Polk Audio’s Command Bar, which features Alexa built in, was updated with Amazon’s Alexa multi-room music feature (MRM), which the company claims makes it the first Alexa-compatible soundbar to work with the system.
Launched in 2017, Alexa multi-room music was initially designed to give users voice-based, whole-home control over their Amazon speakers, like Echo, and Echo Dot, allowing each device to play a different track or to play a single track in perfect sync. The road map included support for third-party Alexa devices within groups and we’re now seeing some of the first products to benefit from that support.
Using the Alexa app, the Command Bar can be added to groups that contain other MRM-enabled devices, including Amazon’s own growing collection of Alexa products. We really liked the Command Bar when we reviewed it in 2018, noting that at $300, it offered some features and sound quality that more expensive products couldn’t match. But we were less than impressed with its ability to process Alexa commands into actions.
Of course, combining Alexa capabilities with multi-room sound isn’t exactly new. Both Sonos and Denon’s Heos systems use their own proprietary multi-room systems and can be controlled via Alexa. However, neither of these proprietary systems let you include other company’s devices within their multi-room control. With MRM, Amazon is effectively opening its own control system to non-Amazon built speakers, letting you combine its products with those of companies like Polk (so long as they’re Alexa and MRM-enabled).
From a practical point of view, the Command Bar is the first third-party audio product that can group with (and play music simultaneously from) first-and third-party products.
When you add this new feature to the Command Bar’s already impressive feature set, such as its multiple HDMI inputs, dedicated Amazon Fire TV slot, wireless subwoofer, and dedicated remote control, it’s an increasingly attractive product.
There is no word yet on when the next MRM-enabled products will arrive, but you can be sure we’ll see plenty coming in the scene in 2019 as Amazon puts increasing pressure on Google and its Assistant. With Sonos compatibility already launched, and this new MRM functionality underway, Amazon has a commanding lead in the whole-home audio space.
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