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Polk Audio Command Bar soundbar review: Good sound, with Alexa at your service

To respond to the query posed within the subhed, no, Polk didn’t create the Command Bar by means of taking a hollow noticed to the center of its chassis and losing an Amazon Echo Dot in there. However the characteristic is certainly designed to glance like that, and this soundbar does enhance Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant.

Soundbars are sizzling at the present time, they usually run the gamut from sub-$100 cheapies to the ludicrously priced, however wow-it’s-impressive Ingenious X-Fi Sonic Provider. Polk goes after the better-than-entry-level marketplace with this $300 speaker. That makes it $100 inexpensive than the just lately reviewed Sonos Beam, and it comes with a well matched subwoofer. That’s now not too shabby.  

Just like the Beam, the Command Bar can also be managed by means of voice command, however that characteristic isn’t uber dependable whilst the speaker is generating its personal sonic vibrations. Flip the amount down a bit of and Alexa works in addition to it does in some other incarnation. That are meant to come as no marvel to any individual who’s used a wise speaker.

Design, options, and setup

The Command Bar is available in fundamental black, measures 2 inches prime, about 43 inches broad, and four inches deep. The soundbar part of the device—housing two 1.25- by means of three.25-inch midrange/woofers and a couple of 1-inch tweeters pushed by means of a 160-watt Elegance D amp—weighs in at with regards to Five kilos. A couple of keyholes at the again permit it to be hung at the wall with out want of extra brackets, despite the fact that the screws (which don’t seem to be equipped) must almost definitely be secured to studs for protection.

command sound bar firestick 01 Polk Audio

Polk thoughtfully fixed the USB port sideways, so you’ll be able to are compatible a full-sized USB streaming dongle with out it interfering with the location of the unit.

A ported, powered (100 watts from every other Elegance D amp) subwoofer with a 6.Five-inch driving force robotically pairs with the soundbar by way of Bluetooth whilst you set it up. The sub measures roughly 14.Four- by means of 7.Four- by means of 14.Five-inches and weighs in at eight.65 kilos.

Lots of the speaker’s connectivity choices are recessed into the middle again of the unit: An HDMI enter with 4K HDR pass-through, HDMI with ARC (audio go back channel), and Toslink optical enter. There’s a 2nd HDMI enter at the speaker’s right-hand finish cap (should you’re having a look on the speaker from the again). You’ll’t see it within the image beneath, however there’s a USB port to the right-hand facet of the recess, fixed at a 90-degree attitude. This let’s you connect a USB streaming dongle, such because the Amazon Hearth TV stick, in a location the place it’s not going to get knocked round with daily use. That’s a considerate design contact.

On most sensible of the unit is the increasingly more acquainted Alexa circle of sunshine that turns into lively whilst you summon Amazon’s virtual assistant: The hoop glows orange all the way through setup, crimson whilst you flip the mic off, pulsing yellow when there’s a message or notification looking forward to you, sunglasses of blue whilst Alexa is responding, and so forth. Buttons for energy, mic mute, and quantity keep watch over are within the middle of the tool. Polk additionally supplies an effective far flung keep watch over that I discovered a lot handier than voice instructions for easy duties.

I will ‘t pay attention you, the speaker’s too loud

screenshot 20180808 110539 IDG

Polk’s Command bar setup app is a bit of tedious, however it’s thorough and idiot-proof.

Having revel in with sensible audio system, I used to be  conversant in the conundrum of a tool seeking to pay attention for audio whilst it’s generating it. At any form of quantity, the waves emanating from the Command Bar generally tend to difficult to understand the ones produced by means of your voice. Resolution? Flip down or mute the audio tool ahead of issuing a voice command or question, or use the far flung keep watch over or the speaker’s onboard buttons. Or you’ll be able to simply yell. I’m kidding, that doesn’t all the time paintings.

With the amount down, the Command Bar does as excellent a task responding of any Alexa tool I’ve attempted when it’s now not generating sound. If you happen to in point of fact need full-time Alexa keep watch over, you’ll want a discrete unit that sits just about you.

Be aware that you just should create an account with Polk after which use its Polk Attach app to attach the Command Bar’s Wi-Fi adapter for your native community (and from there, to the web). As is conventional, you’ll wish to hyperlink your Alexa account for your Polk account, in order that Alexa can get entry to Polk’s library of instructions. It’s a gorgeous easy procedure, particularly should you’ve achieved this with different Alexa-compatible merchandise. When you’ve arrange Wi-Fi, you’ll be able to just about dispense with Polk’s app, as updates occur robotically. Past that, the usage of Alexa is like, smartly, the usage of Alexa. TechHive has discovered that whilst Amazon’s virtual assistant isn’t fairly as refined as Google’s, it’s a complete lot extra ubiquitous, no less than for now.

Audio efficiency

The Command Bar sounds excellent, with a subwoofer that doesn’t attempt to overpower you even if cranked to the max. As a substitute of a treble keep watch over, there’s a “voice” keep watch over that accents the frequencies of the human voice, reputedly making use of some minimize to the encircling frequencies. A minimum of that was once my impact. This shall be to hand for other folks with delicate listening to loss.

command sound bar set 3 closeup 1 Polk Audio

Polk provides a conventional remote control with its Command Bar for those times when it’s easier to push buttons than to talk.

I personally would like a bit more top end, but the color of what the Command Bar does produce was definitely to my liking. What sounds good is subjective, so I’ll leave most of that up to you. And each company has it’s own “sound,” if you will. If you like that slightly glassy effect, or the “air” that lots of high-end provides, you should look elsewhere. If you prefer solid mids and nice balance, then the Command Bar should be on your short list.  

Another smart soundbar

Subjectively, the Command Bar and woofer get reasonably loud, though no soundbar is a replacement for a high-end surround or stereo system. If you’re comparing the Command Bar to a Sonos Beam in terms of features, you’ll need to spend $600 to add a subwoofer to the latter, but you can’t add wireless surround speakers to the former at any price. Sonos also has one of the best multi-room audio systems on the market, and support for Apple’s AirPlay 2, where Polk’s speaker doesn’t support multi-room configurations at all (it might support Amazon’s multi-room tech down the road).

If you’re intrigued by Alexa and are also in the market for a soundbar, the Command Bar is as good a way get both in one package. Polk’s speaker is less expensive than a Sonos Beam, and it offers some features that product doesn’t. But the Beam is better for multi-room audio, and it can be built up to a 5.1-channel surround system—though not cheaply. Which features do you find more important?

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