I’ve come to appreciate a “less is more” approach to tech. You don’t always need a million bonus features for a device that’s really intended to do one or two things. The Creative Pebble v3 desktop speakers demonstrate that truth as well as just about anything else.
Creative’s $40 speakers are designed for one purpose: To sit on a flat surface and play music. Sure, there are a few different ways to do that, whether it’s through a wired connection to a laptop or desktop computer or a Bluetooth connection to a phone, but at the end of the day, that’s all these speakers do — and they do it well.
They may not pack as much of a bassy punch as the equally priced Creative Pebble Plus, but if you need to upgrade your desktop’s audio output, this is an eminently affordable and slightly more versatile way to do that.
Familiar look with easy setup
Cables primarily come out of the right speaker.
Credit: Mashable Composite; Shutterstock/ s_maria
If you’ve seen any of Creative’s other desktop speaker offerings, the vibe here is almost identical. The Pebble v3 box comes with two 4.8 x 4.7 x 4.6-inch orb-shaped speaker units that are physically hard-wired together by a 53.1-inch cable. A flat base keeps the speakers standing while a recess in the front side of each houses a 2.25-inch driver that powers the aural experience.
The left unit has no buttons or distinct physical features whatsoever, existing purely to blast out noise. On the right, the front recess also contains a volume dial and a Bluetooth button for pairing to mobile devices. Flip that bad boy over and you’ll find a gain switch, which draws more power from whatever device it’s connected to (provided it has a 10-watt USB-C port or USB-A port) to pump up the noise. Sadly, I wasn’t really able to get a sense of how well this works due to my personal port situation, but I can say that I never felt like I needed more volume anyway.
My biggest complaint about the Pebble Plus speakers was that there were four cables jutting out from the backside of the right speaker. Pebble v3 cuts that in half, with just one cable connecting the two speakers and the other leading to a USB-C connector. This is easily the biggest advantage the v3 has over the Plus, as the latter required both USB and AUX connections at the same time to provide power and sound. A single USB-C connection can do both, significantly cutting down on the cable mess.
Their simplicity and connective versatility make them easy to recommend for someone who just wants to play music without breaking the bank.
Of course, setup is practically nonexistent, too. Plug these speakers into a laptop’s USB-C port and, barring any technical issues, they should just work. What’s rather nice about this, though, is that at any time you can press the aforementioned Bluetooth button to switch to a wireless pairing mode for phones and the like, as long as the speakers are powered, and even if that power comes from a laptop. No figurative wires get crossed under these circumstances; once Bluetooth mode is on, the laptop will revert back to outputting through its built-in speakers, and once it’s off, the Pebble v3 takes over in that regard.
They’re multifunctional with Bluetooth and various port adapters
The best part is that you can remove a computer from the equation entirely if you want. Creative included a USB-C to USB adapter in the box, so you can use that to plug the speakers into a power outlet and turn the Pebble v3 into a two-pronged Bluetooth speaker. Still using a phone with a headphone jack? There’s an AUX port on the backside of the right speaker to play music from a phone the old-fashioned way.
From a physical design standpoint, I kind of adore the Pebble v3 just because I think orbs are futuristic and cool. They look like laptop speakers someone would use on the Enterprise. Aesthetics aside, their simplicity and connective versatility make them easy to recommend for someone who just wants to play music without breaking the bank. Pebble Plus introduced too much cable clutter for my liking and didn’t even include Bluetooth support. That said, one of those cables linked to a down-firing subwoofer for extra bass. I miss that.
No woofer makes a difference
Bluetooth is great.
Credit: alex perry / mashable
In terms of raw sound output, the Pebble v3 is comparable to the Pebble Plus with the subwoofer left out. The two satellite speakers on their own produce admirable depth, and they really shine in songs that do a lot of left/right balance trickery. Today’s testing material is Goldfinger’s “Superman,” as it gives me an excuse to also recommend last year’s excellent Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater remake since it’s a hallmark of the soundtrack. Certain elements like the bassline stood out to me on the Pebble v3 more than they would in a pair of earbuds, making the song sound richer than I’m used to hearing.
However, songs that lean more on thumping bass don’t fare quite as well. A Tribe Called Quest’s “Can I Kick It?” (I won’t apologize for listening to the Tony Hawk soundtrack all day) offers great left/right sound with record scratches that alternate between the two sides in a rapid fashion, but the beat itself sounds just OK. This is a case where I suspect the subwoofer included with the Pebble Plus would help. The bass output here isn’t bad or anything, it’s just inferior to a product with the same price from the same company.
Oh, and one quick note: Just like the Pebble Plus, these speakers don’t offer 360-degree audio. The front sides need to face you to get anything out of them. That’s not meant to be harsh criticism, but rather a warning for anyone whose needs might be met better by a Bluetooth speaker.
It might sound like I think the Pebble Plus is unequivocally better than the Pebble v3 because of that subwoofer. It’s true that the former accommodates my tastes a little bit more, as I like bass. It’s fun! Even with that in mind, though, there are other aspects of the Pebble v3’s performance and usability beyond the pure audio quality that gives it a slight edge for me.
The ability to seamlessly switch between Bluetooth and a wired connection is slick and useful. Sometimes I want to hear the audio on a YouTube video on my laptop screen before quickly going back to a podcast I was listening to on my phone, and I can do that easily with the Pebble v3. That convenience extends, again, to the cable situation. Going from four cables to two makes it so much easier to move the Pebble v3 speakers around and craft a desktop workspace around them.
As always, though, it’s good to look at your options.
Preference over price
Creative’s simplistic speakers have an impressive sound quality and convenience for just $40, but they aren’t the only cheap speakers out there. There are plenty of others in that price range that offer other features you might find more important. Here are some examples:
The aforementioned Creative Pebble Plus ($40) ditches Bluetooth support in favor of bundling in a down-firing subwoofer that noticeably enhances bass
Sanyun SW102 ($38) is a similar two-speaker setup with 360-degree audio and no Bluetooth support
Cyber Acoustics CA-3602FFP ($40) has two speakers and a subwoofer but doesn’t look that cool
Add to cart?
If you don’t care that much about bass and want to cut down on clutter, get the Pebble v3. The Pebble Plus offers a nice alternative for the more organized and bass-thirsty among us, but the Bluetooth support in the Pebble v3 puts it slightly higher on the hierarchy.
Thanks to their plug-and-play nature, admirable sound quality, and nifty Bluetooth support, the Creative Pebble v3 desktop speakers are an easy sell for anyone who’s tired of relying on their crappy laptop speakers. They don’t take up a lot of space and can be moved or put away with ease. All of that for just $40 is an obviously excellent value.
But so is the Pebble Plus, with its thumpy subwoofer that adds some enjoyment to the aural experience. It’s tough not to notice the (relative) lack of bass with the v3 after having used both. But the good news is that you have two great options for the same price, and just about anyone’s work-from-home needs can be met by either of them.