With smart (i.e. voice-enabled) speakers now firmly a ‘thing’, invading show and shop floors and industry coverage at every opportunity, it was only a matter of time before voice assistant control crept into soundbars too.
But Polk appears to be first out of the gates with an Amazon Alexa-enabled soundbar.
It’s called the Command Bar – a fitting name, considering its (currently) unique selling point – and following its US launch, it will be available in the UK in July for £349.
To facilitate voice commands, the Command Bar has far-field microphones integrated into its top panel - these allow users to ask Alexa the time or weather, to set an alarm or turn the lights off. Voice commands can also, say, change volume, sound modes and source selection on the bar itself.
Naturally, Alexa integration expands to Amazon’s ecosystem, with users also able to use their own voice to control playback from Amazon Music, TuneIn radio and Audible (support for further music services is due later this year), as well as Fire TV devices.
Two 4K/HDR–supporting, HDCP 2.2-compliant HDMI 2.0b ports are for connecting such video streamers, or a Blu-ray player or games console. A USB socket on the back panel can act to power the source, too.
The Command bar builds on its physical connectivity with a HDMI ARC output and optical input, and wi-fi and Bluetooth are onboard too for music streaming.
Under the bar’s grille are two 3.25in full-range drivers and a pair of 1in tweeters, and there's an external wireless 6.5in subwoofer bringing the grunt.
As well as the typical ‘night’, ‘movies’, ‘music’ and ‘sports’ presets, and a ‘VoiceAdjust’ function for enhancing dialogue, Polk has an ‘action’ button on the remote that, when pressed, lowers playback volume to make it easier to Alexa to hear voice commands.
Still, Alexa or not, the Command Bar has to sound good - which means performing better than the last couple of Polk soundbars we’ve heard. To stand at the head of the class, it has to out-perform the Award-winning Yamaha YAS-207. A tough task indeed.