Review: La Boîte Concept PR/01

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With the La Boîte Concept PR/01 loudspeaker, the French manufacturer  offers a vintage looking Bluetooth hi-fi speaker. The La Boîte Concept PR/01’s design is a bit more traditional  looking than other products released by La Boîte Concept, which could be described as “audio desks” (La Boîte Concept LD 120 Wireless, La Boîte Concept LD130 Wireless, La Boite Concept AP 160, La Boîte Concept LP 160 and Cube Thruster Edition). The PR-01 features an amplifier, 4 speaker drivers, a Bluetooth receiver, a digital input, two analog inputs, and multiple USB ports to charge a smartphone or power a Google Chromecast audio device for example. This speaker is also available with an optional wireless charger.

The design

La Boîte Concept’s signature is the unique design of their products. Every single one of the manufacturer’s speakers is either made of solid wood or features a high-end wood veneer. The PR/01 is no exception to the rule. What first stands out is the speaker’s gold brushed aluminum volume dial. The connectors are concealed by a cover which may be removed by sliding it forward. Under the removable cover are a range of connectors as well as a cable management system.

Test La Boîte Concept PR/01
The La Boite Concept PR/01’s high quality wood veneer is very pleasant to the touch.
The cover can be easily removed by sliding it forward. It is just as easy to put back on, thanks to a magnetic system.
Test La Boîte Concept PR/01
Under the removable cover is a slot to fit the optional Native Union Drop Wireless charger (for compatible smartphones).

Connection possibilities

The La Boîte Concept PR/01 speaker is fitted with a digital optical Toslink input (to connect a CD player, UHD TV, network player, etc.) and two analog stereo inputs (one RCA and one mini-jack input). The two USB-A ports and the USB-C connector may be used to charge or power devices (especially useful for smartphones). The USB-A ports are rated 2.4A / 5V, while the USB-C connector is rated 3A / 5V. The integrated Bluetooth receiver is compatible with the universal SBC codec (iPhone) as well as the aptX codec (better quality). Most Android smartphones with a Qualcomm Snapdragon SoC and Android 8 OS (Oreo) are compatible with the Bluetooth aptX transmission standard.

Test La Boîte Concept PR/01
The La Boîte Concept PR/01’s range of connectors. The yellow, aluminum dial is a tone control knob.

Speaker drivers

The  La Boîte Concept PR/01 is fitted with four drivers: a 5” bass driver, a 5” mid driver, and two tweeters (the size of the tweeter is not mentioned ). The speaker works in mono in the lows and mids, and stereo in the highs. As a result, the PR/01 is neither really mono, nor entirely stereo. It is somewhat of a detail since this type of speaker was not designed to deliver a soundstage capable of competing against an actual pair of speakers.

Test La Boîte Concept PR/01
The La Boîte Concept PR/01’s two silk dome tweeters and one of its midbass drivers.

Enclosure

One of the most interesting aspects of this speaker is that the two woofers are loaded in an isobaric enclosure. In other words, the bass driver is located inside the speaker and is acoustically coupled with the mid driver. This type of enclosure is used to ensure an extended response in the lows. The isobaric enclosure is coupled with a bass-reflex port. To put it simply: at the same sound level, the La Boîte Concept PR/01 speaker is a lot more effective than any speaker using a closed enclosure or bass-reflex technology.

Test La Boîte Concept PR/01
The bass driver and the chamber which couples the drivers are visible when taking the mid driver out of the enclosure. This is the working principle of an isobaric enclosure.
Test La Boîte Concept PR/01
The La Boîte Concept PR/01’s bass-reflex port.

Test conditions and listening impressions

We connected a smartphone (Xiaomi Mi 8 SE) to the La Boîte Concept PR/01 using the Bluetooth aptX transmission. The speaker comes with a power cord and a mini-jack cable. The speaker reached its full potential after a couple of hours. After this short break-in period, the highs lose their harshness and the lows come to life. We were a bit worried before listening to this speaker as we thought it might be nothing more than a pretty piece of equipment.

The La Boîte Concept PR/01 comes with a power cord and a 3.5 mm mini-jack cable.

The PR/01 was a great surprise. Its sound placement is comparable to a mono speaker, the high-bass and low-mids are well articulated et the infrabass benefits from an extended response in the lows. While the PR/01 does not cover the first octave, a dynamic and refined sound restitution is ensured down to around 40 Hz.

The best way to appreciate the PR/01’s sound restitution is by listening to older soundtakes. These may seem quite common on the surface but reveal a plethora of detail when listened through this speaker.

Let us be clear, the La Boîte Concept PR/01 is not an astonishing speaker, but benefits from a very good acoustic design and knows how to please the ear with its accurate tone restitution. We listened to Ball & Chain by Big Brother & The Holding Company (Live Winterland ‘68, the best version) and Janis Joplin’s voice was rendered with a great texture, was completely intelligible and was never covered by the distorted guitars. We really weren’t expecting this level of quality. Total Control by the Motels benefits from great timing in the lows, without being overdone or overwhelming, which is quite unusual for a speaker this size. With more “dancy” tracks, such as Jax Jones’ You don’t know me and Don’t be so shy by Imagny for example, the restitution is very energetic.

The one thing we could hold against this speaker is the monophonic restitution of the mids, which limits the depth of the soundstage when listening at a close range. Nevertheless, the sound restitution becomes gains in height and depth when listening from a few meters away.

Big Brother and the Holding Company
Big Brother and the Holding Company.

Conclusion

The La Boîte Concept PR-01 is more than gorgeous speaker made in France. It also stands out from the competition with its great sense of timing and its very pleasant neutral tonal balance. Even when MP3 tracks streamed using Bluetooth aptX transmission are enjoyable to listen to, whether you are 50 cm away from the speaker or listening to it in a 50 m² room. La Boîte Concept decided to do without WiFi transmission and multiroom function, but it is possible to connect a Google Chromecast Audio device to one of the speaker’s USB port. Verdict: good drivers, intelligent design, real wood, and that’s how you do it.

What we liked

  • The musical restitution
  • The manufacturing quality
  • The Bluetooth aptX transmission

We would have liked

  • A built-in Chromecast device

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