Reviews

Cambridge Audio Melomania Touch review: do the touch controls deliver?

Cambridge Audio Melomania Touch
Touchy subject: the Cambridge buds have touch controls
Cambridge Audio Melomania Touch
  • Sound quality
  • Design
  • Value for money

Summary

Superb sound quality and strong battery life, but the headline touch controls are plain awkward

Overall
3.5

Pros

  • Unmatched sound quality at this price
  • 40+ hours of battery life

Cons

  • Touch controls are too easily activated
  • Bluetooth dropouts

Cards on the table, I’m a big fan of Cambridge Audio. I’ve been buying their speakers and headphones for years and have never been left disappointed, largely because of their sound quality. The Melomania 1 earbuds are so good I bought them twice after my first pair were nicked, so I was eager to find out what the similarly priced Cambridge Audio Melomania Touch headphones were like and whether they would surpass the (now slightly dated) Melomania 1 buds. Here’s my verdict.

The touch controls

The obvious place to start is the touch controls, as they’re the chief selling point. Almost the entire exterior of the earbuds is a touch surface, allowing you to raise/lower volume, accept calls, skip tracks and change the audio mode with a sequence of taps.

Sadly, the touch controls are also my biggest gripe with these headphones. It’s near impossible to put these buds in your ears or take them out without accidentally activating the touch controls. A couple of times that has resulted in me putting the right bud in with the volume at ear-splitting levels because I’ve inadvertently activated the volume control.

I’ve had similar problems with other touch-enabled earbuds in the past and it’s now my firm opinion that earbuds are just too small and fiddly to ever make touch controls work elegantly.

In the end, I used the accompanying Melomania app to switch off the touch controls altogether and had a much happier experience with these headphones, but that does deliver an inescapable sense of buying a dog and barking yourself.

Sound quality

Cambridge Audio Melomania Touch

Sound quality was the one thing I was almost certain would be spot on and I have no complaints. As ever with earbuds, making sure they’re snugly inside your ear canal is crucial to sound quality and so it’s pleasing to see Cambridge Audio supply three different sizes of rubber tips, as well as three different sizes of rubber fin to choose from in the box. It’s just a shame there’s no memory foam tips in there, as I find they deliver the best fit.

Once you get the buds firmly in place, sound quality is rich and detailed, whether you’re listening to music or spoken word. If you’re not quite happy with the balance, the Melomania app provides different EQ options to play with, but I found the default neutral setting to be the sweet spot. Bass is surprisingly potent, as it is with the Melomania 1’s, without becoming overpowering. Everything from the whistling flutes to the driving drum beat on David Bowie’s Blackstar is beautifully captured, for example.

The Touch offers a low-power mode that sacrifices audio quality at the expense of battery life, but when you get seven hours from each bud and 40 when you pop them in the case, you’d have to be on a trek across the Sahara to make the sacrifice worthwhile.

Also worth noting is the convenient transparency mode, which can be activated by tapping one of the buds three times or by flicking a switch in the app. This lets in environmental noise if you want to make sure you can hear train platform announcements or passing traffic. There’s a slider that lets you adjust the strength of the transparency, and it’s impressive to flick it from end to end and hear the ambient noise increase and decrease as you do.

Build quality

I’ve zero complaints about the physical design on the buds – they look smart in black or white, fit well with the correct tips/fins in place, and they’re commendably light. The case is a faux-leather lozenge that resembles a tiny glasses case. You could carry it in a jeans pocket relatively comfortably, although it’s considerably bigger than the snug little case for the Melomania 1’s.

You need to be careful how you’re putting the buds back into the case. On more than one occasion, the right bud had failed to charge in the case, presumably because it wasn’t seated just so, which is disappointing. Equally disappointing is the occasional Bluetooth dropouts and failures to connect, which is becoming something of an unwanted hallmark on Cambridge buds. Most of these little wibbles can be quickly remedied by reconnecting, or putting the buds back in the case and taking them back out again, but it’s a hassle you don’t need.

It’s also a shame the Melomania Touch buds don’t offer the same tracking features as the newer Melomania 1+ buds, although it’s fair to say you’re less likely to lose one of these down the back of the sofa.

Cambridge Audio Melomania Touch verdict

Cambridge Audio Melomania Touch

Although they deliver Cambridge Audio’s trademark sound quality and superb battery life, it’s the rest of the package that lets the side down. The touch controls are too fiddly, too easy to activate accidentally. The Bluetooth dropouts – while infrequent – are an unwanted irritation.

At their normal price of £130, I’d struggle to give them a recommendation. At the Black Friday price of £80, they’re a lot more tempting, if only it weren’t for the Melomania 1+ buds, which are only £10 more.

About the author

Barry Collins

Barry has scribbled about tech for almost 20 years for The Sunday Times, PC Pro, WebUser, Which? and many others. He was once Deputy Editor of Mail Online and remains in therapy to this day. Email Barry at barry@bigtechquestion.com.

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