In the world of wireless earbuds, it can seem like there are Apple AirPods and...everything else. Plenty of companies try — and many do a great job, even at budget prices — but it’s hard to snag part of the limelight. However, Asus is trying with the ROG Cetra True Wireless earbuds, which put a gaming tilt to the earbuds space.
The ROG Cetra True Wireless earbuds cost just $99, which isn’t that cheap for true wireless earbuds, but starts to feel like a bargain when you account for the earbuds’ hybrid active noise canceling, long battery life, surprisingly solid audio chops, and wireless charging case. And Asus even tops it off with a little splash of lighting effects.
Altogether, it’s a neat little package worthy of its price. However, it’s also wearing Asus’ Republic of Gamers badge, and the low-latency gaming mode is one area where it came up short, showing noticeable delay between on-screen action and sound effects on both PC and Asus’ own ROG Phone 6 Pro. This may not be an issue for those looking for a great pair of non-gaming earbuds, but it’s not a great sign for...the gamers Asus is aiming for.
Specs for the Asus ROG Cetra True Wireless
|Driver Type||10mm custom neodymium drivers|
|Frequency Response||20 - 20,000 Hz|
|Design Style||True Wireless Earbuds|
|Water resistance||IPX4, "splash-proof"|
|Connectivity Options||Bluetooth 5.0|
|Weight||0.18 ounces (5g) per bud; 1.48 ounces (42g) charging case|
|Battery Life||Up to 5.5 hours (buds) + up to 21.5 hours (case)|
Design and Comfort of the Asus ROG Cetra True Wireless
The Asus ROG Cetra True Wireless buds throw in for style points. The case is a sleek little pearl with smooth edges that slid nicely in and out of my pockets. The design is tough to open one-handed, but it’s also tough to accidentally pop open and send the buds spilling out. The back edge of the case has a USB-C charging port while the base allows for wireless charging. The front edge of the case has a light bar that glows either blue or red to indicate charge levels (albeit, not terribly precisely).
Inside the case, there are form-fitting slots for holding the buds in place to charge and a small dot-matrix ROG logo that lights up in several colors briefly. The earbud stems also have a small bar of light along their stem that lights up when they’re slotted or withdrawn from the case. It’s flashy and unnecessary, but it’s a style touch fans of Asus’ ROG line will be used to and expect.
The buds are the classic in-ear style with a long stem that puts the mics just a little bit closer to the mouth. The design is all black, save for “ROG” and an ROG logo emblazoned on the buds in silver.
The Cetra True Wireless buds come with a set of ear tips in three different sizes. Pressed in firmly, they do a good job blocking out some external noise, and they stay in place well even during a bit of headbanging. Each earbud has a touch control point that responds to individual taps, multi-taps, and long-presses.
While the buds aren’t horribly uncomfortable, having the hard plastic in my ear for the better part of the workday does leave them a bit tender. There’s no specific element of the buds causing this minor discomfort though, so your mileage may vary. If you have sensitive ears that dislike most earbuds, these won’t solve that, but if you’re generally comfortable with earbuds these should suit you fine.
Audio Performance of the Asus ROG Cetra True Wireless
When it comes to audio performance, the Asus ROG Cetra True Wireless earbuds surprise. Their sound isn’t bulletproof, but they’re contenders when considering all that they already deliver at $100 before getting to the sound quality. The soundstage is compact, making audio feel rather close, but the buds do an impressive job recreating the sonic range.
Whether it’s the spacey sounds of Daft Punk’s “Random Access Memories,” the funky and chaotic vibes of Of Montreal’s “False Priest,” or the energetic action of Overwatch, the Cetra True Wireless earbuds put on a little show. Bass notes in False Priest’s opening track have their delicious slink and a tad of oomph to back them, and the thump of drums roaring through Daft Punk’s “Contact” has a touch of life.
The buds perform better in the mids, where they can really pump out a lot of sound even at just 50% volume. The buds struggle a bit to deliver a ton of sound all at the same time, getting a little crunchy and seeing the lowest thump of the bass fizzle out when trying to push through the busiest sections of music or the most hectic moments in a team fight, especially when a lot of bass is called for.
The earbuds also feature active noise cancellation to eliminate some background noise when you’re trying to focus on your tunes. At the volumes these earbuds are capable of dialing up to, it’s possible to simply drown out external noises, but ANC is still a handy option to have. The buds support two different levels of ANC as well as an ambient audio mode that lets you hear external sounds.
At its highest level, the ANC cuts down a little bit on droning noises, but is virtually unnoticeable when listening to music. It’s more apparent while listening to a podcast, where there’s more unoccupied frequency.
The ambient sound feature lets external sound in, but it’s a tad sharp and unnatural, also pulling in a bit of wind. It may do in a conversation in a quiet room, but I didn’t feel it was going to let me really keep my wits about me walking down the street with it enabled.
While the speaker drivers perform well, the Bluetooth hardware struggled a little. I noticed the occasional issue with the buds desynchronizing for just a moment. It’s a minor distraction that ultimately doesn’t ruin the listening experience, but worth noting if you plan to listen in an environment with a lot of radio interference.
Asus’s Armoury Crate app allows for some tailoring of EQ and bass boost, but little else — and the app asks for far too many irrelevant permissions to be worthwhile.
Gamers looking for an edge with these buds using the low-latency Gaming Mode are out of luck. The sound coming out of these buds lags plainly behind the actions in game whether in Gaming Mode or not.
Microphones on the Asus ROG Cetra True Wireless
While a lot of earbuds use some beamforming on their mics to better pick up a users’ voice and eliminate background noise, the Cetra True Wireless buds have omnidirectional mics that pick up sound in all directions. The result is surprisingly clear compared to other earbuds, but it comes with the healthy — or unhealthy — dose of background noise.
In a recording with a fan and air conditioner running 10 feet away, the mic presented my voice clearly with just the subtlest hints of sounding like I was speaking through a digital tunnel. However, when I started typing on my keyboard (a quieter membrane one, no less), the mics picked up a bit of that as well. Even worse, when I threw a YouTube video on a pair of desktop speakers, the narration from the video came through almost as well as my own voice.
If you’re in a quiet room, you’ll get a good result from the mics on these earbuds, but that’s where the positives of the experience will end.
One downside that’s nearly universal for Bluetooth devices is that a lot of their positive traits go out the window when you try to use them for input and output at the same time. The audio quality coming through the speakers simply tanks to awful levels when the mics are engaged. So using the buds for gaming and voice comms or Zoom meetings will negate their benefits.
Battery Life of the Asus ROG Cetra True Wireless
These buds are no slouch when it comes to marathon listening. Asus advertises them as boasting a 4.8 hour runtime with ANC on or hitting 5.5 hours with ANC off, and the case can add another 17 or 21.5 hours, respectively. I cranked up the tunes, switching between ANC modes occasionally but largely sticking to the strongest ANC level, and it was 4 hours and 20 minutes before the buds gave out. They can also charge quickly in the case. Just 10 minutes back in the case after my battery test brough the battery reading back up to 50%. Though my test fell slightly short of Asus’s estimates, they likely tested at a more conservative volume and ANC level that could see the buds last even longer.
The Asus ROG Cetra True Wireless are a pretty good value, delivering solid audio performance and features such as active noise cancellation and a wireless charging case — which you won’t find in most $99 earbuds. Unfortunately, they’re just not dependable enough for gaming, which is what the ROG line is all about. If you’re looking for a decent pair of true wireless earbuds, these are worth a look, but if you’re a gamer you’ll find more reliable low-latency options on our list of best gaming headsets.