Spun out of Cambridge University back in the swinging sixties by a group of tech graduates with a love for mechanics and music, Cambridge Audio is well known for offering kit that packs a phonic punch without piercing a hole in your purse.
Fifty years on from being the first hifi company to place a toroidal transformer under the hood of a commercial amplifier (a practice that’s now commonplace) the CA team has just launched its latest in-ear bluetooth pods.
Melomania Touch turns its elder Melomania 1+ sibling (Cambridge Audio’s first wireless headphone) into a more responsive unit that’s controlled by sensors responding to the pulse of your finger rather than the push of a button.
Clocking in at £80 (down from £120 for Black Friday while stocks last) these pods are pitched as a great value offering to take on Apple’s AirPods, Beats’ Studio Buds and Bose’s SoundSport.
The pods come smartly presented in on-trend packaging and setting them up is simple. A Melomania phone app guides you through the functionality and a suite of tools, while a programmable equaliser to tweak their sonics highlights their hifi pedigree. This all feels comfortably 2021, and the Melomania Touch’s big advance is in its finger touch control system. While it takes a bit of getting used to, with taps and varying lengths of holds to pair, adjust volume, skip tracks and turn on/off, once you’ve mastered these commands the usability is excellently intuitive.
Pairing to phones and laptops via Bluetooth is straightforward, with a connection to either left or right pod bringing both headphones in. It’s also pretty effortless to switch between devices.
Cambridge Audio says it works “obsessively to create products that present your favourite artists’ work with detail and accuracy, from the deepest bass, to incredible treble”. Determined to put this to the test I cranked up the bass on The Police’s Walking On The Moon via Spotify through my Huawei smartphone and the Melomania Touch’s responded by making Sting’s warm reggae-tinged notes purr alongside Andy Summers’ bright sounding guitar notes, as Stewart Copeland’s choppy beats keep pace without any sense of overload.
With their supreme battery life of between nine and 50 hours, the Melomania Touch have no issues getting me and Matt Bellamy’s gigantic licks through an evening run after a day of calls in the office. Muse tracks need to be heard with a seriously crisp top end to complement Chris Wolstenholme’s driving bass and it wasn’t long before I was pushing up the pace to Uprising as the monstrous refrain took over. What these mini monitors are able to do without question is rock, providing a fulsome sound with plenty of dynamic energy and grunt that leaves my AirPods for dust.
Comfort is also king with the Melomania Touch. Not only do they sit snugly in place in the outer ear thanks to their removable fin bands, the design also prevents sound-leakage for optimal external noise cancellation. And with six sizes of rubber tips and three sizes of fins included, all ears seem to have been catered for.
The fin bands gently grip my ears, making them as secure on a workout as an afternoon stroll. The compact storage case size, while not quite as slick as Apple’s offering, makes them easy to pop in a pocket when not needed.
Back in the world of work on a packed morning commuter train, the CA’s noise cancelling qualities are up there with the best at this price and beyond. For nosey parkers, there’s also a nifty transparency mode which allows you to switch settings and hear more of your surroundings should you want to do some serious office earwigging or, more importantly, stop you getting run over while crossing the street.
These buds underpin Cambridge Audio’s reputation for pushing the R&D envelope while pairing excellent sound quality with real world value and usability. For the money these are serious bits of in-ear kit and little (if anything) comes near them at the price.