The Roccat Syn Buds Core may look like another cheap set of gaming earbuds, but underneath that $24.99 / £19.99 MSRP there's some decent gaming performance up for grabs. I'll caveat that with the fact that busier soundscapes do sometimes prove too much of a challenge for such an everyday bud. However, the market for cheap in-ear buds is swallowed up by budget gadgets that produce ugly results - and the Roccat Syn Buds Core do manage to cut above that noise. They won't be winning any awards for best gaming headset, but if you're after something to sling into a Nintendo Switch case there's a nice balance between performance and price here.
The format is simple. You're getting a wired set of earbuds with a 3.5mm connection and inline volume and mic controls. The Roccat Syn Buds Core have been developed as a Nintendo Switch headset first and foremost, so that's where most of my testing took place. However, these buds are also compatible with PS5, PS5, Xbox consoles, PC, and mobile (using an adapter if your device doesn't offer a 3.5mm jack), so I also took the buds out for a spin on some of these platforms as well.
- Roccat Syn Buds Core | $24.99 / £19.99 at Amazon (opens in new tab)
As mentioned above, the feature set of the Roccat Syn Buds Core is fairly lean. You're getting everything you'd expect to see here for $24.99 and no more. That means 10mm drivers in each ear, three ear tip size options, in-line audio controls, and an in-line mic on the cable as well.
It would be unreasonable to ask for much more than that considering the super low price point here, but it's worth mentioning that there's no Swarm software integrations in here so you won't be able to adjust EQ or preset settings on PC.
All in all, then, this is a fairly stock spec sheet that doesn't stray from the minimum requirements. However, Roccat does also throw in a soft carrying pouch to keep your buds contained during transport as well.
At first glance, the Roccat Syn Buds Core won't stand out from any other earbuds on the market right now. However, there is a small indication that these are produced with a controller in mind on the side of each bud. A subtle Roccat logo is printed in a clear plastic shell on each side, which adds a nice sense of luxury to an arguably budget buy.
Those buds themselves break that generic earbud mould a little as well. Each bud carries a blocky, square design that sits a little larger than the conventional form factor. This means they do stick further out of the ears than I was used to with the AirPods Pro, and were more noticeable once plugged in, but they weren't unnecessarily heavy or cumbersome. In fact, the larger design meant that they felt more securely placed in my ears, with no threat of dropping out during a particularly frantic Super Mario Sunshine recovery (or a particularly violent rage quit).
I was impressed with the comfortable design overall here. I never experienced ache or fatigue from longer sessions plugged in. Plus, the soft texture of each bud meant that, while they never exactly faded into the background, I could acclimatise to the feel and balance quickly.
Overall, the Roccat Syn Buds Core produced a nicely balanced sound profile, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that the bass wasn't overwrought like so many other cheap gaming headsets. The gravelly voice of Paul Prospero still carried a rumbling weight in The Vanishing of Ethan Carter on PC, and the mocking melodies of Super Mario Sunshine's secret levels were reproduced with a satisfying delicacy, allowing each level to remain distinct but still vibrant.
It's in these lighter soundscapes that the Syn Buds Core are at their best - when things get a little more complicated, though, they can struggle. The bassy hellscapes of Doom were significantly flattened, lacking the punch of a shotgun or the rumble of a particularly good background track. The bass is a little too limited to force itself through heavier soundscapes, and the mids and high ranges can't quite distinguish themselves from the ruckus either.
Similarly, directional audio clipped in and out in a particularly abrupt manner in both The Vanishing of Ethan Carter and Spider-Man: Miles Morales. Spinning slowly in an environment didn't quite offer up the same level of immersive audio placement as more premium sets could accomplish, instead every 'block' of sound felt clearly marked, and cuts between them were fairly jarring.
I also noticed this lack of directional cohesion in Borderlands 3 and PUBG, to the detriment of footstep and dialogue pinpointing.
Interestingly, however, the layered audio of Oxenfree was a different story. While less crowded than the likes of Borderlands or Spider-Man: Miles Morales, there are still several tracks competing here. I was able to pick out dialogue and background music from the snap, crackle, and demons of the radio signals, with the Syn Buds Core working hard across the highs, mids, and bass to provide clear, punchy audio across a range of levels.
It's worth noting that if you're interested in picking these buds up for on-the-go gaming, you'll likely prefer them to perform in music as well. The extent to which the Roccat Syn Buds Core will fit your Spotify playlist likely comes down to the music you enjoy. I found that Grandson proved too much to handle, with its heavily-produced bass and complex mids. However, more intricate music like that of Oh Wonder was beautifully represented, with admirable attention to detail. Again, the Syn Buds Core can outperform expectations when less is asked of them but struggle with more complicated jobs.
Should you buy the Roccat Syn Buds Core?
At $24.99 / £19.99, there's very little gamble in picking up the Roccat Syn Buds Core. If you're after in-ear headphones for Nintendo Switch, these are at worst a placeholder until you pick up something a little more sophisticated - like the EPOS GTW 70 Hybrid or Razer Hammerhead True Wireless Gen 2. At their best, the Roccat Syn Buds Core are a solid everyday driver to keep in your carry case, especially if you don't tend to play music-intensive or particularly directional games.
In terms of similarly priced competitors, the Syn Buds Core are more comfortable than the Turtle Beach Battle Buds, and so provide excellent long-term usage, but can't quite offer the same level of bass handling as the Razer Hammerhead Duo.
- Roccat Syn Buds Core | $24.99 / £19.99 at Amazon (opens in new tab)
How we tested the Roccat Syn Buds Core
I put the Roccat Syn Buds Core through their paces on Nintendo Switch, both at home and while out and about, as well as on PC, PS5, and mobile - all over the course of three weeks of use.
I tested the Syn Buds Core on Super Mario Sunshine, Doom, and Oxenfree on Nintendo Switch, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter and Fuser on PC, Borderlands 3, and Spider-Man: Miles Morales on PS5, and PUBG on Android. I also ran the buds through a Netflix binge and tested some tunes from Spotify as well.
I've been reviewing gaming headsets across a range of platforms since 2019 (and raving about certain finds to friends well before then), with a particular focus on Nintendo Switch accessories.