Creative Labs Pebble X Review: Arguably the Best PC Speakers Under $100 – CNET

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Pros

  • Compact design
  • Very good sound quality for their size and price
  • RGB lighting element
  • Good connectivity options, including Bluetooth

Cons

  • Have to buy Pebble X Plus bundle to get subwoofer
  • No app for Macs

Creative Labs’ Pebble speakers have long been a top budget pick for PC speakers. The entry-level model is on its third generation, aka V3, and costs $35, while earlier versions can be had for even less. They aren’t the greatest-sounding PC speakers, but people like them because their sound is bigger than their price. 

Creative went more upscale introducing the new-for-2024 Pebble X USB-C speakers ($90), which also come in a version called the Pebble X Plus with a mini subwoofer for $130. Larger than previous Pebble speakers yet still compact enough to fit in a backpack, the audio quality is unexpectedly good and may just be the best PC speakers that cost less than $100. Initially available only at Creative Labs’ online store, they’re now available on Amazon.

Read more: Best PC Speakers for 2024

Upgraded design and drivers

Creative seems to have moved to a good-better-best paradigm for its Pebble speakers. The Pebble V3 and Pebble Pro have 2.25-inch drivers, while the new flagship Pebble X have 2.75-inch drivers, with each model also featuring different peak power numbers. (The Pebble X is rated for 60 watts of peak power if plugged into a 30-watt or higher USB-C power adapter, which isn’t included, but more on connectivity options in a minute.)

The entry-level Pebble speakers have fared as well as they have because they manage to sound OK for their low price — and by OK, I mean they sound substantially better than the speakers built into your laptop. The key difference with the Pebble X is that they’re legitimately enjoyable, offering good clarity and a reasonable amount of bass.

You can do better with the bass by stepping up to the Pebble X Plus, but the Pebble X speakers on their own aren’t bass-shy to the point where you feel like you have to have that mini subwoofer. That said, if you are a bass lover, you should give the Plus package some extra thought, because the sub isn’t sold separately and can’t be added to the Pebble X speakers; you have to buy the Pebble X Plus to get it. 

creative-labs-pebble-x-with-windows-pc

The speakers are bigger than the original Pebble speakers and have 2.75-inch full-range drivers.

David Carnoy/CNET

What’s nice about having a pair of speakers joined by a 5.9-foot (1.8-meter) cord is that you can set the speakers far enough apart to get good stereo separation at your desk. The Pebble X speakers were able to fill my home office with sound and would make for a nice little stereo system for a dorm room or bedroom. 

I listen to a fair amount of Bluetooth speakers with little to no stereo separation and the Pebble X sound better than a lot of Bluetooth speakers that cost $200 or more. They may not pack quite as much bass punch as some of the larger Bluetooth speakers, but you can never underestimate the importance of stereo separation. 

I didn’t compare the Pebble X to a lot of other speakers, but I did put them up against the SteelSeries Arena 3 speakers, which retail for around $130 and have larger 4-inch drivers. The SteelSeries speakers served up more bass, but the Pebble X offered better clarity and definition and were overall the better sounding speakers. 

I’ve always been a fan of Edifier’s R1280DB ($150) bookshelf PC speakers and their sound quality is a step up — not a huge one, although they have a separate woofer and tweeter — but they are larger and obviously more expensive. Edifier also makes even more affordable bookshelf-style powered speakers that are also good values.

The Creative Labs Pebble X speakers have USB-C and Bluetooth connectivity

The speakers work fine with Macs, but there’s no companion app.

Creative Labs

Pebble X speakers’ lighting and connectivity options

There’s been a trend for gaming speakers to have some RGB lighting, and that’s the case here. The older Pebble Pro speakers have some lighting in their bases, but the Pebble X goes a step further, with lighting elements on the right and left sides of each speaker. You can customize the lighting options, including brightness, color and animation type, from the controls on the speaker or from the Creative app for iOS, Android and Windows PC. Alas, there’s no app for Macs. 

While the speakers have a wireless Bluetooth option — it’s Bluetooth 5.3 — these are USB-C speakers, so you can connect them directly to any laptop or desktop with USB-C connectivity. I also connected them via USB-C to an iPhone 15 and Google Pixel 7 without a problem. And they appear to be compatible with gaming consoles like the PS5.

creative-labs-pebble-x-rgb-lighting

The lighting elements are integrated into both the left and right sides of each speaker.

David Carnoy/CNET

Note that when connecting via Bluetooth, only the SBC audio codec is supported (available for every Bluetooth audio device). Audio purists would prefer if the speakers also supported Bluetooth streaming with the ACC or aptX codecs. But these probably aren’t good enough speakers for you to notice a significant difference when streaming with a superior audio codec than SBC. 

When you power the speakers from the USB-C port on your computer, the peak power is 30 watts. They sound decent when powered in this manner, but they’ll play a little louder and sound a little better when you connect them with a USB-PD power adapter with at least 30 watts of power, which I did. That gets you up to 60 watts of peak power, which is technically a lot for compact speakers like these. I mention these power numbers, but take them with a grain of salt, because they’re not always accurate.

Creative throws in a USB-C-to-USB-C cable and a 3.5mm-to-3.5mm cable that you can connect to the aux-in port. There’s also a headphone port and microphone port on the side of the right speaker. Additionally, you’ll find a threaded tripod mount on the underside of each speaker should you want to put the speakers on pedestals. 

The Creative Labs Pebble X speakers has good connectivity options

There are two USB-C ports on the back (one for powering the speakers with a USB-C power adapter), along with an aux-in port. The headphone and microphone ports are on the side of the right speaker near the base.

David Carnoy/CNET

The companion apps for iOS and Android are limited compared to Creative’s companion app for Windows PCs, which has a built-in equalizer and various preset sound modes, as well as a Crystal Voice mode that’s supposed to improve how well people can hear your voice when you connect a microphone to the speaker. The iOS and Android apps only allow you to upgrade the speakers’ firmware and customize the lighting effects.  

Pebble X PC speakers final thoughts

I wouldn’t go so far as to call the Pebble X premium PC speakers. But compared to the original Pebble speakers, which certainly had a cheap look and feel to them, the Pebble X do seem like a big step up in terms of sound quality and overall design — they’re still an all-plastic affair, though. I never tried the Pebble Pro, but this model shares similar connectivity features while upping the performance level with larger drivers, more power and enhanced lighting. 

Naturally, as the price goes up for products, you expect more from them. But from my testing, I think you’ll be hard-pressed to find a pair of compact PC speakers that deliver as much as these do for the money. If you want even fuller sound, consider the Pebble X Plus package that includes a mini sub for $40 more. But if you want to keep the price under $100, the Pebble X set delivers satisfyingly good sound.

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