Amazon and Google offer a range of smart speakers tailored for different use cases, but the main issue with these devices has always been sound quality. The Echo Plus (2nd gen) delivers much better sound over its predecessor, but it still isn't anywhere close to a budget 2.1 setup.
That's where products like Polk's Command Bar come in. The soundbar features Alexa integration — allowing you to control your lights, get updates on your daily commute, and much more — and it also manages to deliver excellent sound that's perfect for watching TV shows and movies. The Command Bar debuted last year, and Polk recently rolled out multi-room audio, which lets you group the soundbar with other Alexa devices in your home.
Polk isn't the only manufacturer with an Alexa-enabled soundbar, as everyone from Bose, Sony, Yamaha, and Sonos offer a product in this space. The $399 Sonos Beam in particular delivers exquisite sound, and the Command Bar manages to do the same at a lower price point.
- Seamless Alexa integration
- Great sound quality
- Multi-room audio
- Dedicated HDMI slot for Fire TV Stick
- App has limited functionality
- Plain design
Polk Command Bar What I like
The Command Bar looks just like every other soundbar: it's long, sleek, and has a material finish that doesn't make it stand out. But its distinguishing feature is the center console — where it looks like Polk crammed a 2nd Gen Echo Dot into the soundbar. The hockey puck-sized housing has the same design as an Echo Dot, the same set of controls, and it even has the same light ring that glows blue when Alexa is activated.
The center housing has controls for volume, manually triggering Alexa, and a mute button. The light ring also serves as a visual indicator when you're increasing or decreasing volume or adjusting the bass level on the wireless subwoofer. By emulating the same design as the Echo Dot, the Command Bar immediately feels familiar if you've used an Echo device before.
The bundled remote is standard fare: it has controls for adjusting volume and bass, invoking Alexa, switching between HDMI inputs, TV and music modes, playback controls, and a night mode that turns down the volume considerably. The remote itself doesn't have a microphone, but it turns down the volume on the soundbar to allow the far-field mics on the center console to pick up your commands.
With a depth of four inches and height of two inches, the Command Bar slots in unobtrusively in front of any 50-inch or larger TV. And while you can also mount the soundbar on a wall, the depth means it will jut out considerably.
You get two 4K HDMI 2.0 inputs, as well as an HDMI ARC output and optical port at the back. And as the soundbar is aimed at users that are tied into Amazon's ecosystem, the second HDMI slot is located on the side, specifically to allow a Fire TV Stick — although you can also slot in any other streaming device and it'll work just fine. There's also a USB port that provides power for any streaming devices that you connect to the soundbar.
Initial configuration is pretty straightforward: you'll just have to plug in the soundbar and subwoofer to a wall outlet and use the Polk Connect app to log in to your Amazon account and set up Alexa. The Command Bar primarily connects over Wi-Fi, but it also has Bluetooth connectivity, allowing you to just connect your phone to the soundbar to play music.
There are adjustable EQ modes for movies, music, and sports, and you can easily switch between the modes from the remote. Thanks to Alexa integration, you can easily switch between various sound modes and HDMI inputs just by issuing commands — and you'll even get an oral confirmation whenever a particular mode is selected.
The Command Bar offers the same features as one of the best Alexa speakers: you can talk to the virtual assistant for your daily news briefing, controlling your smart home devices, getting updates on weather and sports, and so much more. One of the major updates that Polk rolled out to the Command Bar this year is multi-room audio, allowing the soundbar to be included in a group with other Alexa devices.
The Command Bar consists of two 3-inch drivers along with a pair of 1-inch tweeters located at either end of the soundbar. The subwoofer, meanwhile, has a 6.5-inch driver that pushes 100 watts. It's perfect for watching TV shows and movies, and it manages to outmatch the Sonos Beam in the low-end because of the wireless subwoofer.
In general, the sound quality is fantastic for a soundbar that costs less than $300. The subwoofer delivers powerful bass, the mid-range is very well-defined, and highs are clear and detailed. The Command Bar is particularly great for watching movies, but it also does a great job when it comes to playing music.
Polk Command Bar What needs work
My main issue with the Command Bar isn't with the soundbar itself, but the Polk Connect app. The app serves little purpose other than for initial configuration, and you don't get any options to adjust the equalizer or stream music from the app.
It would've been easier to just use the Alexa app to set up the soundbar considering the lack of options with Polk Connect. My only other qualm is that the design of the soundbar is mundane. The Sonos Beam looks much better in comparison, and Polk could have added more flair to the design.
Polk Command Bar Should you buy it?
With the Command Bar, Polk has managed to create the perfect Alexa-enabled soundbar. It has a wide variety of connectivity options, and the Alexa integration unlocks a whole new set of features. The audio quality is excellent for a device in this category, and the wireless subwoofer adds another dimension to movies and TV shows.
The addition of multi-room audio makes the Command Bar an even better deal, and right now there aren't many alternatives that deliver quite the same set of features for under $300. Simply put, this is the Alexa-enabled soundbar you've been waiting for.
4.5 out of 5
There are several Alexa-enabled soundbars in the market today, but the Command Bar stands head and shoulders above the rest thanks to its combination of features and sound quality. The Command Bar sounds better than the Sonos Beam thanks to the wireless subwoofer, and it costs $150 less. That's one heck of a bargain.
Great sound quality backed by Alexa smarts.
The Command Bar is a great budget soundbar in its own right, and Alexa integration combined with multi-room audio make it one of the best options in this category right now. The wireless subwoofer allows it to deliver punchy bass, and the far-field mic picks up your voice from across the room. Overall, you're getting great value for your money.
Harish Jonnalagadda is a Senior Editor overseeing Asia at Android Central. He leads the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, contributing to reviews, features, and buying guides. He also writes about storage servers, audio products, and the semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.