I have to admit that I wasn’t very familiar with the Creative brand of digital entertainment products. I mean, I had come across it in passing over the years (the company was formed in 1981). However, I never really considered it to be my “go to” brand when considering audio products. The digital audio landscape has long been dominated by a handful of well-known companies. So it was with a degree of trepidation and low expectations that I began my test of the Creative Pebble Pro speakers.
The packaging states that inside are “Minimalist…” speakers. From the picture of the product on the box, it certainly didn’t look as if it came with “bells & whistles”. Aesthetically speaking, I immediately thought “Death Star” (sorry for the early Star Wars reference!) Then I figured the proof was probably to be found in the sound quality when I got it connected and working.
Inside the box you will find:
• the speakers which are tethered with a 1.8m/5.91ft cable
• three cables; A USB-C to USB-C cable; USB-C to USB-A cable; a 3.5mm AUX-in cable.
• A Quick Start Guide
• A Limited Warranty leaflet (which you’ll need a magnifying glass to read!)
I unwrapped the bubble wrap from the first speaker and held it aloft in my hand…Cue slow crescendo of harps playing and chorus of angels singing…
Initially, I thought, “Hmm. It’s dark green. It’s lightweight. It’s plastic. Does that mean it’s cheap and fragile?” Although I wasn’t planning to juggle with them or throw them about, I had a misconception that speakers needed to be heavier with internal components bolted in to prevent any untoward rattling or vibrating noises. I’ve demoed a few high-end speakers in the past purportedly made with state-of-the-art, space-age materials and the two things they had in common were their gargantuan weight and stratospheric price tags! So, at just shy of £55 GBP or $60 USD*, I wasn’t sure what to expect.
*At the time of review
In my experience, there are two types of consumers:
I belong to the latter group.
Luckily for me, the Quick Start Guide that came in the box was fairly easy to follow. I connected the USB-C to USB-C cable from the right speaker (satellite) to my MacBook. A quick “switcheroo” in the Sound Output Setting in Preferences switched the audio output from my laptop speakers to the Creative Pebble Pro speakers. I hit Play and … OMG! The room was filled with an ethereal sound that I wasn’t expecting at all. I turned up the volume and I can only describe the sensation as being bathed in silky smooth, warm chocolate by Amazonian beauties, while cherubs played sweet music on their harps, strung with unicorn hair… Ahem. Well, perhaps not but the sound quality was far superior to what I have up until now, grown so accustomed to. I immediately decided that these speakers needed further testing.
So, music via USB = A resounding thumbs up!
Music via Bluetooth = Erm read on.
Now, I’ve not had much success with Bluetooth devices in general. My Android phone won’t connect to my MacBook for some reason. I have to retrieve pics from my Gmail account to access them on my laptop… but I digress. After switching the sound output to Bluetooth, the Pebble Pro speakers quickly informed me that Bluetooth was connected. Sadly, my phone was unable to pair with the speakers so that put an end to that test which is a shame as I was keen to discover the speakers’ wireless capability.
Next, I connected my phone to the speakers via the AUX-in port. For a while, I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t hear anything. After some pondering, I realised that I needed to turn the volume right up on my phone and then control the volume with the Volume knob on the right satellite. The sound was equally as good as Test One.
I generally have little need to connect a Microphone to the speakers but as I want to give these a thorough review, I felt that I ought to give it a try. Creative have provided a microphone port in addition to the headphone port on the side of the right satellite. A diagram indicating what this port is for is provided in the Quick Start Guide. Some of you may have read my review of the Joby Wavo Plus microphone so I decided to connect this to the speakers. After several attempts with a number of different cables and ports, I grew frustrated and submitted defeat. I turned to Creative’s online chat service for help but nobody was available. I also searched the internet for answers but again to no avail. I finally sent an email to Creative for help and have been told to wait 2-3 working days for a response.
There are a few differences between the Pebble Pro and its predecessors the Pebble v3, Pebble v2 and Pebble. These differences include; Re-engineered 2.25” full-range speaker drivers, Total System Power: Up to 10W RMS, BassFlex and Clear Dialog, longer (non-detachable) tethered cable and more cable options. All of these specs are good to know but the addition of RGB LED Lighting and effects is an added extra which I feel, some may find to be gimmicky and surplus to requirements. I don’t know about you but I’m usually working when I have the music playing so it’s unlikely that I would divert my attention from work to gaze upon the LED light display when listening to music but they’re there if you want them. If the colours changed according to the beat of the music, then perhaps it could add to the enjoyment. For those who like to stare at their speakers while listening to them, there are various options assigned to the LED light rings. You can switch the lights off; colour changing mode; and pulsate. For those of you who are feeling adventurous, you can also select the RGB colour of your choosing. I tried this final option and failed the first time. Getting it to work required some perseverance beyond what I was expecting to exert. However, for the purposes of this review, I endeavoured and eventually succeeded.
Not having tested the previous incarnations of the Pebble speakers, I can’t say with any degree of accuracy if the 2.25” speaker drivers are an improvement on the 2” drivers found on the basic Pebble or V2 iterations. However, the sound produced by these Pro speakers is very rich, warm and immersive and makes my MacBook’s inbuilt speakers sound positively inferior.
The Pebble Pro speakers also boast the greatest power output of the range with Peak Power delivering up to 20W. Some of this power is delivered to the Passive Radiators located on the back of each speaker. It’s through these that the BassFlex technology is deployed. The deep and full-bodied bass tones are usually produced by a subwoofer but their role is made practically redundant with the Passive Radiators. For those who feel the 10W output isn’t loud enough, the power can be increased with the aid of a USB-C PD Adapter (not included). This will deliver an additional 30W (to your family and neighbours’ delight or discontent!) Clear Dialog is also listed as a feature of the Pebble Pros. The basic idea is that the listener is able to hear spoken words and dialogue with greater clarity by filtering out background noises. This feature would obviously appeal to movie buffs as it bumps up the vocal track. I found the benefit of this to be negligible, probably as the overall sound is generally better. For this reason, I reckon only stalwart, hardcore audiophiles might notice it.
The longer cable that tethers both speakers plays a somewhat minor role but is no less important and worth a mention. As I write this review, I have both speakers on either side of me playing some old-school, classic UB40. I’ve tried different genres of music too and The Pebble Pros did not disappoint. The sound waves produced by the speakers seemed to be bouncing off all of the different surfaces in the room and I couldn’t pinpoint where the sound was emanating from. The fact that the speakers are further away from my ears may contribute to this phenomenon. The sound feels so crystal clear and undiluted. The only people that might tut and grumble about the sound are those that actually like the crackling and hissing noises produced on old vinyl. For me, the sound I hear on the Pebble Pros is what I believe the artist wants me to listen to. The drivers are angled at 45 degrees to direct the sound to my ears so I don’t think it’s necessary to place these on an elevated platform. In fact, you could keep the speakers on your desk or discreetly hidden on the floor and you’ll get a beautiful audio experience.
The right speaker further benefits from a 3.5mm Headphone port alongside the 3.5mm Microphone port for those who wish to connect to other devices.
Finally, having gushed over these speakers, I do have one small improvement I’d like to see in a future design update. That is a lower centre of gravity. As these speakers are light and spherical, they are prone to being knocked over by my own carelessness or a child/ pet if you have one. A weighted base might be a welcome accessory.
If I ever lose my earbuds and if I wasn’t so attached to the hair on my scalp, I may consider duct-taping these speakers to the side of my head! These speakers are a massive improvement to my regular speakers. They’ll make a reasonably priced addition or upgrade to anyone’s desktop and lifestyle.
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