How to Connect External Speakers to TV: HDMI® ARC vs. HDMI® Audio Extractor

How to Connect Speakers to TV? HDMI ARC or HDMI Audio Extractor

In this article, we introduce how to connect your TV audio to external speakers/audio equipment in two ways: HDMI ARC and HDMI Audio Extractor. We're going to cover:

You can click on the links to jump to the paragraphs below.

Why Connect HDMI Audio to an External Soundbar

Does HDMI Carry Audio?

The answer to this common question is "Yes," which makes HDMI sources less likely to send audio to other equipment in your TV system.

Traditionally, audio and video were transmitted separately through different interfaces, such as CVBS for traditional TVs and component video connectors for DVD players and game consoles.

The introduction of HDMI revolutionized this paradigm. HDMI unified the transmission of audio and video, greatly enhancing user convenience. Displays nowadays often incorporate built-in speaker systems to play audio and video from the same HDMI source.

Nevertheless, users seeking higher audio quality often prefer external audio devices over the built-in speakers of their displays. As modern TVs now feature slimness, high-end speakers become unlikely to be incorporated since they require more space for resonance or setting up multiple speakers for surround sound. This is where the demand arises to extract the audio from HDMI and play it on external audio devices like a soundbar.

Does HDMI carry audio? HDMI audio extractors for home theater and conference rooms are used to extract audio from HDMI video.

Increasing Audio/Video Sources

Today, many set-top boxes and Blu-ray players offer separate audio interfaces for connecting external sound systems or speakers. As the variety of audio-visual sources continues to expand, a single display and speaker system may have to afford three to five or more sources. Though, this is less of an issue for displays, as most now come with three or more HDMI inputs.

However, in situations with multiple sources, connecting your audio device to each source can be complicated over wiring.

TV set-top boxes and Blu-ray players have audio outputs that can connect external speakers/amplifiers.
Set-top boxes and Blu-ray players typically have audio output interfaces.

Televisions often have three to four HDMI input interfaces; source devices stream HDMI with audio out to the TV.
Televisions usually feature three or more HDMI input interfaces.

Smart TV with Built-in Streaming Services

Another significant trend is the rise of smart TVs, which integrate AV sources such as TV streaming services within the television itself. This eliminates the cabling from sources to displays and speakers, as audio and video are bound to the display device, making it less likely to extract them.

Smart TV can use ARC or eARC to achieve audio extraction as it has no external source devices but built-in TV streaming services.

Connect HDMI Audio to Soundbars

HDMI Audio Extractor vs. HDMI ARC: Setup & Comparison

How to extract audio from HDMI video: HDMI Audio Extractor, HDMI Audio Splitter, HDMI ARC, and HDMI eARC.
HDMI ARC/eARC HDMI Audio Extractor
Function Extract audio to external audio equipment
Feature Bind the display and the audio equipment Extract audio from HDMI source
Audio output interfaces HDMI HDMI, SPDIF optical, 3.5mm, etc
Limitations Displays and audio equipment must support
1. A switcher is needed to switch between
2. Inapplicable to Smart TV.
Multiple devices Yes, you can connect to multiple devices and
control them at one time.
Smart TV Yes, HDMI ARC can be used with Smart TV.
When to use Your displays and soundbar/audio equipment
all support HDMI ARC/eARC.
Your displays and audio equipment are from
different generations and have different specs.

How Does HDMI ARC Work?


ARC (Audio Return Channel) and eARC are essentially the same; they are designed to bind the TV and the external audio device together. Regardless of the number of source devices, any audio played by the TV will be automatically passed to the external audio device. Consider the TV, AV receiver, and external soundbar as one integrated system; the soundbar will play any audio transmitted to the TV from any source.

HDMI ARC Setup. What is HDMI ARC used for? HDMI ARC TV connection.

