Giving You The Low Down On The Best True Wireless Earbuds Under $200!
About a year and a half ago, UK-based Cambridge Audio introduced its first True Wireless Earbuds, the Melomania 1. They are still amongst the best TWS earphones under $100, as chronicled in our story, “Best Buys: Our Picks For The Best Wireless Earbuds Under $100!”
As we said in that post, the Melomania 1 offers a substantial amount of detail and musicality for the price, and they’re comfortable to boot.
However, they miss some of the latest features offered in True Wireless Buds, including touch control, app control, and upgraded amp sections, as seen in the latest earphones from Grado and Hifiman.
Well, Enter the Melomania Touch, Cambridge Audio’s upgrade to the Melomania 1, and it’s a rather appealing package. Like the Aforementioned Grado and Hifiman earphones, they offer audiophile-grade amp circuits, along with some contemporary touches they lack, like an app that lets you adjust EQ amongst other things, and battery life amongst the best on the market.
Cambridge Audio also manages to offer this flagship model for $149.95, which is lower than all the other premium buds on the market. The others range between $200 and $300, and while some have active noise canceling, several, including the Grado and Hifiman, do not. The Melomania Touch doesn’t have ANC either, but it does offer a “transparency mode,” which allows you to hear outside sound without taking the earbud out of your ear.
To me, all these features wouldn’t mean much if they didn’t have above-average sound quality, and I’m happy to say that they do. They also have a sleek design and comfortable fit, making them a clear-cut choice for those looking for a top-end Wireless Earbud without a top-end price. Read on for more detail on these remarkable new earphones.
Disclaimer: The Melomania Touch was sent to us as a sample in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.
Build and Features
When it comes to build quality, the Melomania Touch is top-notch. Both the earpieces and case have a sophisticated look without being too flashy. The lightweight earpieces (6g) are made of a glossy polycarbonate, which adds visual interest, and the compact charging case is covered in textured protein leather, which gives it a luxury look and feel.
As the name suggests, each wireless earbud has a touch control surface that controls music playback, handsfree calling, volume, virtual assistants (Siri or Google Assistant), and the Transparency Mode mentioned above.
As I’ve said in the past, I’m somewhat dubious about touch controls on earphones because, in the past, they have been hit or miss. However, recently I’ve found that more and more manufacturers are getting them right, and the Melomania Touch is another example. The controls on these earphones are intuitive and responsive, which made me happy since I hate tapping incessantly on an earbud to make it do what I want it to do.
Inside the earphones is one 7mm graphene-coated driver per side. The graphene allows the drivers to be both very stiff and lightweight. That allows the Melomania Touch to reproduce music with exceptional depth and clarity. Wireless connectivity is handled via Bluetooth 5.0, which provides signal stability and is pretty much the norm nowadays.
This BT 5.0 implementation incorporates the AAC and apt-X audio codecs, which means you should get close to CD-quality sound from both Apple and Android devices. No apt-X HD or apt-X LL compatibility.
However, they are compatible with Qualcomm’s TrueWireless Stereo Plus technology, which means even more stable connections, even better battery life, and lower latency connections if you have a phone with a compatible Qualcomm Snapdragon SoC (845, 855, 865). This is because the phone can connect to each bud directly instead of one at a time like other models. This means the buds don’t have to pair to each other across your head.
My LG V60 has the Snapdragon 865, and I did notice the benefits of low latency when watching videos. The video and audio were almost perfectly in sync, much better than I’ve noticed with other TWS earphones (especially without apt-X LL).
IPX4 sweat and water resistance make these earbuds good for exercise, provided you have the correct size silicone ear tips and fins (which fit into the upper folds of your ear) installed. They will help the earpiece stay in your ear while you are moving around. The proper fit will also give you the best sound quality. A card included in the package gives instructions on getting a proper fit.
That’s not to say it’s hard to get a good fit. Once you find the right size tip and fin (several of each are in the box), all you have to do is give the buds a light press into your ear, and they should seal properly. Once I got the right seal, I found the overall fit to be quite comfortable.
They almost seemed to have a custom fit, a testament to the sleek, sculpted shape of the earpieces. They fit like a good set of wired IEMs. Cambridge Audio says they used data points from over 3000 pairs of ears to get the right shape, and I feel like they are spot on.
The Melomania Touch gives you about 6-7 hours of playback time depending on the volume level, which is really good. You can actually squeeze a little more out of them by selecting the “Low Power” mode in the companion app. More on that later.
The charging case gives you about three or four more charges before you have to plug the case in, and it’s compatible with USB-C fast charging, so you can top it off in about an hour or so.
Using the Melomania App
One of the standout features of the Melomania Touch is the new Melomania App. This companion app has Android and iOS versions, and I had a chance to try out the Android release.
I found the app to be really well designed, and it picked up the buds right away (they must be paired to the phone first). The first thing the app did was an over the air firmware update for each earbud, which I thought was pretty cool. It’s nice to know that the manufacturer could easily update the features of your product in the future if need be.
