If you only have one HDMI-ARC device, you might be wondering if there’s an HDMI-ARC adapter that you can use to connect both devices. As it turns out, there are a handful of electronics that might solve your problem.
The good news is they’re budget-friendly too, and the ones with fewer ports tend to be even cheaper. The bundles are the most expensive, but you shouldn’t have to pay more than 50 pounds for a decent converter.
Continue reading this article to discover how to connect older sound systems to HDMI ARC sources and TVs.
What is an HDMI ARC Adapter?
An HDMI ARC adapter can connect HDMI ARC devices to other systems that don’t support HDMI. These are often called HDMI audio extractors or converters, and they can be rather handy because you can convert one input to multiple outputs. The adapters usually convert HDMI input into either RCA, 3.5 mm headphone jack, Toslink, or Coaxial.
Note: HDMI audio extractors are not passive, which means they require external power, usually DC 5V. Make sure you have free extra power outlets! Another thing to keep in mind is most of these adapters usually have a manual switch for ARC mode.
When to Use an HDMI Audio Extractor:
Is an HDMI ARC adapter really necessary? The main reason to use HDMI ARC for audio (over Toslink, RCA, Aux, etc) is that HDMI can carry over control commands, a feature that is not possible using other methods. The second reason is that it might be the only port on your TV capable of carrying over audio.
For example, if you have a soundbar connected to your TV via HDMI, you can use your TV’s remote to control the audio on the soundbar, and vice versa. It’s definitely a lot more convenient to use, the alternative would be having two remotes for each device which is a hassle.
Another reason to use an HDMI ARC extractor is to connect output devices such as consoles and media players to surround sound receivers or older surround sound setups.
Before you buy one, make sure to examine the ports on your TV and sound equipment. If you’re using a cable box, check the ports on that too, it might have the ports your TV lacks. Most modern cable boxes support HDMI ARC, as well as optical and RCA.
When to Use an HDMI ARC Adapter:
An HDMI audio extractor would be very useful in certain situations. Probably the most common is to connect an older sound system that does not have HDMI ARC to an HDMI source.
Below are some common scenarios that might help you:
Your Soundbar (or speakers) Only Support Toslink (Optical)
If your soundbar (or speakers) only has an optical port, then you would want an HDMI audio extractor that has optical out.
The good news is that these adapters are pretty common. In most cases, the optical port on the adapter will be labeled as SPDIF OUT. SPDIF is a communication standard, and you can use optical cables with it too.
One specific adapter that could work for this situation is this HDMI to HDMI + Optical audio extractor.
Your Speakers only Have a 3.5 mm Jack
First, I would suggest checking the back or side panels of your TV to see if there’s a 3.5 mm output port, most TVs will have at least one.
If your TV does have one, then you can simply run a male to male 3.5 mm cable from the TV to your speakers. However, if your TV does not have a 3.5 mm port, only HDMI ARC, then an easy solution would be to buy an RCA to 3.5 mm converter or cable. These cables are only a few pounds, and that would be the easiest and cheapest solution.
Alternatively, if your TV does not even have RCA connectors (some new TVs have abandoned these ports) then you could look for something like this HDMI Audio extractor with 3.5 mm audio.
The Downsides to Using HDMI Audio Extractors
Before you buy an HDMI audio extractor, you should know about the downsides. While most audio extractors are automatic, as they automatically switch to HDMI ARC, in some cases you’ll need to manually flip a switch.
Personally, I recommend getting an HDMI ARC adapter that has multiple ports, so you have more options. For example, one that has RCA, Optical, and 3.5 mm. Or at least optical and 3.5 mm, as those are the most common in speakers and sound systems.
Have a look at this one on amazon:
The problem here is that you’ll have to keep changing the audio setting on the extractor whenever you want to use your sound system, which can be a hassle.
Secondly, if you’re trying to connect an old sound system that does not have HDMI ARC support, then the sound quality will probably be limited to stereo. I suggest using optical because it delivers the second-best audio (HDMI is first) with RCA and 3.5 mm being the lowest. For headphones, the sound quality will probably be okay but you’ll need something better for surround sound.
Another downside is all HDMI extractors require external power, either through USB or another source of power, so you’ll need to make some room for the extra cables.
Other than those points, there’s always the chance the adapter won’t work, there are some low-quality extractors that fail to deliver as promised. You might encounter spotty performance, unreliable connections, and other issues.
It’s a gamble, but if you do find an extractor that works, then it should hold up for a long time. Generally, I recommend upgrading your devices so that they all use the same technology and ports, so you can avoid this problem altogether. Also, they tend to be a little bulky and hot.
Overall, an HDMI audio extractor can work perfectly to connect new HDMI devices to old RCA or optical sound systems. That way, you can continue using older electronics. The audio quality might not be the absolute best possible, but it should be good enough.