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Lifewire / Zach Sweat
Full sound with deep bass
Built-in Alexa and smart TV
Voice and remote controls
Expensive for soundbars
Potential bugs with Alexa
Requires app for setup
This all-in-one audio solution from Polk is an excellent setup with lots of features for those who want big sound but don’t have the space for a huge setup.
By including all the features of a smart TV inside a soundbar, you can now transform any old TV into a “smart” version without needing to add an extra box (Apple TV, Chromecast, etc.) or purchasing a new TV entirely.
Polk Audio is a big name in the audio world, so it’s no surprise they’ve joined this new area of home audio equipment. Released in 2018, the Command Soundbar is Polk Audio’s first smart soundbar with baked-in features and the Amazon Alexa personal assistant.
While these types of soundbars are relatively new, there are lots of options to choose from if you’re currently searching for something like this to upgrade your audio experience. Before you jump the gun, read our full review below to find out if the Command Soundbar is the best fit for you.
Most soundbars have a pretty typical design with a long array of speakers shrouded in black plastic and speaker cloth. Polk’s Command Soundbar doesn’t stray too far from this format, but it does have some unique design changes due to the smart features. Despite its length, the whole setup isn’t massive compared to some home audio equipment—though it’s not the most compact either.
Located smack dab in the middle on top of the soundbar is Amazon Alexa’s iconic circular design with all the usual buttons and LEDs. It looks as if an Echo Dot was embedded right in the soundbar, and that isn’t far from the truth. If you’ve used or seen one of these devices before, you’ll recognize the ring LED that displays notifications from Alexa, the mute button, action button, and controls for volume. The LED is especially handy for quickly checking the audio level of your speakers.
Moving out alongside the soundbar, there’s a small Polk logo at the front, with the rest of the soundbar wrapped in black speaker cloth. At the back, there are lots of various ports for all kinds of connections, which is great for those who like to customize how their speaker setups operate. Users can choose to hook up the soundbar with a range of inputs/outputs depending on their preference, but it’s disappointing that there's no good old 3.5mm jack.
The subwoofer that’s included with the package is about the size of a small PC tower, measuring 14.5 inches tall and about 7.5 inches wide. It connects wirelessly to the soundbar, so you can place it almost anywhere in the room you’d like. The semi-glossy black plastic it’s made of looks pretty basic, but at least it’s not ugly.
The Command Soundbar also includes a remote if you loathe the idea of voice controls. Overall, it’s pretty simple, which isn’t really a bad thing since it exclusively needs to control your speakers. The remote is a bit gaudy with its gold trim, but it has some cool features like night mode, audio type, and more we’ll touch on later in the features section.
Overall, the design of Polk’s soundbar isn’t revolutionary, but it looks quite sleek and fits right at home next to your TV without being an eyesore.
While everyone might not be annoyed at the idea of being forced to download an app to set up your new speaker array, I personally think it’s a bit frustrating. The entire setup process isn’t too troubling, but it does require you to have a smartphone handy to complete the setup.
It looks as if an Echo Dot was embedded right in the soundbar, and that isn’t far from the truth.
First things first, plug in both the soundbar and subwoofer power cords. The two systems should automatically sync without any trouble. The next step requires you to head to your favorite app store and download the Polk Connect app. Once finished, boot it up and follow along with the on-screen instructions that’ll have you connect the system to your Wi-Fi, select a room, and run through a few other basic things. The final part is to connect the Alexa assistant to your Amazon account, which can also be a little annoying.
Once you finish the process, your new home audio system is ready to go, but unfortunately, the Polk Connect app doesn’t have many functions beyond the initial setup. Since they require you to download this, it’d be nice if it had some additional features, but you may as well uninstall it after you’re done.
Judging the overall sound quality of a speaker depends on a lot of factors. For one, this is a relatively affordable soundbar for a decent home audio setup, but pales in comparison to a true stereo arrangement with an amp. Keeping this in mind, the Command Soundbar impressed us with its performance compared to similar speakers in this price range.
