Very solid audio for the low price. Attractive design.
Hardwired cables create a messy desktop. USB is for power only, not audio. Only one input.
- Bottom Line
Creative's USB-powered Pebble speakers look cool and deliver surprisingly solid audio for just $25.
$25 is a price you might expect to spend on a pair of cheap earbuds, but probably not a pair of speakers. Not only do Creative's Pebble speakers cost just $24.99, they also sound surprisingly good. To be clear (because Creative's site is a little murky on this), these are not powered USB speakers—they are speakers that receive power via USB. If you don't mind plugging in with a 3.5mm cable, they deliver very solid audio for their low price—and look good doing it.
Real Life. Real News. Real Voices
Help us tell more of the stories that matterBecome a founding member
Available in black or white and measuring 4.5 by 4.6 by 4.4 inches (HWD) each, the spherical speakers are sort of sawed off at an angle to reveal the drivers on the front panels. They're angled upward to align with your ears, which is rare to see and yet makes a dramatic improvement in audio clarity. The bottom panel of each speaker has a circular rubber base to keep it from moving around. The back panels have passive radiators to enhance bass response, while the front-firing 2-inch drivers combine for a modest 4.4 watts of power. There's a power switch switch/volume knob located on the right speaker, but beyond that, there are no additional controls.
The USB connection is only for power. To get audio from your laptop or mobile device, you need to connect the hardwired 3.5mm audio cable. With the trio of hardwired cables (audio in, USB, and the connection to the left speaker), you get a lot of cable clutter.
This is a pretty limited system, but for $25, what can you expect? The question becomes: Do these speakers represent an obvious upgrade over typical built-in laptop or phone speakers? Thankfully, the answer there is a resounding yes.
On tracks with intense sub-bass content, like The Knife's "Silent Shout," the speakers deliver modest bass depth at moderate volumes, and distort unpleasantly at top volumes. That's pretty much to be expected, so let's look at it in a different way: At moderate volumes, the bass sounds okay, and the speakers get substantially louder than any laptop or phone speakers we've heard. The bass radiators do add a little oomph—it just sounds better on tracks that don't challenge the drivers as much as this one does. So if you're hoping for decent richness and added volume, you won't be disappointed.
Frank Ocean's "Biking" sounds surprisingly strong, with rich bass depth and solid high-end clarity. The speakers are able to convey some types of bass (typical low-to-low-mid bass presence, not sub-bass) clearly and convincingly, even if they lack real rumble.
Bill Callahan's "Drover," a track with far less deep bass in the mix, gives us a better sense of the Pebble's overall sound signature. The drums on this track sound modest—there's no hint of the thunder a speaker system with deeper bass can imbue the drums with here. But Callahan's baritone vocals get a nice richness in the low-mids, with a crisp high-mid presence to complement them, and the volume levels far outshine anything your phone or laptop will conjure. The bass radiators add some table vibration to the proceedings, which actually seems to make things feel more powerful, and the rubber bases keep the speakers in place.
On Jay-Z and Kanye West's "No Church in the Wild," the kick drum loop gets plenty high-mid presence, allowing its attack to slice through the layers of the mix, while the sub-bass synth hits are more implied than fully delivered. But there's still some bass presence here—we get a solid sense of thump from the drum loop. The vocals are delivered with clarity. There's some added sibilance, but for the price, things sound pretty good.
Orchestral tracks, like the opening scene from John Adams' The Gospel According to the Other Mary, actually sound impressively balanced and full, though the volume tops out at a lower level than you might hope for. The lower register instrumentation gets a solid rich presence through the speakers, while the higher register brass, strings, and vocals stay crisp and bright.
Are the Creative Pebble speakers worth $25? For a notable upgrade over your laptop or phone speakers, absolutely. For a little more money, however, you have lots of Bluetooth options without a jumble of hardwired cables. Consider the Ikea Eneby, the Sony SRS-XB10, or the JBL Clip 2. For notably more money, the Edifier Exclaim e10 is a wired option we really like, just in case the wireless route isn't for you. But if you just want something simple and inexpensive, and don't mind the wires, you can't go wrong with the Pebble.
About the Author
Contributing Editor, Audio
Contributing Editor Tim Gideon has been writing for PCMag since 2006. He specializes in reviewing audio products, and is obsessed with headphones, speakers, and recording gear.
More From Tim
JBL Reflect Mini 2
Shinola Canfield Pro In-Ear Monitors
Ikea Eneby (8-Inch)
Ikea Eneby (12-Inch)
Audioengine A5+ Wireless
Subscribe to the newsletter news
We hate SPAM and promise to keep your email address safe