ROG Cetra RGB USB-C ANC Gaming Earphones
Earlier this year, ROG announced a whole new slew of gaming peripherals for 2020, including the ROG Cetra RGB Earphones.
The Cetra RGB is the latest addition to the Cetra family, which also includes the Cetra and Cetra Core, the latter of which is the 3.5mm variant
. As its name suggests, the Cetra RGB is an RGB version of the regular Cetra, which features USB-C connectivity instead of 3.5mm.
To be honest, just looking at the box made me groan inwardly, as ROG has apparently called these earphones a 'headphone'. Unless I'm missing something, my understanding is that earphones go in the ear, while headphones go on the head.
But apart from that, the RGB branding is as bold and attractive as usual on its black and red packaging. On the back of the box, you'll find a nice summary of all the features and items you'll be getting within the package.
Unboxing involved undoing a magnetic flap to reveal the contents packed securely in precise foam cutouts. I was pleased to find a matching carry case (at this price range, there'd better be one!) On both sides you'll find a black ribbon trailing out; tugging on them enables you to lift out the foam to access the other contents underneath.
In addition to the earphones and carry case, you'll also find a quick start guide, warranty card, 2 pairs of spare ear fins, 2 pairs of silicone ear tips in varying sizes, 1 pair of foam ear tips, and an ROG-branded cable clip.
All in all, it is a very complete package that is well presented and easily accessible, unlike the ROG Phone 3, which was visually stunning but a nightmare to unbox...but let's save that story for another review, ok?
Design and build quality
The body of the earphones is made of matte black plastic, which ties into ROG's sleek and cool design language. Looped around each earphone is a flexible ear fin which tucks into the crevices of your ear for a snugger fit.
There are spare fins in different sizes for you to find the perfect fit, or you can remove them altogether if you find them extraneous. Personally I found them more of a hindrance as they refused to sit comfortably in my ears no matter which size I used.
Unfortunately, we have a rubber cable instead of a braided nylon cable, which is what I expected at this price point. Braided cables definitely exude more quality and also tangle and pinch less easily, so it would have been nice to see them on the Cetra RGB. The inline controls are made of hard textured plastic; while they do feel a bit cheap and light, the buttons are sturdy and it doesn't weigh the earphones down.
A short way down the right cable lies the in-line microphone, which hangs nicely right below your chin to pick up your voice clearly without fear of being jostled against your face.
At the end of the cable, you'll find a gold-plated USB-C header, while on the back of the earphones you'll find the ROG logo that will be lit with RGB lighting once plugged in, as well as the microphone for noise cancelling.
And if you prefer to go low-profile without all the extra bling, you can turn off the RGB lighting or customise it as you wish in the Armoury Crate software. It also supports Aura Sync so you can sync it to your other ROG products such as your laptop or ROG Phone as well.
Audio and mic quality
Now, what about the audio? Music-wise it's decent, with clear highs and mids. The bass is a bit underwhelming by default, but can be tweaked within Armoury Crate to your liking. Overall, the default settings are pretty decent for listening to pop or vocal-heavy songs, and with a bit of tweaking in Armoury Crate, it sounds pretty good overall even for EDM and more bass-heavy genres.
Either way, the Cetra is not an audiophile device and should not be treated as such, so I put its 10mm Essence drivers to the test through a couple games of PUBG Mobile on the ROG Phone 3 to see how it fared.
Overall, sound positioning is great, gunfire sounds punchy and footsteps were clear. I found absolutely no issue with the audio in terms of conveying vital information, and that's the key to a pair of good gaming earphones. Of course, immersion is also important, and the Cetra RGB also did a great job with environmental sounds.
A huge plus is that the Cetra RGB's mic was astonishingly good. I'm very used to sub-par earphone mics and was honestly not expecting something as clear and natural-sounding as this. You can hear a sample below:
Active noise cancelling and inline controls
The main feature on the Cetra RGB is of course, its active noise cancelling capabilities - a feature that is usually reserved for higher-end devices. Of course, at RM499, the Cetra isn't exactly cheap, but is still pretty affordable on the spectrum of ANC offerings.
To activate ANC, you have to press the side button located on the in-line controls, and it will cycle between 3 modes, indicated via the white LED on the controls:
No light: ANC off
Steady light: ANC on
Blinking light: Ambient mode on
Turning on ANC definitely made a difference, albeit not a drastic one. You can hear environmental noises like the fan and aircon disappear, but ambient music and typing noises from the next cubicle are still audible. It's definitely more effective in environments that are already relatively silent - I'm really not sure how it would fare in chaotic environments like a packed LRT (now must maintain social distancing ah) but I'm guessing it won't be as effective.
One way to improve it however, is to pair it with better passive noise cancelling, which means using the foam ear tips provided. Just squeeze em before inserting and they'll expand to create a good seal in your ear canal. Unfortunately, ROG has seen fit to provide three pairs of silicone tips but only one pair of foam tips, so you've just gotta hope that they fit you.
Ambient mode switches the noise cancelling microphone to pick up mode - your music is greatly lowered while the mic picks up your surrounding sounds so you can cross the road safely or have a quick conversation without having to remove the buds from your ears.
The in-line controls are pretty intuitive to use without even having to look down at them. On the side is the ANC mode toggle as mentioned earlier, while the closest to you on the front is the volume up button, while the furthest away is the volume down button.
The one in the middle is the multi-function button, which ROG claims to do the following:
Single press: Play / pause
Double press: Next track
Triple press: Previous track
However, they have also added a handy disclaimer that this may not work on certain Android devices, and luckily they did, because it certainly behaved strangely on mine.
On my HTC U12+ - granted, it's a pretty uncommon phone - the single and double press worked, but the triple press does not register. I can also use it to pick up calls through WhatsApp and my phone line, but it doesn't work on Facebook calls at all. All in all, it's a bit of a hit-and-miss for me.
For a compatibility list, you may refer here.
Buy or no buy?
The ROG Cetra RGB is a nice upgrade from last year's Cetra, with additional RGB lighting that's Aura Sync-compatible at the same price tag of RM499.
If you're a gamer who enjoys edgy-looking peripherals, good positional audio, and a bit of ANC to block out ambient noises, the Cetra RGB will do the job. The superb mic quality is also a huge plus for those who need to communicate with teammates on the go.
However, if you're more of an audiophile who prefers a low-key design, you're looking in the wrong place (this is designed for gamers lah.) You'll also need to prepare to have good passive noise cancelling by way of well-fitted foam eartips to compensate for the mediocre ANC effect of the Cetra RGB.
And ROG, please la, fix the name on the box okay? :')