Polk Command Bar with Amazon Alexa built-in raises bar for home theatre voice control

posted on Friday, 18th May 2018 by Steve May

home cinema  Smart home  Soundbar  Amazon Echo 

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US Hi-Fi brand Polk Audio has announced a 2.1 soundbar system with fully integrated Amazon Alexa functionality. The Command Bar, which launches in the UK this July, behaves just like any other Amazon smart speaker, and is able to control lights, thermostats and other connected home devices using Alexa smart home skills. It even has space to accomodate a Fire TV stick with USB power on the rear.

At the centre of the bar is a recognisable Dot interface, raised 2mm to better accommodate far-field microphones. The integration of Alexa offers direct voice control over input modes and volume, and also works with any connected Fire TV streamer. It also simplifies playback of Amazon Music, TuneIn radio and Audible.

“Just a few years ago, voice control was a fantasy. Today you can get instant access to commerce, content and real control of your home automation experience. It’s a game changer as far as we’re concerned,” brand manager Mike Gregory told Inside CI at the Command Bar's London unveil. “People are looking for take the next step in home entertainment immersion.”

Both HDMI v2.0b ports on the soundbar are 4K HDCP 2.2 compliant. There’s also an optical digital audio connection for those who can’t run ARC from their display. The soundbar connects wirelessly to a compact subwoofer, which stands on 25mm feet and has a downward facing 165mm driver. The system has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless connectivity. However, it lacks an Ethernet option.

To augment voice control, the system comes with a standard remote which features an Action button; this automatically lowers system volume so that Alexa can better hear commands.

The Polk Command Bar features two 82mm full-range drivers and two 25mm tweeters. An early listen confirmed a muscular mid-range stereo performance with no shortage of volume.

A key feature is Polk Voice Adjust, a proprietary dialogue enhancing filter.

Mike Greco

Alexa Soundbar

“The number one complaint from consumers is that they can’t hear the dialogue when they’re watching TV,” explains Greco (pictured above). “We’ve been building soundbars for a long time. We have a lot of experience building very compact, very dynamic woofers and tweeters.”

The Command Bar also has Movie, Music and Sports sound modes. The movie mode boosts bass response, while Music has a flatter frequency response. The Sports mode favours dialogue, and can be used with news and talk content. The soundbar is compatible with both Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 sound formats.

The Command Bar stands just 50.8mm tall and can be either tabletop or wall mounted, using built-in keyholes slots.

Polk has made several attempts to crack the UK market over the past decade, with limited success, despite being the number one loudspeaker brand in North America. Now with better channel access, from its Denon and Marantz acquisition, and a genuinely compelling combination of Alexa and home theatre audio, it could well gain the traction it seeks.

The Polk Command Bar will retail for £349.

Steve May

Inside CI Editor Steve May is a freelance technology journalist, who also writes for T3, TechRadar, Home Cinema Choice and ERT (amongst others).

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