For about two years I have mixed my audio along listened to music on a pair of dm302 driven by a Rotel ra-820 amplifier. Mixing on these speakers have gone oddly well. Every time I have listened to a finished mix, the instruments have all been in the mix as they were supposed to. No surprises. From crappy laptop speakers to speakers better than the dm302s. For what ever reason I decided to buy a pair of CDM1 se. In order to utilize both pair of speakers I ended up buying a NAD 3240 PE amplifier. With this one can switch between two pairs, A and B, a pair can be isolated, both can play at once, or both can be disabled. This is very nifty since the headphone output can be isolated. My sound card only have one monitor output and one headphone output. During a month or so of usage the amp annihilated itself and killed my dm302s in the process. Instead I bought a Denon PM720 from 1989 and a another pair of CDM1 quite cheap. The Denon had dropouts in the left channel. It has a knob one can twist a couple of times, then it has dropouts in the right channel instead. Instead of buying yet another old amplifier that probably have the same problems, I found a repair shop where my Denon can be fixed. Hopefully. After all it is made in Japan and has a toroid transformer. So it seems reasonable to try to fix it. In the meantime I thought I might get something to play music on. First of all I have a pair of Trust 3D sound Dimension speakers from the 90ties or something. These are quite crappy. As an alternative I wanted to buy a used Creative Inspire 2.1 system. I had this set once, and I remember them as quite decent. Especially when the price of them is taken into consideration. I found a cheap used set. But then I remember my history of used amplifiers. And taken into consideration that build cheap and crappy, they might not have much juice left in them. So I started to look at Creative's current lineup. And then I found these Pebble speakers. A new pair cost about the same as the used 2.1 set. A got myself a pair of Pebbles. Let's battle them against the Trust speakers!
As mentioned I create music. When mixing this it can be nice to have different speakers to use as reference points. That's one of the reasons I bought the CDM1. Now I have two pair of CDM1s - one SE version. However I do not think they differ that much. This makes it hard to picture how the music will sound on other systems. The one pair is placed on a shelf right in front of me. HIFI-wise this is a poor choice - they are quite boomy, and the tweeter is way above my head. So I have to roll back my chair half a meter or so to get a reasonable sound from them. The other pair are placed on speakers stands quite a distance from each other. This makes for a quite wide stereo image. Add to that that the speakers are very detailed. So you will hear everything, and it is somewhat hard to level the instruments with the vocals. So I thought these Pebbles are usable even after I get my amp home. They kind of act as what is called a grotbox. A grotbox is a pair of crappy speakers that are used for referencing a crappy system a lot of people probably uses anyway to play music on - smartphones, car stereos and so on. So I'm thinking that these Pebbles might come in quite handy. I will do a follow up article on them used together with the CDM1s for mixing when the Denon gets back.
I have watched several "fair reviews" on youtube. Everybody loves Pebbles. Mainly for the price point. But also because they don't steal too much desk real estate. Meaning they do not take up a lot of space. On youtube how things look are very important. I do not have much desk real estate to spare - my desk is pretty crammed. The Trust speakers really jam up my place. So here I prefer the Pebbles. Somehow I have gotten into a yt loop where I am constantly recommended HIFI "review" videos. Probably due to the used amplifiers I have bought. Two companies that are constantly mentioned and reviewed, are KEF and Klipsch. The place I bought the Pebbles, actually have these two brands in store. I really wanted to try out a pair of KEFs to see what all the hype is about. But they did not have any on display. However the drivers of the Pebbles kind of resemble those of Klipsch. They have somekind of base port on the back of them. Besides that the right one has a USB cable for power and a mini-jack for audio. Since my computer is placed on the floor to the left of me, I had to spend money on both an USB extension cord along a mini jack extension. The speakers are angled upwards towards your ears which makes sense if they are placed on the desktop in front of you below your head - then they are angled at your ears. I think this has some annoying effect if you watch a series or a movie and lean back in the chair. It seem to me that Sauls lip movements were not synchronized during the first episode of Better Call Saul. But I'm not sure - it might be something else.
The Trust speakers takes up a power socket. The control speaker has stereo phono inputs along a single phono to connect the other speaker. The left speaker has nasty humming noise coming from it occasionally. Furthermore it has some dropouts. It has treble and bass controls. Not to mention some weird 3D button. When turned on you can't pan the audio from left to right in for example Winamp. I think the 3D button among other things sets certain frequencies to mono. I'm not sure why. They probably did this by mistake, thought it sounded like 3D and decided to make it into a feature. Lastly the control speaker has a phones output mini jack.
For testing I use the build in sound card of my Asus motherboard. Probably a quite bad one. First I thought I could just A/B test by using the phones output of the Trust speakers to connect the Pebbles via. However this might be a bit unfair since the sound probably is notably deteriorated in this plug.
When I was just about to pay for the Pebbles, the store played Sing to the moon in the background. Given the store is one of those with big flashy party speakers and soundbars everywhere, I thought it an odd choice. However I have the song performed By Snarky Puppy (and of course Laura Mvula), it is found on yt here. It is quite beautiful, and I really like the SP version. Anyway, take it as a sign. The Trust speakers kind of handle the song OK. The song has details delivered intact. When too much low end is delivered, the speakers have a plastic rumbly reverb to them. But the vocals are kind of natural. And you can tell the instruments from each other. The synthesizers sound like synths, organs like organs, piano like piano and so on. The kick drum and toms are distinguishable. The cymbals are ok. The stereo image is somewhat exhaustive to the ears. You can sense the speakers.
