Creative Technology makes some of my favorite wireless speakers. They’re not the most popular, or most widely distributed, and they can be quirky. But everything I’ve tested (like the iRoar and Halo) has stood out, with cool features and sound that punches above its weight class. The company sent me its new Pebble USB computer speakers, and they continue with that theme.
Who wants USB-powered computer speakers these days? Well, no offense to PC makers, but the built-in audio system on most desktop PCs is pretty lame. Most laptops, too. Gaming laptops often pay more attention to audio, but everyday laptops? Not much room in those slim cases for a pair of drivers and an amplifier…
Many people choose to supplement that built-in PC audio by connecting wirelessly to a Bluetooth speaker. Stereo sound requires two of them, though, and you still have to plug those into a power supply. There are still dedicated PC speaker systems, but many of these tend to be multi-channel units aimed at the higher end of the market—hardcore PC gamers and those using their PC as an entertainment center.
Creative’s Pebble USB speakers slide into a category that’s not that well served these days. They provide stereo sound, but not fancy 5.1 or 7.1 channel audio. And they’re priced at just $25.
Like many of Creative’s other products, the Pebble speakers stand out from the crowd. in this case, they feature a round design that the company says is inspired by a “zen Japanese rock garden.” They’re roughly the size of a softball (about 4.4-inches wide), with a flattened, rubberized base and full range, far-field drivers pointed upward at a 45-degree angle. They also feature passive radiators and are powered by a 4.4W amplifier. Creative says frequency response is 100Hz to 17kHz.
Cables are integrated; one plugs into a USB port on your computer, the other into the 3.5mm audio jack and, of course, the two speakers are also connected by a wire. One unit has a volume control knob.
How well do they work? Surprisingly well, actually. Don’t be expecting audiophile quality sound, but you do get two-channel stereo which is an immediate improvement over most PC’s onboard audio. It’s also surprisingly robust audio given the price point and makes listening to music or watching videos a much more enjoyable experience. Bass is rich and highs are clean. Even at higher volumes, the speakers keep their composure quite well. And they put out more volume than I expected. With the volume a notch under maximum and from about three feet distance, they registered an average of 80 dB, hitting a peak in the 95dB range.
My only peeve with the Pebble speakers—besides not being overly fond of having more wires on the desk—is the plastic film used to protect the glossy inner surface of the speaker. On my review unit, shreds of the film got stuck under a seam. I’m sure it will come off eventually, but in the meantime, it doesn’t do much against the black gloss finish. But hey, $25 speakers that otherwise look great and sound pretty good, so I can’t really complain…
If you have a PC or desk-bound laptop that could use a little boost in the sound department, consider the Creative Pebble speakers. They make for an inexpensive and stylish audio upgrade. The Pebble speakers are priced at $24.99 for a pair and available in black (as tested) or white.
Disclosure: Creative provided Pebble speakers for evaluation but had no input into this review.