SoundMag - - News - WRIT­TEN BY STEVE MAY

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 ac­com­mo­date 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 says.

“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 out­put 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 full­range 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.

“The num­ber one com­plaint from con­sumers is that they can’t hear the di­a­logue when they’re watch­ing TV,” ex­plains Michael Greco, Global Brand Di­rec­tor. “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.

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