The app’s home screen shows separate battery life for each of the earphones, connection status, and BT Codec, plus there’s a button to activate the Transparency Mode. There’s also a “Find My Earphones” button so you can see the last location your earbuds were used on a map.
The App also has an Equalizer page where you can pick from one of six preset EQs like “Bass Boost,” “Rock,” “Voice,” etc. You can also save up to three custom EQ settings.
The “Settings” page gives you several ways to customize your earphones, like an option for toggling the different Earphone controls on or off or another option for selecting the Bluetooth Codec you wish to use. This is useful if you have a phone like mine compatible with both AAC and apt-X since it lets you lock your phone to the codec you prefer.
You can also select a language for the voice prompts you hear as you operate the earbuds. I left mine in English, but you can select from seven other languages, including Chinese, German, or Italian. You can also initiate firmware updates from the Settings page if the auto-update doesn’t work.
As I said earlier, the app also lets you select between the default “High-Performance” (read: audiophile) setting, which gives you the best sound quality, or a “Low Power” mode that gives up some sound quality to extend the battery life. The difference is about two extra hours of playback.
There’s also a “More” page with some handy stuff, like an in-app User Guide, plus links to Online Product Registration or Tech Support.
Listening To The Melomania Touch
For my sound test, I connected the Melomania Touch to my LG V60 smartphone, a phone compatible with just about every audio codec out there. In this case, the connection defaulted to apt-X, which I prefer over AAC on an Android device. I played a wide variety of music, both from the hi-res local files and tracks streamed from TIDAL.
Overall the Melomania Touch, just like other wireless earphones designed for audiophiles (think: Grado GT220 or Hifiman TWS800), comes with a balanced tuning (think: flat) out of the box. This is confirmed by connecting the buds to the Melomania app and pulling up the Equalizer page, where you can see the “Balanced” EQ is preselected.
In this setting, clarity is the order of the day, with no part of the audio spectrum really boosted over the other. If anything, there’s a slight bump in the upper bass, which adds that bit of excitement that Cambridge Audio gear is known for.
Listening to “Baker Street” from the Chesky Records recording “The World’s Greatest Audiophile Vocal Recordings Vol. 2” allows you to hear what the Melomania Touch has to offer, starting with the sweet highs. They provide detail without excessive sparkle, which to me is the hallmark of a refined headphone. Some may say they are a little rolled off at the very top, but I think it’s almost perfect.
If there’s a weakness in the Melomania Touch’s presentation, it may be the midrange. While the mids are equally as sweet as the highs, they are a little recessed, which takes away from the realism and openness. That’s said, there is still a good amount of air and depth, which separates this Wireless earbud from the run of the mill models out there.
As I said earlier, it is pretty flat out of the box regarding the low end, which means you don’t get a lot of thump on bass-heavy tracks. However, for songs like “Baker Street,” where excessive thump would be distracting, the bass is just right. It’s articulate and gives the right amount of weight, which I like on my IEMs.
If you do want a little more thump on a certain song, it’s easy to get. All you have to do is select the “bass boost” EQ setting in the Melomania app, and you quickly get some additional low-end that’s elevated without being sloppy. Very nice.
Compared to the Hifiman TWS800
I compared the Melomania Touch’s sound to Hifiman’s TWS800, which I consider to be the best sounding TWS earphones on the market right now, and I gave the Hifiman the edge. Their sound was just a little more detailed and rich, especially through the mids, which gave them a more natural sound.
But the Cambridge Audio buds weren’t far behind, especially when you consider they cost half the price and have more convenience features. I would say they give you about 90 percent of the Hifiman’s sound quality. They are also more comfortable than the TWS800.
Compared to the Grado GT220
When I compared the Melomania Touch to Grado’s audiophile TWS earphones, it was a more even match soundwise. The GT220 was a little more aggressive on the high end, which may please those looking for some extra sparkle, but to me, I liked the Cambridge Audio’s mellow highs better. The Grado was the winner throughout the mids, with a more natural midrange that made vocals really come alive. They may have the best vocals of any wireless earphone I’ve heard. The bass reproduction was pretty much even. The Melomania Touch wins the comfort battle.
When it comes to Wireless IEMs, which is the term I’ve come up with for Wireless Earbuds designed for audiophiles, the Melomania Touch is an excellent package. Cambridge did a great job of balancing comfort, top-notch sound, and creature comforts (like the well-designed app and excellent fit). They also managed to offer them at a very attractive price. If you’re looking for above-average sound at a good price, and don’t need ANC, then the $149 Melomania Touch is a good pick.
Where to Buy
Cambridge Audio Melomania Touch Earbuds
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I’m an audio writer who started as a young audio salesman/consumer electronics professional back in the late 90s. That’s where I discovered the magic of 2-Channel sound. My thirst for great sound has led me on a delightful music quest that continues today.