HDMI ARC/eARC Setup Features

First, we need to understand the design logic of ARC/eARC. The ARC technology was driven by users' control needs of several devices. In the past, using speakers in multi-source scenarios required selecting speaker & TV input and controlling the source inputs themselves (e.g., DVD player). This also resulted in complex wiring and installation challenges.

As a result, the key features of HDMI ARC setup are:

  • The TV distributes audio to external audio devices.
  • HDMI cables with a single specification (compared to the various cables used by audio devices).
  • Multiple source inputs share a single HDMI cable with ARC functionality for audio transmission.

This means that no matter how many different audio-visual devices are connected, as long as the screen is displaying, the soundbar will output audio as the TV and soundbars are synchronized.

Of course, there are soundbars available on the market that come with built-in ARC functionality, but we will explore this feature in detail in the future.

HDMI VS HDMI ARC: TVs with HDMI output supporting ARC can send every audio from the TV to speakers and can be controlled by the remote control supporting CEC.

Limitations of HDMI ARC/eARC

Despite their convenience, ARC/eARC have limitations. The most significant limit is that the display and the external audio device must support ARC or eARC. It's important to note that not every older device supports ARC or eARC. In this situation, you may consider using another convenient tool, the HDMI Audio Extractor, to achieve audio extraction.

Why Use an HDMI Audio Extractor?

In high-end audio-visual applications, audio equipment is replaced less frequently than displays. There are three main reasons:

  • The cost of replacing speakers, soundbars, and other audio equipment is higher in applications focused on sound quality. In such cases, the replacement frequency for audio equipment may be 5 to 10 years, while TVs are often replaced every 2 to 3 years.
  • Audio technology advances at a slower pace. 5.1 channel audio was introduced as early as 1979 with the release of the movie Apocalypse Now, and 7.1 channel audio came into play with the release of Star Wars: Episode I in 1999. Although many technologies nowadays support up to 12 channels, 7.1 remains the mainstream choice.
  • Installing and replacing audio equipment can be more complicated than video equipment, especially in home theater applications.
How does HDMI Audio Extractor work? What is an HDMI audio extractor/HDMI audio splitter/HDMI to Audio converter?

How Does HDMI Audio Extractor Work?

HDMI Audio Extractor extracts audio signals from the HDMI transmission. For example, with SC&T HAE01, HDMI signals can be split into HDMI video output and HDMI audio (for a soundbar or speakers), SPDIF optical, or 3.5mm audio output.

When your audio devices encounter connectivity issues between different generations or do not support the HDMI ARC function, audio extractors are extremely helpful. You can also choose an HDMI audio extractor in the following situations:

  • When the resolution of speakers differs from that of a new display. (Check if the audio extractor comes with a scaler.)
  • When speakers lack HDMI interfaces.
  • When the source device has only one HDMI interface (connected to the display) and no other interfaces for speakers.
HDMI Audio Extractor application in the home theatre. HDMI Audio Extractor with scaler and dual HDMI outputs.
See SC&T 4K 60Hz Audio Extractor w/ Dual HDMI Outputs & Scaler (HAE01)

Limitations of HDMI Audio Extractor: Smart TV

An HDMI Audio Extractor connects to an HDMI source device, a display, and external audio devices, extracting and transmitting signals via HDMI cables. However, smart TVs have built-in audio/video sources, which do not require HDMI cable, rendering HDMI audio extractors unable to connect to source devices and extract audio. Fortunately, most smart TVs support ARC/eARC, so external audio devices can still be used as long as they meet the ARC/eARC specifications.

Does HDMI Audio Extractor Degrade Audio/Video Quality?

Sample Rate Determines the Fidelity of HDMI Audio

HDMI is a digital signal. Generally, HDMI signal sources can support various audio formats such as LPCM, Dolby TrueHD, and DTS-HD MA, each with different sample rates, bit depths, and channel counts that affect audio clarity and detail. If the audio format and quality of the HDMI signal source are not already high, then an HDMI audio extractor cannot enhance them.

