The Command Bar from Polk Audio is a high-powered sound bar with a total of 260W of Dolby/DTS surround audio on tap between the main unit and its wireless subwoofer. That’s a nice upgrade to any TV, but what makes this even better is built-in support for Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant. That’s right, no smart speaker required—with the Polk Command Bar, the microphones, Wi-Fi connection, and Alexa smarts are fully integrated.
As an aside, I have a bit of a soft spot for Polk Audio products—including a pair of Polk bookshelf speakers in my office. Best Buy has a soft spot for Polk too, with a series of Polk Audio giveaways. In fact, a Polk Command Bar was given away to a lucky Best Buy blog reader in November!
Everything you need is in the box
When the courier dropped off the Polk Command Bar box, I was a little surprised. It’s a big box (for a sound bar), and rather oddly shaped. The courier thought it was perhaps a guitar. However, the reason for the packaging is that the Command Bar main unit is quite long at 109 cm, and the box also includes the wireless subwoofer.
Actually, Polk includes everything you’ll need for setup in the box. That includes an optical cable and an HDMI cable, and batteries for the remote. That’s a nice touch. No-one likes lugging a piece of equipment like this home only to discover they have to go back to the store for cables and batteries.
Setup is easy (and Alexa helps you)
One of the key advantages of a sound bar over a full-fledged home theatre audio system is the simplicity of setup. The Polk Command Bar has the advantages of a soundbar—all the speakers in just two units that are wirelessly connected to each other—plus it has Alexa to walk you through the “Alexa” part of the setup.
First things first. Location. This sound bar is meant to sit horizontally, beneath your TV. The subwoofer sits on the floor off to the side. So you’ll need access to two electrical outlets. Connecting to the TV is going to depend on your TV. The set I tested is an older 1080p model, so it was a matter of HDMI out on the TV to HDMI in on the Command Bar, and optical out on the TV to optical in on the Command Bar.
If you have a TV with an HDMI ARC output, you don’t need the optical cable. If your TV is of the 4K HDR variety, the Command Bar has dual 4K HDMI 2.0a ports, so you’re covered there as well. There’s also a USB power outlet so you can plug in a Fire TV streamer directly.
Once physically connected and powered on, Alexa comes to like and asks you to download the Polk Connect mobile app (for iOS and Android), which you use to connect the Command Bar to your home’s Wi-Fi network, and to your Amazon account.
Polk Command Bar key specs:
Audio is pretty impressive, whether you’re watching a movie or listening to music. It’s 2.1 channel Dolby/DTS surround with 260W of total power and a dedicated subwoofer. You know it’s going to sound far better than anything your TV can produce. And streaming music from your smartphone will sound better than pretty much any portable wireless speaker.
Polk offers specific modes that enhance the audio for specific applications: Movie Mode, Music Mode, Sport Mode, and Night Mode. You can also specifically adjust the dialogue (voice) and bass levels.
Speaking of music, in a recent update Polk introduced support for multi-room audio. I didn’t have an Echo on hand to try it with, but the feature lets you stream music on the Command Bar and any other Alexa-enabled devices through your home.
Will it turn on my TV?
No. At least not out of the box. But if your TV or cable box supports Alexa Skills, you can program those so you can use Alexa voice commands with the Command Bar to control the TV functions.
Alexa integration is pretty handy
We went through a smart speaker “awkward” phase where smart speakers were physically connected to old school sound systems to make them smart. it worked, but I always found it kludgy and you end up with two devices doing the work of one. The Polk Command Bar has Alexa fully integrated. In fact, the centre of the speaker looks eerily like an Echo Dot has been squished down inside it, right down to the glowing ring that shows when Alexa is working on something.
Having Alexa right there is handy and easy to get used to. You’ll be shouting commands and asking questions in no time. And if you have any concerns about Alexa overhearing something she shouldn’t, there’s a button to physically turn off the microphone.
(Sort of) wall mountable
Many sound bars are wall mountable, which gets them completely out of the way. The Polk Command Bar is too, but it’s a slightly awkward arrangement. There are two keyhole slots on the back of the bar for wall hanging and Polk provides a template to help out. But I think it would look a little odd, because the horizontally oriented Command Bar is just 5cm tall, but sticks out 10cm from the wall. Sort of like a thick shelf. With the black cloth cover on top, I suspect it would collect dust like crazy. But at least it’s do-able.
Is the Polk Command Bar the sound bar for you?
If you’re going to buy a soundbar, why not make it smart and choose the Polk Command Bar? You get premium Polk audio plus fully integrated Alexa. Two birds with one stone, and both done well.
If you’re shopping for a new soundbar or a complete home theatre audio system, check out Best Buy for all the latest models and top brands, including Polk Audio.