Polk Audio Command Bar – An Affordable and smart speaker!

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Home audio is becoming more intelligent. Companies such as Sonos are changing the way we listen to music in the house with multi-room speakers such as the Sonos One, while home theatre manufacturers are making their equipment smarter with digital assistants and sophisticated audio technology such as Dolby Atmos. Polk Audio Command Bar, for example, was an early adopter of the smart home theatre movement, with devices such as the Polk Audio Command Bar, which is reviewed here.

Price & Availability

As you can see from the appearance of the soundbar, the Command Bar has Alexa embedded right in, making it unmistakably smart. It’s also reasonably priced, costing $250 (£249, AU$649) and including a subwoofer.

Design

The Polk Audio Command Bar seems to be a long, black, unassuming speaker, much like any other soundbar. However, there are a few features we enjoy, such as the metal finish around the bulk of the soundbar, which gives it a somewhat more domestic feel.

Polk did make an unusual design choice in that the gadget isn’t uniform – it bulbs out in the center. That means it’s not as basic as some other soundbars. However, it looks fine overall.

Of course, the Command Bar’s crown gem is the ring of blue light in the center, which acts as a link to Alexa. Polk Audio appears to have just carved out a circle for an Amazon Echo Dot, based on the volume controls & microphone management buttons.

The light, like the Dot, flashes blue when Alexa is enabled, and it also serves as a visual indicator of how loud your audio is when you increase the level. Overall, it’s more noticeable than when the white lights on a JBL Link series speaker ignite. However, it still looks acceptable, especially given that the lights aren’t always active in the first place.

Ports

There are two HDMI inputs and one HDMI-ARC output on the rear of the soundbar. However, if you have over two video sources to work with, you can merely utilize the optical connector for audio from your TV. However, if you stick to the HDMI ports, you can use Alexa to switch among HDMI sources, which is useful when you don’t have the remote nearby.

The matching subwoofer measures approximately 14.5 inches deep and tall, and 7.5 inches broad. It’s not enormous, but you’ll need to find a place for it.

Remote Control

Then there’s the remote, which is quite simple, which is a nice thing. There are buttons at the top to switch to Night More & Mute the speaker, as well as to activate Alexa.

Using the remote to activate Alexa also mutes whatever is playing in the background so that Alexa can hear you, which is a pleasant addition given that Alexa isn’t excellent at listening while anything is playing in the background. Under it, you can choose between HDMI 1 and HDMI 2, as well as controls for controlling the TV source and activating Bluetooth. Then there are volume controls, including separate settings for “voice,” or the center channel, and bass response, as well as buttons to enable Movie, Sport, and Music modes and playback controls.

Easy Setup

The setup is really simple to set up: simply put the soundbar plus subwoofer into a power outlet and they should sync up. To enable Alexa, install the Polk Connect app and complete the on-screen instructions, then connect to your Amazon account. You’ll also want to make sure that the HDMI ARC connection is hooked into your TV’s HDMI ARC port if it has one; if not, you’ll use the optical port to relay audio from your TV back to your soundbar.

The entire setup procedure takes around 15 to 20 minutes. However, as previously stated, it is fairly simple. Unfortunately, the app just allows you to set up the soundbar; it would have been good if you could operate the soundbar more from the app, or even use the app to stream content, but that isn’t the case here.

Polk Audio Command Bar – Features

Review: Polk Command Bar lets you swap the remote for Alexa - 9to5Toys

The Polk Audio Command Bar’s functions are divided into two categories: smart features & audio features.

The Command Bar’s smart capabilities are straightforward: it includes Alexa incorporated into the soundbar, which you can use in the same manner you would any other Alexa device to manage smart home devices & ask questions. You can also use Alexa to change inputs and adjust the volume on your TV, which is a great touch.

The audio features aren’t as extensive as you’d anticipate from a soundbar in this price bracket. However, they’re not horrible. The speaker offers 2.1 audio channels and, according to Polk, a frequency response of 40Hz – 22kHz. Between both the subwoofer and the soundbar, you’ll receive 260 watts in total, which is modest in comparison to other soundbars but more than enough for the great majority of residential scenarios. In terms of I/O, the HDMI connections enable HDMI 2.0a, which supports 4K HDR video.

Overall, it’s not the most feature-rich system, but it has a lot to offer for the price. On paper, audio performance appears to be adequate, but what counts more is what you hear rather than what you see in a specifications list.

Performance

Polk Audio Command Bar Review (2.1 CH Soundbar) | Home Media Entertainment

That being said, what truly counts is how the Polk Audio Command Bar sounds – and happily, while it’s not spectacular, it’s adequate for a device in this price bracket.

Let’s start with the bass, which, owing to the attached subwoofer, is perhaps the soundbar’s greatest frequency range. Not only is bass response there and typically loud, but it can also be modified via the remote’s bass settings.

The midrange is well-tuned. However, as you might expect with a soundbar at this price, the upper mids are overemphasized. It’s not a big deal, and the soundbar still sounds far superior to the speakers built into your television.

The soundbar’s high-end performance is likely its weakest point, but we found it to be responsive, clear, & detailed. Sure, it doesn’t reach as far as more costly systems, and there’s a certain shine that’s missing. However, the high-end is still very much present.

There’s enough loudness for the vast majority of listening scenarios. The soundbar is more than able to produce adequate volume for realistic movie viewing or for usage at gatherings.

Overall, those looking for something for a really large space should go elsewhere. However, for a small or medium-sized area, the Polk Audio Command Bar should suffice.

How to connect the Polk soundbar to wireless speakers?

For 3 seconds, press and hold the SYNC button on every surround speaker. The green LED on the rear of the surround speaker will begin to flicker quicker, signaling that the soundbar and speaker are linked; fully connected, the LED is solid green.

Conclusion

If you have money to spend and want the greatest smart soundbar money can buy, grab the Sonos Beam. It’s a touch more stylish, will soon include Google Assistant, and sounds somewhat better. However, there’s no subwoofer, so the bass response is a little weaker.

Having said that, the Polk Audio Command Bar has a lot going for it. For example, it is far less expensive than the Sonos, has a distinct and strong bottom end, has intriguing smart capabilities, and looks fairly decent.

If you have a budget of $300 or less for a smart soundbar, the Polk Audio Command Bar for any small or medium-sized living room is strongly recommended.

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