The HDMI version also significantly affects the sample rate, with HDMI 1.4 supporting a sample rate of 768 kHz, while HDMI 2.0 and 2.1 support a sample rate of 1536 kHz.

Choose an HDMI Audio Extractor with a Downscaling Function

Video and audio devices of different generations may have different HDMI versions. If your display and audio devices have different HDMI versions, you should use an HDMI audio extractor that has a scaler. A downscaling function ensures that even when upgrading to a 4K@60Hz display, the audio device that supports only 1080p can still operate. Therefore, it is advisable to choose an audio extractor with a downscaling function to avoid impacts on your video quality.

HDMI Audio Extractor Video Scaler to adjust video from 4K to 1080P.

Cable Length Also Affects Audio Quality

If your audio devices are connected with HDMI cables (such as soundbars with HDMI input interfaces), consider the cable length. Even if the display and audio devices have matching and fixed sample rates, cable length can affect the time it takes for the audio transmission from output to input. Generally, shorter cable lengths are preferable within the required range.

HDMI Audio Extractor with Multiple Sources Setup

If you require many sources, you can use an HDMI switcher before the audio extractor based on the number of sources. This allows you to quickly switch between audio sources without altering the rear-end configuration.

4K HDMI Switcher/audio extractor connection.
SC&T 4K 60Hz HDMI Switcher: 4-in-1-out HDMI Switcher (HS04-4K6G)

Alternatively, you can choose an HDMI matrix switcher with an HDMI ARC and Audio Extractor capability, such as HDMI Switcher Audio Extractor (HS42M-4K6G). It can cater to the needs of controlling multiple devices and extracting the audio when signals pass through the switcher.

4K HDMI Switcher Audio Extractor capability for HDMI matrix and HDMI audio extraction.
Explore SC&T 4K 60Hz HDMI Matrix Switcher with Audio Extractor & Scaler

How to Choose the Best HDMI Audio Extractor

Now, you may be wondering how to select the right HDMI Audio Extractor for your needs. Here are some recommendations:

  • Input and output options:
    Ensure that the Audio Extractor has sufficient input and output options to meet your needs, allowing you to easily connect multiple devices.
  • Audio quality support:
    Check if the device supports high-resolution audio formats like DTS-HD Master Audio or Dolby TrueHD. This ensures the best audio quality experience.
  • Ease of use:
    Choose an Audio Extractor that is easy to set up and operate to save you time and hassle.
  • Brands:
    Opt for products from well-known brands, as this typically signifies better quality and reliable customer support.

In summary, HDMI Audio Extractors are excellent for ensuring both audio and video quality, elevating your multimedia experience. Make sure you purchase a device that suits your needs and budget to enhance your audio-visual experience.

Conclusion: When to Use HDMI ARC or Audio Extractor?

There are various ways to play HDMI audio on external audio equipment, including HDMI ARC and audio extraction. However, the choice largely depends on the compatibility of your source and display/audio equipment. In general, the latest configurations may utilize designs like ARC or eARC, but if you have older devices that need to be compatible, consider using an HDMI Audio Extractor to meet your needs. If you have any questions, please feel free to discuss them with us.

2023-09-05 5:30 pm

Cable Used

Product Name


Power Source



1080p Distance

4K Distance

Optical Fiber Cable

HDMI Fiber Cable


(Reflection of Light)

Power From Source

Video/ Audio




HDMI Fiber Dongle Extender

Mini USB


300M/ 1KM

300M/ 1KM

Network Cable

HDMI CAT5e Dongle Extender


Power From Source

Video/ Audio




HDMI CAT5e Extender

External Power Supply

Video/ Audio




HDMI over IP Extender

Internet Protocol

External Power Supply

Video/ Audio




HDMI KVM over IP Extender*

Video/ Audio/ Keyboard/ Mouse



HDMI Cable

HDMI Repeater


External Power Supply

Video/ Audio




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