When you think of gaming headsets, what usually comes to mind are big over-ear headphones. While these typical headsets can offer great gaming audio and noise isolation, they are often too big to be used on-the-go, especially for mobile gamers. After all, having good audio is just as important for mobile titles, especially for shooters so you have a competitive advantage.
Enter the ROG Cetra 2 Core, the newest in-ear gaming headset from ASUS which was unveiled alongside the ROG Phone 5. This pair of in-ear monitors (IEM) are actually the follow-up to last year’s Cetra Core, and it is a wired pair of in-ear headphones that connect to your phone or other gaming device via a 3.5mm connector.
While this ‘Core’ version may not have all the bells and whistles of the standard Cetra 2 (such as Active Noise Cancelation and a USB-C connector), it still promises great audio for gaming, be it for mobile games to console/PC titles. Plus, it comes with more affordable price tag.
So, does the new ASUS ROG in-ear buds work well as a pair of gaming headphones? Find out here in our ROG Cetra 2 Core review!
Design and Fit
Before we tackle sound quality, let’s first take a look at the design. As an ROG pair of in-ear monitors, the Cetra 2 Core has a more ‘gamer’ look to it compared to your typical earbuds thanks to the red accents and ROG logo on each earpiece, along with the black and gray color scheme.
While they look quite nice, the Cetra 2 Core doesn’t exactly feel premium with its light, plastic build. On the flip side, even if it lacks a more premium metal build like other IEMs, the Cetra 2 Core feels fairly sturdy, meaning you won’t need to be too careful with it when in use.
As with other in-ear headphones, the Cetra 2 Core comes with three pairs of silicone ear tips, as well as a pair of foam ear tips. Along with these, the earbuds also pack three pairs of silicone ear fins of different sizes.
Your mileage may vary, but in my experience, the ear fins did not feel comfortable. Sure, they make the earbuds feel more secure, but I found them to be quite annoying and uncomfortable after a while. Thankfully, they are easily removable.
Without the ear fins, the Cetra 2 Core felt comfortable, even after spending over two hours with it on while gaming. In my time with it, the earbuds felt secure in my ears even without ear fins, though you’ll have to select the proper ear tip that forms a nice seal for good audio quality and comfort.
One thing I’d like to note about the Cetra 2 Core is that it comes with foam ear tips–a rarity for entry-level earbuds. In case you don’t use in-ear headphones much, foam ear tips can be more comfortable for some users, making them great alternatives for those who dislike silicone ear tips. Another great thing about foam tips is that it can increase bass output which is great news for bassheads. The only trade off is that foam tips are a bit harder to clean, and they usually have shorter lifespans compared to silicone.
In most of our IEM reviews, we focus on sound quality for music and movies, but for the Cetra 2 Core, we’re starting off with gaming audio performance. After all, this is an ROG gaming headset.
For mobile games, the Cetra 2 Core delivers excellent audio. In single-player titles such as Genshin Impact or Real Racing 3, the ROG earbuds had clear audio output with lots of bass, making for an immersive experience. Another great thing about the earbuds is that they’re not hard to drive; I found that putting the volume at 50% was loud enough for my taste.
As for multiplayer titles such as Call of Duty Mobile, the Cetra 2 Core did not disappoint. The headphones have a fairly wide soundstage, as well as good separation for an IEM. In case you’re not familiar with headphone terminology, this means you’ll be able to hear and locate enemies much better by their footsteps in shooters and/or battle royales. While the staging may not be as wide as full-size headphones, they still gave me a big advantage in FPS titles, especially when compared to just using a smartphone’s onboard speakers.
Aside from mobile titles, I also tried the Cetra 2 Core on the PS5. Upon testing, I was surprised to find out that the Cetra 2 Core was a great match for the PS5, especially for games with 3D Audio like Demon’s Souls. Similar to my mobile game experience, I was also able to accurately locate enemies in Demon’s Souls just by paying attention to footsteps and other audio cues. Given that the PS5’s 3D Audio does not work for speakers yet, I can actually recommend the Cetra 2 Core to PS5 players as its sound quality is an upgrade over standard TV speakers.
On PC, the Cetra 2 Core also proved to be quite capable. As with my mobile and PS5 test, the ROG earbuds let me hear enemy positions quite clearly. While I’d still go for full-size headphones for PC gaming, if I’m in a pinch, I’d prefer to use the Cetra 2 Core over my other IEMs.
Gaming performance is excellent across the board on the Cetra 2 Core, but what about sound quality for music? Well, if you want a bass-heavy pair of headphones, you’ll love these ROG earbuds. For R&B, pop, and hip-hop tracks, the Cetra is an excellent pairing thanks to the emphasis on the low-end, all without drowning out mids and highs too much.
Of course, the bass can be a bit too much, especially for more vocal-led tracks. For these types of songs, the mids and highs can sound slightly recessed, making for a dark overall sound.
Aside from having great sound quality for gaming, the Cetra 2 Core is also a reliable daily driver. While the earbuds only have your standard volume and play/pause inline controls, they are quite responsive.
The inline controls also house the earbuds’ mic. Given its small size, it’s not too surprising that the mic audio quality is just decent. While it’s clear enough for phone calls and for Discord, don’t expect to record high quality game commentary on the Cetra 2 Core’s mic.
As mentioned above, the Cetra 2 Core has a 3.5mm connector. While this means the device is analog-only, I actually prefer this as it makes the Cetra compatible with a wider range of devices; for instance, not all USB-C headphones work with the PS5.
The 3.5mm connector on the Cetra 2 Core is also on the smaller side and is L-shaped. This is easily one of the best connector designs, especially as you’ll still be able to grip your phone comfortably even with this connected. For comparison, straight connectors often make it hard to grip a phone properly or comfortably when playing games.
Speaking of connector, the Cetra also comes with a splitter cable inside the box. This handily splits the earbuds and mic input, a handy thing to have for gamers on PC without a combo jack. And along with this, the Cetra 2 Core comes with a hard case; always a plus for entry-level earbuds.
ROG Cetra 2 Core Review – Final Geek Lifestyle Verdict
So what’s our verdict here in our ROG Cetra 2 Core review? Well, we’re highly impressed with ROG’s latest in-ear gaming headphones. Thanks to excellent gaming audio quality, comfortable fit, and everyday reliability, the Cetra 2 Core is a worthy choice for gamers who want a more portable gaming audio device, even if they already have a main pair of gaming headphones.
Is it worth its PHP 3,460 price tag though? While it could’ve used more premium materials and a slightly more balanced sound for music, the Cetra 2 Core is still well worth considering thanks to its excellent overall sound for gaming.