The Asus ROG brand is all about high-end gaming but we wouldn't recommend these for that. Instead, pick them up if you're keen on a flashy design, lengthy battery life, and surprisingly impressive audio, alongside features like ANC and wireless charging, for less than R2k.
There’s a term that you don’t often hear when it comes to Asus’ Republic of Gamers (ROG) brand. Affordability. That’s what the ROG Cetra True Wireless gaming earbuds hope to provide. If you thought that a set of wireless gaming earbuds would find some way to jam in a little RGB action to boot, you’re absolutely right.
We’ll get to all that in a moment, however. What you’re looking at here is a set of really quite affordable in-ears with active noise cancelling. You don’t need to be a gamer to consider a pair. In fact, it might be better if you’re just a regular person. There’s little reason for a gamer to stick the Cetra True Wireless buds into their ears (for gaming) unless it’s required to keep their Twitch sponsorship package going. Regular people, though? That’s another story.
A box of buds
As with most in-ear buds, the Cetra True Wireless buds are extremely simple to operate. Inside the box is the shaped charge case which contains the earbuds. If you poke further into the cardboard receptacle, you’ll also come across a USB-C charge cable and a couple of extra pairs of silicone tips to make sure the buds sit securely in your lugs.
The charge case, visually, is the most striking piece of the whole kit. It’s a bulky but contoured clamshell design, perfectly in keeping with ROG’s gaming aesthetic. Open it and you’ll see a little ROG logo flashing between the angular buds. An RGB strip also lights up along the earbuds. This is in action while you’re using them but that feature is for other people. Unless you’re gaming while looking in a mirror, you young Narcissus, you.
A career in stem
If you’re being a regular person, you’ll never see these in-ears unless you’re a) taking them out, b) putting them in, or c) admiring them in your hands. You could be forgiven for that last one, too. These R2,000 in-ears are surprisingly attractive, given their price tag. And they’re also touch-enabled on both sides, right over the Republic of Gamers logo next to your ear.
In practice, we found them to be a little hit-and-miss but at least the active area is properly set apart from the rest of the extended stem. You’ll know that you’re just not hitting the slanty bit right when it fails to pause or skip a song as intended or when the left ‘bud doesn’t switch between noise-cancelling modes when you firmly double-tap. At least you’re not fumbling around looking for the activation point.
The main catch? Installing the Asus Armoury Crate app is a requirement if you’d like to perform any customisation. This covers the touch controls (some of them) but it’s also possible to adjust the equaliser to suit a variety of video games. Why you’d do this is a mystery. The sound quality is decent but if you’ve got a moderate-to-good set of gaming over-ears, you’ll never put these on to play. Unless, of course, you’re using a Switch and don’t want the added weight. Or see above, about keeping your sponsorship going.
More than a game
The ROG Cetra True Wireless buds offer good enough performance when playing games but it could be better. Used just as a semi-budget set of general-purpose in-ears, though, Asus’ product really starts to become more attractive. There are several levels of noise cancelling and, while the highest level won’t quite shut out a load shedding generator, they’ll do the job to mute a rowdy office. There’s also decent passive noise cancelling, if you turn the feature off to get more battery life, and a hear-through mode in case you want to eavesdrop on co-workers while looking productive.
Battery life is impressively high — in the case. If you’ve got ANC enabled, you’ll need to return them to the case at least once a day. A few minutes inside will see you till home time. A fully charged set of buds plus the case will give you around 27 hours, according to the company, but that’s without the benefit of ANC masking your distractions.
But it’s the audio where you’ll be most impressed. The Cetra True Wireless, without the EQ enabled, offers decent sound reproduction out of the box — better than we were expecting for a R2k set of buds. Pair them up with an Android phone, fiddle with the custom EQ setting in the buds’ app, and you’re potentially looking at a bargain with regards to audio quality. None of the sound is overdone but bass remains present without being muted and most of the range is acceptable.
Again, we’re talking about music usage here. If you’re playing, particularly online, you’ll find that even the low-latency Gaming Mode struggles to keep up with the action. Bluetooth isn’t the best way to go about this. Wired is first place, then other options in a headset large enough to feature better hardware. Wireless buds, in gaming terms, are like a South African internet connection. Sure, you can play, but things are bound to teleport a little from time to time.
ROG Cetra True Wireless Verdict
Those drawbacks don’t stop these from being a better-than-average set of budget in-ears. It’s less rare to find USB-C-powered wireless buds around the R2,000 mark but ones with varying levels of active noise cancellation, acceptable audio performance, and a wireless charging case? Those are still tougher to find. Even fewer will ship with Asus’ ROG branding, letting you convince onlookers that you’re a gaming pro even if you’re not. And if you’re being asked uncomfortable questions about games you don’t know, you can always pretend that the Cetra True Wireless’ ANC is enabled and you never heard anything.