The ROG Cetra buds might be aimed at gamers, but they’re an impressive pair of wireless earbuds by mainstream standards. If you don’t mind the design and can look beyond a few inconveniences, they’re definitely worth considering.
In recent years, there’s been a rapid rise in the number of companies making true wireless earbuds. Many of the newcomers are phone makers looking to branch out, while other brands previously specialised in other audio products.
Given the importance of great sound while gaming, it’s no surprise to see Asus’ ROG brand join the party. Both regular and Pro models have been released, but it’s the former that’s our focus here.
At under $100/£100, do the ROG Cetra buds hit the sweet spot for most people? I spent a few weeks testing them to find out.
Design & Build
The ROG brand is usually associated with eye-catching designs, but that’s not the case here. I was surprised by the Cetra buds’ more muted aesthetic, with just minimalist branding on the case and buds themselves.
Black is the finish I’d usually choose for wireless earbuds, but it’d be nice to see alternatives for people who want something more colourful. The official listing says they’re also available in ‘Moonlight White’, which takes on more of a grey aesthetic, but I couldn’t find anywhere selling them.
As a result, the only real way of expressing yourself is via the RGB lighting, but the buds and case only light up when they’re trying to tell you something. Having a clear system in place to know when they’re in pairing mode, charging or low on battery is great, but it’d be nice to see more customisation options here.
As a result, the Cetra buds feel much more of a mainstream product than I was expecting. They look like just another pair of wireless earbuds. While that makes standing out from the competition more difficult, it also means you’re more likely to use them as your main pair.
A plastic exterior means each bud weighs just 5g, but they still feel impressively sturdy and robust. Being this light means you can soon forget about them being in your ears, provided the fit is right.
Dominik Tomaszewski / Foundry
Asus includes three sizes of tips in the box – once you get the right one, the buds are impressively comfortable. I had no problem wearing them for several hours at a time.
As you can see from the photos, the Cetra buds have a relatively long stem. It’s clearly visible when you’re wearing them, meaning they look more like regular AirPods than AirPods Pro. Opting for black means they’re more discreet than Apple’s buds, but you might prefer something more compact.
In theory, the Cetra buds offer a simple range of touch controls, but I found them more frustrating than functional. A double tap of the left earbud toggles active noise cancellation (ANC) modes, but it regularly took several tries for this to register.
Long press can be used to trigger voice assistant (one second), pairing mode (three seconds) and power off (five seconds), but to use them you’ll end up pushing the earbud uncomfortably further into your ear canal.
It’s a similar story on the right bud, which can be used to choose different modes and control songs and calls. Play/pause was the only function I could consistently get to work and not become uncomfortable.
As a result, I ended up using my phone to control things far more than I was hoping to, but when it comes to ANC modes, there’s no alternative.
Once you’re done using them, each bud securely drops into the charging case using magnets. The ROG logo between them is joined by a small light strip on the outside, allowing you to quickly monitor their battery and pairing status without opening the case.
The case also has a plastic exterior, but it feels premium and does a good job of limiting fingerprint smudges. At 52g even with the buds inside, it’s easy to take them anywhere with you.
Dominik Tomaszewski / Foundry
It’s also worth noting the presence of an IPX4 rating, meaning the buds and case can survive splashes of water from any direction. However, you should still be extremely careful around any water or dust.
Sound Quality & Features
The ROG brand isn’t primarily known for its audio products, but Asus has plenty of experience making gaming-focused headphones and earbuds. However, these are the first true wireless buds in the ROG family.
Going completely cable-free is often associated with a drop-off in sound quality, but the ROG Cetra have some impressive credentials. 10mm drivers in each bud can emit audio between 20Hz and 20KHz – that matches what the average person can hear.
In order to effectively test the sound they produce, I played a selection of songs from Amazon Music’s ‘Best of Ultra HD’ playlist. Amazon says the quality of tracks here is up 10 times higher than regular streamed music, but the Cetra can only play music using the SBC and AAC wireless audio codecs. The former is standard Bluetooth and the latter is for iPhones specifically. This means even if you use a high definition (HD) or high-resolution (hi-res) audio service, these buds will not be able to stream in that quality.
In fact, not many buds are capable of hi-res or CD quality sound in the first place – that’s still mainly found in the realm of wired audio.
Back to what the Cetra can do, then. The first song I tested was ‘Late Night Talking’ by Harry Styles, which the buds handled well. The sound was well-balanced but still detailed – it was easy to pick out individual instruments in the backing track.
That track doesn’t rely heavily on bass, but it’s crucial to Lizzo’s ‘About Damn Time’. I was impressed with the way the buds coped, although things did sound slightly muddy at times.
Dominik Tomaszewski / Foundry
‘Heat Waves’ by Glass Animals was a real highlight, with the buds creating an immersive listening experience that captured the emotion of the song very well. Similarly, ‘Oh My God’ sounded fantastic, with Adele’s booming vocals sounding great.