The Pebbles are not rumbly. They have a plastic sound to them. The drum set sits far better in the mix. The vocals are plastic like to listen to. This is kind of annoying - I can't listen for too long without having some kind of ringing sensation in my ears. The stereo perspective is almost there - you do not sense the speakers much when sitting perfectly in front of them. However stereo effects - like a swipe from left to right - is kind of annoying.
The next song is Forty six and two by Tool. It is mixed/mastered in kind of strange way. The vocals in the start of the song are very quiet in the mix. I really like this effect. They build up making the song quite dynamic. The Pebbles manage the intro quite good. The stereo image is worse than with Sing to the Moon. And things are getting plastique in vibe. When distorted guitar and full drum set hits, it sounds like the speakers in my Lenovo T440. It's like heavily compressed: the loudest one survives, whenever this one becomes less powerful, something else takes over. Extremely un-dynamic. The vocals still are annoying to listen to.
The Trust speakers are very weak in the intro, the midrange is plastic like, what ever drums are played, all sound like paint buckets. The dynamics with these speakers are a little better. But when the full band hits, the music becomes quite hollow. It seems like the speakers them selves distort.
One thing that struck me during this song: it seems to me that the distorted guitar is turned down/cut off during each snare hit. Doing this normally lets you raise the loudness of the song quite a bit since snare normally are quite loud in the mix, and since snares land in a frequency range with a lot of other instruments. So it is normal procedure to lower singing/distorted guitar/the like on snare hits. This becomes clear for some reason on speakers like these - hence they might be a good tool for mixing analysis.
Both speakers during this song seem very loud - your ears kind of bleed afterwards. I think this is due to very bad representation across the hz band. It is very hard to tell whether the speakers plays loud or not.
The Trust speakers simply haven't got the capacity to handle this song. Aggressive parts becomes flat. The song is highly compressed in a sense that the VU-meter during it locks itself at the peak point and does not move much from there. On the Trust speakers the song plays like on a soon to die crappy car radio.
The Pebbles do not handle the song much better. They have kind of better bass control. And a little less card box in the sound deliverance.
For both speakers this song hurts ones head. Torture like!
There has been a lot of hype about Nirvana lately. Or I think so. So I dug up Nevermind. The Pebbles does this song ok. It still struggles with more aggressive parts. But SLTS is less complicated than the Tool song. Making it a bit better connected, in some sense, on these speakers. In any aggressive parts the song is dragged out of tolerable stereo image land into card box land. But it does not induce headache in same amount as Skrillex and Tool.
The Trust speakers have begun struggling with the left channel dropouts. Weirdly enough SLTS sounds "right" on these speakers. In the sense that I get the feeling of sitting in a skater park listening to the song recorded on a bit worn tape played on a ghetto blaster. However I think that a worn down tape would have less annoying high frequency tones to it than these speakers. Again this is an ear bleeding experience.
To be fair to the Trust speakers: the treble and bass knobs do not have a click when positioned at 12 o'clock. So I might have balanced these a bit off. Who cares.
I really dig this track. It has a bari (I think it is called) in the right side that on the Trust speakers sounds like a wet fart. I do not know what to make of it. The rest of the band is hollow: the instruments seems decoupled in some strange way. Like they are recorded in different quality.
The right channel bari is not much better on the Pebbles. The stereo image is better. But not perfect. The drum set sounds like a drum set, it did not on the Trust speakers. Weirdly enough you can make out some reverb details with the Pebbles. For example on the drum set: the reverb never sounds natural, but it has cabinet artifacts to it so it sounds like the drum set is not recorded in the same room as the rest of the instruments.
So who won? I would go with the Pebbles - mainly for the reason that they do not take up my precious desktop real estate. Also because they have a kind of more natural sound to them. I actually think I can use the Pebbles - even though the repair shop guy just called to tell my amp is almost fixed. They have this instrument separation to them that I'm pretty sure can be used for something. From the start I have been a bit anxious about the Pebbles not being grotty enough - the Trust speakers have plenty of grot to them. But the sound quality of the Pebbles is only slightly better than that of my build in speakers in my Thinkpad. So again: I think the Pebbles are usable in a mixing setup. I will look further into this when I have tried to mix something on them - probably soon.
However both of these speakers have a very nasty headache provoking ring to them. This makes it exhaustive to listen to music. The dm302 I bought second hand for twice the price of the Pebbles. The Rotel amp I bought for about the same price as the pair of Pebbles. On the dm302 and the Rotel I could listen to music all day. These are not high end, just decent speakers and an ok amp. I really think this is a serious matter: music is deeply rooted in our culture, it is important that we do music on its own, for its own sake, and it is important that the music is delivered with enough quality that we can immerse into it. And you do not sit back and enjoy a great album on a pair of Pebbles. So even though they look cool on your sparse desktop real estate, they are not really fit for much else than reference monitors or auxiliary speakers. I would not recommend them, please buy a decent used hifi system instead. And then spend your time listening to music instead of admiring how clean your desk is.