One of my biggest gripes with the wireless ROG Cetra earbuds is the fact that it forces you to install Armoury Crate on my phone. I'll admit that's an unfortunate place to start a review, but it's bad enough I have Asus' software bloat plumbed into both my home and office gaming PCs—thanks to those damned reliable Asus motherboards—but I don't want to have it on my phone as well.
Thankfully it's not necessary, or even vital, as almost all of the key settings for these solid Cetra earphones can be accessed via the touch controls on the buds themselves. The different levels of active noise cancelling (ANC), gaming mode, pause, play, skip, etc, are all just a touch or a long press away.
All you really need the app for is such luxuries as Bass Boost, Virtual Surround Sound, and EQ and sound optimisation settings. Which is good, because when plumbed into the Steam Deck (opens in new tab) via the Bluetooth 5.0 connection none of that is readily available anyway.
But, whether connected to your PC, laptop, Steam Deck, or phone, the ROG Cetra TWS (opens in new tab) buds deliver an okay audio experience, and have a broad feature set that rivals the best on the market. With one minor, though missed, exception. I love the auto cut-out feature the JBL Quantum (opens in new tab) and Creative Outlier Pros (opens in new tab) offer, which saves battery and means you can just pull the buds out of your ears and they'll immediately pause. Then automatically resume when you jam them back in your earholes.
But the ROG Cetra TWS is still a good set of earphones… but notably not a great one.
For me it's the actual audio quality which is where the Cetra earphones fall down, because everything else is right up there. The ANC is good, the connection robust and quick to hook into whichever device they've been set up for, and the gaming mode can be enabled with a quick touch, and is as quick and reliable as you'd want from some wireless buds.
I'm into the wee charging case, too. It adds another 17 hours (21+ if you've got ANC disabled) and it's a smooth little box which is easy to palm and would slip into a pocket without being too obtrusive. The same cannot necessarily be said of the buds themselves; they've rather ROG. That means they have some of the angular design which is the hallmark of Asus' gaming focused devices, and I am not the biggest fan. Though they're not entirely the sharp-edged red and black buds I might have expected, they're still not the most pleasing design to my eyes.
That angular design is, at least, effective. I've struggled with touch controls on earbuds for a while, preferring the reassuring feel of a physical button when you can't actually see what you're trying to hit. You know where you are when you actually have something to press. But with the sharper edges of the Cetra it creates an obvious flat plane for the touch-sensitive surface which makes it easier to find with digit alone.
Which in turn makes activating game mode, or cycling through noise cancelling levels, or even just hitting the one-touch play/pause command, a mercifully simple task. That's not something you can say of all the earbuds I've tested recently.
Sadly, the audio quality is kinda limp.
It all feels very surface level, even when you muck about with the EQ settings to shift from the default flat EQ. Strangely, for a gaming set, it seems tuned towards higher frequencies, and lacks any kind of oomph at the lower ends. You can enable Bass Boost via the Armoury Crate, but that just muddies the otherwise clear sound.
There just isn't much depth to the sound, which is a shame either when you're playing a game or listening to music. And, in the end, it's that weak audio which makes the ROG Cetra TWS just a fine set of wireless earbuds rather than a world-beater.