However, it’s not quite as impressive on slower tracks with less production. Billie Eilish’s ‘Happier Than Ever’ was slightly bland and washed out, lacking some of its usual impact. The simple backing track on ‘Solar Power’ by Lorde fared slightly better, but these kinds of songs aren’t the buds’ strength.
However, the songs in this playlist were almost exclusively modern tracks, so I tried some older classics too.
Queen’s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ was remastered in 2011, and it shows. Freddie Mercury’s voice has all its usual impact, especially when combined with Brian May’s guitar solos. But ‘Song 2’ by Blur feels underwhelming by comparison, where a busy backing track means the vocals get lost at times.
The same can be said for ‘Happy Birthday’ by Stevie Wonder, but it’s more impressive on ‘I Got You’, where James Brown’s singing takes centre stage.
These buds are also a good choice if you’re a fan of classical music. Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’ sounds great, as do more up-tempo tracks from the likes of the London Philharmonic Orchestra.
The Cetra buds are also adept when it comes to voice-based content. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to podcasts using them, with clear, crisp vocals and almost no distortion – even at high volumes.
It’s great to see ANC on a pair of earbuds at this price, and I was impressed with how it performed. The ‘heavy’ setting blocks out a significant amount of background noise, even if there’s no audio playing.
I enjoyed having the alternative of ‘light’ ANC, plus an ‘ambient sound’ mode that’s great for talking to someone without taking out the buds. Once you get used to the fiddly method of switching between them, there’s an impressive range of functionality here.
If the audio you’re getting isn’t quite to your liking, this can be tweaked via Asus’ Armoury Crate companion app. Here, you can choose one of five preset sound profiles – flat, FPS, movie, racing and RPG – or dream up something completely unique.
Dominik Tomaszewski / Foundry
The equalizer built into the app also has presets for various types of music, plus the option to customise individual frequencies to your liking. If you know what you’re doing, it’s possible to achieve some great results.
Elsewhere, you can also set the intensity of a powerful bass boost mode, turn on virtual surround sound or activate a dedicated ‘gaming mode’. Each option has a clear purpose and doesn’t feel like a gimmick.
It’s great to see all these options available for earbuds that are so inexpensive, but I wish Asus had put more effort into the design of the app. Compared to most rivals, it’s clunky and difficult to navigate. When initially testing the buds, I missed some useful functionality as it wasn’t made obvious. This is something that could easily be fixed, but its current status shouldn’t be a dealbreaker.
Battery Life & Charging
Asus hasn’t had to think about battery life on its wired ROG earbuds and headphones, but it’s crucial here.
With ANC turned on (which you’ll want to do most of the time), the company says you can get 4.8 hours of usage from the buds themselves, plus a further 17 hours from the charging case. If it’s turned off, this can supposedly be extended to 5.5 hours and 21.5 hours respectively.
Plenty of buds advertise more these days, but I was still impressed with the battery life on offer. With a couple of hours of music, podcasts or calls each day, the Cetra buds can comfortably last a full week on a single charge.
That’s helped by what Asus calls ‘quick-charge’ technology within the case, although it doesn’t say how quickly the buds can return to full charge. In my experience, they were almost always at 100% when I took them out of the case.
However, I did notice that the battery in the left bud depleted significantly quicker. At times with ANC turned on, the difference was more than 10%.
A single USB-C port is the main charging method, with a USB-C to USB-A cable included in the box. This is fast enough and reliable, and it’s great being able to use the same cable to charge my buds and phone. However, the ROG Cetra also support wireless charging via any Qi-enabled charger. It’s much slower than wired charging, but great for convenience.
Dominik Tomaszewski / Foundry
Price & Availability
You can easily pick up a solid pair of wireless earbuds for under $100/£100 these days, and the ROG Cetra buds are further evidence of this.
They’ll currently set you back just $99.99/£89.99. For such a well-rounded pair of buds with premium features, that’s excellent value for money.
But competition among budget wireless earbuds is fierce, with several options in our chart also offering active noise cancellation. Trade-offs in some areas are inevitable, but the Enacfire A9 or Anker Soundcore Life A2 NC might provide everything you’re looking for.
If you can’t decide between wired and wireless earbuds, it’s also worth considering the ROG Cetra True Wireless Pro – they can be used either way.
Asus is a relative newcomer to the world of true wireless earbuds, but you wouldn’t know it. While the Cetra buds are part of the company’s ROG range of gaming products, they’re a great affordable option for anyone.
Sound quality is better than you’d expect, producing rich, detailed audio and thumping bass. Both active noise cancellation modes are effective at blocking out external noise, but it’s great to also have the option to amplify what’s going on around you.
However, the fiddly touch controls used to move between these modes are frustating, while much of the impressive app functionality is buried beneath an unintuitive design.
But if you can look beyond the rather functional design, that’s about where the shortcomings end. With great battery life and a very comfortable fit, these are budget buds that are worth considering.