Computer speakers are the unsung heroes of the audio world, dutifully spitting out audio that’s often better than the sometimes aggressively-bad speakers built-in to your monitor, desktop or laptop, even at the budget level. If you’ve been around computers long enough, you’ll know the Creative brand — they’re responsible for the Sound Blaster sound card that allowed many of us to first hear the dulcet voice of Duke Nukem, the shotgun blast in Doom and the glorious MIDI-fied Star Wars orchestral score in TIE Fighter. A few weeks ago I picked up a pair of the company’s budget computer speakers — the Creative Pebble 2.0, to be exact.
Although they didn’t quite make the cut for our list of the best computer speakers, you could do far worse if you’re looking for a solid, petite daily driver stereo set for your desktop machine.
The Creative Pebble 2.0 provide a nice upgrade from your computer’s built-in speakers for cheap, all within an attractive, compact design that’s easy to squeeze into any setup.
After many years of owning an iMac and being satisfied with the built-in speakers Apple uses, I finally decided to upgrade to a true headless desktop. Unfortunately and unsurprisingly, the speaker in the Mac Studio is atrocious for anything other than playing system sounds. But I don’t need much more than that for computer speakers. For the most part, I use my computer for writing, and if I listen to tunes while I write, I’ll inevitably be distracted by my musician brain’s demands to play sections back to hear how a guitar player did something, or to digest a wacky time change. If I care about a movie or show, I want to watch it on my TV. And if I’m going to game, I’d rather use headphones.
All of that is to say, when I was looking for a set of speakers, I just wanted something cheap that sounded good, looked nice and didn’t hog precious desk space. Several buying guides pointed me to the Creative Pebble 2.0. It seemed to satisfy my requirements well enough, being made up of two petite speakers with a look reminiscent of the spacier elements of mid-century design. What I didn’t expect was that they’d actually sound very good for the money.
If you’re looking for something with guttural bass that gets loud enough to fill a big ol’ room, the Creative Pebble 2.0 probably isn’t what you need. But otherwise, the Creative Pebble 2.0 are probably the perfect desktop speakers for anyone looking for what I described above. Their sound is honest and straightforward — no fancy computational audio here. They won’t vibrate your desk, but they don’t sound like tin cans, either.
Granted, they aren’t ideal for everything. “I’m Still Standing” by Elton John feels like a trap door opened underneath it and all of the low end was jettisoned, while Journey’s “Wheel in the Sky” can come across as muddy once the vocals chime in. But for other music, Creative’s little speakers showed impressive dynamics. Charles Mingus’ version of “Jelly Roll” is a deceptively-simple song from a fun jazz album full of musicians hollering in the background, synced horn sections, delicate snare brush work and slapping bass — the speakers faithfully reproduced all of that, never crushing any of the small details that set up the soothing atmosphere that got me the closest to falling asleep while on the road with a band that I ever managed.
On top of the fact that they sound good, I love the Creative Pebble’s simple, functional design. They’re powered by your computer’s USB port or not-included 5-watt USB wall adapter, lending them versatility as laptop speakers, while saving you from crawling under your desk and fishing out a hidden power strip for desktop use. They’re angled upward at a 45-degree angle, which let me point them just past my head for ideal stereo immersion. There’s a single volume knob, and on the back, a built-in 4-foot line-out cable with a 3.5mm audio jack to plug into your computer’s headphone port. Between them, a 3.9-foot cable allows plenty of play for a broad spread. Lastly, at less than 5 inches in any dimension, they make a tidy fit in any space-constrained setup.
Creative sells other versions of these speakers, including the $50 Creative Pebble Plus, which adds a subwoofer to the mix, and the $60 Creative Pebble Pro, which uses USB-C for power and has a built-in microphone and RGB lights on the bottom. If you want a slightly better deal than those, our overall top budget pick is the Cyber Acoustics CA3090 stereo 2.1 speakers with subwoofer, which is an oldie but a goodie I can vouch for, having used the set for nearly a decade. For my money though, I’ve rarely been happier with a gadget I spent $20 on than I have with the Pebble 2.0. It almost feels like getting away with something.