Starting with the soundbar’s treble, the Command seems to struggle with this area the most. We noticed some harsh tones during certain songs that emphasize the lackluster treble, especially in tracks where it felt detached from the music.
Midrange performance is solid. Usually one of the most important areas for both music and dialogue, it’s great to see the Command Soundbar does well here. This made a big difference while listening to voices during scenes where your average TV speakers often have you fussing with the volume up or down depending on the action. If you’re someone who hates not being able to hear dialogue but thinks booming action is too loud, this will definitely help to remedy that.
Bass is something most soundbars have dismal performance in. Thanks to the inclusion of a subwoofer however, Polk’s setup performs quite well. Earth-shattering bass is something most people attribute to quality audio, but that’s actually not necessarily true. You won’t get an insane amount from the little subwoofer here, but it’s more than enough to set itself apart from your TV speakers or other soundbars lacking a standalone woofer. The option to tune the bass via the remote to your preference means you can set it perfectly to your liking.
We tested the Command Soundbar on a range of movies, TV, music, and games and were pleasantly surprised with the overall sound quality compared to similar smart soundbar options. If you’re a big audiophile who demands the best, it may be lacking a bit, but it’s certainly a step up from most soundbars.
As we said earlier, Alexa is baked right into the soundbar, which provides a range of cool functions to set it apart from others. Using voice commands, users can control things like volume, change inputs, control music, select songs or Alexa programs, and perform any functions with the assistant (asking questions, checking the weather, and much more). I personally loved having the voice assistant right inside the speaker, but I’ve also used an Echo Dot in the past. If you hate Alexa, you probably won’t like it here either.
If you want additional smart features, you can also plug in a Fire TV Stick and use the soundbar to turn your TV into a truly “smart” device complete with all your favorite streaming apps and more. While it would’ve been nice to have that included, streaming devices are fairly cheap now, and many people don’t need an additional smart TV box since most TVs now include such capabilities.
Soundbars can widely vary in price depending on their features and performance. While some can run under $100, others can reach upwards of several hundred dollars. Polk Audio isn’t the most high-end equipment for enthusiasts, but it is well-respected by most, especially for the average consumer.
Retailing around $300 at most stores, this soundbar isn’t the cheapest option around if you’re looking for pure audio performance to price. However, the smart features included in the package, as well as the subwoofer paired in the box, definitely make it feel more justified.
The smart features included in the package, as well as the subwoofer paired in the box, definitely make the price feel more justified.
The main concern here for buyers is whether you plan to utilize the included smart features. If you do, then having Alexa already equipped with your new setup might be enough to warrant the additional cost. If you don’t, well then you’d be better off going with a “dumb” audio setup that’ll cost less.
Anker released its Nebula Soundbar (see on Amazon) near the end of 2019, and it closely matched Polk Audio’s smart soundbar with a few key differences.
Each of these soundbars come equipped with various smart capabilities, but the two take different approaches to that term. While the Polk bar mainly emphasizes the inclusion of Alexa as its distinction between non-smart speaker options, the Anker includes Amazon’s Fire TV system right inside the soundbar. This means you can plug it into a regular TV and turn it into a smart TV without any additional hardware. You can also do this with the Polk, but it requires an additional purchase.
The Anker also includes the Alexa assistant, but in a different way. If you find the built-in Echo Dot on the Command Soundbar to be one of the more attractive features, you may be disappointed with the Nebula’s version, as it only works with the remote and has limited functionality.
In terms of price, the Anker is about $70 cheaper, but that doesn’t include a subwoofer like you get with the Polk. The subwoofer really makes a huge difference in terms of sound quality, so we’d be hard-pressed to recommend a soundbar without the subwoofer option.
A solid all-in-one audio package with a subwoofer and smart features.
Though the smart features on the Polk Audio Command Soundbar might not be needed by some, the all-in-one audio package equipped with a subwoofer is an excellent option for those seeking a compact home audio setup.