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La Boite Concept Square review

For those who want a compact turntable and minimum fuss Tested at £630 / $850

Turntable: La Boite Concept Square
(Image: © Future)

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

The Square has appeal, but it’s for those who put compactness and style above sonic ability

Pros

  • +

    Small and neat design

  • +

    Easy to set up

  • +

    Cohesive sound

Cons

  • -

    Limited sonic talent

  • -

    Feels toy-like to use

The La Boite Concept clearly doesn’t like to follow convention. Take a look at the brand’s range and it’s clear that much thought has been put into the ability of its products to blend seamlessly into the customer’s lifestyle. The Square turntable is a great case in point. 

Remove the packaging and you’re left with a turntable that looks like it's been struck with a shrink ray. The Square looks too small to work with full-sized records due to a tiny platter that measures just 22cm in diameter, and an overall footprint barely bigger than an album cover. That means that when it's playing an album, part of the record overhangs the plinth. The advantage is that the Square can fit into all sorts of spaces a traditionally sized record player wouldn’t. 

Build

Turntable: La Boite Concept Square

(Image credit: Future)

The inclusion of a suspended top plate makes this player less fussy about placement than most rivals, though in our experience every turntable benefits from careful placement on a level, low-resonance platform – ideally, one placed well away from any source of vibration, including the speakers.

The Square’s fuss-free approach extends to a fitted cartridge – the long-running Ortofon OM10 moving magnet – and factory-set tracking weight. There’s no adjustment for bias, so it’s fair to assume that’s been baked into the design. Factor in the built-in phono stage and you have a deck that’s up and running within a few minutes of being out of its box.

There’s no denying that this record player has some classy touches. There’s a choice of two smart finish options – black MDF plinth with a walnut-covered ply top plate, or white plinth with an oak top plate – and both look nice. Elsewhere is an electronic speed change where most rivals are manual, and a luxurious-feeling leather record mat lined with cork. It all adds up to a product that looks suitably special at a casual glance. Sadly, that impression doesn’t last.

La Boite Concept Square tech specs

Turntable: La Boite Concept Square

(Image credit: Future)

Type Belt drive

Speed change Electronic

Speed 33⅓ and 45rpm

Suspension Yes

Cartridge Ortofon OM10

Phono stage Yes

A closer inspection leaves the feeling of something that’s a little toy-like. The compact size has something to do with it, of course, but it’s more than that. The Square, while nicely finished, doesn’t come across as particularly substantial or solid, and it's an impression reinforced by the thin plastic disc that serves as a platter.

Some of the parts, such as the arm and drive belt, are supplied by Pro-Ject, and even the sub-platter and motor are similar to designs we’ve seen from the same source, though we don’t see any markings to confirm that. The main bearing is well enough toleranced so that we don’t feel any excessive play.

Using a brand as experienced as Pro-Ject to supply these parts makes a lot of sense; it's a company with a long-proven track record of making quality products. The shame is that many of these parts look like they’re from the entry-level end of Pro-Ject’s parts catalogue and not typically what we’d expect to see at this mid-priced level.

Sound

Turntable: La Boite Concept Square

(Image credit: Future)

Does that translate into the performance? To a degree, it does. On the positive side, the Square turns in a listenable and reasonably balanced performance. There’s a decent level of detail that is organised in a musically cohesive way. If you’re after an undemanding listen or want to use this deck for background listening then that’s all fair enough. Want your record player to deliver a real sense of insight and involve you in the music? There isn’t quite enough to satisfy here. 

We play a range of albums from Bob Marley’s Catch A Fire to Beethoven’s Fifth and Miles Davis's Kind Of Blue, and to its credit the Square keeps track of the music fairly well. The midrange is clear and relatively spacious, managing to convey Marley’s passionate vocals with a degree of skill. If this were a budget offering, say at the level of the Rega Planar 1, that might be enough for a fairly positive review, but for this price we want more, and the Square struggles to deliver.

We’d like more bass depth and power in the presentation too. As things stand, it's hard for this deck to communicate the sheer force of the Beethoven symphony with any authority. Similarly, the Marley album lacks its usual solid musical foundation due to the bass being so rationed.

Dynamic expression is a little restrained too. This is a deck that plays it safe rather than at the outer edges of its abilities, so we find there isn’t enough in the way of dynamic contrast or punch. The result is that when we compare it to more traditional, much cheaper offerings such as the aforementioned Rega or even the Audio Technica LP5x, we find the music washing over us rather than properly holding our attention. 

Verdict

Turntable: La Boite Concept Square

(Image credit: Future)

Simply put, the Square package doesn’t encourage us to play more records. It has a neat design that is easy to set up and it sounds balanced and cohesive. But at this price level, it needs to be more than small and stylish to gain a recommendation.

SCORES

  • Sound 3
  • Build 3
  • Features 4

MORE:

Read our review of the Rega Planar 3/Elys 2

Also consider the Audio Technica AT-LP5x

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