA, Dolby Atmos and DTS:X which require a higher bandwidth are not supported by the HDMI ARC connection.

When you establish an HDMI ARC connection between two devices, you can also take advantage of the CEC control protocol which allows them to be controlled independently via their respective remote controls. You can therefore control the volume and mute the sound of the amplifier or the sound bar with the TV’s remote control.
The NorStone Jura HDMI cable is compatible with 4K Ultra High Definition and allows you to enjoy the HDMI ARC audio return channel with compatible TVs, amplifiers and soundbars.

CEC also allows the amplifier or the sound bar to be automatically powered on when the television is turned on, and vice versa.

Finally, the HDMI ARC connection allows you to manage the image / sound shift on certain TVs (check in the TV audio settings menu).

Understand everything about the HDMI format

How to connect a home cinema to the TV using HDMI eARC?

The HDMI eARC (“enhanced ARC”) function is part of the specifications of the HDMI 2.1 standard. It incorporates all the ARC features plus support for uncompressed multi-channel audio formats requiring high bandwidth such as Dolby True HD and DTS HD MA as well as Dolby Atmos and DTS: X.

Note that the HDMI eARC functionality is mandatory with the HDMI 2.1 connector, but it is found on certain TVs and certain amplifiers or sound bars with HDMI 2.0 connectors or whose HDMI connectors are not yet HDMI 2.1 certified.

The Samsung Neo QLED QE65QN95A TV’s One Connect box has an HDMI eARC connector.

The control function of connected devices (CEC) is also included and management of the delay between the image and the sound (lipsync function) becomes mandatory.

Finally, HDMI eARC technology is fully backwards compatible with HDMI ARC. One can therefore take advantage of the audio return channel between an HDMI ARC amplifier and an HDMI eARC TV, and vice versa, but with the limitations inherent to HDMI ARC.
The Audioquest Forest 48 HDMI cable guarantees a transfer rate of 48 Gbps to ensure perfect transmission of UHD 4K, 8K and 10K HDR streams, as well as Dolby Atmos and DTS:X audio streams thanks to eARC technology.

To take full advantage of the eARC HDMI connection, it is recommended that you use an HDMI cable that offers high bandwidth. HDMI High Speed or HDMI High Speed with Ethernet certified cables are sufficient to enjoy only the audio return channel.

Premium High Speed HDMI cables, Premium High Speed HDMI with Ethernet or even Ultra High Speed HDMI cables are recommended for bi-directional connections (HDMI output with 4K / 8K images from the receiver to the TV and audio return channel from the TV to receiver).

HDMI cable certifications

Comparative table: Toslink optical, HDMI ARC and HDMI eARC

Cable type usedS/PDIF opticalHDMIHDMI with Ethernet
Stereo compatibleYesYesYes
Compressed 5.1YesYesYes
Uncompressed 5.1NoNoYes
Uncompressed 7.1NoNoYes
High bandwidth & acoustic objects
up to 24-bit/192kHz
(ex Dolby Atmos, DTS:X)
Maximum audio bandwidth~ 384 Kbps~ 1 Mbps37 Mbps
Communication between devicesNoCECeARC data channel
EARC compatibility (Audio EDID, etc.)NoneCECeARC data channel
Delay correction
The TV can mute and control the soundNoYes (CEC)Yes (CEC)
Turning on the TV activates audio devicesNoYes (CEC)Yes (CEC)
ARC backwards compatibilityNounknownYes

See also: How to connect your home cinema to your Internet TV box?

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