ASUS ROG Cetra SpeedNova review - budget-friendly AirPods alternatives for gamers

ASUS ROG Cetra earbuds inside the case in front of the box
Credit: StealthOptional

ASUS ROG Cetra earbuds inside the case in front of the box
Credit: StealthOptional

Years ago, I was a true believer that paying more money for premium earbuds was necessary for a good listening experience. Over time, my thoughts have certainly changed, and while I'll continue using my Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro as my daily drivers, the ASUS ROG Cetra earbuds are certainly a great alternative.

The ASUS ROG Cetra are noise cancelling earbuds that are clearly designed with those looking to match their gaming setup, with the design of the case and the earbuds sparkled up with RGB. However, this look is a red herring for some surprisingly adequate earbuds that anyone could fall in love with.

ASUS ROG Cetra review
The ASUS ROG Cetra earbuds are sparkly both in design and in quality. The gamer-focused look gives you some simple, yet nice RGB that makes the Cetra stand out from the crowd, while delivering great performance across any media, gaming or otherwise. However, the ANC and Armoury Craft software may disappoint some.
8 out of 10

Starting off with the design, the Cetra is clearly marketed towards gamers. Sporting matte black scheme and the shiny ASUS ROG logo at the front, the Cetra case is a clamshell-like design, which can be fairly difficult to open. Using one hand alone can be a difficult task, and even two hands require some force to pop open the case to get to your earbuds.

The USB-C port for charging the case lies at the top, but upon opening up the simple design, you're hit with a central ASUS ROG logo sitting between the earbuds, shining in various colours. Both earbuds feature a similar, but much smaller logo sitting at the top of each bud, changing in a spectrum of colours, inviting you to wear them.

ASUS' design of the ROG Cetra earbuds is, at first glance, fairly premium. While it may be a nuisance to open at times, it at least reassures me that my earbuds won't suddenly fall out of the case and either get lost in my pocket or, worse, fall onto the ground while I'm walking. It's a lot heavier than the case for the Galaxy Buds Pro 2, but that heftiness feels rugged and tough.

While the price of the earbuds is fairly middling, sitting right in the spot for similar mid-range earbuds, the ASUS offers something by being focused on gamers, while also delivering a wireless USB-C dongle (for connecting to those pesky devices without Bluetooth), and by having a great battery life. The ROG Cetra can get roughly 5-6 hours of playtime, with the case holding roughly 30+ additional hours.

ASUS ROG Cetra earbuds in an open case with green ROG logo shining
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Credit: StealthOptional

Now onto the earbuds themselves. ASUS has gone for an AirPods-like design for the ROG Cetra, delivering earbuds with a stem that make it easier to take out without risk of dropping them, as well as some touch controls within to make things easier to change or adjust on the fly when you're gaming or even doing some running or exercising. They look and feel great to hold and wear, but the design leaves them open to smudges due to the matte finish.

While the controls are... fine, to say the least, they're not the best. Getting a response from them can occasionally be difficult, and the wide range of options can make it easy to mistakenly input the wrong touch control, forcing you to get your phone out in a sigh of annoyance before continuing. They're not a major problem, unless you're prone to fits of rage if your earbuds don't work consistently via touch controls.

Despite a gamer-centric design and marketing campaign, the ASUS ROG Cetra earbuds are still an excellent option for anyone looking to pick up some budget-friendly buds. The audio quality is fairly decent across the board, whether you're playing matches of COD Mobile, hitting notes in Beatstar, or listening to music or podcasts during your travels or exercising sessions.

There's a decent amount of bass, mostly when playing games like COD Mobile, but it's nothing too impressive. However, considering the price, I don't think it's a problem at all, and if you're looking for more bass and a better soundstage in general, you'll probably want to save up for some of the more expensive options on the best earbuds for music list.

The volume, at least when mainly using it with an iPhone 15 Pro Max, can be fairly quiet. Anything below 75% can be difficult to hear and can sometimes lose finer details, but they get a lot louder as you reach the top quarter of the volume bar.

Holding an ASUS ROG Cetra earbud with the case open behind my hand
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Credit: StealthOptional

Thankfully, the Armoury Crate software can be used to finetune your earbuds, allowing you to either adjust a 10-level EQ or use a range of presets to suit your current listening habits. As much as I don't like using software, I strongly suggest Armoury Crate with the ROG Cetra, as despite my issues with ASUS' software, it is almost required to make the Cetra earbuds have good audio. Otherwise, you'll face a fairly flat and disappointing experience.

Despite Armoury Crate being an essential part of using the ROG Cetra to their full capabilities, the software is fairly lacking in features. There's a few options to adjust the lighting, change the EQ, and check the power of the case and the buds. Otherwise it's fairly limited in functionality, for example, there's no option to create and save EQ presets.

As I mentioned previously, the ROG Cetra are noise cancelling, providing a somewhat acceptable ANC. It's not going to block out the entire world around you, but any droning noises like fans will be mostly blocked out when you're using the earbuds. They're nowhere near the best ANC I've used, but they're great considering the price.

Overall, the ROG Cetra earbuds are worthy investments if you want some decently priced earbuds that offer a great, if basic audio experience that works on a range of media. The design feels extremely premium, and the battery life is superb, but an essential software that is limited in options, and the ANC may not be good enough for some.

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