Pros / This sound bar has an Alexa smart speaker built-in.
Cons / It doesn’t sound as good as the best performers in our audio tests.
Verdict / The Polk Command Bar has all the important connectivity options and is a future-proof audio upgrade for any size home entertainment room.
The Polk Command Bar is one of two sound bars we tested with a built-in smart speaker. The other, the Sonos Beam, is $100 more and doesn’t have Bluetooth connectivity or a subwoofer. The Polk Command Bar is the most well-appointed sound bar we tested in terms of connectivity options and quality peripherals. The Polk Connect app is easy-to-use and makes the setup process quick and easy. Once the sound bar is connected to a home Wi-Fi network, use the Alexa app to add smart home products and music streaming services to Alexa’s voice-control capabilities.
The Command Bar is the only sound bar we tested with Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and voice-control connectivity. Wi-Fi is the preferred wireless connection for streaming high-fidelity music and movies. However, Bluetooth connections offer a quick and easy way to send audio from mobile devices that aren’t connected to your home network. There’s a button on the remote that turns on pairing mode to speed up the process. The Command Bar also has an optical input to send audio directly from your TV or an A/V receiver.
This sound bar has an HDMI input that was tailor-made for Amazon’s Fire TV and other wide HDMI streaming devices. You connect the video streaming device to the input and ask Alexa to play movies or tv shows from your favorite streaming services, or music from Spotify or other popular music services. The Command Bar and Alexa app are also compatible with an exhaustive list of smart home products, like lights, door locks, thermostats and Alexa-compatible TVs. When you are done watching TV for the night, use the voice control feature to lock the front door, turn down the heater and turn off the lights and TV, all from the comfort of your couch.
In addition to the helpful voice control options, the Command Bar also has the best physical remote in our test group. It has separate volume controls for overall volume, subwoofer level and the Voice Adjust feature that allows you to adjust the volume of midrange frequencies such as movie dialogue and vocals in music. The Command Bar scored above average in our dialogue and overall audio performance tests, but we felt it was lacking in bass response and surround simulation compared to the best sound bars we tested. The wireless subwoofer looks modern and the matte black finish fits in well amongst most home furnishings, but when we turned it up during loud action sequences, it exhibited moments of flabby and disproportionate bass. The music, movie and sports sound profile settings do a good job of automatically adjusting to specific situations, but we found ourselves turning down the bass and turning up the voice during our tests.
The Polk Command Bar is affordable, easy-to-use and has the best selection of connectivity options in our test group. Serious audiophiles might find the overall sound quality a bit boring and flat compared to a high-end audio solution, but this is a capable and future-proof audio upgrade compared to the poor sound emanating from your TV’s speakers.