HDMI CEC is one of the oldest ways to connect all your devices with HDMI. Introduced in HDMI 1.0 and updated in HDMI 1.3, HDMI CEC allows up to 15 devices to communicate with each other and share settings to create a seamless home theater experience.
CEC stands for Consumer Electronics Control. HDMI CEC allows you to combine the settings of all compatible devices into one remote. While you may still need to use the specific device remote for unique device features, most of the core features of compatible devices are supported by HDMI CEC. Controls over playback, audio, and menu selection can all be synchronized across your devices with HDMI CEC.
HDMI CEC can greatly simplify your home theater system. Although it can be tedious to set up, it makes switching between devices a breeze. Here’s all you need to know about what HDMI CEC is, how it works, and how to use it.
HDMI CEC provides for most of the core features you would find on any remote control. Information for power, playback, audio, and menu selection can all be transmitted through HDMI CEC. No more switching between remotes. No more switching between devices on a universal remote. Now, one device remote can control all of your devices.
It is important to note that this is not the same technology as a universal remote. A universal remote is programmed with the wireless signal patterns of hundreds of consumer products. When you use a universal remote, the remote is directly controlling the device it is communicating with.
HDMI CEC uses any of your devices’ remotes to control your entire system. If you use the remote from your TV, for example, to control your DVD player, your remote communicates with your TV to send a CEC signal via your HDMI cable to the DVD player.
That’s right. Whichever remote you use has the corresponding device effectively control the other devices it is connected to. They can even control the device when asleep and the HDMI circuitry is disabled, or when the device is completely powered off. That’s because, although integrated into the HDMI cable, CEC is a separate electrical signal from the other HDMI controls.
There are a lot of features that HDMI CEC enables. Here are just a few:
Deck control allows you the common playback commands (play, stop, rewind, etc.) for your playback devices whether they be Blu-ray players, camcorders, etc.
One of the more annoying parts of setting up a home theater system used to be having to calibrate the volume of all your playback devices to be roughly equal across devices. HDMI CEC eliminates this problem by imposing an audio control for your entire system. That’s right, one volume control for your entire system.
Okay, you just finished watching the last episode of your favorite show, and you want to watch your favorite movie. You know, the one that somehow none of the streaming services have picked up. So you have to pop it in the DVD player, and then change the source, and then press play right?
Not with HDMI CEC. With One Touch Play, HDMI CEC playback devices will automatically switch the TV source on play. No more navigating input source menus.
When it comes to home theater systems, you could be using three devices at once! It used to be that you would have to power each device up individually when you wanted to use them and power them down individually when you were done.
With HDMI CEC, that’s a thing of the past. The system standby feature allows your standby or power button to put all of your devices in standby mode.
Another fun feature is One Touch Record which allows you to record whatever is playing on your display device to a selected recording device. No more routing your sources through a recording device to the display device. With HDMI CEC, it’s all connected.
HDMI CEC goes by a number of commercial names. Each one technically offers a slightly different menu of features, but the core functionality of having a designated pin in the HDMI plug is no different.
Here's a list of the branded names of HDMI-CEC:
Some of the commercial names are not very inventive, such as Hitachi’s HDMI-CEC or Vizio’s CEC. Most of the commercial names include the word link (Aquos Link, BRAVIA Link, CE-Link, EasyLink, SimpLink, etc.), although some have unique names like Anynet+ (Samsung) and 1-Touch-Play (Roku).
There are plenty of pros to HDMI CEC and very few cons. And while the pros outnumber the cons, there may be instances where you may want to disable HDMI CEC or upgrade your system to one that uses eARC–a newer standard that improves upon HDMI CEC’s features while eliminating the need for setup.
There are a number of advantages HDMI CEC provides. As previously mentioned, it allows for several global controls, allowing you to more seamlessly integrate your home theater system.
Additionally, HDMI CEC works in combination with HDMI ARC (Audio Return Channel) to reduce the number of cables necessary to connect multiple devices.
In short, HDMI ARC allows for audio to travel in both directions, reducing the number of cables you would need to connect an external source such as a Blu-ray player to a TV and A/V receiver.
In order to take advantage of HDMI ARC, your devices must have HDMI ARC or eARC ports. Usually, configuring your devices for HDMI CEC enables HDMI ARC along with it, but check your device manual to be sure.
The primary drawback to HDMI CEC is the limitation of HDMI ARC to deliver full quality surround sound. HDMI ARC is capable of transmitting uncompressed stereo audio or compressed 5.1 surround sound audio. That’s it...
If you want uncompressed 5.1 channel or better audio, you’ll either have to disable HDMI CEC and ARC on your devices or upgrade to devices that support HDMI eARC. HDMI eARC is capable not only of delivering 5.1 and 7.1 uncompressed audio but can also handle better high definition formats put out by Dolby and DTS.
Setting up HDMI CEC varies from device to device. Usually, HDMI CEC settings can be found in the sound settings or system settings of your device’s settings menu.
You will need to configure the HDMI CEC settings for each of the devices you intend to connect with HDMI CEC. If you upgrade your system to one with HDMI 2.1a ports, they will have HDMI eARC automatically enabled, and if any of your components aren’t compatible with HDMI eARC, they will revert to standard HDMI ARC (with all the drawbacks previously mentioned).
Enabling HDMI ARC and CEC is different from manufacturer to manufacturer, but they generally follow the same steps. You go into your device settings, you turn on HDMI ARC, and then you may or may not need to discover other devices.
Here, we’ll review how to set up HDMI ARC and CEC on five popular TV brands.
LG - With LG TV’s, click the home button and go to Settings. Select Sound and then Sound Settings. From here turn ARC Mode to the ON position and turn the TV Speaker to OFF.
Vizio - From the menu, select System. Then select CEC. Where it says CEC Function select Enable, and where it says System Audio Control select On. From here, select the Device Discovery option and wait for your TV to discover the other devices you’ve connected.
Sony - From the Home menu go to Settings, then System Settings. From here, select Set Up, then AV Set Up. Make sure the Speakers setting is set to Audio Out. Click back to go to the Set Up menu again then click BRAVIA Sync. From here, select BRAVIA Sync Device List.
TCL w/ Roku - From the Home menu, select Settings, then System. Select Control Other Devices (CEC) and enable both HDMI ARC and System Audio Control.
Samsung - From the Menu select System and then turn Anynet+ to the ON position.
You will also need to enable HDMI ARC on your A/V receiver or soundbar. To do this, you will need to turn your TV to the input setting the audio device is connected to.
From here, you must navigate the settings menu of the audio device to enable HDMI ARC and CEC, which again may be referred to by different names.
In some instances, particularly with certain soundbars (most notably Sonos), you will need to download an app in order to set the device up for HDMI ARC. Simply download the app onto your phone and follow the instructions.